Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Quote of the Day: On Data Security (for us little people)

"For most people, the risk of data loss is greater than the risk of data theft." - Bruce Schneier, Security Trade-offs of Cloud Backup

Here's the full post:

This is a good essay on the security trade-offs with cloud backup:
iCloud backups have not eliminated this problem, but they have made it far less common. This is, like almost everything in tech, a trade-off:
  • Your data is far safer from irretrievable loss if it is synced/backed up, regularly, to a cloud-based service.
  • Your data is more at risk of being stolen if it is synced/backed up, regularly, to a cloud-based service.
Ideally, the companies that provide such services minimize the risk of your account being hijacked while maximizing the simplicity and ease of setting it up and using it. But clearly these two goals are in conflict. There's no way around the fact that the proper balance is somewhere in between maximal security and minimal complexity.
Further, I would wager heavily that there are thousands and thousands more people who have been traumatized by irretrievable data loss (who would have been saved if they'd had cloud-based backups) than those who have been victimized by having their cloud-based accounts hijacked (who would have been saved if they had only stored their data locally on their devices).
It is thus, in my opinion, terribly irresponsible to advise people to blindly not trust Apple (or Google, or Dropbox, or Microsoft, etc.) with "any of your data" without emphasizing, clearly and adamantly, that by only storing their data on-device, they greatly increase the risk of losing everything.
It's true. For most people, the risk of data loss is greater than the risk of data theft.

中国: 生日快乐!


China: Happy 65th Birthday!
(to the country, not the state)

What, You're Surprised To Learn That The ...

White House exempts Syria airstrikes from tight standards on civilian deaths?  Really?  While there are likely real terrorists being killed, so are civilians.  The subtitle on the article is of itself an almost unbelievably cold read:
Amid reports of women and children killed in U.S. air offensive, official says the 'near certainty' policy doesn’t apply.
Who the hell sits in a room designing policies that may or may not apply to killing people?  Are you f'ing kidding me with a 'near certainty policy'?  Wake up America, wake the f*ck up!!! 

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Compound Ignorance

In a day of "must reads", here's another, from Gary Galles entitled Regulate It First, Learn About It Never:
People are generally aware of the positive power of compound interest when deferring consumption in favor of productive investments. But more important when it comes to public policy is the destructive power of compound ignorance.

According to John Rector, “Compound ignorance is the type of ignorance in which we are not aware that we are not aware.” It arises when “we don’t realize what we don’t know.” In government, however, such “unknown unknowns” often lead to untrammeled confidence among politicians, despite the certainty of error. Compound ignorance is put on display every time a “progressive” wants to turn still more individual decisions over to political processes and government bureaucrats. Blithely unaware of the immense blind spots of what they don’t know for productive social cooperation, they believe they are taking decisions from the uninformed and giving them to experts. But they have it backwards. Such expansions of government dictation actually move choices from the relevant experts, with appropriate incentives to act on that expertise, to those far less informed and facing far worse incentives.

The social costs of compound ignorance grows with government’s reach. And its many recent expansions, along with the many failures (e.g., healthcare.gov) and crises (from the VA to the IRS) that have accompanied it, illustrate that it has been taken to a new level.

Such scandals reflect the compound ignorance that separates political promises from what it takes to actually deliver on them.

The current version of that shell game typically starts with a presidential commitment, delivered with solemnity to convey “I really mean it.” But all responsibility for backing the words up (from “you can keep your doctor” to promises of cost savings to assertions that they will be the most open administration ever) is immediately swept from his teleprompter into the lap of some cabinet secretary or administrator. Then, when the promises turn out to be empty or unattainable, his delegated expert starts taking heat. There is a period of expressing confidence in their competence (which amounts to confidence that by picking the right administrator, circles can be squared), combined with efforts to focus attention elsewhere. But then political heat picks up. When it becomes worrisome, the administration expresses anger at the failure (which implies surprise) and determination to fix it. That is then demonstrated by bringing in a new fixer to replace their predecessor, transformed into the scapegoat. The president is thereby kept from ever having to put forward how he would do what he promises, firewalled from political blame, even when the multiple scandals allegedly discovered by watching the news demonstrate a compound ignorance that guarantees failure to know enough to deliver.

Obamacare’s enactment offered a good example of unwarranted confidence in the face of massive unknown unknowns. While Nancy Pelosi’s assertion that “we have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it” was widely lampooned (including a poster of her with the caption, “Ignorance: It’s not just bliss anymore. It’s policy”), the fact that Congress was forced to vote on what was not even available for reading creates an even higher order of ignorance — they could not even know what they were “deliberating” on, much less the degree to which it would be hamstrung by compound ignorance.

Such compounded compound ignorance offers a warning to every American to consider more carefully how frequently government “expertise” can actually make them better off by taking their resources and substituting its determinations for theirs. That is the crucial issue, as every other government act requires harming some, which is an odd way to advance anything that, with a straight face, could be called the general welfare. Unfortunately, in every area in which our desires and willing tradeoffs differ substantially, by far the most common case, such shifts inherently take decisions away from the only ones who know the details about their goals, desires, skills, alternatives, and other circumstances to make them the relevant experts.

