Monday, July 31, 2017


Here is Don Boudreaux on intellectuals.

Donald Joseph Boudreaux (born 1958) is an economist, author, professor, and co-director of the Program on the American Economy and Globalization at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University.

DB is on target.
Fancying themselves to be unusually insightful, thoughtful, and knowledgeable, a great many intellectuals are, in fact, mindless pack animals. They mistake their slogans – which sound fine to the ears of intelligent second-graders – for insight and knowledge. Never bothering to learn economics, and also never bothering to think realistically about politics or to study history with care, they criticize without careful reflection, condemn without sound judgment, and propose without information, insight, or wisdom.

Saturday, July 29, 2017


Mrs. Antonelli comes to visit her son Anthony for dinner...who lives with a female roommate Maria... During the course of the meal, his mother couldn't help but notice how pretty Anthony' s roommate was. She had long been suspicious of a relationship between the two, and this had only made her more curious.

Over the course of the evening, while watching the two interact, she started to wonder if there was more between Anthony and his roommate than met the eye. Reading his mom's thoughts, Anthony volunteered, "I know what you must be thinking, but I assure you, Maria and I are just roommates."

About a week later, Maria came to Anthony saying, " Ever since your mother came to dinner, I've been unable to find the silver sugar bowl. You don’t suppose she took it, do you? "Well, I doubt it, but I'll email her, just to be sure. "So he sat down and wrote:

Dear Momma,

I'm not saying that you 'did' take the sugar bowl from my house, I'm not saying that you 'did not' take it. But the fact remains that it has been missing ever since you were here for dinner.

Love, Anthony

Several days later, Anthony received a response email from his Momma which read:

Dear Son,

I'm not saying that you 'do' sleep with Maria, and I'm not saying that you 'do not' sleep with her. But the fact remains that if she was sleeping in her OWN bed, she would have found the sugar bowl by now.

Love, Momma

Friday, July 28, 2017

BACE inhibitor successfully tested in Alzheimer's animal model

Here is a link to an article about progress made in finding a treatment for Alzheimer's.

An excerpt.
"A successful treatment must take effect as early in the course of the disease as possible. In our experiments, we have therefore blocked the enzyme beta secretase BACE, which produces amyloid beta," explains Dr Marc Aurel Busche, young investigator group leader at the Institute for Neuroscience of the TUM and psychiatrist in the Department of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy of the TUM university hospital rechts der Isar.

The researchers tested a substance that inhibits beta secretase in a mouse model of Alzheimer's. The mice produce large amounts of amyloid beta, which, as in humans, leads to the formation of amyloid beta plaques in the brain and causes memory loss. During the study, the mice were given the inhibitor in their food for up to eight weeks, after which they were examined. For this purpose, the researchers used a special imaging technique known as two-photon microscopy, which allowed them to observe individual nerve cells in the brain.

As expected, the mice had less amyloid beta in their brain after this period, since its production was inhibited. However, the effect of the substance was much more far-reaching: the animals' brain functions actually normalized. There were fewer hyperactive nerve cells, and the slow-wave brain patterns once again resembled those in healthy mice. A key finding for the scientists was the observation that the animals' memory also improved. The mice were able to locate a hidden platform in a water-filled maze as quickly as their healthy counterparts.

Makeup Transformations

Here is a link to a video that shows a person applying makeup to look like various celebrities.


When Insults Had Class

Member of Parliament to Disraeli: Sir, you will either die on the gallows or of some unspeakable disease.
Disraeli: That depends, Sir, whether I embrace your policies or your mistress.

Walter Kerr: He had delusions of adequacy.

William Faulkner about Ernest Hemingway: He has never been known to use a word that might send a reader to the dictionary.

Moses Hadas: Thank you for sending me a copy of your book; I'll waste no time reading it.

Mark Twain: I didn't attend the funeral, but I sent a nice letter saying I approved of it.

Oscar Wilde: He has no enemies, but is intensely disliked by his friends.

George Bernard Shaw to Winston Churchill: I am enclosing two tickets to the first night of my new play; bring a friend, if you have one.
Winston Churchill: Cannot possibly attend first night, will attend second . . . if there is one.

Stephen Bishop: I feel so miserable without you; it's almost like having you here.

John Bright: He is a self-made man and worships his creator.

IrwinCobb: I've just learned about his illness. Let's hope it's nothing trivial.

Mae West: His mother should have thrown him away and kept the stork.

Andrew Lang: He uses statistics as a drunken man uses lamp-posts . . . for support rather than illumination.

Billy Wilder: He has Van Gogh's ear for music.

Groucho Marx: I've had a perfectly wonderful evening. But I'm afraid this wasn't it.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Clean Air Dumbth

The July 25, 2017 edition of the Guardian newspaper in the UK has an article titled “Britain to ban sale of all diesel and petrol cars and vans from 2040.” The article mentions that France intends to do this, too.

Banning products or activities with undesired emissions is an example of the stupidity of Governments and the environmentalists that push them.

Undesirable emissions have adverse consequences, but also have benefits. Banning a product or activity is equivalent to saying that the social cost of its emissions is infinite in relation to its benefit, which is ridiculous. A rational emissions policy would balance benefit and cost.

An incremental pound of undesirable emissions has the same incremental adverse consequences no matter what product or activity it comes from. A rational emissions policy’s target would be to achieve the same incremental benefit per incremental pound of emissions across all products and activities for every person for whatever total pounds of undesirable emission there are. This occurs naturally in a free market if undesirable emissions are priced, e.g. through a per pound tax, because rational people set marginal benefit equal to marginal cost. The tax rate would determine the total amount of undesirable emissions and the tax structure would lead to an optimal allocation of usage.

Unfortunately, it is not just about the UK, France, and auto emissions. The same stupidity occurs with many other similar issues, e.g. what to do about climate change, and with many other countries. Almost every time Governments or activists get involved with deciding what to do, their solutions are just about as stupid as a ban.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Government at Work (still messing things up)

Here is an article by Daniel Mitchell.

Daniel J. Mitchell is a senior fellow at the Cato Institute who specializes in fiscal policy, particularly tax reform, international tax competition, and the economic burden of government spending.

So typical.---------------------------------------------
Every so often, I run across a chart, cartoon, or story that captures the essence of an issue. And when that happens, I make it part of my “everything you need to know” series.

