Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The perils of unexamined legislation

Judges rule ACA actually means what it says. [Link]
This result isn’t entirely shocking. As Jonathan Adler, one of the architects of the legal strategy behind Halbig, noted today on a conference call, the government was unable to come up with any contemporaneous congressional statements that supported its view of congressional intent, and the statutory language is pretty clear. Members of Congress have subsequently stated that this wasn’t their intent, but my understanding is that courts are specifically barred from considering post-facto statements about intent.
When you read through the ruling, it’s easy to see the many ways in which the law’s architects brought this on themselves. The law was highly complex, badly drafted and highly controversial. When a Republican won a special election for the Senate in Massachusetts (!), the Democrats had to push it through on a straight party-line vote with some adroit parliamentary maneuvering -- which gave them a health-care law, but one that was badly put together and couldn’t be substantially amended. The gaping holes were patched with administrative fixes, like an Internal Revenue Service ruling that held federally established exchanges to be equivalent to an exchange established by the state. But the vast scale of the law meant that the administrative gymnastics that held it together might not be sustainable.
For example, the core of the government’s case is that Congress cannot have meant to leave federal exchanges without subsidies, because without the subsidies, the insurance markets in states with federal exchanges would inevitably enter into a death spiral. And obviously Congress wouldn’t do that.
The problem, as the justices point out in their brief, is that the government has done just that. Federal territories are subject to the mandates, but they don’t get subsidies. So clearly the IRS and the Department of Health and Human Services think that, at least in some cases, Congress would and did enact exactly the system -- guaranteed issue, community rating, but no subsidies -- that the government lawyers are claiming they would never consider.
Courts are cautious about fatally damaging major laws, and if this ruling stands, it would be pretty damaging. Most of the people who bought new insurance on the exchanges qualified for subsidies; many of them will exit if the subsidies are withdrawn, and those most likely to exit are the young and healthy. Which brings us back to the specter of an insurance market death spiral in states with federal exchanges.
That’s not a guaranteed outcome -- I’ll write more about the possible permutations later today. But even if it’s not guaranteed, it’s certainly a risk. So this is a major ruling, which will potentially have major impact on a major law. And that itself is always a bit surprising. The Fourth Circuit reached the opposite result, in another ruling released today: “the court is of the opinion that the defendants have the stronger position, although only slightly.”
So what happens next? In the short term, the case probably goes to an en banc hearing in front of the full appeals court, sometime in the fall, and then quite possibly to the Supreme Court. In the meantime, the administration says the subsidies will continue to flow, though it’s not clear upon what they are basing that -- whether it expects a stay of the decision pending en banc review, or whether it is signaling their intention to ignore the ruling until the appeals are exhausted.
This quote seems appropriate:
"When I use a word," Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, "it means just what I choose it to mean -- neither more nor less."
"The question is," said Alice, "whether you can make words mean so many different things."
"The question is," said Humpty Dumpty, "which is to be master - - that's all."
(Through the Looking Glass, Chapter 6) 

Monday, July 21, 2014

11 Commandments

A good rebuttal. [Link]
Elizabeth Warren, best known for being a super white lady who pretended to be Indian to fulfill an EEOC requirement, is trying to establish herself as the “Youthful” alternative to Hillary Clinton for a presidential run. This is understandable since Clinton was born in ’47 and Warren was born in ’49, and that’s like seven Prog years.
Anyways, Warren gave a speech and listed off the 11 Commandments of Progressivism.
Since I despise Progressivism to the very core of my being, let’s take this opportunity to go through these commandments together. As we’ll see, most of them sound all nice and fluffy but are actually pure evil, sort of like pulling a bunny slipper over a jackboot. Each one of these is so ridiculous that responding to it would take a thesis, so I’ll just hit the broad philosophical points.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Border Crisis

