Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

The Decline of Marriage

April 29th, 2010 No comments

The End of Marriage? Posner – The Becker-Posner Blog

I wonder if the biggest reason for the decline of marriage isn’t simply the substitution of the State for the Father. Nowadays, a man who fathers children without marriage can avoid paying for them while resting assured that they will be well funded, if not fathered in other ways, by the government. This “cuckoo strategy” of getting other men to pay for your offspring may be quite successful.

As the post mentioned, cohabitation and marriage have become closer substitutes because of legal changes. If divorce is easy, then marriage loses much of its usefulness. It does provide a legal default for splitting assets at divorce, but it provides almost no legal commitment value. It used to be that at least an assetless man who got married was able to thus demonstrate to his wife that he wouldn’t marry anybody else later (because of bigamy laws). Now he isn’t restricting his options by marrying now.

Note that contract hasn’t replaced marriage because the law doesn’t let it. There is no assurance that judges will enforce marriage-like contracts, or even that they will order money damages for breach. Because of the lingering idea of marriage, a contract that would be enforceable in business— e. g., money damages awarded to a party who is unfaithful— isn’t likely to be enforced between a man and a woman. Maybe it would— but it’s “equity”, not “law” and you have to get a judge who likes your contract.

Posted by: Eric Rasmusen | 04/29/2010 at 01:28 PM

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The Smith Article on Porn at the SEC

April 29th, 2010 No comments

The Right Coast: Towards a behavioral economic theory of porn viewing at the SEC Tom Smith

Towards a behavioral economic theory of porn viewing at the SEC
Tom Smith

     In this paper I consider whether lax enforcement of rules against viewing pornography by SEC employees may be in fact a form of executive compensation that allows the SEC to pay employees less than they otherwise would for a similar level of expertise and diligence. Porn viewing at work is usually regarded as a classic instance of agency costs, in particular, shirking behavior. Rather than carefully reading the registration statement of a new variable annuity product, for example, and carefully considering whether it has complied with all the requirements of inter alia the Investment Company Act, the SEC worker may spend two hours perusing the archives of Jenna Jameson’s greatest hits. However, in order to agree to do the former task without the opportunity to do the latter, the SEC worker would in equilibrium insist on being paid a higher salary or enjoying other perks, such as the opportunity to play wastebasket basketball for extended periods. The second part of the paper is an extended comparison between porn viewing and insider trading as unorthodox but potentially efficient forms of executive compensation. Finally, porn viewing provides SEC workers and investment bankers with a common interest, even though investment bankers prefer live sex shows, which are typically beyond the means of SEC workers, unless they want to go to the really sleazy places. This cultural commonality, I argue, actually improves the SEC regulatory function by giving them a sympathetic insight, through the activation of mirror neurons, into the investment banking culture and business.

09:36 AM | Permalink…
john knox

These insights should also be applied to other agencies. For instance, agencies producing no obvious benefit to society but that simply hinder productivity, i.e. most of them, could be perhaps be improved by said activities. Being distracted from work, shirking, could be a net economic gain. Maybe not pareto optimal but closer. Clearly more research needs to be done. This is a pathbreaking paper that will open an entirely new field for investigation. I’m preparing a grant proposal as soon as I stop typing this comment.

Posted by: john knox | April 28, 2010 at 11:30 AM…
Eric Rasmusen

Very good. It’s not behavioral economics, tho, because there’s no psychology in your write-up, merely conventional price theory. Indeed, except for the last sentence, it would probably get rejected from a journal as being too obvious.

Something else very basic that you might mention is that there is a niche for at least one organization of Wall Street financiers and lawyers that caters to workers who like the particular fringe benefit of unlimited porn-watching. Most workers do not value that perk very highly, and hence would not take the lower wage it requires. Enough do, however, to make it worthwhile for at least one organization to do that— and if there is only one, it has monopsony power, a further bonus. The SEC, it seems, fills the niche for that particular sort of sexual perversion. Similarly, we’d expect other Wall Street organizations to specialize in S+M, homosexuality, and transvestitism, the size of the niche organization depending on the popularity of the perversion. Goldman Sachs, for example, with its high number of Democratic Party donors, enslaved juniors, and execs who like to show up for Congressional hearings, is perhaps the S+M firm.