I don’t actually think those columns tell us everything we need to know, of course, but they do show something very important. At least I hope.

And now, from our (normally) semi-rational northern neighbor, I have a new example.

This story from Toronto truly is a powerful example of the difference between government action and private action.

A Toronto man who spent $550 building a set of stairs in his community park says he has no regrets, despite the city’s insistence that he should have waited for a $65,000 city project to handle the problem. 

Retired mechanic Adi Astl says he took it upon himself to build the stairs after several neighbours fell down the steep path to a community garden in Tom Riley Park, in Etobicoke, Ont. Astl says his neighbours chipped in on the project, which only ended up costing $550 – a far cry from the $65,000-$150,000 price tag the city had estimated for the job. …Astl says he hired a homeless person to help him and built the eight steps in a matter of hours. …Astl says members of his gardening group have been thanking him for taking care of the project, especially after one of them broke her wrist falling down the slope last year.

There are actually two profound lessons to learn from this story.

Since I’m a fiscal wonk, the part that grabbed my attention was the $550 cost of private action compared to $65,000 for government. Or maybe $150,000. Heck, probably more considering government cost overruns.

Though we’re not actually talking about government action. God only knows how long it would have taken the bureaucracy to complete this task. So this is a story of inexpensive private action vs. costly government inaction.

But there’s another part of this story that also caught my eye. The bureaucracy is responding with spite.

The city is now threatening to tear down the stairs because they were not built to regulation standards…City bylaw officers have taped off the stairs while officials make a decision on what to do with it. …Mayor John Tory…says that still doesn’t justify allowing private citizens to bypass city bylaws to build public structures themselves. …“We just can’t have people decide to go out to Home Depot and build a staircase in a park because that’s what they would like to have.

But there is a silver lining. With infinite mercy, the government isn’t going to throw Mr. Astl in jail or make him pay a fine. At least not yet.

Astl has not been charged with any sort of violation.
Gee, how nice and thoughtful.

One woman has drawn the appropriate conclusion from this episode.

Area resident Dana Beamon told CTV Toronto she’s happy to have the stairs there, whether or not they are up to city standards. “We have far too much bureaucracy,” she said. “We don’t have enough self-initiative in our city, so I’m impressed.

Which is the lesson I think everybody should take away. Private initiative works much faster and much cheaper than government.

P.S. Let’s also call this an example of super-federalism, or super-decentralization. Imagine how expensive it would have been for the national government in Ottawa to build the stairs? Or how long it would have taken? Probably millions of dollars and a couple of years.

Now imagine how costly and time-consuming it would have been if the Ontario provincial government was in charge? Perhaps not as bad, but still very expensive and time-consuming.

And we already know the cost (and inaction) of the city government. Reminds me of the $1 million bus stop in Arlington, VA.

But when actual users of the park take responsibility (both in terms of action and money), the stairs were built quickly and efficiently.

In other words, let’s have decentralization. But the most radical federalism is when private action replaces government.

Editors Note: Since this article was originally published, the local government tore down Astl's $500 stairs, citing "safety standards," and plans to replace it with a $10,000 set.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Cosmoclimatology, a better theory of climate change

Here is a link to a paper by Henrik Svensmark describing a better theory of climate change.

I find HS's theory credible.

Here are some excerpts.
Low-level clouds cover more than a quarter of the Earth and exert a strong cooling effect at the surface. (For clouds at higher altitudes there is a complicated trade-off between cooling and warming.) The 2% change in low cloud during a solar cycle, as seen in figure 3, will vary the input of heat to the Earth's surface by an average of about 1.2 W m-2, which is not trivial. It can be compared, for example, with 1.4 W m-2attributed by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change for the greenhouse effect of all of the additional carbon dioxide in the air since the Industrial Revolution (Houghton et al. 2001).

If cosmic-ray counts merely went up and down with the 11-year cycle of solar activity, there would be no trend in the climate. Systematic records of influx to the Earth's surface go back to 1937. Cosmic-ray changes before then can be seen in the rate of formation of radioactive isotopes such as beryllium-10, or inferred from the Sun's open coronal magnetic field. As seen in figure 5, the various methods agree that there was a pronounced reduction in cosmic rays in the 20th century, such that the maximal fluxes towards the end of the century were similar to the minima seen around 1900. This was in keeping with the discovery that the Sun's coronal magnetic field doubled in strength during the 20th century (Lockwood et al. 1999).

Here is prima facie evidence for suspecting that much of the warming of the world during the 20th century was due to a reduction in cosmic rays and in low-cloud cover. But distinguishing between coincidence and causal action has always been a problem in climate science. The case for anthropogenic climate change during the 20th century rests primarily on the fact that concentrations of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases increased and so did global temperatures. Attempts to show that certain details in the climatic record confirm the greenhouse forcing (e.g. Mitchel et al. 2001) have been less than conclusive. By contrast, the hypothesis that changes in cloudiness obedient to cosmic rays help to force climate change predicts a distinctive signal that is in fact very easily observed, as an exception that proves the rule.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Science indicating that climate change is not man made

Here is a link to a documentary by Henrik Svensmark providing evidence that Climate Change is not caused by humans.  It was published September, 2015.

Henrik Svensmark (born 1958) is a physicist and professor in the Division of Solar System Physics at the Danish National Space Institute (DTU Space) in Copenhagen.[1] He is known for his theory on the effects of cosmic rays on cloud formation as an indirect cause of global warming.[2][3][4] He detailed his work in the book The Chilling Stars as well as the film The Cloud Mystery.

The Trade Deficit Isn’t Big Enough

An old article of mine that puts some aspects of trade in perspective.
If the anti- trade crowd’s fears are correct then the problem with the trade deficit is that it isn’t big enough.

Consider what the anti-trade crowd might portray as a worst case scenario. In dollars, US prices of everything are above foreign prices for the same things. In foreign currency, foreign prices of everything are below US prices for the same things. Moreover there is no comparative advantage in anything (The comparative advantage constraint is for the Techies. You can ignore it.).

We start with normal trade and suddenly introduce this worst case scenario. Both US and foreign consumers stop buying US goods and increase their buying of foreign goods. Both actions increase the US trade deficit, tremendously. Foreigners now have a huge trade surplus, and. foreign employment goes through the roof. Ostensibly, this is good for foreigners.

