June 29, 2015

AT AMAZON: Men’s Grooming Deals.

TWO GRAY LADIES IN ONE: The NYT Doesn’t Publish Religiously Offensive Images, Except When They Offend Christians.

RELATED: Honesty! NY Times Reporter Admits ‘I Live in a Bubble.’

Paul Kael, call your office. And this seems like an appropriate post to add this as well:

DELAWARE SEEMS SO IMPORTANT, DOMICILE TO SO MANY CORPORATIONS. But it no longer has an any commercial air service — the only U.S. state in that predicament. But the state is so small. Enter through Philadelphia. Or just think of it as a imaginary place. Over the years, when I’ve told people I was born in Delaware — true fact! — they’ll say things like  I thought only corporations were born in Delaware.

SPORTS NEWS FROM WISCONSIN. Football: Aaron Rodgers trains alongside Olivia Munn. Basketball: Bo Ryan is retiring after next year. And: Sam Dekker mows his lawn!

DON’T CARRY CASH, THE FEDS MIGHT STEAL IT: A New York City nail salon owner tried to take his life savings of $44,000 to help his siblings in California. The DEA took it from him at JFK airport, without so much as issuing a citation. Now he’s suing to get it back–but he has very little chance of succeeding. Read the whole sad story, including a copy of the lawsuit, here. From the article:

Nevertheless, the DEA took all of Do’s money under the assumption that he’s involved in the drug business, despite being more than willing to let him go without even a citation. Do had planned to take his money to California to help his financially-struggling siblings out, but ran into the DEA first.

Then there’s this:

The Plaintiff did not know that it was a violation of Federal regulations to carry cash in excess of $5,000 at the time of the seizure.There’s a good reason for not knowing this. There is no federal regulation prohibiting citizens from walking around (or boarding planes) with any amount of cash. Asset forfeiture laws make this practice unwise, but nothing in federal law says Do was forbidden from boarding a plane with his $44,000.

As Institute for Justice attorney Darpana Sheth said about IJ’s latest civil forfeiture case, “Carrying cash is not a crime. No one should lose their life savings when no drugs or evidence of any crime are found on them or their belongings.”




IT’S NOT JUST GREECE: Puerto Rico is expected to default on more than $70 billion in debt, four times what Detroit owed when it went bankrupt. A report by economists Anne Krueger, Ranjit Teja, and Andrew Wolfe, nicely summarized in this WaPo explainer, points to the sort of fiscal mismanagement you’d expect in such a bankruptcy but also to federal policies that make things especially difficult for the island: the Jones Act, which requires all goods come on U.S. merchant marine vessels, thereby doubling shipping costs compared to nearby islands, and a minimum wage way too high for local conditions. (The WaPo’s Max Ehrenfreund finds the latter “surprising,” which is the opposite of what it is.) The population has been leaving in droves, presumably to more economically promising places.

YEP, GOVERNMENT CENTRALIZATION LEADS TO DEMOCRATIC DEFICIT: John Fund on how the latest Greek banking crisis exemplifies the EU’s persistent democratic deficit:

But for all the perfidy of the Greek government, it is, at least in its moment of crisis, returning to the roots of the democratic ideal: that it is the people, not experts or elites or aristocrats, who should have the ultimate say on those matters that must ultimately be settled politically. Here’s hoping the Greeks wake up their fellow Europeans to the fact that if they want to ensure a prosperous and free Europe for their children, politics is too important to be left to non-transparent Eurocrats.

Yep–the EU is a progressive’s dream: lots of elitist bureaucracy by “experts,” with little opportunity for republican or democratic participation by the unwashed masses. It’s a phenomenon that sounds increasingly familiar to American ears in the Obama era.


“How can something like this happen without prior warning?” asked Angeliki Psarianou, a 67-year-old retired public servant, who stood in the drizzle after arriving too late at one empty ATM in the Greek capital.

Yes, it’s always unfortunate when bad economic news keeps happening so (wait for it…wait for it…) “unexpectedly.”

UPDATE: Closer to home, “Who’s ready for a bailout of … Puerto Rico?”

AT LONG LAST, AN EXPLANATION OF SETH ROGEN’S SEX APPEAL: Who ever loved, that loved not at first sight? A lot of people, it turns out. As I discuss in my NYT column on changing perceptions of “mate value,” psychologists and anthropologists can finally explain how someone who looks like Seth Rogen can wind up with someone who looks like Katherine Heigl, and why Mr. Darcy eventually falls in love with Elizabeth Bennet. The process may not come as a surprise to readers of Jane Austen novels or to viewers of Adam Sandler’s schlub-gets-babe movies, but at least we now have the data to back up our fantasies.


embraced a bipartisan vision of judicial restraint based on the idea that the Supreme Court should generally defer to the choices of Congress and state legislatures. His insistence that the court should hesitate to second-guess the political branches regardless of whether liberals or conservatives win is based on his conception of the limited institutional role of the court in relation to the president, Congress and the states.

I have little doubt that this is how the Chief Justice thinks of what he did. And why he relied so heavily on deference in his dissent in Obergefell.


ARE HAPPIER LAWYERS, CHEAPER LEGAL FEES ON THE HORIZON? Glenn Reynolds, our beneficent Insta-host, reviews the new book, Glass Half Full: The Decline And Rebirth of the Legal Profession by Ben Barton, Glenn’s fellow University of Tennessee law professor, who has also been guest-posting here this week, in his latest USA Today column:

[W]hile technology is hurting firms’ income, it’s also cutting their expenses, and making life easier (in some ways) for solo practitioners. I have a former student who practices family law and doesn’t even keep an office. Her clients like it that she makes house calls, and she saves big on overhead. Email, voicemail and the like are better than a secretary, and online legal research is better than maintaining a law library.

Clients, meanwhile, will get cheaper legal services. There’s a limit to how much lawyers can cut their rates — those student loan debts have to be paid, and if you can’t make enough to pay them practicing law, you’re better off doing something else — but many tech startups are looking at ways to provide legal services more cheaply and efficiently than the old model ever did. Barton is optimistic about that, and I hope he’s right.

At any rate, law, as the ultimate white-collar job, is now undergoing what so many other fields have suffered before: Technological unemployment and a shrinking economic pie. Lawyers, who probably didn’t shed a lot of tears when this happened to linotype operators, will just have to deal with it as well. I hope that Ben Barton’s mostly-cheerful predictions turn out to be right.

Read the whole thing, to coin an Instaphrase.

THANKS SO MUCH TO GLENN, my co-guestbloggers, and to all of you for a great week.  I learned A LOT from the posts, your comments, and the experience.

Most notably I learned that this is even harder than it looks from the outside!  One possible explanation for the Blogfather’s excellence: Glenn is, in fact, a blogging cyborg.  He doesn’t eat.  He doesn’t sleep.  All he does is post awesome links with interesting commentary.  When he returns and finds that I have mocked his robot brethren I may be in some trouble. . . .

HOW DO YOU TELL SOMEONE THEY’RE NOT A VICTIM? “While speaking at the Network of Enlightened Women’s conference in Washington, D.C., on Friday, I was asked a question about how to tell someone they’re not a victim when the evidence shows they aren’t one,” Ashe Schow writes at the Washington Examiner:

As activists expand the definition of sexual assault and push debunked statistics to claim that it is rampant on college campuses, more and more might come to see regretted or misinterpreted encounters as something more sinister. We need to figure out how to gently tell them that they are not actually victims. But that would require finding another explanation for their negative feelings.

So many accusers, especially those who say the encounter happened while they were freshmen, say they become depressed and withdrawn. They see those feelings as the result of a sexual assault. Maybe, just maybe, some of those feelings come from being away from home for the first time or feeling overwhelmed in college, and have nothing to do with the first hook up of a college career.

I know that I haven’t figured out a way to properly articulate this idea, but I’m hoping someone else figures out a way to do so.

How do we change the enormous therapy-obsessed bureaucracy of university campuses, which have created a student culture where the will to power derives from victimhood?

