Thursday, May 28, 2009

Explore Your Morals

This is interesting. Tests, via the University of Virginia) here.

I am closer to the typical liberal on all issues aside from my "compassion." Go figure. (Green is me, Blue are the self-defined liberals, and Red are the self-defined conservatives).

The State

Bela Kosoian says escalator handrails are filthy. That's why she refused to grab hold of the rails while riding the escalator at a subway station in Montreal, Canada, even after police ordered her to. So they arrested her and fined her $420.
Local governments across Great Britain are using children as young as 7 years old, to spy on residents. The programs, which go by names such as Junior Eyes and Junior Street Champions, teach children to snitch on neighbors who put their garbage out on the wrong day or who don't follow recycling rules.
Via Brickbats.

Stay Tuned

Tucker Carlson has his sights on Drudge.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Should Judicial Conservatives Cheer the Sotomayor Pick?

Professor Tom Smith says yes:

If you are, oh, a professional sports team, or an academic bowl team, and your opponents choose some of their team members on grounds other than how good they are at the sport, or how much academic trivia they know, that helps you. So it would seem Obama is choosing to get some relatively short term political gain from his appointment, at the cost of getting more long term influence on the law by nominating some intellectual giant of the left. I mean, should we be happy or sad that Obama did not nominate Cass Sunstein (the Middlesex School, Harvard, Harvard varsity squash, Harvard Lampoon, Harvard Law) to the Court? Maybe that's not a good example -- take someone as smart as Cass but more unambiguously on the left: no one comes immediately to mind, there being some tension between these qualities, but you see what I mean.

So I say, let our young President have his nomination to the Court. Is the legal left better or worse off having Justice Alito on the Court instead of Justice (pardon me while I shudder and apologize for not being a nicer person) Miers? It seems to me we are better off and they worse for having somebody of Alito's calibre on the Court. Just to state my obvious point yet again, the reason why it's a bad idea in many settings to choose somebody for a job partly on the basis of their race, sex, or other actually irrelevant qualities, is that you are not maximizing what you should be maximizing, which in the case of SCOTUS is presumably some combination of intelligence, knowledge of the law, fair minded temperament, ability to work nicely with others, and willingness to apply those large talents to the frequently trivial and incredibly boring issues to which the Court must address itself, such as whether a military officer can wear a yarmulke under his cap.

Entire insightful post here.

Judge Posner Slaps Greenspan Around

Sounds right to me. Posner is an ego-maniac, but he's a smart one and he knows economics. And as for the "infallible" Mr. Greenspan, he has a legacy to defend. You decide.
And as for the title of Judge Posner's new book, here is an excert regarding his choice of title:

There is a sense, in short (turning to the second concern that I flagged), that capitalism has failed us, and we need something different, and that the title of my book signals support for that view. But that is not my intention. "Capitalism" is not a synonym for free markets. Capitalism is a complex economic system with many moving parts, and buying and selling and investing and borrowing and other activities carried on in private markets are only some of those moving parts. Others include a system of laws for protecting property and facilitating transactions, institutions for enforcing those laws, and regulations of markets designed to align private incentives with the goal of achieving widespread prosperity. One of the key regulatory institutions is a central bank, which in the United States is the Federal Reserve.

The part of capitalism that consists of a private banking system is unstable and can fail and can bring down much of the rest of the economy with it, and that is one reason a capitalist system cannot consist just of free markets. A central bank has a key role to play in preventing the banking system from failing; so do the other government agencies involved in the regulation of banking. These "moving parts" failed crucially in their responsibility for preventing the banking system from failing. And for reasons that I will explain in subsequent entries in this series, the blame for the depression should be allotted primarily on the Federal Reserve, on other parts of government (including the Treasury Department and Congress), and on the economics profession, rather than on the banks.

As a utilitarian, Posner favors makets, to be certain, but he is also not an ideologue. No one's perfect...

Our President the Liar

This is getting pathetic.

Jurisprudence of Sotomayor

The now infamous Ricci decision discussed here. Utterly disgusting.