Since everyone has stopped buying US goods, US employment heads toward zero. However, US purchases of foreign goods don’t immediately go to zero, because US households have cash reserves that will last awhile.

The anti-trade crowd would characterize this as a disaster for us. They are wrong. While our cash reserves last, foreigners are sending us food, cars, computers, and other things that are useful. They are getting nothing useful in return, only pieces of paper called dollars. They must be keeping their dollars, because the scenario can exist only if they do. The reality is that foreigners have become our slaves.

The anti-trade crowd might counter that this bliss will end soon, because we will run out of money. That presumes our government fails to act appropriately. As long as the foreigners don’t wise up, and they keep hoarding their dollars, then, for all practical purposes, their dollars have been destroyed. Then, it doesn’t matter if our government replaces them, by printing more, and giving them to us. In this manner, we can continue to buy foreign goods, forever.

Evidently, the anti-trade crowd’s worst nightmare really is the closest we in the US could ever come to heaven on earth. If the anti-traders’ fears were real, then we all could retire on as high a standard of living as we wanted. Unfortunately, the anti-traders are wrong.

The problem is that foreigners are not stupid enough to fall for this. They will buy US goods with their dollars. After all, getting something for your work is better than getting nothing. If foreigners start buying US goods, we’ll have to produce them. That, unfortunately, means work for us. Our utopia will collapse.

The end result is that foreigners will buy about the same value of US goods as we buy of foreign goods. But if that’s true, how can there be a trade deficit? Easy, just don’t count some of the foreign buying of US goods. For example, suppose foreigners buy Rockefeller Center with their dollars. Rockefeller Center is not counted as an export, because the foreigners do not ship it home.

The real problem with the trade deficit is its definition and how we misinterpret it. The only important thing is whether foreigners have bought something produced here, not what the something is, and not whether they ship it home. Indeed, it’s better if they buy Rockefeller Center, and leave it here, rather than TV sets that they ship home. If Rockefeller Center stays here, we can extort the foreigners if they don’t treat us right. If push comes to shove, we can expropriate Rockefeller Center back. The same goes for just about all the other things not counted as exports that foreigners buy with their dollars, such as stocks and bonds.

The international trade story has much more to it than the trade deficit. But keep in mind that if the anti-traders are so wrong on this aspect of international trade, they’re probably pretty wrong on the rest of it.

Roper’s Resolve: Critics Seek Dangerous Extensions Of Treason and Other Crimes To Prosecute The Trumps

Here is a column from Jonathan Turley, Shapiro Professor of Public Interest Law at George Washington University, that shows the lack of regard of many of Trump's critics for freedom and their willingness to sell the Country down the drain for their personal satisfaction from "getting" the Trumps.

The real danger is from the Trump haters, not Trump.
Below is my column in the Hill newspaper on how critics of Donald Trump have been calling for radical extensions or interpretations of criminal provisions against core figures. The implications for such interpretations of crimes like treason need to be considered by critics.

“So now you’d give the devil benefit of the law!” Those were the words of William Roper in one of the most riveting scenes from “A Man For All Seasons.

He was chastising his father-in-law, Sir Thomas More, for elevating the law above morality. Roper, who was himself a lawyer and member of Parliament, was the face of resolve — and relativism — in the law. When More asked if Roper would “cut a great road through the law to get after the devil,” Roper proudly declared that he would “cut down every law in England to do that.”

After the 50th anniversary of the classic movie, we seem to be living in the “Age of Roper” — and rage. There is a constant drumbeat in the news as experts declare prima facie cases for indictment and impeachment against President Trump, Donald Trump Jr., and Jared Kushner. Trump has been denounced as threatening free speech, the free press, and even the democratic process.

However, the push for criminal charges could well create the very dangers that critics associate with Trump. Few have considered the implications of broadening the scope of the criminal code and handing the government wider discretion in criminalizing speech and associations. Once you declare someone to be the devil, there is no cost too great to combat him or his spawn.

Trump has certainly become a diabolic figure for many (though his popularity among Republicans remains above 80 percent). This hatred has blinded many to the implications of pulling up the roots of our criminal laws “to get after the Donald.” In particular, they should consider the cost to free speech and the political process if they hand the government the power to criminalize some of this conduct.

The case for free-market anticapitalism

Here is a link to a lecture by Matt Ridley that provides good perspective about free markets, freedom, equality, socialism, and government.

MR is on target.

Some excerpts.
The solution to crony capitalism is not to make it worse with an industrial strategy or with full socialism, but to break it up and let fresh competition into our cosseted corporatist conspiracy.
Remember that we have run two very careful randomised controlled trials to see if full-blown socialism or half-hearted free enterprise works better. One in the Korean peninsula, the other in Germany. And the results were unambiguous. Socialism was a humanitarian catastrophe.
It is my contention that this concept of spontaneous order is the central idea of the enlightenment, brought to a pinnacle nine years later by Adam Smith with his invisible hand and applied to life itself by Charles Darwin some decades later. If the English language can get along without a government, why do we so quickly assume that English society cannot organise itself?

To labour the point, today in London roughly 10 million people ate lunch. Working out just how much of each type of food to have available in the right places at the right time to ensure that this happened was a problem of mind-boggling complexity, made all the harder by the fact people made up their mind what to eat mostly at the last minute.

Who was in charge of this astonishing feat? Who is London’s lunch commissioner and why does he get so little credit? Why is this system not subsidised? How can it be so lightly regulated?
Comparative advantage takes Adam Smith’s division of labour one step further and explains why free trade benefits everybody, even countries that are the worst at making things, even countries that are the best at making things. But it also, in my view, explains prosperity – what it is and why it happens to us and not to rabbits or rocks.

When I raised Ricardo’s law of comparative advantage in the Lords a few months ago, a Lib Dem peer got a laugh by saying she had never heard of it. What are our teachers up to? How come nobody seems to know that trade is not a zero sum game? How come both Brussels and Washington are entirely in thrall to the kind of mercantilism that was disproved 200 years ago? Do they believe in phlogiston and blood-letting too?
Milton Friedman said: “Societies that put equality before freedom get neither. Societies that put freedom before equality get a measure of both.”
I once gave a talk in Oxford and an academic approached me afterwards and said that he was troubled by what I had said, for was it not obvious that the most evil people in the twentieth century were all, without exception, capitalists? Surely I could see that. I looked at him, wondering if this was a trick question. Er, what about Stalin, I said? And Hitler? Mao? Pol Pot?

