April 19, 2015

FROM CALIFORNIA DREAMIN’ TO CALIFORNIA NIGHTMARE:  Joel Kotkin over at Daily Beast has a great piece explaining how California’s drought crisis illustrates the State’s devolution into a feudalistic society dominated by an oligarchy of super-rich liberals who’ve handcuffed the State’s ability to grow and prosper:

But ultimately the responsibility for California’s future lies with our political leadership, who need to develop the kind of typically bold approaches past generations have embraced. One step would be building new storage capacity, which Governor Jerry Brown, after opposing it for years, has begun to admit is necessary. Desalinization, widely used in the even more arid Middle East, notably Israel, has been blocked by environmental interests but could tap a virtually unlimited supply of the wet stuff, and lies close to the state’s most densely populated areas. Essentially the state could build enough desalinization facilities, and the energy plants to run them, for less money than Brown wants to spend on his high-speed choo-choo to nowhere. This piece of infrastructure is so irrelevant to the state’s needs that even many progressives, such as Mother JonesKevin Drum, consider it a “ridiculous” waste of money.

And there needs to be, at least for the short term, an end to dumping water into San Francisco Bay for the purpose of restoring a long-gone salmon run, or to the Delta, in order to save a bait-fish, the Delta smelt, which may already be close to extinct. This dumping of water has continued even as the state has faced a potentially crippling water shortage; nothing is too good for our fish, or to salve the hyper-heated consciousness of the environmental illuminati.

Kotkin concludes:

What we are witnessing the breakdown of a once-expansive, open society into one dominated by a small group of plutocrats, largely in Silicon Valley, with an “amen” crew among the low-information donors of Hollywood, the public unions, the green lobby, and wealthy real estate developers favored by Brown’s pro-density policies. This coalition backs Brown and helps maintain the state’s essentially one-party system. No one is more adamant about reducing people’s carbon footprint than the jet set of Silicon Valley or the state’s planning elite, even if they choose not to live in a manner that they instruct all others.

Yep–pretty much sums up the progressives’ approach to problems:  Political correctness+ignorance+crony capitalism= preferred “solution.”   Read the whole thing.

TAXPROF ROUNDUP: The IRS Scandal, Day 710.

ALEX NUNEZ: The evolving design themes of the 2015 Ford Mustang.

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NEWSWEEK: The Bar Exam Is Unfair And Undemocratic. Actually, the requirement for three years of law school prior to taking the bar exam — which was quite consciously put in place to keep out the poor, and in particular Jewish immigrants — is what’s really unfair and undemocratic.

LIYA PALAGASHVILI: U.S. Regulations and Taxes Stifling Entrepreneurs. “According to a Gallup article, the U.S. has dropped to 12th among developed nations in terms of business startups. Economists also recently found evidence for this downward trend in business activity and attribute it to diminished incentives for entrepreneurs to start new firms.”

IS THAT REALLY A SPIDER, OR ARE YOU BEING MONITORED?:   Today’s Wall Street Journal oped by a Harvard Law prof and a Brookings Institution fellow assert that we need a “new social contract” to handle the coming privacy and security threats:

You walk into your shower and see a spider. You don’t know whether it is venomous—or whether it is even a real spider. It could be a personal surveillance mini-drone set loose by your nosy next-door neighbor, who may be monitoring the tiny octopod robot from her iPhone 12. A more menacing possibility: Your business competitor has sent a robotic attack spider, bought from a bankrupt military contractor, to take you out. Your assassin, who is vacationing in Provence, will direct the spider to shoot an infinitesimal needle containing a lethal dose of poison into your left leg—and then self-destruct.

Meanwhile, across town, an anarchist molecular-biology graduate student is secretly working to re-create the smallpox virus, using ordinary laboratory tools and gene-splicing equipment available online. Not content to merely revive an extinct virus to which the general population has no immunity, he uses public-source academic research to make it more lethal. Then he infects himself and, just as his symptoms start, strolls around the airport to infect as many people as he can.

They’re undoubtedly right about the nature and extent of these threats, but their proffered solution is itself quite frightening:

All this challenges our security—and the way we think about the state itself. The liberal state was predicated on a social contract: We give up a certain amount of liberty to a government, which promises in turn to protect us. But that promise is becoming increasingly difficult to keep as more Big Brothers—and lots of Little Brothers too—come to command awesome technological powers.

For the state as we know it to endure, we’ll have to adapt some of the most basic organizing principles of governance, both domestic and international. . . . Still, today’s international legal order remains very much boundary-centered. It gives countries the power to legislate and enforce laws within their territories but allows relatively little latitude to regulate the conduct of foreign subjects abroad—and even less latitude to actually enforce their laws beyond their borders.

Threats that routinely span borders will force states to routinely reach across their borders through legislation that governs foreign conduct, surveillance of citizens in foreign countries, and even targeted killings. A growing number of states are already claiming that more of their laws should apply beyond their territories—for instance, by unilaterally defining cyberattacks or cybercrimes and by enforcing their domestic laws against foreign offenders acting overseas. To avoid turning the world into the Wild West, we must ensure that this increased unilateralism is checked by greater international cooperation: better governance for fragile states, more information-sharing among states and more effective means of enforcing laws where jurisdictions are unclear.

In other words, the liberal/progressive solution to this growing privacy/security threat is more government, more and greater transfer of power away to international bodies such as the U.N.  They seem to have something in mind like a beefed up International Criminal Court, in which the U.S. has thus far wisely declined participation. One World Government, anyone?

No thanks.  The last thing the U.S. needs to do is relinquish sovereignty over privacy and security matters.

How about this alternative solution:  Beef up our military and national security surveillance, improve (voluntary) information sharing with our Allies, encourage the development of enhanced privacy and security devices for individual use, and enact tougher privacy laws to make sure that your nosy neighbor with that spider drone gets some time in the pokey.

