Sunday, December 31, 2017

Defensive gun uses

By AWR Hawkins, an award winning columnist.

Hawkins notes that the Second Amendment is not about duck hunting or plinking, but protecting our lives and liberty from threats as they arise. The following 25 defensive gun uses in 2017 show that law-abiding Americans understand this and are putting their guns to good use.
January 2, 2017–Kay Dickinson was attacked while entering her Wilmington, North Carolina, apartment. WWAY repoted that Dickinson had just gotten off work and was going into her apartment at Colonial Parke when she was attacked.” The suspect held her at gunpoint, “beat her and then tied her up with a broken belt in her bedroom.” She was able to work free, retrieve her gun, and kill the suspect.

January 12, 2017–An concealed carry permit holder saw an Arizona State Trooper being beaten on the side of Interstate 10. The permit holder pulled over, asked the Trooper if he needed help, then intervened when the Trooper answered in the affirmative. The permit holder ordered the attacker to stop, then shot him dead after he refused to comply. It turned out that the suspect had shot the Trooper before the permit holder arrived, then climbed on top of him in a rage and began beating him on the side of the road. The permit holder saved the Trooper’s life.

January 20, 2017–Charlotte, North Carolina’s Kim Badger was attacked in “broad daylight” by a home invasion suspect armed with a baseball bat. WCNC reported that the attacker struck Badger with the bat, then pursued her through the house. Throughout the attack Badger fought to deny the suspect control of a knife that was on a counter and, eventually, to deny him access to a sword. Badger’s teenage son joined the fight to keep the suspect away from the sword. As the son fought, the mother retrieved her gun and shot the suspect dead.

Government's version of Justice

From Jonathan Turley's blog.

This describes a case in Britain.  Such miscarriages of justice happen all over, including the US.

All too often Prosecutors and Police are out to make a name for themselves, as opposed to providing justice.  It is sad that, all too often, they get away with it, as do the true perpetrators.
Danny Kay, 26, will greet the New Year as a free man after being convicted of a rape that was based on altered evidence submitted by the alleged victim. His freedom is due not to police work but the work of his sister in law Sarah Maddison. Maddison decided to take a minute and look at the Facebook messages sent between Kay and the unnamed woman who accused him of rape. What she found was that the police used messages that were misleadingly edited by the woman and that the real messages directly contradicted her claims. The police revealed an utter incompetence in the investigation and the prosecutors have expressed no intent in looking at possible charges against the woman who is accused of changing the meaning of the messages from exculpatory to incriminating. This follows an equally shocking reversal where the police were found to have withheld 40,000 messages from the defense in another rape case.

Archived versions of the original messages found by Maddison showed not only a consensual relationship but a desire to continue the relationship.

The messages showed that the evidence had been altered in clearly misleading ways. For example, The jury were shown a message where Kay appears to apologize for the rape. The response “sorry” in the message however was actually in response to the woman asking him why he was ignoring her. The question was deleted. Also deleted was her response: “Dnt [sic] be.” Likewise, one early message involved Kay asking the woman for her age. She responded “nearly 17” and showed police that he responded “same here.” That was untrue. He actually response with question if she was single and she replies “yep.” That is what he responded to in saying “same here.”

She also deleted messages where he wrote her to say that he lost her number (after the alleged rape). She then send him her number with four kisses and also sends a message ‘im still here for ya!’ When the couple later split up, she sent a message “I thought u woulda at least tried to get me back.”

The court reviewed the evidence and quashed the conviction. Kay however had already spent two years in jail.

There is no indication that the woman will face any charges for submitting what appears to be altered evidence and a false claim of rape. She remains unidentified as a sexual assault victim.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Milton Friedman on the Donahue show

Here is a link to the full video of a 1979 appearance of Milton Friedman on the Donahue show.

Watch it an learn some economics and why almost everything you are being told is wrong.

Friday, December 29, 2017

Economists as Public Intellectuals

From John Cochrane - a really competent economist who has a lot of common sense.
I ran across a video by my former Chicago Booth colleague Austan Goolsbee that prompts some reflection on the role of economists as public intellectuals. (In addition to my gentle scolding of Greg Mankiw in the last post.)


"Hi, I'm an actual economist (MIT PhD degree shown)
and I promise you 

Donald Trump's tax plan is a scam. ... 

This tax cut was designed to help Johnny Marshmallow (Billionaire, with monopoly man image) ...
President Trump believes that if you give more money to big corporations and billionaires that money will trickle down to you..."

Let us analyze the rhetoric of these amazing sentences carefully. 

"I'm an actual economist (MIT PhD degree shown)"

This is an argument by authority, by credentialism. He, Austan, has a PhD from a Big Name institution. What follows is therefore a result of that special knowledge, that special insight, that special training, that actual economists have. He doesn't have to offer logic or fact, which you won't understand, and you aren't allowed to argue back with logic or fact, unless perhaps you too have a Big Name PhD. What follows isn't just going to be Austan's personal opinions, it inherits the aura of the whole discipline. By implication, anyone who disagrees isn't an "actual economist."

"Donald Trump's tax plan is a scam"

This are the most interesting 7 words.

It is not, in fact, "Donald Trump's" tax plan. It is, clearly, a tax plan hashed out by Republicans in Congress, with some input from the administration, mostly the Treasury department. Almost nothing in this comes form Donald Trump. Just how many nights was President Trump up late on his laptop sweating over the income and depreciation limits of pass-through income deductions? Not many, I'd wager. So why is Austan calling it "Donald Trump's tax plan," not (say) "Congressional Republican's tax plan?"

Once you ask, I think it's obvious. President Trump is a reviled figure in the audience that Austan is aiming his video at. So personalizing it, wrapping policy up in Trump's personality, loading the actions of our complex political system into the actions of one person, though it manifestly is nothing of the sort, serves an obvious rhetorical purpose. Hate Trump, hate the plan. It is the first of many dog-whistles.

"Scam" is the single most interesting word.

"scam." noun. informal 
1. a dishonest scheme; a fraud. "an insurance scam."
synonyms: fraud, swindle, fraudulent scheme, racket, trick; pharming; informalcon, hustle, flimflam, bunco, grift, gyp, shakedown. "the scam involved a series of bogus investment deals"
(-Google dictionary)

Now, detecting "scams" is not the sort of thing that Real Economists are trained to do. We can analyze incentive effects and distribution tables, spot budget constraints, and argue over deficits and economic growth effects. But "scam" is an accusation that the intentions of those writing the tax bill are malign. Just how does Herr Prof. Dr. Austan Goolsbee, "real economist," know anything at all about the intentions behind the tax bill? To say nothing of (now that he personalized it) Donald Trump's intentions?

But I am giving Austan too much credit to treat this as an interesting or original rhetorical device. You've heard "tax scam" before, I presume. "#GOPtaxscam" was right there on a big billboard in front of Nancy Pelosi as she denounced the bill. It's already a hashtag Her official website starts with

“Today, President Trump signed into a law a GOP tax scam... 

A quick google search reveals a whole website devoted to "GOP tax scam," and its many echoes in the political media.

(I would be curious to find the source and history of the phrase. But I'm not patient enough at google searching to do it.)

So this is not clever Austan rhetoric. Austan is repeating a well-orchestrated bit of democratic party spin, talking point, or propaganda. It's the second dog-whistle.

Political parties do this. They search for some phrase that catches the ear. They aim primarily to marshal moral outrage and demonize the political opposition. Hence "scam" not "distorted incentives" or "misplaced priorities" [growth vs. redistribution]. The phrases are fairly meaningless. But if you repeat them over and over again, they start to get meaning and energize the base.

Really, Austan? Is this the best you can do? Is the role of public intellectuals and "real economists" to assert their intellectual superiority by their credentials, and then to repeat whatever buzzword their chosen political party is pushing these days, be it "tax cuts for the rich" "make america great again" or ,"tax scam?"

For those who think Government is the answer

From the New York Times.

Those who think Government is the answer are delusional.

Government is mostly good at collusion with Special Interests to steal tax dollars.

For those who are interested in Finance and Microeconomics, I have italicized some "interesting" statements.  Why they are interesting is left to the reader to figure out.
An accountant discovered the discrepancy while reviewing the budget for new train platforms under Grand Central Terminal in Manhattan.

The budget showed that 900 workers were being paid to dig caverns for the platforms as part of a 3.5-mile tunnel connecting the historic station to the Long Island Rail Road. But the accountant could only identify about 700 jobs that needed to be done, according to three project supervisors. Officials could not find any reason for the other 200 people to be there.

Nobody knew what those people were doing, if they were doing anything,” said Michael Horodniceanu, who was then the head of construction at the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which runs transit in New York. The workers were laid off, Mr. Horodniceanu said, but no one figured out how long they had been employed. “All we knew is they were each being paid about $1,000 every day.

The discovery, which occurred in 2010 and was not disclosed to the public, illustrates one of the main issues that has helped lead to the increasing delays now tormenting millions of subway riders every day: The leaders entrusted to expand New York’s regional transit network have paid the highest construction costs in the world, spending billions of dollars that could have been used to fix existing subway tunnels, tracks, trains and signals.

The estimated cost of the Long Island Rail Road project, known as “East Side Access,” has ballooned to $12 billion, or nearly $3.5 billion for each new mile of track — seven times the average elsewhere in the world. The recently completed Second Avenue subway on Manhattan’s Upper East Side and the 2015 extension of the No. 7 line to Hudson Yards also cost far above average, at $2.5 billion and $1.5 billion per mile, respectively.

