Thursday, June 30, 2016

Intolerance and PC will lead to losing Free Speech

Here is an article by Jonathan Turley, "Englishman Arrested For Posting Anti-Islamic Tweets After Brussels Bombing."

Jonathan is on target.  There is a movement in the West, including the US, toward criminalizing free speech.  The movement is fueled by do-gooders who do not understand what freedom is about.  Governments simply take advantage of the do-gooders' intolerance and stupidity to gain their votes by attacking those the do-gooders think should be attacked.

Jonathans comments apply equally to the US.

There is another arrest in the United Kingdom for criminal speech, a crime that is on the rise in the West to censor and punish those who are deemed hateful or insulting in their views. The latest arrestee is reported to be Matthew Doyle, 46, a partner at a London PR agency. He was arrested after tweeting about how he asked a Muslim woman to “explain” the terror attacks in Brussels. It was a stupid and insulting act, in my view. Moreover, Doyle reportedly used some slur for Muslims in later postings. However, none of that justifies criminalizing speech and the arrest shows the increasing appetite in England (and the West) for rolling back on free speech. Indeed, we recently discussed the Obama Administration’s threats of prosecution for those who speak in ways deemed misleading or hateful.

We have previously discussed the alarming rollback on free speech rights in the West, particularly in France (here and here and here and here and here and here) and England ( here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here). Much of this trend is tied to the expansion of hate speech and non-discrimination laws. We have seen comedians targeted with such court orders under this expanding and worrisome trend. (here and here). This includes German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s disgraceful pandering to authoritarian Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan over the exercise of free speech by German citizens deemed insulting to Erdoğan.

London’s Metropolitan Police on Wednesday reportedly arrested Doyle after social media started to comment on his tweet that read: “I confronted a Muslim women [sic] yesterday in Croydon. I asked her to explain Brussels. She said “Nothing to do with me” a mealy mouthed reply.”

Doyle was obviously upset over the bombings at the Brussels airport and at a metro station killed at least 31 people and wounded 300 others. However, the young lady was right to be insulted by the suggestion that just because she is Muslim she would have to explain the actions of these murderers and terrorists.

The tweet was later deleted but the controversy raged on social media. Doyle doubled down and strangely thanked his followers “for proving I can still do PR.” The comments were inappropriate and ignorant but they were also in my view an exercise in free speech, something that is increasing precarious in England.

England has seen the rise of calls for speech prosecutions. We have previously discussed the crackdown on free speech rights in the West, particularly in England ( here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here).

Lott, Moody, and Whitley demolish an American Journal of Epidemiology paper about guns

Here is a link to a letter to the Editor of Epidemiologic Reviews.  The letter is written by John Lott, Carlisle Moody, and John Whitley.  They critique a paper published in Epidemiologic Reviews written by Santaella- Tenorio, Cerda Villaveces, et al.

The critique utterly demolishes the paper, and establishes, in my view either a remarkable incompetency by Santaella-Tenorio and Villaveces, et. al., or outright lack of ethics.  Unfortunately, it is common that anti gun authors are deficient in these regards.

The moral of the story is is not to accept the "facts" and claims of the anti-gun crowd without first checking with reputable researchers, e.g., John Lott of the Crime Prevention Research Center.

A snippet.
In their article, Santaella-Tenorio et al. (1) repeated that they provided a summary of results from studies in which researchers investigated at the impact of various gun control laws on crime rates. In legends of their Figures 2–4, they stated that they presented only a single estimate from each study because of space limitations. The Discussion section of their article reads as though the authors were providing a representative result. Instead, from papers that provide hundreds of results, they picked the most extreme result time after time and misreported others.

There are 5 problems with the way Santaella-Tenorio et al.created their figures: 1) They consistently picked results that were the most favorable single result for gun control in the papers they surveyed; 2) they picked results that the authors of those papers rejected; 3) they gave equal weight to refereed and nonrefereed papers; 4) they left out papers from their surveys that have results that do not support gun control; and 5) they inaccurately reported some results. The errors here also apply to all the tables in the article by Santaella-Tenorio et al.; however, because of space considerations, we will focus only on some of the errors in their figure about right-to-carry laws (Figure 2 in their original paper (1)). We also feel strongly that our findings in previous works (2–6) have been misreported.