OK, apart from them, he said.

Is it not bizarre, after the 20th century, that people are so forgiving of the state and so mistrustful of the market?
Visiting Auschwitz a few years ago I was struck not by what some have called the “industrialisation” of death – after all, it is a surprisingly low-tech place, even for the time. But by the “nationalisation” of death: the bureaucratic central planning and meticulous hierarchical organisation of mass murder, backed by state coercion not just of its victims but of its perpetrators too; to paraphrase Hillary Clinton, it takes a government to do a death camp.

Are the plights of North Korea, Afghanistan, Somalia, Congo, Venezeula or Syria caused by too much free enterprise? I don’t think so.

The dreadful Grenfell Tower fire was not caused by an excess of free enterprise; it was caused by terrible miscalculations or misregulations in the public sector. This was in a building that was planned, built, owned and managed by the public sector and refurbished by a contractor chosen and commissioned by the public sector according to regulations and guidelines devised in the public sector and in pursuit of a policy of retrofitting buildings with insulation that came from the public sector.

Whatever mistakes were made in the recladding of the building, or in the fire regulations, or in housing people in tower blocks in the first place – they did not come from too much free enterprise.
Nor was the crash of 2008 caused by too much free enterprise – not if you understand the role played by the Chinese government in driving down its exchange rate, the role played by the Federal Reserve in keeping down the cost of debt, and above all the role of government regulations in forcing Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac into the sub-prime lending business, where they could fuel a sub-prime boom on the back of government interest rates.

The lie that the crisis was a crisis of free markets, as opposed to crony corporatism, has long been exploded among serious scholars.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

The Ties to Russia You Don't Hear About

Here is a link to a New York Post article by Peter Schweizer about ties to Russia - not the ones the media focuses on.

Some excerpts.
During a heated Fox Business interview with Maria Bartiromo, Hillary Clinton’s former campaign chief John Podesta made a series of misleading statements when questioned about his involvement in a company that received $35 million from the Russian government while Clinton served as secretary of state.

On Jan. 18, 2011, a small green-energy company named Joule Unlimited announced Podesta’s appointment to its board. Months later, Rusnano, a Kremlin-backed investment fund founded by Vladimir Putin, pumped $35 million into Joule. Serving alongside Podesta on Joule’s board were senior Russian official Anatoly Chubais and oligarch Ruben Vardanyan, who has been appointed by Putin to a Russian economic modernization council.
When Bartiromo pressed Podesta on the whereabouts of his 75,000 shares of Joule stock, Podesta resorted to Clintonesque semantics: “I didn’t have any stock in any Russian company!”

Notice the rhetorical sleight of tongue there: Joule is based in Massachusetts, not Russia, making Podesta’s statement technically true. Podesta added: “And by the way, I divested before I went into the White House.”

Yet again, it’s not that simple. WikiLeaks documents reveal that when he joined the Obama White House, Podesta transferred his Joule shares to an LLC controlled by his adult children. He also resumed communicating with Joule and Joule investors after leaving the White House and joining Clinton’s campaign. In fact, he received an invoice from his lawyers in April 2015 — a consent request for Dmitry Akhanov of Rusnano USA to join Joule’s board.


Here is a link to an unusual example of ballet.

Keep your eye on the dog.

Government at work

Here is a link to another example of Government at work.

New York City makes dog-sitting illegal without a kennel license.  In other words, you are not allowed to leave your dog with a friend while you go shopping.

Why such a law?  Likely because it benefits kennel owners, who get more business, and benefits the City of New York, which gets fees.

Government is not your friend.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Fred Goldberg on Climate Change Data and Model Deficiencies

Here is a link to a talk by Fred Goldberg that puts climate change data and models in perspective.

You will learn a lot from FG's talk - and you will never trust the climate change alarmists again.

FG is on target.

Yes Virginia, it is climate hysteria - and worse, dishonesty

Here is a link to a BBC documentary, "The Great Global Warming Swindle", that puts the climate debate in perspective.

Friday, July 14, 2017


How does Moses make tea?  Hebrews it.

Venison for dinner again?  Oh deer.

A cartoonist was found dead in his home.  Details are sketchy.

I used to be a banker, but then I lost interest.

England has no kidney bank, but it does have a Liverpool.

I tried to catch some fog, but I mist.

They reported that I had type-A blood, but it was a typo.

Jokes about German sausage are the wurst.

I stayed up all night to see where the sun went.  Finally, it dawned on me.

When chemists die, they barium.

When you get a  bladder infection, urine trouble.

I got a job at a bakery.  I kneaded dough.

Velcro, what a rip-off.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Jonathan Turley shoots Liberty Valance

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

JT puts James Comey (Liberty Valance) in perspective.
In one of my favorite Westerns, “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance,” Jimmy Stewart reveals to a reporter that he was not the man who killed villain Liberty Valance — a legend that transformed him from a perceived coward to an inspiration hero and resulted in his being elected U.S. senator and ambassador to Great Britain. The seasoned reporter listens to the whole story, but in the end says that he will not print it.

He states the rule simply as “[w]hen the legend becomes fact…print the legend.” In many ways, James Comey is the Jimmy Stewart of the media production of “The Man Who Shot Lying Trump.” From the outset, reporters and Democrats (who had been calling for Comey’s firing or questioning his judgment) declared him to be the man who fearlessly stood up to a president demanding loyalty pledges and discarding legal and ethical standards.

The problem with that narrative is not the criticism of the actions of President Trump, but the consistent efforts to ignore the equally troubling actions of former FBI Director Comey. Yet, if Trump was to be the irredeemable villain, Comey had to be the immaculate hero. The script glitch centered on three allegations — all of which were actively denied by legal experts. First, Comey leaked memos of his meetings with Trump. Second, those memos constituted government material. Third, the memos were likely classified on some level.

Yes, the memos were leaked.

