Sunday, September 24, 2017

Walter Williams: The Welfare State's Legacy

Walter E. Williams is a professor of economics at George Mason University.  Here is his column.

WW is on target.
That the problems of today’s black Americans are a result of a legacy of slavery, racial discrimination and poverty has achieved an axiomatic status, thought to be self-evident and beyond question. This is what academics and the civil rights establishment have taught. But as with so much of what’s claimed by leftists, there is little evidence to support it.

The No. 1 problem among blacks is the effects stemming from a very weak family structure. Children from fatherless homes are likelier to drop out of high school, die by suicide, have behavioral disorders, join gangs, commit crimes and end up in prison. They are also likelier to live in poverty-stricken households. But is the weak black family a legacy of slavery? In 1960, just 22 percent of black children were raised in single-parent families. Fifty years later, more than 70 percent of black children were raised in single-parent families. Here’s my question: Was the increase in single-parent black families after 1960 a legacy of slavery, or might it be a legacy of the welfare state ushered in by the War on Poverty?

According to the 1938 Encyclopaedia of the Social Sciences, that year 11 percent of black children were born to unwed mothers. Today about 75 percent of black children are born to unwed mothers. Is that supposed to be a delayed response to the legacy of slavery? The bottom line is that the black family was stronger the first 100 years after slavery than during what will be the second 100 years.

At one time, almost all black families were poor, regardless of whether one or both parents were present. Today roughly 30 percent of blacks are poor. However, two-parent black families are rarely poor. Only 8 percent of black married-couple families live in poverty. Among black families in which both the husband and wife work full time, the poverty rate is under 5 percent. Poverty in black families headed by single women is 37 percent. The undeniable truth is that neither slavery nor Jim Crow nor the harshest racism has decimated the black family the way the welfare state has.

The black family structure is not the only retrogression suffered by blacks in the age of racial enlightenment. In every census from 1890 to 1954, blacks were either just as active as or more so than whites in the labor market. During that earlier period, black teen unemployment was roughly equal to or less than white teen unemployment. As early as 1900, the duration of black unemployment was 15 percent shorter than that of whites; today it’s about 30 percent longer. Would anyone suggest that during earlier periods, there was less racial discrimination? What goes a long way toward an explanation of yesteryear and today are the various labor laws and regulations promoted by liberals and their union allies that cut off the bottom rungs of the economic ladder and encourage racial discrimination.

Labor unions have a long history of discrimination against blacks. Frederick Douglass wrote about this in his 1874 essay titled “The Folly, Tyranny, and Wickedness of Labor Unions,” and Booker T. Washington did so in his 1913 essay titled “The Negro and the Labor Unions.” To the detriment of their constituents, most of today’s black politicians give unquestioning support to labor laws pushed by unions and white liberal organizations.

Then there’s education. Many black 12th-graders deal with scientific problems at the level of whites in the sixth grade. They write and do math about as well as white seventh- and eighth-graders. All of this means that an employer hiring or a college admitting the typical black high school graduate is in effect hiring or admitting an eighth-grader. Thus, one should not be surprised by the outcomes.

The most damage done to black Americans is inflicted by those politicians, civil rights leaders and academics who assert that every problem confronting blacks is a result of a legacy of slavery and discrimination. That’s a vision that guarantees perpetuity for the problems.

Power from the sea

From the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology.

So, where does the energy come from, ultimately?

Perhaps this idea is more reliable than wind power or solar, since ocean currents and waves may be more stable.
Professor Tsumoru Shintake at the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology Graduate University (OIST) yearns for a clean future, one that is affordable and powered by sustainable energy. Originally from the high-energy accelerator field, in 2012 he decided to seek new energy resources -- wind and solar were being explored in depth, but he moved toward the sea instead.

That year, Professor Shintake and the Quantum Wave Microscopy Unit at OIST began a project titled "Sea Horse," aiming to harness energy from the Kuroshio ocean current that flows from the eastern coast of Taiwan and around the southern parts of Japan. This project uses submerged turbines anchored to the sea floor through mooring cables that convert the kinetic energy of sustained natural currents in the Kuroshio into usable electricity, which is then delivered by cables to the land. The initial phase of the project was successful, and the Unit is now searching for industry partners to continue into the next phase. But the OIST researchers also desired an ocean energy source that was cheaper and easier to maintain.

This is where the vigor of the ocean's waves at the shoreline comes into play. "Particularly in Japan, if you go around the beach you'll find many tetrapods," Professor Shintake explains. Tetrapods are concrete structures shaped somewhat like pyramids that are often placed along a coastline to weaken the force of incoming waves and protect the shore from erosion. Similarly, wave breakers are walls built in front of beaches for the same purpose. "Surprisingly, 30% of the seashore in mainland Japan is covered with tetrapods and wave breakers." Replacing these with "intelligent" tetrapods and wave breakers, Shintake explains, with turbines attached to or near them, would both generate energy as well as help to protect the coasts.

"Using just 1% of the seashore of mainland Japan can [generate] about 10 gigawats [of energy], which is equivalent to 10 nuclear power plants," Professor Shintake explains. "That's huge."

In order to tackle this idea, the OIST researchers launched The Wave Energy Converter (WEC) project in 2013. It involves placing turbines at key locations near the shoreline, such as nearby tetrapods or among coral reefs, to generate energy. Each location allows the turbines to be exposed to ideal wave conditions that allow them not only to generate clean and renewable energy, but also to help protect the coasts from erosion while being affordable for those with limited funding and infrastructure.

The turbines themselves are built to withstand the forces thrust upon them during harsh wave conditions as well as extreme weather, such as a typhoon. The blade design and materials are inspired by dolphin fins -- they are flexible, and thus able to release stress rather than remain rigid and risk breakage. The supporting structure is also flexible, "like a flower," Professor Shintake explains. "The stem of a flower bends back against the wind," and so, too, do the turbines bend along their anchoring axes. They are also built to be safe for surrounding marine life -- the blades rotate at a carefully calculated speed that allows creatures caught among them to escape.

Now, Professor Shintake and the Unit researchers have completed the first steps of this project and are preparing to install the turbines -- half-scale models, with 0.35-meter diameter turbines -- for their first commercial experiment. The project includes installing two WEC turbines that will power LEDs for a demonstration.

"I'm imagining the planet two hundred years later," Professor Shintake says. "I hope these [turbines] will be working hard quietly, and nicely, on each beach on which they have been installed."

Unique gene therapy prevents, reverses multiple sclerosis in animal model

A University of Florida item.
Multiple sclerosis can be inhibited or reversed using a novel gene therapy technique that stops the disease's immune response in mouse models, University of Florida Health researchers have found.

By combining a brain-protein gene and an existing medication, the researchers were able to prevent the mouse version of multiple sclerosis. Likewise, the treatments produced near-complete remission in the animal models. The findings, which researchers said have significant potential for treating multiple sclerosis and other autoimmune disorders, are published in the journal Molecular Therapy.
Multiple sclerosis affects about 2.3 million people worldwide and is the most common neurological disease in young adults. The incurable disorder starts when the immune system attacks the myelin sheath surrounding nerve fibers, making them misfire and leading to problems with muscle weakness, vision, speech and muscle coordination.

The researchers used a harmless virus, known as an adeno-associated virus, to deliver a gene responsible for a brain protein into the livers of the mouse models. The virus sparked production of so-called regulatory T cells, which suppress the immune system attack that defines multiple sclerosis. The gene was targeted to the liver because it has the ability to induce immune tolerance.

"Using a clinically tested gene therapy platform, we are able to induce very specific regulatory cells that target the self-reactive cells that are responsible for causing multiple sclerosis," said Brad E. Hoffman, Ph.D., an assistant professor in the departments of pediatrics and neuroscience at the University of Florida College of Medicine.