Behavioral econ would enter if we go deeper and ask whether the SEC employees who spend all day on porn are truly happy, or whether they were lured in by the apparently utility-maximizing perk of slack effort (is “slack” the right word here, though?) and then are trapped by a compulsion which makes them humiliated and unfilfilled on the one hand and unable to leave for a normal job on the other.

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Obama’s Contempt for the Press

April 28th, 2010 No comments

Why reporters are down on Obama – Print View

One of the most irritating practices of the Obama White House is when aides ignore inquiries or explicitly refuse to cooperate with an unwelcome story — only to come out with both guns blazing when it takes a skeptical view of their motives or success.

“You will give them ample opportunity on a story. They will then say, ‘We don’t have anything for you on this.’ Then, when you write an analytical graph that could be interpreted as implying a political motive by the White House, or something that makes them look like anything but geniuses, you will get a flurry of off-the-record, angry e-mails after you publish,” one national reporter said. “That does no good. If you want to complain. Engage!”…


Asked about some of the more aggressive tactics, including complaints to editors, Gibbs said, “We have to do some of those things. … I certainly believe anyone who goes to an editor does so because it’s something they feel is very egregious. I don’t think people do it very lightly.”

Some reporters say the pushback is so aggressive that it undermines the credibility of Obama’s aides. “The willingness to argue that credible information is untrue is at its core dishonest and unfortunately calls into question everything else the press office says,” one White House reporter said.

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Is the FBI Lying about the Michigan Militia Case?

April 28th, 2010 No comments — The Blade ~ Toledo Ohio


DETROIT – An FBI agent who led the investigation of nine Michigan militia members charged with trying to launch war against the federal government couldn’t recall many details of the two-year probe yesterday during questioning by defense lawyers.

Even the judge who must decide whether to release the nine until trial was puzzled.

“I share the frustrations of the defense team … that she doesn’t know anything,” U.S. District Judge Victoria Roberts said after agent Leslie Larsen confessed she hadn’t reviewed her notes recently and couldn’t remember specific details of the case.

Judge Roberts is hearing an appeal of another judge’s order that has kept members of so-called Hutaree militia in jail since their arrest in late March.

The indictment says the nine planned to kill police officers as a steppingstone to a widespread uprising against the federal government.

Defense lawyers, however, say their clients are being punished for being outspoken.

Prosecutors fought to keep Ms. Larsen off the witness stand, saying the defendants had no legal right to question her….

She said that because they were still being examined, she didn’t know if weapons seized by investigators last month were illegal.

At other times, Ms. Larsen couldn’t answer questions because she said she hadn’t reviewed investigative reports.

Defense lawyer William Swor asked if the No. 1 defendant, Hutaree leader David Stone, had ever instructed anyone to make a bomb.

“I can’t fully answer that question,” the agent replied.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Jonathan Tukel defended Ms. Larsen, telling the judge it wasn’t clear until Monday that she would testify.

Judge Roberts, however, said she told the government to be prepared last week.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Ronald Waterstreet played an audiotape of what he said were several militia members talking freely about killing police.

The participants talked over each other, often laughed and made goofy noises and disparaging remarks about law enforcement.

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“Woman says former boyfriend hit her in the head with a Chihuahua”

April 27th, 2010 No comments

Woman says former boyfriend hit her in the head with a Chihuahua:

Woman says former boyfriend hit her in the head with a Chihuahua
By Laura Lane 331-4362 |
April 27, 2010, last update: 4/27 @ 4:58 pm

Bloomington police want to question a man who reportedly struck his former girlfriend in the head with her own Chihuahua.