Professor Epstein on Sotomayor's disdain for private property here.

Will on Sotomayor

To the point as always:

Her ethnicity aside, Sotomayor is a conventional choice. The court will remain composed entirely of former appellate court judges. And like conventional liberals, she embraces identity politics, including the idea of categorical representation: A person is what his or her race, ethnicity, gender, or sexual preference is, and members of a particular category can be represented -- understood, empathized with -- only by persons of the same identity.

Whole article here. I suppose the choice is obvious, but no less disappointing. I think Obama had a chance to prove his supposed post-racial (identity) chops. Fail. There are far too many liberal-intellectual jurists out there that, imho, are far superior to Sotomayor in ability (e.g., Diane Wood, Stephen Reinhardt, etc). This pick is a calcualted political choice designed to appease the box-checkers. So much for change "we" can believe in.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Somin on Sotomayor

Professor Somin on the Judge:

...her record is far less impressive than that of most other recent nominees, such as Roberts, Alito, Breyer, and Ginsburg. Each of these was a far more prominent and better-respected jurist than Sotomayor, and Breyer and Ginsburg were leaders in the development of their respective fields of law. Sotomayor also seems far less impressive than Diane Wood and Elena Kagan, reputedly her top rivals for this nomination. The current nominee's qualifications are likely better than Harriet Miers' were; but Miers' nomination failed in large part because of her relatively weak resume. Among the current justices, probably only David Souter and Clarence Thomas had professional qualifications similar to or worse than Sotomayor's. That said, Supreme Court appointments are almost never purely merit based. Sotomayor joins a long line of nominees who were chosen in part because of political, ethnic, or gender considerations. It would probably be wrong to oppose her on that ground alone.

Our President, the Hypocrite

Krauthammer on the Hypocrite-in-Chief's flips on national security policy:

If hypocrisy is the homage that vice pays to virtue, then the flip-flops on previously denounced anti-terror measures are the homage that Barack Obama pays to George Bush. Within 125 days, Obama has adopted with only minor modifications huge swaths of the entire, allegedly lawless Bush program.

The latest flip-flop is the restoration of military tribunals. During the 2008 campaign, Obama denounced them repeatedly, calling them an "enormous failure." Obama suspended them upon his swearing-in. Now they're back.

Of course, Obama will never admit in word what he's doing in deed. As in his rhetorically brilliant national-security speech yesterday claiming to have undoneBush's moral travesties, the military commissions flip-flop is accompanied by the usual Obama three-step: (a) excoriate the Bush policy, (b) ostentatiously unveil cosmetic changes, (c) adopt the Bush policy.

I will just start referring to the Pres as Bush-light.

Biden the Destroyer

Well done, Joe.
Side note: Professor Siegan taught my Law and Econ class at USD. He was an extremely smart and thoughtful man who cherished liberty above all else. The 9th Circuit was certainly poorer for being the focus of Biden's political games.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Wait 'Till It's Free

Ron Hart on Health Care:

In a year when Fed Ex and UPS made billions and paid taxes, the United States Postal “Service” lost $2.4 billion. What makes the loss more interesting is that most of that money was lost in the mail.

Since there is little demand for their “service,” the USPS has now raised the price of a stamp to forty-four cents in response. Our government will apply the same logic to Chrysler and GM upon gaining control of them. If the 2012 Cobalt does not sell at $13,000, the government will simply raise the price to $92,000 and eliminate two of the cup holders.

The Postal Service is also threatening to end Saturday mail service, so those of you who enjoy getting unsolicited flyers and junk mail on weekends will be left to suffer.

As Fed-Ex and UPS have proven in package delivery, free market competition is the answer to affordable health care in America. If health care consumers were allowed to shop for their services, had to pay for it directly, and really understood the pricing, the system would fix itself by sorting out the winners and losers.

Whole thing here. Keep those passports up-to-date, people.

Cue Whiskey Rebellion 2.0

Ugh. From USA Today:

Consumers in the United States may have to hand over nearly $2 more for a case of beer to help provide health insurance for all...