MICHAEL WILLIAMSON HAS a new book coming out, set in the distant past.

Here is a post on his research.

HEY, MAYBE UNIVERSITIES SHOULD TRY THIS: Wal-Mart Cutting Layer Of Management, Raising Wages. I wish I could run a higher education bubble update with that.

ROSS DOUTHAT: Checking Charlie Hebdo’s Privilege. “Trudeau did not exactly say they had it coming, but he passed judgment on their sins — not the sin of blasphemy, but the sin of picking a politically unsuitable target for their jabs. . . . But on the contemporary left, the theory’s simplicity is becoming a kind of intellectual straitjacket. The Hebdo massacre is just one of many cases in which today’s progressives, in the name of overthrowing hierarchies, end up assuming that lines of power are predictable, permanent and clear. Which they are not, for several reasons.”

Yeah, if mocking savages who murder “blasphemers” is “punching down,” then I’m fine with punching down. Also shooting down, bombing down. . . .

Plus: “The terrorist’s veto on portrayals of Islam is itself a very real form of power, and as long as journalists who challenge it end up dead, the idea that they are ‘up’ and their targets are ‘down’ reflects a denial of life-and-death reality. Or, to take a related example, the hundreds of white women recently raped by Pakistani gangs in England’s industrial north were theoretically higher on a ladder of privilege than their assailants. But the gangs’ actual power over their victims was only enhanced by that notional ladder, because multicultural pieties were part of what induced the authorities to look the other way.”

Multicultural pieties are an ideological weapon, designed to paralyze societal defenders. They are not the unintended consequences of goofy good intentions, but deliberately honed tools of political power, wielded without good intentions of any sort.

ANOTHER TRAGIC CONSEQUENCE OF GLOBAL WARMING. . . WAIT, WHAT? Farming moves north with the temperatures.

A century ago, corn was not a viable crop above North Dakota’s southern third. But an average temperature rise of 2.7 degrees over that period has let North Dakota farmers grow feed corn up to the Canadian border. The growing season there is three weeks longer. In farming, that’s huge.

For similar reasons, soybeans now grow in upstate New York. And though the state’s Finger Lakes region has produced hardy wine grapes for a long time, milder winters have enabled it to nurture fancier European grape varieties.

As for New England, the hope is that some centuries-old farms will become profitable, as well as picturesque. Agriculture never disappeared there, but it had to concentrate on dairy products and niche crops, such as cranberries and wild blueberries. Warmer weather opens new possibilities. For example, peaches may become a commercial crop in Maine.

A paper out of Brandeis University predicts that by 2030, the New England region could have three times as much farmland as it does now, thanks to warmer weather. Should that happen, New England may end up producing half its food.

Oh, no!

IN THE MAIL: From Philip Kotler, Confronting Capitalism: Real Solutions for a Troubled Economic System.

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IF YOU’RE MALE AND BELONG TO A FRATERNITY, YOU HAVE NO RIGHTS. YOU EXIST ON SUFFERANCE. Kansas fraternity suspended over sexually vulgar text messages. Seriously. Remember: Crucifix in urine — vital free speech! Vulgar private messages — Death penalty offense!

UPDATE: ACLU Says Speech Protected By First Amendment. Ya think? What’s troubling is that so many university administrators seem to assume that the First Amendment only protects lefty groups, and that they have a free hand to do whatever they want to groups they dislike. These administrators should be shamed, and, ideally, fired.

The President of Washburn University is Jerry Farley. According to the story above, “Farley said he plans to implement disciplinary action once the students involved are identified.” Remember, he wants to discipline students for things said in private conversations. I wonder if what’s in his emails and texts is beyond all reproach?

PERHAPS THE BIGGEST WORRY ISN’T THE PR ANGLE: Fleeing Libya, Muslims Throw Christian Refugees Overboard.

Stories like this are catnip for nationalist parties in Europe worried about the cultural effects of immigration and inter-religious tension.

Moreover, the world is seeing enormous and possibly still growing levels of refugee migration. According to the New York Times, Syria’s neighbors are being overwhelmed by more than four million refugees, and many are taking steps to restrict the flow. Western governments have still only taken in a relatively small number of Syrian refugees, despite the UN’s calls for them to open their doors.

If “refugees” aren’t willing to act grateful and behave in a civilized fashion, let them find refuge elsewhere.

IT’S COME TO THIS: Christina Hoff Sommers gets Trigger Warnings at Georgetown. “Do these people call themselves adults?”

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HEH: Star Wars ‘reeks of misogyny’: SJW satirist punks BBC World Service.

Listeners of the BBC World Service’s World Have Your Say programme were treated to a bizarre analysis of the Star Wars franchise today by a caller who claimed that “Dark Raider” was a “racial stereotype” who listened to rap music and “the only female character ends up in a gold space bikini chained to a horny space slug.”

Godfrey Elfwick is a student from Sheffield who regularly fools observers with his parody Twitter account, an off-the-deep-end “social justice warrior” persona that tweets bizarrely and hilariously about racism, sexism, misogyny and other favoured topics of the political Left.

Elfwick attracted the attention of the BBC World Service today, when he tweeted that he had never seen Star Wars. A World Service presenter who was producing a segment in the wake of the recently-released trailer for Star Wars Episode VIII: The Force Awakens took the bait, inviting him onto the programme.

Because of course the BBC can’t tell the difference between an outlandish, obviously fake social-justice obsessed parody account and a normal member of the public.

Did I say “heh?” Heh. I mean, these people have pretty much moved beyond parody, which makes the successful parodists all the more heroic.

CIVIL RIGHTS UPDATE: Judge: City can’t enforce proposed gun ban at music festival.

BECAUSE EQUALITY: Female Group Ejected From Comic Expo For Criticizing Feminism.