As I previously wrote, various legal experts went on the air on CNN and other cable news programs to dismiss the allegation (that a few of us printed) that Comey “leaked” his now famous memos detailing meetings with the president. Experts declared that leaks by definition only involve classified information — a facially ridiculous position that was widely stated with complete authority. Whether someone is prosecuted for a leak is a different question but a leak is the release of nonpublic information, not just classified information. University of Pennsylvania Law Professor Claire Finkelstein, CNN Legal Analyst Michael Zeldin, Fordham Law Professor Jed Shugerman, and others dismissed the notion that such memos could be deemed “leaks.”

Comey was a leaker, and he leaked for the oldest of motivations in Washington: to protect himself and hurt his opponents. Comey knew he would be called before the Congress and that these memos would be demanded by both his own former investigators as well as congressional investigators. That could have happened in a matter of days but Comey decided to use a friend to leak the content of the memos to the media (after giving the memos to his friend). In doing so, Comey took control of the media narrative and was lionized by the media.

Recently, the Senate Homeland Security Committee released a majority report that correctly referenced the Comey “leaks.” The report detailed a massive increase in leaks against the Trump administration but highlighted the leak by Comey. What makes that reference most troubling is that Comey was the person with the responsibility to find the leakers in the Trump administration. Yet, after the president expressly asked him to find leakers, Comey became a leaker himself. Moreover, as FBI director, Comey showed no particular sympathy to leakers and his department advanced the most extreme definitions of what constituted FBI information.

Yes, the memos were government property.

When some of us noted that these memos clearly fell within the definition of FBI information and thus they were ostensibly government (not private) property, there was again a chorus of experts dismissing such allegations against Comey. Asha Rangappa, a former FBI special agent assured CNN that these constitute merely “personal recollections” and would not fall into the definition of government material. Others joined in on the theme that these were like a “personal diary” and thus entirely his private property. Obviously, removing FBI material would not be a reaffirming moment for the Beltway’s lone, lanky hero. But that is what he did.

All FBI agents sign a statement affirming that “all information acquired by me in connection with my official duties with the FBI and all official material to which I have access remain the property of the United States of America” and that an agent “will not reveal, by any means, any information or material from or related to FBI files or any other information acquired by virtue of my official employment to any unauthorized recipient without prior official written authorization by the FBI.”

These were memos prepared on an FBI computer about a meeting on an FBI investigation with the president of the United States in the Oval Office and other locations. The contents were important enough that Comey immediately shared them with his highest management team and consulted on how to deal with the information.

The FBI has now reportedly confirmed that the memos were indeed government property. The Hill, quoting “officials familiar with the documents,” has reported that the FBI has told the Congress that these memos are indeed government documents.

Yes, the memos were classified.

If Comey did leak government property, a third issue was whether the information was considered classified. Once again, the classified status does not determine if this was a leak (it was) or if it was government information (it was). However, many experts insisted that the material was clearly unclassified.

Comey’s representation of the unclassified status struck me as highly questionable at the time. I noted that the information would have likely been classified on some level, including “confidential” under governing standards. Moreover, FBI employees are not given free license (or sole authority) to write things in an “unclassified fashion.” That is why there are classification reviews. Information coming out of meetings with the president are routinely classified, let alone information deemed material to pending investigations.

As I noted earlier, the standards that Comey enforced as director belied his own account. The FBI restricts material generated in relation to investigations as “FBI information.” FBI rules cover any “documents reflecting advisory opinions, recommendations and deliberations comprising part of a process by which governmental decisions and policies are formulated.” Under the Freedom of Information Act, the FBI routinely claims this type of information as either classified or privileged or both.

Comey however repeatedly assured the Senate that there was nothing classified or privileged in the memos. In an exchange with Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), Comey said, “Well, I remember thinking, this is a very disturbing development, really important to our work. I need to document it and preserve it in a way — and — and this committee gets this, but sometimes when things are classified, it tangles them up. It’s hard…” Then Warner interrupted to say, “Amen.”

However, the issue was not the writing of the memos but their removal from the FBI and their leaking to the media. There is a reason why “sometimes when things are classified, it tangles them up.” It is called classification review. That does not give you license to transfer the information into a separate document and declare it a “Dear Diary” entry. That is a loose interpretation that Comey as FBI director never afforded to his subordinates and it would effectively gut the rules governing privileged and classified information.

Not surprisingly, The Hill reported that indeed the memos have been declared classified by the FBI. The newspaper maintains that four of the memos had markings indicating they contained classified material at the “secret” or “confidential” level. It is not clear whether the memos leaked to Comey’s friend and then the media included these memos or contained classified or privileged information.  However, the finding shows that Comey was wrong in claiming that he wrote the memos to avoid any classified information and the removal of the classified memos constitutes a violation of federal rules and FBI protocols.

None of this takes away from the seriousness of Comey’s allegation or the need to investigate possible obstruction of justice. However, it does raise serious questions about own Comey’s judgment and the legality of his actions. Yet, the coverage on these findings has largely been crickets.

It is much like that final scene in “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance”? After Jimmy Stewart unburdened himself that he was a fraudulent hero, he boarded the train back to Washington and thanked the conductor for his kindness. The conductor simply responded, “Nothing’s too good for the man who shot Liberty Valance!”

It seems that in both Westerns and politics, you print the legend.

Saturday, July 08, 2017

The adverse impact of minimum wage laws

Microeconomic theory, ignoring the unrealistic monopsony issue, suggests that an increase in the minimum wage hurts those at the low end of the totem pole.  Here is another study that presents data that is consistent with that view.

Here is the link.

The Abstract follows.
This paper estimates the long-run impact of youth minimum wages on youth employment by exploit-
ing a large discontinuity in Danish minimum wage rules at age 18 and using monthly payroll records for the Danish population. We show theoretically how the discontinuity in the minimum wage may be exploited to estimate the causal effect of a change in the minimum wage of youth on their employment. On average, the hourly wage rate jumps up by 40 percent when individuals turn eighteen years old. Employment (extensive margin) falls by 33 percent and total labor input (extensive and intensive margin) decreases by around 45 percent, leaving the aggregate wage payment nearly unchanged. Data on flows into and out of employment show that the drop in employment is driven almost entirely by job loss when individuals turn 18 years old. We estimate that the relevant elasticity for evaluating the effect on youth employment of changes in their minimum wage is about -0.8.