The protein, myelin oligodendrocyte glycoprotein, was found to be effective in preventing and reversing muscular dystrophy on its own. A group of five mouse models that received the gene therapy did not develop experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis, which is the mouse equivalent of multiple sclerosis in humans. In another experiment, all but one mouse model showed a significant reversal of the disease eight days after a single gene therapy treatment.

Hoffman said he was also encouraged by the treatment's longevity. After seven months, the mouse models that were treated with gene therapy showed no signs of disease, compared with a group of untreated mouse models that had neurological problems after 14 days.

When the protein was combined with rapamycin -- a drug used to coat heart stents and prevent organ transplant rejection -- its effectiveness was further improved, the researchers found. The drug was chosen because it allows helpful regulatory T-cells to proliferate while blocking undesirable effector T-cells, Hoffman said.

Among the mouse models that were given rapamycin and the gene therapy, 71 percent and 80 percent went into near-complete remission after having hind-limb paralysis. That, Hoffman said, shows the combination can be especially effective at stopping rapidly progressing paralysis.

While researchers have established how gene therapy stimulates regulatory T cells in the liver, Hoffman said little else is known about the detailed mechanics of how that process works.

Before the therapy can be tested in humans during a clinical trial, further research involving other preclinical models will be needed, Hoffman said. Researchers also need to target the full suite of proteins that are implicated in multiple sclerosis, he added.

Still, Hoffman said he is extremely optimistic that the gene therapy can be effective in humans. "If we can provide long-term remission for people and a long-term quality of life, that is a very promising outcome," he said.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Matt Ridley on Climate Policies

Here is a post by Matt Ridley on his blog.  It provides worthwhile information and perspective - not that you will hear about them from the media and climate alarmists.
Here is a simple fact about the world today:

• climate change is doing more good than harm.

Here is another fact:

• climate change policy is doing more harm than good.

These are both well-established facts, supported by a great deal of data, as I will demonstrate. Do these facts surprise you? It’s certainly not the impression most politicians, scientists or journalists give. Yet the well-informed ones would not deny it if pressed. They would merely insist, instead, that this position will reverse later in the 21st century and that by then climate change, unchecked, will be doing more harm than climate policy. The eventual ends will begin to justify the painful means.

They may be right; we will see. But, today, we are deliberately causing suffering in partly futile efforts to stop something that is currently doing more good than harm, mostly to poor people.

And that should give us pause, at the very least. Is it right to ask today’s poorest people – on whom the pain of climate policies fall most heavily – to make sacrifices for the sake of tomorrow’s probably much richer people? Yet even to ask this question is to run a gauntlet of abuse from people, mostly paid by taxpayers, who accuse you of moral failings.

On no other topic that I write about do I get such vitriol and bitter criticism of my morality. When I made the argument on television once that climate change policy was hurting the poor, a prominent and wealthy left-wing commentator replied, ‘But what about my grandchildren?’ I am genuinely baffled as to why is it considered virtuous to cause pain to poor people today, and reward rich people, for the sake of the rich people’s perhaps-even-richer grandchildren.

Eugenicists and population control advocates, incidentally, have made the same argument; we must harden our hearts and do painful things today for the sake of posterity.

During the great Irish famine, Charles Trevelyan, the Assistant Secretary to the Treasury in London, who had been a pupil of Malthus, called starvation an ‘effective mechanism for reducing surplus population’, adding: ‘Supreme Wisdom has educed permanent good out of transient evil.’

In 1912 Leonard Darwin, son of Charles, argued, ‘if wide-spread eugenic reforms are not adopted during the next hundred years or so, our Western Civilization is inevitably destined to such a slow and gradual decay as that which has been experienced in the past by every great ancient civilization’.

The ecologist Paul Ehrlich is an unabashed advocate of coercion to achieve population control, having said that to achieve it ‘the operation will demand many apparently brutal and heartless decisions. The pain may be intense.’ He called this ‘coercion in a good cause’.

California’s forced sterilisation programs in the 1920s, Germany’s mass murders in the 1940s, India’s semi-compulsory sterilisations in the 1960s, and China’s one-child policy in the 1980s all justified huge suffering on the grounds that they would benefit future generations. Yet the demographic transition showed that the best way to reduce population growth is to be kind, not cruel; once babies survive, people plan smaller families.

My argument is not to be confused with the claim that climate change is not happening. Of course it is. Nor with the claim that it is all natural; I think it is highly likely that the increase in concentration of carbon dioxide (CO2) over the past half century from an average of about 0.03% to an average of 0.04% of the atmosphere, small though it is, has had a warming effect. I am a card-carrying member of the overwhelming consensus that climate change is real and partly man-made. I also concede that climate change probably does already cause some harm in some places. The point is rather that the harm is currently smaller than the good it is doing, through longer growing seasons, milder winters, slightly higher rainfall, and faster growth rates of crops and forests because of CO2 fertilisation. And that net good stands in stark contrast to the net harm caused by climate change policy.

The biggest way in which CO2 emissions do good is through global greening. Ranga Myneni and colleagues (Zaichun et al. 2016) recently published evidence derived from satellite data showing that 25 to 50% of the vegetated parts of the planet has grown greener and just 4% browner, and that 70% of the greening can be attributed to an increased level of CO2. The overall increase in green vegetation, which has occurred in all kinds of habitats – from the tropics to the Arctic, from deserts to farmland – is now estimated to be 14% during the last 30 years. This startling fact is confirmed by multiple other lines of evidence: tree growth rates; free-air concentration experiments in which the CO2 level is enhanced over crops and natural habitats; increases in the amplitude of the CO2 changes in the Northern Hemisphere each year; and so on.

Dr Zaichun Zhu from Peking University, the lead author of the Myneni paper (2016), described these results as follows: ‘The greening over the past 33 years reported in this study is equivalent to adding a green continent about two times the size of mainland USA (18 million km2), and has the ability to fundamentally change the cycling of water and carbon in the climate system.’

Now just imagine if Zhu and Myneni had discovered the opposite: a 14% reduction in overall plant productivity over 30 years with browning in 37% of pixels and greening in only 4%. Most politicians, scientists, and journalists would have been screaming about it from the rooftops as an example of the harm caused by climate change. Behold the inherent bias towards suppressing good news that has plagued all debates about the environment for the past half century, and which has systematically misled the public. As I have consistently argued for years, the failure of doomsday predictions again and again is highly relevant data in this debate. But it is routinely ignored.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Hurricane Irma at our apartment

We stayed in our apartment during Hurricane Irma.

We enjoyed the show.  We were in a concrete building with impact resistant windows and shutters, except that one small impact resistant window was unshuttered.

The worst part was the lack of A/C after the hurricane.  It took over a week to get electricity back.

Here are a couple of videos.  Keep in mind that all the water you see, except for the obvious channel with pylons, is normally dry land.  For example, the "lake" behind the boat is normally land and the first view is down our street.


Wednesday, August 30, 2017

The Public Safety Pretext: Liberal Leaders and Writers Seek To Protect The Public From Free Speech

Here is a column by Jonathan Turley, Shapiro Professor of Public Interest Law at George Washington University.

JT is on target.
Many in the United States appear to be losing faith (and patience) with free speech. Various Democratic leaders and commentators have called for limits on free speech to target “alt-right” groups, from declaring them terrorists to denying them the right to demonstrate in public. This week, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) offered a mixed metaphor as a substitute for our bright line rule protecting speech.

Pelosi demanded that the National Park Service deny a permit for the conservative “Patriot Prayer” event in San Francisco. In an interview, she said, “The Constitution does not say that a person can yell ‘wolf’ in a crowded theater. If you are endangering people, then you don’t have a constitutional right to do that.” In point of fact, there is nothing unlawful about yelling “wolf” in a crowded theater. Wolf attacks in movie theaters are not particularly common and unlikely to cause panic. Most urban audiences would assume it was a misplaced reference to a Kevin Costner film.