Voluntary market arrangements incorporate the highly varied, yet overlapping, knowledge of all participants, each expert in their array of circumstances of time and place, even when the vast majority knows virtually nothing at all about them. Such specialization in knowledge and tasks that most are ignorant of, coordinated by markets is, in fact, the primary source of advancing civilization. It allows effective social cooperation even in the face of compound ignorance and constant change.

In contrast, when government fiat overrides that process, compound stupidity replaces coordinated knowledge. Inherently insufficient experts who don’t know enough to say “I don’t know enough” then demonstrate that they have been raised to a level beyond their incompetence. Government does ever more of what it cannot do well, but can do very badly. And since, as Friedrich Hayek noted, “The more civilized we become, the more relatively ignorant must each individual be of the facts on which the working of civilization depends,” the price society pays is beyond comprehension.

Another Must Read: This One On Free Speech

What a great post on Free Speech from Ken White entitled U.C. Berkeley Chancellor Nicholas Dirks Gets Free Speech Very Wrong.  In the post, White dissects Dirks' email on free speech, statement by statement and as such, is not conducive to reposting, but nonetheless, please read this epic take down of yet another condescending academic intellectual elite.  Allow me but one excerpt:
Pardon my incivility, Chancellor Dirks, but I don't give a shit whether you wish to honor an ideal; I care whether you will comply with the law. If you don't, you should be compelled to do so at the point of a lawsuit. You will find litigation rather uncivil.

HT: Newmark's Door

Quote of the Day

"If war isn't worth a vote, what is?" - David Harsanyi, Obama Goes Rogue

Note: I appear to be the only American who finds it reprehensible that Congress has decided not at least debate the president's unilateral decision to bomb a sovereign nation, Syria.  This president's (as well as his predecessor) contempt and disdain for the Constitution is a disgrace to the office and the oath he has twice taken to defend it.  Most disgraceful of all is the complete and utter abdication of congressional powers to our imperial president.

Must Read: How Foreign Policy Changes Domestic Policy

Sheldon Richman's How Foreign Policy Changes Domestic Policy is a must, must, must read!  If you read nothing else this week, please, read this post as well as the study found via a link in the post.  It's well worth the time and it will make you think of something called the 'Boomerang Theory': [emphasis mine]
The late Chalmers Johnson, the great analyst of the American empire, warned that if Americans didn't give up the empire, they would come to live under it.

We've had many reasons to take his warning seriously; indeed, several important thinkers have furnished sound theoretical and empirical evidence for the proposition. Now come two scholars who advance our understanding of how an interventionist foreign policy eventually comes home. If libertarians needed further grounds for acknowledging that a distinctive libertarian foreign policy exists, here it is.

Christopher Coyne, an economics professor at George Mason University, and Abigail Hall, a Ph.D. candidate in economics there, have an important paper in the Fall 2014 issue of The Independent Review: "Perfecting Tyranny: Foreign Intervention as Experimentation in State Control."

Their thesis is at once bold and well-defended: "Coercive government actions that target another country often act like a boomerang, turning around and knocking down freedoms and liberties in the 'throwing' nation." This happens when the size and scope of government increases as a result of foreign intervention.

Advocates of foreign intervention—whether conservative or progressive—seem to believe that foreign and domestic policies can be isolated from each other and that illiberal methods used in foreign lands, such as bombing and military occupation, need not disturb domestic policy. In other words, freedom at home is consistent with empire abroad.

Coyne and Hall demonstrate that this is no more than wishful thinking that is contradicted by experience, both past and present; they present theoretical and empirical grounds for their conclusion that foreign policy is likely to have malign effects on domestic policy. After presenting their theoretical justification, they examine two contemporary examples of how methods perfected during foreign interventions were later applied inside the United States: surveillance and the militarization of the police. Of course the result in both cases has been a diminution of Americans' freedom. The imperial chickens came home to roost, as Johnson warned they would.

Domestically, a government may be constrained by the people's tacit ideology and their consequent interpretation of the country's constitution. That ideology and interpretation may prohibit politicians from exercising social control to the extent they might prefer. That government's conduct abroad, however, may face far weaker constraints. Under the right conditions—conditions such as those the U.S. government now finds itself in—the government may be in a position to exercise severe control over a foreign society, engaging in surveillance and repression as the armed forces take on the functions of police while maintaining their military posture as well.

Criticism of intervention abroad is often aimed at what the policy inflicts on foreign populations. "Often overlooked, however, is that a government's projection of power beyond its borders can also impose significant costs on domestic citizens due to changes in the character of government-produced social control at home," Coyne and Hall write.

They identify four "channels" through which "advancements in state-produced social control abroad may boomerang back to the intervening country." First, an interventionist foreign policy tends to build up power in the central government. To the extent that the dispersion of power—"federalism"—limits centralized authority and protects zones of freedom, centralization is obviously a danger for liberty. They quote Bruce Porter, who wrote that "a government at war is a juggernaut of centralization determined to crush any internal opposition that impedes the mobilization of militarily vital resources. This centralizing tendency of war has made the rise of the state throughout much of history a disaster for human liberty and rights."

"As this shift occurs," Coyne and Hall add, "one result is that the political periphery becomes dependent on and subservient to the political center, which weakens the checks created by dispersed political decision making."

