March 3, 2015

IN THE MAIL: Gordon R. Dickson, Spirit of Dorsai (Childe Cycle Book 5).

Plus, today only: 50% off 7 For All Mankind Jeans for men and women.

TAXPROF ROUNDUP: The IRS Scandal, Day 663.


The core problem of the welfare state is that it relieves people of the need for family to take care of them, but it does not relieve society of the need for caretakers. In fact, because there’s evidence that more generous social-security systems cause people to reduce their fertility, you can argue that these systems are undercutting the very actuarial basis upon which they depend.

The effect is what social-security systems are struggling with around the world: As the ratio of workers to retirees declines, it gets harder and harder to raise the tax revenue to cover benefits. Though Americans talk anxiously about the fiscal health of our systems, international pension-reform wonks actually look enviously at our system, which contains fewer of the incentives for earlier retirement that plague many countries.

But our demographic transition is not just a problem of pension math. There’s also the problem of what it does to economic growth as society ages. As workforce growth slows, so does gross domestic product growth. In theory, this can be made up with greater productivity growth. But productivity growth is moving in the wrong direction — and because older people tend to be more risk-averse as workers and investors, that too may be a natural result of an aging society.

And, of course, there is the question of who will provide the actual hands-on care that people need. Here, the usual solution proposed is immigration. There are a couple of problems with that. The first is that everywhere else is undergoing the same demographic transition as we are, so the limitless supply of young foreigners may dry up as aging parents require them to be nearer to home and family capital gets concentrated upon a few people rather than dispersed among many children.

But there’s another problem, which is that old people are often vulnerable. This is why stories of abuses in nursing homes are so common; it is not that the state doesn’t care about the people in its charge, but that “the state” does not actually provide the care — individual people do, some of whom are badly motivated. And incentives get very tangled when strangers are in charge of caring for frail people who may be experiencing cognitive decline.

Yep. Even in fancy, expensive places, the staff doesn’t have nearly the incentive to look after you that family does, something that’s being demonstrated right now in my own life and family.

USING FEAR TO LIMIT CIVIL RIGHTS IS AN OLD GAME: WaPo Tries to Stir Up Panic to Reverse Constitutional Carry Momentum.

ANDREW KLAVAN: The Republican who can win the general election is whichever one realizes that he is running against the news media. That’s right. They’re not fair or professional. Heck, they’re not even biased. They’re actively working to help Democrats win, and to make Republicans lose.

OVER AT PJ MEDIA, liveblogging Bibi’s speech.

YA THINK? Byron York: Scott Walker is headed for trouble with the GOP establishment. They’re worried he might win, and with GOP majorities in Congress actually try to do something.

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L’ETAT C’EST MOI: President Obama Is ‘Very Interested’ in Raising Taxes Through ‘Executive Action.’ Taxation without representation is the very definition of a tyranny, no?

LIFE IN THE DEBLASIO ERA: Murders up 20% in 2015 in year-to-year comparison, NYPD says.

CULTURE OF CORRUPTION: EXPOSED: Department of Justice Shut Down Search For Lois Lerner’s Emails.

ONWARD, CHRISTIAN SOLDIERS: Moved by plight of Christians, modern-day defenders of the faith head to Iraq to fight ISIS.

In a smoky living room in a makeshift military headquarters in this northern Iraqi city, Brett, a former U.S serviceman with tattoos of Jesus etched on his forearms, explains how he hopes to help to keep the church bells of Iraq ringing.

“Jesus tells us what you do unto the least of them, you do unto me,” said the 28-year-old from Detroit, who served an extended tour in Iraq in 2006 and 2007 and asked for his surname not to be published to protect his family at home. “I couldn’t sit back and watch what was happening, women being raped and sold wholesale.”

So in December he travelled to northern Iraq, where he joined a growing band of foreigners leaving their lives in the West behind to fight with newly formed Christian militias. The leaders of those militias say they’ve been swamped with hundreds of requests from veterans and volunteers from around the world who want to join them. . . .

Brett and others say they receive dozens of emails a day from potential recruits.

“This place will be flooded,” he said. “From Australia, Asia, literally everywhere. It’s overwhelming, it’s awesome.”

Interesting. You know, we’re always told that killing terrorists just creates more of them. Perhaps killing by terrorists will just create more terrorist opponents. . . .

SPEAKING OUT FOR DUE PROCESS: Members of civil rights commission oppose ‘disregard for rule of law’ over campus sexual assault rules.

Two members of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights have written a letter to Congress opposing the budget increase to the Department of Education for sexual assault enforcement they say disregards the rule of law.

Gail Heriot, a law professor at the University of San Diego, and attorney Peter Kirsanow sent the letter last Thursday outlining the dangers of allowing the Department’s Office for Civil Rights to continue adjudicating sexual assaults without providing due process rights to the students involved.

“[W]e have noticed a disturbing pattern of disregard for the rule of law at OCR,” the Heriot and Kirsanow wrote. “That office has all-too-often been willing to define perfectly legal conduct as unlawful.”