HEY, WAPO, YOU SPELLED “DEMOCRATS GRATUITUOUSLY INJECT RACE INTO DEBATE” WRONG: Race creeps into debate over stalled nomination for attorney general. Remember, she’s actually being held up over an abortion controversy.

That said, I think from now on we should only have white males in positions of authority, because they’re the only ones who can’t play the race/gender card whenever any criticism comes up. America, as the Obama experiment has demonstrated, isn’t ready for diversity in government yet.

GOVERNMENT IS JUST A WORD FOR THE THINGS WE CHOOSE TO DO TOGETHER, LIKE JAIL PEOPLE BASED ON BOGUS EVIDENCE: FBI overstated forensic hair matches in nearly all trials before 2000.

The Justice Department and FBI have formally acknowledged that nearly every examiner in an elite FBI forensic unit gave flawed testimony in almost all trials in which they offered evidence against criminal defendants over more than a two-decade period before 2000.

Of 28 examiners with the FBI Laboratory’s microscopic hair comparison unit, 26 overstated forensic matches in ways that favored prosecutors in more than 95 percent of the 268 trials reviewed so far, according to the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL) and the Innocence Project, which are assisting the government with the country’s largest post-conviction review of questioned forensic evidence.

The cases include those of 32 defendants sentenced to death. Of those, 14 have been executed or died in prison, the groups said under an agreement with the government to release results after the review of the first 200 convictions.

The FBI errors alone do not mean there was not other evidence of a convict’s guilt. Defendants and federal and state prosecutors in 46 states and the District are being notified to determine whether there are grounds for appeals. Four defendants were previously exonerated.

The admissions mark a watershed in one of the country’s largest forensic scandals, highlighting the failure of the nation’s courts for decades to keep bogus scientific information from juries, legal analysts said.

Problems with the FBI forensic lab were a staple of InstaPundit in its very earliest days. And yet. . . . Would a private organization with such low standards have survived?

VICTOR SHARPE: There Is A Storm Coming.

AMERICA’S FIVE WORST WARTIME PRESIDENTS.

BRENDAN O’NEILL: Hopkins Hate and the inhumanity of political correctness. “What kind of twisted society would be made more irate by 400 words in a newspaper column than by the deaths of 400 human beings at sea? Our society. Britain in 2015…. It’s official: we’re now more offended by words than by death. Behold the otherworldliness, even inhumanity, of political correctness, which bristles more at the terms used to describe a horrific event than it does at the event itself.”

MEGAN MCARDLE: How the Internet Became a Shame-Storm.

Shame is one way we enforced good behavior in small groups before there were laws or trading networks. It is a very powerful motivator, and it helps us to come together in large cooperative groups with high degrees of trust and sharing. A hatred of being shamed ourselves and a love of shaming others who have transgressed both literally helped to make us human. . . .

So we need shame. The problem is, maybe we don’t always need so much of it.

In the small groups we evolved to live in, shame is tempered by love and forgiveness. People are shamed for some transgression, then they are restored to the group. Ultimately, the shamed person is not an enemy; he or she is someone you need and want to get along with. This is how you make up with your spouse after one or both of you has done or said something terrible.

In a large group, shame is punishment, but it still has a restorative aspect. One of the most surprising passages of Ronson’s book reveals that the drunken driver who had to stand by the side of the road with a sign detailing his crimes got more compassion and support than bitter catcalls from the people who drove by him.

On the Internet, when all the social context is stripped away and you don’t even have to look at the face of the person you’re being mean to, shame loses its social, restorative function. Shame-storming isn’t punishment. It’s a weapon. And weapons aren’t supposed to be used against people in your community; they’re for strangers, people in some other group that you don’t like very much.

Hence the term “Social Justice Warrior.” War is what you wage on the enemy, the other. And that’s what they do. They’re not well-meaning people who want to make our shared society better, and sometimes just get carried away. They’re angry, vicious people who want to eliminate disagreement.

April 18, 2015

THEOLOGICAL THOUGHTS, from Dalrock: “One of the problems with modern Christian culture is the misconception that loving is a synonym for nice. Jesus is often considered to be a sort of passive non judgmental friend, instead of our Lord, our Master.”

I am reminded of one of the Narnia books, where it’s pointed out that Aslan isn’t a tame lion.

UPDATE: Heh. And, heh, again. Also, heh.

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SEXISM IN SOCIETY: The denigration of men: Ridiculed, abused, exploited – the triumph of feminism has made today’s men second class citizens, argues a deliciously provocative new book. And it’s time the chaps fought back.

Men are brilliant. Seriously, we are. We invented philosophy, medicine, architecture, cars, trains, helicopters, submarines and the internet. Not to mention the jet engine, IVF, electricity and modern medicine.

We’ve led all the industrial revolutions and sent rockets into Space. We’ve fought wars with tin hats and bayonets and won them. The world we live in would be nothing without Alexander Graham Bell, Sigmund Freud, Horatio Nelson, Winston Churchill, William Shakespeare and Albert Einstein. The geniuses Leonardo da Vinci, Stephen Hawking, Michelangelo, Beethoven, Charles Darwin and Michael Faraday have all contributed immeasurably to our modern lives.

So why is it that, today, there has there never been a worse time to be a man? Rubbishing the male of the species and everything he stands for is a disturbing — and growing — 21st century phenomenon. It is the fashionable fascism of millions of women — and many, many men, too. Instead of feeling proud of our achievements, we men are forced to spend our time apologising for them. When people chide us for not being able to multi-task or use a washing machine we join in the mocking laughter — even though we invented the damned thing in the first place.

The new book is Peter Lloyd’s Stand By Your Manhood.

JOURNALISM: BuzzFeed Deleted Posts Under Pressure from Its Own Business Department.