BEN WATTENBERG, RIP: The veteran author, LBJ speechwriter, host of Think Tank for PBS and American Enterprise Institute scholar was 81. As Jonah Goldberg (who cut his teeth as Wattenberg’s producer and research assistant in the 1990s writes, “Ben was hard to classify intellectually or ideologically:”

Though it was not always as difficult as it is today because the tribe he represented — variously described as Scoop Jackson Democrat, Democratic neoconservative, Reagan Democrat, New Democrat, democratic triumphalist etc — no longer much exists. Obviously, the key word there is “Democrat.” But while his devotion to the partisan label with a capital-D waned over the years (without ever vanishing), his devotion to democracy itself was undying and infectious.

At the Weekly Standard, Jonathan Last notes that in the early 1970s, Wattenberg was one of the few to push back against the Malthusian doomsday rantings of Paul Ehrlich and others. “It takes an uncommon mind to challenge the assumptions of the age in search of the truth. But the fortitude it takes to stand amidst the mob insisting on the truth once you have found it is ever more rare. What a man.”

At Commentary, John Podhoretz adds that Wattenberg “was one of the Democrats in the late 1960s and early 1970s who committed himself to fighting those who wanted to divert his party into anti-American tributaries through the founding of the Coalition for a Democratic Majority, a group that had little success but did prove prophetic in insisting that only a move to the center, a la Bill Clinton, would save the party from itself. His most notable later book, Values Matter Most, became a hot topic of discussion when Clinton called Wattenberg and discussed it and his own failings in 1995.”

Shortly before his 2008 career retrospective Fighting Words: A Tale of How Liberals Created Neo-Conservatism was published, I interviewed Wattenberg for an early segment of PJM’s old Sirius-XM show to discuss Fighting Words. The audio from that interview is still online here.

POLITICAL THREATS TO SCIENCE:  I earlier linked to Matt Ridley’s essay on how the Left has politicized climate science, and that’s hardly the only discipline that’s been corrupted. Democrats like to style themselves as the pro-science party, and a lot of reporters accept that assumption, but I see it as a highly debatable proposition. In fact, I’ve discussed that question with Intelligence Squared U.S.,  the sponsor of the great series of Oxford-style debates on public policy. It’s considering a debate next spring on the question of which side, the Left or Right, poses a greater threat to science.

Liberals have an easy time mocking creationist conservatives, whose impact on the practice of science I consider to be nil. But I wonder who on the Left would be willing to defend its overall record, which includes the promotion of so many unscientific fears (of genetically modified foods, fracking, nuclear power, etc.) and the ostracism of researchers who pursue taboo topics (like the effects of single-parent families, or innate differences between the sexes). I know of conservatives and libertarians who could debate their side of the question (John StosselDavid Harsanyi and Ronald Bailey have recently criticized the Left’s unscientific beliefs). But I’m not sure who would make a good case for the Left. Any suggestions?

AT AMAZON: Woodworking essentials.

GENTLEMEN, YOU CAN’T REPORT HERE, THIS IS A PRESS BRIEFING! State Dept threatens to arrest Washington Free Beacon reporter for covering Iran talks:

VIENNA—Officials with the Department of State threatened to call security Monday on a Washington Free Beacon reporter who was attempting to report on a briefing held by senior Obama administration figures in Vienna on the eve of an expected nuclear agreement with Iran.

Two State Department officials booted the Free Beacon from a room where Wendy Sherman, the undersecretary of state for political affairs, was talking to reporters, despite the Free Beacon’s being credentialed by the Austrian government for the ongoing Iranian nuclear talks.

Western observers present in Vienna for the talks linked the State Department’s behavior to jitters over media coverage revealing a still growing list of concessions being made to Iran by the Obama administration.

Melissa Turley, a State Department official, approached a Free Beacon reporter and demanded that he leave the room.

“You’re not registered with the U.S. press,” Turley said after being informed that the Free Beacon was attending the event.

“You have a press pass from the [European Union], not from me,” Turley said, after being informed that the Free Beacon was officially credentialed to cover the event.

Turley and her colleagues then threatened the reporter, instructing him to leave the room or be dealt with by “security.”

As even the New York Times (via Democrat true believer Albert Hunt) noted last year, “Under Obama, a Chill on Press Freedom.”  The Times’ James Risen has dubbed Mr. Obama the “greatest enemy of press freedom in a generation.”

“LEADING ON RACE: COMMUNITIES, NOT ELITES,” Salena Zito writes at the Pittsburgh Tribune:

In a week that began with a white woman masquerading as black, the ensuing silliness of talk about being “transracial,” and the president unnecessarily invoking the mother of all racial epithets, it was the American people who showed how to lead on race.

In a show of profound unity and forgiveness, Charleston residents responded not with the lowest common denominator of social-media commentary or violent anger, but with promise.

More than 15,000 of them, of every size and color, put Southern solidarity into perspective by gathering on both sides of the city’s Ravenel Bridge. They met in the middle; they wept, smiled, laughed, hugged, turned strangers into friends. Homemade signs with messages of outreach, love and solidarity flapped in the wind, as prayers and hymns filled the air.

There wasn’t a major network or cable news channel, only local TV crews, rolling cameras to record America doing what it does best — opening its heart; the networks always seem to be on hand for looting or rioting. Yet, for the most part, Charleston’s participants didn’t care about being largely ignored, because that moment on the bridge was about them, about their community and, above all, about how to lead.

Their response, their unity, showed leadership. The president, dropping the “N-word” to an entertainment podcast, reeked of showmanship and his signature divisiveness.

What will linger in most minds, long after the history books are closed, is how a community impacted by the deaths of nine innocent people reacted — not a politician.

That sounds awfully selfish to me — if communities act calmly and humane, and refuse to self-detonate, what will CNN and MSNBC do for their nightly riot porn? How will Obama and Hillary gin up the voters?

THE OPM HACK AND OBAMA’S POLITICIZATION OF THE FEDERAL BUREAUCRACY: Jim Geraghty writes at National Review Online that “it’s clear that hackers — believed to be tied to the Chinese government – stole files from the Office of Personnel Management that amount to a giant ‘how to blackmail anyone in the federal government’ manual. This was America’s ‘cyber 9/11,’ exposing an administration full of true believers in the expansion of government who can’t handle the most basic tasks of secret-keeping.”

Including Katherine Archuleta, who prior to becoming OPM’s head, “had no background in the kind of work the agency does,”  Geraghty adds. But she certainly was a loyal Democrat foot soldier, which is far more important than actual competence in the Clinton and Obama administrations:

Before becoming the head of OPM, Katherine Archuleta had no background in the kind of work the agency does. Archuleta, a lawyer and former Clinton administration official, was national political director for President Obama’s reelection campaign. She served as the chief of staff to Secretary of Labor Hilda Solís, and was the City of Denver’s lead planner for the 2008 Democratic National Convention. Like the president, she has roots in “community organizing”: She co-founded the Latina Initiative, a Colorado organization aimed at getting more Hispanic voters involved in politics. (In 2011, the Latina Initiative suspended its operations, citing insufficient funding.) Nothing in this record suggests any expertise in the vitally important human resources and record-keeping functions OPM is supposed to serve.

Before the hack, Archuleta’s primary goals at OPM appeared to be increasing the diversity of the federal workforce and implementing Obamacare’s changes to federal workers’ health-insurance options.

Her July 2013 confirmation hearing was brief and relatively controversy-free. Senator Mark Udall, (D., Colo.), introduced her and declared, “she has an impressive range of accomplishments that make her completely, totally well-qualified to be director of OPM.”

Archuleta mentioned her determination to “build on OPM’s health care experience” including “implementing its provisions of the Affordable Care Act.” She did say she would “prioritize the improvement of the agency’s Information Technology systems” and pledge to create the position of Chief Technology Officer, but that came in the context of a discussion on OPM’s difficulty in moving to a digital system for handling retirement services for federal workers. The topic of cyber security only came up during a brief discussion of whether OPM had sufficiently skilled personnel in that area.