The spending has taken place even as the M.T.A. has cut back on core subway maintenance because, as The New York Times has documented, generations of politicians have diverted money from the transit authority and saddled it with debt.

The Times found that a host of factors have contributed to the transit authority’s exorbitant capital costs.

For years, The Times found, public officials have stood by as a small group of politically connected labor unions, construction companies and consulting firms have amassed large profits.

Trade unions, which have closely aligned themselves with Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and other politicians, have secured deals requiring underground construction work to be staffed by as many as four times more laborers than elsewhere in the world, documents show.

Construction companies, which have given millions of dollars in campaign donations in recent years, have increased their projected costs by up to 50 percent when bidding for work from the M.T.A., contractors say.

Consulting firms, which have hired away scores of M.T.A. employees, have persuaded the authority to spend an unusual amount on design and management, statistics indicate.

Public officials, mired in bureaucracy, have not acted to curb the costs. The M.T.A. has not adopted best practices nor worked to increase competition in contracting, and it almost never punishes vendors for spending too much or taking too long, according to inspector general reports.

At the heart of the issue is the obscure way that construction costs are set in New York. Worker wages and labor conditions are determined through negotiations between the unions and the companies, none of whom have any incentive to control costs. The transit authority has made no attempt to intervene to contain the spending.

“It’s sad, really,” said Lok Home, owner of the Robbins Company, which manufactured much of the tunneling equipment used for East Side Access. “Because if they controlled the costs, they could do twice as many expansion projects and still have more money for maintenance.”

Asked about The Times’s findings, union leaders and construction executives insisted that no money had been wasted. They said tunneling was difficult and dangerous work that must be well funded.

The M.T.A., for its part, did not dispute the findings.

Joseph J. Lhota, who was chairman of the authority in 2012 and returned to the job in June, said he had recently appointed working groups to study costs and the procurement process.

“We recognize this has been a problem. We’re never going to deny history,” Mr. Lhota said. “This is an issue that needs to be addressed. It needs to be attacked.”

New York’s struggles come as transit construction is booming around the world. At least 150 projects have been initiated since 1990, according to a recent study by Yale University researcher David Schleicher.

The approximate average cost of the projects — both in the U.S. and abroad — has been less than $500 million per track mile, the study concluded.

“There was one glaring exception,” Mr. Schleicher said. “New York.”

That exception has not gone unnoticed. Independent online journalist Alon Levy first noted the M.T.A’s high construction costs, and 28 City Council members urged officials to research the issue in October.

Mr. Lhota responded by defending the costs. He said in a letter, “There are unique challenges that contribute to high construction costs in New York City in general, and for M.T.A. projects in particular.”

Mr. Lhota listed 10 explanations, including aging utilities, expensive land, high density, strict regulations and large ridership requiring big stations.
To evaluate those arguments, The Times brought the list to more than 50 contractors, many of whom had worked in New York as well as in other cities. The Times also interviewed nearly 100 current and former M.T.A. employees, reviewed internal project records, consulted industry price indexes and built a database to compare spending on specific items. And The Times observed construction on site in Paris, which is building a project similar to the Second Avenue subway at one-sixth the cost.

The review found evidence for one of the issues cited by the M.T.A.: Because most countries have nationalized health care, projects abroad do not have to fund worker health insurance. That might explain a tenth of the cost differences, contractors said.

But the contractors said the other issues cited by the M.T.A. were challenges that all transit systems face. Density is the norm in cities where subway projects occur. Regulations are similar everywhere. All projects use the same equipment at the same prices. Land and other types of construction do not cost dramatically more in New York. Insurance costs more but is only a fraction of the budget. The M.T.A.’s stations have not been bigger (nor deeper) than is typical.

“Those sound like cop-outs,” said Rob Muley, an executive at the John Holland engineering firm who has worked in Hong Kong and Singapore and visited the East Side Access project, after hearing Mr. Lhota’s reasons.

Monday, December 25, 2017

People legally carrying guns stop 22 attacks over last month, including capturing a MS-13 member who was fleeing police

A link from the Crime Prevention Research Center.

Noninvasive Cardiac Radiation for Ablation of Ventricular Tachycardia

From by Douglas P. Zipes, MD
Seven months ago, I wrote an editorial in which I stated, “…In the not too distant future, I envision a totally noninvasive ablation approach. Using advanced ECG and cardiac imaging technology, it is possible to construct patient-specific models of the arrhythmic substrate to non-invasively identify ablation targets likely to eliminate the arrhythmia. Then, using a transcutaneous focused energy delivery source, such as laser, ultrasound, or stereotactic external beam radiation, the area can be ablated, rendering the patient arrhythmia-free without a surgical procedure.”1

The present authors have proven the prescience of that comment in a tour de force study that will transform clinical cardiac electrophysiology. Using anatomical imaging combined with noninvasive epicardial mapping, Cuculich et al. located ablation sites during ventricular tachycardia (VT) induced by implanted ICDs in 5 awake patients with recurrent VT. They delivered precise ablative radiation with a single fraction of 25 Gy stereotactic body radiation (SBRT) to targeted scar regions.

The results were impressive. The mean noninvasive ablation time was 14 minutes. Before treatment, patients had a combined history of 6577 episodes of VT in a 3-month period. After a 6-week blanking period (to allow post-ablation inflammation to subside), patients had 4 episodes of VT over the next 46 patient-months, for a reduction from baseline of 99.9%. One patient with a history of atrial fibrillation had a fatal stroke 3 weeks after treatment, despite a reduction of VT episodes and LVEF rising from 15% to 30%.

The authors appropriately caution that this procedure should not be considered suitable for clinical use until further research is performed, particularly on the effects of radiation on other cardiac structures such as coronary arteries, specialized conduction system, and overall cardiac function. Nevertheless, the observation will be transformative and ultimately noninvasive mapping and ablation of cardiac arrhythmias will become the norm. We are not there yet, but hopefully will be soon.

Substantial Variation in Prostate MRI Interpretation Among Radiologists

  • Multivariable regression analysis was used to assess the diagnostic accuracy of multiparametric magnetic resonance imaging (mpMRI) in identifying clinically significant prostate cancer (Gleason score ≥7). The multivariable analysis was adjusted for Prostate Imaging Reporting and Data System (PIRADS) scores, prostate-specific antigen (PSA) levels, age, and radiologist. Detection of clinically significant cancer on fusion-biopsy varied greatly by radiologist. The proportion of “false negatives” (ie, PIRADS ≤2) ranged from 13% to 60% across radiologists.
  • Uniform interpretation of mpMRI of the prostate across radiologists cannot be assumed. Institution-specific training for mpMRI interpretation and assessment of internal validity may limit the variability.

FDA Clears Stereotactic Radiotherapy System for Use in Treating Breast Cancer

Today, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration cleared a new noninvasive stereotactic radiotherapy system intended for use in treating cancer in breast tissue.

“With today’s clearance, patients will have access to a treatment option that provides greater accuracy in delivering radiation therapy to breast tumors while saving surrounding breast tissue,” said Robert Ochs, Ph.D., acting deputy director for radiological health in the Office of In Vitro Diagnostics and Radiological Health in the FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health.

Radiation therapy is an important treatment option for cancer patients. Approximately 60 percent of all cancer patients will be treated with some form of radiation therapy. During radiation therapy, tumor cells are killed when their DNA is damaged by the radiation being absorbed into them. While radiation therapy has the potential to kill tumor cells, it can also damage healthy tissue around the tumor.

The GammaPod system is intended for use in the noninvasive stereotactic delivery of a radiation dose to a portion (partial volume) of the breast in conjunction with breast conserving treatment. During the procedure, radiation is delivered to specific areas of the breast. The GammaPod has not been shown to be as effective as whole breast radiation therapy (WBRT) and is not intended to replace WBRT.

The GammaPod system is a dedicated stereotactic radiation therapy technology designed to treat breast cancer. GammaPod uses thousands of focused beams of radiation from 36 rotating radioactive Cobalt-60 sources in combination with a two-layer, vacuum-assisted cup that immobilizes the breast to achieve a more accurate delivery of radiation. The GammaPod design to immobilize the breast during treatment provides the benefit of minimizing the radiation dose to the surrounding healthy tissues in the breast, heart and lungs.

For today’s clearance, the FDA reviewed scientific evidence including a clinical study of 17 patients that tested the feasibility of accurately delivering the prescribed dose to the breast tumor while minimizing radiation to the healthy tissue. The clinical evidence supports delivering the prescribed dose to the breast tumor with minimal radiation-induced side effects such as skin redness or erythema.

The GammaPod system was reviewed through the premarket notification 510(k) pathway. A 510(k) is a premarket submission made by device manufacturers to the FDA to demonstrate that the new device is substantially equivalent to a legally marketed predicate device.

The FDA granted clearance of the GammaPod to Xcision Medical Systems, LLC.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

The better climate change model

Here is a link to a paper by H Svensmark, Enghoff, Shaviv, and J Svensmark, "Increased ionization supports growth of aerosols into cloud condensation nuclei.

The paper shows that cosmic rays' impact on clouds formation is likely be the major part of the explanation of climate change over long time periods.

The climate change activists and alarmists will not be pleased.