Peggy Noonan. [Link]
It's like you live in a house that's falling apart. The roof needs to be patched and there are squirrels in the attic, a hornet's nest in the eaves. The basement's wet. The walkway to the front door is cracked with grass growing through it. The old boiler is making funny sounds. On top of that it's always on your mind that you could lose your job tomorrow and must live within strict confines so you can meet the mortgage and pay the electric bill. You can't keep the place up and you're equal parts anxious, ashamed and angry. And then one morning you look outside and see . . . all these people standing on your property, looking at you, making some mute demand. Little children looking lost—no one's taking care of them. Older ones settling in the garage, or working a window to the cellar. You call the cops. At first they don't come. Then they come and shout through a bull horn and take some of the kids and put them in a shelter a few blocks away. But more kids keep coming! You call your alderman and he says there's nothing he can do. Then he says wait, we're going to pass a bill and get more money to handle the crisis. You ask, "Does that mean the kids will go home?" He says no, but it may make things feel more orderly. You call the local TV station and they come do a report on your stoop and then they're gone, because really, what can they do, and after a few days it's getting to be an old story.
No one's in charge! No one is taking responsibility. No one who wants to help has authority, and no one with authority is helping.
America is the house that is both falling apart and under new stress. Those living within it, those most upset by what they're seeing, know America has big problems—unemployment, low workforce participation, a rickety physical infrastructure, an unsound culture, poor public education. And of course discord of all sorts—a lot of mad squirrels running around the attic. They know America can't pay its bills. They fear we're living on the fumes of greatness. They want us to be strong again. Watching our border collapse doesn't look like a harbinger of progress.
Here it must be said that those who live comfortable lives can afford to roll with the historical punches. But people who are not affluent live closer to the ground, and closer to the country's deterioration. The rougher America becomes, the more they feel the abrasion. They're not protected.
And they know no one wants to be in charge, wants to seize this thing and take responsibility. The mind-boggling fact is that everyone in charge more or less suggests they're powerless to do anything. And the children keep coming.
Give the president points for honesty. He doesn't want to enact an "I care and am aware" photo-op. He will pay a political price, but it is clearly a price he is willing to pay. He never has to face a voter again.
The latest border surge has been going on for at least two years. Children and others are coming because they believe that under the president's leadership, if they get here they'll get a pass to stay. (They're probably right.) This was predictable. Two years ago Texas Gov. Rick Perry wrote the president that the number of unaccompanied children was spiking sharply. He warned that unless the government moves, other minors would attempt the journey and find themselves in "extremely dangerous situations." The generally agreed-upon number of those who've come so far this year is 50,000. Now government estimates are rising to at least 90,000 by year's end.


Meanwhile some in the conservative press call the president incapable, unable to handle the situation. But he is not so stupid he doesn't know this is a crisis. He knows his poll numbers are going to go even lower next month because of it. He scrambled Wednesday to hold a news conference to control a little of the damage, but said nothing new.
There is every sign he let the crisis on the border build to put heat on Republicans and make them pass his idea of good immigration reform. It would be "comprehensive," meaning huge, impenetrable and probably full of mischief. His base wants it. It would no doubt benefit the Democratic Party in the long term.
The little children in great danger, holding hands, staring blankly ahead, are pawns in a larger game. That game is run by adults. How cold do you have to be to use children in this way?

Monday, July 07, 2014

Intent vs Textualism

A big fight coming up for Obamacare. [Link]
To review from my original post on the matter: The law’s plain language says subsidies are available only when a health plan is purchased on an exchange “established by the state under section 1311.” 34 states refused to establish an exchange, after which the HHS Secretary invoked her authority to set up federal exchanges under a different section: section 1321. Then the IRS promulgated a rule that said exchanges set up by the Secretary under section 1321 were actually exchanges “established by the state under section 1311.”
The plaintiffs in the lawsuit say: “state” does not mean “federal government.” The exchanges established by the HHS Secretaryunder section 1321 are not “established by the state under section 1311.” Making the point even clearer: a “state” is defined in the ACA as “each of the 50 States and the District of Columbia,” they note, and not the federal government.
The Obama lawyers say: oh, come on. Don’t look at the plain language of that one provision. You gotta look at the whole law and the intent of Congress.
If a law means whatever you want it to (intent), then that law is meaningless because as soon as someone who disagrees with you as to what it means is in charge, they can make it mean whatever they want it to. The law is the text, any other way is madness.

Appealing to Congress’s subjective “intent” is the subsidies’ only hope for survival. An appeal to “intent” is the only method leftists have available in this case to twist the words to their purpose. A textualist approach means most ObamaCare subsidies will be found unlawful. There is zero debate: a plain language, textualist approach in this case means Obama loses. That’s why every Democrat rejects a plain language approach in this case, and tortures the text to argue that Congress’s “intent” was to provide subsidies for all. As one of the judges said at oral argument, the legislative history is a “wash” — which at least gives Democrats a fighting chance to argue for their version of “intent.”
Notably, Nancy Pelosi and others have filed a brief (.pdf) in Halbig saying: we really meant to provide subsidies on federal exchanges. If a court elevates subjective intent over the plain language of the law, that court might well give great weight to Pelosi’s brief.
But even if Pelosi is telling the truth, that does not end the matter. Even if we foolishly looked only to “intent” and not to the plain language, the “intent” of everyone who voted would be relevant, I would think. And there’s the rub. Pelosi might have “intended” one thing, and Ben Nelson another. This shows why trying to divine legislative “intent” is a fool’s errand. As I have argued before, legislative intent should not be a judge’s focus in interpreting a law. For one thing, you can’t ever discern a collective “intent” from a collection of different politicians, except by examining what they actually said. That’s why the only reasonable way to resolve the issue is to look at the plain language of the law, and enforce that.
Forget “intent.” Intent does not matter unless it is conveyed in the language of the law. Period. This isn’t just about one result, however important that result is. Original understanding alone preserves the rule of law.