Monday, June 27, 2016

The Democrats' desire for tyranny

The following has been approved by the Democratic Platform Drafting Committee.

Forcing clean electricity will raise the cost of energy and reduce the reliability of the electrical grid.

Making climate change dissenting opinions potentially criminal reduces our freedoms.

Both positions are a testament to the tyranny the Democrat Party seeks to impose.

Beware of those who insist that everyone live the way they think they should.
Climate Change and Clean Energy: Moving beyond the “all of the above” energy approach in the 2012 platform, the 2016 platform draft re-frames the urgency of climate change as a central challenge of our time, already impacting American communities and calling for generating 50 percent clean electricity within the next ten years. The Committee unanimously adopted a joint proposal from Sanders and Clinton representatives to commit to making America run entirely on clean energy by mid-century, and supporting the ambitious goals put forward by President Obama and the Paris climate agreement. Another joint proposal calling on the Department of Justice to investigate alleged corporate fraud on the part of fossil fuel companies who have reportedly misled shareholders and the public on the scientific reality of climate change was also adopted by unanimous consent.

Money Goes to Washington

Here is an on target column by Walter Williams about why firms lobby Washington and why Hillary gets such large speaking fees.

Walter E. Williams is a professor of economics at George Mason University.
Pay particular attention to the last paragraph.
According to a New York Post article (May 22, 2016), in just two years, Hillary Clinton — former first lady, senator from New York and secretary of state — collected over $21 million in speaking fees. These fees were paid by Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, Deutsche Bank, Fidelity Investments, UBS, Bank of America and several hedge fund companies.

In 2015, lobbyists spent $3.22 billion lobbying Congress. In 2013 and 2014, just 10 chemical companies and allied organizations spent more than $154 million lobbying the federal government. The Center for Responsive Politics in 2013 reported that The Dow Chemical Co. “posted record lobbying expenditures” in 2012, “spending nearly $12 million,” and was “on pace to eclipse” that amount. Fourteen labor unions were among the top 25 political campaign contributors between 1989 and 2014.

Many Americans lament the fact that so much money goes to Washington. Let’s ask ourselves why corporations, labor unions and other groups spend billions upon billions of dollars on political campaigns, pay hundreds of thousands of dollars for a speech and wine and dine politicians and their staffs. Do you think that these are just civic-minded Americans who want to encourage elected officials to live up to their oath of office to uphold and defend the U.S. Constitution? Do you think that people who spend billions of dollars on politicians just love participating in the political process? If you believe that either one of those notions applies, you’re probably a candidate for a straitjacket and padded cell.

A much better explanation for the billions of dollars spent on Washington politicians lies in the awesome growth of government power over business, property, employment and most other areas of our lives. Having such life-and-death power, Washington politicians are in the position to grant favors. The greater their power to grant favors the greater the value of being able to influence Congress. The generic favor sought is to get Congress, under one ruse or another, to grant a privilege or right to one group of Americans that will be denied to another group of Americans. In other words, billions of dollars are spent to get Congress to do things that would be reprehensible and criminal if done privately. Let’s look at one tiny representative example among the tens of thousands.

The Fanjuls are among the biggest sugar cane growers in the U.S. Both they and Archer Daniels Midland benefit immensely from reducing the amount of sugar imported to our shores from the Caribbean and elsewhere. As a result of the reduction, they can charge Americans higher prices for sugar, and because of these higher prices, ADM can sell more of its corn syrup sweetener. If they used guns and goons to stop foreign sugar from entering the U.S., they’d wind up in jail. However, if they find ways to persuade congressmen to impose tariffs and quotas on foreign sugar, they get the same result without risking imprisonment. In 2014, the combined lobbying expenditures of the Fanjuls and ADM totaled $2.8 million, and they spent $754,002 in political contributions.