The second way the boomerang effect operates is to put a premium on the skills required for social control. The interventionist state, the authors write, will need people willing and able to "implement the directives of the intervening government on an often unwilling foreign populace and the willingness to use various suppression techniques—monitoring, curfews, segregation, bribery, censorship, suppression, imprisonment, violence, and so on—to control those who are resistant to either foreign governments or their goals." People who lack those skills or the enthusiasm for exercising them will be weeded out. As a result, intervention "shapes the human capital of those involved in intervention."

In the third, related, channel, people with skills appropriate to social control will come home to find prominent positions in both the government and private sectors. In either realm such people are apt to lobby for or help transform public policy in the direction of greater control. "Specialists in state-produced social control are able to suggest and implement new techniques and organizational forms of state social control on the domestic population based on their experiences of doing the same to distant populations," Coyne and Hall write. Their skills complement the other forces driving the centralization of power and the transfer of social-control techniques from foreign societies to the domestic scene.
In other cases, the skills acquired through coercive foreign interventions are implicit, meaning they shape the person's view of government-produced social control.… [O]ne cannot help but be shaped by the organizational context within which one is embedded. In this scenario, activities that previously would have been thought of as unacceptable, extreme, or outright repugnant become normalized and natural. The way things were done abroad becomes standard operating procedure for how government activities are carried out. Domestic citizens begin to be treated as foreign populations were treated. Whether the skills accumulated through coercive foreign interventions are explicit or implicit, the result is that advances in state-produced social control developed abroad are imported back to the intervening country.
The last channel is the one through which physical capital, like social capital, changes under the influence of interventionist policies: "Technological innovations allow governments to utilize lower-cost methods of social control with a greater reach not only over foreign populations, but also over domestic citizens. Examples of such methods include but are not limited to surveillance and monitoring technologies, hardware and equipment for maintaining control of citizens, and weapons for killing enemies."

Interventionist policies will require particular kinds of equipment and technologies, especially those that permit more efficient social control. Where there is (tax-financed) demand, there will be supply provided by the industrial side of the military-industrial complex. In sum:
Together, the latter three channels cumulatively reinforce the initial centralization associated with coercive foreign intervention. The political center's power is reinforced by the inflow of human and physical capital conducive to state-produced social control. The change in administrative dynamics leads to a shifting mentality whereby the expanded scope of activities undertaken by the center becomes standardized and normalized.
Coyne and Hall caution that none of these effects are automatic or instantaneous. Many factors can determine how and how fast the transformation of domestic policy may occur. Moreover, the changes are not necessarily irreversible, although they are likely to be costly and difficult to reverse. "The theory of the boomerang effect is one of stickiness and not necessarily of permanence," Coyne and Hall write.

As I noted above, they apply these lessons to domestic surveillance, which they trace back to the U.S. occupation of the Philippines and the repression of the Filipino rebellion after the Spanish-American War, and the militarization of local police departments, which they trace back to the U.S. government's conduct in World War II and the Vietnam War.

Coyne and Hall have performed a welcome service for all who value liberty and therefore distrust the state. Read their excellent work and deepen your knowledge of how foreign intervention threatens freedom at home.

No, It Will Not Be Free!

Steve Chapman's The Latest War Will Not Be Free:  [emphasis mine]  
Young people may find it hard to believe, but going to war used to be a big deal. When the United States started bombing Iraq in January 1991, Americans somberly watched President George H.W. Bush address the nation, followed by live video of Baghdad being bombed. The Bush address drew the biggest audience TV had ever had.

This past week, by contrast, life went on normally as U.S. warplanes and Tomahawk missiles destroyed targets in Syria and Iraq in a new war, which has no clear goal or time limit. As our leaders took us into a conflict fraught with peril, most people yawned. We're at war again? Oh, right—and rain is still wet.

Since the end of the Cold War, the U.S. has been at war two out of every three years. Remember Somalia? Bosnia? Kosovo? It's hard to decide whether this is our third war in Iraq or a continuation of our second, which began when Johnny Manziel was in the fourth grade. Our fight in Afghanistan has been going on for 13 years, five years longer than the Vietnam War.

This one, Secretary of State John Kerry said, could last two or three years. He doesn't appear to worry that the American people's patience will run out before the administration leaves office. Though they occasionally get weary of particular conflicts, they rarely evince strong resistance to new ones.

There are many reasons for that. The 1973 abolition of the draft was a worthwhile achievement with an unfortunate effect: divorcing most people from the tangible consequences of war.

A lot of parents would be warier of Obama's bombing campaign if they had to contemplate that one day, the gods of war would demand the healthy bodies of their sons and daughters. Young people would be likelier to march in protest if they feared being sent to Syria against their will and returned home in coffins.

Most of us are even further removed than the Civil War-era humorist Artemus Ward, who said, "I have already given two cousins to the war and I stand ready to sacrifice my wife's brother."

The majority sacrifices nothing noticeable for the privilege of reminding the world that we can blow up whatever we want and kill whomever we want anytime we choose. For the time being, we don't even have to put up any money.

The latest war will cost some of that, though how much is anyone's guess. Asked the likely price tag, White House press secretary Josh Earnest replied, with charming nonchalance, "I don't have an estimate on that."

Members of Congress show no sign of weighing the benefits of this operation against the outlay. Nor do voters, because they have no reason to. It's a free lunch.

