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End the State and Local Tax Deduction for Businesses

February 15th, 2018 No comments

Why do we allow businesses to deduct state and local taxes from their income when they pay federal income tax? I propose that we eliminate that deduction. Nobody has suggested this, but it is really an obvious extension of the idea of eliminating them from the personal income tax. Read more…

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Why the interactive “Chicago-style” economics workshop is the best style

February 10th, 2018 2 comments

 

I have been reading various comment and posts of people who think economics research seminars are too interactive. Rather than having questions throughout, they would like to have questions all at the end, or perhaps only after 2/3 of the time has elapsed. They also complain that the questions are too critical, and claim that the questioners are just trying to make themselves look good.

 

I think those people are completely, absolutely, wrong. Interactive “Chicago-style” seminars are one of the best things about economics compared to other fields. Here are some considerations:

Read more…

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What to do about the Justice Dept. Wiretappers: Disbar Them

February 2nd, 2018 No comments

The infamous House FBI memo is out. It says what everybody suspected already, given what’s been in the press, and even the New York Times will have to admit it now: The FBI knowingly used Democrat-funded fake evidence to fool a judge into letting them wiretap an advisor to the Republican candidate. They did this at least seven times. The bosses who signed the applications are James Comey, Andrew McCabe, Dana Boente, Sally Yates, and Rod Rosenstein. Read more…

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Political Correctness in the American Economic Association

January 16th, 2018 No comments

The American Economic Association just issued a couple of draft documents which display a kind of political correctness that economics has been pretty good at avoiding. I know and admire a couple of the authors, but the documents are dreadful. Here are some comments. I only spent an hour and a half writing this, which I mention so that (a) You can see how easy it is to find flaws, (b) You won’t think I’m spending excessive time on it, and (c) If there are mistakes, you’ll know one reason why.

American Economic Association
Ad Hoc Committee to Consider a Code of Professional Conduct
Interim Report

January 5, 2018

1.The AEA appears to be attentive to the diversity of the Executive Committee with respect to gender and race. This attention should be ongoing. Additionally, the AEA should consider the diversity of its committees and officers along dimensions including the range of academic departments, universities and colleges, and types of careers represented in nominations.

No: the Executive Committee should be composed of the best people, certainly without the discrimination by race and gender it now practices, but also with respect to types of jobs people hold. There is a perception that the leadership is cliquish and protective of bad behavior by people from elite schools. Maybe the perception is correct, maybe not—I have no opinion— but adding to the clique won’t help that kind of thing,it just changes the favored personnel. If there’s a problem, address the attitude.

2 (a). Survey members about the climate in the profession, and elicit reactions to potential initiatives such as those listed in this report.

This could be very valuable. It should include asking about examples where chairmen or deans have pressured departments to hire on the basis of race and sex. Illegal though that may be, I have heard of numerous instances of it happening; indeed, it may almost be routine these days. Men have a harder time on the rookie job market than women, and this is a real problem. A survey of this kind could have bombshell results, especially in light of the widespread claim that the opposite is true.

2(e). “Commission an observational study of seminar and conference presentations in economics as well as other disciplines, and quantify the extent to which there is unproductive aggressiveness in economics or its subfields.”

Also quantify the extent to which there is *inadequate* aggressiveness in economics. I think that’s a much bigger problem. I have rarely seen an overaggressive seminar— only the Demsetz-Klein workshop in the 1980’s comes to mind, and have been part of many other workshops including a year spent at Chicago 1989/90 where the seminars were aggressive but only appropriately so. I have often seen boring, useless workshops where the weak assumptions, boring topics, or inadequate expositions of the presenter go politely unchallenged but everybody thinks at the end, “What a rotten seminar! We’d better never invite him back again.” Economics is very fortunate in its culture, and we must protect it.

3. Best practices for addressing bias

All five suggestions are useless and wasteful. The way to address bias is to set up a committee to listen to complaints and then to hammer any editor or referee caught misbehaving, especially if they are at an elite school or are well-connected (like me, for example, MIT ’84, 59 years old). Ex ante measures like those suggested are much more costly and they are wasteful because they are applied to 100% of people rather than the 2% who misbehave.

3a. Study and encourage the use of gender-bias “detectors” for letters of
recommendation.

These sound like witch sniffers in Africa. I bet they’re as bogus as the implicit bias test that has by now been thoroughly as discredited in psychology as phrenology, though non-psychologists often don’t know that it has been.

3b. Adopt training for editors to avoid relying too heavily on institutional background and network connections in screening and referee decisions.