Beer taxes would go up by 48 cents a six-pack, wine taxes would rise by 49 cents per bottle, and the tax on hard liquor would increase by 40 cents per fifth. Proceeds from the new taxes would help cover an estimated 50 million uninsured Americans.

No end in sight. So, who wants to play the part of Tom the Tinker?

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Impending Failures

Ugh. The arrogance of these people never ceases to amaze me. Rather than respond, I'll simply defer to the Adam Smith quote provided below.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Timeless Genius

Adam Smith from the Wealth of Nations:
What is the species of domestic industry which his capital can employ, and of which the produce is likely to be of the greatest value, every individual, it is evident, can, in his local situation, judge much better than any statesman or lawgiver can do for him. The statesman who should attempt to direct private people in what manner they ought to employ their capitals would not only load himself with a most unnecessary attention, but assume an authority which could safely be trusted, not only to no single person, but to no council or senate whatever, and which would nowhere be so dangerous as in the hands of a man who had folly and presumption enough to fancy himself fit to exercise it.

Law in Pirate Society

This is cool:

Private pirate law and order is alive and well in allegedly “lawless” Somalia, and highlights two important lessons. First, even outlaws require social order and private governance institutions emerge to create this order when government does not. Second, when they emerge endogenously, as in do pirate societies, these governance institutions develop to reflect the particular needs of the individuals they govern. The resulting effectiveness of such institutions is certainly part of the reason for 18th-century pirates’ success. I suspect the private governance institutions that support the Somali pirates’ criminal economy deserve considerable credit for these sea dogs’ success so far too.

Via Volokh. Economist Peter Leeson has been arguing for quite some time that the people of Somolia are far better off living under their anarchist reality than at the mercy of a traditional, controlled state similar to the systems embraced by their neighbors.

The State

Officials in China's Hubei province have ordered teachers and other government workers to smoke about 230,000 packs of locally produced cigarettes in order to boost demand. Those who fail to comply, or who are caught smoking rival brands, will be fined.
Two Oklahoma City police officers stopped Chip Harrison and took a sign from his car saying "Abort Obama Not the Unborn." They said the Secret Service might believe that was a threat against the president. They apparently contacted the Secret Service, who searched Harrison's house and "interviewed" him for 30 minutes.
British developer Geoffrey Key knew he had trouble when he found a brown long-eared bat in one of two houses he wanted to demolish. The bat is legally protected, and local officials gave permission for the demolition and construction of new homes only after forcing Key to build a £20,000 heated home for the bats.
An Afghan court has sentenced Ghows Zalmay to 20 years in prison for blasphemy. His crime? He translated the Quran into Dari. Religious experts testified it was an accurate translation, but it didn't include the original Arabic text, and the court found that blasphemous.


They are really starting to stink up the place:
Credit cards have long been a very good deal for people who pay their bills on time and in full. Even as card companies imposed punitive fees and penalties on those late with their payments, the best customers racked up cash-back rewards, frequent-flier miles and other perks in recent years.

Now Congress is moving to limit the penalties on riskier borrowers, who have become a prime source of billions of dollars in fee revenue for the industry. And to make up for lost income, the card companies are going after those people with sterling credit.

Banks are expected to look at reviving annual fees, curtailing cash-back and other rewards programs and charging interest immediately on a purchase instead of allowing a grace period of weeks, according to bank officials and trade groups.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Lindsey Graham: "I'm Not A Libertarian"

Yes. We know.

via Campaign For Liberty.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Executive Abuse

George Will is seething:

The Obama administration's agenda of maximizing dependency involves political favoritism cloaked in the raiment of "economic planning" and "social justice" that somehow produce results superior to what markets produce when freedom allows merit to manifest itself, and incompetence to fail. The administration's central activity -- the political allocation of wealth and opportunity -- is not merely susceptible to corruption, it is corruption.