Here are some excerpts.
Ions produced by cosmic rays have been thought to influence aerosols and clouds. In this study, the effect of ionization on the growth of aerosols into cloud condensation nuclei is investigated theoretically and experimentally. We show that the mass-flux of small ions can constitute an important addition to the growth caused by condensation of neutral molecules. Under atmospheric conditions the growth from ions can constitute several percent of the neutral growth. We performed experimental studies which quantify the effect of ions on the growth of aerosols between nucleation and sizes >20 nm and find good agreement with theory. Ion-induced condensation should be of importance not just in Earth’s present day atmosphere for the growth of aerosols into cloud condensation nuclei under pristine marine conditions, but also under elevated atmospheric ionization caused by increased supernova activity.

Clouds are a fundamental part of the terrestrial energy budget, and any process that can cause systematic changes in cloud micro-physics is of general interest. To form a cloud droplet, water vapor needs to condense to aerosols acting as cloud condensation nuclei (CCN) of sizes of at least 50–100 nm1, and changes in the number of CCN will influence the cloud microphysics. One process that has been pursued is driven by ionization caused by cosmic rays, which has been suggested to be
of importance by influencing the density of CCN in the atmosphere and thereby Earth’s cloud cover4. Support for this idea came from experiments, which demonstrated that ions significantly
amplify the nucleation rate of small aerosols (≈1.7 nm). However, to affect cloud properties, any change in small aerosols needs to propagate to CCN sizes 50–100 nm, but such changes were subsequently found by numerical modeling to be too small to affect clouds. The proposed explanation for this deficit is that additional aerosols reduce the concentration of the gases from which the particles grow, and a slower growth increases the probability of smaller aerosols being lost to preexisting aerosols. This has lead to the conclusion that no significant link between cosmic rays and clouds exists in Earth’s atmosphere.

This conclusion stands in stark contrast to a recent experiment demonstrating that when excess ions are present in the experimental volume, all extra nucleated aerosols can grow to CCN sizes. But without excess ions in the experimental volume, any extra small aerosols (3 nm) are lost before reaching CCN sizes, in accordance with the above mentioned model results. The conjecture was that an unknown mechanism is operating, whereby ions facilitate the growth and formation of CCN. Additional evidence comes from atmospheric observations of sudden decreases in cosmic rays during solar eruptions in which a subsequent response is observed in aerosols and clouds. Again, this is in agreement with a mechanism by which a change in ionization translates into a change in CCN number density. However, the nature of this micro-physical link has been elusive.

In this work we demonstrate, theoretically and experimentally, the presence of an ion mechanism, relevant under atmospheric conditions, where variations in the ion density enhance the growth rate from condensation nuclei (≈1.7 nm) to CCN. It is found that an increase in ionization results in a faster aerosol growth, which lowers the probability for the growing aerosol to be lost to existing particles, and more aerosols can survive to CCN sizes. It is argued that the mechanism is significant under present atmospheric conditions and even more so during prehistoric elevated ionization caused by a nearby supernova. The mechanism could therefore be a natural explanation for the observed correlations between past climate variations and cosmic rays, modulated by either solar activity or caused by supernova activity in the solar neighborhood on very long time scales where the mechanism will be of profound importance.

. . . there are observations to further support the idea. On rare occasions the Sun ejects solar plasma (coronal mass ejections) that may pass Earth, with the effect that the cosmic ray flux decreases suddenly and stays low for a week or two. Such events, with a significant reduction in the cosmic rays flux, are called Forbush decreases, and can be used to test the link between cosmic ray ionization
and clouds. A recent comprehensive study identified the strongest Forbush decreases, ranked them according to strength, and discussed some of the controversies that have surrounded this subject. Atmospheric data consisted of three independent cloud satellite data sets and one data set for aerosols. A clear response to the five strongest Forbush decreases was seen in both aerosols and
all low cloud data.

On astronomical timescales, as the solar system moves through spiral-arms and inter-arm regions of the Galaxy, changes in the cosmic ray flux can be much larger. Inter-arm regions can have half the present day cosmic ray flux, whereas spiral arm regions should have at least 1.5 times the present day flux. This should correspond to a ~10% change in aerosol growth rate, between arm and inter-arm regions. Finally, if a near-Earth supernova occurs, as may have happened between 2 and 3 million years ago, the ionization can increase 100 to 1000 fold depending on its distance to Earth and time since event. Figure 1b shows that the aerosol growth rate in this case increases by more than 50%. Such large changes should have profound impact on CCN concentrations, the formation of clouds and ultimately climate.

Monday, December 18, 2017

Asking for "Net Neutrality" is asking for trouble

Here is John Cochrane on "Net Neutrality".  Be careful what you ask for.
The public and media discussion of "net neutrality" seems to have degenerated to "we want stuff for free." In the end, it does cost something to deliver internet, and the bandwith is limited.

The (artfully named) "net neutrality" regulation was really a return to utility rate regulation, in which the regulators say who gets what, and how much they can charge. Just what a rosy success that was not, seems to have been forgotten.

In this context, it seems especially worth reporting on an event from last week. Tom Hazlett, former Chief Economist of the FCC, came to Hoover to discuss his new book "Political Spectrum," which covers the history of the US government regulation of radio (TV, and cell phone) waves, largely through the same FCC that was in charge of "net neutrality." (I haven't read the book, this is a summary of the seminar discussion.)

Contrary to conventional wisdom, the market for spectrum worked well until 1927, in just the way economists might expect. Property rights to spectrum emerged, evolved, and worked well.

Radio was, at first, considered only for point to point communication. It stayed that way until 1920, when the first broadcast occurred. Within 2 years there were 500 broadcasters.

Contrary to the common allegation of “etheric bedlam” the market was actually orderly through 1926. Under the 1912 radio statute, the Department of Commerce enforced first-come first-serve rules, basically homesteader rights to spectrum in a geographic area and time. Those emergent property rights were registered with Department of Commerce, and easily bought and sold. If a new station encroached on your frequency/geography, you could quickly sue and stop it.

Regulation emerged in much the way a public choice economist might predict. The regulators wanted much more discretion — they wanted to control who got to broadcast and what was said. The large commercial stations wanted to limit entry and competition. The National Association of Broadcasters quickly became a lobbying group and advocated “public interest, convenience, and necessity” to regulate. [Yes, in only 5 years an industry that nobody had ever heard of or thought of became an incumbent lobbying force for regulation to stop entry and competition.] Herbert Hoover, (sadly) the commerce secretary at the time stopped enforcing enforcing first-come first-serve rights in 1926. Now there was indeed chaos, the “breakdown in the law.” According to Hazlett, this was a strategic breakdown to get regulation going. That regulation was formalized in the 1927 radio act. The first sentence of the act preempted private rights to spectrum.

Now, rather than property rights, spectrum was allocated by a “mother may I” system. In 1932 FCC, took over authority of wires to.

Regulation was quickly captured to stop competition and innovation.

Hazlett offered FM radio as the classic example. Howard Armstrong (famous inventor) in 1933 created FM radio, which as we know is technically much better than AM. He had to ask the FCC for spectrum. FCC experts said it wouldn’t work. In 1939 he finally got some spectrum allocation for FM, and started selling FM radios. WWII stopped everything, as civilian radio production stopped. In 1945, broadcast TV lobbied the FCC for the FM spectrum, and the FCC moved FM from the 40 mhz range to 88-108 Mhz, making all existing radios obsolete. Armstrong had to start over. When finally in the 1960s FM was finally allowed, it immediately took over from AM for music; [as we know it has much wider frequency response, and “no static at all”.]

That’s a nutshell of “mother may I” regulation — it suppresses competition and deters innovative technologies, in this case for a quarter century.

Again in the 1960s, TV and cable repeated the story, regulation used to protect incumbents and stop innovation.

In likely the most famous speech by an American regulator, May 9 1961, FCC chairman Newton N. Minow characterized TV as a “vast wasteland.” He forced stations to show “public interest” to get a license renewal.

In the early 1960s, cable began to compete. Broadcasters naturally tried hard to stop it. From 1948-to the 1960s, cable only extended the range of broadcast TV signals. But in the 60s, cable started to offer competing broadcasts. The over the air broadcasters got Minnow to block cable, on the grounds that cable would destroy broadcasters’ profitability, and therefore their provision of public interest news and other public interest programming. This lasted until the late 1970s.

In an equally famous and vilified speech, FCC chairman Mark Fowler argued that “TV is just a toaster with pictures.” He argued for competition, free entry, entrepreneurship and letting people choose. He argued against the “public interest” standard, and for minimalist regulation.

Cable was deregulated. It immediately produced hundreds of channels, including CSPAN, and the all-news CNN. The result was, ironically much more news and public affairs, just what FCC said it was protecting, in place of networks’ 15 minute nightly news.

Hazlett covers the decades-long still-partial liberalization, and a lot of interesting detail on how spectrum auctions work (and don't work).

1st generation wireless mobile got licenses in the 1980s, though the technology was announced in 1945. Getting this spectrum allocation was called the “30 years’ war.”

In the 1970s, the FCC decided that only a monopoly can do cell phone service, and gave it to Bell. By the 1980s radicals said maybe there could be 2 cell phone companies. The Department of Justice had to sue the FCC to get more than one license.