It hasn't always been that way. During World War I, Congress raised taxes twice to pay for sending an army to France. During World War II, President Franklin Roosevelt proposed the biggest tax increase the nation had ever seen. Treasury Secretary Henry Morgenthau didn't sugarcoat it: "The new taxes will be severe, and their impact will be felt in every American home."

During Vietnam, President Lyndon Johnson pushed through a surcharge of 10 percent on all personal and corporate income taxes. He justified it as a way to "finance responsibly the needs of our men in Vietnam."

Our government may provide for the needs of those fighting this war, but not in a fiscally responsible way. George W. Bush launched two invasions while cutting taxes, not raising them. Barack Obama is happy to let Americans assume the funding for this war will come off the money tree in the Rose Garden.

It won't. It will all have to be borrowed and repaid, with interest, by us or our children. The total cost of Bush's Iraq and Afghanistan wars will come to at least $4 trillion, according to a study by Harvard scholar Linda Bilmes. Had we known that—and had we been forced to make a noticeable sacrifice with every paycheck—we might have insisted he do things differently.

If Obama and Congress had agreed to impose immediate new federal burdens on American taxpayers before launching this latest war, public attention would be greater and resistance would be stronger. We would at least have had a real debate.

Nothing would do more to break our addiction to perpetual war than a simple requirement that everyone can understand: You want a war? Pay for it.

Semper Ratio: Long have I said in this modest blog of mine that while I oppose war entirely, if one is to be waged, it should be done so with an immediate payroll tax on every American, including those who receive entitlement benefits (e.g., SSDI, Social Security, etc.).  Each American should see an itemized deduction for the war being waged.  Absolutely, positively, no exceptions.  None.  I'll even wear a socialist hat here and declare the tax should be progressive: higher rates for those up the income ladder.  Also, an immediate sales tax should be added to existing rates, across the board, on everything, no exceptions, and all receipts will read "War Tax", i.e., it's itemized, clear as day.

Must Read: On The American Presidency

Gene Healy's It's the Presidency, Stupid is a must-read on the presidency of the United States, one in which he reviews F.H. Buckley's book The Once and Future King: The Rise of Crown Government in America.  By the way, Healy penned is own excellent book on the presidency entitled The Cult of the Presidency: America's Dangerous Devotion to Executive Power.  It's an excellent read! 

Headlines That Make You Say "Hmm ....."

So, the decision by CVS to discontinue the sale of tobacco products wasn't as altruistic as many thought and as they promoted!  Here's The 'Coincidence' of CVS and Tobacco and Diana Furchtgott-Roth: [emphasis mine]
Back in February, when CVS announced that it would stop selling tobacco products, I wrote that CVS was looking for something in return: more access to the lucrative Affordable Care Act health care market.

Now the New York Times is reporting that the "drugstore chain seeks to redefine itself as [the] health care destination for consumers."

February's CVS announcement looked suspicious because it was coordinated with the White House. An hour after the announcement, President Obama congratulated CVS CEO and President Larry Merlo by name, saying, "I applaud this morning's news that CVS Caremark has decided to stop selling cigarettes and other tobacco products in its stores, and begin a national campaign to help millions of Americans quit smoking instead."

CVS gave up $2 billion in revenues by halting the sale of cigarettes, and its stock declined. The question was, what did CVS get from the administration in return?

Seven months later, the answer is clear. CVS spokeswoman Carolyn Castel told the Times that "the company opened 32 clinics last quarter and is on track to open 150 more this year." Revenues at its clinics have increased by 24 percent in the second quarter of 2014 compared with the second quarter of 2013. CVS plans 1,500 clinics by 2017, up from 900 at present.

It is beneficial for people to have the option of inexpensive walk-in clinics staffed by nurse practitioners-with perhaps an occasional doctor added to the staff. But if a walk-in clinic gets special favors through a quid pro quo with the government, it smacks of cronyism.

With the federal government taking over a large share of the health care business through the new Affordable Care Act exchanges, providers such as CVS need to be in regulators' good books. CVS's drug business is at the mercy of regulators from the Food and Drug Administration, the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services, and numerous other agencies within the Department of Health and Human Services and elsewhere.

The company is taking no chances that it could fall out of government's favor. CVS spent $13 million on lobbying in 2013, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, over 17 times as much as the firm spent in 2007.

Not all drugstores are caving in to government pressure on cigarettes. Walmart, Walgreens, and Rite Aid, among others, continue to stock tobacco. But health care is a growing market, and a tough one. Sometimes it helps to have friends in high places.

With health care accounting for nearly one fifth of the U.S. economy, one often-overlooked consequence of government intervention is that businesses can compete for favors among government officials rather than on the basis of their value to consumers.

As the health care market shakes out, business could skyrocket for CVS's walk-in clinics CVS. In one of four quarter page ads in Monday's Washington Post, CVS announced, "We're making health more affordable and accessible with MinuteClinic. In time, half of all Americans will have one within 10 miles of home, for affordable walk-in medical care."

One obvious source of clients is the uninsured, who need an inexpensive place to go for a strep test when they have a sore throat. In a medical crisis, the uninsured will go to emergency rooms, but for routine care, they will increasingly turn to walk-in clinics as emergency rooms become overcrowded.