“Training”? Hah! It’s true there is a balancd between relying too much and too little on the credentials of referees, but do you really believe formal training will help?

3c. Encourage departments to implement training workshops for faculty on professional conduct and hiring.

We should actively *discourage* such workshops, and come to the aid of departments whose politically correct deans try to impose them. It sounds like code words for ideology training by identity politics warriors. In any case, it sounds like a waste of time. The hiring committees should spend the time reading some extra files instead.

3d. Encourage departments to implement training for students on professional conduct, including especially bias but also honest and transparent research practices.

Ditto. It is true that students should be taught to be moral in their research practices, but that should be part of the normal program when students learn to write papers. PhD students know not to plagiarize, and any decent person knows they should give credit where it is due. It’s true that we should emphasize keeping good records, writing clean commented code, and packaging up our data nicely at the end of a project (I confess! I am remiss here often.). Is that what this means?

3e. Post examples of good practices for training and instruction surrounding professional conduct.

I’m not sure what this means. I do suggest posting examples of bad practices, which not only illustrates what is bad, but helps deter by stigmatizing the bad practicer. Having the full stories, with all the details of cover-up and cowardice, could help a lot.

4. a. Create a gated website where job market information can be posted by departments, agencies, and firms. The recent AEA survey of department chairs suggests overwhelming support for this idea, as long as the information posted consists of updates on dates rather than specific names of candidates. Creating this website
would allow job market candidates to obtain the information they seek without accessing social media that includes irrelevant or offensive material. The website should include advice and general information about the job market process provided by established members of the economics profession.

This is the “Let’s kill Economics Job Market Rumors” item, I think. It confirms the fears of the bro’s there that the AEA is indeed elitist, biased, and politically correct, and wants to conceal the misdeeds of editors and referees.

I think it will fail, because it wants to be EJMR, but boring and with less information. The “rather than specific names of candidates” part is hilarious. The names are what everyone is interested in! Also, it looks like this is trying to shift the burden to department chairmen and such to provide the data, and they’re too busy already.

4b. Most individuals have procedures within their institutions for addressing harassment. Sometimes these arrangements fail. Hence, the AEA should consider whether it should provide arrangements for members of the profession to seek advice or assistance relating to harassment where institutional remedies are unsuccessful. The committee discussed multiple options, but did not reach a consensus:
i. The AEA could create an AEA ombuds to help resolve conflicts that may
arise between individual members of the AEA and their own institution. The ombuds would take action, i.e., contact the relevant institution.
ii. The AEA could create a network of mentors who could advise those facing harassment. A mentor would provide confidential advice, but not take action or report the claim of harassment. In the event a mentor hears the same issue from multiple individuals, the mentor could share this
information with those individuals provided they all approve.

This might be good, but it sounds weak. I am on the faculty senate at my own university, and the issue arose of whether a faculty committee should hear complaints from faculty who had been punished by the administration for sexual harassment, or whether, as one former senate president said, if they were punished by the administration they must be guilty anyway and there’s no need for review and some danger because of “imbalance of power” already favoring the punished faculty member.

There seemed to be general agreement that there was no need to hear complaints from *victims* after faculty had *not* been punished, and everyone laughed at first when I suggested that would be equally appropriate. But it would be. Universities are terrible at dealing with this kind of thing. They seem to err in both directions, much like American immigration policy and unethical research policy. If it’s a powerful professor who’s accused, he gets off; if it’s a mere student (that is, not an athlete), he gets railroaded. The AEA could help with both kinds of cases.

Having an ombudsman— that is, an official contact person or committee– is a start. This person should *not* be a liberal activist. It should be a random honorable senior economist, someone with no axe to grind. It should be someone just as fair to a wrongly accused professor as to a harassed one. Don’t call him an “ombuds”; that sounds too much like “earbuds”.

What is this person supposed to do? The suggestion is that they just be someone who can help go through university procedures. That would be useful, since there are probably departments where none of the faculty have the guts to help a victim, though I hope most departments have at least one such person— and that the identity of that person is common knowledge, just as big a problem. But it would be better for the ombudsman to take it a step further, consulting with other AEA people and publicizing misconduct if the university either falsely accuses or covers up.

Draft AEA Code of Professional Conduct
January 5, 2018

This is a bland statement that everybody should be nice. I hate such statements, as mere clutter in a world of information overload, and as reeking with hypocrisy, since their most common use is to avoid actually doing anything about evil.

The AEA seeks to create a professional environment with equal opportunity and equal treatment for all economists, regardless of age, gender, race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, disability, health condition, marital status, parental status, genetic information, professional status, or personal connections.