“When news broke of the first of those breaches, in early 2014, Archuleta went so far as to insist in public that there was nothing that needed fixing,” Geraghty writes, noting that “Archuleta was quick to downplay the breach, declaring in a July 21, 2014 interview with Washington’s ABC affiliate that, ‘We did not have a breach in security. There was no information that was lost. We were confident as we worked through this that we would be able to protect the data.’”

There is no iceberg; the ship is perfectly fine; you can resume your dining and dancing without fear. Happy sailing and enjoy the rest of your evening!

ELENA KAGAN IN 2009: “THERE IS NO FEDERAL CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHT TO SAME-SEX MARRIAGE.” As Prof. William A. Jacobson writes at his Legal Insurrection blog,  “Then she was a nominee for Solicitor General, now she is an Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court. Then she was bound to follow the law, now she gets to make it.”

BRADY CENTER ORDERED TO PAY AMMO DEALER’S LEGAL FEES: Judge orders Brady Center to pay ammo dealer’s legal fees after dismissing lawsuit.

THE IRS SCANDAL, DAY 781: Judge Demands Answers from the IRS by Month’s End; It’s Past Time for Orange to be the New Black for Lois Lerner.

THE LEFT-RIGHT GAP IN LANGUAGE: Liberals and conservatives use much different sets of words, according to an extensive textual analysis of chat rooms, news websites and State of the Union speeches. The analysis, published in the current Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, draws on a psychological distinction between the basic needs for “affiliation” and “power.” Liberals manifest their yearning for social connectedness by using words like carehelpkindneighbor and volunteer more often than conservatives do.  Conservatives more frequently use power words like boss, coerce, hero, strong and victory. 

The team of German and American researchers say this is the first study to reveal this difference. And, as usual in social science, the difference is presented in a way that looks bad for conservatives. Citing previous research, the authors write:

These results, although novel, seem intuitive in capturing a fundamental difference by political ideology.
For example, the policies more greatly favored by liberals include social welfare programs and affirmative action, both of which appear affiliation-oriented from a broader perspective. By contrast, the policies more greatly favored by conservatives include increased defense spending and the death penalty, both of which are consistent with a desire to be powerful. Indeed, conservatives are often more invested in the trappings of power such as wealth and status.

Ah, those good-hearted liberals, uninterested in status and money. (The Obamas and their fellow liberals vacation on Martha’s Vineyard only because the beaches are so pretty.) And those deadly power-crazed conservatives, reluctant to even utter nice words like volunteer. (Never mind the studies showing that conservatives actually do more volunteer work than liberals do.)

But here’s another way to look at the results. Liberals talk about politics in language that appeals to our primal socialist instincts, developed on the savanna when we belonged to small clans of hunter-gatherers who really did look out for their kin. Conservatives discuss politics in language that reflects modern reality: socialism doesn’t work in groups larger than a clan, because people do not behave selflessly when they belong to a large group of unrelated strangers. Liberals believe in what the economist Daniel Klein calls “The People’s Romance,” but that fallacy has been exposed by Adam Smith, de Toqueville and Darth Vader, among others.

When liberals say that “government is the word we give to the things we choose to do together,” they score high on affiliation, and some of them may even believe government is one big happy collaboration among equals. But conservatives know that philosophy just means giving one small group of people in the capital more power to boss and coerce the rest of us.

BIG NEWS: Important affirmative action case returns to the Supreme Court. Ilya Somin comments:

Earlier this morning, the Supreme Court chose to hear Fisher v. University of Texas, an important case challenging racial preferences in admissions at the University of Texas. The outcome is likely to have important implications for the future of affirmative action. . . .

It seems unlikely that the justices would have chosen to hear this case again, if a majority were satisfied with the Fifth Circuit’s ruling on remand. Most likely, the five more conservative justices decided to take it because they intend to overrule the Fifth Circuit and forcefully reiterate the requirement that judges must not defer to universities on the narrow tailoring issue. The Court could potentially expound on the need to avoid deference on the narrow-tailoring requirement in greater detail than it did in Fisher I, so as to reduce lower court judges’ room for discretion and prevent them from continuing to defer, as the Fifth Circuit essentially did in its post-remand decision. If that happens, supporters of racial preferences in admissions might end up worse off than they would have been if the Fifth Circuit had not chosen to be obstreperous after the remand, and had struck down the Texas program, as many expected it would.


HOW UBER SURGE PRICING REALLY WORKS: “The data . . .  suggest that surge pricing doesn’t seem to bring more drivers out on the roads, but rather pushes drivers already on the job toward neighborhoods with more demand–and higher surge pricing.”

EVERYBODY SETTLE DOWN: The Greek debt crisis—the Energizer bunny of debt crises—has stocks plunging around the world as bank lines grow in Athens, but Walter Russell Mead argues that it won’t necessarily be a disaster if Greece abandons the Euro.

A Greek exit may end up strengthening the credibility of the euro by removing the one member that all agree should never have been allowed to join in the first place.


In an important decision at the intersection of free speech and property rights, the U.S. Supreme Court today vacated a 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals judgment that had allowed the city of Norfolk, Va., to suppress a banner protesting the government’s illegal attempt to seize private property by eminent domain. Today’s decision sends the case, Central Radio Company v. City of Norfolk, back to the 4th Circuit so that it can reconsider the case in light of recent guidance the Supreme Court has provided on sign regulations and free speech in Reed v. Town of Gilbert.

IN THE MAIL: From Brad Thor, Code of Conduct: A Thriller (The Scot Harvath Series).

CONSTRAINT vs DEFERENCE:  Two possible meanings of “judicial restraint”

On Saturday, I criticized Jeb Bush’s stated criteria for choosing judges as what has led to continued disappointment by conservatives in Republican nominated justices. He said: “You focus on people to be Supreme Court justices who have a proven record of judicial restraint.” But what does “judicial restraint” mean?  There are two quite different possibilities:

  1. Constraint: “Judicial restraint” could refer to confining oneself to following the meaning of the text of the Constitution (and of statutes) — by which is meant its original meaning — whether this leads to upholding or invalidating properly enacted statutes; or
  2. Deference: “Judicial restraint” could refer to deferring to the will of the majority as reflected in the acts of the more “democratic” branches — i.e. “unelected unaccountable” judges should avoid wherever possible thwarting the will of the people, by which is meant the political preferences of the majority of the electorate. The emphasis here is not on the correctness of constitutional analysis, but on judicial deference to majority will.

What is of utmost importance is that these are not the same thing. . . .

Read the rest on the Volokh Conspiracy.



LOTS OF ACTION IN THE SUPREME COURT THIS MORNING. The lethal injection is saved in a 5-4 decision. There’s a lively Breyer dissent rejecting the death penalty across the board, to which Scalia and Thomas respond vividly in concurrences. Alito writes the main opinion (which I typo’d as “the man opinion” on my home blog). Arizona’s use of an independent commission for legislative redistricting is upheld 5-4. Scalia has the EPA case, which is also 5-4, so you can picture where that came out. All 5-4 cases, all in the conventional liberal/conservative split. Sorry not to write more on all of this over here!

ADDED: From Alito’s opinion in the death penalty case (Glossip v. Gross, PDF):

[W]e find it appropriate to respond to the principal dissent’s groundless suggestion that our decision is tantamount to allowing prisoners to be “drawn and quartered, slowly tortured to death, or actually burned at the stake.” That is simply not true, and the principal dissent’s resort to this outlandish rhetoric reveals the weakness of its legal arguments.

AND: To be clear, Justice Breyer finding “highly likely” the death penalty is unconstitutional across the board and calls for a full briefing on the subject.

FROM TEA PARTY STAR TO A LEADER OF THE NEW SOUTH” is how a Washington Post headline describes Nikki Haley, as if there’s some contradiction. I don’t see one (unless you’re referring to the various tax breaks New South politicians have long used to lure corporations to relocate).