Jonathan Turley on CNN and Kirsten Powers

Here is JT's blog entry "CNN and The Search For A Self-Affirming Principle: A Response to Kirsten Powers.

JT is on target.

I have long thought of KP as, putting it diplomatically, neither thoughtful nor objective.
I recently wrote about my concern over the publication by CNN of a statement that it had identified the man responsible for a satiric wrestling video that was reposted by President Donald Trump.  CNN declared that the man had removed not just the video but other material deemed offensive or “ugly” by the networks. In light of his actions, CNN said that it would not reveal his identity — for now.  The clear message was that CNN reserved that right to disclose the man’s identity if he resumed posting material deemed ugly by the network.  Many of us objected to CNN’s language and rationale as inimical to journalistic standards and free speech.  CNN analyst Kirsten Powers insisted that such concerns are groundless and that CNN acted entirely appropriately.  She specifically responded to my column in USA Today raising these concerns.  Both Powers and I are contributors to USA Today.

Before responding to Powers’ arguments, it is important to repeat what CNN actually said (and later what I actually said):
“CNN is not publishing “HanA**holeSolo’s” name because he is a private citizen who has issued an extensive statement of apology, showed his remorse by saying he has taken down all his offending posts, and because he said he is not going to repeat this ugly behavior on social media again. In addition, he said his statement could serve as an example to others not to do the same.
CNN reserves the right to publish his identity should any of that change.”
Many of us saw that statement as high-handed, judgmental, and threatening.  CNN clearly stated that it was not releasing the man’s identity because he had shown sufficient remorse and promised that “he is not going to repeat this ugly behavior on social media again.”  CNN further says that it has not published his name because his apology “could serve as an example to others not to do the same.”  It then reserves the right to disclose his name “should any of that change.”

All of that seems quite unambiguous and clearly inappropriate.  It is hard to know where to start.  The news story dealt with a videotape snatched out of obscurity by the President. Yet, CNN ties its decision to the poster stripping a variety of postings deemed ugly.  More importantly, it clearly says that it based its actions on its satisfaction with the removal of the material and that fact that this would be a warning to others “not to do the same.”  The “same” what?  Posting things deemed “ugly” or insulting to the media or just insulting to CNN? If CNN is going to get into the business of withholding names based on its desire to send messages or force redemptive conduct, it should at least be clear.  Finally, CNN did not simply say that it might release the man’s name if it became news.  It said it could release it “should any of that change.”  The “that” was his showing remorse, stripping postings deemed “ugly”, and serving as an example to others.

Powers does not address any of that language, but she does repeatedly state that I accused CNN of “being a ‘censor.'”  In reality, I said that CNN was  “behaving like a media censor.” (The title selected by USA Today also referred to “censor” but, as Powers must know, we do not pick our titles as columnists).  There is a difference.  I would never call CNN an actual censor because it did not directly remove material or even had the authority to do so.  The column stated that this type of threat created a chilling effect on speech and used CNN’s position as a media organization to shape or deter speech.

While Powers insists that “there are consequences to our speech,” she fails to mention that I stated repeatedly that CNN would have been within its right to publish the name as news.  What it did not have the right to do is to use the threat of publishing news to create a type of probationary status for a citizen. One can easily debate the culpability of this Reddit poster who merely mocked CNN – a video that took on a more sinister meaning with the President’s reposting.

Powers’ column reveals the very relativistic view that prompted my column.  She generously states that anonymity has a place in free speech and “We don’t want to discourage that.”  Of course, you can hear the “but” coming down the railroad tracks after a comment like that:

“But in a mature society, we should be able to distinguish the person trying to be a participant in the political system from a person who uses their anonymity to viciously target and attack people based on their race or religion.”

That sounds a lot like CNN’s “mature” view that we will not “out” you unless you write something we deem offensive.  My view, stated in the earlier column, is that the man’s identity became news when his work was re-posted.  His video was a fairly typical satire from on the left and the right on Reddit.  Trump made him news.  However, in my view, CNN should publish his name solely on the basis of whether it is news — not his promise to reform and his continued good behavior.  If his name is not news today, what does it matter if he uses his anonymity to post objectionable or even hateful views?  Will Powers and CNN apply the same standard to the millions of others posting such views, including some with high rates of “likes” or repostings?

Moreover, Powers refers to attacks based on race or religion. However, the notoriety of this man was a videotape that had a clear political content. CNN then proclaimed that the man had removed a variety things that it deemed “ugly.” Either the man’s other postings were news or it was not. CNN has no license to leverage news coverage based on changes in conduct by critics.

Yet, Powers insists that such leverage should be used based solely on whether it would work – not whether it changes the role of a news organization. Powers says that if she ran a company and felt that a poster was trying “to incite anti-Semitic rancor,” she could threaten the poster to “cease and desist from this kind of behavior.” She added “If releasing their identity was my only leverage, I would use it.” That certainly makes all of this simpler as a matter of journalistic ethics. It is merely about whether it would work. It is the ends not the means that is the focus of the analysis.

Of course, this is the worst form of consequentialism and, in my view, the very antithesis of ethics in justifying the means by the ends of one’s actions. Journalism is all about the means in how and why you report stories.  Principles require you to do something that may not be to your advantage. If CNN declared that the man’s name was not news, there would have been no controversy. Likewise, if it declared that the news value did not out weigh the possible harm that could befall the man, most of us would have undersood and even supported the decision. Instead, CNN listed a serious of actions and said that it wanted this to be a lesson to others. It then said that it would reserve publication based on future good behavior.

Notably, CNN has not followed the recommended course of Powers who not only wanted the name released, but seems to take the view that all is fair in dealing with posters deemed offensive or vicious. What is missing in such an approach is principle. That is the one thing a news organization cannot do without.

Abolish the National Endowment For the Humanities

Here is a Forbes article, "The Case For Abolishing The National Endowment For the Humanities Just Got Stronger", by George Leef.  GL is on target.
The National Endowment for the Humanities is one of the remnants of Lyndon Johnson’s foolish “Great Society” idea that the federal government should meddle in almost everything. Signed into law in 1965, the law creating this federal agency (along with the National Endowment for the Arts) declares, “The encouragements and support of national progress and scholarship in the humanities and the arts, while primarily matters of private and local initiative, are also appropriate matters of concern to the Federal Government.”