The two most powerful committees of Congress are the House Ways and Means and the Senate Finance committees. Congressmen fight to be on these committees, which are in charge of tax laws. As a result, committee members are besieged with campaign contributions. Why? A tweak here and a tweak there in the tax code can mean millions of dollars to individuals and corporations.

You might ask: What can be done? Campaign finance and lobbying reforms will only change the method of influence-peddling. If Americans would demand that Congress do only what’s specifically enumerated in our Constitution, influence-peddling would be much smaller. That’s because our Constitution contains no authority for Congress to grant favors or special privileges or give one American the earnings of another American.

Seeing as most Americans do not want a constitutionally bound Congress, I am all too afraid that an observation attributed to Benjamin Franklin is correct: “When the people find that they can vote themselves money, that will herald the end of the republic.”

Monday, June 20, 2016

The Armed Citizen

John Lott provides perspective on the gun debate following Orlando

Here is John's editorial.
Are we really going to respond to the threat of Islamic terrorism by disarming Americans? On Monday, Hillary Clinton announced that "weapons of war have no place on our streets," and she specifically focused on the AR-15.

While the Orlando killer used a Sig Sauer MCX carbine, since last weekend's shooting, it has been another roughly similar rifle, the AR-15, that has been the focus of so much anger. Possibly this is because it is the most popular rifle in America. Possibly it is because the media jumped to the conclusion that this was the weapon used before they had confirmation.

The AR-15 looks like the M-16, which has been in use by the U.S. military since the Vietnam War. While the M-16 is a machine gun, the AR-15 is semiautomatic, meaning that it fires only one bullet at a time. Yet the AR-15 was covered by the 1994 federal assault-weapons ban (which expired in 2004).

But people continue to ask: Why do people need a semiautomatic AR-15 to go out and kill deer? The answer is simple: Because it is a hunting rifle. It has just been made to look like a military weapon.

The AR-15 uses essentially the same bullets as small-game hunting rifles, fires at the same rapidity, and does the same damage.

The .223-inch rounds used by the AR-15 are actually small compared with what is usually used to hunt deer. Indeed, many states prohibit using bullets of that size for deer hunting. The concern is that the animal will suffer from its wounds rather than experiencing a quick death.

But hunting isn't the issue here. Semiautomatic weapons also protect people and save lives. Single-shot rifles that require manual reloading after every round may not do people a lot of good when their first shot misses or when they are faced by multiple attackers.

During her talk Monday, Clinton gave the false impression that the "assault weapons" used in Orlando and San Bernardino are commonly used in mass public shootings. But such weapons were used exclusively in only 12 percent of the mass public shootings from President Obama's 2009 inauguration through the end of 2015. In another 12 percent of shootings, a rifle was used in conjunction with a handgun and/or a shotgun.

Since the federal ban expired in September 2004, murder and overall violent-crime rates have actually fallen. In 2003, the last full year before the law expired, the U.S. murder rate was 5.7 per 100,000 people. By 2014, the murder rate had fallen to 4.5 per 100,000 people. In none of the years since the ban ended has the murder rate been higher than it was in 2003. The average murder rate during the 10 years of the ban was 6.7 per 100,000 people and in the 10 years after it was 5.1.

In fact, murder rates fell immediately after September 2004, especially in the states that did not have their own assault-weapons bans. My published academic research accounts for other factors and confirms the apparent benefits of the federal ban's expiration.

There is also a misunderstanding about the large-capacity ammunition magazines used by some of these killers. The common perception is that so-called assault weapons can hold larger magazines than hunting rifles. Any gun that can hold a magazine can hold one of any size. That is true of handguns as well as rifles. A magazine, which is basically a metal box with a spring, is trivially easy to make and virtually impossible to stop criminals from obtaining. The 1994 assault-weapons law banned larger magazines and yet had no benefit on crime rates.

If we finally want to deal seriously with multiple-victim public shootings, it is about time that we acknowledge a common feature of these attacks. Since at least as far back as 1950, all but three U.S. mass public shootings (with more than three fatalities) have occurred in places where citizens are not allowed to carry their own firearms.