Even in the first generation, there were only 2 competitors, and standards were set by the government. By early 2000 though, the US and many countries auctioned licenses and allowed liberal de-facto property rights. Regulators now allow mobile licensees to figure out networks, architecture (size, location, and power of stations), and use their own applications. In 2005, the iPhone was like FM, and needed spectrum. But this time it didn’t have to ask permission. Apple negotiated with Verizon and AT&T, initially going with AT&T exclusive for the iphone. It ended up that the price was negative — carriers wanted the iPhone on their network enough to pay for it.

2- 5 G wireless and the “internet of things,” is built through private coordination. But it is fragile. The old law is in place. Regulators have simply interpreted their mandate for “public interest,” and that liberalization and rights are working.

Most spectrum is still regulated. Of the “beach front” under 4 Ghz ,15% (mobile) is largely unrestricted, assigned by auction. About half is allocated to government, military, and forestry, and a wide swath is still owned by broadcast TV.

Now, do you really want the FCC to decide who gets to put what on the internet, how much they get to charge, and to control its architecture?

Maybe Net Neutrality is not such a good idea

Here is a link to a "A Net Neutrality Primer".  It provides perspective that is largely ignored  - about undesirable aspects of Net Neutrality.

Here are a few excerpts - but read the entire article.
One thing is clear, however. Net neutrality regulations harm consumers because they prevent ISPs from experimenting with the network configurations and pricing models that serve consumers best.
. . . under both iterations of the FCC’s net neutrality regulations, ISPs must generally treat every packet they transmit in the same manner. This approach to network management is not without merit. In fact, it has been the predominant method by which ISPs have managed their networks since the dawn of residential Internet access. But as a regulatory regime, net neutrality restricts how broadband providers can manage the traffic that flows on their finite networks.

When more information is routed through a connection than that connection can handle, some packets must be dropped. Some types of content, such as Web pages and email, are resilient to dropped packets, as data can be resent with only a momentary delay that is barely noticeable to the end user. But other services are adversely affected by dropped packets. Voice over Internet Protocol applications, such as Skype or FaceTime, operate in real time, so they can be rendered unintelligible by too many dropped packets. Dropped packets can cause similar problems for video streaming apps, multiplayer online games, and many other services.

This complication has led to the adoption of quality-of-service technologies, whereby ISPs prioritize some types of information that are more sensitive to delays caused by excessive latency, packet loss, or “jitter,” a form of packet delay. In other cases, ISPs may selectively target certain bandwidth-intensive applications—that is, applications especially likely to cause network congestion—to make room for other applications. As former FCC chief economist Thomas Hazlett explained with respect to the FCC’s 2008 investigation of Comcast: “Comcast … was managing its network to limit congestion, seeking to protect the great bulk of its customers from traffic generated by a few.”  
Targeting certain protocols is not the only way an ISP can manage congestion. An ISP might impose an application-agnostic limit on each subscriber’s overall usage, or on each subscriber’s usage during peak hours when congestion is most likely to occur. For instance, Verizon Wireless offers an “unlimited” mobile broadband plan that begins throttling a subscriber’s usage once she transmits over 22 gigabytes in a month—albeit only when the subscriber is using a congested cell tower. Until recently, T-Mobile offered an “unlimited” plan that throttled streaming video quality for any subscriber that exceeded a specified monthly threshold. One potential implementation of metering is a “Ramsey two-part tariff,” which offers all subscribers a certain guaranteed level of service but then imposes metering above that guaranteed level.

The FCC’s net neutrality orders presume that consumers will be better off if their ISPs are barred from throttling usage on an application-by-application basis. In reality, not every consumer perceives every byte of Internet traffic to be equally valuable. If a mobile ISP were to degrade video content from ultra-high-definition to “ordinary” high-definition, how many consumers could even tell the difference? The answer depends on the technical sophistication of the ISP’s customers, the capabilities of their mobile devices, and even their average visual acuity.

Similarly, if a subscriber downloads a file via BitTorrent and leaves the client on all night long to distribute the content—thereby generating significant upstream traffic—how much would that subscriber suffer if his ISP were to throttle his peer-to-peer uploads?

ISPs have been willing to experiment with a variety of strategies to handle network congestion, seeking the practices that work best for them and their customers, but the FCC’s net neutrality rules have thwarted such exploration, ultimately reducing innovation and consumer choice.
To the extent that consumers would benefit from greater competition among ISPs, the proper governmental response is to adopt policies that promote such competition, rather than seek to regulate existing providers. For instance, Congress should pass legislation freeing up the electromagnetic spectrum, which is the lifeblood of mobile broadband. With more spectrum available to market participants, new wireless ISPs could emerge, while existing wireless ISPs could offer faster speeds and more lenient usage policies. The FCC established a Broadband Deployment Advisory Committee in April 2017 to study burdens on broadband deployment and recommend to the FCC how to eliminate them. Governments at all levels should eradicate barriers to deploying wireline infrastructure, a process that has been rendered artificially costly by municipal, state, and federal regulations.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

How a minimum wage hurts those it is supposed to help

Don Boudreaux in The Freeman.
Suppose you want to help the sellers of a specific product. One thing you might want to do is try to ensure that a buyers’ market for that good or service isn’t created.

A buyers’ market is an economic situation that favors buyers over sellers. For example, everyone hopes that the real-estate market in his hometown will be a sellers’ market when the time comes to sell his house. No one wants to have to sell a house when real estate is in a buyers’ market. Nevertheless, people who advocate minimum-wage legislation to improve the lot of unskilled workers in effect support government creation of a buyers’ market as a way to help sellers of unskilled labor.

Freely Moving Prices: The Great Equalizer

Economics and common sense teach us that, other things being equal, as the price of a product rises, more units will be offered for sale but fewer units will be demanded by consumers.

If a price is too low, there will be an excess demand for the good or service in question, and buyers will compete for the limited quantities available by offering higher prices to sellers. If a price is too high, there will be an excess supply, and sellers (who cannot sell all that they wish at the high price) will compete for customers by offering lower prices. So long as there are no government-imposed restrictions on prices, prices will tend to adjust in each market so that the quantities demanded will be equal to the quantities supplied.

It is important to realize that prices change only when there are bargaining inequalities between buyers and sellers. Prices rise only when the amount demanded by buyers is greater than the amount supplied by sellers; prices fall only when the amount demanded by buyers is less than the amount supplied by sellers. Put another way, prices rise only when there is a sellers’ market, and prices fall only when there is a buyers’ market. The rise or fall of prices, however, eliminates the inequality of supply and demand and, thus, eliminates the conditions that people describe as sellers’ markets and buyers’ markets. Freedom of price adjustments ensures equality of bargaining power among buyers and sellers. Freely moving prices are the great equalizer.

Employers compete for human labor services, like most things of value in a society based on private property in a market in which sellers and buyers engage in voluntary exchanges. Wage rates (in combination with other forms of compensation) are determined in the labor market. If this market isn’t hampered by government, wages will constantly adjust so employers and employees enjoy equal bargaining power.

Of course, unskilled workers aren’t as productive as workers with greater skills, and so wage rates for skilled labor tend to be higher than wages for unskilled labor. It is a myth, however, that highly skilled workers enjoy greater bargaining power with employers than do workers with fewer skills. If wage rates are free to adjust to their market-clearing levels, unskilled workers will enjoy as much bargaining power as the most highly skilled workers, because freely moving wage rates adjust so that the amount of each type of labor demanded will tend to equal the amount supplied. Employers can have no bargaining advantage over even the most unskilled workers if wage rates are free to move to the levels at which the amount of labor services demanded is equal to the amount supplied by workers. Freely moving wage rates are the great equalizer of bargaining positions among employers and employees.

The Minimum Wage: The Great Unequalizer

Minimum-wage legislation prohibits wages from falling low enough to equate the number of people seeking jobs with the number of jobs being offered. As a result, the supply of unskilled labor permanently exceeds the demand for’ unskilled labor at the government-mandated minimum wage.

Minimum-wage legislation thus creates a buyers’ market for unskilled labor. And as in all buyers’ markets, buyers (employers) have an unequal bargaining advantage over sellers (unskilled workers).

Consider, for example, a grocer. Suppose he decides that a clean parking lot will attract more customers, and that this will increase his sales by $10 per day. Of course, the grocer will pay no more than $10 a day to have his parking lot cleaned. He then investigates how best to get this done.

Suppose there are two options available to him. One way is to hire a fairly skilled worker who can clean the parking lot in one hour, while the second way is to hire two unskilled workers who, working together, will get the job done in the same time. Other things being equal, the grocer will make his decision based upon the relative cost of skilled versus unskilled labor.

Let’s assume the skilled worker will charge $6 an hour, while each of the unskilled workers will charge $2.50 an hour. In a free labor market, the grocer will hire the two unskilled workers be-cause, in total, it costs him $5 per hour for the unskilled workers whereas it would cost $6 for the one skilled worker.

But what will the grocer do if a minimum wage of $4 per hour is imposed? To hire the two unskilled workers will now cost him a total of $8 an hour. The skilled worker now becomes the better bargain at $6 an hour. Minimum-wage legislation strips unskilled workers of their one bargaining chip: the willingness to work at a lower wage than that charged by workers with more skills. The result is unemployment of the unskilled workers.

Consider another effect of the minimum wage. Because there are more people who want jobs at the minimum wage rate than there are jobs to go around, employers have little incentive to treat unskilled workers with respect. If an employer mistreats an unskilled worker, the employer need not be concerned if the worker quits. After all, there are plenty of unemployed unskilled workers who can be hired to fill positions vacated by workers who quit.

