May 27, 2015

SOCCER ORGANIZATION COMMITTING A “WORLD CUP OF FRAUD”?:  That’s what the IRS head of criminal investigation claims, as the U.S. initiates a 47-count indictment in federal court charging 14 FIFA officials with racketeering, wire fraud and money laundering.  The charges stem from an alleged $150 million in bribes received by FIFA officials, as well as accepting kickbacks in return for granting lucrative media and marketing rights.

The most serious are the racketeering charges, which allege that the officials turned soccer “into a criminal enterprise,” according to U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch, who spoke to reporters in New York. A conviction could command a sentence of up to 20 years.

“The idea of being shocked about bribery and racketeering at FIFA is like being shocked about jumping into a pool and finding yourself wet,” said Dave Zirin, sports editor at The Nation magazine.

“What makes this particularly different is the fact that this time it looks like the charges have real teeth. I mean, coming from the U.S. Department of Justice, that’s a first. That’s never happened before,” he said.

Well, I don’t know much about soccer, but ouch.

THE LINK BETWEEN antibiotic overuse and c. dificile infection.

YEP, IT’S A RACKET ALRIGHT: Freedom Watch files racketeering (RICO) lawsuit against the Clinton Foundation in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida.  The lawsuit includes a request to seize and conduct a forensics evaluation of the Clinton’s private email server. I really admire the chutzpah of Freedom Watch and Larry Klayman. They know how to fight.

I LIKE HER. SHE FIGHTS. Fiorina v. Clinton in South Carolina: Fiorina Launches #AskHillary.

GOOD FOR HIM-CONGRESS NEEDS TO ASSERT ITS MUSCLE MORE:  Ted Cruz, chair of the Senate Judiciary Oversight subcommittee, is threatening to subpoena Treasury officials to testify about their rulemaking process for Obamacare subsidies. Obama Administration officials have balked at testifying, citing the ongoing Supreme Court litigation in King v. Burwell, but Cruz (aptly) is having none of it.

Congress needs to issue more subpoenas to perform its oversight function appropriately.  And equally important, Congress needs to be prepared to enforce such subpoenas, including civil enforcement, criminal contempt, or even arrest and detention by the Sergeant-at-Arms (which hasn’t been used in years, but is still possible).

OF COURSE THEY ARE:  The Taliban 5– released from Gitmo in exchange for deserter Bowe Bergdahl–will be free to travel as soon as Monday. The US agreement with host country Qatar restricting their movement expires June 1.  Great move, Sparky Obama!

I’LL BE ON FOX BUSINESS’S KENNEDY NATION TONIGHT IN THE 10PM ET SLOT, talking about higher education costs and administrative bloat.

FIRST LISA LOEB, NOW THIS: I Was a Proud Non-Breeder. Then I Changed My Mind. “It’s embarrassing to be such a cliché, to give so many people a chance to say, ‘I told you so.’ (And some people, I’ve learned, will say those actual words.) I fear I’ve let down other women who disavow children and who, because of my example, might face an extra smidge of condescending doubt. Worse, if I’m honest, when I hear younger women confidently describe how they’ll feel when they’re older, sometimes I feel a pinch of such condescension myself. Not because I think they’ll all necessarily want kids, or that they should have them, but because one tricky thing about your 20s is the need to make decisions for a future self whose desires are unknowable.” Actually it’s not entirely unknowable, or people wouldn’t be saying “I told you so.”

CHIMPANZEES GET THEIR DAY IN COURT: Two research chimps at Stony Brook University got a hearing in a NY State court today, where their lawyers (for the Nonhuman Rights Project) argued that they are entitled to habeas corpus.  I’ve written about this case before.

Its lawyers said that personhood rights have already been applied to corporations, rivers and ships. If chimps are also eligible, they are then eligible for the writ of habeas corpus, which gives those who believe they are unlawfully detained or imprisoned the right to appear in court.

During the hearing, Nonhuman Rights Project’s president and animal-rights lawyerSteven Wise drew parallels to past court cases over the rights of slaves, prisoners and Native Americans.

Assistant Attorney General Christopher Coulston said these cases didn’t apply.

“There is simply no precedent anywhere of a nonhuman animal receiving the kinds of rights they’re talking about,” Mr. Coulston said.

But there is an understanding that law evolves, said New York Supreme Court JusticeBarbara Jaffe, based on scientific discoveries and social mores.

“Witness marital rights,” she said. “Isn’t it incumbent upon the judiciary to at least consider whether a class of beings may be granted a right or something short of a right, under the habeas statute?”

In a brief filed Friday, the attorney general’s office wrote that current animal-rights laws are sufficient, and to grant chimps additional rights was a slippery slope.

To extend the writ of habeas corpus “could set a precedent for the release of other animals held in captivity, whether housed at a zoo, in an educational institution, on a farm, or owned as a domesticated pet,” the brief reads.

It’s a slippery slope indeed, but that’s not the primary reason why this argument needs to be summarily rejected.  Humans are humans, and the law of  humans does not apply to nonhumans.  Period.  Any other approach leads to unprincipled line drawing among different animal species.  Why chimps but not dolphins or elephants?  What about cows, dogs, ants or roaches?  If humans wish to confer special statutory protections to certain animals–such as domesticated pets–that is perfectly appropriate.  But to apply a law that protects human beings–such as habeas corpus–to animals is the height of lunacy.

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CHRIS CILIZZA: The Clintons’ Finances Are Way Too Complex For The Average Person To Understand.

The AP reported late Monday that Bill Clinton has a limited liability corporation — called WJC, LLC — that serves as a “pass through” entity designed to “channel payments to the former president.”

If you have no idea what the heck the sentence above means, you are not alone. And therein lies the problem for Hillary Clinton as she seeks to sell herself as the voice of everyday Americans in her bid for the White House in 2016. . . .

But, whether or not she is Romney 2.0, the reality is that the amount of money coming into the Clinton coffers ($25 million from speaking fees alone since the start of 2014) coupled with this WJC, LLC — not to mention the regularly revised donor policies of the Clinton Foundation — badly complicate Hillary’s pitch that she is able to understand regular folks.