Pelosi appeared to confuse the quote of Oliver Wendell Holmes in the Supreme Court decision in Schenck v. United States, which said, “The most stringent protection of free speech would not protect a man in falsely shouting fire in a theatre and causing a panic.” Pelosi also appears unaware that Schenck, which is viewed as one of the court’s most troubling rulings, was effectively overturned in 1969 in Brandenburg v. Ohio.

Ironically, Schenck is a case that should deeply offend most people. Charles Schenck and Elizabeth Baer were convicted under the Espionage Act of 1917 for simply opposing conscription. The two socialists called on their fellow citizens not to “submit to intimidation” and to “assert your rights.” They argued, “If you do not assert and support your rights, you are helping to deny or disparage rights which it is the solemn duty of all citizens and residents of the United States to retain,” and described military “involuntary servitude.”

Today we view such statements as core protected speech, but Holmes said that opposing a draft was like “falsely shouting fire in a theatre and causing a panic” and creating a “clear and present danger that they will bring about the substantive evils that Congress has a right to prevent.” Consider that for a second. Merely opposing a war and conscription was deemed to be causing a “panic” and a “substantive evil” that the government must prevent.

Pelosi’s garbled use of Schenck is telling. It is not those speaking but those who want to silence speech that are a “clear and present danger” to our system. Just as the Wilson administration was furious with those who opposed the war, Pelosi is furious with those who oppose her values. By simply declaring their speech as inciteful, Pelosi wants the government to stop them from speaking on public grounds.

Of course, she ignores that many would view liberal groups as inciteful and “evil.” Many conservatives have objected to the violence at Black Lives Matter and Antifa protests. Indeed, many liberal groups now oppose the same type of military interventions by the Trump administration that Schenck opposed in the Wilson administration.

Pelosi’s “schencking” of free speech places her on the wrong side of history but nevertheless with a growing group of speech-phobic liberals. Among the chorus of people criticizing free speech as a weapon of the right are two professors who wrote recent columns in the Washington Post and New York Times.

In a column in the Washington Post, Skidmore College Professor Jennifer Delton decried how “provocateurs seek to bait liberal institutions by weaponizing the concept of free speech.” She warned that free speech is facilitating rather the deterring these groups and that “quoting Voltaire is not going to preserve anyone’s liberties — least of all those populations most vulnerable to vicious racist, misogynist and anti-Semitic attacks.”

Delton encouraged people to move beyond free speech inhibitions and, chillingly, that liberals have previously denied free speech to different groups: “American liberals were forced to sidestep First Amendment absolutism to combat a political foe… when New Deal liberals purged U.S. communists from American political life.” While Delton stops short of calling for purges of anyone deemed “alt-right,” she suggested that, given “the threat posed by the actions of alt-right provocateurs,” past censorship and criminalization of speech “may bear revisiting.”

In an editorial in the New York Times, K-Sue Park, a housing attorney and the Critical Race Studies fellow at the UCLA School of Law, rails against “color-blind” approaches which “support hate-based causes” and insists that such “colorblind logic [has] never secured real freedom or even safety for all.” She calls for an end to this broad protection of free speech as based on “a misguided theory that all radical views are equal” and that ‘it fuels right-wing free-speech hypocrisy.”

These voices advocate content-based discrimination of speech, long anathema in our country. It is part of a trend sweeping across the West with crackdowns on any speech deemed intimidating or inciteful or hateful. Pelosi would bar the right of conservatives to speak on the basis that their event might pose a threat to public safety, particularly given counter-demonstrators drawn to such events. Thus, free speech depends not only on what you are saying but how it will be received by others. The rally was canceled by the organizers out of concern over counter demonstrators, but Pelosi believes that the group should not have been given the choice.

We do not need the First Amendment to protect against popular speech. Pelosi and others seek to convince a free people to surrender a core freedom by focusing on how free speech is being used by unpopular groups. They might just succeed in bringing about a new era of censorship. Voices calling for speech limits play to the fears of a society that can come to view free speech as an abstraction or even an irritation. The truly sad part is that they use free speech to convince others to diminish it.

Racial Lies and Racism

Here is a column by Walter Williams who holds a bachelor's degree in economics from California State University (1965) and a master's degree (1967) and doctorate (1972) in economics from the University of California at Los Angeles.

WW is on target.
Earlier this month, The New York Times ran an article titled "U.S. Rights Unit Shifts to Study Antiwhite Bias" on its front page. The article says that President Donald Trump's Justice Department's civil rights division is going to investigate and sue universities whose affirmative action admissions policies discriminate against white applicants. This is an out-and-out lie. The truth is that the U.S. departments of Justice and Education plan to investigate racial bias in admissions at Harvard and other elite institutions where Asian-Americans are held to far higher standards than other applicants. This type of practice was used during the first half of the 20th century to limit the number of Jews at Harvard and other Ivy League schools.

Drs. Thomas Espenshade and Alexandria Radford documented discrimination against Asians in their 2009 award-winning book, "No Longer Separate, Not Yet Equal: Race and Class in Elite College Admission and Campus Life." Their research demonstrated that, when controlling for other variables, Asian students faced considerable odds against their admission. To be admitted to elite colleges, Asians needed SAT scores 140 points higher than whites, 270 points higher than Hispanics and 450 points higher than blacks. An Asian applicant with an SAT score of 1500 (out of a possible 1600 on the old SAT) had the same chance of being admitted as a white student with a 1360 score, a Latino with a 1230 and a black student with a 1050 score. Another way of looking at it is that among applicants who had the highest SAT scores (within the 1400-1600 range), 77 percent of blacks were admitted, 48 percent of Hispanics, 40 percent of whites and only 30 percent of Asians.

The case of Austin Jia is typical of what happens to Asian students. In 2015, Jia graduated from high school and had a nearly perfect score of 2340 out of 2400 possible points on the new SAT. His GPA was 4.42, and he had taken 11 Advanced Placement courses in high school. He had been on his school's debate team, been the tennis team's captain and played the violin in the all-state orchestra. His applications for admission were rejected at Harvard, Princeton and Columbia universities, as well as at the University of Pennsylvania. Jia said that his rejection was particularly disturbing when certain classmates who had lower scores but were not Asian-American like him were admitted to those Ivy League schools.

California universities present an interesting case. At one time, they also discriminated against Asians in admissions, but now it's a different story. As of 2008, Asians made up 40 percent of the students enrolled at UCLA and 43 percent at the University of California, Berkeley. Last school year, 42 percent of students at Caltech were Asian. You might ask what accounts for the high numbers. It turns out that in 1996, Proposition 209 (also known as the California Civil Rights Initiative) was approved by California voters. The measure amended the state constitution to prohibit state governmental institutions from considering race, sex or ethnicity in the areas of public employment, public contracting and public education.

The experience of California, where racially discriminatory admissions policy has been reduced, suggests that if Ivy League universities were prohibited from using race as a factor in admissions, the Asian-American admissions rate would rise while the percentages of white, black and Hispanic students would fall. Diversity-crazed college administrators would throw a hissy fit. By the way, diversity-crazed administrators are willing accomplices in the nearly total lack of racial diversity on their basketball teams. It's not unusual to watch games in which there's not a single white, Hispanic or Asian player.

Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz says, "The idea of discriminating against Asians in order to make room for other minorities doesn't seem right as a matter of principle." Dershowitz is absolutely right, but he goes astray when he argues that investigating discrimination against whites raises a different set of questions. He says, "Generically, whites have not been the subject of historic discrimination." Dershowitz's vision fails to see people as humans, because what human is deserving of racial discrimination?

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Impeach Trump?

Those who would impeach Trump despite that he has done nothing that merits it according to our Founding Documents are to be feared far more than Trump.  They are, perhaps, the most dangerous extremist group - due to their number and political influence.  If the Country is remade in their image, enabling those in power to interpret the law however they wish to convict their political opponents, we are lost.

Here is an article by Jonathan Turley, the Shapiro Professor of Public Interest Law at George Washington University.