This  statement is hilarious. It’s code for “We’re liberals”, of course, with not a lot of meaning beyond that. Nobody would take it literally, I think. If someone is old and feeble, I will not give theme equal treatment; I will give them more than usual respect and I will try to help them do things that are hard for them. if someone doesn’t have the right professional status by a couple of years into the job, commonly he’s fired— that is, if he doesn’t finish his dissertation and doesn’t get his Ph.D.  The funny part is  the items like “parental status”. Is discrimination against bastards a problem in the economics profession? Who, exactly, is keeping track of whether each job candidate’s parents were married at the time of his birth? How does “genetic information” enter into being an economist?  What does the AEA intend to do about people with “personal connections” having better opportunities? If someone hears about a job opening at a conference, does that disqualify him? Really, let’s not succumb to the absurdity of so many fields in academia these days.  We in economics should know better.

 

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IRS: The Mess of the “Trade or Business” Definition

January 15th, 2018 No comments

My last post proposed that libel lawsuit income be incorporated or put on Schedule C, but I was wrong in making it seem simple. The law is a real mess here. The problem is the definition of “trade or business”. The tax code, in section 162, says that expenses for a “trade or business” are deductible as what is known as an “above the line” deduction, meaning that it is part of the computation of adjusted gross income, in Schedule C, before “itemized deductions”. In section 212, the tax says that expenses for “other income” are deductible— but this is known a “below the line” deduction, part of “itemized deductions” in Schedule A. Section 67 says that these other income expenses are part of “miscellaneous itemized deductions”, formerly subject to a 2% of income floor, now after the 2017 bill denied entirely (see the bill’s section 11045 amending section 67— though this contradicts section 212, which is unamended, I think).

Thus, it was good for the taxpayer before if his income was from “trade or business”, because he wasn’t subject to the 2% floor for expenses and now it is crucial, since his expenses aren’t deductible at all.

So what is a “trade or business”? Neither statute nor regulation has ever defined this term, crucial though it is to a lot of things. It has a tax common law meaning from various court cases, and a sorry sort of common law it is. The classic case is the 1987 Groetzinger. In Groetzinger, the IRS didn’t want to let a professional gambler deduct expenses. Gambling was clearly his occupation, so the Supreme Court said the IRS was wrong, a correct result. The Court said:

We accept the fact that to be engaged in a trade or business, the taxpayer must be involved in the activity with continuity and regularity and that the taxpayer’s primary purpose for engaging in the activity must be for income or profit. A sporadic activity, a hobby, or an amusement diversion does not qualify….

We would defer, instead, to the Code’s normal focus on what we regard as a common-sense concept of what is a trade or business
….

We therefore adhere to the general position of the Higgins Court, taken 46 years ago, that resolution of this issue “requires an examination of the facts in each case.” 312 U.S., at 217 …. But the difficulty rests in the Code’s wide utilization in various contexts of the term “trade or business,” in the absence of an all-purpose definition by statute or regulation, and in our concern that an attempt judicially to formulate and impose a test for all situations would be counterproductive, unhelpful, and even somewhat precarious for the overall integrity of the Code. We leave repair or revision, if any be needed, which we doubt, to the Congress where we feel, at this late date, the ultimate responsibility rests.

So this is  a lame precedent. The Court says it is trying not to create a new test and that the meaning should depend heavily on the context and there shouldn’t be any general test. Moreover, the holding is that professional gambling is a “trade or business” even though gambling for recreation would not be. The holding is not that other money-producing activities would not be a “trade or business”; that’s just extension of the court’s reasoning to completely different contexts such a lawsuit.

Nonetheless, courts talk about the Groetzinger Test as it were a rigid mandatory test, because they want something convenient to use.

The cited case Higgins, as it happens, is an old wrongly decided case. Mr. Higgins had lots of stock investments, a major business, and wanted to deduct such things as the salary of his investment manager. The court said that running a portfolio isn’t a “trade or business” so he couldn’t deduct the expenses. It continues as precedent anyway, never overruled I think.

I thought we might argue that Congress never validated this rule, but unfortunately Congress did pass a couple of statutes around 2000 making expenses deductible for certain kinds of lawsuits. Using expressio unius reasoning, this implies that you can’t deduct expenses for other kinds of lawsuits, though Congress never thought about it, I expect.

So what we have with the 2017 bill is a trial lawyer’s nightmare: a bill that discourages lawsuits by imposing a prohibitive tax rate on plaintiffs by disallowing deduction of expenses.

The question remains of whether the IRS can fix the problem by issuing new regulations. I am inclined to think it can, but since it hasn’t done it before, maybe it has some reason to want not to. I’ll have to figure this out.