LEGALZOOM SUES NORTH CAROLINA BAR FOR ANTITRUST VIOLATIONS – In case you missed it, LegalZoom has sued the North Carolina Bar for antitrust violations.  Here’s the WSJ lawblog post and a copy of the complaint.  This is on top of LegalZoom’s ongoing North Carolina fight over whether online legal services are the unauthorized practice of law.  LegalZoom has had some success in South Carolina on this front and with more of a mixed result in Missouri.  The bottom line is that LegalZoom is still operating in all fifty states, which is how I count wins and losses in this sort of game.

An antitrust suit is a horse of a different color, however, since it challenges the very structure of American lawyer regulation.  S**t just got real.  In my book I talk a bunch about what a tight spot the ABA and state bars find themselves in.  They could try to shut down LegalZoom and Rocket Lawyer through new regulations or even prosecution for the unauthorized practice of law, but the public outcry would be LOUD and the downside risk – an antitrust suit or other attempts to strip lawyers of self-regulation – is very real.  Bar associations have been cursed to live in interesting times indeed.

ECONOMIC FUTURES: The Mercatus Center has announced its fall lineup for “Conversations with Tyler,” in which Tyler Cowen, of Marginal Revolution blogging fame, will discuss the future of capitalism with Luigi Zigales, the future of globalization with Dani Rodrik, and the future of money with Cliff Asness. If you’re in DC, you can attend in person (info at the link). Otherwise, the conversations will be available online. Earlier, Tyler talked with Peter Thiel about the future of innovation and with Jeffrey Sachs about the future of economic development. (You can watch those videos at the links.)

10 SONGS BY ROCK STARS ABOUT HOW BAD IT SUCKS TO BE A ROCK STAR: Plastic Ono Band, John Lennon’s first real solo endeavor, his so-called “primal scream” album, was a dramatic gesture in 1970 with its skeletal rock and roll sound after the lush orchestrations of George Martin and Phil Spector on the Beatles’ last albums, Abbey Road and Let It Be, respectively. But Lennon’s introspective ruminations on how he became a self-described “working class hero” unintentionally sure set off a terrible trend in pop music, with rock stars grousing about how awful things are inside their chosen profession. (I’m surprised this VH-1 article doesn’t include Dire Straits’ “Money For Nothing,” which is Mark Knopfler making the same whine one removed; from the point of view of his blue collar department store kitchen installation man who just can’t fathom how hard Knopfler works to produce his music.)

IT’S BAD ON MULTIPLE LEVELS: My Los Angeles Times oped today with David Rivkin, “The Supreme Court’s Bad Call on the Affordable Care Act.

When judges take it upon themselves to “fix” a law — or to bless an executive “fix” — they diminish political accountability by encouraging Congress to be sloppy. And they bypass the political process established by the Constitution’s separation of powers, arrogating to itself — and the executive — the power to amend legislation.

This leads to bad laws, bad policy outcomes and fosters the cynical belief that “law is politics.”

The progressive left’s belief that “law is politics” is becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy. As Andrew McCarthy pointed out in NRO this weekend, there was no speculation about whether one of the four liberal/progressive Justices would vote in any of the recent high profile, controversial cases precisely because liberal/progressive Justices don’t “wander off the reservation.”

For some reason, it’s the GOP-nominated Justices who turn out to be unpredictable.  As I said this morning on Fox & Friends, the GOP-nominated Justices are, to paraphrase Forrest Gump, like a box of chocolates: You never know what you’re gonna get.


AT AMAZON, fresh deals on bestselling products, updated every hour.

Also, coupons galore in Grocery & Gourmet Food.

Plus, Kindle Daily Deals.

And, Today’s Featured Digital Deal. The deals are brand new every day, so browse and save!

TEXAS AG SAYS COUNTY CLERKS DON’T HAVE TO ISSUE SAME-SEX MARRIAGE LICENSES IF IT VIOLATES THEIR RELIGIOUS BELIEFS:  Am I the only one having flashbacks to some of Kurt Schlichter’s Conservative Insurgency scenarios?

ISLAMIC STATE AND THE UTOPIA PROBLEM: DESTROYING THE PAST TO COMMAND THE FUTURE: At Fox News, Ralph Peters observes totalitarian zealots hard at work with airbrushes and warm glowing memory holes, at home and abroad:

For all of their profound differences, the Islamic State and the Left have one purpose in common: They want to wipe out history so they can write it anew to support their utopias, the perfected societies of their inhuman fantasies.

The Islamic State destroys wondrous monuments to prevent “pagan worship,” to purify Islam and restore the caliphate to a state of perfection it never possessed. Aiming at a less puritanical, if equally rule-bound utopia, the American Left has all but destroyed the teaching of history in our schools, scorning facts in favor of paternalistic condescension toward minorities.

Thus it’s not enough to take the reasonable step of removing the Confederate Battle Flag from state and local government properties. That flag must be driven from the marketplace, from all public spaces and, at last, from the personal space, since it might be “hurtful,” even if hung in a basement. It’s admirable to celebrate the Black Panthers, but not for a struggling working man to honor a Civil War ancestor. In this case, brothers and sisters, bigotry ain’t a monopoly.

Islamist State sledgehammers smash off the faces of classical-era statues. Our Left wants to remove Founding Fathers and others from our currency to replace them with minor figures that suit their agenda. Both actions are about mastering the past to control the future.

(Might I suggest a compromise on the currency issue? The Left can put anyone it wants on the 20-dollar bill, if our high-school textbooks can teach that the Democratic Party was the party of slavery, the KKK, Jim Crow and segregation into the 1960s – and remains the party obstructing quality education in inner cities.)

In a classic essay, Tom Wolfe contrasted the left’s universal goal of “Starting From Zero” with “The Great Relearning” that must inevitably follow. But I’m starting to wonder if too much history and knowledge has been wiped out for the great relearning to ever occur.

RAND PAUL:  Government Should Get Out of Marriage Business:

While I disagree with Supreme Court’s redefinition of marriage, I believe that all Americans have the right to contract.

The Constitution is silent on the question of marriage because marriage has always been a local issue. Our founding fathers went to the local courthouse to be married, not to Washington, D.C. . . .

The government should not prevent people from making contracts but that does not mean that the government must confer a special imprimatur upon a new definition of marriage.

Perhaps the time has come to examine whether or not governmental recognition of marriage is a good idea, for either party.

Since government has been involved in marriage, they have done what they always do — taxed it, regulated it, and now redefined it. It is hard to argue that government’s involvement in marriage has made it better, a fact also not surprising to those who believe government does little right.

So now, states such as Alabama are beginning to understand this as they begin to get out of the marriage licensing business altogether. Will others follow?

I have long agreed with the basic premise that marriage is a contract and should not be a “license” granted by government.  The contractual approach isn’t a panacea for societal division over the meaning of marriage, however, as presumably many would still like to prohibit practices such as (adult) incest and polygamy, which contract law, alone, would not do.  A contractual approach would also necessitate (presumably) temporal limitations on marriage contracts, such that a “marriage for 30 minutes”–prostitution–would not be legal, as it is in Islam.

So for better or for worse (pun intended), government will remain in the marriage business to some extent, either by limiting those eligible for a “license,” or limiting those eligible to “contract.” Dispensing with the license-based marriage in favor of contract-based marriage may not lessen government regulation, but it would likely eliminate government benefits, such as joint filing for income tax purposes.

NEW YORK’S BIGGEST SLUM LORD: Time to evict New York’s public-housing slumlord.


All of the media kabuki about being “objective” dates back to a philosophy from the days of the first national radio networks 90 years ago. As I wrote several years ago in the New Individualist magazine, with the birth of mass media, journalists had to convince the public (and the FCC) that they were “objective,” since they were increasingly the only game in town until media began becoming democratized once again and as Alvin Toffler would say, “demassified,” via talk radio, Fox News, the Internet, and the birth of the Blogosphere.