JT is on target.
From Congress to newsrooms to social media, a type of impeachment fever has taken hold. Various proposals have been put forward for removing Donald Trump from office, with reasons ranging from alleged “collusion” with Russians to the president’s response to Charlottesville. One poll shows support for impeachment at as much as 40 percent. Newsweek ran a headline proclaiming, “Trump Is Just Six Senate Votes Away From Impeachment,” and Slate has a running feature called “Today’s Impeach-O-Meter.”While such talk may be therapeutic for those still suffering post-election stress disorder, it is a dangerous course that could fundamentally alter our constitutional and political systems. Even if one were to agree with the litany of complaints against Trump, the only thing worse than Trump continuing in office would be his removal from it.

Five year old girl flying a biplane

Here is a link to a video showing a five year old girl flying aerobatics in a biplane.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Complete remission of brain metastasis of difficult-to-treat tumor

Here is a link to an article describing a new treatment for a brain metastasis of the difficult-to-treat tumor diffuse large-B-cell lymphoma (DLBCL), which had become resistant to chemotherapy -- the first report of a response to CAR T-cells in a central nervous system lymphoma.

An excerpt.

In a letter to the New England Journal of Medicine, a Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) research team reports a remarkable treatment response in a patient participating in a clinical trial of a novel immune-system-based cancer therapy. Treatment with an investigational CAR T-cell therapy induced complete remission of a brain metastasis of the difficult-to-treat tumor diffuse large-B-cell lymphoma (DLBCL), which had become resistant to chemotherapy -- the first report of a response to CAR T-cells in a central nervous system lymphoma.

In addition, when a subcutaneous tumor began to recur two months after CAR T-cell therapy and a surgical biopsy was performed, the CAR T-cells spontaneously re-expanded and the tumor again went into remission, and phenomenon that had not previously been reported. While the patient eventually relapsed and died more than a year after CAR T-cell therapy, the brain tumor never recurred.

Sunday, August 27, 2017


If you say you are for profiling, you will be called a racist, or worse.  Yet, everyone uses profiling – and they should.

Suppose that you will win $100 if you pick a red marble from one of two bowls while blindfolded.  You know that Bowl 1 has 60 red marbles and 40 blue marbles. And that Bowl 2 has 40 red marbles and 60 blue marbles.  The intelligent choice is to pick from Bowl 1.  That is profiling.  If you refuse to use profiling, you will flip a coin to determine which bowl to choose.

Your car won't start.  When you press the start button, nothing happens – no sound, no click, nothing.  If you are a profiler, you check the battery, starter motor, etc.  If you are not a profiler, you are just as likely to check the tires.

You decide to enjoy a dinner out.  You want to find an Italian restaurant.  If you are a profiler, you look for a sign indicating Italian food.  If you are not a profiler, you just try a restaurant.

You always leave your iPhone in either your bedroom or the kitchen.  If you search for it in your bedroom and kitchen, you are a profiler.  If you search for it in the bathroom, you are not a profiler.

You are walking along a street in New York City.  You are mugged by a man with Asian features.  If you mention to the police that the mugger is a male with Asian features, you are profiling.  If the police search for a man with Asian features, they are profiling.

Suppose you are a policeman who hates Asians and wants to arrest as many of them as possible.  A crime is reported.  The facts reported to you make it possible that the perpetrator is Asian, but more likely that he is not.  You stop only Asians, thereby maximizing the probability of being able to arrest an Asian.  You are profiling to accomplish an unacceptable goal.  That is not a reason to bar profiling.  It is a reason to insist on using profiling appropriately.

Profiling enables you to maximize the probability of getting the result you want.

Profiling is nothing more than making decisions intelligently.

Whether to profile or not is not the issue.  The only issue is whether the profiling is done to achieve acceptable goals.

For the techies: Profiling is the application of Bayes Theorem.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

So, you think you live in a free country - think again

Here is a link to a paper by John Cochrane, Senior Fellow of the Hoover Institution at Stanford and formerly a professor at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business.

JC's paper is quite long - but describes well the current and prospective danger from Government.

Read it.

Government is not your friend.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Poll: Majority of Americans Oppose Removal of Confederate Statues

Here is Jonathan Turley's blog entry.

One reason for the poll results may be a reaction to the extreme and uncalled for behavior of many of the statue protestors.

In any case, there should be no question about the blame for violence.  Those who commit it are to blame - whoever they are.
The push to remove confederate statues has been spreading across the country after the protests in Charlottesville, Virginia. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and other leading Democrats have been making the removal of such statues a priority issue. Pelosi has called for statues to be removed in the Capitol even though those statues were there when she was Speaker of the House of Representatives. A Reuters/Ipsos opinion poll, however, has found that 54 percent of adults said Confederate monuments “should remain in all public spaces.” Only 27 percent said they “should be removed from all public spaces” while 19 percent had no opinion.

The poll also appears to support Trump’s view that there was blame on both sides in the violence in Charlottesville. Some 31 percent agreed that the rally as “an even mix” of rioting and intimidation by both white supremacists and left-wing counter-protesters. Some 28 percent blamed the white supremacists as the aggressors while 10 percent mostly blamed the left-wing counter-protesters. That means that 41 percent blame either the counter-protesters or both sides. The remaining 32 percent had no firm position.


Jonathan Turley's blog entry "Columbus Statues Protested In Detroit And Damaged In Baltimore.

This behavior suggests that many of the protestors are anarchists who wish to tear apart society, not civilize it.

There is a danger that inappropriate "statue" behavior, including extreme, uncalled for statements by the protestors will alienate people who are sympathetic to past injustice.
Protesters are mounting a widening movement against statues to historical figures across the country. What began with protests of confederate statues after the Charlottesville protests has expanded to include Supreme Court justices, presidents, founders, and now explorer Christopher Columbus. In Detroit, protesters gathered around the Columbus statue to demand removal as a symbol of “white supremacy.” In Baltimore, the Columbus statue was vandalized.

Demonstrators in Detroit told media that there were no confederate statues so they chose an image that they view as “tied to a white supremacy mind-set.”

Organizers said they were unaware of any Confederate monuments in the city, so were focusing on memorials to other historical figures tied to a white supremacy mind-set.

The protesters are members of the Detroit chapter of BYP100, formerly known as the Black Youth Project 100.

The Columbus statue was erected by the Italian-American community of Detroit in 1910.

Protester Antonio Cosme is quoted as saying “He’s a central narrative to white nationalism. He’s one of the key figures in this whole Western identity.” Yet, Columbus is also the symbol of humanity’s unbounded desire for exploration and the courage it took to transverse an unknown ocean in a wooden ship to discover new lands. That courage was magnified by the fact that many thought Columbus and his crew would simply fall off the end of the Earth.

The monument in Baltimore was vandalized, a criminal act posted on posted to YouTube on Monday by a user named “Popular Resistance.” It shows a man taking a sledgehammer to the base of the monument near Herring Run Park near a sign reading: “The future is racial and economic justice.”

The video feature the voice of a man named Ty calling Christopher Columbus a “genocidal terrorist.”

As I have discussed in the media, this ever-widening movement to destroy historical monuments is occurring without any real debate or discussion. History is really neat. Historical figures are often deeply flawed individuals who lived in violent and oppressive times. We learn from history not by destroying its images but placing them into context. These are markers that represent the evolution of our society — not just our triumphs but failures.

There is no denying Columbus’ historical significance. Millersville University professor Thomas Tirado wrote in 2000 that “It is nearly impossible to over-exaggerate the historical significance of Christopher Columbus. The ultimate expression of the Columbian Legacy has been nothing less than global in its impact.”

He is also a great pride for Italian-Americans (including my family). I remember when an old-time Italian alderman was asked in the 70s by a reporter why Chicago was still celebrating Columbus Day when it appeared that Vikings may have come to the shores before Columbus. Vito Marzullo seemed stumped and then smiled and said “When Columbus discovered American, it stayed discovered.”