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Venus Ho!

Colonizing Venus may be a good idea. [Link]
The second planet from the Sun might seem like a nasty place to build a home, with a surface temperature hot enough to melt lead and an atmosphere so dense it would feel like being submerged beneath 3000 feet of water. But the air on Venus thins out as you rise above the surface and cools considerably; about 30 miles up you hit the sweet spot for human habitation: Mediterranean temperatures and sea-level barometric pressure. If ever there were a place to build a floating city, this would be it.
Believe it or not, a floating city might be a feasible project. Scientist and science fiction author Geoffrey Landis presented a paper called "Colonizing Venus" [PDF] at the Conference on Human Space Exploration, Space Technology & Applications International Forum in Albuquerque, New Mexico back in 2003. Breathable air floats in Venus's soupy carbon dioxide atmosphere, which means on Venus, a blimp could use air as its lifting gas, the way terrestrial blimps use helium to float in our much thinner atmosphere.

Slippery slope

300 is now 750. [Link]
[T]hey could be there for airstrikes against the terrorist army that Barack Obama unaccountably just let set up shop again in Iraq. Continuing on…
The Pentagon also sent over additional surveillance drones.
President Obama on Monday sent 200 additional U.S. troops to Iraq to protect diplomatic facilities and personnel amid growing fears that Sunni militants in the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) could overrun the country. The order brought the total number of U.S. ground forces in Iraq to 750.
…Wasn’t it supposed to be capped at 300? Why, yes.  Yes, it was.
Barack Obama announced on Thursday [June 19, 2014] that a contingent up to 300 “military advisers” will be sent to help Iraq’s beleaguered army repel the advance of Sunni insurgents, but insisted the US would not be dragged into another bloody war in the country.
It’s not even a month and we’re already seeing the mission being expanded. I wonder what our troop strength in Iraq will be by August.  Of course, I also wonder if there’s still going to be an Iraq at that point…

Bond as Moneypenny

Velvet, a spy thriller comic from Ed Brubaker. [Link]
In the opening issue of the comic book Velvet, the secretary to the director of an elite British spy agency decides to go digging into the mysterious death of a secret agent. This, she learns, is a mistake, and soon enough she finds herself standing over a dead body, and framed for murder. “This is as bad as it gets, secretary,” says one of the armed men who bursts in to arrest her. “No,” she answers, “it isn’t.” Seconds later, every secret agent in the room is writhing on the floor, and she’s leaping out the window in a stealth suit.
Turns out this isn’t a story about Moneypenny, the secretary waiting for James Bond behind a desk at MI6. It’s a story that asks, what if a 40-something secretary was secretly James Bond all along?
And this on casting:
“I loved the idea of flipping the typical male-oriented spy story, and doing one about a woman who was also a mature, middle-aged woman,” says Brubaker. He saw the character’s age as fundamental to the story; it helped cement her as mature, seasoned rather than a vulnerable young woman-in-danger, and it allowed her to have a deeper, richer history as a spy. “In the espionage field, it totally makes sense that someone could have a secret history; they could have a job for 20 years that turns out to be a front, basically,” says Brubaker. “But it has to be someone who’s lived a real life.”
When he started pitching the concept as a TV pilot, however, Velvet’s age turned out to be more controversial than expected. “The notes that we got from everybody were that she needed to be 25, and an agent-in-training learning from the cool male secret agent. I was just like ‘OK, this is… just appalling to me,’” Rather than a character that had lived a real life, they wanted a woman 20 years younger, stripped of Velvet’s expertise and maturity. “Imagine Taken, if Liam Neeson’s character were 30,” he adds. “It’s just not the same movie.”
Brubaker recalls one of his favorite actors, Diane Lane, talking about how all the good roles seemed to evaporate after she turned 40, leaving nothing but moms or jilted wives left for younger women. “How is it possible that nobody wants to write an amazing part for a woman that’s not basically a kid? Most of the [male] actors we see in the world are in their 40s, or late 30s,” he says. “You don’t see the person who chose to be James Bond but also happens to be a woman.”

Tuesday, July 01, 2014

Big Brother parenting in Scotland

Talk about nanny state. [Link]
Imagine the very worst home a child could grow up in: No food in the fridge, parents strung out on drugs, the children covered with scabs and beaten regularly. You would want someone to step in and save the kids.
And then there's Scotland.
Scotland wants to treat all families as potentially abusive and appoint a "named person" (that is, a guardian) as soon as the child is born and up through age 18 to oversee the parenting. This "shadow parent" would be empowered by the government under the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act, which will take effect in 2016.
As Josie Appleton, founder of the U.K.'s Manifesto Club, writes in SpikedOnline:
It is based on the idea that a person who has been named by the state, touched on the shoulder, has a superior authority and insight to others. Those who have been ‘named’ are seen as better qualified to ‘safeguard’ the wellbeing of a whole nation’s children. Therefore, concern for children’s wellbeing becomes a state-appointed position.
...This is a new kind of parenting-by-surveillance.
The day-to-day role of a named person is to follow ‘reports’ about a child, to keep an eye on their files. They will have rights to see private medical reports, and to request information about that child from other agencies (there is a legal ‘duty to help named person’).... The other aspect of a named person’s role is to propose ‘interventions’. They will have a role in drawing up a ‘child’s plan’ if a child is found to have a ‘wellbeing need’: this plan will outline the ‘targeted intervention which requires to be provided… in relation to the child’.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Red Cross Sandy spending 'Trade Secret'