“Though OCR may claim to be under-funded, its resources are stretched thin largely because it has so often chosen to address violations it has made up out of thin air,” the letter added. “Increasing OCR’s budget would in effect reward the agency for frequently over-stepping the law. It also would provide OCR with additional resources to undertake more ill-considered initiatives for which it lacks authority.”

One example the letter gave of such an overreach is of sexual assault enforcement at colleges and universities.

The letter states that the now-infamous 2011 “Dear Colleague” letter, which sparked the current issues with how sexual assault is handled on campus, required universities to lower the burden of proof used in disciplinary hearings from the “clear and convincing” evidence standard to the “preponderance of the evidence” standard. The lower standard requires administrators to be just 50.01 percent sure the accuser is telling the truth over the accused, which in today’s society where there is immense federal pressure to expel accused students (whether there is even any evidence) makes it all the more dangerous.

The letter stated that nowhere in the text of Title IX, which has been used to justify the school’s need to adjudicate outside the justice system, or in earlier Office for Civil Rights regulations does it state such a low burden be used.

OCR should be defunded. And Congress should have hearings in which university presidents are grilled about the many cases in which falsely accused students were abused.

CULTURE OF CORRUPTION: State Department Walks Back Claim On Clinton Foundation Review. “The State Department is stepping back from a spokeswoman’s comment last week suggesting that the agency’s ethics lawyers signed off on donations to the Clinton Foundation during Hillary Clinton’s tenure as secretary of state.”

Plus: Hillary Clinton’s Use of Private Email at State Department Raises Flags. ” Hillary Rodham Clinton exclusively used a personal email account to conduct government business as secretary of state, State Department officials said, and may have violated federal requirements that officials’ correspondence be retained as part of the agency’s record. Mrs. Clinton did not have a government email address during her four-year tenure at the State Department. Her aides took no actions to have her personal emails preserved on department servers at the time, as required by the Federal Records Act.”

It’s like they were hiding something.

UPDATE: Hacked emails indicate that Hillary Clinton used a domain registered the day of her Senate hearings. “Examining the registry information for ‘’ reveals that the domain was first created on January 13, 2009 — one week before President Obama was sworn into office, and the same day that Clinton’s confirmation hearings began before the Senate.”

Sure seems like a deliberate attempt to evade federal law.

A DECISIVE PRO-ISRAEL SHIFT IN THE HILLARY AGE DEMO: “Americans in all age groups have grown more partial to Israel in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict over the past 15 years, but adults aged 50 and older have grown particularly likely to sympathize with the Jewish state.”

JOSH KRAUSHAAR: I Underestimated Carly Fiorina. Here’s How.

HIGHER EDUCATION BUBBLE UPDATE: Leftists Outraged University Won’t Regulate What Students Wear Off Campus.

Liberals are upset that the University of Texas–Austin is refusing to punish students for wearing politically incorrect clothing to an off-campus party. On Februay 7, members of Phi Gamma Delta threw an off-campus party that fraternity president Andrew Campbell said was supposed to be “western” themed. Some of the guests, however, had apparently heard it was a “border patrol” themed party, and showed up in “culturally insensitive” attire such as construction gear and sombreros, according to an article in the Daily Texan, the school’s official student newspaper. School administrators decided that although they would work to educate the frat members about cultural sensitivity, they could not punish anyone formally because the party was off-campus. After all, a university can hardly dictate to students what to wear everywhere they go. To me, this decision seems obvious. But some of UT’s social-justice, pro-diversity warriors are disgusted that the school will not police clothing choices for the sake of of political correctness.

I remember when clothing choice was a matter of personal freedom, and anyone who objected was a hopeless fuddy-duddy. Hey, wait, that’s still true!

SOME GOOD NEWS AT THE UNIVERSITY OF TENNESSEE COLLEGE OF LAW. My Dean, Doug Blaze, emails the faculty: “Just an update – an amazing one. Nationally applicants are down 5% and applications down 7.5%. But our applications are up 79%. In-state are up 51% and out-of-state 96%.” He adds: “BTW, the quality of the pool despite the increase in size is as good as last year.”

Well, we’ve made a lot of national lists of bargain-priced quality legal education so I guess word is spreading.

NO THANK YOU: How To Enjoy The Cold: Advice From An Arctic SCUBA Diver. I dove (on Cayman) with a fire chief from Calgary and his lovely wife a few years back, and they were extolling the virtues of ice diving. They cut a hole in the ice on a lake, and put a bunch of lanterns around it so you can find it on the way up, and then dive. I’m sure it’s lovely, but I’m more a tropical type. My regulator is certified for Arctic temperatures, but I very much doubt I’ll ever put that to the test.

On the other hand, I used to have a Russian friend who said that the problem is never that it’s too cold — it’s that you aren’t dressed warmly enough. I embrace that.

March 2, 2015

JUSTICE: Jury sentences Hasan to death for ’09 Fort Hood massacre. “Nidal Hasan, the Army psychiatrist convicted in the November 2009 shooting rampage that left 13 dead and 31 wounded, was sentenced to death Wednesday by a military jury. Prosecutors had sought the death penalty, saying Hasan’s murderous rampage at the sprawling military base here left tragic and devastating loss for victims and loved ones.” Justice, but justice delayed.