Even with the Affordable Care Act, 31 million Americans are projected by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office to lack health insurance in 2024. There will be plenty of business from this group for the foreseeable future.

A less obvious source of revenue is people who have health insurance through the Affordable Care Act health care exchanges but who do not want to visit their doctors because of the high deductibles. In 2015 deductibles will be capped at $6,450 for singles and $12,900 for families, according to the IRS. For those who have to spend $6,450 before starting to collect, CVS is a better option than Johns Hopkins.

A third source of customers for the walk-in clinics are those with high-deductible plans offered by employers. A report by the National Business Group on Health estimates that a third of large employers will offer high-deductible plans in 2015.

CVS's MinuteClinics have a substantial advantage: nurse practitioners can write prescriptions for patients, and then sell them the prescribed drugs on the spot. This is true vertical integration. Many states have limits on the ability of doctors to sell pharmaceuticals out of their offices, because of possible conflicts of interest. Apparently regulators turn a blind eye to potential conflicts of interest at CVS, such as writing prescriptions that the company then fills.

This confers a substantial boon to CVS, and the unequal treatment puts doctors at a disadvantage. Even if CVS were not able to charge the government for the walk-ins, CVS can earn profits on selling more prescription and non-prescription medicines to the walk-in patients, much of it at government expense. It will be a lucrative business.

Now add the business of charging the government for walk-in visits, and CVS is making three types of profits on walk-ins: (1) charge the government for walk-in visits; (2) charge the government for prescription medications filled at the same pharmacy where CVS employees write prescriptions; and (3) profits on non-prescription medications that the government-paid CVS employee may recommend to walk-in patients such as over-the-counter pain-killers or antibiotic ointments.

As CVS said in another Monday ad, "Anyone can get pills into bottles. We help get them into mouths." Dropping tobacco sales is a small price to pay.

Must Read: Private Sector vs. Public Sector Unions

While I disagree with perspective on private sector unions, I am in full agreement with his assessment of public sector unions, particularly teacher unions.  Please read his excellent post entitled Thinking About Unions Post Market Basket: Public Versus Private: [emphasis is mine]
Support for organized labor tends to fall along partisan lines. Liberals embrace the existence of labor unions wholesale while conservatives reject it. My own views (based on personal experience and reinforced in the wake of the Market Basket saga) are more nuanced: Organized labor is essential in the private sector, but a curse in the public sector.

Organized labor won the Market Basket war; it was not a formal union, but it certainly was “organized labor.” In contrast, just about everywhere we turn, when we see the results of organized labor in the public sphere, we see disaster—not for the workers, but for those who are supposed to be served by vital public institutions and services.

Why this disconnect? Well, in the private sphere, there are two sides bargaining, each with its own money at stake. In the public sector, the two sides have the same interest – maintain the status quo so that we all keep our jobs, and to Hell with the taxpayers’ money and interests.

While we see examples of excess in public sector unions in the public safety arena (mainly police and firefighters), I’m talking primarily about teachers’ unions. I first saw the differences between private and public sector labor unions when I became a public school parent in Cambridge in 1982. My son was lucky enough to be in the Martin Luther King, Jr., Open School (“KOS”) program at a time when a local genius and Harvard-educated philosopher by the name of Robert Moses asked the Cambridge school authorities if he might teach an experimental algebra course, at no charge to the school system, for the fifth graders. The school authorities appeared skeptical that algebra could be taught to children so young, but Dr. Moses insisted not only that they could learn algebra, but that algebra was a gateway skill to an enormous variety of other academic disciplines.

We parents were ecstatic at this opportunity for their children to be taught by the legendary Bob Moses. He had been, after all, the field secretary of the fabled Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) that helped integrate the South in the 1960s. And he held a doctorate from Harvard. But under pressure from the local teachers’ union, the Cambridge School Committee resisted Dr. Moses’ offer, in part, they said, because Dr. Moses did not possess a teacher’s degree and certificate. (I encountered a similar objection when, in the mid-1980s, I offered to give lectures on the Bill of Rights to Cambridge high school students.) The parents pushed back. In the end, a compromise was reached: Dr. Moses would be allowed to teach his experimental math course (later dubbed The Algebra Project), but only very early in the morning. Dr. Moses accepted the conditions, and the challenge.

The program was hugely successful; a very large percentage of Dr. Moses’ students went on to attend college and to have great careers, and The Algebra Project went national.

But I became very curious as to how a teachers’ contract could have been negotiated so that it was rigid and inimical to the best interests of the students and worked so strongly against educational innovation. I decided to attend the upcoming teachers’ contract negotiations, which at the time any parent or citizen could attend if he got a letter to this effect from two members of the School Committee. I obtained the necessary permissions and showed up to the first negotiating session. When the head of the union saw me, she announced that the union would not bargain while I was in the room. The teachers’ negotiating team walked out. My letters from two School Committee members were soon revoked, and the contract negotiations proceeded comfortably in private. All of the contract provisions that had enabled the union to make life hard for Dr. Moses’s algebra course were retained.

It was at that moment that I became an opponent of public sector unions. Why? Because, it suddenly occurred to me, the public interest was not represented at the contract negotiations. The teachers were arguing for their own self-interest in terms of work conditions and compensation, as was to be expected, but the School Committee and school administrators were dealing with the taxpayers’ money, not their own. And it was in the pols’ political interests for there to be labor peace. The children and their parents figured very little in the whole enterprise. And so an outrageous number of provisions found their way into the contract year after year, seemingly all of them more protective of the teachers’ wallets and comfortable work-schedules – and the School Committee members’ elective prospects – than of the educational interests of public school students.