Trade secret or embarrassment? I'll go with embarrassment. [Link]
The Red Cross raised more than $300 million for Superstorm Sandy disaster relief, but it is refusing to say how it raised or spent the cash. After ProPublica filed a public records request for the information, the Red Cross hired a law firm to block the release of some documents. The lawyers argued that the information is a "trade secret" and if it was disclosed, "the American Red Cross would suffer competitive harm because its competitors would be able to mimic the American Red Cross's business model for an increased competitive advantage."
The Red Cross is a public charity with a federal charter to provide disaster relief, so it's not clear who its "competitors" are, ProPublica notes. The Red Cross says it wants "proprietary information important to maintaining our ability to raise funds and fulfill our mission" to remain confidential, but the use of the "trade secret" exemption is not "something you would expect from an organization that purports to be 'transparent and accountable,'" says a spokesman for the Disaster Accountability Project watchdog group. "Donors have a right to know" what is being done with the money, writes Laura Northrup atConsumerist, "but the Red Cross refuses to even separate out how much money budgeted for certain expenses was spent during the disaster, and how much allocated for future efforts." (As of last spring, the Red Cross was still sitting on more than a third of Sandy donations.)

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

UK secretary of state: "There is no surveillance state"

Britain once again mistakes 1984 as a manual to implement rather than a cautionary tale. [Link]
UK Secretary of State Theresa May -- part of a regime that presides over a spy service thatclaims the right to intercept all webmail, search and clicks; that spends hundreds of millions sabotaging Internet security; that dirty-tricks and psy-opses peaceful protest groupsthatlaunched illegal denial of service attacks; that slurps up 200M SMS messages a day; thatuses Google cookies to follow people around the Web; that targets NGOs and charities for deep surveillance; that sent spies into World of Warcraft hunting jihadis; that hacked a Belgian Internet exchange; knowingly participated in illegal surveillance at the telcos' data-centersattacked Tor; detained a journalist's boyfriend under anti-terror laws; accepted£100M from foreign spies for help in spying on Britonstapped into undersea cables; andmore -- insists that Britain is not a "surveillance state."
But, she says, there's all kinds of scary, scary terrorists out there. And she's foiling lots of terrorist plans. But she can't tell you about it, because that would be "cavalier and reckless." But we should trust her. And give her more powers to spy on us without a warrant.
As unbelievably stupid as this is, it at least beats last time, when the prime minister said TV crime dramas demonstrated the need for mass surveillance.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

No-fly list unconstitutional

This is good news, at least as long as it lasts. I expect it to be reversed or ignored. How cynical is that? [Link]
The U.S. government offers no adequate method for people to challenge their placement on its no-fly list, a federal judge ruled Tuesday in a case involving 13 Muslims who believe they're on the list.
U.S. District Court Judge Anna Brown found people lack a meaningful way to challenge their placement on the list, which bars them from flying to or within the United States. She also said the 13 people who sued the government have been unconstitutionally deprived of their right to fly.
"This should serve as wakeup call to the government," said American Civil Liberties Union attorney Hina Shamsi. "This decision also benefits other people wrongly stuck on the no-fly list because it affords them (an opportunity to challenge) a Kafkaesque bureaucracy."
U.S. Justice Department spokeswoman Dena Iverson said government attorneys were reviewing the decision.
Thirteen people — including four military veterans — challenged their placement on the list in 2010.
Initially, Brown said she couldn't rule on the case. In 2012, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals disagreed and sent the case back to her. Brown ruled in August that the 13 people challenging their presence on the list had a constitutional right to travel and, on Tuesday, found the government violated that right.

Orion Discovery

Very neat. I love the 2001 style and Orion drive ships. I didn't know the original sketches were to have Discovery be an Orion. Neat. Emphasis added. [Link]
The firing rate here is about 1 bomb per second, which is about the typical design spec for a ground-launched Orion. It doesn't need to be so fast for obrital manoeuvres because it's not trying to avoid crashing, but it's an aesthetically nice rate to depict. Interestingly, early on in the real-life Orion project a much higher firing rate was considered : 4 (smaller) bombs per second. Since the detonation point is something like 50-100m behind the ship, you need a powerful gas gun to shoot the 1-tonne bombs out the back. But you can't reload a gun like that four times per second. There are two solutions, both of which ought to worry even the most steely-eyed of astronauts.