FASTER, PLEASE: Lockheed Martin’s new Compact Fusion Reactor might change humanity forever.

PHOTO OF THE DAY: Caption This: John Kerry And Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov Share The Warmth.

DR. HELEN: The Evils of the (Straight) Male Gaze.

COL. KURT SCHLICHTER FINDS THE SCHWERPUNKT IN THE CULTURE WARS: Let’s Destroy Liberal Academia. “Understand that the purpose of modern American ‘education’ is not to educate students. It is primarily to provide cushy, subsidized sinecures for liberal administrators and faculty while, secondarily, providing a forum to indoctrinate soft young minds in the liberal fetishes du jour. Actually educating students is hard, and a meaningful education is anathema to liberalism. In the liberals’ ideal world, the universities would simply fester with leftist nonsense and not even bother with trying to teach their charges anything at all. And today, it’s pretty close to being the liberals’ ideal world.”

SPACE: Spacex successfully launches two satellites in one rocket launch.

WALTER HUDSON: Atheists Can Be Moral Too.

If you’re interested in the question of whether morality can exist without God, you might enjoy Arthur Allen Leff’s discussion in Unspeakable Ethics, Unnatural Law. Or, in shorter and more pungent form, his treatment in Memorandum From The Devil. Also, these — especially the latter — are two of the best-written law review articles ever.

THIS PIECE ON GERRYMANDERING IN THE WASHINGTON POST, is okay as far as it goes, but note the casual partisanship: The “abstract” red-and-blue example features gerrymandering by the red, and the real-world focus features Republican gerrymandering. With regard to California, we’re told: “California’s districts are drawn by an independent commission, not by the parties.” This is formally true, but the California Democrats famously outfoxed the state’s hapless GOP and took over that commission, something anyone writing about politics should know.

Anyway, back when Dems dominated state legislatures, gerrymandering was all in good fun, just part of the rough-and-tumble of politics. Now that the GOP has historically high levels of state control, gerrymandering will become The Great Political Evil Of Our Time.

AT AMAZON, take 25% off luggage. As I’ve mentioned here before, I arrived late to the realization that good luggage makes traveling much easier. But it does!

Plus, big savings in the Spring Sportsmen’s Event. An “event” is like a sale, only more . . . eventful!

IT’S ALMOST AS IF THEY’RE NOT REALLY FOR HUMAN RIGHTS, JUST WAGING LAWFARE FOR THE OTHER SIDE: Human rights lawyers accused of misleading a five-year war crimes inquiry by claiming British soldiers tortured innocent Iraqis.

This is interesting, though: “Now the government is gearing up to sue law firms for millions of pounds in legal costs and calling for the PIL’s chief lawyer, Phil Shiner, to be struck off.”


JOEL KOTKIN: Misunderstanding Millennials.

STUN GUNS NOT PROTECTED BY THE SECOND AMENDMENT: A somewhat questionable opinion from Massachusetts.

“INSANELY DANGEROUS?” WELL, IT’S TRUE THAT I PREFER SCUBA. The Insanely Dangerous, Weirdly Meditative Sport of Freediving. I don’t think it’s really insanely dangerous.

AT AMAZON, deals galore in Training & Fitness.

And shop the Amazon Emergency Prep Store. Plus, Emergency & Long-Term Storage Food Deals.

Plus, Generators and Portable Power for Storm Season. I’m happy to have my generator.

A NEW METHOD FOR GROWING BRAIN CELLS. “Before it grows in one of Lancaster’s dishes, a brain organoid begins as a single skin cell taken from an adult. With the right biochemical prodding, that cell can be turned into an induced pluripotent stem cell (the kind that can mature into one of several types of cells) and then into a neuron. This makes it possible to do things that were impossible before. Now scientists can directly see how networks of living human brain cells develop and function, and how they’re affected by various drug compounds or genetic modifications. And because these mini-brains can be grown from a specific person’s cells, organoids could serve as unprecedentedly accurate models for a wide range of diseases. What goes wrong, for example, in neurons derived directly from someone with Alzheimer’s disease?”

EBOLA UPDATE: Nearly Halted in Sierra Leone, Ebola Makes Comeback by Sea. “Public health experts preparing for an international conference on Ebola on Tuesday seem to have no doubt that the disease can be vanquished in the West African countries ravaged by it in the last year. But the steep downward trajectory of new cases late last year and into January did not lead to the end of the epidemic. . . . The wharf, Tamba Kula, is an informal settlement where hundreds of people live in shanties made of reclaimed wood and corrugated metal roofs. At the slum’s entrance, a towering sign displays an image of the Statue of Liberty, an advertisement for daily British Airways flights with connections to the United States that were canceled when the Ebola outbreak was declared.”

Plus: “I feel like these people, they aren’t ready to end Ebola yet.”

HIGHER EDUCATION BUBBLE UPDATE: America’s High-Risk, High-Reward Higher Education System.

The wage premium attached to a BA is higher than ever, and AA’s have considerable labor market value as well. This is the “high reward” part.