Let licensed citizens carry guns in the sorts of places that keep getting attacked. They will sometimes be able to stop these killings before police can get to the scene. In the Orlando attack, it took three hours before police entered the nightclub and engaged the killer.

The AR-15 is a dangerous weapon, but it is not a weapon of war. It doesn't make sense to ban certain semiautomatic guns just because of how they look. And no, banning all semiautomatic guns is not the answer either. Despite the immediate emotional appeal of doing so, it will actually make Americans less safe.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Life in Florida

Here is a picture of a six foot lizard climbing up our sliding glass door.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Concealed handgun permit holders stop mass public shootings

Here is a link to a CPRC (a trusted source) article "Compiling Cases Where Concealed Handgun Permit Holders Have Stopped Mass Public Shootings"

A snippet.
Note that most all these cases have just a couple of local news stories on them. There is no reason to believe that this list is comprehensive given how little media coverage is given to mass public shootings that were stopped by concealed handgun permit holders. Even in the cases that got massive news coverage, only a few of those stories would mention that it was a permit holder who stopped the attack. In addition, there is no attempt here to list here the very large number of defensive gun uses that are reported daily in the US. This list here only includes cases where mass public shootings were stopped.

This past Friday, an Uber driver with a permitted concealed handgun stopped what likely would have been a mass public shooting. Police arrived on the scene quickly, but the Uber driver had still already taken care of the situation before they arrived. From Mitch Dudek in the Chicago Sun-Times:

  • Six blasts from his gun injured a 22-year-old man identified as Everardo Custodio. 
  • Custodio suffered wounds to his shin, knee and lower back . . . Cook County Judge Peggy Chiampas refused to grant [Custodio] bail on charges of aggravated battery with a firearm and illegal possession of a firearm. 
  • The 47-year-old Uber driver “was acting in self-defense and in the defense of others,” Assistant State’s Attorney Barry Quinn said. . . . 
  • The Uber driver had dropped off a passenger minutes before the shooting occurred, said Uber spokeswoman Jen Mullin. She had no comment on the driver’s actions other than to say the company requires all its drivers to abide by local, state and federal laws pertaining to transporting firearms in vehicles. . . . 
  • Police patrolling the area heard the shots and arrived to find Custodio on the ground and bleeding. Police also recovered a handgun found near Custodio, Quinn said. . . . 
  • [The Uber driver is] a registered gun owner who has a concealed carry license. He doesn’t face any charges. . . .

CPRC on where mass public shootings occurred

Here is a link to a CPRC (a trusted source) article about where mass shootings occurred.  According to the article:


Perspective on Mass Public Shootings

An infograph from the Crime Prevention Research Center, a website you can trust.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

The Truth About Guns

If you want to know the truth about guns, read this book.

Not only does this book provide the truth, but it critiques academic papers and other articles that purport to disprove the book's conclusions and makes clear their fatal flaws.  Moreover, it shows how untruthful or uninformed are many anti gun people and organizations.

One Lesson From Pulse

Gun free zones are the problem, not the solution.

Concealed Carry saves lives.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Concealed carry, California and the 9th Circuit’s misrepresentation of the facts

John Lott provides insight, and the truth, concerning the 9th Circuit Court's misguided decision.  Here is John's column.
Thursday, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in a 7-4 decision that Americans don’t have a right to carry concealed handguns for protection. Since California bans people from openly carrying guns, their decision amounted to prohibiting people from carrying guns at all (whether openly or concealed).

It is clear that a judge’s political affiliation determines whether he thinks that people have a right to defend themselves. Democratic judges are now moving to overturn recent Supreme Court decisions that struck down bans on guns.

Last year, about 0.24 percent of adult Californians had a concealed handgun permit. In the rest of the U.S., the rate was 24 times higher, for a rate of 5.8 percent.

In many parts of California, it is essentially impossible to get a permit. In San Francisco County, just four people (0.0005 percent of the adult population), got a permit in 2015. That is an improvement over 2012, when just two permits were granted — one of which was to the sheriff’s personal attorney.

Los Angeles has a slightly higher rate of 0.007 percent. But all of the permits went to judges, reserve deputies, and very wealthy donors to the Los Angeles Sheriff's campaign fund. Clearly, this isn’t the same thing as letting civilians defend themselves.