Another angle is that if it is Schedule C income, then there is self-employment (Social security) tax to be paid, but if it is Other Income, there is, I think, no self-employment income.

There must be a huge amount of one-off income-generating opportunities, many much more limited in time, scope, and energy than a lawsuit. Are they all Other Income? Maybe if I buy something and resell it, I can put that as Capital Gains instead and deduct the costs somehow there on Schedule D. I think brokerage fees are there, for example.

The situation with a lawsuit is perverse. Suppose I did put the proceeds from my libel suit into an LLC and sold 50% of the shares to Joe, and had the LLC pay the legal fees as they came along.  Could Joe deduct half the legal fees, even though I can deduct none? Or is this not a trade or business for Joe, either? Actually, does this mean all passive investors in companies with pass-through taxation are unable to deduct expenses? That sounds crazy.

To be continued.

Categories: taxes, Uncategorized Tags:

Avi-Yonah Short Summary of Tax Bill and Donaldson Long Summary

January 13th, 2018 No comments

I really like  Professor Reuven Avi-Yonah’s   HOW TERRIBLE IS THE NEW TAX LAW? REFLECTIONS ON TRA17. It is short and clear and fair. His  four points are that (a) The $150 billion deficit increase isn’t as awful as one might think, (b) The bill  did cut taxes on the rich more than on the poor, but mainly via the 20% pass-through deduction,  (c) The bill has a lot of “good government” features, such as the increased standard deduction, and (d) the big problem is the 20%pass-through deduction, which will create a bunch of problems.

Donaldson’s Understanding the New Tax Law is also good, a longer summary, rather than a commentary.  As I recall, it notes:

1. No NOL carrybacks for corporations any more.

2. 60% max cash charitable deductions instead of 50%.

3. Professors lose the incredible sabbatical unreimbursed employee expense deduction for their rent, utilities, and meals while on sabbatical that I have enjoyed a number of times.

4. NOL carryforwards continue forever rather than just 20 years, saving  recordkeeping without really changing anything else.

 

 

Categories: academia, taxes, Uncategorized Tags:

Additions for My State Tax Paper: Reciprocity, Sullivan, and Pease

January 11th, 2018 No comments

For: Getting Around the State and Local Tax Deduction Limit (January 9, 2018). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3099296.

 

(1)  Suppose we accept that fairness (or whatever) means that state taxes should be deducted from income for federal taxation, because they pay for public goods just like donations to private charities.  Suppose John Doe has an income of $1,000,000, West Dakota has a tax rate of 10%, and the US has a tax rate of 30%, so West Dakota tax is $100,000 and US tax is $300,000 sans deductibility.  Then if we add deductibility  of state taxes from federal income, 30% of $900,000 is just $270,000 and John Doe saves $30,000 on his federal taxes.

But suppose, instead, that we don’t do that. Instead, we add deductibility of federal taxes from state income. The result is that since 10% of $700,000 is $70,000, John Doe saves $30,000 on his state tax bill. Read more…

Categories: a.research, taxes, Uncategorized Tags:

Why the Idea of State Tax Credits and Donations Replacing Deductibility Won’t Work and How to Fix That

January 4th, 2018 No comments

The new tax bill limits the deduction for state and local taxes to $10,000.  This comes after the alternative minimum tax (AMT) already limits them if someone has enough capital gains and deductions to qualify for it, which a lot of people do.  Can states do anything to help their taxpayers? Read more…

Categories: a.research, taxes, Uncategorized Tags:

Pass-through Taxation and C-corp election; Schumpeterian motivations; politics; the financial accounting problem for earnings definition

January 2nd, 2018 2 comments
​​  This is quite a technical post, but some people will be interested.

On Mon, Jan 1, 2018 at 1:02 PM, Someone wrote me about the question of whether the Passthrough tax cut isn’t a big deal ,because even without it, if we slash the rate of taxation on C-Corporations a partnership could elect to be taxed AS IF it was  a C-corporation.  It turns out there are interesting complexities involved.

Read more…

Organizing a blog a different way

March 5th, 2014 No comments

I think it might work better if I just listed topics. I’ll collect posts in files, and usually I will put new material at the top. I’ll start with words.htm, though, which is mostly alphabetical.

 

Words: Interesting old and new words and phrases.

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Is a Declaratory Judgement an Equitable Remedy?