In addition, the permanent buyers’ market created by the minimum wage encourages employers to discriminate in their hiring and firing decisions on the basis of sex, race, religion, and so on. Suppose an employer has two minimum-wage jobs available, but there are ten unskilled workers who apply for the jobs. Bemuse the workers are prohibited from competing with each other on the basis of wage rates, other factors must determine which of the workers will be hired. If the employer dislikes blacks, and if there are at least two non-black workers who have applied for employment, no black workers will be hired. With a surplus of unskilled workers, there is no economic incentive to stop this bigoted employer from indulging his prejudices.


Minimum-wage legislation creates an excess supply of unskilled labor and gives the buyers of unskilled labor an unfair bargaining advantage over the sellers of unskilled labor. It is a fantasy to believe that the welfare of unskilled workers can be improved by such legislation. Unskilled workers shouldn’t be restricted to a permanent buyers’ market.

Friday, December 15, 2017

The FBI Is Not Your Friend

Here is a piece by Sheldon Richman published by the Libertarian Institute.

My view is that the DOJ and FBI have been politicized and can no longer be trusted.  This will not change if there are no consequences for the transgressors.
One of the unfortunate ironies of the manufactured “Russiagate” controversy is the perception of the FBI as a friend of liberty and justice. But the FBI has never been a friend of liberty and justice. Rather, as James Bovard writes, it “has a long record of both deceit and incompetence. Five years ago, Americans learned that the FBI was teaching its agents that ‘the FBI has the ability to bend or suspend the law to impinge on the freedom of others.’ This has practically been the Bureau’s motif since its creation in 1908…. The FBI has always used its ‘good guy’ image to keep a lid on its crimes.”

Bovard has made a vocation of cataloging the FBI’s many offenses against liberty and justice, for which we are forever in his debt.

Things are certainly not different today. Take the case of Michael Flynn, the retired lieutenant general who spent less than a month as Donald Trump’s national-security adviser. Flynn has pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI in connection with conversations he had with Russia’s then-ambassador to the United States, Sergey Kislyak, between Trump’s election and inauguration. One need not be an admirer of Flynn — and for many reasons I certainly am not — to be disturbed by how the FBI has handled this case.

One ought to be immediately suspicious whenever someone is charged with or pleads guilty to lying to the FBI without any underlying crime being charged. Former assistant U.S. attorney Andrew C. McCarthy points out:

When a prosecutor has a cooperator who was an accomplice in a major criminal scheme, the cooperator is made to plead guilty to the scheme. This is critical because it proves the existence of the scheme. In his guilty-plea allocution (the part of a plea proceeding in which the defendant admits what he did that makes him guilty), the accomplice explains the scheme and the actions taken by himself and his co-conspirators to carry it out. This goes a long way toward proving the case against all of the subjects of the investigation.

That is not happening in Flynn’s situation. Instead, like [former Trump foreign-policy “adviser” George] Papadopoulos, he is being permitted to plead guilty to a mere process crime.

When the FBI questioned Flynn about his conversations with Kislyak, it already had the transcripts of those conversations — the government eavesdrops on the representatives of foreign governments, among others, and Flynn had been identified, or “unmasked,” as the ambassador’s conversation partner. The FBI could have simply told Flynn the transcripts contained evidence of a crime (assuming for the sake of argument they did) and charged him with violating the Logan Act or whatever else the FBI had in mind.

But that’s not what happened. Instead, the FBI asked Flynn about his conversations with Kislyak, apparently to test him. If he lied (which would mean he’s pretty stupid since he once ran the Defense Intelligence Agency and must have known about the transcripts!) or had a bad memory, he could have been charged with lying to the FBI.

As investigative reporter Robert Parry explains:

What is arguably most disturbing about this case is that then-National Security Adviser Flynn was pushed into a perjury trap by Obama administration holdovers at the Justice Department who concocted an unorthodox legal rationale for subjecting Flynn to an FBI interrogation four days after he took office, testing Flynn’s recollection of the conversations while the FBI agents had transcripts of the calls intercepted by the National Security Agency.

In other words, the Justice Department wasn’t seeking information about what Flynn said to Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak – the intelligence agencies already had that information. Instead, Flynn was being quizzed on his precise recollection of the conversations and nailed for lying when his recollections deviated from the transcripts.

For Americans who worry about how the pervasive surveillance powers of the U.S. government could be put to use criminalizing otherwise constitutionally protected speech and political associations, Flynn’s prosecution represents a troubling precedent.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Arizona police officer kills man.

My maximum likelihood estimate is that this shooting was not necessary.  The officer was not alone.  My view is that the man could have been cuffed while lying on the ground by other officers and that the orders to follow detailed somewhat confusing instructions would have been difficult to follow exactly under the circumstances.  It was clear from the beginning that the man had trouble following the officer's orders.  I do not see anything that suggests the officer intended to create a situation that would enable him to shoot.  Rather, I see poor judgement about how to handle the situation that led to a perception of heightened risk when the man's hands were lowered to the vicinity of his waist while attempting to crawl.

George Reisman: The White Privilege scam

Here is GR's blog entry.

GR gets the basics right.  The solution to A having more de facto rights then B is to give B equal de facto rights, not take away some of A's.
Over the course of American history, the individual rights of whites have been far better respected than the individual rights of blacks. Whites were never enslaved; they were never murdered by lynch mobs; they were never the victims of government-imposed racial discrimination/segregation in housing, schools, restaurants, stores, railways, buses, movie theaters, and elsewhere.

Now the obvious, blazingly clear solution for the lack of respect historically shown for the individual rights of blacks, is to put an end to that disrespect, and henceforth to show the same respect for the individual rights of blacks as is shown for the individual rights of whites. The guiding principle is very simple: In each and every individual case, the rights of the individual, black or white, must be respected.

Indeed, to a large extent, this has already happened. Black slavery was ended in the Confederate States by Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation in 1863 and then, in 1865, by the 13th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, in whatever states in the Union that still allowed it. The last reported lynching in the United States occurred in 1981. Racial segregation and discrimination have also greatly diminished as the laws that imposed them were repealed or struck down by judicial decision.

The obvious path that needs to be followed in order to complete the job is to extend to blacks recognition and respect for the same individual rights held by them that have been far more often recognized and respected in whites than in them. Nevertheless, a widespread movement has developed that holds that a very different solution is required. This alleged solution is the elimination of respect for the rights of whites insofar as it exceeds respect for the rights of blacks. The greater respect shown for the rights of whites is transformed from a matter of respect for individual rights into an alleged matter of group “privilege,” in this case “white privilege.” Thus whites allegedly enjoyed a privilege in not being enslaved. They allegedly enjoyed a privilege in not being murdered by lynch mobs. They were allegedly privileged in not being victims of government imposed racial discrimination/segregation.

The concept of white privilege is a giant scam. Like any other scam it leads people to give up something that is valuable, such as their life’s savings, in exchange for something that is valueless. In this case, they are bamboozled out of paying attention to and valuing the concept of individual rights and are left instead with the utterly nebulous and highly destructive concept of white privilege.

The very concept of privilege implies injustice and calls for the abolition of whatever privileges are in question. But since white privilege is used as a different name for what in fact is respect for the individual rights possessed by whites that have not been properly respected in blacks, the actual effect would be the loss of respect for those individual rights of whites. By the logic of the situation, whites could be enslaved, lynched, and otherwise wrongly treated all in the belief that it was merely a matter of stripping away white privilege. The concept of white privilege is an invitation to the violation of the rights of whites to the same extent that the rights of blacks have been violated.

The concept of white privilege is a formula for massive injustice. It obliterates the concept of individual rights and thus destroys the possibility of respect for anyone’s rights, white or black. It aims at a society in which everyone is a slave—not to a plantation owner perhaps, but to the state.

Colleges can be dangerous to your children

From Jonathan Turley's blog.

This story illustrates how intellectually dishonest many intellectuals have become.  Wait a minute - maybe they actually believe they are right!!! If so, they are even more dangerous?

Keep your children away from them.
There is an interesting lawsuit in Ohio against Oberlin College by a small family-owned bakery over a racially charged case of shoplifting. Gibson’s Bakery alleges that school officials encouraged a boycott over false accusations of racism after three Oberlin students were arrested at the business. What is curious is that the students pleaded guilty to the charges and the Oberlin police found no evidence of racism, but the bakery is still be accused of racial profiling and running a “racist establishment.”

We have previously discussed Oberlin’s controversies over cultural appropriation and speech codes, including an effort to ban “sushi” as a cultural appropriation.

The latest controversy began in November 2016 when three black Oberlin students — Jonathan Aladin, Endia Lawrence and Cecelia Whettstone — were caught stealing wine. In August, the students admitted their guilty and also agreed that the store had not engaged in racist conduct in their arrest. Moreover, the students reportedly punched and kicked the shopkeeper. They initially claimed to have been racially profiled and that they only crime was using fake ids. However, Allyn Gibson said that he was attacked immediately after catching them with the stolen bottles of wine. The students ultimately dropped the claims and admitted that their guilt.