Police are probably the single most important factor in stopping crime. But police understand the simple fact that they virtually always arrive on a scene after the crime has already occurred. Police strongly support permitted concealed handguns not only for this reason but also because they know how important it is for their own safety.

PoliceOne, the largest private organization of police officers, surveyed its 450,000 members in March 2013. Ninety one percent of respondents expressed support for relatively liberal concealed handgun laws.

Americans also agree. An October 2015 Gallup poll found that a 56 to 41 percent margin of Americans believe that increased concealed carry leads to improved safety.

The majority in the 9th Circuit's ruling on Thursday made a sorry attempt to cite two economics papers, which they claim, show that permitted concealed carry causes an increase in some violent crime. In fact, one of the papers showed no statistically significant changes and the other actually showed a statistically significant drop in crime after the right-to-carry laws were passed.

One paper by Jens Ludwig examined whether homicides of adults who could carry concealed handgun permits fell faster than the deaths for juveniles who aren’t allowed to carry, but just like previous work that I had done with David Mustard, there was no statistically significant difference that people in the two groups are killed (please see page 51).

But no matter who carries a permitted concealed handgun, people in both groups can benefit.

Research has found that as more people carry:

- Some criminals have stopped committing crimes.

- Some have moved to commit crime in places where permitted concealed handguns weren’t yet allowed.

- Some criminals switched out of crimes like robberies where there was direct contact between victims and criminals and into crimes like larceny where victims aren’t directly threatened.

In the other paper for the Brookings Institution by John Donohue, the results clearly show that violent crime, murder, and robbery fall after the law is adopted.

What the court doesn’t seem to understand is that the impact of the laws are being measured simultaneously in two different ways and that you can only see the impact on crime by looking at the net effect of those two measures. When you do that the effect for the law during its first year is not statistically significant, but the trend showed a clearly growing significant benefit over time. And this is what you might expect as the number of people with concealed handgun permits, and thus the risk to the criminals committing crime, increases over time.

The figure here from my book "More Guns, Less Crime" (University of Chicago Press, 2010, 3rd edition) graphs out a different set of estimates from that paper. The key thing here isn’t that some of estimated impacts on murder are initially positive, but, even in those cases, how they are less positive than they were before.

Among published, peer-reviewed papers by economists and criminologists, about two-thirds find that concealed carry is associated with a decline in violent crime rates. The remaining papers find no change in murder, rape, or robbery rates.

So far, the Supreme Court has acknowledged that the Second Amendment right to “keep and bear arms” includes the right to carry for self-defense.

Given this right, California’s prohibition of both open and concealed carry would seem to be unconstitutional. But in this debate, the Bill of Rights has become secondary to political preferences.

If you look at all the eleven 9th Circuit Court judges who made the ruling on Thursday, 8 were Democrats and 3 were Republicans. One Democratic judge voted with the Republicans. Seven of the judges claimed that there is no right for people to defend themselves outside their homes with concealed handguns, 4 said that there is such a right. That partisan split is seen time after time in these Second Amendment cases.

This unfortunately holds true of some members of the U.S. Supreme Court, too. If given the chance, the four liberal Justices currently on the Court are almost certain to vote to overturn the Heller and McDonald decisions, which struck down gun bans in D.C. and Chicago.

Hillary Clinton has clearly indicated that she would appoint new Justices who would also vote in favor of such a ruling.

This case is likely to be appealed to the Supreme Court. Whether people are allowed to defend themselves outside their homes in the eight relatively restrictive states such as California hangs in the balance with this election.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Minimum wage laws

Here is a comment from Don Boudreaux that provides perspective on minimum wage laws.

Don points out the misguided thinking by so many politicians, the media, and some economists.  Of course, advocates of minimum wages are not always misguided. They sometimes stand to gain at the expense of those less well off.
If the high-wage workers at the factory across town personally use their brass knuckles and guns to coerce the lower-wage workers on this side of town – workers whose outputs are in competition with the outputs of the high-wage workers – into demanding hourly wages higher than those lower-wage workers are currently earning, everyone would rightly recognize the high-wage workers for the greedy, vile, and violent thugs that they are. No one would think that the goal of the high-wage workers is to help their lower-wage competitors. And no economists would write papers attempting to demonstrate that the high-wage-workers’ threats of violence help rather than harm the lower-wage workers.