VIDEO: Gorilla races toward girl, cracks zoo exhibit glass, almost fulfills our nightmares.

That’s worse than this. What’s amazing is how many of those lion-tries-to-eat-baby videos there are.

SEE, I’VE BEEN JOKING THAT I’M STILL IN “LATE YOUTH,” BUT NOW MY VIEWS ARE SUPPORTED BY SCIENCE!!! Middle age begins at 60, say researchers. “It was not so very long ago that hitting the milestone birthday of 40 was the time to accept that middle age had arrived. No more. Researchers have suggested that mid-life begins at 60, just as most people are contemplating the joys of retirement and a free bus pass. Scientists say that with increased life expectancy we need to rethink our ideas of what constitutes middle and old age otherwise the proportion of elderly people will continue to grow.”

I suggest that we define “old age” as starting at 90, thus drastically shrinking the “proportion of elderly people.” Because science!

MICHAEL S. MALONE: The Promise at Technology’s Powerful Heart: As Moore’s Law turns 50, the revolution in computing it foretold is on the cusp of even more-radical progress.

Moore’s Law is creative destruction on steroids. It regularly fosters the next wave of entrepreneurial opportunities made possible by the latest jump in chip performance. It can be blamed for much of the 90% mortality rate of electronics startups.

But because the usual graphic presentation of the law is tamed by the format into a nice shallow line, we don’t get to see the awesome power of the raw curve—which, like all exponential lines stays shallow seemingly for a long time, then suddenly curves almost straight upward in a vertiginous climb. It is the curve of a rocket’s acceleration, of a pandemic, of the cells born from a fertilized egg.

The great turning took place a decade ago, while we were all distracted by social networking, smartphones and the emerging banking crisis. Its breathtaking climb since tells us that everything of the previous 40 years—that is, the multi-trillion-dollar revolution in semiconductors, computers, communications and the Internet—was likely nothing but a prelude, a warm-up, for what is to come. It will be upon this wall that millennials will climb their careers against almost-unimaginably quick, complex and ever-changing competition.

Crowd-sharing, crowdfunding, bitcoin, micro-venture funding, cloud computing, Big Data—all have been early attempts, of varying success, to cope with the next phase of Moore’s Law. Expect many more to come. Meanwhile, as always, this new pace will become the metronome of the larger culture.

Moore’s Law has always induced de-massification: giant mainframe computers become smartwatches, giant vertically-integrated organizations are defeated by what Instapundit’s Glenn Reynolds has dubbed an “Army of Davids.”

Rigid command-and-control structures in every walk of life, from corporations to governments to education, become vulnerable to competition by adaptive and short-lived alliances and confederacies. Now that process is going to attack every corner of society.

Be ready.

AND YET IT’S USUALLY WOMEN WHO INITIATE DIVORCE: Divorce May Be Bad for the Heart, Especially for Women. “After controlling for age, race and ethnicity, obesity, hypertension, smoking, alcohol consumption and other health and lifestyle factors, the researchers found that compared with a woman who was continuously married, a woman who had been divorced once had a 24 percent increased risk of heart attack. Those who had been divorced twice had a 77 percent increased risk, and remarried a 35 percent increased risk. In men, only those who had divorced more than once had an increased risk of about 30 percent. Men who stayed married or who remarried had no increased risk.”

PERSONALLY, I FIND ALL COFFEE PRETTY SEXY: A recipe for “Sex Coffee.”

THIS DOESN’T SOUND GOOD: Mysterious disease that kills patients within 24 hours leaves 17 dead in Nigeria.

BAD NEWS FOR CHINA, IF THIS PANS OUT: Boron-based atomic clusters mimic rare-earth metals.

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I DON’T WANT TO HEAR ANOTHER GODDAMN THING ABOUT MY CARBON FOOTPRINT: Leonardo DiCaprio the ‘eco warrior’ flew on a private jet from NY to LA SIX times in SIX weeks, Sony hack documents reveal. I’ll believe it’s a crisis when the people who keep telling me it’s a crisis start acting like it’s a crisis.

SHUT UP, THEY EXPLAINED: Chinese Journalist Jailed for Exposing Ban on Free Speech.

China has just sentenced 71-year-old ace journalist Gao Yu to seven years in prison on charges of “leaking state secrets overseas.” And what are those secrets she is accused of leaking? They center on renewed efforts by the Chinese Communist Party under President Xi Jinping to suppress free speech.

We have here a sort of infinite regress of absurdities. If China’s authorities consider it a state secret that their policies are to smother free speech and punish dissent, then they themselves are broadcasting this secret by jailing a journalist for exposing it. Presumably, any Chinese journalist who might dare to delve into this could be accused of exposing the exposure of this secret — which is actually no secret at all.

But that’s the very point: To shut up other Chinese journalists, and chill discussion more broadly among those who cover China. Censorship is easier to practice when people are afraid even to suggest that it exists.

Indeed.

HIGHER EDUCATION BUBBLE UPDATE: The Student-Loan Problem Is Even Worse Than Official Figures Indicate. “Nearly one in three Americans who are now having to pay down their student debt–or a staggering 31.5%–are at least a month behind on their payments, new research from the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis suggests. That figure is far higher than official delinquency measures reported by the Education Department and the New York Fed. And it’s also likely the most accurate.”

BRINGING A KNIFE TO A GUNFIGHT ISN’T ALWAYS A BAD IDEA: Katana-wielding homeowner – 1, Four pistol-packing burglars – 0. “Unlike the “Middle-Aged Mormon Ninja Bishop” who simply needed to brandish a sword to thwart an assault, a 49-year old Argentinian homeowner went positively Medieval on the quartet of thugs who broke into his home recently. Things did not go well for the burglars.” Well, good.

READER BOOK PLUG: From Christopher Lansdown, A Stitch In Space.