Selling Clinton as in touch with “everyday Americans” was always going to be next-to-impossible. And revelations like this one about a “pass through” company to handle money being paid to her husband prove why. No family with a former president and a future presidential nominee in it are “regular” — in their life experiences, resumes or personal finances. No family with an income in the 10s of millions of dollars and setup like the one Bill Clinton has at WJC, LLC, are just like the rest of us. They just aren’t.

The more that idea gets reinforced to the casual voter — and stories like WJC, LLC, do just that — the harder it will be for Clinton to shake the image that what she says publicly doesn’t jibe with how she and her husband conduct their own business.

Yeah, they’re also crooks. This reinforces that, too.

THE COUNTRY’S IN THE VERY BEST OF HANDS: Pentagon: Live anthrax inadvertently distributed by Army laboratory.

LIST: 25 Forthcoming Cars Worth Waiting For, 2016-2019.

ITS’ A VERY DANGEROUS WAR, AND IT’S REAL:  Michael Grunwald:  Inside the War on Coal.  It’s a long, annoyingly pro-”green” piece, but the very end is telling:

There will be no formal surrender in the war on coal, no battleship treaty to mark the end. But Beyond Coal’s leaders believe they can finish most of their work setting the U.S. electric sector on a greener path over the next five years. The next phase of the war on carbon would be to try to electrify everything else—cars and trains that use oil-derived gasoline and diesel, as well as homes and businesses that rely on natural gas and heating oil. Nilles hopes power companies like OG&E and DTE that Beyond Coal has spent the last decade fighting with—but then cutting deals with—can become allies in Phase Two. And allies will be vital, because if King Coal seems like a rich and powerful enemy, it’s a pushover compared to Big Oil.

“Once we’ve taken out coal, we’ll need to take on oil, and who better to help than our new friends in the utility sector who can make money from electrification?” Nilles says with a grin. “It’s a long fight. This is how we win.”

Yep–oil is next. They won’t be happy until we all drive Priuses.

I ASSUME SO:  Could hackers bring down an airplane?

The officials from the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) were not at all happy about what they were hearing. An unshaven 32-year-old from Spain, his hair pulled back in a ponytail, was talking about cockpit computers and their weaknesses and security loopholes. Specifically, he was telling the EASA officials how he had managed to buy original parts from aviation suppliers on Ebay for just a few hundred dollars. His goal was to simulate the data exchange between current passenger-jet models and air-traffic controllers on the ground in order to search for possible backdoors. His search was successful. Very successful.

The salient question is:  What are airlines doing to reduce this vulnerability?

GOOD: Mobile Call Quality Gets a Long-Overdue Upgrade: Wireless companies and a few ambitious startups are racing to make your cell-phone calls better.

Why, exactly, do cell-phone calls often sound crappy? Jerry Gibson, a professor of electrical and computer engineering at the University of California, Santa Barbara, who studies wireless networks, says that at the network level there are a number of reasons. You simply might not have good signal reception, and even if you do, the base station closest to you is probably considering all kinds of factors—the load on the cell site, the time of day, and network use projections—in order to decide how to allocate bandwidth for your call.

To improve sound quality, wireless carriers have been upgrading their networks to support technologies often referred to as HD voice or wideband audio. While old telephone and cell-phone networks cut out some of the high and low frequencies in voice calls, wideband audio includes a wider range of frequencies to make calls sound better, letting you hear more high and low tones. In the United States, Verizon Wireless, AT&T, and T-Mobile use VoLTE, or voice over LTE, to send audio atop their fast LTE networks. Sprint currently offers advanced voice service over its 3G network, though Ron Marquardt, Sprint’s vice president of technology innovation and architecture, says a move to VoLTE is inevitable.

Faster, please.

THE DEBLASIO EFFECT: You’re 45 percent more likely to be murdered in deBlasio’s Manhattan.

“City Hall better wake up soon,” a police source said. “When murders and shootings go up in Manhattan, everyone is affected,’’ he said, pointing out that crime impacts business, tourism and the city’s economy as a whole.

He said there are a variety of reasons, from the plummeting number of “stop-and-frisks’’ to the fact that the city needs more officers. “The cops’ hands are tied,’’ he said.

It’s regressing back to the Ed Koch/David Dinkins days.

TALK TALK: Here’s how badly we’re getting ripped off by our mobile phone providers.

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NEWS YOU CAN USE: 8 Essential Tips To Keep Your Phone’s Battery Healthy.

HIGHER EDUCATION BUBBLE UPDATE: Angry Faculty Savage New York University. “A real estate development/management business with a predatory higher-education side venture.”

Ouch.

MICHELLE OBAMA TO GRADUATES:  At Oberlin College’s commencement, she advises graduates to “shape the revolutions of your times.” She also told them:

Here at Oberlin, most of the time you’re probably surrounded by folks who share your beliefs. But out in the real world, there are plenty of people who think very differently than you do, and they hold their opinions just as passionately. So if you want to change their minds, if you want to work with them to move this country forward, you can’t just shut them out. You have to persuade them, and you have to compromise with them.

Mrs. Obama’s disconcerting reference to “revolutions” aside, the sentiment she articulates of surrounding oneself with those who think differently is laudable, as is “compromis[ing] with them.”  But notice that her focus is on “chang[ing] their minds” and “persuad[ing] them” so that you can “work with them to move this country forward.”  The problem she and her husband have had over the last 6+ years is that they don’t seem to grasp the value of actual compromise– as in, you win some, you lose some.  Their idea of “compromise” is persuading, cajoling or pressuring others to change their minds.  Newsflash: that isn’t compromise.

FIRST THAT BOGUS GAY-MARRIAGE STUDY, now this Alice Goffman beat-down by Steven Lubet, in which he both suggests that her research is fraudulent and notes that she — seemingly without realizing it — admits to committing a felony in the course of conducting it.

I do not know if Goffman’s editors and dissertation committee held her to a journalist’s standard of fact checking. There is no footnote for the hospital incident in On the Run, and her dissertation is not available from the Princeton library. Alas, it is now too late to obtain any additional documentation, because Goffman shredded all of her field notes and disposed of her hard drive.

Who does she think she is? Hillary? But the felony part is worse — it’s conspiracy to commit murder.

A few days after the funeral, “the hunt was on to find the man who had killed Chuck,” whom the 6th Street Boys believed they could identify. Guns in hand, they drove around the city, looking for revenge. This time, Goffman did not merely take notes – on several nights, she volunteered to do the driving. . . .