Whole thing here. And to those on the left that (rightfully) complained of the Bush administration lawless policies of warrantless wiretaps and the like, the constitution and rule of law blindly apply to both civil and economic rights. Let's not play favorites.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Case Against Torture

No brainer.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Death By Private-Public Partnership

Ronald Bailey on the bleak future, which may indeed be worse than a full-on, single payor (i.e., government system):

Yesterday, the country's major health care producers, including insurance companies, hospital and physician organizations, pharmaceutical companies, and health care labor unions, promised President Barack Obama they would reduce the growth rate of their future incomes by 1.5 percent over the next ten years. If those cuts actually happened, it would mean that in 2019 health care costs (both government and patient) would be $700 billion lower than current projections, reducing health care spending by $2 trillion over the next ten years.

Why would the industry agree to this preemptive surrender? Because it means the end of competition. Under the proposed agreement, the government would guarantee a certain level of profit for each health care producer. From the industry's point of view, the goal is to get a seat at the table as politicians and government technocrats "reform" health care—which means it will decide who the winners and losers will be.

There's a word for when the government directs the production of goods and services and divides the economic pie: corporatism. The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Politics succinctly defines coporatism as "a system of interest intermediation linking producer interests and the state, in which explicitly recognized interest organizations are incorporated into the policy-making process, both in terms of the negotiation of policy and of securing compliance from their members with the agreed policy."

Ugh. I think the best we can hope for is a bifurcated system modeled after our country's lower education system, whereby we all get milked to pay for the "free" public school system and those that can afford it also pay for a private system. It sucks; but, it's happening in Canada and it sure as hell beats those lines. And who knows, maybe in such case the Feds and States would then deem it reasonable to deregulate the private insurance market...

The Blackhole

Monday, May 11, 2009

Haley Barbour: Corporatist Foe of Private Property

This is just sad.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Is Foreign Aid Killing Africa

Supreme Court Watch

Via CATO, here is an interesting case making its way through:

The City of San Diego leases portions of Balboa Park and Fiesta Island to the San Diego Boy Scouts, which use the land to operate a camp and aquatic center. The Boy Scouts use the leased areas for their own events but otherwise keep them open to the general public — and have spent millions of dollars to improve and maintain facilities on the properties, eliminating the need for taxpayer funding. While the Boy Scouts’ membership policies exclude homosexuals and agnostics, the Scouts have not erected any religious symbols and do not discriminate in any way in administering the leased parklands.

Nevertheless, a lesbian couple with a son and an agnostic couple with a daughter challenged the leases under the Establishment Clauses of the U.S. and California Constitutions. Although none of the plaintiffs has ever tried to use the parklands or otherwise had any contact with the Boy Scouts, the Ninth Circuit found they had standing to proceed with their lawsuit because they were offended at the idea of having to contact Boy Scout representatives to gain access to the facilities. The court denied en banc review over a scathing dissent by Judge Diarmuid O’Scannlain.

Um. I am going on the record as saying that I am offended by any and all organizations that contract with the government?

Our President the Liar

Transparency Watch. This White House is getting pretty good at hiding stuff. Must be something in the water over there...

Awe.... They're Just Like Us....

Apparently, BO and Biden made a burger run to Arlington yesterday, and the White House Press Corps did their best US Weekly impression - big surprise. Matt Welch captures my thoughts quite well:

These sorts of ultra-lame, super-calculated P.R. stunts really chap my hide. They're simply the obverse of official stories that Kim Jong-il doesn't ever go to the bathroom or that Mussolini could beat even Italian champs at tennis, clearly phony embellishments to alternately make leaders either superhuman or super-normal.

We are supposed to live in a republic (small R!) and one of the grand traditions of republics is that the de-spectacularize the public sphere, especially when it comes to representing political figures. Kings and monarchs rubbed their divine status in the face of the common man through gigantic and expensive pageants. Now wealthy and uber-powerful pols pretend to be sans-culottes, which may be even more insulting. Like Lady Obama wearing $540 sneakers to a food bank handout (or Nancy Reagan using dinner china made from the bones of Warner Bros. backlot extras) this sort of phony-baloney common-manism should get nothing but scorn.

Whole Reason post here.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

The Coming Storm

Friday, May 01, 2009

Friday Cheer

Prof. Tom Smith knows how to brighten up the day.