Yet let the high-wage workers appoint and fund a committee of nicely dressed and impressively titled agents who have the power to command uniform-wearing users of brass knuckles and guns, and let these nicely dressed and impressively titled agents order the lower-wage workers to demand wages higher than these workers are currently earning, and far too many people fall into raptures about what wonderful “economic policy” is at work. And many economists rush to write papers attempting to demonstrate that these threats of violence do indeed help rather than harm the lower-wage workers.

In fact, of course, such superficial changes in cast, costumes, script, and staging do nothing to change the underlying reality that using threats of violence to strip low-skilled workers of their right to seek employment by offering to work at hourly wages below those that are earned by other workers is not only a grotesque violation of these workers’ rights but also an inexcusable source of economic damage to them and to their families.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Free Speech - going, going, soon gone, along with many other of our freedoms

Here is a column by Jonathan Turley.  Jonathan is on target.  Our freedoms have been eroding, and we not only put up with it, but encourage it through appropriate outrage at some people's behavior leading to our inappropriate attempts to make it easy to punish.

Jonathan Turley, a law professor at George Washington University, is a member of USA TODAY’s Board of Contributors.
Below is my column today in USA Today on the decision of the Supreme Court to reject the Obama Administation’s argument for a low standard in criminalizing speech on the Internet and other forums. The Court did not have to directly deal with the free speech implications of the case since it ruled on the standard for criminalization. The Court rejected the lowest standard of a reasonable person in establishing a criminal threat. However, with the remand, the issue may come back to the Court under another effort to adopt an alternative standard of recklessness.

Winston Churchill once said that there is “nothing in life is so exhilarating as to be shot at without result.” The free speech community experienced precisely that sensation this week after the Supreme Court rejected a sweeping move by the Obama administration to criminalize some speech on the Internet and social media. Even as we dodge the bullet, many Americans will not realize how close this country came to following Europe in the criminalization of speech.

The case, Elonis v. United States, could not have had a less redeeming character at its center. Anthony Elonis, 31, was convicted for Facebook postings deemed threats of violence against his former wife and former colleagues. After his wife left him and he was fired from his job, Elonis began to post rap lyrics containing graphic violent language and imagery. For these juvenile and degrading postings, Elonis adopted the rap-style nom de plume “Tone Dougie,” to be his online persona while repeatedly disclaiming the lyrics as “fictitious” and not meant to bear “resemblance to real persons.” While he said “I’m doing this for me. My writing is therapeutic,” others saw the postings as intentionally threatening.

There is no question that Elonis has the mentality of an angry toddler. However, the Obama administration charged him with five counts of transmitting in interstate commerce “any communication containing any threat … to injure the person of another.” The administration argued (and the trial court and appellate courts agreed) that prosecutors need not show that Elonis intended these rap songs as threats. Rather, it argued that the government could criminalize any communications that a reasonable person deemed a threat.

That effectively flipped the standard from looking at the intent of the individual to how the statement is received or perceived under a “reasonable person” standard. While the Supreme Court did not conclusively state that the intent (or “scienter”) requirement requires an intent to threaten, it rejected the lower standard and remanded for the lower courts to consider whether “recklessness” could be used in such cases.

There was always more to this case than the dubious character of Anthony Elonis. Throughout the West, there has been an expanding rollback on free speech in the wake of violent protests by Islamic groups. While Western leaders, including President Obama, talked a good game of supporting free speech after murderous riots over the publication of cartoons or films depicting the prophet Mohammed, they have quietly ramped up prosecutions for those who exercise free speech. The most hypocritical moment came this year with the march featuring French President Francois Hollande and world leaders in solidarity with free speech after the massacre of journalists at the magazine Charlie Hebdo by Islamic extremists. The French government itself had been hounding the publication with criminal investigations in the years leading up to the massacre. After the march, it rounded up dozens of writers and speakers on hate speech charges under the same laws.