Taking Goffman’s narrative at face value, one would have to conclude that her actions – driving around with an armed man, looking for somebody to kill – constituted conspiracy to commit murder under Pennsylvania law. In the language of the applicable statute, she agreed to aid another person “in the planning or commission” of a crime – in this case, murder. As with other “inchoate” crimes, the offense of conspiracy is completed simply by the agreement itself and the subsequent commission of a single “overt act” in furtherance of the crime, such as voluntarily driving the getaway car.

I sent the relevant paragraphs from On the Run to four current or former prosecutors with experience in Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, and Illinois. Their unanimous opinion was that Goffman had committed a felony. A former prosecutor from the Philadelphia District Attorney’s office was typical of the group. “She’s flat out confessed to conspiring to commit murder and could be charged and convicted based on this account right now,” he said.

This seems a rather serious professional breach. Related: “The professor and the thug, entirely different lives, separated by the thinnest of margins.”

It’s a bad week for social science.

IN THE MAIL: From Michelle Malkin, Who Built That: Awe-Inspiring Stories of American Tinkerpreneurs.

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TAXPROF ROUNDUP: The IRS Scandal, Day 748.

WHITER THAN A VOX EDITORIAL BOARD MEETING. WHITER THAN A NATION FUNDRAISING CRUISE. WHITER THAN AN MSNBC ANCHORS’ MEETING. WHITER THAN A HOWARD DEAN MEETUP. Analysis: Hillary Clinton’s Campaign Events Are Nearly All-White…

ASHE SCHOW: Colleges between a rock and a hard place on campus sexual assault.

College campuses have it rough these days. It’s easy to blame them for the current state of lawsuits stemming from sexual assault complaints, but a lot of the blame should be placed on the federal government.

It was the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights that published the “Dear Colleague” letter that has been used by colleges to institute pseudo-court systems designed to make it easy to expel accused students. For their part, the colleges aren’t exactly happy about this new world.

“A university is not a court of law and the same rules that apply in criminal cases do not apply to student conduct proceedings,” said a spokesman for James Madison University. “No matter how the proceedings are handled, at least one of the parties will likely be unhappy with the results and may choose to go to federal court.” . . .

The universities are being forced into this untenable position. Nancy Gertner, a feminist and former federal judge, summed up the current culture surrounding campus sexual assault thusly: “If you find for the man, you’re bound to be criticized. If you find for the woman, you are not.”

Josh Engel, an attorney in Ohio who has been taking on cases from accused students, described this sentiment last year.

“All the incentives for the school are lined up at the moment to encourage them to throw kids out. Schools do not get any credit from the Department of Education because they provide adequate or more-than-adequate due process,” Engel told the Washington Examiner. “All the Department seems to be concerned about these days is results, which is, ‘how many kids have you disciplined?’”

And as far as the Department of Education goes, what is considered acceptable behavior and what constitutes a university response are constantly changing.

What’s sad is the unwillingness of universities to file suit and oppose the Department of Education here. The higher education establishment has made clear that it cares more about money than about fairness.

WALKER SUGGESTS HE’LL SKIP FLORIDA GOP PRIMARY:   ”If we chose to get in, I don’t think there’s a state out there we wouldn’t play in, other than maybe Florida, where Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio, in some of the polls, are essentially tied,” Walker told conservative radio host Laura Ingraham.  It is an incredibly expensive State, but sitting out a race entirely seems wimpy to me.

YOU SPELLED “COURT JESTER” WRONG: Why Joe Biden Is (Almost) King Of The Internet.

I THINK IT’S A SMART GOP MOVE:  A half-dozen GOP Senators have signed onto a bill sponsored by Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO) that would require drug companies that sell contraceptives to file an OTC (over-the-counter) request with the FDA.  It’s a smart move to battle the inane #waronwomen accusation incessantly hurled at the GOP.  But guess who opposes this move?

The Colorado Republican’s push to make birth control available over-the-counter is not winning him more allies among women’s reproductive health groups, however.

Groups like Planned Parenthood have opposed the idea, which they argue could drive up contraception prices.

The group has pointed to ObamaCare’s contraception mandate — requiring insurance plans to cover all FDA-approved forms of birth control — and said that insurers may no longer cover the medication if it’s not prescribed by a doctor.

So let me get this straight: A coalition of GOP Senators is trying to make contraceptives more readily available to women by making them OTC, but liberal/progressive groups like Planned Parenthood oppose the idea, simply because women might actually have to pay for their contraceptives rather than get them free?  Besides, I’m not convinced that merely making contraceptives OTC would alter Obamacare’s mandate that they be provided for free.  Seems to me Planned Parenthood’s opposition is purely ideological: They can’t stand the idea that their #waronwomen narrative against Republicans could be proven patently false. Plus, far fewer women (especially young women) will need to go to Planned Parenthood if they can just go to the local drugstore and obtain contraceptives.  That would leave Planned Parenthood mostly in the business of STD testing, pregnancy testing and abortions.

KIRSTEN POWERS: Stop Dropping The “Bigot Bomb.”

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THE ANSWER IS THAT COLLEGE ISN’T FOR EVERYONE:  A part-time English instructor at the University of Nevada, Brittany Bronson, has an oped in the New York Times lamenting the problem of “underemployment” of her students (and herself).

Much ink has been spilled over how choosing the right major is crucial to avoiding underemployment. Talk to sociology majors graduating this month; I doubt they’re expecting to go straight into high-paying jobs. And it’s no secret that graduates of elite universities, whether they studied astrophysics or English, have better career trajectories than those from lower-tier schools.

But when it comes to students like mine, pursuing a humanities degree or maxing out student loans for the best available education are not options. They don’t always have the luxury to prioritize the intellectual experiences offered on a college campus over the monetary ones that demand their attention away from it. Their choices are shaped by immediate economic concerns more than their hoped-for, dreamed-of careers. . . .

For today’s college graduates, the path to underemployment begins early, and those with certain levels of financial privilege will have an easier time avoiding it. Despite my students’ practical choices of less expensive educational paths, they are still some of the most likely to struggle. As you learn quickly here in Vegas, the game isn’t rigged, but the odds don’t work in your favor.