A NEW MERCEDES BENZ PICKUP? Well, they’ve always made good trucks.

TEACH WOMEN NOT TO RAPE! (CONT’D): A teacher had sex with a student and got a plea deal, but it’s what she did after that is truly disgusting.

HIGHER EDUCATION BUBBLE UPDATE:  President Obama’s labor-dominated NLRB agrees to hear a petition by Columbia grad students who seek the right to unionize.  The grad students want to join the United Auto Workers (that’s not a typo) because they claim they’re being treated like serfs by universities who understand that there is a glut of Ph.D.s and that most grad students will never score permanent, tenure-track positions.According to today’s Wall Street Journal editorial:

The universities argue that unionization would make the nature of their relationship with students adversarial. They too have a case. Most of America’s top universities aren’t unionized. So the schools have valid concern about elevating union interests over academic merit. Meanwhile, NYU is a rare private university that has voluntarily recognized a grad-student union.

But none of this lets academe off the hook. For one thing, the universities contribute to a glut of Ph.D.s by admitting students who take out loans (some 40% of the $1 trillion in student debt is for graduate school) even when they know few will ever work as full professors. By admitting them into graduate programs, the schools in effect are producing for themselves a low-paid work force.

“To put it crudely, they are hiring their own serfs,” says Richard Vedder, an Ohio University economist who runs the Center for College Affordability and Productivity. He says it’s “as much a moral issue as an economic one.” A university truly devoted to the well-being of its students would be more honest to grad students about the dismal job prospects for Ph.D.s—and more candid to undergrads about their actual instructors.

Unionization isn’t the best solution for grad students or universities. Mr. Vedder has a better idea when he suggests that universities accept some responsibility for defaults on student loans or pick up some of the tab for students who can’t find jobs after graduation.

Of course the real solution is to shut down the bulk of these duplicative, unneeded Ph.D. programs, eliminate the supply glut, and let these students put their talents to work in another field.  Unionizing grad students only kicks the can down the road, giving them more money while they’re in school, with no improvement in their prospects for long-term employment.  More importantly, unionization will further raise the cost of tuition for everyone.

GARY HART: Dare We Call It Oligarchy?

If the presidency were to pass back and forth between two or three families in any Latin American nation we would call it an oligarchy.

I’m ready. Hillary, by the way, tried to suppress this parody. Because nothing says “not an oligarchy” like trying to shut up your critics.

And as proof that the editors of Time have a sense of humor, here’s what’s at the bottom of Hart’s piece: Read next: Chelsea Clinton Gets Ready to Take the Stage.

TAXPROF ROUNDUP: The IRS Scandal, Day 709.

TOO VAGUE TO BE CONSTITUTIONAL: Two indecipherable criminal laws passed in the 1980s now face scrutiny at the Supreme Court.

The legal philosopher Lon Fuller once invented an earnest monarch named Rex who discovered many wrong ways to make law. First, Rex wrote a detailed code of laws, but, to avoid confusing the public, kept it secret. “To Rex’s surprise this sensible plan was deeply resented by his subjects. They declared it was very unpleasant to have one’s case decided by rules when there was no way of knowing what those rules were,” Fuller wrote. So Rex refined his code even further and made it public. But its detail and precision made it “a masterpiece of obscurity.” Soon “a picket appeared before the royal palace carrying a sign that read, ‘How can anybody follow a rule that nobody can understand?’”

Next week the Supreme Court will look at cases in which two criminal defendants make similar pleas. On Monday, a violent neo-Nazi contends that he is facing 15 years in prison under a law that not only he but some of the most learned judges in the country find incomprehensible; the next day, a dealer in “designer drugs,” claims that he is facing prison under a law so complex that its prohibitions are effectively ​secret from anyone except skilled chemists.

I recommend that the Court read Michael Cottone’s article. Also, mine.

DEROY MURDOCK: The Unbearable Lightness Of Obama’s Anti-Terror Policies.

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MESSAGE TO STRAIGHT WHITE MEN: “SIT DOWN AND LET US ABOLISH YOU.” The left isn’t even trying to hide its eliminationist fantasies any more.

Screen Shot 2015-04-18 at 8.57.12 AM

Though you’d think a writer would be clearer on the distinction between “less” and “fewer.”

UPDATE: “This was an important exercise in adolescent self-importance.”

EXPLOSIVE VIDEO: Marco Rubio orders at Chipotle.

CIVIL RIGHTS UPDATE: Texas set to approve open carry of handguns, seen as win for gun-rights activists. This is hardly a radical step. In Tennessee, we’ve had open carry for years — our permits aren’t “concealed carry permits,” they’re just “carry permits.” Most people carry concealed for a variety of reasons, but that’s a choice, not a requirement.

GEORGE WILL: Shriveled Grapes, Shriveled Liberty. “In oral arguments Wednesday, the Supreme Court will hear the government defend its kleptocratic behavior while administering an indefensible law. The Agricultural Marketing Agreement Act of 1937 is among the measures by which New Dealers tried and failed to regulate and mandate America back to prosperity. Seventy-eight years later, it is the government’s reason for stealing Marvin and Laura Horne’s raisins.”

TOM MAGUIRE: Armenians Died, Obama Lied. “Interesting – so many more questions for the press to not ask Obama or especially Hillary. For the record, Candidate Hillary in 2008 matched Barack in the empty promises area, then backed her boss as Secretary of State.”

IT’S COME TO THIS: Even sexual assault activists want a fair campus process.

The activists point out that they do not believe what due process activists have been saying for over a year — that the pendulum has swung and that now accused students are the ones who are treated unfairly.

The activists, members of the group “Know Your IX” – named after the law that has been interpreted to require colleges to adjudicate campus sexual assault, Title IX — provide a list of some basic protections needed to ensure a fair process. Some of their requests include “the right to guidance from a trained advocate” and “the right not to self-incriminate if criminal charges are possible or pending.”