November 9th, 2013 No comments

From Prof. Eugene Volokh:

There are a host of special rules that simultaneously constrain and empower equitable remedies. These rules include the irreparable injury rule, equitable ripeness, equitable defenses (e.g., unclean hands and laches), opportunities to revisit and reopen the remedy (e.g., modification and dissolution of an injunction), and enforcement mechanisms such as contempt. These special rules apply to — and ordinarily only apply to — equitable remedies. They do not apply to the declaratory judgment.

Here are four thoughts:

(a) The idea of the declaratory judgment is very old even if the name is new. Two people have a dispute over rights and they ask the court to resolve it.

(b) A declaratory judgment is not a remedy. Getting one does nothing directly to solve the plaintiff’s problem. A remedy is a command, even if just an implicit command in the sense of declaring someone owes damages.

(c) A bit separate: ordinarily the plaintiff asks for an injunction as well as a declaratory judgment. The DC Circuit Court of Appeals ruled en banc in the Cohen tax case (2011) that despite the plain language of the Declaratory Judgement Act, its scope is the same as the Anti-Injunction Act’s, so declaratory judgments which do not restrain the collection of taxes are okay. The court noted that this was perhaps of little practical importance, since it is the injunction that is the main remedy anyway.

http://www.cadc.uscourts.gov/internet/opinions.nsf/90370AAF761ADAE1852578C00053952B/$file/08-5088-1316088.pdf

(d) Also separate: I found this in a footnote: “Abbott Labs. v. Gardner, 387 U.S. 136, 155 (1967) (the declaratory judgment and injunctive remedies are equitable in nature” But the Supreme Court was wrong when it said this.

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The word Fecit

November 6th, 2013 No comments

Fecit: Continued here.

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Computer Paranoia

September 14th, 2013 No comments

From Instapundit:

“HOW DO I SET UP MY WI-FI NETWORK TO EXCLUDE ANDROID DEVICES? If an Android device (phone or tablet) has ever logged on to a particular Wi-Fi network, then Google probably knows the Wi-Fi password. Considering how many Android devices there are, it is likely that Google can access most Wi-Fi passwords worldwide.”

Read more…

Categories: civil rights, computers, Uncategorized Tags:

Self Defense and Cybercrime

September 10th, 2013 No comments

I was just reading a good post of his upcoming Congressional testimony by Stewart Baker over at Volokh Conspiracy. One thing he talks about is the importance of making it legal for private corporations to fight cybercrime. They’re now hindered by unreasonable privacy laws. As he puts it, it’s like being worried about a theft conviction if you see a thief with your bicycle and take it back. Read more…

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Natural-Born Citizens

August 28th, 2013 1 comment

Is Ted Cruz, born abroad to an American mother and a non-American father, eligible to be President?

In nontechnical discourse people both now and in 1789 would no doubt divide citizens up into the two categories of natural-born and naturalized— so that natural-born would include anybody who was born a citizen, and if you weren’t naturalized, you must be natural-born.

The word “natural” is needed because to say “born citizen” doesn’t sound right—- it sounds as if it’s in distinction to citizens who came out of test tubes. The word “born” is needed because to say “natural citizen” makes it sound like someone who is just a natural American because he’s loves apple pie and football even though he’s Slovakian, or that I’m alluding to some sort of natural law concept of citizenship.

Categories: Constitution, elections, Uncategorized Tags:

Should Punctuation Be Inside or Outside of the Quotation Marks?

August 9th, 2013 No comments

Is the following paragraph punctuated as it should be?

The phrase “value of the gift” in 26 U.S.C. § 6324(b) means what it says––not “dollar amount of the gift at the time of donation”, but “what the gift is worth”. “Value” is not “face value”.

Read more…

Categories: Uncategorized, writing Tags:

The Typical Law Student: LSAT’s and SAT’s

August 2nd, 2013 No comments

I wrote a guest post at Taxprof recently. I wrote a long comment on the post too, which is equally worth reading.

At our law-and-econ lunch at Indiana University we talked about the Simkovic-McIntyre paper on the value of going to law school and the point that law students are a select bunch. My father, citing his experience in the Navy in 1945 and as a grand jury foreman in the 70’s, liked to say that university people don’t understand what ordinary people are like. So I looked up some facts, and here is my guess at what a typical law student is like.

He doesn’t go to Yale, or to Indiana. He goes to Albany Law School, a typical third-tier law school. Its 25th-75th LSAT scores are 149-155, a midpoint of 152.