Ever since, I’ve remained an opponent of public sector labor unions, but an equally ardent supporter of private sector unionization. The latter is an essential adjunct of a democratic society and a vital counterweight to overweening oligarchic power (not to mention the inherited power held by the under-employed but overly-pampered heirs of entrepreneurs), while the former threatens to undermine an element essential for the success of democracy – an educated citizenry.

On Tax Inversions

Excellent article from Andres Martinez on the subject of tax inversions entitled Obama is wrong. In defense of Burger King and companies fleeing the IRS

HT: Don Boudreaux


Additional Readings:

Let's Abolish The Corporate Income Tax by John C. Goodman 

Quote of the Day: The Right To Die

"In the United States we don’t give money to patients and their families. We give money to the medical industrial complex.  And here is a good principle to remember: in health care, every dollar of wasteful spinning is a dollar of income to someone." - John C. Goodman, The Right to Die

America Goes To War - Again. A Repository of Worthy Reads

Once again into the Valley of Death goes America.  The last grasp of desperate politicians claiming to be leaders and representatives of those that elect them.  We are living in Orwell's 1984, a book that has been transformed from a work of fiction, a work of warning, to an instruction manual.  Below are all worthy reads on this mess, one that will not end well.  I'm so tired of political elites sending the sons and daughters of others to go and die, all in the name of freedom and democracy.  I supposed I'm more exhausted by the fact that we the people, allow it to happen.

Let's start with President Obama's speech to the American People:

All the President's War Declaration (or Whatever it Was); Transcript

Worthy Reads Leading Up To the Actual War:

Ending Evil vs. Defending the Country by Jacob Sullum

Some War Links by Don Boudreaux (within the post there are several additional links)

Countries at Risk, not Fake U.S. Coalition, Should Stop the Islamic State by Doug Bandow

Is Obama Abusing the Constitution to Combat ISIS? by Gene Healy

Nation Building Isn’t Needed to Fight ISIS by Christopher Preble

What Sort of Problem Is ISIS? by Justin Logan

Well-Armed Turkey Aided Rise of Islamic State: Yet NATO Promises To Defend Ankara From Extremists by Doug Bandow

Why Obama’s War on ISIL Won’t Hold Its Popularity

The Obama Administration’s Member-less Coalition against the Islamic State: What Good Are Allies Anyway? by Doug Bandow

The Islamic State Will Probably be Defeated, but It’s Not Thanks to President Obama by John Mueller

Obama’s Plan Has Nothing New or Strategic by Benjamin Friedman

No, We Shouldn’t Have Stayed in Iraq – and “History” is Not on our Side if We Go Back and Nation Building Isn’t Needed to Fight ISIS by Christopher Preble

The Unlawfulness of Obama's ISIS Plan and Waging War Is a Decision for Congress Alone by Andrew Napolitano

Obama Repeating Bush's Iraq Folly by Sheldon Richman

CIA to Obama: We Already Did Your Dumb Plan And It's 'Doomed to Failure'

Get Ready for Boots on the Ground in Iraq... and Threat Inflation and Our Next Dumb War: ISIS Edition by Nick Gillespie

Conference on ISIS Excludes Syria, Iran; Iran, U.S. Reject Idea of Cooperating Militarily and It Begins: U.S. Action Against ISIS Lets Regional Powers Off the Hook to Do Anything About Their Own Security by Ed Krayewski

Obama’s B.S. Justification for His Illegal War: the 2001 AUMF and Obama’s Grotesque Flip-Flops on Congressional Authorization for War by Matt Welch

The Tower Of Babel Comes To Paris: The Folly Of Obama’s War On ISIS by David Stockman

Obama’s “Broad” Coalition: The Gang That Can’t Bomb Straight by Jason Ditz

Cowardice, Meet Politics: Congress Didn't Want to Vote on ISIS Plan, Anyway by Robby Soave

The Hyped Up Western Jihadi Fear of ISIS by Shikha Dalmia

Even a Top Democrat Thinks Obama's Legal Case for War Makes No Sense and Contractors Ready to Cash In On ISIS War by Eli Lake

Obama Might Send Armed Soldiers, On the Ground, to Help Fight ISIS—But Don't Worry, They Won't Be 'Ground Troops' by Jesse Walker

Why We Shouldn't Be Scared of ISIS: Threat Inflation and Our Next Dumb War by Nick Gillespie

How Many Billions Will Bombing ISIS Cost? What About Other Radicals? by Zenon Evans

As ISIS Threats to U.S. Get Louder, Where Are Arab Allies? by Zenon Evans


Worthy Reads:  And So It Begins - America Bombs a Sovereign Nation Without a Declaration of War:

'I've Got a Pen and I've Got a Phone': Obama Launches an Unconstitutional War on ISIS in Syria by Damon Root

The Consequences of Expanding Obama's ISIS War Into Syria by Jesse Walker

Obama Wages Unconstitutional War, Amash Blames Congressional Leaders by Robby Soave