Yeah, life sucks sometimes.  Wealthy kids have more options than poor kids.  And it’s hard to get a job, particularly in a crappy economy, when your major is art history.  But does Ms. Bronson ever consider that either she or her students would have been better served by going to a trade school for high-demand, relatively high paying jobs such as plumber, electrician or carpenter? Apparently not.  College isn’t for everyone, and most of today’s college students–and society as a whole–would be better served if they stopped pretending to be interested in college and pursued a needed trade.

ELIZABETH WARREN’S HOUSE-FLIPPING PAST: Before the crash that she blamed on speculators, Senator Elizabeth Warren made a bundle by flipping houses. Senator Hypocrisy.

ANNALS OF OUR RULING CLASS: The Great 2014 Cashout: Landrieu lands at oil-rich lobbying firm.

Louisiana’s Mary Landrieu was a centrist Democratic senator, and so of course she is now working at a lobbying firm. She was also very friendly to the oil industry, and so it’s unsurprising she cashed out to Van Ness Feldman, a firm heavy in the oil and gas industry. . . .

Like Dicks, Landrieu was an appropriator. Landrieu was also chair of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee. Van Ness Feldman’s client list includes energy companies American Electric Power, Warren Buffett’s Pacificorp, Danaher, the Arctic Slope Regional Corp. and utility Puget Equico, among others. . . .

Through the revolving door, Landrieu follows her classmates Saxby Chambliss (DLA Piper), Mark Pryor (Venable), Carl Levin (Hongman) and Mark Begich (Brownstein Hyatt). Did I miss anyone?

More arguments for my revolving door surtax. This would be a good campaign issue for an enterprising Presidential candidate.

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HOPE AND CHANGE: Roll Call on Obama’s Desperation To Save The Patriot Act. “President Barack Obama reupped his push Tuesday for the Senate to pass the USA Freedom Act by 12 a.m. Monday to avoid the Patriot Act’s surveillance authorities from going dark. There’s just one problem with that. Doing so will almost certainly require the unanimous consent of all 100 senators.”

Huh. I’m old enough to remember when the Patriot Act was a nefarious scheme foisted on the nation by Evil Republicans, that we needed a Democratic President to overturn.

BECAUSE THEY’RE SMART:  Naomi Schaeffer Riley on “Why Powerful Men Now Hide Behind Open Doors.

But this idea that it doesn’t look right for a male boss to be alone with a female employee sounds like it comes straight out of Victorian England. And it’s probably just an excuse.

More likely the congressmen, like the professors I’ve spoken to, don’t want to leave themselves open to claims of sexual harassment and the lawsuits that might result.

Feminists have managed to create an employment atmosphere where men walk around on pins and needles wondering when something they say might be taken out of context or when a woman might decide to ruin a man’s career with a false accusation.

Surely there are plenty of male bosses guilty of boorish behavior. But there are also plenty of women who believe that a sexist joke or even a compliment on one’s outfit is enough to create a “hostile work environment.”

And so rather than engaging in a “he-said, she-said” deposition, many bosses would rather make sure they have witnesses to every interaction.

She’s absolutely right.  When I worked on the Hill back in the late 80s/early 90s, I would spend hours alone, doors closed, with the male Congressmen for whom I worked, sometimes on weekends. I learned a tremendous amount during those hours, and I hate to think that young women these days cannot get the same one-on-one interaction with male bosses/professors because of concerns over sexual harassment claims. But I certainly understand the concern and if I were male, I would probably avoid one-on-one, closed door interaction with all female colleagues except for my most senior and trusted aides.  #waronwomen

THE HILL: Washington is ready to spend.

Washington wants to spend more.

Just four years ago, the nation’s rapidly expanding debt was seen as Washington’s No. 1 crisis.

When House Republicans took the majority in 2011, they made it their overarching mission to rein in spending. Together with the White House, they agreed to limit spending for the next decade by the use of budget caps.

Now those spending ceilings are unpopular with members of both parties.

Pressure to break them is coming from all sides, and building.

“We’re living with just really low numbers without any wiggle room, any flexibility,” Rep. Kay Granger (R-Texas), one appropriations subcommittee chairwoman, told The Hill.

You know, I’m unpersuaded.

JEFF JACOBY: Let millionaire ex-presidents pay for themselves. “For all their poor-mouthing about being ‘dead broke’ and needing to ‘pay our bills,’ the Clintons’ income puts them well within the top one-tenth of 1 percent of all Americans. So why, pray, should taxpayers be giving Bill Clinton an allowance that amounts to another million dollars a year? Indeed, considering that every living past president is a multimillionaire, why should taxpayers have to fund an allowance for any of them?”

WELL, YES: The reclassification of ‘poverty’ was a con-trick by the Left: Of course some people are in genuine need, but it is nothing compared to previous generations – who would kill to be poor in today’s society.

The word “poverty” is bandied about as never before. Labour politicians, columnists for The Guardian and The Independent, representatives of charities such as Oxfam, use the term repeatedly, suggesting that poverty in Britain is a major and even a growing problem. Very rarely does anyone on radio or television dare challenge this idea. But what do we mean by the word “poverty” today? And how does our idea of poverty compare with that of the past?

Not at all, is the answer.

May 26, 2015

ROGER KIMBALL: Kierkegaard and Trigger Warnings.

I’M SHOCKED, SHOCKED I TELL YOU:  IRS hit by cyberattack, stealing more than $50 million and stealing more than 100,000 taxpayers’ information.  I’m sure the IRS will learn from this mistake, though, and it won’t happen again.  But of course they’ll need more money, to beef up security and all.

EUGENE VOLOKH: Adultery, adulteration, and the historical ‘married woman’ limitation.

EVERYTHING OLD IS NEW AGAIN: What was it like to watch Saigon fall?

WHITE HOUSE SUPPORTS MORATORIUM ON GERMLINE CELL EDITING:  The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy issued a statement supporting the voluntary industry moratorium on research involving gene-editing of germline cells (i.e., sperm and egg cells).  The fear is that such research could alter the genetic composition of humans for generations to come, whereas genetic modification of somatic cells (fully differentiated cells, such as heart cells, blood cells, etc.) only treats the individual affected, but does not alter that individual’s germline, and thus his/her propensity to pass along genetic conditions to future generations.