Option 1 was not to shoot the bombs through the pusher plate at all. Instead, the bombs would be ejected through the side of the hull, guided along rails, and then either shot by a catapult system or propelled by rockets to their detonation point. Presumably the rockets would also adjust the orientation of the bombs to ensure they were pointed toward the pusher plate - in some designs this meant the bomb would do a full 180-degree flip. Well, what could possibly go wrong ?

Option 1 being rejected on grounds of sanity, option 2 was scarcely less dramatic. From Dyson's book again :

"... a gun a metre in diameter... 10 metres long, weighing 2.5 tonnes to project a 1.5 tonne projectile at 200g's. Obviously this can't be reloaded every quarter of a second so you need maybe 10 of them... this will probably wind up as a battery of Gatling gun-type gadgets."

That's right - they wanted a Gatling cannon that fired nukes, because science. Whether you'd need such a gobsmackingly terrifying contraption for the more leisurely rate of one bomb per second, I don't know.

Before I shut the hell up and let you watch the video, Orion always begs the question : "would it have worked ?" The answer, I think, is probably yes - with a catch. Experiments like Operation Plumbob do seem to indicate that a pusher plate (and therefore the ship) could survive the explosions, but there are plenty of unanswered questions. 

For instance, could a system be engineered to reliably eject one-tonne nukes at 200 mph, with an absolute guarantee that they wouldn't detonate too close to the ship ? What would happen if the ship veered off course and had to be destroyed ? What about if a bomb did detonate early - would it risk the others detonating too ? Even if everything worked perfectly, would the fallout from the bombs be anything to worry about ? Well, the answer to that last one is no, but - and this is the catch of course - it doesn't matter.

Orion is a scheme so monumentally audacious that barring the threat of an asteroid stike, it isn't ever going to fly, assuming it would work at all. The total explosive yield for a 10,000 tonne ship for a Mars-bound mission is something like half a megaton of TNT - enough to destroy Hiroshima thirty times over. Does anyone really believe, deep down, that it would be perfectly safe to launch that kind of devastating firepower, or that doing so wouldn't cause massive public outrage, however misguided that outrage might be ?

Will-ful misrepresentation

Making people who have the wrong views toxic. [Link]
Instapundit writes:
RESPONDING TO THE SMEAR ATTACK AGAINST GEORGE WILL:Rage Against The Outrage Machine. But let’s be clear. People aren’t “misunderstanding” what Will wrote. They deliberately misrepresented what Will said, and they did it to chill debate. That’s who they are, that’s what they do.
Glenn deploys the classic metaphor: chilling. Notice that this metaphor focuses onthe debate, as though the whole conversation about a subject is an entity, a composite that has a temperature. 

I think what is happening is more nefarious, because it focuses on the person. It's not just an idea that is put off limits (such as questioning the veracity of a woman who accuses a man of rape), it's the person who dares to say it. You are to be regarded as toxic. It's this fear of being regarded as toxic that inhibits many people from speaking.

The problem isn't merely that the debate is chilled — that people don't get to hear the arguments on different sides — but that people are also influenced to choose their side out of a psychological need to be accepted by others and not shunned. Even if, in a chilled-debate environment, you sought out information and arguments on your own and even if you saw the value in them, you might still choose your position out of a desire to be thought of as one of the good people. So the argument "George Will is toxic" works even on people who think George Will makes a persuasive argument

Monday, June 23, 2014

Compare and contrast

Watergate vs IRS scandal. [Link]
Yes, the IRS scandal differs from Watergate. In Watergate, the president appointed an independent-minded special prosecutor to investigate. It was considered a scandal when the president fired that special counsel, Archibald Cox, even though Cox was succeeded within less than two weeks by an equally ferocious prosecutor, Leon Jaworski.
President Obama? He hasn’t even appointed a special prosecutor in the first place. That’s far worse.
In Watergate, we were outraged that President Richard Nixon ordered the IRS to go after political foes — even though the IRS refused to do his bidding. A Nixon ally was forced to whine that the IRS was controlled by Democrats.
There was evidently little or no evidence that IRS power was abused, because the second Article of Impeachment against Nixon charged merely that he “endeavored” to sic the IRS on enemies.
In the Obama administration, on the other hand, we know that the IRS went after political foes. We don’t know whether the president was involved, but if Nixon’s IRS had targeted liberals because it believed it had an implicit go-ahead from the boss, wouldn’t that be fairly disturbing also? Would a breezy dismissal from Nixon make you feel better?
Obama’s assertion that there was “not even a smidgeon of corruption” in the IRS’ attacks on right-wing groups does not reassure. Obama cannot have known there was no corruption given the mountain of evidence that has yet to be produced and now appears to have been destroyed. He could believe there was no corruption because he has faith in everyone who works under him, or he could know there was corruption and be lying about it, but he can’t know there was no corruption. It’s impossible.
For all he knows, there’s a Lois Lerner email that says, “I want you to go after these Tea Party bastards with everything you got. Use every trick you can to keep them on the sidelines for this election cycle. Nuke those fascists.”
Modal Trigger
Lerner wouldn’t have pleaded the Fifth unless she had reason to believe that there was potential illegality and it could be tied to her.
A likely explanation for Obama’s bizarre “smidgeon” remark is that his well-known fondness for left-wing opinion writers led him to simply parrot their dismissal of the scandal: If it’s good enough for Jonathan Chait, our president thinks, it’s good enough for me!
And here we come to a third major difference between the IRS’ apparent gross abuse of power and criminal coverup and Watergate: Watergate was a much bigger deal simply because the press was relentless about following up on every detail.
Today the media’s reasoning is roughly as follows: The IRS went after some conservative groups and is engaged in an illegal coverup. We also don’t like these groups, also believe they deserve special scrutiny, and also think there’s something inherently shady about conservatives (but not liberals) who try to buy political influence. If White House staff says they weren’t involved, we’ll take their word for it. Pardon us if we’d rather cover something more relevant to American lives today. Like the 82-year-old name of the football team that plays in DC.