But for too many others, it’s a risky investment. Many who start higher education never finish a credential. Just 31 percent of those students from the bottom income quartile who start college finish a bachelor’s degree. Recent data suggests that the returns to “some college” have essentially fallen to zero. Even among those who do finish, there’s a risk that the investment won’t pay off. One study from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York show that the 25th percentile of bachelor’s degree recipients earn no more than a high school graduate, and haven’t since the 1970s.

Yes, that’s why the simplistic defenders of “a college degree” are being naive — or dishonest. There’s no such thing as a generic college degree, and the return on investment varies a lot. What’s more, there are many risks that are, from the standpoint of an 18-year-old college applicant, imponderable.

TEST DRIVE: 2015 Rolls-Royce Phantom Drophead Coupe Nighthawk.

But if you’re going to read about that car, you should read P.J. O’Rourke. “One will be sold to Puff Daddy, and the rest will go to the Persian Gulf.”

MARK CUNNINGHAM: What Our President Should Say About Islam. This is clearly something Obama doesn’t want to say, though. Why not?

WHAT FREEDOM LOOKS LIKE: I built an AR-15 in my kitchen. “Buying this kind of rifle is the modern version of getting a Corvette during your mid-life crisis—but cheaper and probably less dangerous.”

MY USA TODAY COLUMN: Quartering Spyware Troops In A Digital Age: Why Your Home Should Be Your Castle.

ANN ALTHOUSE: “Obamacare threatens to end John Roberts’s dream of a nonpartisan Supreme Court.” “Just one headline that I’m quoting to stand in for all the articles I’m seeing that seem to be mostly only about scaring/manipulating/massaging the Supreme Court into feeling deep down inside that it simply must not ruin Obamacare. To my eye, this effort seems so transparent and desperate that it heightens a perception that the text of the statute just won’t work for what they really, reeeeeally need it to do.”

YEAH, I DON’T GET IT. What’s Eating Joe Scarborough? Host Grows Testy After Saying He’s ‘Available’ To Moderate GOP Debates. I, too, got an angry DM from Scarborough, just for RTing it, but couldn’t respond because he doesn’t follow me. And I’m still mystified. I didn’t think the story reflected badly on him, particularly, and it was just one RT out of the hundreds (or more) I do in a day. And, as everyone knows, RTs aren’t endorsements. Anyway, Joe, if you’re reading this, sorry!

IN THE MAIL: Built By DIY: Frugal and Easy – DIY Household Hacks to Clean, Organize, and Declutter Your Home.

Plus, today only at Amazon: Up to 50% Off Select PC Components and Accessories.

And, also today only: 40% Off Saucony Running Shoes. Spring is coming.

TAXPROF ROUNDUP: The IRS Scandal, Day 662.

SALENA ZITO ON JOURNALISM: Arrogant media elites mock Middle America. Most of these media folks come from flyover country, and their main source of self-regard lies in feeling superior to the rubes they left back home, who never properly appreciated them in high school. . . .

PUTIN WON’T BE PLEASED: Is American LNG Ready to Help Europe?

When Russia threatened to cut off gas to Ukraine last year, policymakers on both sides of the Atlantic began to call for American gas producers to start exporting some of the enormous new quantities of shale gas to Europe as a way to help allies reduce dependence on Gazprom. At the time we pointed out two flaws in that strategy: first, constructing the requisite infrastructure on both ends of the supply chain takes years, so this would be no quick fix; and second, Europe would only receive American LNG if it outbid Asia, which at the time was ponying up a great deal.

That latter reasoning no longer holds, which changes the calculus somewhat. Already Europe is on track to double its LNG imports this year, though it’s still not sourcing that from America. That’s because the American LNG export infrastructure is still under construction. Just a few short years ago we were building import terminals; turning that completely around is neither cheap nor easy, and it won’t happen overnight.

Still, if Asian demand remains slack, Europe’s medium-term energy future looks brighter. Diversifying away from Putin’s gas supplies is obviously a top priority there, and American gas can help.

The more energy America produces — and exports — the more it hurts our various enemies around the world.

ANA MARIE COX: Why I’m Coming Out As A Christian.

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Also, coupons galore in Grocery & Gourmet Food. Stock up before Mother Nature does her worst. Er, again.

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MY USA TODAY COLUMN: Quartering Spyware Troops In A Digital Age: Why Your Home Should Be Your Castle.

ROGER KIMBALL: The Lessons Of Culture, Benjamin Netanyahu Edition.

Here we are on the eve of Benjamin Netanyahu’s address to both houses of the United States Congress. The Obama administration is acting like a petulant twelve-year-old —how dare the Prime Minister of Israel come to the United States and speak before Congress when he wasn’t invited by us? — and the rancid Pelosi-Reid contingent of the Democratic Party has promised to take their marbles and go home: they won’t even listen to what he has to say.

The ostensible issue is Iran, with which the Obama administration is currently capitula—er, negotiating. The presence of a Jew, and a Jew from Israel, in the nation’s capital (and Capitol) is sure to offend the Mullahs in Teheran and it might just upset the delicate diplomacy by which Obama privately assures that Iran gets nuclear weapons while publically pretending to prevent that eventuality.