Monday, August 21, 2017

A Reasoned Position on Statues

Here is Jonathan Turley's column in the Hill Newspaper. Jonathan Turley is the Shapiro Professor of Public Interest Law at George Washington University.

JT is on target.

I think that the statue discussion is deficient because it focuses on one point at the expense of any other points.  It is tradeoffs that matter in life (if you want to make productive decisions).  I cannot take one-sided discussions seriously, even if the one point that is raised is an important one.
George Washington may have survived the winter at Valley Forge, but he may not see the end of the summer of Charlottesville. Bishop James Dukes of Chicago’s Liberation Christian Center and others are calling for the removal of his and Andrew Jackson’s statues and and stripping of their names from parks. Dukes insists that these monuments are “a slap in the face and it’s a disgrace” for African Americans given their history as slave owning presidents.

The bishop’s call for the removal of our first president’s statue is the latest effort to strip away the names of historical figures over ties to slavery or segregation. There is a movement to remove the name of Woodrow Wilson (who helped establish Princeton as a world academic institution) from buildings and schools, due to his support for segregation. The University of Virginia was founded by Thomas Jefferson, but last year, University President Teresa Sullivan was denounced by students and faculty for merely quoting our third president in a public message because he was a slave owner.

The call to remove Washington’s statue came less than a day after President Trump asked whether Washington would be next in the movement to remove statues like the Robert E. Lee monument in Charlottesville. The statement drew the ire of CNN’s Jim Acosta who described the notion as absurd and said it was “taken as a sign that the president perhaps needs a refresher course and needs to go back to History 101.”

History is precisely where this controversy should begin and end. Washington is rightfully condemned for his ownership of slaves. There were contemporaries like John Adams, John Jay, Benjamin Franklin and Alexander Hamilton who were outspoken critics of slavery. Franklin called slavery “an atrocious debasement of human nature,” while Adams referred to it as a “foul contagion in the human character.” These visionaries not only saw a great evil but answered the call of history to stand steadfastly against it.

However, before Mayor Rahm Emanuel sends in the bulldozers into Washington Park, it is worth considering a few facts about our first president’s history with slavery. Washington inherited a number of slaves at age 11 and received more slaves in his marriage to Martha Custis. However, he gradually came to oppose slavery. On the interim, Washington tried to assuage his guilt by refusing to sell slaves that would break up families, telling an associate that it was “against my inclination…to hurt the feelings of those unhappy people by a separation of man and wife, or of families.”

After the war, Washington continued to discuss ways to convert his plantation from slaves to tenants at the suggestion of his close aide (and outspoken opponent of slavery) Marquis de Lafayette. By 1786, Washington wrote his friend Robert Morris, “I can only say that there is not a man living who wishes more sincerely than I do, to see a plan adopted for the abolition of [slavery].”

In the end, Washington was the only one of nine slaveholding presidents (and the only slaveholding founder) who freed his slaves upon his death. Washington freed as many of his 317 slaves as possible. Some 123 slaves were his to emancipate while neither he nor Martha could free the so-called “Custis Dower slaves” (who remained property of the heirs to the estate of Daniel Parke Custis, Martha Washington’s first husband). He further ordered that all of the elderly or sick slaves would be supported by his estate for the rest of their lives.

So where does this leave us? With a complex and flawed figure who practiced a great evil while belatedly coming to reject it. He finished his life allied with his more enlightened colleagues but this is no reason to forgive his prior history. However, that is the point of history. It is never some neat narrative divided cleanly between demons and angels. Washington was a great leader who held a nation together through sheer leadership and stands as one of the few leaders in history to refuse to become a monarch himself.

Curiously, Dukes does offer a concession. Washington Park and Jackson Park could be formally named after former Mayor Harold Washington and civil rights leader Rev. Jesse Jackson or singer Michael Jackson. It is unlikely to convince those who view these statutes as not simply reminders of past leaders but past struggles in an evolving society. The same cannot be said for Michael Jackson. “Thriller” may be the best selling album in history, but the Battle of New Orleans still has more of a hold on history.

The fact is that we often learn as much from the failures as we do the triumphs of historical figures. Washington ultimately proved to be an early transitional figure in our ugly history of slavery. Washington himself described his desire at Mount Vernon “to lay a foundation” for a “rising generation” with a “new destiny” other than slavery.

For my part, I am proud to teach at the George Washington University, whose charter was paid for by Washington himself as part of that same final testament. Of course, that does not mean we could not make other improvements. Another school in Washington is named after a British king, George II, who kept our nation under colonial oppression. After all, the moonwalk and robot dance steps did have a transformative impact on my generation… and “Jacksontown University” has a nice ring to it.For my part, I am proud to teach at the George Washington University, whose charter was paid for by Washington himself as part of that same final testament. Of course, that does not mean we could not make other improvements. Another school in Washington is named after a British king, George II, who kept our nation under colonial oppression. After all, the moonwalk and robot dance steps did have a transformative impact on my generation… and “Jacksontown University” has a nice ring to it.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Government is not your friend

Here is a link to another example of Government making the wrong decision, leading to delayed availability of a drug that is effective for MS.

Government regulators run the risk of criticism (or worse) if they release a drug that turns out to have adverse effects, even if there is reasonable evidence that it will help.  On the other hand, if they do not release the drug, it is unlikely that they will be criticized.  The result is a tendency for potentially life improving drugs not to reach the market or to be substantially delayed.

Government is not your friend

Here is a link to an Appellate Court decision that provides useful perspective about law enforcement and the Courts, i.e., Government.

Law enforcement is rewarded for arrests, with predictable results.  Courts are not there to protect law enforcement - but sometimes do.

The sad part about this case is that the particular law enforcement personnel who misbehaved so badly still, presumably, have their jobs.

Read the whole thing.

Here is an excerpt.
Law-abiding tea drinkers and gardeners beware: One visit to a garden store and
some loose tea leaves in your trash may subject you to an early-morning, SWAT-style
raid, complete with battering ram, bulletproof vests, and assault rifles. Perhaps the
officers will intentionally conduct the terrifying raid while your children are home, and
keep the entire family under armed guard for two and a half hours while concerned
residents of your quiet, family-oriented neighborhood wonder what nefarious crime you
have committed. This is neither hyperbole nor metaphor—it is precisely what happened
to the Harte family in the case before us on appeal.

“[W]hen it comes to the Fourth Amendment, the home is first among equals. At
the Amendment’s very core stands the right of a man to retreat into his own home and
there be free from unreasonable governmental intrusion.” Florida v. Jardines, 133 S. Ct.
1409, 1414 (2013) (quotations omitted). The defendants in this case caused an
unjustified governmental intrusion into the Hartes’ home based on nothing more than
junk science, an incompetent investigation, and a publicity stunt. The Fourth
Amendment does not condone this conduct, and neither can I.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Pelosi dishonors the First Amendment

Here is a column by Jonathan Turley about Nancy Pelosi and the First Amendment.

It is people like Pelosi, who have the power to do damage, that are dangerous, not offensive people who do not have and will not get power.
House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi has always displayed a rather fluid view of constitutional rights (though in fairness, that is not a major distinction from other politicians). However, this week Pelosi appeared to embrace content based discrimination in the area of free speech. Pelosi is demanding that the National Park Service reconsider a permit for what she called a “white supremacist rally” in San Francisco. In light of the violence in Charlottesville, Pelosi insists that “The NPS should reevaluate its decision and its capacity to protect the public during such a toxic rally.” The problem is leaving it to the government to declare what groups are toxic from Pelosi’s list of constructive banned viewpoints. I felt ill watching the torch march of neo-Nazis in Charlottesville as white supremacists yelled disgusting anti-Semitic and racist chants. It reminded me of the Nazi rallies before World War II — before my father and so many others went off to fight fascism. However, despite that revulsion, I remain committed to the right of everyone to speak and protest regardless of the content of their views.