In the 21st century, nobody buys the notion about journalists being objective, and news outlets and their spokesmen such as CNN’s Jeffrey Toobin would be far better off if they started being honest with their customers, and openly declaring their allegiances.

CAMPUS SUSTAINABILITY: “It’s the new religion, and it’s the new home of the entire liberal agenda,” Katherine Kersten writes in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune of all places:

The Church of Sustainability derives many of its major themes from Judeo-Christianity. It teaches that the Earth — once a pristine Eden — is now fallen and polluted because of human sinfulness, and that an apocalyptic Judgment Day looms unless mankind repents. Absolution and salvation are possible if humans heed the enlightened saints and prophets who warn us of impending doom.

As sustainability spreads beyond the campus, we increasingly see it touted in coffee shops, celebrated by major corporations and embraced by urban planners. For example, it’s the ideology driving “Thrive MSP 2040,” the Metropolitan Council’s new 30-year plan for development in the Twin Cities region, with its pervasive themes of top-down planning and rule by “experts.”

It’s ironic that college campuses are home base for the sustainability movement. For higher education is among the least sustainable of our contemporary institutions. Colleges and universities are caught in a death spiral of rising costs and declining benefits. Nevertheless, they obsess about recyclable napkins, solar panels and fossil-fuel divestment, and pour $3.2 billion annually — frequently without assessing effectiveness — into achieving their dreams of sustainability, according to the NAS.

Hey, I know somebody’s who’s written a bunch of books about that! But it’s not all that ironic that colleges are obsessed with “sustainability” even as they’re dying as institutions themselves. It tends to occur wherever the left congregates. Here in California, over half the residents seem to act like kids living in a giant dorm. As Victor Davis Hanson recently wrote, Sacramento can’t be bothered to address the myriad real-world issues tearing the state apart at the seams. It has a state-wide drought, despite bordering an ocean, because desalinization plants give environmentalists the vapors. Its roads and schools are some of the worst in the nation. But the state’s politicians sure are obsessed with fantasies such as high-speed rail, aren’t they? As Victor Davis Hanson recently wrote in an article titled “Goodnight, California,” it’s as if Sacramento is telling voters, “I am too bewildered by your premodern challenges, so I will take psychological refuge in my postmodern fantasies.”

JUST WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU’RE DOING, DAVE? Artificial Intelligence Machine Gets Testy With Its Programmer.

AN “ALLEGED SQUIRREL” and that character from the 1980s, subway vigilante Bernhard Goetz. (“A neighbor is complaining about something screeching in the walls.”)

SHAMELESS! BRITISH POLITICIAN PICTURED TAKING SELFIE AT SPOT ON TUNISIAN BEACH WHERE TOURISTS WERE SLAUGHTERED: “Amran Hussain, 29, an Army reservist who stood for North East Hampshire [representing the Labour party] in the recent election, was pictured holding his selfie stick aloft as he grinned in front of a pile of flowers and tributes. With the sun loungers where dozens tourists were slaughtered clearly visible in the background, the senior officer for NHS England looked directly at the camera in aviator-style sunglasses.”

If he can find someone brave/crazy enough to implement it, Adam Carolla has proposed a simple method to ban selfie sticks on tourist flights

HILLARY GUMP: “The fictional and cinema hero Forrest Gump somehow always managed to turn up at historic moments in the latter twentieth century. But whereas Forrest usually had a positive role to play at the hinges of fate, the equally ubiquitous Hillary Gump usually appeared as a bit player who made things far worse,” Victor Davis Hanson writes.

ROGER SIMON’S JULY 4 PROPOSAL: Republican Candidates Should Stand Together to Block Iran Deal.


June 28, 2015

EARLY BIRDS: JOIN ME TOMORROW MORNING: For those of you who like to rise and shine early, I hope you’ll tune into Fox & Friends at around 6:45 am EST, to watch me debate the proposal for Supreme Court retention elections, and other possible means for reigning in a Supreme Court that appears increasingly unmoored by statutory or constitutional text.

THE “LEAST POLITICAL BRANCH” NO MORE: Andrew McCarthy: Let’s Drop the Charade: The Supreme Court is a Political Branch, Not a Judicial One.

Already, an ocean of ink has been spilled analyzing, lauding, and bemoaning the Supreme Court’s work this week: a second life line tossed to SCOTUScare in just three years; the location of a heretofore unknown constitutional right to same-sex marriage almost a century-and-a-half after the adoption of the Fourteenth Amendment; and the refashioning of Congress’s Fair Housing Act to embrace legal academe’s loopy “disparate impact” theory of inducing discrimination.

Yet, for all the non-stop commentary, one detail goes nearly unmentioned — the omission that best explains this week’s Fundamental Transformation trifecta.   Did you notice that there was not an iota of speculation about how the four Progressive justices would vote?There was never a shadow of a doubt. In the plethora of opinions generated by these three cases, there is not a single one authored by Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Elena Kagan, or Sonia Sotomayor. There was no need. They are the Left’s voting bloc. There was a better chance that the sun would not rise this morning than that any of them would wander off the reservation.

McCarthy’s right. Leftists believe that “law is politics,” so they’re not particularly interested in how they get there: What matters, to the political left, is simply getting there.  The ends justify the means

Given this reality, proposals to reform the Supreme Court–to make it more politically accountable–are becoming increasingly attractive to conservatives.  If Justices are going to act like politicians in robes, they ought to be more politically accountable to the people. Any of the proposals being floated–such as Senator Cruz’s proposal for Supreme Court retention elections, or perhaps term limits–would require a constitutional amendment.

Americans haven’t ratified any “new” amendments (and here I am excluding the 27th Amendment, which was proposed by Madison with the original Bill of Rights, but not ratified until 1992) since the 26th Amendment gave 18 year-olds the right to vote, back in 1971.  We the People haven’t been very constitutionally active in my lifetime, and maybe it’s time to change that, as there are numerous important constitutional changes now worth considering.

AT AMAZON: Grills and Outdoor cooking.


Obama himself targeted the American flag in October 2007, bizarrely, as his presidential campaign gained steam. He ostentatiously stopped wearing a U.S. flag pin in his lapel, dissenting from his fellow legislators, many of whom had begun wearing the pin in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks.

The flag pin, he explained to ABC News, had become “a substitute for true patriotism,” which he defined as “speaking out on issues that are of importance to our national security.”

That stance–which implied that Obama’s colleagues were less patriotic than he–became a major flashpoint over the next few months.

A voter at a Democratic primary debate in April 2008 asked Obama why he did not wear a flag pin. Obama flat-out lied in response: “I have never said that I don’t wear flag pins or refuse to wear flag pins.” He argued that it was more important to speak out against the Iraq War, and about “economic fairness,” than it was to wear the flag on his suit jacket.

Voters were not convinced. Some even handed him flag pins to wear.

Finally, he gave in. By May 2008, he quietly pulled off what Time called a “flag pin flip-flop”:

On Tuesday, he was sans pin on the Senate floor, but then later donned it while speaking to working-class voters in Missouri during the evening. “I haven’t been making such a big deal about it. Others have. Sometimes I wear it, sometimes I don’t,” Obama said.

Obama fought the American flag, and the American flag won.

But there should be no doubt that Obama, and his ideological kin, would avoid the U.S. flag if they could, no matter how much they protest otherwise. Their hostility to American exceptionalism is deep.

Read the whole thing.


ROGER SIMON’S JULY 4 PROPOSAL: Republican Candidates Should Stand Together to Block Iran Deal.

OUR PRECIOUS LITTLE SNOWFLAKES: “This celebration of a child’s every accomplishment, however slight, is something new. By the time a kid reaches 18, she will have accumulated boxes and boxes of diplomas, medals, ribbons, trophies and certificates for just showing up – whether she’s any good at anything or not,” Margaret Wente writes in the Canadian Globe and Mail:

Sometimes you have to compromise in life, but we don’t want to break this crushing news to our children. Personally, I’ve met far too many young adults who graduate from university with plans to work in development/save the world/find a career in environmental sustainability. There’s nothing wrong with these noble aspirations. What’s amazing is that no adults have ever levelled with them.