These are all good things, but the problem for activists is that a fair process might lead to fewer students being punished based solely on an accusation. It might mean having to accept the fact that some accusers truly aren’t victims (think Rolling Stone’s Jackie, Duke’s Crystal Mangum and any number of “survivors” who regretted an encounter and were coached by a feminist professor into thinking they were raped).

As to one of the requirements mentioned by the activists — having a trained advocate — some schools are looking beyond that to actual lawyers. This should be something all schools allow, because a fair process can’t stem from two scared kids who aren’t lawyers trying to adjudicate something that is actually a felony. And just as it’s not fair that the accused student is going up against an accuser with the Title IX office and current culture behind them, it isn’t fair then to provide attorneys to only the accused, since then the accuser would be going up against a trained professional.

Or, you know, we could leave the whole thing to the criminal justice system . . . which, you know, handles criminal justice problems.

OBAMA’S IRAQ POLICY IS GOING SWIMMINGLY: Thousands of Iraqis flee as Islamic State makes gains in Sunni heartland.

HIGHER EDUCATION BUBBLE UPDATE, LEGAL EDUCATION EDITION: The Smartest People Are Opting Out of Law School. “As schools grapple with a persistent slump in young Americans’ interest in legal education, the programs seem to be compensating for their sudden unpopularity by taking in people who wouldn’t have made the cut five years ago. As of March 2015, about half as many students with scores of 165 and above on the LSAT have applied to law school as did in 2010, according to a new analysis of the latest numbers from the Law School Admission Council, which administers the test. LSAT scores range from 120 to 180. Applications from students with lower scores are falling, too, but not nearly as sharply, as the second chart below shows.”

JOHN BOLTON: Obama’s Iran deal greatest ‘appeasement’ in history.

Former United Nations Ambassador John Bolton on Friday bashed President Obama as having putting a nuclear arms deal with Iran above America’s safety.

Bolton, who is considering a run for the White House in 2016, blasted Obama’s negotiations with Tehran as “feckless” and “weak.”
“President Obama is engaging in what I believe is the greatest display of appeasement from a president in history,” Bolton told listeners at the New Hampshire Republican Party’s “First in the Nation” leadership summit in Nashua.

“The Obama administration has taken a position weaker than the U.N. Security Council.”

Appalling.

KEVIN WILLIAMSON: Jobs, And “Jobs.”

It’s a safe assumption that Uber’s PR weasels are the same species of mustelid as every other PR weasel, and I have no love for them. But setting aside the question of whether press releases ought to be obliged to follow the terminological practices of the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the implicit Reich-Griswold view is an interesting illustration of the mindset of managerial progressivism, which holds that the normative state of affairs for the vast majority of people in the modern world is to be dependency, either as public wards or as employees. The assumption is that most people cannot be expected to take responsibility for their income, for their health care, for making arrangements for child care and retirement, etc., and so somebody—employers or government—must be deputized to do this for them. (Note Professor Reich’s formulation: We’re responsible/not responsible.) This is the classic progressive view of human beings as liabilities rather than assets, liabilities that are dealt with by the issuance of fortnightly checks and the maintenance of certain benefits packages. Independent contractor? Quelle horreur! . . .

The Left’s moral crusade against Uber is partly about protecting ancient Democrat-supporting fiefdoms—the local taxi cartels—but it is also an expression of the deeply ingrained belief that most people cannot handle independence and responsibility, that most people are best suited to punching clocks and saying “Thank you, sir, may I have another?” every two weeks. I very much doubt that that will be the normal situation 20 or 30 years hence, which is why I think of Professor Reich et al. as more reactionary than progressive.

And rightly so.

April 17, 2015

WAIT, MORE PREMATURE INTERNET OUTRAGE? SURELY NOT! Kyle Smith: ESPN was totally wrong to suspend Britt McHenry. “Several reviewers have complained that Advanced Towing brings in legally parked cars — and then, when you complain, simply insults you and holds the car hostage. We don’t even know what was said to McHenry, since the Advanced Towing employee’s remarks have been edited out of the video that went viral. And how do you feel about private companies with which you did not choose to do business making videos of you, then leaking them to the media for the purpose of humiliating you?”

POLITICO: Hillary Clinton’s Real Opponent: Barack Obama. “No retiring president below 50 percent job approval nationally has passed the White House to his party’s nominee in the 75 years of the polling era. Obama’s approval rating, as of this writing, is around 45 percent (give or take), and his disapproval is about 50 percent.”

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THE REASON FOR MOB VIOLENCE? “It’s fun.”

IN THE GAMING COMMUNITY, WOMEN ARE SUPPOSED TO KNOW THEIR PLACE: Honey Badgers: Go Home, Gamer girl: Press release on unjust banishment from Calgary Expo.

BRAD TORGERSEN: Tribalism Is As Tribalism Does. “One example that leaps to my mind: back when I was an NCO, I had a Small Group Leader (SGL) at one of the Army’s NCO schools who had emigrated out of central Africa, come to the U.S., and joined the U.S. military. He said that he found it very interesting, as a born African, trying to navigate among American blacks and whites alike. Based purely on how he looked, he would be treated one way — right up until he opened his mouth. At which point his accent identified him as something remarkably other than black American. Whites who had been cool to him (in the literal sense) would sometimes warm up. Blacks who had been warm, would cool down. Sometimes, even turn hostile? . . . Getting back to my SGL at the NCO school, something else he said struck me strongly: nobody in America really knows ethnic strife the way he saw it, because he literally witnessed portions of his family wiped out by what essentially amounted to tribal warfare. To white American eyes, there’d have been no discernible difference between the people killing each other. But the Africans themselves knew the difference, and considered it a difference worth murdering each other over. The SGL in question therefore found 21st century American racial tension to be both familiar, and also utterly foreign. Small potatoes, compared to his experience. So how do you overcome small-potatoes tribalism? Sometimes, by simply creating a new over-arching tribe from whole cloth.”