Back in 2001, when Barack Obama was in the Illinois State Senate and still battening on the wisdom of the “Reverend” Jeremiah (“God-Damn America”) Wright, Netanyahu was more forthright, and more percipient, than most politicians about the Islamic terrorist attacks of 9/11. Those attacks, he said, were part of “a war to reverse the triumph of the West.”

Netanyahu was right then, and he is still right.

Well, that’s why so many lefties sympathize with the terrorists. They want to reverse the triumph of the West too.

VICTOR DAVIS HANSON: “Lately liberalism has gone from psychodrama to farce.” Plus: “The liberal left got what it wanted in 2009 with a supermajority in the Senate and large majority in the House, a subservient mainstream media, the good will of the American people, and the most liberal president in American history. It only took that the liberal hierarchy six years to erode the Democratic Party to levels that we have not seen since the 1920s. Almost every policy initiative we have seen — whether climate change, foreign policy, health care, or race relations — has imploded. The answer to these failures has not been introspection, humility, or reevaluation why the liberal agenda proved unpopular and unworkable, but in paranoid fashion to double-down on it, convinced that its exalted aims must allow any means necessary — however farcical — to achieve them. The logical result is the present circus.”

MIA LOVE: The Idea Of A Republican War On Women Is Absolutely Ridiculous.

Love, who spoke to the Washington Examiner after a panel at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington, D.C., said that the real issues facing Americans are not “gender specific,” but affect everyone.

“As a woman, I believe that I have the ability to … pay for and decide my own healthcare,” Love said. “I don’t need Washington to do that for me.”

She added: “I think that it’s actually insulting to claim that women can’t make decisions on their own, that they need a centralized government to make those decisions for them.”

In that respect, Love said, the war on women is really coming from Democrats.

“It comes from the idea that they’d like to separate us based on social status, gender, race, income levels,” Love said. “And we as Americans can’t allow that.”

Divide and rule has always been their strategy. Plus:

Love knows a little something about rising up from having nothing. Her parents emigrated to the U.S. from Haiti in the 1970s after fleeing from a ruthless dictatorship. They spoke no English when they settled in New York and, according to Love, had $10 in their pockets. Her father has expressed pride that he and his wife were able to support their family without welfare — just help from family members. It is that idea of community support, rather than government dependence, that resonates with Love today.

“I think that we, as Americans, need to trust people again,” she said.

Nonsense. We have Hillary — richer than Jeb Bush! — to tell us how to help the downtrodden. Hey, she’s worth 9 figures now, but she was “dead broke” in 2001. She knows about rising from nothing!

JOEL KOTKIN: The Empire Strikes Back.

In his first six years in office, President Obama has performed well for those who wrote those checks. He brought in Wall Street insiders such as Timothy Geithner and Larry Summers to concoct his economic policy, which brought a recovery to the financial plutocracy before virtually anyone else. Wall Street was back by 2009; the rest of us have had to wait for 2015.

Obama and the Democrats in Congress also handed the big banks a nice gift in the form of the Dodd-Frank Bill which helped them achieve that “too big to fail” status and has accelerated the growing consolidation of the American financial system. Indeed, since Dodd-Frank was passed smaller banks’ share of banking assets has dropped twice as quickly as before, notes a recent Harvard Kennedy School of Government study. Smaller and community banks – historically more likely to loan to small businesses – have seen a 50 percent drop in their share of lending while the the five largest banks now control over 40 percent of lending, twice their share 20 years ago.

The big banks were saved as well by Attorney General Eric Holder’s decision not to engage in tough prosecutions of Wall Street’s biggest malefactors, in part, he explained, due to their enormous size.

Essentially, he has argued the giant banks, nurtured by the government, are too big to not only fail but see their executives placed in the docket.

To be sure, President Obama’s occasional populist rhetoric did offend many on Wall Street, which in 2012 shifted much of its support to former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, who, after all, was one of their own. Obama still did fairly well on Wall Street. In his two campaigns he ended up raising almost twice as much from Wall Street as his predecessor, George W. Bush.

Now that there are no new campaigns to fund, Holder is beginning to discuss prosecutions of grandees again, no doubt unsettling some on Wall Street and its associated hangers-on. But, even so, Treasury remains under the thumb of yet another insider, former Citibank executive Jacob Lew.

Yeah, if you want the big banks controlled, you’re better off voting for a non-establishment Republican.

HIGHER EDUCATION BUBBLE UPDATE, LEGAL EDUCATION EDITION: Tuition at Top Law Schools Surpasses $55K Per Year. Bear in mind that this is “sticker price” with most students getting discounts disguised as financial aid.

IT’S BASICALLY A 21ST CENTURY REEFER MADNESS, AIMED AT COLLEGE MEN: Emily Yoffe: The Hunting Ground: The failures of a new documentary about rape on college campuses.

Any professor who shows it in class should probably be reported for gender bias, and creating a learning environment hostile to male students.

JONATHAN ADLER: The “censorious thuggery” of Ohio Judge Tim Grendell. “If you were a judge, would you threaten to hold people in contempt of court because of things they said about you in private conversations? As a VC reader, I am sure you wouldn’t. Alas, the same cannot be said of Ohio judge Tim Grendell of the Geauga County Court of Common Pleas Probate and Juvenile Division. And that’s only part of the story.”