Reality will bite soon enough, of course. The idea that your job should be your passion is a misguided romantic notion that only the upper-middle-class can afford to entertain. In fact, most people wind up in areas that nobody ever talks about. “Insurance is a very interesting field,” Mr. Laurie assured me. “But no one says ‘I want to go into insurance.’ ”

The trouble is, snowflakes are not very resilient. They tend to melt when they hit the pavement. How will our snowflake children handle the routine stresses of the grownup world – the obnoxious colleagues, pointless meetings, promotions that don’t come their way? How will they cope when no one thinks they’re special any more?

I’m afraid they could be in for a hard landing.

And how.

It’s an interesting essay and a great conclusion, but the author’s consistent use of “she” as a pronoun along the way, leapfrogging from the now doubleplus ungood crimethink use of “he” past “he or she” all the way to “she” makes one pause for a double-take. Particularly given, as Dr. Helen has noted, academia’s own war on young men over the past decade or so. In a chapter of his 1995 book The Vision of the Anointed titled “The Crusades of the Anointed,” Thomas Sowell explored the thinking behind the crusade that drove what he called “The Generic ‘He’” out of first academic and then most MSM writing. By 2010, Theodore Dalrymple noted: 

I get to review quite a number of books published by academic presses, British and American, and I have found that the use of the impersonal “she” is now almost universal, even when the writer is aged and is most unlikely to have chosen this locution for himself (or herself). It is therefore an imposed locution, and as such sinister.

But then in the 21st century, there are precious little snowflakes of all ages whom we don’t dare offend.

HAS THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT EVER HAD SEX? “The act of sex is not illegal. But if two members of the American Law Institute have their way, it will be — unless you follow their rules.”

2 QUESTIONS FOR THE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES IN THE AFTERMATH OF THE SAME-SEX MARRIAGE CASE.  I’m extracting these questions from something Lindsey Graham said on “Meet the Press” this morning when he was asked what he thought about the same-sex marriage case:

I think it’s a transformational moment. There are a lot of upset people who believe in traditional marriage. They’re disappointed, they’re down right now. But, the court has ruled, so here’s where I stand. If I’m president of the United States, here’s what would happen. If you have a church, a mosque, or a synagogue, and you’re following your faith, and you refuse to perform a same-sex marriage, because it’s outside the tenets of your faith. In my presidency you will not lose your tax-exempt status. If you’re a gay person or a gay couple, if I’m president of the United States, you will be able to participate in commerce and be a full member of society, consistent with the religious beliefs of others who have rights also.

Here are the questions:

1. Will you pledge that religious organizations that refuse to perform same-sex marriages will not lose their tax-exempt status?

2. Who do you think should prevail if there is a conflict between the interests of gay people — as they engage in commerce and seek full membership in society — and the interests of religious people — as they try to frame their conduct to accord with the tenets of their religion?

SPACE IS HARD: SPACEX ROCKET EXPLODES AFTER TAKEOFF: “Today was Elon Musk’s forty-fourth birthday,” Rand Simberg writes. “I can’t know for sure, but it was probably the worst one of his life.”

ISIS ATTACKS IN AMERICA ARE COMING, Max Boot warns at Commentary:

By its own depraved standards, last Thursday and Friday were gruesomely successful days for ISIS. On Thursday, a suicide squad of ISIS fighters infiltrated Kobani, the Syrian town it had previously lost to Kurdish militia, and killed 145 residents. Then, on Friday, ISIS was linked to two massacres at different ends of the Middle East: in Tunisia a gunman armed with an Ak-47 killed at least 47 vacationers at a beach resort, while in Kuwait a suicide bomber killed at least 24 Shiites at a mosque. ISIS may also be connected to the French Muslim attacker who beheaded the manager of an American-owned chemical plant in France and tried to blow up the entire facility. All this only a few days after ISIS released another of its patented snuff films showing prisoners being drowned alive in a cage.

The exact connections between ISIS and the foreign attacks remains to be determined but the fact that ISIS claimed credit for the Kuwait and Tunisia attacks suggests that it is expanding its attention, from Syria and Iraq toward a more international wave of terror designed to better compete with Al Qaeda, which has long been focused on the “far enemy” (i.e., the U.S. and its allies). Already ISIS sympathizers have been linked to attacks in the U.S. such as the thwarted attempt to shoot up an exhibition of Mohammad cartoons in Texas. It’s a safe bet that the U.S. will not be exempt from ISIS’ growing foreign focus, and that some future attacks will succeed.

This current period really does have a summer of 2001 feel to it, doesn’t it?

GREECE RUNS OUT OF OTHER PEOPLE’S MONEY: “In addition to Margaret Thatcher’s famous maxim about socialists eventually running out of other people’s money, there is also Stein’s Law. This was coined by Herb Stein, chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers during Richard Nixon’s presidency: ‘If something cannot go on forever, it will stop.’ And the problem of the Eurozone’s weaker nations expecting bailouts from their rich neighbors obviously cannot go on forever. So what happens when it stops? We don’t know.”


In an interview last year on a Texas radio station, I was asked when China would “finally do something” about North Korea’s manic threats to launch a nuclear attack.

Perhaps an uneasy memory of spring 2013′s revelation that North Korea had Austin, Texas, on its ICBM target list spurred the question.

Nuclear war in your hometown courtesy of North Korean Stalinists is a legitimate worry, one shared by residents of Seoul and Tokyo. Achieving a political solution that avoids violence is most desirable; a solution that promotes long-term stability and peace, even more so.

However, no one can answer “when” something will happen. The future is the Land of If, inviting speculation but defying prediction.

Read the whole thing.

AT AMAZON: Deep discounts on cameras.


Chris Squire, the co-founder and longtime bassist of prog rock icons Yes and the only member of the group to feature on every studio album, has passed away just over a month after revealing that he was suffering from a rare form of leukemia. Squire was 67. Current Yes keyboardist Geoff Downes first tweeted the news, “Utterly devastated beyond words to have to report the sad news of the passing of my dear friend, bandmate and inspiration Chris Squire.”

Back in May of 2001, there was a history of the bass guitar up to that point with the modest title of How the Fender Bass Changed the World, but Leo Fender’s invention of a fretted bass guitar really did change popular music in radical ways. Listening to the first Beatles records, Paul McCartney was basically playing four to the bar oompah tuba-style rhythmic bass parts on bass guitar. By the mid-‘60s, he was playing melodies on bass, intricate mini-compositions in their own right. Numerous other bass players emerged during that period with a similar melodic style, including John Entwistle of the Who and John Paul Jones of Led Zeppelin. All of these players took their cue from the brilliant Motown house bassist James Jamerson, who was arguably the first musician to realize the potential of the Fender bass, as the moving 2002 documentary Standing in the Shadows of Motown explored.

Squire absorbed all of those influences, but happened to play in a band devoted to virtuosoism and flash for its own sake, which made Yes reviled by rock critics, particularly as the back-to-basics punk/new wave scene emerged in the mid-to-late ‘70s. (One of Rolling Stone’s early 1980s record guides edited by veteran rock journalist Dave Marsh just took a sledgehammer to the group’s reputation, dismissing them as “Classical rockers with hearts of cold… perhaps the epitome of uninvolved, pretentious and decidedly nonprogressive music, so flaccid and conservative that it became the symbol of uncaring platinum success, spawning more stylistic opponents than adherents.”)

All of which made the band’s reemergence with a tightly arranged Fairlight synthesizer dominated chart-topping production by Trevor Horn called “Owner of a Lonely Heart” so amazing in 1983, which also featured some tastefully melodic playing by Squire. RIP.