– See more at: http://taxprof.typepad.com/taxprof_blog/2013/07/rasmusen.html#sthash.OQKo9KAn.dpuf

“Lowering the Bar to Raise Up the Bar: Licensing Difficulty and Attorney Quality in Japan”

July 12th, 2013 No comments

Professor Ramseyer and I are circulating our new paper for comment:

“Lowering the Bar to Raise Up the Bar: Licensing Difficulty and Attorney Quality in Japan”

Under certain circumstance, a relaxation in occupational licensing standards can increase the quality of those who enter the industry. The effect turns on the opportunity costs of preparing for the licensing examination: making the test easier can increase the quality of those passing if it lowers the opportunity costs enough to increase the number of those willing to go to the trouble of taking the test. We explore the theoretical circumstances under which this can occur and the actual effect of the relaxation of the difficulty of the bar exam in Japan from 1992 to 2011. http://rasmusen.org/papers/barpass-ram-ras.pdf.

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Is It Really True an IRS Employee Cannot Be Fired for Murdering Someone?

July 10th, 2013 No comments

Congressman Renacci is proposing to add to the list of offenses for which an IRS employee can be fired,

(10) performing, delaying, or failing to perform (or threatening to perform, delay, or fail to perform)
any official action (including any audit) with respect to a taxpayer for purpose of extracting personal
gain or benefit or for a political purpose.’’

I sent him a letter with some suggestions. Read more…

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Fighting the Dept. of Education in Court-Declaratory Judgement

June 22nd, 2013 No comments

The Education Dept. is bullying colleges by making absurd definitions of “sexual harassment”, something that itself is not part of the federal statute they are using. See http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2013/06/21/ocr-official-explains-harassment-policies-skeptical-college-lawyers, http://thefire.org/article/15970.html, http://pjmedia.com/instapundit/171165/ .

Some college has to actually fight the OCR in court. But who will bell the cat? The OCR knows that college administrators are generally cowards, and so they push them around, confident that the OCR can ignore the law because it won’t go to court. Could a college association perhaps ask for a declaratory judgement on behalf of its members, or could 50 or so colleges ask together, to avoid reprisal? The suit could ask for a declaration that a college is free under the statute to violate the OCR standard stated in the Montana agreement. The colleges would win, because OCR assertions that didn’t go through notice and comment and have no basis in the statute wouldn’t get Chevron deference. And it wouldn’t cost much to file such a challenge.

It would help the case that the colleges could quote the OCR representative as saying that he’ll “take it under advisement” as to whether the Dept. of Education should follow the Administrative Procedure Act. (“the entire room broke into applause in response to the notice and comment question”)

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Testing the Fit of Data to Power Law Distributions

July 30th, 2010 No comments

I found a good stats article on fitting data to a power law distribution, testing whether the fit is good, and testing whether a fit to an exponential or lognormal distribution would be better:

Power-law distributions in empirical data, SIAM (2009)
Aaron Clauset,1, 2 Cosma Rohilla Shalizi,3 and M. E. J. Newman

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Lack of posting

June 30th, 2010 No comments

For anyone checking in here: I got out of the habit of posting on my blog around June 1 and haven’t managed to get back to it. I might resume, but I might not.

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Turkish Anti-American Propaganda

June 3rd, 2010 No comments

Robert L. Pollock: Erdogan and the Decline of the Turks – WSJ.com.

For example, while there was much hand-wringing in our own media about “Who lost Turkey?” when U.S. forces were denied entry to Iraq from the north in 2003, no such introspection was evident in Ankara and Istanbul. Read more…

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Damages from the Oil Spill

June 1st, 2010 No comments

I was just googling to try to find out how much the Gulf oil spill might cost in damage. I suspect it’s overblown. Apparently Exxon Valdex caused damage of less than 5 billion dollars according to the Courts, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the true damge were much smaller, since the courts aren’t likely to be fair where oil companies are concerned. Think, too— if (a big assumption) all the wildlife in a stretch of 10 miles is destroyed, leaving virgin habitat (since the oil becomes harmless under sand), won’t wildlife move back in after just a few years? That might be a bad few years for fisheries–if there are any— but as far as Existence Value, it just means a few years of nonexistence during which nobody much woudl ahve visited it anyway.I value Alaskan wildlife in general quite highly, but I value Alaskan wildlife from 1995 to 2010 at almost zero. That fifteen years has no cosmic significance at all, and also no personal significance to me.

I wonder if the current BP spill is really causing any damage?

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Obama’s Campaign Donation Corruption: Foreign Donors

June 1st, 2010 No comments

The Volokh Conspiracy »

many seemed intent on skirting campaign finance laws: Obama’s foreign contributors were making multiple small donations, ostensibly in their own names, over a period of a few days, some under maximum donation allowances — but others were aggregating in excess of the maximums when their contributions were all added up. Other donations came in from donors with names such as “Hbkjb,” “jkbkj,” and “Doodad.” Read more…

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OSS on Bureaucracy and Sabotage

June 1st, 2010 No comments

The Volokh Conspiracy.