ARKANSAS AND INCEST GO HAND IN HAND THEY SAY: Clinton Foundation Donor Penguin Random House Announces Book Deal with Chelsea Clinton.

BECAUSE THEY’RE TOO DAMNED COLD? Why Aren’t People Moving to America’s ‘Best’ Cities? Let the federal government tell you where to live. “I mention those other lists because there’s a better list out today, the Census Bureau’s most recent city-level population estimates, based on a very straightforward methodology: These are the places where people are actually moving. That doesn’t mean you should move to these places, too. But if they’re good enough for others, you might want to give them a look.”

Why pay attention to what people actually want, when we have experts to tell us what they should want?

I LIKE THIS APPROACH TO THE PRESIDENTIAL DEBATES:  Stuart Rothenberg has a modest proposal, “How to Fix an Unfair Presidential Debate System.”  The Fox News and CNN approach to handling the large field of candidates is to limit debate participation to the “top 10″ candidates, as evidenced by various polls.  But this does block out many good candidates out, particularly those without wide name recognition.

Rothenberg’s proposal?  ”The obvious answer is to divide the field in half, randomly assigning individual hopefuls to one of the two debates. Of course, not everyone will like the group he or she is in, and the makeup of each group would determine the particular dynamic of that debate.”

Sounds fair to me.

THE LAW PROFESSSOR HAS BEEN SCHOOLED:  WSJ’s editorial about the Fifth Circuit’s refusal to reverse the preliminary injunction halting the President’s unilateral immigration legislation executive action:

America’s most powerful former law professor is getting a re-education in the Constitution, and on present course President Obama might flunk out. Witness Tuesday’s federal appeals-court rebuke of his 2014 immigration order, including language that suggests the Administration will also lose on the legal and policy merits. . . .

The Administration claims it is merely allowing immigration officers to apply routine “prosecutorial discretion” on a case by case basis not to deport illegals. But the court noted that if this were true “we would expect to find an explicit delegation of authority” to implement the Obama rule—“a program that makes 4.3 million otherwise removable aliens eligible for lawful presence, work authorization, and associated benefits—but no such provision exists.” (Our emphasis.)

In summary, said the court, “the United States has not made a strong showing that it is likely to succeed on the merits.” . . .

Mr. Obama could have avoided this mess if he had recalled his law classes on the separation of powers. That’s where he should have learned that the federal government can’t run roughshod over states and that the courts are an independent branch of government that can call out a President for breaking the law.

Yep–he would have failed my constitutional law class if he had tried to justify such sweeping authority to categorically rewrite existing law and confer benefits Congress never provided as “prosecutorial discretion.”  It’s almost as though the Fifth Circuit has been reading my House Judiciary testimony on the topic.

NEWS YOU CAN USE:  Caterpillars contort their bodies to look like bird poop. Apparently, it wards off hungry birds.

THE RISE OF EXECUTIVE FEDERALISM:  Michael Greve has an excellent piece at Real Clear Policy on what he terms the rise of “executive federalism“:

“Cooperative” federalism is supposed to come from Congress and federal statutes. However, practically nothing comes from Congress these days. The legislature is notoriously divided. It lacks the financial resources to rope recalcitrant states in new federalism bargains (witness the ACA), and it cannot even revisit the bargains embedded in old statutes (such as education programs or the Clean Air Act). Thus, to make federal programs “work” under current conditions, agencies rewrite statutes, issue expansive waivers, and negotiate deals with individual states on a one-off basis. That is how the ACA is being “administered.” That is how Secretary of Health and Human Services Sylvia Burwell is trying to expand Medicaid. That is how No Child Left Behind is run. And that is how Environmental Protection Agency is trying to impose its Clean Power Plan: “stakeholder meetings” and assurances of regulatory forbearance for cooperating states; unveiled threats against holdout states. This brand of federalism knows neither statutory compliance nor even administrative regularity. It is executive federalism.

. . . .  Further along that path lies the fate of Argentina, which practices an advanced form of executive federalism: corrupt, ruinous, unstable.

Exactly.  ”Cooperative” federalism is just a ruse–often little more than federal bribery for States to relinquish their reserved powers under the Tenth Amendment.  And while Congress could, in theory, “fix” many of the problems by writing clearer statutes, there are multiple reasons why this may not always be politically possible, and courts are left to reign in the most egregious ultra vires executive overreach.  There is much to be developed here, both politically and via litigation, to stop the erosion of federalism.

HIGHER EDUCATION BUBBLE UPDATE, GRADUATE SCHOOL EDITION: Are Black Males the Only Smart Ones When it Comes to PhD Psychology programs? “So the salary of psychologists is sinking, it takes 11 years of training to get the job, and students are saddled with up to $120,000 worth of debt and now they want more black males to take on this risk? The article calls this alarmist and disappointing. I call it a smart move. There are other professions that are less risky, more lucrative and just as rewarding without 11 years of one’s life gone and possibly one’s health after dealing with the field for decades.”

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CORPORATE CRONYISM PERSONIFIED:  Hillary Clinton’s support of the Ex-Im Bank is more evidence of her inextricable involvement with corporate welfare sleaze.

JAMES BOVARD: How Baltimore Became Pottersville. “President Obama has said that the Baltimore riots showed the need for new ‘massive investments in urban communities.’ But HUD’s record proves that the best-intentioned federal intervention is far more likely to sow chaos than to spur the stable neighborhoods that are perhaps the best insurance policy against violence. Trusting federal housing subsidies to create domestic tranquility is the ultimate triumph of hope over experience.”

THOMAS SOWELL:  How to open the mind of a college graduate.  Good practical advice for trying to help young people move out of the liberal/progressive cocoon and into the real world.

TYPICAL SOCIALIST GRAFT:  A story over at the Daily Caller asks, Did Bernie Sanders’ wife commit fraud?

Jane Sanders was the president of tiny Burlington College in Burlington, Vermont for seven years, from 2004 until 2011. During her tenure, Sanders masterminded an ambitious expansion plan that would have more than doubled the size of the school. To do so, she had the college take on $10 million in debt to finance the purchase of a new, far more expansive campus. The move backfired massively, leading to Sanders’ departure from the college and the near-collapse of the institution.