DON’T KNOW MUCH ABOUT HISTORY: At least, not if you’re the Washington Post’s Phillip Rucker. Ed Driscoll schools him on Reagan, Patco, and foreign affairs.

Note this from Reagan’s Secretary of State, George Schultz: “‘One of the most fortuitous foreign relations moves he ever made.’ It was in no way a popular move with the American public but it showed European heads of state and diplomatic personnel that he was tough and meant what he said.”

WELL, I HOPE SO — BUT HE SURE WIMPED OUT LAST TIME: The Hill: Is Supreme Court’s chief justice ready to take down ObamaCare?

U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts faced a conservative backlash after casting a decisive vote to save ObamaCare in 2012.

Now he must weigh in on the law once again.

The case of King v. Burwell, set for arguments before the Court on Wednesday, threatens to gut the law by invalidating subsidies to help millions of people buy insurance in the roughly three-dozen states relying on the federally run marketplace.

While it is legally far different than the 2012 case — a question of interpreting the text of the law rather than ruling on its constitutionality — Roberts faces the same kind of scrutiny.

After Roberts’s surprise ruling in a 5-4 decision to uphold the law the last time, conservatives denounced him as a sellout. Conservative host Glenn Beck printed T-shirts with Roberts’s picture above the word “COWARD.” Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, now a possible Republican presidential candidate, said Roberts was “just playing to the editorial pages of The Washington Post and The New York Times.”

CBS reported after the decision, citing two anonymous sources, that Roberts had switched his vote to uphold the law and withstood a fierce lobbying campaign from the conservative wing of the Court.

A more accurate account would note that he caved to a fierce lobbying campaign from Democratic academics and pundits.

LET ME COUNT THE WAYS: Political reporter ponders why people hate political reporters.

But being lazy, prejudiced political tools, eager to embrace the (Democratic) narrative of the day uncritically — the way so many of you jumped on the easily-debunked Jezebel Scott Walker story, because of course Republicans are Pro-Rape — might be part of the problem. Just sayin. . . .

March 1, 2015

THIS KIND OF THING KEEPS HAPPENING: Deadly bacteria release sparks concern at Louisiana lab. “A dangerous, often deadly, type of bacteria that lives in soil and water has been released from a high-security laboratory at the Tulane National Primate Research Center in Louisiana. Officials say there is no risk to the public. Yet despite weeks of investigation by multiple federal and state agencies, the cause of the release and the extent of the contamination remain unknown, according to interviews and records obtained by USA TODAY.” Remain calm. All is well. We have top men working on this. Top. Men.

IN CALIFORNIA, foreign workers hired to process Americans’ unemployment applications. A perfect metaphor for Obama’s America.

A TARGET-RICH ENVIRONMENT: Mark Levin Obliterates the Democratic Party, Obama and the GOP.

I DUNNO. WHY DO WOMEN PREFER TO DATE MEN WITH TWICE THEIR INCOME? Why are older men looking at women half their age? It’s disheartening that men in their 50s seem so focused on looks.

Of course, while British women are complaining that “no man I know has ever been told that his powers, his allure, his charm have faded, and that he has to face up to that redundancy,” those middle-aged British men are committing suicide at increasing rates.

JOEL ACHENBACH: Is There Life Beyond Earth? Do We Even Want To Know? “Brin, a signer of the petition protesting the campaign for active SETI, said we don’t know what’s out there and shouldn’t presume that aliens are benign. He said there are roughly 100 scenarios to explain why we haven’t heard from the aliens so far. About a dozen of those scenarios are unpleasant, he said.”

Plus, Frank Drake comments: “I think it’s a waste of time at the present. It’s like somebody trying to send an e-mail to somebody whose e-mail address they don’t know, and whose name they don’t know.”

I’ve seen several recent discussions of this topic that seem unaware that there were international agreements entered into over two decades ago on the subject of whether and how to communicate with extraterrestrial intelligences. I discuss them at some length in this piece from the Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law. They’re agreements, not treaties, and don’t have the force of law, but the press coverage seems entirely oblivious to their existence.

I also recommend Ben Bova’s book.

UPDATE: First link was bad before. Fixed now. Sorry!

JOEL KOTKIN: The Three Faces Of Populism. “The real target of Davos populists is not themselves, of course. Instead, the effort is to further burden Obama’s version of Josef Stalin’s harsh treatment of Kulaks, the early Soviet Union’s successful but hardly ultrarich peasant class. Megan McArdle aptly describes Obama’s proposal – abandoned this past week – to tax college savings accounts to pay for subsidized college as ‘a plan to redistribute money from the upper middle class to the lower middle class.’ . . . Not surprisingly, after six years of minimal income gains and numerous tax increases, the middle class – Americans making roughly $60,000 to $90,000 – remains far less sympathetic to Obama’s policies than either the rich or the poor. Yet none of this likely affects the Davos attendees, like billionaire real estate investor Jeff Greene, who said, to fight climate change, Americans need to ‘live a smaller existence.’ This, coming from a man with five houses, including a Beverly Hills estate listed at $195 million, does not constitute an ideal populist program.”