The San Francisco Examiner reports that the rally by the pro-Trump group Patriot Prayer is slated for Aug. 26 at San Francisco’s Crissy Field. The Golden Gate National Recreation Area includes parkland available to groups. Patriot Prayer obtained proper permits.

Pelosi is suggesting that the group should be denied a permit affordable to other groups based on their beliefs. That is the definition of government regulation of speech. Regardless of whether counter-demonstrators are drawn to the event, the group has a right to associate and to demonstrate. Anyone who engages in unlawful conduct on either side is subject to arrest.

As is so often case, Pelosi couched her remarks in an expressed fealty to free speech: “San Francisco takes great pride in being a city of peace which cherishes free speech and the right to public dissent.” Then comes that predictable “but” to not just qualify but nullify first amendment protections: “However, the National Park Service’s decision to permit a white supremacist rally at Crissy Field raises grave and ongoing concerns about public safety.” What does that mean? Does “concerns” over what might happen now justify a denial of the right to speak in public forums?

If that were the measure, no one could obtain a permit if they were widely unpopular. This approach has virtually banned some conservative speakers from colleges (as we discussed with regard to schools like DePaul in Chicago). Pelosi’s position would allow the government to bar groups on the basis that they present a public danger due to the expectation of counter-protesters. That would be a serious blow to free speech in this country. As I discuss in my recent Hill column, the first amendment generally views both sides as exercising free speech regardless of the content of their views. For that reason, the courts have largely rejected content-based government action as opposed to prosecution for specific criminal acts like property damage.

Jonathan Turley on Hate Crime and Terrorism Laws

Here is Jonathan Turley's comment. Jonathan Turley is the Shapiro Professor of Public Interest Law at George Washington University.

JT is on target.

Keep in mind that the easier you make it for Government to "get" the people you don't like, the easier you make it for the Government to "get" you.

Far better to eliminate Hate Crime and Terrorism laws and focus on actions.
In a rare moment of unity in our country, leaders of both major parties joined in their call for investigations and prosecutions following the deadly protests in Charlottesville, Va. Officials have called for hate crime and terrorism charges against James Alex Fields Jr., 20, who is accused of mowing down counter-demonstrators and killing Heather Heyer, a 32-year-old paralegal.

It was a sickening act that came after a day of violence near the statue of Robert E. Lee. Fields is already charged with murder in Virginia, but Attorney General Jeff Sessions moved quickly to open an investigation for possible hate crime charges on the federal level. Such a charge could rekindle concerns over the expansion of both hate crime and terrorism laws, particularly in conflict with free speech principles.

Hate crime laws
The first challenge for a hate crime prosecution will be to determine if this was an act of specific hate from general rage. The hate crimes statute covers an attack that was motivated not by unfettered fury but particularized hatred of a victim’s race, religion, national origin, ethnicity, gender or sexual orientation. Fields may indeed have targeted people on that basis, but there would be serious questions over the applicability of the statute. There is no indication that he waited for particular people to enter the street, but mowed down everyone in his path.

While Fields is reportedly an admirer of Adolph Hitler and some of his victims were black, Heyer was white and the crowd was a mix of races and genders and religions. The Justice Department could argue that Heyer was killed in an act targeting blacks, but it will have to show that Fields was attacking counter-demonstrators generally. This is the long-standing objection of civil libertarians that hate crimes tend to be dangerously fluid and subjective — as opposed to the more concrete murder charges.

There is a more general provision under the Civil Rights Act of 1968 and Section 245 of Title 18 that makes it a federal crime to use force to willfully injure or intimidate any citizen “participating lawfully in speech or peaceful assembly” directed at opposing the denial of civil rights to other people. That provision, however, is more often directed at acts like the denial of voting rights. It has not been applied to a case like this.

There was violence on both sides of this demonstration with people showing up with shields, clubs and other weapons. Fields certainly seems to easily fulfill the hate aspect of a hate crime, but his prosecution could raise the question of whom or what he hated so much as to cause him to speed down a crowded street in Charlottesville.

Terrorism laws

National security adviser H.R. McMaster took the calls for prosecution into a different direction on ABC’s “This Week” and insisted that “anytime that you commit an attack against people to incite fear, it is terrorism.” As with the statement of Attorney General Sessions, the strong language from McMaster was commendable in assuring Americans that we will not stand for such acts of savagery in this nation. However, McMaster’s call to “extinguish” acts of hatred through terrorism laws triggers a predictable response for those of us in the civil liberties community.

While Fields cannot be charged with domestic terrorism under these facts, people, including CNN legal analyst Page Pate, have called for the expansion of the law. Lisa Monaco, President Obama’s homeland security adviser, echoed McMaster’s sentiments and said that “kind of violence, committed for seeming political ends, is the very definition of domestic terrorism.” The question again will be Fields’s “seeming political ends” in plowing his car into a crowd of people on a street.

Civil libertarians have objected for years over the expansion of terrorism laws after 9/11. Under the USA Patriot Act, a violation of federal or state criminal law qualifies as “domestic terrorism” if it is intended to coerce or intimidate a civilian population or to coerce the policy of the government. As with the hate crime provision, there are obvious concerns about the use of such a law in the context of a political demonstration.

The First Amendment sees no distinction based on viewpoints. They are all protesters and cloaked in the same constitutional protections — and subject to the same criminal laws for violence. Indeed, the demonstrators had recently succeeded in going to court to enjoin the denial of free speech by the Charlottesville City Council in refusing them a permit.

There are calls for the demonstration by white supremacists and nationalists to be investigated as part of the terroristic act (or under the Ku Klux Act). That raises the specter that violence by demonstrators would be subject to terrorism investigations more readily than the violence of counter-demonstrators. For example, the racist organizer of this event was assaulted the following day when trying to speak to the media. Was this terrorism by a person acting with “seeming political ends”?

Obviously, this is not the time when it is popular to raise such concerns. At a time of national rage, such constitutional concerns can appear precious or even disloyal. However, we have much to lose if we allow crimes like terrorism to expand dramatically into areas of unpopular but protected speech. What Fields allegedly did was not speech, it was murder. As we legitimately investigate a possible hate crime, we need to be careful not to lose that distinction.

About Markets

Don Boudreaux on markets.
Many opponents of markets find the open quest for profits in market economies to be unethical or unaesthetic, and they blame markets. What these opponents miss is the fact that the self-interest that is typically – and even the greed that is sometimes – on display in markets is not created by commercial markets. Commercial markets are merely a forum in which individuals act on these motivations. One of most profound errors committed by market opponents is to suppose that when activities are transferred from commercial markets into the realm of politics human imperfections and self-interest are replaced by superhuman perfection and altruism. But as Buchanan argues, it’s naive to suppose that the mere shifting of activities from one resource-allocation forum to another changes the underlying human motivations. (And such shifting certainly does not change the underlying human cognitive limitations.)

So profit seeking occurs in political settings no less than in market settings. But the kinds of information and constraints in political settings differ greatly from those in market settings. Therefore, the kinds of actions taken in one setting, and the consequences of those actions, differ from the actions and consequences in the other setting. One important difference is that in markets, profits are earned only through voluntary payments while in politics profits are typically extracted by forcibly transferring property from the politically weak to the politically strong. The fact that such transfers are not overtly called “profit seeking” – and the fact that political activities are camouflaged with public-interest rhetoric – doesn’t change the underlying reality.

In summary, in the market Smith profits only by building a better mousetrap or by devising a process that reduces the amount of resources used to build a familiar mousetrap. (Smith might do so directly, as a mousetrap producer, or indirectly, as someone who secures the financing for a mousetrap producer.) In politics, Jones typically profits by confiscating mousetraps from Smith or from Smith’s customers, or by confiscating the inputs that Smith would otherwise use to make mousetraps.