According to Jonna Spilbor, an attorney who reviewed the documents for TheDCNF, “the college APPEARS to have committed a pretty sophisticated crime” by exaggerating donor commitments in order to secure financing for the deal.

Ouch. Between this and Hillary’s behavior, the Democrats are having a hard time finding candidates who practice the corporate/business ethics they so loudly preach.

HEY, THE GOVERNMENT CAN’T KEEP ITS OWN SECRETS. WHY SHOULD IT BE ANY GOOD AT KEEPING YOURS? IRS Says Thieves Stole Tax Info From 100,000.

LIFE IN THE 21ST CENTURY: What Your Neighborhood List-Serv Tells You About The Demise of America.

PATRIOT ACT “METADATA” PHONE COLLECTION EXPIRES JUNE 1:  The collection of cell phone “metadata”–the time/duration of calls, plus the numbers dialed (but not the content of the conversations) has been justified under section 215 of the Patriot Act, which automatically expires June 1, Unless and until Congress can agree on some legislative alterations.  President Obama is urging the Senate to reconvene from its Memorial Day recess to take up the issue again.

Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) staged at 10-hour filibuster over section 215 and on Saturday the Senate refused to approve a temporary extension of the program.  Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has said he will reconvene the Senate on Sunday, May 31, for a last ditch effort at reauthorization.

REMEMBER: DON’T FIGHT THE CURRENT. Swimmer’s Death in Florida Brings New Attention to Rip Current Dangers.

IMMIGRATION INJUNCTION ALLOWED TO STAND:  The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit has refused (by a 2-1 vote) to stay a preliminary injunction granted by a federal trial judge that halted the Obama Administration’s implementation of its unilateral legislation executive order granting deportation amnesty for millions of illegal immigrants.  In declining to remove the injunction, the Fifth Circuit said:

Because the government is unlikely to succeed on the merits of its appeal of the injunction, we deny the motion for stay.

Translated from legalese: The Obama Administration’s unilateral legislation executive action is probably illegal, so the trial judge was correct in stopping it from going into effect.  This is very good news for the rule of law.

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MY USA TODAY COLUMN: To Fix Higher Ed, Fire A Lot Of Administrators.

A BIG BOOK DEAL for John Scalzi.

WELL, THEY CERTAINLY MISSED THE BOAT ON EBOLA. BUT IS MORE MONEY THE ANSWER? Emergency Fund Created for World Health Agency.

ILLEGAL ALIENS AND ONE PERSON, ONE VOTE:  The Supreme Court has granted review to hear a case, Evenwel v. Abbott, brought by a group of Texas voters who challenge the apportionment of legislative districts using total population counts, rather than the total number of eligible voters.  Plaintiffs assert that voters living in districts with small numbers of illegal aliens have their votes diluted compared to voters living in districts with large numbers of illegal alines, thus violating the Equal Protection Clause and its “one person, one vote” principle.

SOUNDS LIKE SOMETHING A GIRLY MAN WOULD SAY:  Why Men Shouldn’t Lift Weights.

I wondered why us guys were so conditioned to want huge muscles, even with our high school “glory days” behind us. Now, I understand that it’s more important to have a quality workout resulting in sustained energy and fitness, rather than one that focuses on repetitions and achievement-based results that diminish quickly over time.

Plus, it makes them into strong alpha males and that’s bad.

COURTS DON’T FIX “MISTAKES,” LEGISLATURES DO:  A New York Times piece designed to influence the Supreme Court in the Obamacare subsidy case, King v. Burwell, “Four Words That Imperil Health Care Law Were All a Mistake, Writers Now Say.”  How convenient–a self-serving, ex post confession by some Democrats that they didn’t read the bill, and now really, really, really hope the Supreme Court will “fix” their mistake.

A VELVET FIST DICTATORSHIP:  Do they not see the irony? The New York Times published an oped over the weekend titled, “The New Dictators Rule by Velvet Fist,” penned by a couple of professors.  Their thesis:

[A] new brand of authoritarian government has evolved that is better adapted to an era of global media, economic interdependence and information technology. The “soft” dictators concentrate power, stifling opposition and eliminating checks and balances, while using hardly any violence.

Um, yeah.  Sound familiar?  Eliminating checks and balances? Anyone?  To make matters worse, the authors further elaborate on the characteristics of such “soft” dictatorships:

The new autocrats often get to power through reasonably fair elections. Mr. Chávez, for instance, won in 1998 in what international observers called one of the most transparent votes in Venezuela’s history.

Soaring approval ratings are a more cost-effective path to dominance than terror. Mr. Erdogan exploited his popularity to amend the Constitution by referendum and to pack Turkey’s Constitutional Court.

The new autocrats use propaganda, censorship and other information-based tricks to inflate their ratings and to convince citizens of their superiority over available alternatives. . . .

When their economies do well, such leaders co-opt potential critics with material rewards. In harder times, they use censorship. The new autocrats bribe media owners with advertising contracts, threaten libel suits, and encourage pro-regime investors to purchase critical publications.

They dominate the Internet by blocking access to independent websites, hiring “trolls” to flood comments pages with pro-regime spam, and paying hackers to vandalize opposition online media sites.

I could hardy contain my laughter whilst reading this.  Hmmmm… let’s see:  propaganda? Check. Censorship? Check. Co-opting potential critics with material rewards? Check. Control over media through various civil or criminal means?  Check.  As for hiring trolls to flood comments and vandalizing opposition media sites, that can all be accomplished through private groups, without the need for government fingerprints.

But hey, I’m sure that could never happen here.

THE HACKERS KNOW, BUT WE DON’T:   A screenshot from a Romanian hacker confirms that two emails sent to Hillary Clinton from Sidney Blumenthal regarding intelligence reports on Libya are “missing.”  Hmmmm… I wonder what happened to them? Nothing to see here–move along.

MY USA TODAY COLUMN: To Fix Higher Ed, Fire A Lot Of Administrators.

IN THE MAIL: Created by Larry Niven, Man-Kzin XIV (Man-Kzin Wars).

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TAXPROF ROUNDUP: The IRS Scandal, Day 747.

#GREENFAIL: Electric Cars Running on Empty.

There were supposed to be one million electric vehicles (EVs) cruising America’s roads this year, but we’ve fallen well short of that 2009 goal. Today there are just 300,000 EVs in the U.S., and in March the government quietly revised downwards its EV goals for government fleets.