That was and still is nonsense. The arts and humanities are not matters of federal concern because the Constitution does not authorize any spending on them. All of the proper “concerns” of the federal government are clearly set forth in the Constitution and you look in vain for anything saying that it may subsidize “scholarship in the humanities and the arts.”

Back then, opponents argued that this unconstitutional move would inevitably lead to the politicization of arts and humanities funding, and they’ve been proven correct year in and year out.

Many examples of NEH funded projects that amount to nothing more than subsidizing some professor’s pet interest are found in this Washington Times article, including grants to study anti-nuclear power protest music in Japan after the Fukushima reactor disaster, to develop a course at Butler University on the “diverse functions of comedy,” for research on magic and medicine in 18th century Yucatan, and a course at Loyola University in Maryland about “modernist women’s poetry and the problem of sentimentality.”

People should be free to study and write about any of that, but with their own money or money willingly given to them for the purpose. Federal bureaucrats should not give away money taken from the taxpayers for such humanities “research.”

The reason why I say that the case for abolishing the NEH, as proposed in President Trump’s budget, just got stronger is that it funded an egregiously political hatchet job of a book that was recently published, namely Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right’s Stealth Plan for America by Duke University history professor Nancy MacLean.

Using phrases like “radical right” and “stealth” are sure to get accolades from leftists who love a good horror story about their supposed enemies. Never mind that any fair account would have to say that there is nothing stealthy in what the “radical right” wants. Conservatives, classical liberals, and libertarians want a return to limited government under the Constitution and have never hidden that. If that’s “radical,” so was the American Revolution, which also sought to secure individual liberty against an overreaching state. And as for putting democracy “in chains,” that was exactly what the Constitution’s drafters intended.

But the fact that MacLean has written a book meant to confirm leftist biases isn’t the main problem. The problem is that she has chosen to target and misrepresent economist James Buchanan (1920-2013), who received the Nobel Prize in 1986 for his path-breaking work on public choice theory. MacLean portrays Buchanan as the dark, racist figure who provided the intellectual veneer for the movement to downsize the government.

The book has been subject to scathing criticism since its publication. Let’s begin with a faculty colleague of MacLean’s Professor Michael Munger.

Munger is a serious scholar who has focused much of his attention on the branch of economics for which Buchanan is best known, namely Public Choice. In a review for the Independent Institute, Munger calls the book “speculative historical fiction” and calls MacLean out on speculations meant to smear Buchanan that have no basis in fact. For example, she wants readers to believe that his support for school vouchers was motivated by a desire to reinstitute segregation, but that view, Munger writes, “does not withstand even minor scrutiny as an account of Buchanan or Public Choice.”

Georgetown University professor Jason Brennan denounces her effort here, writing, “The government paid her over $50,000 to smear Buchanan and people like him. Rather than challenging his ideas, she accuses him of this and that. Yet, all the while, Nancy is quite literally a hired gun for the government, seeking to rationalize its oppression and abuses.”

Historian Phillip Magness of George Mason University elaborates on those accusations, which amount to nothing more than the guilt by association tactic of declaring that Buchanan was influenced by various bad people, in particular the “Southern Agrarians” who like segregation and longed for the old days. Magness writes that Maclean “misused evidence to depict a non-existent intellectual debt between Buchanan and a group of pro-segregation Agrarian poets from Vanderbilt. MacLean’s primary purpose in doing so was to prop up her own narrative, which portrays Buchanan’s role in the development of Public Choice economics as having been motivated by resentment over the Brown v. Board of Education decision. This claim is not supported by any evidence in Buchanan’s works.”

Moreover, Magness has done what MacLean must have assumed nobody would bother to do, namely to check her footnotes. He shows that a number of them simply do not say what she says they say. Scholars should not be sloppy in their work, but this seems to be not sloppiness, but deliberate deception.

(This reminds one of the fascinating case of Professor Michael Bellesiles, whose book Arming America was lionized by the Left, then so completely torn apart by scholars who showed that his “evidence” was largely made up that Columbia University revoked the prize it had bestowed on the book and Emory University fired him. Here is one account.)

And here, Professor David Henderson notes that MacLean has a bad habit of leaving out words when she quotes people so as to mislead the reader as to just what the person actually said.

I’ll conclude this bombardment with one more quotation, from attorney Greg Weiner on Library of Law and Liberty. “In MacLean’s telling,” he writes, “Progressivism is normal and anything to its right, being deviant, requires apology. It is thus ‘hard to imagine’ why Charles Koch holds the views he does, so MacLean naturally turns to the ‘mysteries of individual human personality’ shaped by a warped father-son relationship. Would George Soros receive a similar diagnosis? That Koch might have actually reached his conclusions intellectually does not appear to be within the range of possibilities. Because what MacLean calls ‘the right’ cannot be rationally explained, only corruption, ill will or, failing those, neurosis can do the trick.”

According to its mission statement, the NEH is supposed to “advance knowledge and understanding of the humanities – history, philosophy, literature and languages, archaeology, jurisprudence, comparative religion, and other humanities subject areas – and make this knowledge and learning widely accessible throughout the nation.” Subsidizing partisan political tracts that mislead people is no part of that.

Too bad we taxpayers can’t demand a refund.

There was never any justification for the National Endowment for the Humanities and Congress ought to repeal the law creating it and the National Endowment for the Arts. There is plenty of money in America to support real work in the arts and humanities. There is also plenty of money to support political hatchet jobs like Democracy in Chains. Leave the funding of all that to people who choose to contribute.

Friday, July 07, 2017

Tropical temperature trends vs. model predictions

Here is a link to a paper "A comparison of tropical temperature trends with model predictions" published in the International Journal of Climatology in 2007.

The paper provides evidence that certainty about climate change is not justified.