In January 1944, the Office of Strategic Services created a secret document entitled “Simple Sabotage Field Manual” (available hereas a free audio book) to assist operatives in disrupting the Axis war effort.  It contains the expected stuff about starting fires and shorting electrical systems.  But the most enlightening stuff comes at pages 28–31, in a section entitled “General Interference with Organizations and Production.”  There, we learn that our secret weapon against the Nazi war machine was . . . bureaucracy.  Note these ingenious plots:

Read more…

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Being Poor

June 1st, 2010 No comments

Steve Sailer’s iSteve Blog.

The big problem with being poor in 21st Century America is not that you can’t afford to buy enough stuff, it’s that you can’t afford to move away from other poor people.

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The Volokh Conspiracy » Shedding Light on the AZ Immigration Law

May 31st, 2010 No comments

The Volokh Conspiracy » Shedding Light on the AZ Immigration Law.

Eric Rasmusen says:

ARIZONA SENATE BILL 1070 LEGAL ISSUES RAISED BY ARIZONA’S NEW STATUTE REGULATING IMMIGRATION Gabriel J. Chin,* Carissa Byrne Hessick,** Toni Massaro,*** and Marc L. Miller**** May 23, 2010

Eric Rasmusen comments, erasmuse@Indiana.edu

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The Imaginary Euro

May 29th, 2010 No comments

King Barack the Verbose – Mark Steyn – National Review Online

The European motive for doing this is to “save the euro” — a currency whose very existence is a monument to the unbounded narcissism of government. The euro notes are decorated by scenic views of handsome Renaissance, Gothic, and classical edifices — just like the White House on U.S. currency. The only difference is that the European buildings do not exist in what we used to call the real world. They’re entirely fictional. That’s Big Government: Even if you don’t build it, they’ll still come. If you invent a currency for a united Europe, a united Europe is sure to follow.

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St. Basil’s Letters of Condolence

May 28th, 2010 No comments

CHURCH FATHERS: Letter 5 (St. Basil)

Who could be so stony-hearted, so truly inhuman, as to be insensible to what has occurred, or be affected by merely moderate grief? He is gone; heir of a noble house, prop of a family, a father’s hope, offspring of pious parents, nursed with innumerable prayers, in the very bloom of manhood, torn from his father’s hands…. Read more…

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David Brooks’s Intestines

May 27th, 2010 No comments

The Right Coast

While I hesitate to ascribe motives, in the case of Brooks I shall make an exception. It really seems to me his ersatz Burkeianism is mostly about allowing him to pose as that irritating object, the liberals’ favorite conservative. And it conveniently allows him to do so without staking out any very specific territory. It’s just, oh, I don’t have any specific principles or ideas, you know; with me it’s about my dispositions, my habits, my gastro-intestinal predilections.

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How to Make Us Happier

May 27th, 2010 No comments

» Faber: Nations Will Print Money, Go Bust, Go to War…We Are Doomed – Big Government

If deficits didn’t matter as many like Economist James Galbraith argue today, why should citizens even pay taxes? It would make everyone happier if they didn’t

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Rortiaric Wisdom

May 25th, 2010 No comments

Trotsky and the Wild Orchids

I could never figure out whether the Platonic philosopher was aiming at the ability to offer irrefutable argument – argument which rendered him able to convince anyone he encountered of what he believed (the sort of thing Ivan Karamazov was good at) – or instead was aiming [10] at a sort of incommunicable, private bliss (the sort of thing his brother Alyosha seemed to possess). Read more…

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Marie Stopes International

May 23rd, 2010 No comments

Mail Online – Peter Hitchens blog

I say that Marie Stopes International (which receives about £25 million a year from the NHS, much of it for killing unborn babies under contract) should be allowed to advertise its repellent services on TV. But on one condition. That each advertisement is followed by both of these: film of an actual abortion of a 24-week-old baby, and a brief documentary reminding viewers that Marie Stopes sent love poems to Adolf Hitler in August 1939, advocated compulsory sterilisation for the ‘unfit’, and cut her own son out of her will because he married a girl who wore glasses.

What sort of organisation would name itself after such a monstrous woman?

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Prof. Jonathan Katz, of Washington University

May 23rd, 2010 No comments

Steve Sailer’s iSteve Blog

I’ve written about him once. That was in 2002. Washington University had decreed that reporters needed official permission to conduct an interview on campus. According to the new guidelines, a reporter who wanted to conduct an interview on campus was required to notify the Public Affairs office, and a person from that office would have the right to monitor the interview.