Obama has a similarly checkered past on free speech. His administration in the first term supported an international standard that would have allowed the criminalization of anti-religious speech.

Then in 2012, when a trailer of the low-budget movie Innocence of Muslims was put on YouTube, there was another global spasm of murder and arson by irate Muslims. While Obama insisted that the filmmaker, Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, had every right to make the film, he was thrown into a police car in handcuffs for technical violations of a probation on unrelated charges.

The Elonis case was a critical move to open the door to the type of criminalization of speech that is now common in Canada and Europe. Putting aside the actual prosecutions, it would have created a clearly intended “chilling effect” for everyone posting comments that they could be arrested if “reasonable people” would view their comments as threats.

The justices found that the administration was seeking a fundamental change in the standard required to convict someone of a crime. The court cited the long-standing principle that “wrongdoing must be conscious to be criminal.” Though there are a few exceptions, the court said a guilty mind is “a necessary element in the indictment and proof of every crime.”

The 8-1 opinion written by Chief Justice John Roberts does not end the threat to free speech, but it certainly avoids the worst case scenario in foreclosing the use of the lowest reasonable-person standard. However, it is still chilling that a federal trial judge and a panel of appellate judges were willing to dispense with this fundamental protection not only for criminal defendants but also for free speech. There continues to be growing pressure to criminalize speech on the Internet, and the Obama administration has been at best passive aggressive toward free speech protections. In this case, it was aggressively seeking a rollback.

The Elonis case is an example of how the government can use the least sympathetic characters to reduce free speech. Though this case dealt with the perceived threat to particular individuals, the establishment of a lower standard for the criminalization of speech could have been easily expanded. This will not be the last such attempt. In the end, the greatest losses to liberty come from self-inflicted wounds. This week we avoided such a fatal shot, but it came close enough to part our constitutional hair. Unless we become more vigilant, the next attempt by the government could prove more lethal to liberty.

Thursday, June 09, 2016

What does Hillary think about your owning guns?

One way to judge Hillary's attitude toward gun ownership is to what the people she appoints to various positions think.  With that in mind, here is a link that suggests she is very much against the Second Amendment and your right to own a gun, much less carry them for your protection.

The Clinton University Problem: Laureate Education Lawsuits Present Problem For Clintons

Here is a link to Jonathan Turley's comment on the Clinton's university potential fraud.

A snippet.
The respected Inside Higher Education reported that Laureate Education paid Bill Clinton an obscene $16.5 million between 2010 and 2014 to serve as an honorary chancellor for Laureate International Universities. While Bill Clinton worked as the group’s pitchman, the State Department funneled $55 million to Laureate when Hillary Clinton was secretary of state. That would seem a pretty major story but virtually no mainstream media outlet has reported it while running hundreds of stories on the Trump University scandal.

Tuesday, June 07, 2016

Frederic Bastiat, born 1801, died 1850, Comments on the US 2016 Political Scene

Here is a link to Bastiat's article "What Is Seen and What Is Not Seen".

Bastiat nails everything that is wrong with current economic discourse.

If you read and understand Bastiat, you will never take the media, politicians, and most of your acquaintances (even those with PhDs) seriously again.

A snippet.
In the economic sphere an act, a habit, an institution, a law produces not only one effect, but a series of effects. Of these effects, the first alone is immediate; it appears simultaneously with its cause; it is seen. The other effects emerge only subsequently; they are not seen; we are fortunate if we foresee them.
There is only one difference between a bad economist and a good one: the bad economist confines himself to the visible effect; the good economist takes into account both the effect that can be seen and those effects that must be foreseen. 

Yet this difference is tremendous; for it almost always happens that when the immediate consequence is favorable, the later consequences are disastrous, and vice versa. Whence it follows that the bad economist pursues a small present good that will be followed by a great evil to come, while the good economist pursues a great good to come, at the risk of a small present evil.