That nice, round target was set in the aftermath of the 2008 economic collapse. The newly inaugurated President Obama was full of hope and still promising change, and desperate auto company CEOs had been forced to beg Washington to save the auto industry with massive bailouts. Those circumstances allowed the President and his allies to set what, if we’re being kind, might be called a “stretch goal”: one million EVs by 2015. But here we are, and less than one third of the President’s 2009 target have been purchased in the past six years. By contrast, it takes Ford fewer than six months to sell as many F-150s, a single truck in its entire fleet of autos.

Consumers aren’t buying EVs, despite the generous heaping of government support such eco-friendly purchases might net them (each electric vehicle buyer gets a federal tax credit of $7,500 plus state incentives, all of which can add up to several thousand more depending on the circumstances). For its part the federal government has bought more than its fair share of electric vehicles.

It’s Potemkin villages all the way down. And, by the way, if you like electric cars for environmental reasons, you really need to support the construction of new nuclear power plants. Otherwise they’re really just fossil fuel powered cars at one remove.

CAPITAL PUNISHMENT’S SLOW DEATH: George Will’s latest column explains his own opposition to the death penalty.  He elaborates:

The conservative case against capital punishment, which 32 states have, is threefold. First, the power to inflict death cloaks government with a majesty and pretense of infallibility discordant with conservatism. Second, when capital punishment is inflicted, it cannot later be corrected because of new evidence, so a capital punishment regime must be administered with extraordinary competence. It is, however, a government program. Since 1973, more than 140 people sentenced to death have been acquitted of their crimes (sometimes by DNA evidence), had the charges against them dismissed by prosecutors, or been pardoned based on evidence of innocence. For an unsparing immersion in the workings of the governmental machinery of death, read “Just Mercy” by Bryan Stevenson, executive director and founder of the Equal Justice Initiative.

Third, administration of death sentences is so sporadic and protracted that their power to deter is attenuated. And expensive, because labyrinthine, legal protocols with which the judiciary has enveloped capital punishment are here to stay. Granted, capital punishment could deter: If overdue library books were punishable by death, none would be overdue. But many crimes for which death is reserved, including Tsarnaev’s crime of ideological premeditation, are especially difficult to deter.

While I normally agree with Will on most issues, I must disagree on this one.  The conservative case supporting capital punishment has nothing to do with the “majesty” or “infallibility” or even “competence” of government (God forfend).  Conceding that mistakes both can and will, inevitably, be made, Will wants to know how can one support the death penalty?  This is an important question, but one for which there is a response that is too often overlooked.  The best articulation of the answer comes from Clatstop County, Oregon District Attorney Joshua Marquis [full disclosure:  Josh is my brother-in-law], an elected Democrat D.A. who is one of the most prominent supporters of the death penalty:

[Often cited by death penalty opponents is a] study by Professor Samuel Gross that came out of a Northwestern Law School symposium and subsequent issue of their Journal of Criminal Law. I used Gross’ own numbers to estimate the incidence of real-life exonerations, as opposed to those in TV shows or movies. Gross cited about 390 cases from 1989 to 2003 where he and his team believed serious felony sentences were unfairly handed down against innocent defendants. . . . Gross posits there must be many more exonerations than he identified because he asserts . . . that in many cases DNA or a recantation by a key witness does not exist. So I rounded Gross’s number up to 400 and multiplied it by ten, yielding 4,000 exonerations—far more than I believe exist for the time period. I divided the 4,000 by 15 million, the number of felonies committed during the same period, yielding a “rightful” conviction rate of 99.93%. My article in the New York Times drew howls of protest, many attacking my math, pointing out that my base statistic of 15 million was all felonies.

Okay, so let’s refine the numbers down to just willful homicide and forcible rape. This is narrower than Gross’s sample and amounts to about 1.5 million. Move the decimal one point and you have a “rightful” conviction rate of 99.72%. Small consolation if you are in that .28 of one percent.

The wrongful conviction rate should be lower and prosecutors can do more than anyone in the criminal justice system to make sure that happens by being very discriminating in bringing capital cases. Pharmacists and doctors separately kill 10,000 Americans—by accident—every year, but we don’t ban prescriptions or elective surgery. We try to find out what went wrong and fix it.

Garrett and his fellow opponents of the death penalty—and then true life, and then mandatory sentencing of any sort—claim they really just want to fix the problem. But, as Justice Antonin Scalia acidly pointed out in his concurrence in Kansas v. Marsh, they aren’t interested in fixing the system, but in tearing it down. I have no doubt their beliefs are sincere and deeply held, but if we are to debate such an emotional issue we should do so with context, not ignoring the stories that don’t make the front page or are relegated to the newspaper’s “airplane pages” (B-2, C-5, etc).

States are doing all kinds of things to prevent the errors  . . . better trained and paid public defenders and prosecutors, and a true national DNA bank . . . .

I can understand how libertarians generally don’t trust the government to get things right and accordingly might be even more leery of the government killing someone. Professor Cass Sunstein proposed in “Is Capital Punishment Morally Required: The Relevance of Life-Life Tradeoffs” that if the series of nonideological studies done in the last decade are right, then having a death penalty spares between 10 and 24 innocent victims of murder. How can we abandon indisputably innocent men, women, and children to homicide?

So there is a very small “wrongful” conviction rate, (less than one-half percent) and it seems to be getting smaller and smaller due to advances in DNA and other scientific evidence, as well as a bigger, well-heeled and experienced capital crimes defense bar.  And capital punishment does have a deterrent effect– a point even Will seems to concede, albeit reluctantly.  This deterrence saves innocent lives, and overall, more innocent lives are saved than lost due to the death penalty.  And IMHO, there is an added societal bonus:  Capital punishment serves the important societal objective of good, old fashioned retribution–the recognition that crime, particularly violent crimes capable of triggering the consideration of capital punishment, are inherently harmful to the very fabric of society.  Retribution is a justification for punishment that liberals/progressives have long since forgotten/abandoned, but conservatives and libertarians should not.  (The issue of over-criminalization is a separate issue, but I will assume no one thinks punishment for murder is an example of over-criminalization).