The police Incident Report online, adds disturbing details:

On Wednesday, November 9, 2016, at approximately 4:58pm, officers responded to the area of Gibson’s Bakery in reference to a report of a fight in progress. As officers were responding to the area, dispatch advised that this was involving an alleged theft complaint. Dispatch advised that Allyn Gibson, who is an employee of Gibson’s Bakery, was attempting to apprehend a subject who Allyn had witnessed attempt to steal several items. As officers approached the area, Sgt. Ortiz, and Officer Feuerstein both stated they observed Allyn Gibson lying on his back with several individuals kneeling over him punching and kicking him with several other individuals in the immediate area. Officers attempted to gain control of the situation and were met several times with resistance from several different individuals. After a few minutes officers were finally able to take one female into custody and calm the incident and attempt to figure out what had taken place.

Moreover, the Oberlin police conducted an investigation into arrests at Gibson’s and found “a complete lack of evidence of racism.” The police looked at arrested over a five-year period, and found 40 adults arrested for shoplifting but only six were African-American.

None of that seems to matter.

A boycott has been maintained against Gibson’s, which was the victim of a crime by Oberlin students. There is a great deal in the complaint below that is deeply troubling in terms of the conduct of Oberlin faculty and students.

A lawsuit was filed in November against Oberlin and Meredith Raimondo, vice president and dean of students, for slander. The complaint details how school faculty encouraged demonstrations and supported the protests with suspended classes and resources. Raimondo allegedly appeared at the demonstrations with a bullhorn and distributed a flyer that said the bakery is a “RACIST establishment with a LONG ACCOUNT of RACIAL PROFILING and DISCRIMINATION.” The complaint also alleges that the school has warned visitors that Gibson’s is a racist establishment.

Notably, the complaint discusses the prior controversy over the firing of Joy Karega, an assistant professor of rhetoric and composition, after she posted anti-Semitic statements. We discussed that controversy. The complaint suggests that Raimondo was brought in to reinforce the school’s relationship to black students after the firing of Karego, who is African American.

There is also an interesting discussion of how the school canceled its long-standing order with the bakery and, when the owner met with then-President Marvin Krislov and Tita Reed, assistant to the president of Oberlin College. He alleges that the officials pressured him to drop any criminal charges against the students.

The complaint alleges libel, slander, interference with business relationships, interference with contracts, deceptive trade practices, intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligent hiring and trespass and asks for more than $200,000 in damages.

Here is the complaint: Gibson’s Bakery v. Oberlin College

Hundreds of Professors Seek Removal Of Statues To Christopher Columbus and Teddy Roosevelt

Here is Jonathan Turley's blog entry.

JT is on target.

People like these professors are not likely to provide objective information or advocate for freedom.  Keep your children away from them.

My bet is that at some time in their lives they have behaved in ways that, by their own standards, would call for their dismissal.
I have been writing and speaking about the movement to remove statues that range from confederate leaders to Columbus to Supreme Court justices to Founders

(here and here and here and here). I specifically wrote about the call for the removal of monuments to George Washington and others as the list lengthens of figures to be cleansed from public historical displays. In a particularly concerning development, hundreds of professors have now joined this movement in signing a letter calling for New York City to remove monuments honoring Theodore Roosevelt and Christopher Columbus. The open letter to New York’s Mayoral Advisory Commission on City Art, Monuments and Markers declares such historical figures as representing “white supremacy” and “objects of popular resentment.” The letter is an embarrassment for higher education as these academics adopt over-simplified and ahistorical approaches to this controversy.

The scholars state:

As scholars of American art, cultural history and social analysis, we are writing to urge that the Commission recommend the removal of several monuments from public view in New York City. They have long been highlighted as objects of popular resentment among communities of color and anti-racist scholars, artists, and movements. It is thus no surprise that these monuments have risen to the top of the list of the “symbols of hate,” to quote Mayor de Blasio, singled out during the Commission’s recent public hearings. For too long, they have generated harm and offense as expressions of white supremacy. These monuments are an affront in a city whose elected officials preach tolerance and equity.

It is important to note that they are speaking of Teddy Roosevelt and Columbus. The attack on Roosevelt is illustrative of the simplistic treatment given the history of the period:

As an imperialist, and frank advocate of eugenics, Roosevelt’s views on racial hierarchy are well-known to historians. The Museum (center of the American eugenics movement in the early years of the twentieth century) now pays tribute to his conservationist efforts, without acknowledging the link to those racialist beliefs. The dedication of the Museum’s memorial in 1936 and of the adjoining equestrian monument in 1939 was celebrated by its officials as a consummation of the theories of Henry Fairfield Osborn, who had presided over the institution’s early growth at the same time as he championed eugenics within and without.

Roosevelt was indeed expansionist in his policies and those policies are troubling in many respects. However, he was also a great leader in many other respects, including his leading role in laying the foundations for American conservationism.

I may be naive in believing that academics are joined by a deep intellectual commitment to history and objectivity. However, to see professors joining this blind rage against historical figures is truly depressing. The letter simply sweeps too broadly in seeking the removal of such memorials.

Escaping Modernity

Here is a comment from Don Boudreaux that provides the right perspective about markets.

One interesting observation by Don is:

Fortunately, anyone so disliking market forces that he truly wants to escape them can do so while leaving the rest of us alone. All such a person must do is to find a few acres of land and become self-sufficient.

This suggests that some of those who are against the "big bad market" are more interested in forcing others to live their way than simply living their way themselves.

You can use Don's perspective and insights to destroy the pseudo-intellectuals at  your next cocktail party.
Many writers have described the mishmash of emotions and ideas that motivate the “antiglobalization” protesters who have been so much in the news since the 1999 Seattle riots. To point out that many of these ideas are irreconcilably at odds with each other is now old hat. (What, for example, does it mean to be an anarchist who advocates government controls on commercial activity?)

I want here to take these ideas as seriously as possible. Perhaps we can find a way to make the protesters happy without bringing civilization to a screeching halt.

Already, any antiglobalization advocate reading this article will likely accuse me of stacking the rhetorical deck against him. “We don’t seek to crush civilization,” he might argue.

He would be wrong. The core idea of these protests is deep animosity toward commercial exchange–a gut loathing of economic activity beyond the simple sort that took place among a small handful of people living on self-sufficient medieval manors or in tiny primitive villages.

Civilization is impossible, however, without substantial commercial exchange and a deep specialization of work. It exists only when most of our economic wants are satisfied by the market–that is, by people who produce output mostly for strangers rather than for themselves, and who are guided in their decisions of what to produce not by the commands of a sovereign but, instead, by what each of these people perceives to be his own best means of prospering. And in the market the signals that guide producers come principally from the prices determined by consumers voluntarily spending their own money.

In short, civilization requires wealth, and wealth requires a free market, extensive commerce, and a deep division of labor. Will Durant put it nicely: “Every cultural flourishing finds root and nourishment in an expansion of commerce and industry. . . . For society, as well as for an individual, primum est edere, deinde philosophari–eating must come before philosophy, wealth before art.”

But no law requires anyone to value civilization. Someone might well decide that civilization’s fruits, no matter how succulent and healthy, aren’t worth the downside.

And there indeed is a downside. It’s one that to most of us is so insignificant relative to the upside that we seldom think of it. But the downside is real, and it is the focus of many of those who so bitterly loathe the market. The downside is that everyone in civilization is enormously dependent on the choices and actions of millions of others. Every civilized person depends on the creativity, efforts, and choices of countless strangers spanning the globe.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

23 State Attorneys General support concealed carry reciprocity

Here is the text of a letter to congressional leaders from the Attorney General of Missouri signed by 23 state Attorneys General supporting constitutional concealed carry reciprocity.
As the chief legal officers of our States, we, the undersigned 23 state Attorneys General, write in support of the Constitutional Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act of 2017 (S. 446) and the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act of 2017 (H.R. 38). We share a strong interest in the protection of our citizens’ Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms, and we are committed to supporting federal and state policies to preserve that constitutional right. These bills, if enacted, would eliminate significant obstacles to the exercise of the right to keep and bear arms for millions of Americans in every State.

The Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution provides an individual right to own and carry a firearm for self-defense. The Amendment states that “[a] well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” U.S. Const. amend. II. As the Supreme Court recognized in District of Columbia v. Heller, 554 U.S. 570, 592 (2008), the Second Amendment “guarantee[s] the individual right to possess and carry weapons in case of confrontation.” Indeed, “individual self-defense is ‘the central component’ of the Second Amendment right.” McDonald v. City of Chicago, 561 U.S. 742, 767 (2010) (quoting Heller, 554 U.S. at 599).

The core interest protected by this right is self-defense by law-abiding citizens. This right therefore extends to weapons “in common use” and “typically possessed by law-abiding citizens for lawful purposes.” Heller, 554 U.S. at 624–25, 627 (quoting United States v. Miller, 307 U.S. 174, 179 (1939)).

The Second Amendment historically has guaranteed the right to carry firearms outside the home for self-defense. In Heller, the Supreme Court relied on the preeminent authority on English law for the founding generation, William Blackstone, who explained that the right to self-defense, codified by the framers in the Second Amendment, was an “individual right protecting against both public and private violence.” Heller, 554 U.S. at 594 (citations omitted). As Justices Thomas and Gorsuch have written, “‘[s]elf-defense has to take place wherever the person happens to be,’ and in some circumstances a person may be more vulnerable in a public place than in his own house.” Peruta v. California, 137 S. Ct. 1995, 1998–99 (2017) (Thomas, J., and Gorsuch, J., dissenting from the denial of certiorari) (quoting Eugene Volokh, Implementing the Right to Keep and Bear Arms for Self– Defense: An Analytical Framework and a Research Agenda, 56 UCLA L. REV. 1443, 1515 (2009)). 