That’s what the military does, and that’s what the whole “melting pot” approach was supposed to do for America at large. But the political class thinks it’s more convenient to keep us divided into tribes.

ED DRISCOLL: Leftwing Website Commits Crimethink, Begs Leftwing Mob for Mercy.

EASING THE PAIN:  Science is increasingly revealing that commonly used pain relievers such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) and ibuprofen (Motrin/Advil) can effect not only one’s perception of physical pain, but emotional pain as well.  A recent study shows that acetaminophen blunts positive emotions and emotional response generally.  Similar research has shown that ibuprofen (Motrin/Advil) reduces emotional stress among women but amplifies the emotional response of men.  So if you are feeling blue, some suggest trying a Tylenol or Advil before resorting to prescription anti-depressants or anti-anxiety drugs.

RELATED:  Staring into Fido’s eyes releases the feel-good brain chemical oxytocin, which creates feelings of love.  I knew that from staring into my dog, Thomas Jefferson’s, big brown eyes.  Somehow I don’t get the same emotions when I stare into my cat’s eyes, though she rarely stares back.  The sound of purring seems to make me happy, though.

WELL, SINCE THEY LIVE CLOSE TOGETHER, THEY PROBABLY SHARE A LOT OF GENES: Two Strangers Who Look Identical.

CAROLINE GLICK: American Jewry’s Moment Of Decision.

I’M NOT SURE I BUY THIS: Better Body Software Will Make People Less Equal. Like most innovations, it’ll be expensive and scarce at first, but if allowed to follow the normal path it will get steadily cheaper. People used to worry about a “digital divide,” but now Americans on welfare all seem to have smartphones.

GREETINGS FROM THE RADIO QUIET ZONE, where wi-fi is forbidden. “In 1958, the federal government created the National Radio Quiet Zone to shield the GBT and the nearby Sugar Grove listening post (now run by the National Security Agency) from electromagnetic interference. As a result, cellphone, television, and radio transmissions–all of which rely on electromagnetic waves–are heavily restricted within its 13,000-square-mile area and banned in a 10-mile radius around the GBT. Residents are not entirely cut off. They can access TV and Internet with cable.”

HIGHER EDUCATION BUBBLE UPDATE, LEGAL EDUCATION EDITION: Loyola-L.A. Law School Shrinks Enrollment By 20%, Taps $20 Million From University Endowment For Student Scholarships.

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LAND-YACHT ROAD TEST: 2016 Mercedes-Maybach S600. “All the Maybach’s stretch translates into additional legroom for the two occupants in back, who are seated in thrones that look as if they were pulled from an executive jet. With separate power controls, pillow-style headrests, extendable legrests, and a perfectly coddling shape, they’re as good for napping as any bed in your house. Six-footers won’t be able to tap the front seatbacks with their feet. Add the rear-seat comfort package—it really should be called the insanely comfortable rear-seat package—and a hot-stone-massage system is included.”

Maybe if I had a driver. . . .

THE EPIC STORY OF how we got to Pluto.

THE COST OF HIGHER-ED CREDENTIALISM: A Yale Graduate Leaves a Trail of Ventures and Debts. “While the total amount in dispute appears to be relatively small — roughly a few million dollars — the way Mr. Newman has managed to raise money easily from sophisticated businessmen, many with a track record of investing in Internet start-ups, is a vivid reminder of how the right connections and a strong sales pitch can seduce investors, even after the financial crisis.”

K.C. JOHNSON AT COLUMBIA’S LAW AND LIBERTY CENTER: “Unlearning Due Process: Troubling Trends on Campus.”

THEY LIE A LOT, SO PROBABLY: Did FBI Director Comey Deliberately Mislead on ISIS Recruitment of Americans Before Mid-Term Elections?

MARIJUANA DEBATE HEATS UP:  After an extensive 5-day fact-finding hearing,  a federal judge in California yesterday ruled that it is not “irrational”–and thus does not offend the Constitution– for marijuana to be classified as a Schedule I drug (no legal uses) under the federal Controlled Substances Act (CSA).  It is a blow to pro-marijuana advocates, who’ve had remarkable success in getting pot approved for medicinal use, and–in four states–even recreational useMany legal experts anticipated that the judge, an Obama appointee, would take a “bold stand” and rule that marijuana cannot be completely banned under Schedule I. She suggested (showing remarkable restraint for an Obama appointee) that, as an unelected federal judge, it was not her place to effect such a substantial national policy change.

President Obama (technically, the Attorney General) could, consistent with the CSA, reschedule marijuana by executive order.  But for some reason, on this issue, the President has thus far refused to get out his infamous pen and phone, stating recently that he thinks Congress should amend the CSA to reschedule marijuana instead.

And in perhaps the ultimate irony, the Supreme Court ruled in its 2005 decision, Gonzales v. Raich, that individuals who used medical marijuana pursuant to state compassionate use laws were not entitled to a constitutional exemption from the CSA, as the CSA is the supreme law of the land.

Based on Gonzales, in late December, Oklahoma and Nebraska filed a lawsuit in the Supreme Court against Colorado, asserting that Colorado’s legalization of recreational pot has forced such neighboring States to bear the brunt of increased criminal activity, such as transportation of pot into their jurisdictions, where pot remains illegal under State law.  The interesting legal questions posed by the Oklahoma/Nebraska suit is whether state pot legalization conflicts with the CSA and is thus preempted, and if relatedly, whether the executive branch has a constitutional obligation to enforce the CSA’s prohibition in such states.  Some argue yes; some argue no.