So Katz called and asked if I wanted to break the rules. Of course, I said. I went to his office and interviewed him. He wanted to talk about his bosses.

“They’re control freaks,” he said. “This kind of policy is something you’d expect from a corporation. I have nothing against corporations, but a university is a fundamentally different thing.”

He dismissed the notion of a closed campus.

“A university is a small town with public spaces open to all. There is supposed to be a free flow of ideas and people. If you don’t have those things, you don’t have a real university. I’ve done a fair amount of consulting for the defense industry, and I’ve seen more freedom of thought, freedom to disagree, in the defense establishment than I see here.”

By the way, the door to his office was decorated with an American flag. That’s unusual in the physics department.

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In 2010 so far, foreigners killed about 3 times as many people in Arizona as they killed US soldiers in Iraq

May 22nd, 2010 No comments

Update, May 29: More info–still not on murder specifically, and just Phoenix. Read more…

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The Connecticut Attorney=General Owes $18 Million for Malicious Prosecution

May 22nd, 2010 No comments

Fergus Cullen: Richard Blumenthal’s Real Record – WSJ.com

The attorney general has also used the power of the state to bully small businesses. In 2003, he sued Computers Plus Center for $1.75 million in damages for allegedly selling state government machines without specified parts. Mr. Blumenthal issued a press release accusing the business owner, Gina Malapanis, of fraud: “No supplier should be permitted to shortchange or overcharge the State without severe consequences,” he said. “We will vigorously pursue this case to recover taxpayer money and send a strong message about zero tolerance for contractor misconduct.” Ms. Malapanis was even arrested in her home on seven first-degree larceny charges.

In 2008 the charges against Ms. Malapanis were dismissed. As for the civil case, she refused to plead guilty and countersued the state for abusing its power and violating her constitutional rights. The jury, recoiling at the overly aggressive action that ruined her business, awarded her a whopping $18 million in January. In a handwritten note on court documents, the jury foreman said the state had engaged in a “pattern of conduct” that harmed Ms. Malapanis’s reputation, and cited the state’s press releases impugning her integrity, some of which came from Mr. Blumenthal. Mr. Blumenthal is appealing the decision.

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President of Mexico Slanders US and Says Arizona Policy Is Standard Practice Already in Mexico

May 21st, 2010 No comments

Obama-Prop Calderon Rips USA, Gets Standing Ovation from Dems (But Off-Script He Admits the Truth)

Calderon was on with Wolf “Blitzed” last night on CNN Situation Room. Wolf Blitzer says, “What’s wrong with the folks in Arizona wanting to protect their border?”

CALDERON: In Arizona, there is some racial profiling criteria in order to enforce the law that it’s against any sense of human rights; and, of course, is provoking very disappointing, uh, things — or very disappointing opinion — in Mexico and around the world, even here in America. So to introduce this kind of elements, especially racial profiling aspect that are attempting against what we consider human rights, it’s the principle of discrimination which is against the values of this great nation.

RUSH: Yeah. Who is he to preach to us? For crying out loud, they deport more illegal immigrants from Mexico than we do! How do they catch their illegal immigrants? Do they profile them? How the hell do they find out who’s in their country illegally? Here’s the next question from Blitzer: “So if people want to come from Guatemala or Honduras or El Salvador or Nicaragua, they want to just come into Mexico, can they just walk in?”

CALDERON: No! They need to fulfill, uh, a form. They need to establish their right name. We analyze if they have not a criminal precedence.

BLITZER: Do Mexican police go around asking for papers of people they suspect are illegal immigrants?

CALDERON: Of course! Of course!

BLITZER: If somebody sneaks in from Nicaragua or some other country in Central America through the southern border of Mexico and they wind up in Mexico, they can going get a job?

CALDERON: No, no, no.

BLITZER: They can work?

CALDERON: If somebody do that without permissions, we send — we send back them.

RUSH: We didn’t record that ourselves. We didn’t make it up.

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The United Methodists’ World Governance System

May 21st, 2010 No comments

The American Spectator : Resenting African Christianity

Unlike the U.S. Episcopal Church, which is almost entirely U.S. members plus some small dioceses from Latin America and Taiwan, United Methodism is more fully international, with about one third of its members in Africa. Amid growing United Methodist churches in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Nigeria, among others, and a U.S. church losing about a 1,000 members weekly, the 11.4 million denomination likely will soon be majority African. At the church’s next governing General Conference in 2012, probably 40 percent of the delegates will come from outside the U.S., even further diminishing liberal hopes.

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