If they're not 'truly well off', who is?

The Clintons crying poor. [Link]
FATCAT CRONY INSIDERS — THEY’RE JUST LIKE US! Hillary Clinton Says She Isn’t ‘Truly Well Off.’ “Because we pay ordinary income tax, unlike a lot of people who are truly well off, not to name names; and we’ve done it through dint of hard work.”
At one percent of the Clintons’ net worth, most Americans would consider themselves well off. But here’s how they’re struggling:
Clinton earned an $8 million advance for her 2003 book “Living History” and her publisher is rumored to have paid “significantly more” for “Hard Choices.” Additionally, Clinton reportedly earns $200,000 in speaking fees each time she makes a speech. Bill Clinton has reportedly made over $100 million in speaking fees since leaving office.
Earlier this month, Clinton caused controversy when she said she and her husband, former President Bill Clinton, were “dead broke” when he left the White House in 2000 and subsequently “struggled” to buy homes and pay for their daughter, Chelsea’s, education. Chelsea Clinton’s wealth also made headlines earlier this month after Politico reported she earned a $600,000 salary as a “special correspondent” for NBC News, a sum Business Insider noted seems to amount to $26,724 for each minute she was on air.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014


I do not understand why some women got upset over Miss Nevada's statements about self defense and that it was a good thing for women to be able to defend themselves. Isn't feminism about the equality of the sexes and that women are just as capable as men and just as responsible for their own actions as men are? Yes, rape should not happen, murder should not happen, but we live in a world where it does and making statements that women shouldn't be taught to defend themselves because men should be taught to not rape just boggles the mind. [Link]
So Miss Nevada was doing the Q&A for the Miss America pageant and said something that caused the Perpetually Outraged to get their outrage on.
 “I believe that some colleges may potentially be afraid of having a bad reputation and that would be a reason it could be swept under the rug, because they don’t want that to come out into the public,”Nia Sanchez said. “But I think more awareness is very important so women can learn how to protect themselves. Myself, as a fourth-degree black belt, I learned from a young age that you need to be confident and be able to defend yourself. And I think that’s something that we should start to really implement for a lot of women.”
The internet then exploded with its typical impotent fist shaking fury. Now, normal, not insane people may be confused as to what Miss Nevada said that was so outrageous, but here is a helpful glimpse into the brains of various Twitter lemmings.
How did she win after that awful and offensive answer? Idiot— 
Cait Cremeens (@CaitCremeens) June 09, 2014
I’m sorry, but women shouldn’t need to take self defense classes to protect themselves from rape #MissUSA— 
Peter Simon (@PeterSimon12) June 09, 2014
Let’s hope Nevada uses her media tour to reiterate that teaching girls self defense is NOT the best way to protect against assault #MissUSA
Miss Nevada, who just reinforced victim-blaming rape culture to millions of viewers, is crowned #MissUSA 2014.— 
šəʿ (@shereenTshafi) June 09, 2014
Miss Nevada was asked about rape at colleges and answered that women need to learn to defend themselves… OR MEN COULD JUST NOT RAPE.
Yeah. Try to wrap your brain around that shit. The answer to violent crime isn’t to do things to protect yourself from the criminal, but to WISH for the criminal not to exist at all… Good luck with that.
In the same spirit as other useless feel-good/do-nothing LibProg hastag campaigns like #bringbackourgirls somebody started #yesallwomen, which mostly consists of shrieking about how all women are victims and all men are inherently evil, misogyny is everywhere, and any conservative women who disagree are stupid, so you know, the usual.
One of the favorite topics of the #yessallwombyns crowd is rape. Rape is an evil crime. Regardless of where you fall on the political spectrum we can all agree that rape is bad. Everybody who isn’t a scumbag criminal would like to see it end. The difference is that conservatives live in reality where human nature and history demonstrate that wishful thinking is useless, and libprogs live in a fantasy wonderland where the idea of fighting back against rapists is somehow bad and the real problem is that somebody just needed to teach rapists not to rape.
Not happy w/ Miss Nevada’s answer that to stop rape we should teach women to defend themselves…Why don’t we teach men to not rape?— 
Kelsey Bemus (@KelseyBemus) June 09, 2014
Miss Nevada described how individuals need to protect themselves from rape, instead of teaching others not to rape. Stop the victim blaming.— 
Haley Ploucha (@hallepalouka) June 09, 2014
A note on “victim blaming” that I got from author Mike Williamson. If I teach my kids to look both ways before crossing the street so they don’t get hit by cars, am I victim blaming?
So a danger exists, but recognizing that danger exists and doing reasonable things to combat it is blaming the victim…  I don’t know why we’re wasting all this money on police, when we should just teach all criminals not to crime.  
Miss Nevada saying rape can be prevented by women learning self defense and being “confident”
Miss Nevada�� Sick of hearing “women need to learn selfdefense from sexual violence” We need a culture we don’t have to defend ourselves from
Women shouldn’t need to learn to protect themselves against rape #missnevadaeducate and respect yourself as a woman #rapeculture
So doing anything practical, preventative, or pragmatic is bad, and impractical wishful thinking that totally ignores reality is good. Women shouldn’t NEED to learn self-defense, any more than we should NEED health insurance, seat belts, door locks, fire extinguishers, or umbrellas, but sadly in real life shit happens.  