Putting the KKK, Nazis, and White Supremacists in perspective

The KKK, Nazis, and White Supremacists hold unacceptable views, both economic and social.  If they got their way, they would probably kill a lot of people, regiment peoples’ lives, and make the economy inefficient.

Killing people speaks for itself.

Regimentation reduces freedom.

A less efficient economy would come about due to harmful regulation and excessive government control.  Both imply a lower standard of living and less freedom.  An inefficient economy implies fewer resources for the things we want, including health care.  Less effective health care implies a higher mortality rate.

Bernie Sanders and his followers hold unacceptable views, both economic and social.  If they got their way, they would not kill people, but would regiment peoples’ lives, and make the economy inefficient (Socialism is inefficient).

Regimentation reduces freedom.

A less efficient economy would come about due to harmful regulation and excessive government control.  Both imply a lower standard of living and less freedom.  An inefficient economy implies fewer resources for the things we want, including health care.  Less effective health care implies a higher mortality rate.

Who should we fear most?  Bernie Sanders and his followers.  Why?  Because they have political clout and may gain power.  The KKK, Nazis, and White Supremacists are so offensive that there is no risk of their gaining political clout and power.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

The tendency of emotion to rule over intellect, and the failure to appreciate freedom

This is a test.

1.      Group A’s right to speak is protected under the First Amendment and this is desirable.
a.       True or false?
2.      Group B’s right to speak is protected under the First Amendment and this is desirable.
a.       True of false?
3.      Group A wants to hold a peaceful rally to “speak”.  Group A should be allowed to do so.
a.       True or false?
4.      Group B wants to protest peacefully at Group A’s rally.  Group B should be allowed to do so.
a.       True or false.
5.      The rally and protest go forward and neither group physically attacks the other.  This is the way it is supposed to be.
a.       True or false.
6.      The rally and protest go forward and Group A physically attacks Group B without physical provocation.  Group B acts defensively only.  Group A attackers have caused the violence, have committed a crime and should be prosecuted.  Group B defenders have not committed a crime and should not be prosecuted.
a.       True or false.
7.      The rally and protest go forward and Group B physically attacks Group A without physical provocation.  Group A acts defensively only.  Group B attackers have caused the violence, have committed a crime and should be prosecuted.  Group A defenders have not committed a crime and should not be prosecuted.
a.       True or false.
8.      The rally and protest go forward and Group A physically attacks Group B without physical provocation.  Group B acts defensively at first, but then attacks Group A when unnecessary for defensive purposes.  Group A and B attackers have caused the violence, have committed a crime and should be prosecuted.
a.       True or false.
9.      The rally and protest go forward and Group B physically attacks Group A without physical provocation.  Group A acts defensively at first, but then attacks Group B when unnecessary for defensive purposes.  Group A and B attackers have caused the violence, have committed a crime and should be prosecuted.
a.       True or false.
10.  Is it necessary to know what the two groups are to answer these questions?
a.       Yes or No.

1.      True.
2.      True.
3.      True.
4.      True.
5.      True.
6.      True.
7.      True.
8.      True.
9.      True.
10.  No.

If you did not answer all these questions correctly, either you are emotional at the expense of your intellect or you do not appreciate freedom.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

The Anti-Gun Crowd: Figures Don't Lie, But Liars Figure

Here is a good, and unfortunately typical, example of how the anti-gun crowd plays loose with the truth presented by John Lott, of the Crime Prevention Research Center.

JL is on target.
A frequent claim by gun control advocates is that the National Research Council (NRC) 2005 report, “Firearms and Violence: A Critical Review,” has “debunked,” “emphatically rejected,” “disproved,” or failed to support research showing that right-to-carry laws reduce crime.  It is not too surprising that gun control advocates and the media like to point to their interpretation of the NRC report because the studies that look at the data for the US normally find strong support for right-to-carry laws reducing violent crime.  Here are a couple such quotes by Professor John Donohue.  I was just given a copy of part of Donohue’s report from June this year.

“Despite some initial claims that RTC laws could actually reduce violent crime, the 2004 report of a special committee the National Research Council (“NRC”; with only one dissenter out of 16 committee members) emphatically rejected this conclusion based on the committee’s review of the then-current information with data through 2000″ (emphasis added). John Donohue, Expert Report in Flanagan v. Becerra, United States District Court (C.D. Cal.), Case No. 2:16-cv-06164-JAK-AS, June 1, 2017.  Donohue was an expert for the state of California.

“The National Academy of Sciences convened a panel of talented experts who spent two years looking at John Lott’s work, Gary Kleck’s work.  They came before the committee, testified, fifteen to one in that panel of sixteen, they concluded the scientific evidence does not support the more guns, less crime proposition. The lone dissenter was someone who was not an econometrician, who admitted in his dissent that he wished he knew more econometrics, and who had previously testified as an expert witness on behalf of the execrable NRA.” John Donohue, Intelligence Squared debate October 28, 2008 at the 38:00 minute mark.  The debate was carried nationally on National Public Radio.

In fact, it would be more accurate to say that the panel didn’t reach any conclusion on right-to-carry, just as it didn’t reach any conclusion on any of the other policies, and that they merely called for more research.

The conclusion of chapter 6 noted: “Thus, the committee concludes that with the current evidence it is not possible to determine that there is a causal link between the passage of right-to-carry laws and crime rates.” It ended with a call for more research: “If further headway is to be made on this question, new analytical approaches and data sets will need to be used.

What is ignored by gun control advocates in discussions of the NRC report is that the report studied over 100 different types of gun control proposal and that it didn’t reach a conclusion on any of them and only called for more research.  Yet, no gun control advocates would say that the NRC debunked their favorite gun control laws.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Government Regulation Set Up To Help Morphs Into Restrictions That Hurt

An excerpt from Milton Friedman's "Liberalism, Old Style".
The Interstate Commerce Commission was established to protect the public against the railroads when railroads probably did have a large element of natural monopoly.  The development of highway and air transport has largely eliminated any natural monopoly element in railroads, yet instead of the abolition of the Interstate Commerce Commission, government control has been extended to these other transportation media.  The ICC has become a means of protecting the railroads from the competition of trucks instead of the public from the absence of competition . . . . . In practice, the claim of natural monopoly is more often an excuse for intervention desired on other grounds than a valid justification for intervention.

Wednesday, August 09, 2017

It is Time For Rod Rosenstein to Recuse Himself

Here is Jonathan Turley's column on this topic. Jonathan Turley is the Shapiro Professor of Public Interest Law at George Washington University

JT is on target.
Below is my column in the Hill Newspaper on the growing need for Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to recuse himself from the Special Counsel investigation. Rosenstein has alluded to the possible need for his recusal but continues to participate in an investigation that could have direct bearing on his own role and decision-making. If he has material evidence on obstruction, he should not delay his recusal until he receives a formal request to appear before a grand jury. His relevance to the obstruction investigation is obvious and he should not be determined questions of scope when his own conduct could fall within the jurisdiction of the Special Counsel.

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein is back in the news this week, with a Sunday show appearance discussing the evolving scope of the special counsel’s investigation. While the subject was hardly a surprise, the person discussing the investigation was. Rosenstein is not only the ultimate authority on the scope of the investigation, he is also clearly a witness.

There are times when multitasking is a talent, but playing the roles of investigator and witness is not one of them. Rosenstein continues to resist calls for his own recusal, despite reports that a grand jury in Washington is now pursuing the obstruction allegations against President Trump.

Reports also indicate that various FBI officials now believe that they will inevitably be called as witnesses before the grand jury investigation of special counsel Robert Mueller. Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe is among those officials.

But on the top of this list must be the man whom the White House originally tagged with the decision to fire former FBI Director James Comey and the man who reportedly clashed with the White House over its public account: Rod Rosenstein.

Rosenstein’s involvement and importance in the underlying facts are well established. The deputy attorney general’s failure to recuse himself is a glaring ethical omission in an investigation into a president’s alleged conflicts of interest in dealing with then-FBI Director James Comey. Rosenstein is now three months overdue.