PITCH PERFECT: IS CELEMONY’S MELODYNE THE MOST VERSATILE PITCH CORRECTION SOFTWARE EVER? Over at the PJ Lifestyle blog, I have a review of Melodyne, the incredible pitch correction software for music recording that’s capable of so much more than just correcting the pitch of lead vocals, including pitch correction of harmonies, instruments, drum editing, and sound mangling in general. If you make it to the end of the article, you can hear how Melodyne performs on the toughest test of all: making my own singing voice sound in tune.

Update: Link corrected.


A mission by an unmanned SpaceX Falcon-9 rocket has ended in failure after it exploded after lift-off from Cape Canaveral, Florida.

The rocket was supposed to despatch a cargo ship to the International Space Station (ISS).

The lower segment of the rocket was then meant to turn around and use its engines to bring itself down to a floating barge.

It was US company SpaceX’s third failed attempt at the manoeuvre.

Bids in January and April ended in explosive impacts in the Atlantic Ocean.

“The vehicle has broken up,” said Nasa commentator George Diller, after Nasa television broadcast images of the white rocket falling to pieces.

Video at link.

IT TAKES A LOT OF LOBBYISTS to do something new in America, at least if it involves atoms as well as bits. Here’s a (rather disapproving) account of how Uber became legal in Portland.


IN THE MAIL: What Pet Should I Get? (Classic Seuss).

AVOID DECISION FATIGUE – EAT THE SAME BREAKFAST EVERY DAY – I’ve had the same, relatively strange, breakfast (canned alaskan salmon on a rice cake, with a banana, and an apple on the side) every day for years.  One decision eliminated at the start of the day.

YES. NEXT QUESTION: Should news outlets declare allegiances?

NBC ANCHOR: Purge of Confederate Flag is ‘Desecration’ of American History.

HILLARY-LERNER 2016: As many as 24,000 of Lois Lerner’s IRS emails missing.

AT AMAZON, fresh deals on bestselling products, updated every hour.

Also, coupons galore in Grocery & Gourmet Food.

Plus, Kindle Daily Deals.

And, Today’s Featured Digital Deal. The deals are brand new every day, so browse and save!

20 ESSENTIAL JOB INTERVIEW TIPS: “Employers check Facebook accounts so make sure all your photos looking at a spreadsheet and punching the air.”

And on a more serious note, “you won’t be 25 years old forever. You might even, in fact, end up dreading that all that stuff you wrote back then [on Facebook and Twitter] might surface at the worst possible moment. Because it does that, you know.”

(Via Ace of Spades.)


JONATHAN RAUCH: HOW MY PREDICTIONS ABOUT GAY MARRIAGE TURNED OUT. A thoughtful early advocate of gay marriage (and a strong advocate of marriage in general), writes about what he got right, what he got wrong, and what remains to be seen. Worth a read, regardless of your views on the issue.

ROGER KIMBALL ON JUSTICE KENNEDY’S RUSSIAN DOLL:Whatever your position on same-sex marriage, if you care about the future of democracy in America, you should be profoundly disturbed by last week’s proceedings in which bloviating hermeneutical ingenuity gave cover to breathtaking judicial triumphalism.”

AS A WISE MAN ONCE SAID, PUNCH BACK TWICE AS HARD: Univision’s Attack on Donald Trump Backfires.


For starters, the subpoena was unnecessary because the comments obviously weren’t real threats. One of the commenters scooped up in this had written, “I hope there is a special place in hell reserved for that horrible woman” while another opined, “I’d prefer a hellish place on Earth be reserved for her as well.” What kind of country are we living in where you get in hot water for such tepid blaspheming? Even the more outrageous comments—“Its (sic) judges like these that should be taken out back and shot” —wouldn’t exactly stir fear in the heart of anyone who has accessed the Web since AOL stopped charging by the hour.

As White writes, “True threat analysis always examines context. Here, the context strongly weighs in favor of hyperbole. The comments are on the Internet, a wretched hive of scum, villainy, and gaseous smack talk. They are on a political blog, about a judicial-political story; such stories are widely known to draw such bluster. They are specifically at Reason.com, a site with excellent content but cursed with a group of commenters who think such trash talk is amusing.”

But here’s the thing we non-lawyers might think of first: To the extent that the feds actually thought these were serious plans to do real harm, why the hell would they respond with a slow-moving subpoena whose deadline was days away? By spending five minutes doing the laziest, George Jetson-style online “research” (read: Google and site searches), they would have found publicly available info on some of the commenters. I’m talking things like websites and Google+ pages. One of the commenters had literally posted thousands of comments at Reason.com, from which it is clear that he (assuming it is a he) is not exactly a threat to anyone other than common decency.

But that’s your tax dollars at work, costing a reputable, award-winning website—albeit one that is sharply critical of government when it comes to snooping in the boardroom and the bedroom—time and money to comply with a subpoena for non-threatening readers. Even worse, the feds are doing the same to readers who may or may not have any resources to help them comply with legal proceedings that can go very wrong very quickly.

As Mark Steyn likes to say, “The process is the punishment.”

SUNDAY MORNING DECLINE AND FALL: “What do you hold to be the top five — objective — causes of the collapse of the Roman Empire? Why do you think them more important than the others?”, asks Claire Berlinski at Ricochet. “And don’t you find it relaxing to take a day away from contemplating current affairs? I don’t know why thinking about this subject hasn’t relaxed me yet, but I’m sure it will as I meditate upon it more deeply.”


This reminds me of a hypothetical I offered in 2010:

Assume you make $50,000 a year. The legislature passes a law imposing a hefty tax on “people making over $100,000 per year.” Since the law does not apply to you, by its plain terms, you do not pay the tax. However, you are convicted after a judge finds irrefutable contemporaneous evidence showing that all legislators who voted for the tax intended to impose it on people making over $10,000 a year. The judge, an “intentionalist,” finds that the intent of the legislature controls, regardless of the plain meaning of the law.

Under the plain language of the law, the tax does not apply to you. Applying the intent of the legislators, it does. Which is the better interpretation?

Read the whole thing.


MEGAN MCARDLE: HEALTH INSURANCE IS A FINANCIAL PRODUCT. It may not save lives–recent studies suggest it doesn’t–but, like other forms of insurance, it forestalls financial catastrophe.

Medical expenses really are different from other kinds of public policy programs, because they can be so wildly variable; 99 families out of 100 would be better off if you gave them cash instead of insurance, but the 100th will be hit by an expense that they could never realistically pay.

And that is what insurance is really for. As a health-care economist pointed out to me when the Oregon results came out, they were not actually all that surprising. Insurance is a financial product. It handles financial problems very well. We don’t expect car insurance to make us better drivers, or homeowner’s insurance to keep our house from burning down. Sure, insurance may change some behavior on the margins. But the direction of that change is not necessarily clear: Do you drive more safely to keep your rates down, or take more chances, because someone else will pay the bill if you damage another car? And whatever changes insurance produces are probably pretty marginal. Mostly what insurance does is protect us from financial ruin … and thereby, let us sleep a little easier at night.

The question, then, is “What program would you design if you wanted to give people the benefits that we know insurance confers?”

See her ideas here.

SLOWER PLEASE: Study Shows that 1 in 4 cancer research papers contain faked data.

AND FOR YOUR FINAL DOSE OF INSOMNIA THEATER: HARVEY ON HARVARD’S FREE SPEECH BAIT AND SWITCH – Check out this video of FIRE co-founder Harvey Silverglate’s take on the importance of free speech on campus and Harvard’s deception when it comes to academic freedom.

June 27, 2015

U.S. AUTHORITIES WORRY OF TERROR ATTACK OVER 4TH OF JULY, a story that dovetails remarkably well with Elizabeth’s link a few minutes ago to Bari Weiss’ Wall Street Journal article on “Love Among the Ruins,” and its reference to the 21st century’s eerie “split-screen age.”

PROGRESSIVES NEED PERSPECTIVE: . . .according to Bari Weiss, who writes about “Love Among the Ruins.