We Have No Idea How Much It Will Cost to Do Whatever We're Doing to ISIS in Syria Right Now by Scott Shackford

A Year After First Suggested, U.S. Bombing Syria. Authorization? LOL by Ed Krayewski

No Ground Troops? Don't Bet on It. The Iraqi Army Is In No Shape to Fight ISIS.  by J. D. Tuccille

Obama on ISIS Strikes in Syria: Has ‘Bipartisan Support,’ But No Sign of Actual Vote by Scott Shackford

Syria Becomes the 7th Predominantly Muslim Country Bombed by 2009 Nobel Peace Laureate by Glenn Greenwald

Pentagon Official on ISIS Bombing Campaign: 'I would think in terms of years' by Peter Suderman

Four Reasons Bombing ISIS in Syria Isn't Well Thought-Out by Ed Krayewski

6 Ways Obama Contradicts Himself in Waging War on ISIS by Jacob Sullum

The War against ISIS: Moving Beyond Convenient Myths by Ted Galen Carpenter

Why ISIS Has an Abundance of Modern Weapons by Ted Galen Carpenter


A Look Inside The Secret Deal With Saudi Arabia That Unleashed The Syrian Bombing from ZeroHedge

Legal Basis for U.S. War in Iraq and Syria Is Thin by Ivan Eland

When You Lay Down With Dogs ...

... you wake up with fleas! Read the political version of this adage with A Look Inside The Secret Deal With Saudi Arabia That Unleashed The Syrian Bombing.  I have not the heart or stomach really to repost it.  There are fortunately but a few people that pain me to look at, but John Kerry is one of those few. 

Goldman Sachs



It's not surprise that our MSM is either downplaying, or keeping out of the news altogether, information on the secret recordings made by a Federal Reserve Regulator at Goldman Sachs, which clearly indicate the Federal Reserve is " ... far from the neutral, objective, evenhanded regulator it is supposed to be."  Like the IRS Scandal, which makes Watergate look like a prank; James Clapper committing perjury; Fast and Furious (no, not the movie!) and several other crimes by the government, this one should be sending shock waves through the country, but instead, it's barely a ripple in our collective pool of ignorance. 

Goldman Sachs Moral Compass?

The Incredible 'Wussiness' Of The Fed Vs Goldman Sachs—Caught On Tape 

The Goldman Tapes And Why The Delusion Of Macro-Prudential Regulation Means The Next Crash Is Nigh  

Why The Goldman Tapes Are Important: They Prove “Macro-Prudential” Regulation Is A Crock 

Government Pays

Eric Holder Takes $77 Million Job With JPMorgan Chase

And So It Begins: Australia Sacrifices Freedom to Gain Security

"Regrettably, for some time to come, Australians will have to endure more security than we're used to, and more inconvenience than we would like.  Regrettably for some time to come, the delicate balance between freedom and security may have to shift.  There may be more restrictions on some, so that there can be more protection for others." - Tony Abbott, Prime Minister of Australia

Source: Tony Abbott warns balance between freedom and security may shift as Government acts to combat 'darkening' terrorism threat


Additional Readings:

Australian Government Scrambles to Authorize Mass Surveillance

Australian PM trades freedom for security, deserves neither

Free Speech at Risk in Australia, Thanks to Terrible New Counter-Terrorism Bill



The Random Thoughts of The Sage, Thomas Sowell (One of Which I Disagree With Immensely)

I humbly disagree with Mr. Sowell on one of his Random Thoughts, which I've emphasized in BOLD below:
Random thoughts on the passing scene:

What a non-judgmental society amounts to is that common decency is optional -- which means that decency is likely to become less common.

The biggest issue in this fall's election is whether the Obama administration will end when Barack Obama leaves the White House or whether it will continue on, by appointing federal judges with lifetime appointments who share President Obama's contempt for the Constitution. Whether such judges will be confirmed by the Senate depends on whether the Senate continues to be controlled by Democratic Majority Leader Harry Reid.

Why in the world would any sane American go to North Korea and put themselves at the mercy of a crackpot dictator?

Since Illinois enacted a law permitting more people to carry concealed firearms, more than 65,000 people got permits to do so. Rates of robbery, burglary and motor vehicle thefts have dropped significantly, and the murder rate has fallen to a level not seen in more than half a century. If only the gun control fanatics would pay some attention to facts, a lot of lives could be saved.

If you took all the mumbo-jumbo out of our educational institutions, how much would be left? Students could finish their education years earlier and end up knowing a lot more than they know now.

Why are Americans -- and the Western world in general -- falling all over ourselves stifling our own self-expression to appease people who chose to immigrate here, and are now demanding the suppression of anything they don't like, such as public expressions of Christianity or displays of the American flag?

Someone should write a history of political rhetoric, if only to put us on our guard against being deceived into disasters. The First World War, for example, was said to be a war "to make the world safe for democracy." What it actually led to was the replacement of despotic dynasties by totalitarian dictatorships that were far worse, including far more murderous.

Professor Sterling Brown remains as much a hero to me in my old age as he was when I was a freshman at Howard University. He wrote bitterly eloquent attacks on racism -- and yet, when I was preparing to go off to Harvard, he said to me, "Don't come back here and tell me you didn't make it 'cause white folks were mean."