Have you ever been witness to the fury of that solid citizen, James Goodfellow,*1 when his incorrigible son has happened to break a pane of glass? If you have been present at this spectacle, certainly you must also have observed that the onlookers, even if there are as many as thirty of them, seem with one accord to offer the unfortunate owner the selfsame consolation: "It's an ill wind that blows nobody some good. Such accidents keep industry going. Everybody has to make a living. What would become of the glaziers if no one ever broke a window?"
Now, this formula of condolence contains a whole theory that it is a good idea for us to expose, flagrante delicto, in this very simple case, since it is exactly the same as that which, unfortunately, underlies most of our economic institutions.
Suppose that it will cost six francs to repair the damage. If you mean that the accident gives six francs' worth of encouragement to the aforesaid industry, I agree. I do not contest it in any way; your reasoning is correct. The glazier will come, do his job, receive six francs, congratulate himself, and bless in his heart the careless child. That is what is seen.
But if, by way of deduction, you conclude, as happens only too often, that it is good to break windows, that it helps to circulate money, that it results in encouraging industry in general, I am obliged to cry out: That will never do! Your theory stops at what is seen. It does not take account of what is not seen.
It is not seen that, since our citizen has spent six francs for one thing, he will not be able to spend them for another. It is not seen that if he had not had a windowpane to replace, he would have replaced, for example, his worn-out shoes or added another book to his library. In brief, he would have put his six francs to some use or other for which he will not now have them.
Let us next consider industry in general. The window having been broken, the glass industry gets six francs' worth of encouragement; that is what is seen.
If the window had not been broken, the shoe industry (or some other) would have received six francs' worth of encouragement; that is what is not seen.
And if we were to take into consideration what is not seen, because it is a negative factor, as well as what is seen, because it is a positive factor, we should understand that there is no benefit to industry in general or to national employment as a whole, whether windows are broken or not broken.

Monday, June 06, 2016

Inspector General's Report Refutes All of Hillary Clinton's Defenses For Using Private Email Server

Here is a link to Andrew Napolitano's article about The Inspector General's Report on Hillary Clinton.

A snippet:
The inspector general's report is damning to Clinton. It refutes every defense she has offered to the allegation that she mishandled state secrets. It revealed an email that hadn't been publicly made known showing Clinton's state of mind. And it paints a picture of a self-isolated secretary of state stubbornly refusing to comply with federal law for venal reasons; she simply did not want to be held accountable for her official behavior.

The report rejects Clinton's argument that her use of a private server "was allowed." The report makes clear that it was not allowed, nor did she seek permission to use it. She did not inform the FBI, which had tutored her on the lawful handling of state secrets, and she did not inform her own State Department IT folks.

The report also makes clear that had she sought permission to use her own server as the instrument through which all of her email traffic passed, such a request would have been flatly denied.

In addition, the report rejects her argument — already debunked by the director of the FBI — that the FBI is merely conducting a security review of the State Department's email storage and usage policies rather than a criminal investigation of her. The FBI does not conduct security reviews. The inspector general does. This report is the result of that review, and Clinton flunked it, as it reveals that she refused to comply with the same State Department storage and transparency regulations she was enforcing against others.

Synthetic plants that are more efficient CO2 scrubbers than real plants

Here is a link to an article that describes research that succeeded in using solar energy to scrub CO2 from the atmosphere more efficiently than plants.

A snippet:
Artificial photosynthetic systems can store solar energy and chemically reduce CO2. We developed a hybrid water splitting–biosynthetic system based on a biocompatible Earth-abundant inorganic catalyst system to split water into molecular hydrogen and oxygen (H2 and O2) at low driving voltages. When grown in contact with these catalysts, Ralstonia eutropha consumed the produced H2 to synthesize biomass and fuels or chemical products from low CO2 concentration in the presence of O2. This scalable system has a CO2 reduction energy efficiency of ~50% when producing bacterial biomass and liquid fusel alcohols, scrubbing 180 grams of CO2 per kilowatt-hour of electricity. Coupling this hybrid device to existing photovoltaic systems would yield a CO2 reduction energy efficiency of ~10%, exceeding that of natural photosynthetic systems.