WE NEED TO DO SOMETHING ABOUT ACADEMIC INEQUALITY! Moody’s: Rich Colleges and Universities Are Getting a Lot Richer. “The 10 richest universities in America hold nearly a third of the total wealth, in cash and investments, amassed by about 500 public and private institutions. The 40 richest hold almost two-thirds of the total wealth.”

Perhaps we need to tax “excess” endowment holdings, and earmark the money for Pell Grants.

WHEN THE COMMANDER-IN-CHIEF DOESN’T CARE ABOUT YOU OR YOUR SACRIFICES, MORALE SUFFERS: Army morale low despite 6-year, $287M optimism program. You know what helps morale? An Army that fights and wins. You know what doesn’t? A $287 million 6-year “optimism” program. An army overrun with sociology grads, “resiliency directorates,” diversity officers, and the like is not an army that’s focused on fighting and winning.

UPDATE: From the comments:

Let’s see – the military was sent into a hell hole to fight with their hands tied behind their backs, and then were pulled out so they could watch the areas they conquered by loss of their friends be over-run by maggot terrorists while the politicians crowed and crowed. And the politicians wonder why the soldier’s morale is low?

The world is run by idiots that can’t remember what happened yesterday.

Related: Memo: Army’s Top Priority Is Not Winning Wars, It’s Sexual Assault. “The U.S. Army’s top priority for 2015 is not winning wars. Secretary of the Army John M. McHugh named preventing sexual assault as his top priority for the Army in the fiscal year 2015, according to a memo obtained by The Daily Caller.”

STEPHEN KRASNER: Failed States And American National Security.

TAXPROF ROUNDUP: The IRS Scandal, Day 708.

PERSONNEL IS POLICY: Meet Jeb Bush’s National Security Adviser. “They may have been mocked at the time, but the views Mitt Romney articulated on the campaign trail in 2012 about foreign affairs are now considered not just clear-sighted but clairvoyant. He said that the U.S. withdrawal from Iraq was a mistake; that Vladimir Putin was a major threat; and that radical Islam was on the ascent. Romney detailed many of these ideas in a wide-ranging address on foreign policy at the Virginia Military Institute. That speech was crafted in part by John Noonan, who was recently tapped to be Jeb Bush’s national-security adviser.” Editing tip: You mean “prescient,” not “clairvoyant,” which basically (“clair” + “voyant”) just means clear-sighted. But yeah.

WHAT’S WRONG WITH FOSSIL FUEL DIVESTMENT?

Never underestimate the environmental movement’s ability to squander its resources. Today’s fossil fuel divestment campaign is the latest example of fecklessness, and yet another demonstration—as if we needed one—that greens don’t understand the problems they’re trying to fix. . . .

College students campaigning against fossil fuel investments might be best served by putting down their picket signs and enrolling in an Economics 101 course. People invest money to grow their wealth, and while a family like the Rockefellers may be wealthy enough to assuage its guilt for how it made its money by publicly divesting from fossil fuel holdings, the rest of us can’t afford that luxury.

Take the time to read Gapper’s piece in full. It gets to the heart of the problem with the divestment movement: its rampant inconsistencies. By taking on something as enormous as investments in brown energy, greens have not only set themselves up for failure, they’ve also started tallying up opportunity costs. Public appetite for green initiatives isn’t limitless, and neither is the funding or media attention these causes du jour receive.

But greens are nothing if not experts at finding ways to attack problems from the wrong angles, whether it’s anti-Keystone activism or the Global Climate Treaty or divestment.

If people keep choosing means that seem unsuited to their ends, consider that you might not understand their ends.

I THINK THAT’S A TERRIFIC IDEA: Journalists at Gawker Media’s Websites Are Planning to Unionize.

K-12 IMPLOSION UPDATE: L.A. School District Terminates iPad Program and Seeks Refund From Apple. “It’s been an interesting ride, but the Los Angeles school iPad program is done. Between the rampant student hacking and the FBI probe, you can see how the focus kind of wandered away from education. But there are millions of dollars tied up in the project, so it’s not just lunch money.”

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CHANGE: House Votes To Repeal Estate Tax, Preserve Step-Up In Basis At Death.

SPENGLER: Yoram Hazony’s Brilliant Essay on Jewish Conservatism.

STEPHEN GREEN: Does the GOP Need a Republican Obama to Beat Hillary?

ASHE SCHOW: Due process on campus needs a congressional champion.

It’s a sad day in America when due process rights granted in the Constitution need protection, but here we are.

On college campuses across the country, students — particularly male students — are learning the hard way that they have little if any due process rights should they ever be accused of sexual assault. Indeed, an accusation is all that’s needed to destroy or severely alter their future.

The reason for this comes from the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, which has reinterpreted Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 to view sexual assault as a form of gender discrimination instead of a crime. It therefore must be treated as a disciplinary matter, more closely aligned with plagiarism than the felony crime it actually is.

And since Title IX and OCR’s subsequent, infamous “Dear Colleague” letter recommend inadequate due process rights for those accused, following those guidelines has been shown in at least one instance to be an acceptable excuse for subverting the Constitution. For instance, although Title IX theoretically requires a fair hearing for the accused, it also requires a Title IX officer to oversee the investigation of sexual assault complaints and be a victim’s advocate, thereby placing the power of the office behind the accuser and against the accused. . . .

It is politically dangerous these days to even suggest that schools provide due process to those accused of sexual assault. Especially since these days all that is needed to brand someone a rapist is an uncorroborated accusation. But there must be someone in Congress brave enough to take up the issue and offer a bill that either amends existing law or requires colleges to provide due process to students who are accused.

One would hope.

REALLY? BECAUSE IT SEEMS TO ME HE DIDN’T GET ENOUGH: Reid Not Sure If Boxing Blows to the Head Were Good for Him.