The fatal weakness of most clever people is that they don't know when to stop being clever. The past cleverness of President Obama is finally starting to catch up with him.

Why Republicans would bring up the subject of immigration during an election year is beyond me. Yet Speaker of the House of Representatives John Boehner seems drawn to the subject like a moth to a flame.

Who says the Obama administration is not transparent? They are constantly telling our enemies overseas when it will pull out our troops and where we will not put boots on the ground.

Heartening as it has been to see Derek Jeter get farewell honors during his last season, as with Mariano Rivera last season, it is also a melancholy thought that we may not see their like again -- in their personal dignity and class, as well as their performance on the field. They are throwbacks to an earlier time, in a sports world of spoiled brat showoffs today.

I must have heard the word "diversity" proclaimed in ringing tones as a great benefit to society at least a thousand times -- and probably closer to a million -- without even once hearing a speck of evidence provided, or even suggested as a way to test whether that is true or false.

Attorney General Eric Holder has picked the perfect time to resign, in terms of his own self-interest. He will have two years in which to cash in with lucrative fees on the lecture circuit and to make a big-bucks book deal. If he waited until the end of the Obama administration, a former Attorney General would be eclipsed in both respects by a former President of the United States, thereby reducing the demand for Holder.

With the momentous consequences of control of the Senate at stake in this fall's election, anyone who risks the outcome by running as a third party candidate should not only be voted against this year but remembered for such irresponsibility in future years.

I'm surprised, and disappointed, to read that Mr. Sowell, would hold in such contempt, any person who is following their conscious and holding to their own principles by running for office and challenging the duopoly that is so entrenched in this country.  I simply cannot believe I've read such a statement from a man of whom I hold in such high esteem. 

A Repository on Non-Interventionism (or Anti-Interventionism)

I cannot say it any better than does GMU Professor Don Boudreaux: I'm against war.  Period.  While I've likely linked to each of the links he provides in his post in the past, it's certainly beneficial to have a single reference point for some of the best writing on the subject of non-intervention, or anti-intervention, as he calls it.   Here's Anti-Interventionism:
I’m now re-reading Arthur Ekirch’s superb volume The Civilian and the Military: A History of the American Antimilitarist Tradition. I wish that more conservatives would read this volume. If they would do so, many might abandon their strange belief that, while government interventions said to be aimed at improving the economy are typically rapacious, ill-considered, officious, arrogant, and fraught with ill unintended consequences, government interventions said to be aimed at protecting Americans from the threat of violence inflicted by foreigners are altruistic, wise, appropriate, essential, well-measured, and destined to achieve their stated goals (as long as, that is, sissy and cowardly Democrats and libertarians don’t undermine the government’s glorious crusade).

I always wonder what miracle occurs to transform the venal, myopic, hubris-slathered, office-greedy, often-corrupt, chronically uninformed, and interest-group-beholden politicians who cannot be trusted to spend taxpayer money on the likes of green-energy projects and farm subsidies into wise and highly informed Solons when they proclaim that their goal is to protect Americans from foreign threats.

Short of reading Ekirch’s volume, perhaps conservatives who trust the war-making state will read:

Sheldon Richman, or

Anthony Gregory, or

Chris Coyne and Abigail Hall, or

Bruce Fein, or

Jacob Hornberger.

A Good Point on Large Numbers

Art Carden's There's No Such Thing as a Free Bomb: A Brilliant Idea from Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal is right on point:
Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal has joined The Oatmeal, XKCD, and Botched Spot as one of my favorite comics.

This particular installment was especially brilliant. It proposes a browser plug-in that makes the opportunity cost of military hardware explicit.

The night of my 32nd birthday, I remember lying on the living room floor and writing my article "Bombs over Big Bird." While I don't think the government should be funding PBS and NPR, public broadcasting probably wouldn't even be rounding error in the military budget.

Resources used to fight wars are like resources used to build stadiums and bridges to nowhere. The resources are scarce, and they have alternative uses. As the human mind doesn't handle large numbers very well, it might actually be a very good idea to better contextualize the numbers we're talking about. This XKCD illustrates: we have a very hard time appreciating just how much larger $170 billion is than $165 million. If we can express these numbers in terms of what they can buy, we might perhaps have a better shot at really grasping what we're doing.

Americans have absolutely no idea about the magnitude, and meaning of, numbers, especially when it comes to money.

Eric Holder, As I Told George W. Bush When He Was Finally Done ...

... don't let the door hit your ass on the way out! 

Eric Holder has finally resigned.  Though I did not approve of his conduct in his role as the Attorney General of the United States, I do not wish him ill.  May peace follow him and his wherever he goes next.  Below are some of the best pieces so far on the man, his tenure and his legacy.

First, the actual announcement: Eric Holder To Step Down As Attorney General

Worthy Reads:

A Reason Reader on Soon-to-Be Ex-Attorney General Eric Holder

Eric Holder’s Legacy: Duplicity, Incompetence, and Obliviousness

Eric Holder's Tenure

Eric Holder: creator of the "Too Big to Jail" bankster  [Short and to the point!]

Eric Holder was the worst Attorney General for the press in a generation. We deserve better. 

Eric Holder's terrible tech-liberties record 

Two Jeers for Eric Holder 

Poll: Eric Holder Slightly Less Hated Than Sebelius