I was skeptical about the appointment of a special counsel before the firing because such an appointment should be accompanied by an articulable criminal act — something missing in the vague references to “collusion” with the Russians.

My view changed after Trump fired Comey on May 9. At that point, I believed that Rosenstein was right about the need for a special counsel to assure the public that a full and independent investigation would be conducted. However, his choice of Robert Mueller was a mistake. Mueller interviewed for Comey’s job, and Trump presumably spoke to Mueller about his reasons for firing Comey.

Moreover, Mueller and Comey have a close prior professional history. Both men were involved in a historic moment during the George W. Bush administration where they stood side by side to oppose an unlawful surveillance program. It was a moment that would define the legacies of both men — and enjoin them in history.

Rosenstein magnified that error with a mandate for Mueller that is strikingly broad. Yet this week, Rosenstein assured the public that “Bob Mueller understands and I understand the specific scope of the investigation, and so no, it’s not a fishing expedition.” If so, that understanding has remained strangely unstated.

The special counsel provision found in 28 CFR 600 states that the attorney general (or in this case, the deputy attorney general) shall establish by jurisdiction of the special counsel “a specific factual statement of the matter to be investigated.”

The statement given to Robert Mueller was anything but specific. It simply stated that Mueller was to investigate “any links and/or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald Trump” and “any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation.”

With such a sweeping mandate, the role of the deputy attorney general in the investigation is even higher than usual. Rosenstein is performing the role of the attorney general after Jeff Sessions correctly recused himself. Under the rules, Mueller is specifically allowed to investigate “any federal crimes committed in the course of, and with intent to interfere with, the special counsel’s investigation, such as perjury, obstruction of justice, destruction of evidence, and intimidation of witnesses.”

If Mueller were to seek a broader jurisdiction to investigate new matters or “to fully investigate and resolve the matters assigned,” he “shall consult with” Rosenstein, who this week referenced this power by saying that Mueller “needs to come to the acting attorney general, at this time me, for permission to expand his investigation.”

It is not clear whether Mueller had such a discussion before bringing on a team of prosecutors focused on financial fraud and foreign bribery or pursuing previous Trump transactions and business deals. If Mueller is pursuing obstruction allegations, that course will take him right over the desk of his superior: Rosenstein.

Rosenstein was consulted about firing Comey and supported the decision with a memorandum shredding the former FBI director. Moreover, when the White House initially made it sound like Rosenstein was the reason that Comey was fired (despite the fact that Trump had already decided to do so before receiving Rosenstein’s memo in support of termination), Rosenstein reportedly demanded a correction.

Rosenstein will likely be a key witness on the obstruction issue. As someone who supported the firing, he may be as important to the defense as to the prosecution in showing the independent grounds for terminating Comey. He has much at stake professionally, as shown by his adamant response to the White House spin. The grand jury might want to know why Rosenstein did not act to protect Comey or why he did not confront Trump in any suggested desire to curtail the investigation.

It is a basic rule that prosecutor should immediately recuse himself from a matter where he may be a witness. In addition to the various grounds listed in the conflicts rule, recusal is appropriate in “circumstances other than those set forth in the regulation that would cause a reasonable person with knowledge of the facts to question an employee’s impartiality.” Rosenstein, who has recognized his problem as a potential witness, should have recused himself long ago.

Rosenstein clearly agreed with the recusal of Sessions (as did most of us) to avoid even an appearance of a conflict. The deputy attorney general has more than an appearance of a conflict. Not only did Rosenstein appoint someone with close ties to the main accuser of President Trump, but he himself reportedly clashed with the White House on its post-firing account on Comey. Yet, Rosenstein is reaffirming that he will continue to make decisions on the scope and resources for the investigation.

This is a major investigation with passions running high on both sides. Citizens deserve an investigation without lingering questions of bias or personal interest. While it is too late to rethink or reverse the appointment of the special counsel, Rosenstein can remove one continuing and distracting conflict by removing himself. We are now more than 90 days and waiting.

The Insurance Compulsion

Here is a Washington Times article by Richard Rahn.

RR is on target.
Venezuela is the latest global disaster caused by socialism. Over the last couple of hundred years, virtually every variety of socialism has been tried — from communism to national socialism (Nazism) and fascism, to various varieties of “democratic socialism” — with one common characteristic — they all failed. Despite the economic failures, loss of liberty and the tens of millions of deaths resulting from the socialist experiments, it has an enduring romantic attraction. Bernie Sanders and millions of his followers call themselves socialists, without embarrassment, claiming that next time they will get it right. Many countries still have socialist parties. How can so many be so ignorant of the never-ending misery socialism has brought?

Many of those who advocate socialism not only suffer from real or studied ignorance, but a fear of not being able to fend for themselves. They fear that they cannot make a living on their own or pay their own medical bills. They fear competition. When some political type says, “The state will take care of you and give you food, shelter and medical care,” for many it becomes easier to accept the words as truth without thinking through the history, costs and consequences of such promises.

Life is scary and uncertain. Children fear the loss of their parents to protect and care for them. Part of becoming an adult is taking on the responsibility for taking care of ourselves, which means insuring as much as possible against life’s risks. Responsible adults take certain actions, such as insuring against unemployment by deferring immediate gratification and spending time, effort and money to obtain more education and job skills. Responsible adults buy medical insurance, auto insurance and homeowners insurance to protect themselves, at least partially, against events they may not be able to control.

Insurance costs money, and it is human nature to prefer that someone else pay your bills. In essence, socialism is a system in which others are forced to pay your bills no matter how irresponsible you may be. Margaret Thatcher famously pointed out that socialism works until socialist governments run out of other people’s money.

Recognizing that many will be irresponsible and not buy adequate insurance, states require people to buy auto insurance as a condition of driving on public roads. Companies that provide mortgages require those who have a mortgage to buy homeowners insurance.

The first duty of government is to protect the citizens and their property — which requires a military, police and court system. This insurance has to be paid for — and citizens are required to pay taxes for these functions. Most people, not including anarchists, believe these are necessary functions of government. So most debate is about how much to spend on these functions, not whether or not it is desirable to insure against these risks.

The real debate is about how much insurance any individual should be required to pay for versus how much should be voluntary. The socialists promise to insure the individual against almost all of life’s risks, but to do so, they have to compel people to provide whatever share of their earnings necessary to pay for all of the benefits. The demand for more benefits is never-ending. The amount required to pay for the benefits becomes so high that most individual initiative, investment and work incentives are destroyed. State monopoly agencies to provide for all the benefits have little incentive for cost control, nor do the people working within the agencies have many incentives for good “customer” service. At some point, the situation becomes so bad that the people revolt — which explains why most countries that tried socialism have rejected it in all but name.

The Chinese Communist Party still calls itself socialist, despite having largely a free-market system. A few years back during one of my trips to China, I was in a discussion about the economy with a high-ranking Chinese government official. He had been defending the supremacy of the party. I noted that during the first 30 years of communist rule, the economy had been a disaster, but three decades ago, when they turned to a market economy, with some property rights, work and investment incentives, the economy boomed. His reply: “We originally thought that we could go directly from a poor agrarian society to communism, but then we realized that first we would need to build a rich capitalistic society, which might take 100 years, before going to communism.”

The current debate about the government role in health care insurance illustrates the muddled thinking among the political class. Under Obamacare, there is a requirement that people are compelled to buy insurance from selected providers or pay a fine. Many young people saw this correctly as a bad deal for them, so they chose to pay the fine to a coercive government. Many Republicans said they would take away the purchase requirement as an unjust infringement on personal liberty — but then many quite irrationally said they would cover pre-existing conditions — which destroys any incentive to purchase insurance until one is ill. This is not insurance, but socialist income redistribution, and will lead to a fiscal disaster.

A reason to severely limit government’s role in insuring against individual risk is that history shows free markets can provide insurance for most things more efficiently and without compulsion.