To be sure, the right to carry firearms for self-defense is not unlimited, and the Supreme Court has stated that its decisions do not cast doubt on the “longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings, or laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms.” Heller, 554 U.S. at 626–27. But these exceptions all assume that the right to carry a weapon in self-defense applies in public places generally.

The Second Amendment, moreover, applies to both the Federal Government and the States. The Second Amendment is a right “fundamental to our scheme of ordered liberty,” and so it applies not just to the Federal Government but also to the States under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. McDonald, 561 U.S. at 767; see also Caetano v. Massachusetts, 136 S. Ct. 1027, 1027 (2016) (per curiam).

Nevertheless, some activist courts have held that the Second Amendment has no application at all outside the home, and thus have upheld state laws banning any firearm ownership outside the home. See, e.g., Peruta v. California, 137 S. Ct. 1995, 1997, 1999 (2017) (Thomas, J. and Gorsuch, J., dissenting from the denial of certiorari) (collecting cases); e.g., Williams v. State, 10 A.3d 1167, 1177 (Md. 2011); Mack v. United States, 6 A.3d 1224, 1236 (D.C. 2010). Further, ten states refuse to recognize any out-of-state concealed carry permits, and many more refuse to recognize out-of-state concealed carry permits unless certain conditions are met.

The citizen interest in self-defense, supported and protected by the Second Amendment, is called into serious question by such blanket refusals to permit carrying firearms in self-defense outside the home or to allow non-resident visitors to carry concealed weapons. Because some States refuse to give the Second Amendment its full import, Congress should enact concealed-carry reciprocity legislation, to help implement and enforce the constitutional right to self-defense for millions of law-abiding Americans across the country.

Thursday, December 07, 2017

Climate change theory that makes sense

Here is a link to a Youtube presentation by Henrik Svensmark.

An important, credible climate change theory.

Those who accuse others of being "Climate Deniers" cannot be trusted to be objective.

Self-learning computer program supreme at games - what next?

Here is a link to a paper "Mastering Chess and Shogi by Self-Play with a General Reinforcement Learning Algorithm.

The significance of this algorithm goes well beyond games to many aspects of human activity.

Here is the paper's abstract.  Keep in mind that previous world champion chess programs are superior to the best human Chess Masters.
The game of chess is the most widely-studied domain in the history of artificial intelligence. The strongest programs are based on a combination of sophisticated search techniques, domain-specific adaptations, and handcrafted evaluation functions that have been refined by human experts over several decades. In contrast, the AlphaGo Zero program recently achieved superhuman performance in the game of Go, by tabula rasa reinforcement learning from games of self-play. In this paper, we generalise this approach into a single AlphaZero algorithm that can achieve, tabula rasa, superhuman performance in many challenging domains. Starting from random play, and given no domain knowledge except the game rules, AlphaZero achieved within 24 hours a superhuman level of play in the games of chess and shogi (Japanese chess) as well as Go, and convincingly defeated a world-champion program in each case.

Is the Sea Level Stable at Aden, Yemen?

This link is to a paper by Parker and Ollier.

Some reports show a rising sea level trend at Aden and Yemen.  P&O say that this is likely due to questionable statistical adjustments. Their conclusion follows.
The tide gauge record of Aden is a composite derived from 5 distinctive sets of measurements, with the historical data, comprising 4 of these sets, ending in 1969, and the novel measurements with a new tide gauge, starting in 2007. By revising the alignment of the data up to 1969, and neglecting the misaligned new measurements, the sea levels are only very weekly rising at − 0.05 to 0.24 mm/year in Aden over the 20th century.

In Mumbai, the tide gauge record is the composite of 3 distinctive sets of measurements, with the historical data, comprising 2 of these sets, ending in 1994, and the novel measurements with a new tide gauge, starting in 2005. By revising the alignment of the data up to 1994, and neglecting the misaligned new measurements, the sea levels are perfectly stable over the 20th century.

In Karachi, the tide gauge record is the composite of 4 distinctive sets of measurements, with the historical data, comprising 3 of these sets, ending in 1995, and the novel measurements with a new tide gauge, starting in 2007. By revising the alignment of all the data, the sea levels were previously shown in Parker (2016) to be weekly increasing at +0.18 mm/year over the twentieth century.

The sea levels have, therefore, been stable in Aden, as at Karachi and Mumbai, over all the 20th century.

These and other key sites of the Indian Ocean indicate a stable sea level of about zero mm/year over the last 50 years, as shown in Mörner (2007, 2010, 2014, 2015a, b, 2016a, b), Parker and Ollier (2015) and Parker (2016).

Wednesday, December 06, 2017

We are doomed

Here is an article from the Wall Street Journal, by Eli Stopkols.

It seems that too many young people do not understand that Capitalism offers a higher standard of living and more freedom than Socialism, the latter being well known for ruining economies and tyranny.  A simple test of economic and civil liberty understanding is to ask someone which they prefer.

There also seems to be a lack of understanding that power leads to corruption, and that Socialism puts more power in fewer hands than Capitalism - hence leads to more corruption - or that the competition fostered by Capitalism tends to reduce the opportunities for corruption.

Too many people also view more inequality as synonymous with more poverty. Which is better, more inequality with a higher standard of living for all or less inequality with a lower standard of living for some?  Another misconception about inequality is that it reflects some taking advantage of others.  Virtually no one appreciates that random walks produce increasing inequality, hence that it is a normal outcome of a "fair playing field".  For example, if all people start with the same income and income for each person has the same positive trend growth rate plus an identical independent random element, then there will be increasing income inequality over time.

We are doomed to in increasingly inefficient economy and further loss of freedom due to economic dumbth.
ELON, N.C.—John Della Volpe, who has been polling millennials for 17 years, stood before about 150 students in a gleaming new center at Elon University this fall in search of an answer.

In his 2016 survey for Harvard University’s Institute of Politics, 42% of younger Americans said they support capitalism, and only 19% identified themselves as capitalists. While this was a new question in his survey, the low percentage of young people embracing capitalism surprised him. He had come here, in part, to better understand why.

“Maybe it had to do with the ‘American Dream,’ and how capitalism was correlated with it, but a lot of young people don’t believe in it anymore,” said Ana Garcia, a junior at the Elon event. “We don’t trust capitalism because we don’t see ourselves getting ahead.”

Largely because of such millennials, generally those born in the 1980s and 1990s, socialism has moved from being a taboo because of its associations with the Cold War to something that has found rising appeal among those polled by Harvard and in other surveys that compared different generations.

Grace Magness, an Elon freshman, has experienced the shift firsthand. Her great grandfather, she said, was named Eugene Debs after the labor leader who ran for president five times for the Socialist Party at the turn of the 20th century. “He was so embarrassed about it when he was older that he would never introduce himself using his full name,” Ms. Magness said.

For her, she says, “socialism has gotten less spooky; it’s no longer associated with communism the way it was.” She adds: “straight-up capitalism seems like it has a lot of potential to be really corrupt.”

Young people across the generations tend to be viewed as more left-leaning than their elders. Underlying the millennial generation’s leftward tilt is angst about the future, Mr. Della Volpe said. In a new smaller Harvard survey, released Tuesday, 67% of those polled said they are more worried than hopeful about the direction of the country. The fall survey sampled 2,037 peopled aged 18 to 29 in live interviews.

“If something unites these young people,” Mr. Della Volpe said, “it’s fear,” driven by their perception that they have limited economic opportunities and that society as a whole has become more unequal.

The 2016 poll also found that the millennial generation is less religious than their parents and losing faith in institutions—a finding consistent with other polls that track some of that loss of faith to the slow recovery from the deep recession that began in 2008.

“Every new group of voters is disproportionally affected by whatever was salient when they were growing up,” said Celinda Lake, a long-time Democratic pollster. “That’s led this group to be really cynical about institutions: military, government.”

In the view of Kristen Soltis Anderson, a Republican pollster and the author of, “The Selfie Vote: Where Millennials Are Leading America and How Republicans Can Keep Up,” the idea that young people tend to be liberal and become more conservative with age is misguided. “The oldest millennials are actually the most left-leaning,” she said. “If you came of age, graduated college and were job hunting around the time of the financial crisis, you might be asking, What have free markets done for you? The easy rhetoric that ‘markets are bad, government is bad’ is appealing.”

The Harvard survey has polled roughly 1,000 respondents between 18 and 29 years old annually since 2001. The sample size has grown over time. In the spring 2016 survey, it was a measure of nearly 3,200 people. The survey has a margin of error of 2.5 percentage points.

Still, millennials polled say they want a bigger role for government in making conditions better for their future. The number of young people who believe that tax cuts spark economic growth, which had held fairly steady for years, fell seven points over the past two years, according to the 2016 Harvard survey.

Tuesday, December 05, 2017

The AP provides another example of how media pushes an anti-gun agenda

John Lott in The Hill.  Lott is the President of the Crime Prevention Research Center.
It is usually pretty hard to definitively identify media bias. Often pressed for time, reporters are just unaware of opposing opinions or facts. And there is no way for readers to tell what information has been left out. But an Associated Press article, which appeared in hundreds of papers from the Los Angeles Times to the Houston Chronicle, provided a unique peek at how the media selectively picks anti-gun information in order to push for gun control.