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MY USA TODAY COLUMN: Quartering Spyware Troops In A Digital Age: Why Your Home Should Be Your Castle.

ONWARD, CHRISTIAN SOLDIERS: How Syria’s Christians stopped turning the other cheek. “For the last week, they have been fighting the jihadists of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant across a major front in north-west Syria, in alliance with the YPG, the Kurdish defence forces. They have had mixed fortunes, but the battle has energised Middle East Christians worldwide – many of them exiles who fled the chaos of post-Saddam Iraq.”

Praise the lord, and pass the ammunition.

HIGHER EDUCATION BUBBLE UPDATE, LEGAL EDUCATION EDITION: Video: What the State of Law Schools Can Teach the Rest of Higher Ed.

THE SURPRISING ORIGINS OF WONDER WOMAN: “Frankly, Wonder Woman is psychological propaganda for the new type of woman who, I believe, should rule the world.”

Plus, her role in offsetting Batman and Superman’s “blood-curdling masculinity.” And: “Women enjoy submission—being bound.” Christian Grey, call DC Comics!

And: “Because Marston kept his true relationship with Olive Byrne a secret, he kept his family’s ties to Margaret Sanger a secret, too. Marston, Byrne and Holloway, and even Harry G. Peter, the artist who drew Wonder Woman, had all been powerfully influenced by the suffrage, feminism and birth control movements. And each of those movements had used chains as a centerpiece of its iconography.” Stacy McCain, call your office!

WITH SO MANY OPPRESSED GROUPS, who’s left at Wesleyan to do the oppressing?

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THERE’S A SURPRISE: White House Releases Draft ‘Privacy’ Bill That’s Not Very Good.

ANDROID FOR THE PARANOID: BlackPhone maker Silent Circle announces $50 million in funding.


UPDATE: I like this from the comments:

I hereby pledge my commitment to the Instapundit unilateral mutual defense alliance. Any harm that comes to Instapundit will be deemed a harm to me, and the responsible Jihadi will thereafter be subject to revenge.


That said, I’m not the Tennessee prof. they’re targeting.

HOPEFUL READING FOR BILL CLINTON: How To Restore Your Rusted Old Tools.

FORGET IT, JAZZ. It’s Capehart-town.

IN THE MAIL: Zillow Talk: The New Rules of Real Estate.

Plus, today only at Amazon: Up to 56% Off Select H&R Block Tax Software.

TAXPROF ROUNDUP: The IRS Scandal, Day 661.

ANOTHER BIG MERCHANT dumps American Express.

It’s fair to say that this has been a terrible month for American Express. It also lost a partnership with JetBlue and, even worse, an important court case. American Express cards are more expensive for merchants to take than other cards, so merchants would like to ask customers to use other cards — only they can’t, because American Express merchant agreements forbid this. They can refuse to take the cards in the first place, of course, but then they lose customers who don’t have a Visa or MasterCard.

American Express has taken a unique approach to a competitive field. Credit cards are what economists call a “two-sided market”: They need to get both customers to take their cards and merchants to accept them. Visa and MasterCard keep their fees relatively low in order to woo merchants; AmEx has kept the fees high and passed some of that money back to customers in the form of lower fees and higher rewards. Essentially, it gambled that merchants wouldn’t dare refuse its cards as long as enough customers preferred to use them.

That gamble looks to have been a bad bet. A federal judge just ruled that it cannot place those sort of restrictions on merchants, which means American Express will have to lower its fees or lose transactions as merchants ask customers to put that purchase on another card.

I try to use American Express for everything where I don’t pay cash. I don’t like being asked to use other cards. I have other cards, but I don’t like to use them.

NO DHS FUNDING? No Problem! An innovative solution that, sadly, is probably about as effective as what we have now.

CIVIL RIGHTS UPDATE: St. Louis judge tosses out gun case, citing newly-enacted Amendment 5. “St. Louis Circuit Judge Robert Dierker ruled that the Missouri law prohibiting felons from possessing guns is unconstitutional as applied in the case of Raymond Robinson, in part because it fails to differentiate between violent and non-violent felons.” Note that the beneficiary of this decision is African-American.

ANOTHER CASE OF RECORDING POLICE OFFICERS PAYING OFF. “But here’s my question: Why aren’t the seven witnesses to Dendinger’s nonexistent assault on Cassard already facing felony charges? Why are all but one of the cops who filed false reports still wearing badges and collecting paychecks? Why aren’t the attorneys who filed false reports facing disbarment? Dendinger’s prosecutors both filed false reports, then prosecuted Dendinger based on the reports they knew were false. They should be looking for new careers — after they get out of jail. If a group of regular citizens had pulled this on someone, they’d all likely be facing criminal conspiracy charges on top of the perjury and other charges. So why aren’t these cops and prosecutors? I could be wrong, but my guess is that they’ll all be let off due to ‘professional courtesy’ or some sort of exercise of prosecutorial discretion.”