I am content to let the people of each state decide whether the “costs” associated with the death penalty outweigh the “benefits” society derives. Each state should be perfectly free to decide whether it wishes to continue its death penalty as a matter of state law.  But as for the continuing attempts of death penalty opponents to try to “constitutionalize” their opposition, that is another question.

As a constitutional matter, capital punishment was clearly contemplated by the Framers, as the Due Process Clauses of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments state that government may not deprive individuals of “life, liberty or property” without due process of law, the necessary implication of which is that “life” may be deprived by state and federal governments, provided “due process” is provided.  And the Supreme Court itself has stated, most recently in Gregg v. Georgia, that the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition against cruel and unusual punishments does not demand abolition of the death penalty for those who are mentally competent and adults.

If the death penalty is indeed going to die a slow death, it should come from a thoughtful, democratic debate within each State, not through litigation aimed at getting unelected federal judges to impose a “one size fits all” constitutional “solution” on this controversial topic.

GOVERNMENT IS JUST A WORD FOR THE THINGS WE CHOOSE TO DO TOGETHER: Billions of Dollars ‘Making Mockery’ of Federal Law and Taxpayers at VA. “A federal whistleblower has revealed that the Veterans Health Administration may have improperly spent up to $5 billion in improper and unauthorized procurement expenditures over each of the last five years and lawmakers are demanding an explanation.” Until people routinely go to jail — or hell, even just lose their jobs — for this kind of thing, it will keep going on. There’s your explanation.

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MY USA TODAY COLUMN: To Fix Higher Ed, Fire A Lot Of Administrators.

MOE LANE: The Fall Of Mozilla, Continued.

ASHE SCHOW: Memorializing Mattress Girl.

Now that her 15 minutes of fame are up, what is to become of “Mattress Girl,” the Columbia University student who became famous after accusing a man of rape?

Many have wondered whether she will be able to find work after her “performance” of carrying her mattress around campus is over. I have no doubt she will, even if she was a visual arts major.

Emma Sulkowicz’s parents were prominent New York psychiatrists, she attended the best schools growing up and gained worldwide attention in school. How could she not find a job?

She’s already been speaking with sexual assault awareness groups, even appearing in the film “The Hunting Ground.” Her degree is probably superfluous at this point.

Perhaps she’ll continue working with victim’s advocacy groups or become a professor at a university. Maybe she’ll make a living through art. Maybe she’ll even be able to live off of selling the mattress project.

It hardly matters — she’ll always be a hero to those who think we should believe every accusation of rape, even when the evidence suggests otherwise.

The feminist lynch mobs, in other words.

DAMN THE TORPEDOES?:  An oped in the WSJ today by former Navy Secretary John Lehman excoriates President Obama’s decision to nominate Admiral John Richardson to the post of chief of naval operations, thus moving him out of his current position as director of the Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program (NNPP):

Working with the bipartisan leadership of the Joint Committee on Atomic Energy, the Senate and House Armed Services Committees and the secretary of energy, we constructed  . . . a position having executive power to prevent meddling from the layers of bureaucracy that were creating chaos in most defense programs. Importantly, we gave the new incumbent [director of NNPP] complete control of the selection and training of personnel. To ensure that such a powerful executive stayed long enough to execute programs and ensure accountability, a nonrenewable term of eight years was established.

That successful effort was put into an executive order by President Reagan that has worked effectively for 34 years. . . . [The NNPP has] been protected from the 970,000 Pentagon bureaucrats whose paralyzing bloat has made a hash of most Army, Navy and Air Force weapon programs. The reason for Navy nuclear success is because there has always been one strong experienced person in charge and accountable, standing like a stone wall against the bureaucratic onslaught.

But by far the most important benefit from this unique arrangement is the fact that there hasn’t been a single nuclear accident in the seven decades that the U.S. Navy has operated hundreds of nuclear submarines, carriers and surface combatants.

President Obama’s nomination of a current director of the Navy’s nuclear program to be the next chief of Naval Operations puts this unique record at risk. If Adm. Richardson leaves the Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program, which he has headed for less than two years, all that was accomplished by the executive order will be swept aside. The job will become one more rung up the career ladder, a perch for ambitious admirals to use to interact with and please the politicians who have the power to elevate them to more glamorous positions.

Worst of all, if the job is seen as a steppingstone, a fraying of the zero-defects culture may begin and the possibility of a nuclear accident within the U.S. Navy may increase.

Yikes.

AMY ALKON: Women Now Demanding To Be Treated As Eggshells, Not Equals.

THE COUNTRY’S IN THE VERY BEST OF HANDS: Security lapses draw heat on Capitol Police.

The Capitol Police are taking heavy fire from members of Congress over major security breaches that placed the lawmakers and their staffs at risk.

The law enforcement agency charged with securing the U.S. Capitol building is embroiled in controversy after a series of recent apparent security lapses.

Chief among them are a string of embarrassing cases involving Capitol Police officers who forgot their guns in public bathrooms.

Remember, only trained law enforcement officers can be trusted with firearms.

UNEXPECTEDLY! Sticker Shock for Some Obamacare Customers. “So the proposed 2016 Obamacare rates have been filed in many states, and in many states, the numbers are eye-popping. Market leaders are requesting double-digit increases in a lot of places. Some of the biggest are really double-digit: 51 percent in New Mexico, 36 percent in Tennessee, 30 percent in Maryland, 25 percent in Oregon. The reason? They say that with a full year of claims data under their belt for the first time since Obamacare went into effect, they’re finding the insurance pool was considerably older and sicker than expected.”

Gee, that’s bad luck.

WELL, WILSONIAN NATIONALISM ISN’T LOOKING SO HOT LATELY: Robert Kaplan: It’s Time to Bring Imperialism Back to the Middle East. Empire may have fallen out of fashion, but history shows that the only other option is the kind of chaos we see today. Of course, bringing imperialism back to the Middle East is precisely what Putin, and Iran, are trying to do.

FEEL THE EXCITEMENT: George Pataki to announce presidential bid Thursday.

VIRGINIA POSTREL: ‘CSI,’ R.I.P. “It was all a fantasy, of course. No police department has the resources of the ‘CSI’ crime lab, nor is real-world forensic analysis as quick, certain and without prejudice as the show’s glamorous version might have us believe.”