Thursday, June 05, 2014


Do you think the right thoughts, netizen? [Link]
The piece is written, as is the meme it describes, in the default code of today’s online social progressives, which I like to call We Are All Already Decided. This is the form of argument, and of comedy, that takes as its presumption that all good and decent people are already agreed on the issue in question. In fact, We Are All Already Decided presumes that the offense is not just in thinking the wrong thing you think but in not realizing that We Are All Already Decided that the thing you think is deeply ridiculous. And the embedded argument, such as it is, is not on the merits of whatever issue people are disagreeing about, but on the assumed social costs of being wrong about an issue on which We Are All Already Decided. Which is great, provided everybody you need to convince cares about being part of your little koffee klatsch. If not, well….
All of this, frankly, is politically ruinous. I meet and interact with a lot of young lefties who are just stunning rhetorically weak; they feel all of their politics very intensely but can’t articulate them to anyone who doesn’t share the same vocabulary, the same set of cultural and social signifiers that are used to demonstrate you’re one of the “right sort of people.” These kids are often great, they’re smart and passionate, I agree with them on most things, but they have no ability at all to express themselves to those who are not already in their tribe. They say terms like “privilege” or “mansplain” or “tone policing” and expect the conversation to somehow just stop, that if you say the magic words, you have won that round and the world is supposed to roll over to what you want. Zimmerman mocks the bingo-card nature of the sexism denialists and other assorted stupid creeps, but it’s hard to imagine a more formulaic political style than the kind she’s celebrating in her post. It’s a kind of faux-political parochialism where you have the same kind of lame in-jokes and worn-out slang that you did with the people you hung out with in high school, only instead of the topic being what Lorraine wore to the Enchantment Under the Sea Dance, it’s the most morally pressing issues of equal rights and social justice. But I can’t really blame them; that’s what they get rewarded for, online. They don’t get reblogs and likes and retweets for convincing people who aren’t already convinced. They get those digital strokes for making jokes. That’s what gets rewarded so that’s what gets repeated.
Unfortunately, those rewards are only social, not substantive. We have not, I’m sorry, moved to a “one zinger, one vote” system of government. And the self-same attitude that works great if you treat all of politics as a competition to see who can be the most clever does not work so hot if you treat politics as a way to get people to come around to your side. Not out of a desire to be nice; not because you want to make friends with them. Because that’s what politics is, trying to convince people of stuff. And you have to do that in a broken world. But the idiom of aggressive condescension and blank derision is not going to convince anybody, no matter how well trained people are to ape it.

Wednesday, June 04, 2014

Out of the frying pan

Wow, everyone blames the President for the VA scandal.

How can we divert attention and get this off the front page?