On Friday my phone was blowing up with messages, asking if I’d seen the news. Some expressed disbelief at the headlines. Many said they were crying.

None of them were talking about the dozens of people gunned down in Sousse, Tunisia, by a man who, dressed as a tourist, had hidden his Kalashnikov inside a beach umbrella. Not one was crying over the beheading in a terrorist attack at a chemical factory near Lyon, France. The victim’s head was found on a pike near the factory, his body covered with Arabic inscriptions. And no Facebook friends mentioned the first suicide bombing in Kuwait in more than two decades, in which 27 people were murdered in one of the oldest Shiite mosques in the country.

They were talking about the only news that mattered: gay marriage. . . .

The barbarians are at our gates. But inside our offices, schools, churches, synagogues and homes, we are posting photos of rainbows on Twitter. It’s easier to Photoshop images of Justice Scalia as Voldemort than it is to stare evil in the face.

You can’t get married if you’re dead.

True that.

IT’S WORTH CONSIDERING: Ted Cruz: Constitutional Remedies to a Lawless Supreme Court.

The Framers of our Constitution, despite their foresight and wisdom, did not anticipate judicial tyranny on this scale. The Constitution explicitly provides that justices “shall hold their Offices during good Behaviour,” and this is a standard they are not remotely meeting. The Framers thought Congress’s “power of instituting impeachments,” as Alexander Hamilton argued in the Federalist Papers, would be an “important constitutional check” on the judicial branch and would provide “a complete security” against the justices’ “deliberate usurpations of the authority of the legislature.”

But the Framers underestimated the justices’ craving for legislative power, and they overestimated the Congress’s backbone to curb it. It was clear even before the end of the founding era that the threat of impeachment was, in Thomas Jefferson’s words, “not even a scarecrow” to the justices. Today, the remedy of impeachment — the only one provided under our Constitution to cure judicial tyranny — is still no remedy at all. . . .

The time has come, therefore, to recognize that the problem lies not with the lawless rulings of individual lawless justices, but with the lawlessness of the Court itself. . . .

Rendering the justices directly accountable to the people would provide such a remedy. Twenty states have now adopted some form of judicial retention elections, and the experience of these states demonstrates that giving the people the regular, periodic power to pass judgment on the judgments of their judges strikes a proper balance between judicial independence and judicial accountability. . . .

I am proposing an amendment to the United States Constitution that would subject the justices of the Supreme Court to periodic judicial-retention elections. Every justice, beginning with the second national election after his or her appointment, will answer to the American people and the states in a retention election every eight years.

It is time to give serious consideration to such a constitutional amendment. Very few lawyers are exposed, in today’s law schools, to any method of constitutional interpretation other than “living” constitutionalism. Accordingly, the existing and future generations of Supreme Court Justices–drawn mostly from law schools such as Harvard and Yale, which are dominated by elitist progressive, living constitutionalist faculty–cannot be counted on to appreciate, much less adhere to, public meaning originalism. If this is the case, neither the remote threat of impeachment nor the replacement of Justices with new ones will check runaway Justices intent on acting like super-legislators.

Giving more power back into the hands of We the People is desirable. But do the American people care enough to mobilize to the extent required for ratification of a constitutional amendment? It takes 2/3 of both Houses of Congress (or 2/3 of States acting in convention) to propose a constitutional amendment, and then 3/4 of States must ratify.  I don’t know.

AT AMAZON: Newest pre-orders in Movies & TV.

ORTHODOX CHRISTIANS MUST NOW LEARN TO LIVE AS EXILES IN OUR OWN COUNTRY:  “Discerning the meaning of the present moment requires sobriety, precisely because its radicalism requires of conservatives a realistic sense of how weak our position is in post-Christian America,” Rod Dreher of the American Conservative writes in Time magazine.

A GAY CONSERVATIVE’S REACTION TO THE SUPREME COURT DECISION LEGALIZING THE RIGHT TO GAY MARRIAGE: “This morning, my partner of 15 years and I looked at each other and jokingly realized that perhaps – under common law – we were already legally married. So, like any good American, I immediately called our lawyer.”

JEB BUSH DIGS A DEEPER HOLE ON JUDGES. In responding to criticism of his brother’s selection of John Roberts to be Chief Justice, Jeb Bush revealed what he looked for in choosing judges as governor. Turns out it is exactly the sort of judicial conservatism that gave us our current problem with the Supreme Court:

“When I was governor, we tried to find people with a proven record of judicial restraint, and people that were committed to enforcing the constitutional limits on government authority. In essence, what I’m saying is I think we need to have people that have not just theoretically, but have had a proven record of not legislating from the bench.”

He then doubled down:

“All justices disappoint their presidents some of the time but Souter was like a 90 percent swing and miss,” Hewitt said. “How do you avoid Souters?”
“You focus on people to be Supreme Court justices who have a proven record of judicial restraint,” Bush answered.

This is exactly the problem with the judicial philosophy promoted by many conservatives for the past 30 years: “judicial restraint” in “enforcing constitutional limits on government authority” leads to NFIB v. Sebelius.  In fairness, that is not what Bush actually said but, as George Will recently observed, that is what this judicial philosophy produces in practice.

Thoughtful conservatives today will insist that, properly defined, “judicial restraint” includes enforcing constitutional limits, and the term could be defined that way.  But that is not the mentality of “restraint” as it was originally formulated by the Progressives and has been perpetuated by some conservatives. For years, “judicial restraint” has been primarily about not thwarting the will of “democratic majorities.” There are myriad doctrines to accomplish this. For example, you adopt a “presumption of constitutionality” that cannot be rebutted. Or find a “saving construction” of a statute to avoid finding it unconstitutional. Or you “defer” to administrative agencies’ interpretation of statutes. Or you make a statute “work” as the “legislature intended” (even if that means ignoring the plain or natural reading of its words).

Many good conservatives truly wanted Obamacare invalidated in NFIB because it was unconstitutional. And they then sincerely wanted it to be enforced according to its terms in King. But selecting judges with the judicial mindset of “judicial restraint” and “deference” to the majoritarian branches leads to the results we witnessed in NFIB and King. If conservatives persist in supporting presidents who select judges on this basis, they will persist in being disappointed.

I know, I know. What about Obergefell and gay marriage? Didn’t that result from a lack of “restraint”? No, if you don’t approve of Obergefell, it is because you do not agree with the constitutional rationale Justice Kennedy articulated for invalidating the state laws at issue, not because he was “unrestrained.” Winning Obergefell on the grounds urged by Chief Justice Roberts in his dissenting opinion also gives you NFIB and King. If you want to avoid the latter, then you should criticize the majority on the ground that Justice Thomas did in his dissent: that the majority misinterpreted the Due Process Clause, not that they were “unrestrained.” You will notice that Chief Justice Roberts did not join Justice Thomas’s dissent (though regrettably, Justices Thomas and Scalia joined his). The Chief Justice’s dissent was all about restraint and only secondarily about correctness. He cited Lochner v. New York 16 times because Lochner was supposedly about activism, rather than appropriate restraint. In contrast, Justice Thomas appealed to the original meaning of “the due process of law.” There is a big big difference between these two judicial mindsets.

So, if conservative Republicans want a different performance from the judiciary in the future, they must vet their presidential candidates to see whether they understand this point. Jeb Bush clearly does not. And I have personally heard Marco Rubio and Carly Fiorina say much the same sort of thing about judges, showing that they do not understand this either–at least not yet. Only Rand Paul has been very clear about the duty of judges to invalidate unconstitutional law without restraint or deference.

I haven’t heard yet what other candidates think about this, but everyone should be listening closely. If you hear catch phrases like “judicial restraint,” “deferring” to “the democratic branches,” or “not legislating from the bench,” then you know this candidate intends to repeat the mistakes of past Republican presidents.

Conservatives must learn from the recent past what not to look for in a justice.

Cross posted on The Volokh Conspiracy.