Here is the paper's Summary.
We have tested the proposition that greenhouse model simulations and trend observations can be reconciled. Our conclusion is that the present evidence, with the application of a robust statistical test, supports rejection of this proposition. (The use of tropical tropospheric temperature trends as a metric for this test is important, as this region represents the CEL and provides a clear signature of the trajectory of the climate system under enhanced greenhouse forcing.) On the whole, the evidence indicates that model trends in the troposphere are very likely inconsistent with observations that indicate that, since 1979, there is no significant long-term amplification factor relative to the surface. If these results continue to be supported, then future projections of temperature change, as depicted in the present suite of climate models, are likely too high. In summary, the debate in this field revolves around the idea of discrepancy in surface and tropospheric trends in the tropics where vertical convection dominates heat transfer. Models are very consistent, as this article demonstrates, in showing a significant difference between surface and tropospheric trends, with tropospheric temperature trends warming faster than the surface. What is new in this article is the determination of a very robust estimate of the magnitude of the model trends at each atmospheric layer. These are compared with several equally robust updated estimates of trends from observations which disagree with trends from the models. The last 25 years constitute a period of more complete and accurate observations and more realistic modelling efforts. Yet the models are seen to disagree with the observations. We suggest, therefore, that projections of future climate based on these models be viewed with much caution.

Thursday, July 06, 2017

Climate Change Uncertainty

Here is a link to a paper that questions the validity of the climate data used to fit the climate models.

To the extent that the data is not accurate, the models are not realistic, and the statistical analysis is based on assumptions that do not hold, a fair conclusion is that climate change forecasts are not reliable.

I do not think there is any reason to be sure of the impact of human activity on climate change or how much and how fast the climate is changing or to believe that anyone knows.

Here is the abstract.
The objective of this research was to test the hypothesis that Global Average Surface Temperature (GAST) data, produced by NOAA, NASA, and HADLEY, are sufficiently credible estimates of global average temperatures such that they can be relied upon for climate modeling and policy analysis purposes. The relevance of this research is that the validity of all three of the so- called Lines of Evidence in EPA’s GHG/CO2 Endangerment Finding require GAST data to be a valid representation of reality.

In this research report, the most important surface data adjustment issues are identified and past changes in the previously reported historical data are quantified. It was found that each new version of GAST has nearly always exhibited a steeper warming linear trend over its entire history. And, it was nearly always accomplished by systematically removing the previously existing cyclical temperature pattern. This was true for all three entities providing GAST data measurement, NOAA, NASA and Hadley CRU.

As a result, this research sought to validate the current estimates of GAST using the best available relevant data. This included the best documented and understood data sets from the U.S. and elsewhere as well as global data from satellites that provide far more extensive global coverage and are not contaminated by bad siting and urbanization impacts. Satellite data integrity also benefits from having cross checks with Balloon data.

The conclusive findings of this research are that the three GAST data sets are not a valid representation of reality. In fact, the magnitude of their historical data adjustments, that removed their cyclical temperature patterns, are totally inconsistent with published and credible U.S. and other temperature data. Thus, it is impossible to conclude from the three published GAST data sets that recent years have been the warmest ever –despite current claims of record setting warming.

Finally, since GAST data set validity is a necessary condition for EPA’s GHG/CO2 Endangerment Finding, it too is invalidated by these research findings.

Tuesday, July 04, 2017

Crime Pays

Here is an article by John Lott in The Hill. John Lott is the president of the Crime Prevention Research Center, which conducts research on the relationship between gun regulation and use of guns and crime.
First, Michael Brown robbed a store. Then he assaulted a policeman, fighting for the officer’s gun.

The officer was left badly bruised and worried he might lose consciousness.

Only when Brown charged once again did the officer fatally shoot him. As I show below, there is no debating the facts about the August 2014 shooting.

Yet, what has Ferguson, Missouri done?

On Saturday it was revealed that they “secretly” awarded Brown's family a “wrongful death claim” of $1.5 million.

But if that doesn’t get you angry, look who is getting the money.

After a grand jury declined to indict Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson, Brown’s stepfather incited demonstrators to "Burn this motherf---er down" and "Burn this b--ch down." At least 14 people were injured and twelve buildings set on fire in the ensuing violence.

Compensating people for legitimate harm done to them is one thing, but this $1.5 million payment raises serious questions.

Are Ferguson city officials worried about more violence if they don’t pay up?

While this might buy Ferguson some safety, will it cause others to seek big payoffs in other parts of the country?

After the shooting, President Obama told Americans that Michael Brown’s death “awakened our nation once again to the reality that [black people] have long understood” and that the shooting demonstrated why “too many young men of color feel targeted by law enforcement.”

Others in Obama’s administration made similar comments.

President Barack Obama should have waited until the facts were in.

The Department of Justice's own investigation makes for devastating reading, filled with incriminating forensic reports, autopsies, medical records, audio recordings, and witness statements.

Time and again, it finds “no credible evidence” that Wilson’s use of deadly force was “objectively unreasonable.”

The report reviews all of the witness statements.

It shows how the witnesses that contradicted Wilson’s story lacked the credibility to go before a grand jury, discrediting them on account of forensic evidence and their own changing stories.

As a privacy “safeguard,” the report doesn’t release the names of witnesses. Many black witnesses who supported Wilson’s version of events were clearly afraid of retaliation.

These passages are typical of the report’s account of how Brown reached into Wilson’s car.

“Wilson and other witnesses stated that Brown then reached into the SUV through the open driver’s window and punched and grabbed Wilson. This is corroborated by bruising on Wilson’s jaw and scratches on his neck, the presence of Brown’s DNA on Wilson’s collar, shirt, and pants, and Wilson’s DNA on Brown’s palm. . . .

“Brown then grabbed the weapon and struggled with Wilson to gain control of it. Wilson fired, striking Brown in the hand. Autopsy results and bullet trajectory, skin from Brown’s palm on the outside of the SUV door as well as Brown’s DNA on the inside of the driver’s door corroborate Wilson’s account . . .”

The report goes on to explain why this forensic evidence can’t be accounted for in other ways.

Some people justify the payoff to Brown’s family because a trial could have cost the city $100,000 with the city having to pay for anything above the $3 million covered by its insurance.

But those rationalizations don’t make sense, since the evidence is so overwhelming against the Brown family.

The person who should have received a settlement is Wilson. He was a well-regarded officer who had just received a commendation for bravery and for apparently saving the life of a 2-year-old, black child.

After the Brown shooting, he remained unemployed and in seclusion for at least two years. Far from being compensated for all of his troubles, he was one of the people Michael Brown’s family was trying to sue.

Who says that crime doesn’t pay?

A criminal’s family hit a massive, taxpayer-financed jackpot only because their city feared more mob violence. Treating criminals as victims sets a dangerous precedent that we will come to regret.