I know! We'll trade terrorists for a POW! That will work great!
Ms. Rice. In one of the most tone-deaf statements in White House history (we’re making a lot of history here), the national-security advisor, on a Sunday talk show, described Bergdahl as having served “with honor and distinction.” Those serving in uniform and those of us who served previously were already stirred up, but that jaw-dropper drove us into jihad mode.
But pity Ms. Rice. Like the president she serves, she’s a victim of her class. Nobody in the inner circle of Team Obama has served in uniform. It shows. That bit about serving with “honor and distinction” is the sort of perfunctory catch-phrase politicians briefly don as electoral armor. (“At this point in your speech, ma’am, devote one sentence to how much you honor the troops.”)
I actually believe that Ms. Rice was kind of sincere, in her spectacularly oblivious way. In the best Manchurian Candidate manner, she said what she had been programmed to say by her political culture, then she was blindsided by the firestorm she ignited by scratching two flinty words together. At least she didn’t blame Bergdahl’s desertion on a video.
The president, too, appears stunned. He has so little understanding of (or interest in) the values and traditions of our troops that he and his advisers really believed that those in uniform would erupt into public joy at the news of Bergdahl’s release — as D.C. frat kids did when Osama bin Laden’s death was trumpeted.
Both President Obama and Ms. Rice seem to think that the crime of desertion in wartime is kind of like skipping class. They have no idea of how great a sin desertion in the face of the enemy is to those in our military. The only worse sin is to side actively with the enemy and kill your brothers in arms. This is not sleeping in on Monday morning and ducking Gender Studies 101.
But compassion, please! The president and all the president’s men and women are not alone. Our media elite — where it’s a rare bird who bothered to serve in uniform — instantly became experts on military justice. Of earnest mien and blithe assumption, one talking head after another announced that “we always try to rescue our troops, even deserters.”
Uh, no. “Save the deserter” is a recent battle cry of the politically indoctrinated brass. For much of our history, we did make some efforts to track down deserters in wartime. Then we shot or hanged them. Or, if we were in good spirits, we merely used a branding iron to burn a large D into their cheeks or foreheads. Even as we grew more enlightened, desertion brought serious time in a military prison. At hard labor.
This is a fundamental culture clash. Team Obama and its base cannot comprehend the values still cherished by those young Americans “so dumb” they joined the Army instead of going to prep school and then to Harvard. Values such as duty, honor, country, physical courage, and loyalty to your brothers and sisters in arms have no place in Obama World. (Military people don’t necessarily all like each other, but they know they can depend on each other in battle — the sacred trust Bergdahl violated.)
President Obama did this to himself (and to Bergdahl). This beautifully educated man, who never tires of letting us know how much smarter he is than the rest of us, never stopped to consider that our troops and their families might have been offended by their commander-in-chief staging a love-fest at the White House to celebrate trading five top terrorists for one deserter and featuring not the families of those soldiers (at least six of them) who died in the efforts to find and free Bergdahl, but, instead, giving a starring role on the international stage to Pa Taliban, parent of a deserter and a creature of dubious sympathies (that beard on pops ain’t a tribute to ZZ Top). How do you say “outrageous insult to our vets” in Pashto?

Sunday, June 01, 2014

Refactoring the Law

Now let's do the other 49 states and Federal laws. [Link]
Wow, more of this please [St. Paul Pioneer Press]:
It’s no longer a crime in Minnesota to carry fruit in an illegally sized container. The state’s telegraph regulations are gone. And it’s now legal to drive a car in neutral — if you can figure out how to do it.
Those were among the 1,175 obsolete, unnecessary and incomprehensible laws that Gov. Mark Dayton and the Legislature repealed this year as part of the governor’s “unsession” initiative. His goal was to make state government work better, faster and smarter….
In addition to getting rid of outdated laws, the project made taxes simpler, cut bureaucratic red tape, speeded up business permits and required state agencies to communicate in plain language.

A Decade’s Worth of WWDC Keynotes

Nice. [Link]
Once a year, Apple kicks off its World Wide Developer Conference with a keynote presentation, such as the one coming up on Monday, which I’ll be covering for Technologizer. Many people seem to think they’re famous for involving Apple dazzling consumers with an array of new products, to the rapturous approval of everybody involved.
Which is weird, because that’s not the point at all.
Sure, consumers are watching, and Apple hopes that they’re dazzled. But WWDC keynotes are usually the least gadget-centric events which Apple holds, and even though people who covet new Apple products pay close attention, they’re not the primary audience.
Here’s the truth about WWDC keynotes:
  • The fact that they’re part of a conference devoted to informing developers about Apple’s platforms means that the emphasis will be on software–particularly operating systems–and the odds of a radically new hardware product being announced are just about nil;
  • Since epoch-shifting hardware is out of the picture, any devices which do get announced are, by definition, only incrementally superior to their predecessors;
  • No matter how newsy the keynote is, some people–especially ones who were hoping for something extremely specific which didn’t get announced–will deem it a snoozefest;
  • There’s a very good chance that Apple’s stock will fall in the wake of the keynote, presumably indicating that Wall Steeet was not instantly impressed.
Now, I’m a WWDC keynote fan myself–there’s nothing more important to hardware than the software which it runs, so the focus on operating systems and apps makes these events more interesting to me, not less so. But as we gird ourselves for Monday, it might help to calibrate expectations if we review the last ten years of WWDC keynotes.