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HAVE YOU NOTICED HOW ATTACKS ON WALKER SEEM TO REBOUND ON THE ATTACKER? Media tries to smear Walker on campus sex assault reporting, gets it horribly wrong.

Members of the media were quick to report that, included in Gov. Scott Walker’s budget, was a removal of the requirements that colleges report campus sexual assault statistics to the state.

The Daily Beast, Huffington Post and others all jumped on a report in Jezebel that tried to paint Walker as being unsympathetic to sexual assault victims. Daily Beast writer Brian Weidy went so far as to claim that Walker’s proposal was “just short of explicitly violating Title IX regulations” and possible even “crossing a legal line.”

So not only is Walker a terrible person who hates victims, but he’s also maybe breaking the law. Or so they said. But for all their eagerness to pile on a leading GOP candidate for president (note the contrast to reporting on Obama in 2008), they were just plain wrong. The outlets involved had to retract the story, although a simple Google News search could have spared them the humiliation.

Walker had actually included these changes in his budget at the request of the University of Wisconsin. The school had requested that the governor remove the requirements because they were duplicative.

What I really liked was that, yet again, lots of folks on twitter — including plenty of right-leaning journos who used to hold themselves above the fray — got involved in directly challenging these journalists by name, in public. Name and shame. It’s the only way they’ll learn.

And it all started here.

Related: Daily Beast Retracts Scott Walker Story. “Another major media outlet has apologized after getting a story about Scott Walker wrong. Last week, it was the New York Times; now, it’s The Daily Beast. The Daily Beast has retracted an article from one of its college columnists that claimed that the Wisconsin governor’s budget would cut sexual assault reporting from the state’s universities.”

Plus: “The most impressive thing about Walker’s Throne of Skulls: every single skull beheaded itself.”

THE HILL: GOP urges Obama to sign college savings bill.

President Obama should get on board with House Republican legislation passed this week expanding college savings plans, Rep. Jim Renacci (R-Ohio) said in the weekly Republican address.

“Why would we make saving for college even harder? We talk all the time about rewarding people who work hard and play by the rules — well, that’s what 529 plans are,” said Renacci, who touted his upbringing in a working-class union family.

“They empower families to set up accounts for their children, right from when they’re born, and then down the line, they can use that money tax-free on books, fees, tuition and room-and-board,” he added.

This week, the House passed a bill 401-20 loosening restrictions on tax incentives and expanding the college savings plan program, after Obama scuttled a proposal to eliminate tax breaks for the plan in his annual budget.

If I were in Congress, I’d introduce legislation capping tuition at tax-exempt institutions to the equivalent of the average family income. To prevent profiteering.

FLASHBACK: Russian Money Suspected Behind Fracking Protests.

HIGHER EDUCATION BUBBLE UPDATE, LEGAL EDUCATION EDITION: John McGinnis: Those missing law school applicants? They aren’t coming back. “The most important cause of the decline in demand for legal services is technological shock. Technological change has reduced the demand for lawyers, at least at the price point law schools were delivering.”

I SUPPOSE MISCHIEVOUS REPUBLICAN LEGISLATORS MIGHT AGREE AND AMPLIFY THESE SENTIMENTS, INTRODUCING ALL SORTS OF ABSURD LAWS GOVERNING SEX ON CAMPUS UNTIL HIGHER EDUCATION IS CRUSHED UNDER THE WEIGHT OF its own sexual paranoia. “It’s the fiction of the all-powerful professor embedded in the new campus codes that appalls me. And the kowtowing to the fiction—kowtowing wrapped in a vaguely feminist air of rectitude. If this is feminism, it’s feminism hijacked by melodrama. The melodramatic imagination’s obsession with helpless victims and powerful predators is what’s shaping the conversation of the moment, to the detriment of those whose interests are supposedly being protected, namely students. The result? Students’ sense of vulnerability is skyrocketing.”

February 28, 2015

NOW OUT FROM STACY MCCAIN: Sex Trouble: Essays on Radical Feminism and the War Against Human Nature.

ANTI-SEMITISM at UCLA. “In the video below, UCLA’s student council deliberates over the application of Rachel Beyda for a position on the university’s judicial board. Ms. Beyda is acknowledged to be ‘qualified, for sure’ and ‘a great candidate, obviously.’ Yet there is a problem. ‘I just worry about her affiliations.’ She is ‘a Jewish student and very active in the Jewish community.’ The student council voted not to appoint Ms. Beyda to the judicial board.”

CARLY FIORINA ON SYRIAN REFUGEES: ‘Why Would We Think We Could Distinguish Good from Bad?’


MICHAEL WALSH: Why Do Democrats Hate Asian-Americans? Because They’re Smart And Successful.

FROM STEVE CALABRESI, some inside dirt on Supreme Court appointments.

JOHN HINDERAKER: The Obama Administration’s AR-15 Ammo Ban: What’s It All About? “Critics of the ban suggest that the Obama administration is trying to achieve a ban on AR-15 rifles through the back door. This ATF standard won’t achieve that result by itself, of course, as most AR-15 ammunition will remain legal. But the fear is not irrational; liberals have openly argued for attacks on ammunition as an indirect means of achieving gun control.”