The Associated Press article edited-down a 441-word version of a longer, 1,000-word article that appeared in the Indianapolis Star and a quote from the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette. While the original articles in the Star and Journal Gazette were balanced, the AP cut down the piece by systematically excluding one side of the argument — any information that concealed handgun permit holders are law-abiding and don’t pose a risk to others.

The AP article was concerned with Indiana’s decision to allow legislators and staff to legally carry concealed handguns inside the state Capitol. It’s the 21st state to officially allow carrying of handguns in some fashion at the Capitol. The Star gave a little more information, noting that Indiana is one of just two states that restricts concealed-carry to lawmakers and their staffs when inside the Capitol. The other 19 states allow permitted citizens to carry in a wide variety of places.

The AP included quotes from four people. “It’s a constitutional right,” said Republican state Rep. Jim Lucas, one of the new law's sponsors. “Everyone’s right to protection should be recognized.”

The other three people went on record as concerned about the dangers of allowing civilians to have guns in the state capitol.

  • “The possibility of the presence of firearms during tense personnel situations would worry human resources professionals,” said Christopher Schrader, government affairs director for Indiana State Council of Society of Human Resource Management.
  • Republican House Majority Leader Matt Lehman understood the desire to have guns for self-defense, but supported limitations on people carrying because, he said, in “confrontational [situations] someone might respond irrationally.”
  • The AP article concluded with an ominous quote from Democratic Rep. Phil GiaQuinta. The representative was worried about permit holders “intimidating” others and that a permit holder may misuse his gun because “tempers can fly at night.”
Is it reasonable to be concerned that people may misuse their guns? Certainly. But only the original article in the Indianapolis Star provided another perspective on these concerns. It cited a report by the Crime Prevention Research Center, an organization that I head:

On state government grounds across the country, the Crime Prevention Research Center hasn’t found any instances of injuries due to firearms….

The Crime Prevention Research Center has tracked only two instances in the nation where a handgun misfired in a statehouse and a handful of instances where lawmakers temporarily misplaced their weapons.

The AP also ignored that the Journal Gazette cited the same Crime Prevention Research Center report to note how rare any problems were. The Journal Gazette went so far as to note my organization’s “goal is to provide an objective and accurate scientific evaluation of the costs and benefits of gun ownership.”

Could space limitations explain the AP’s decision to only use quotes that point to potential dangers from law-abiding people carrying concealed handguns? The AP could have easily replaced one of the quotes with this information. The three people’s quotes took 53, 66, and 52 words, respectively. The entire quote about the Crime Prevention Search Center took only 52 words.

Instead, the AP pushed only the narrative that concealed handgun permit holders pose a danger to others.

But states have had concealed carry laws for decades. Six states even allow concealed carrying in state capitols without permits, and eight states allow people to openly carry their guns. There have been zero reported problems with non-legislators and non-staff being able to carry on statehouse grounds.

And permit holders are extremely law-abiding. While the U.S. population commits misdemeanors and felonies at a rate 37 times higher than police, police are convicted of misdemeanors and felonies at about six times the average rate for concealed handgun permit holders in Florida and Texas.

The Associated Press has quite a reach. Its article also created a misimpression for at least some Canadians. Based on the AP article, Russell Wangersky wrote a piece for 39 Canadian newspapers about the dangers posed by permitted concealed handgun holders. I contacted Wangersky after I noticed that he had accidentally confused Illinois and Indiana, and, unlike the AP, he was honest enough to update his piece with this note:

The error was not without value — I received a note from the president of the Crime Prevention Research Center, John Lott, not only pointing out that mistake, but suggesting that I hadn’t told the whole story, in that in the 20 other states that allow the practice, there have not been any recorded weapons injuries or deaths as a result. Every piece of a debate informs the result.

The debate on guns would be very different if the national news media would report on some of the dozens of mass public shootings that have been stopped by concealed handgun permit holders. The media would also change public opinion if it reported on how virtually all mass public shootings take place in areas where citizens are banned from possessing firearms for protection.

Rarely is there such clear evidence of biased self-censorship by a news organization. The AP portrayed concealed handgun permit holders as a danger to others while editing out information showing that no such danger exists.

Friday, December 01, 2017

The road to tyranny is paved with making it easy to get the bad guys

Jonathan Turley gets it right again.

People ignore the unavoidable tradeoff between making it easy for the government to get the bad guys and loss of freedom.
The cellphone is rapidly becoming the most universal accessory among human beings anywhere in the world. The expansion of its use and capability has made the cellphone not just a communications device but the planner, personal computer, mapping mechanism and record storage device for most people.

It has another function that most people do not fully appreciate: tracking device. The use of the cellphone as a surveillance tool is at the heart of a major privacy case heard by the Supreme Court this week in Carpenter v. United States. At issue may be the very future of privacy in America. This argument is occurring almost 50 years to the day that the court issued its historic decision in Katz v. United States, which established the current test for privacy. The question is whether the court will celebrate that anniversary with a new ruling effectively gutting privacy for future generations.

The great burden of civil liberties is that we often must fight for our most cherished principles in defense of the least redeeming persons. As is often the case, this controversy starts with a thoroughly unsympathetic character: Timothy Ivory Carpenter, who was the ringleader of a gang accused of a series of robberies including, ironically, the robbery of cellphone stores in and around Detroit. The gang valued smartphones and so did the police. The police asked cellphone carriers to track Carpenter’s phone for 127 days. The companies supplied 12,898 tracking locations from Carpenter’s movements, including locations near the robberies. He was arrested and eventually given 116 years.

Privacy and technology has always been locked in an existential struggle. The Supreme Court has repeatedly (and rather dim wittedly) adopted privacy protections that were tied to fixed technological capability. Technology quickly made a mockery of such protections. For example, the court adopted the “trespass doctrine” in 1928 as the core protection of privacy of the Fourth Amendment, requiring a warrant for any surveillance involving trespass on a target’s person or property. Advances soon made the ill-conceived doctrine irrelevant as the government adopted forms of surveillance like laser-window pickups, parabolic microphones, and other devices that could place citizens under surveillance without touching their homes or property.

The Supreme Court responded in December 1967 with what many consider to be one of its greatest and most eloquent decisions in Katz. That case rejected the trespass doctrine and declared that “the Fourth Amendment protects people, not places.” The decision reversed a long erosion of privacy protection and required greater use of warrants by the government. Under the Katz test, warrants are needed when there is a “reasonable expectation of privacy” by a citizen. However, that test planted the seed for its own demise. The danger is that, as forms of surveillance increase, particularly with private surveillance in workplaces, businesses and homes, our expectations fall. As expectations falls, warrantless surveillance increases further in a vicious cycle that continues to lower privacy protections.

The fact is that my students live in a surveillance-saturated environment and have a fraction of the privacy protections that my generation enjoyed. The Carpenter case shows how flimsy our laws have become in protecting privacy, a trend that has been accelerated by both Democrats and Republicans in Congress who see little advantage in defending privacy over new police powers. Thus, in this case, the police simply avoided asking a judge for a warrant with a showing of probable cause. Notably, probable cause itself is relatively easy to establish and warrants are rarely denied. In this case, it would have been quickly granted. Instead, the police demanded the information under the Stored Communications Act, which requires only a showing that there were “reasonable grounds to believe” that the records sought “are relevant and material to an ongoing criminal investigation.”

Notably, the government is relying on the 1979 decision in Smith v. Maryland, which is itself based on a technological relic. In that case, the court ruled that there is no expectation of privacy in phone numbers because we all “give” the numbers to a third party (the telephone company) to make calls. It is an anachronistic view that raises the image of a switchboard operator as opposed to computerized systems that merely transmit and connect numbers. Yet, the government is arguing that cellphones are no different in “sharing” a signal with companies like AT&T. This ignores that consumers have little choice. Moreover, even under the myth of the Smith case, there is no active sending of the signal for a cellphone user. It is part of this ubiquitous technology. If you have a cellphone, it emits this signal. The government wants the court to treat the use of a cellphone as a type of waiver of privacy.

In 2012, the Supreme Court resisted the encroachment of technological advances in United States v. Jones, when it ruled that police need a warrant to attach a GPS tracker on a car. Now, however, the government can negate that case by just using the cellphone inside the car to achieve that same result. Indeed, the case could negate a host of rulings in allowing the government to follow you within buildings, despite a 2011 ruling barring the warrantless use of thermal devices for such purposes.

The government hopes that the “third-party” mythology will drive a stake into the heart of privacy protections under Katz and these other cases. The fact that a warrant would have been easy to obtain in this case is both telling and chilling. Historically, governments have resisted any limitations on their power even when those limitations are workable and reasonable. Yet, it is not always easy to get a free people to surrender their privacy. To do so, citizens are fed false tradeoffs between privacy and security despite the fact that courts overwhelmingly approve warrants. Indeed, technology has made it faster and easier to obtain warrants by telephone and email.

Members of both parties have yielded to the demands for greater and greater surveillance power. They know that they are rarely given credit for defending privacy but could be blamed for not being sufficiently tough on crime or terrorism. For them, the choice is easy. For the rest of us, it is far more serious. If successful, most citizens will not only be practically forced to carry around a government surveillance device but will literally pay for the privilege. Make no mistake. To paraphrase the AT&T slogan, the government is on the verge of “rethinking possible” under the Fourth Amendment and could force the rest of us to rethink privacy in America.