She told officers the man threw the 3-pound dog across the room. It struck her head, then slammed into a wall and slid to the floor, but was not injured.

The incident happened last Monday, but was not reported to police until a second incident between the woman and the alleged dog thrower about 4 a.m. Saturday.


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Who to Think About

April 27th, 2010 No comments

God and Mrs. Roosevelt | First Things

an inspirational message by Henry Van Dyke, enjoining one to “think seldom of your enemies, often of your friends, and every day of Christ.”

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Avoiding Paying Legal Judgments

April 26th, 2010 No comments

A good question to think about is what our laws ought to say about the penalty for not paying legal judgments. Currently, as I understand it, you are free to conceal your assets, and the creditor has to find them in order to seize them, which is a huge hurdle. Why don’t we simply require debtors to list their assets, and to reveal their tax returns and boil them in oil if they lie? Remember— they have acted unlawfully, tho not criminally, in refusing to pay their debts, so they can hardly argue that they have a right to privacy. It’s not their money any more.

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Jon Stewart on Moslem Intimidation of South Park

April 25th, 2010 No comments
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Luther on Needing Ten Hands

April 24th, 2010 No comments


Then you may reply: But how if I am not called, what shall I do then?

Answer: How is it possible that you are not called? You have always been in some state or station; you have always been a husband or wife, or boy or girl, or servant. Picture before you the humblest state. Are you a husband, and you think, you have not enough to do in that sphere to govern your wife, children, domestics and property so that all may be obedient to God and you do no one any wrong? Yea, if you had five heads and ten hands, even then you would be too weak for your task, so that you would never dare to think of making a pilgrimage or doing any kind of saintly work.

8. Again: are you a son or daughter, and do you think you have not enough work with yourself, to continue chaste, pure and temperate during your youth, obey your parents, and offend no one by word or deed? Yea, since the custom of honoring such commands and callings has been abandoned, people go and pray with their rosaries and do like things, not belonging to their station in life, and no one ever thinks he is not faithful in his state or station.

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Barney’s Frank’s Sexuality

April 24th, 2010 No comments

Not Too ‘Hip’ and ‘Edgy’ for Censorship – Mark Steyn – National Review Online

Frank Rich of the New York Times attempted to diversify the tea-party racism into homophobia by arguing that Obamacare’s opponents were uncomfortable with Barney Frank’s sexuality. I yield to no one in my discomfort with Barney Frank’s sexuality, but, with the best will in the world, I find it hard to blame it for more than the first 4 or 5 trillion dollars of federal overspending….

It was time to go for broke and bring out Bill Clinton to explain why the tea parties are the new front in the war on terror. Don’t worry about Iran’s nuclear program, but if you meet a tea-party supporter waving some placard about the national debt, try not to catch his eye and back away slowly without making any sudden movements, lest he put down his placard and light up his suicide belt.

Mr. al Amrikee helpfully explained that his video incitement of the murder of Matt Stone and Trey Parker wasn’t really “a threat but just the likely outcome.” All he was doing, he added, was “raising awareness” — you know, like folks do on Earth Day. On Earth Day, lame politicians dig a hole and stick a tree in it. But aggrieved Muslims dig a hole and stick a couple of comedy writers in it. Celebrate diversity!

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How Pornography Hurts Science

April 23rd, 2010 No comments

Washington Times – : Porn surfing rampant at U.S. science foundation

The Washington Times
Originally published 04:45 a.m., September 29, 2009, updated 07:25 a.m., September 29, 2009
EXCLUSIVE: Porn surfing rampant at U.S. science foundation

Jim McElhatton


Employee misconduct investigations, often involving workers accessing pornography from their government computers, grew sixfold last year inside the taxpayer-funded foundation that doles out billions of dollars of scientific research grants, according to budget documents and other records obtained by The Washington Times.

The problems at the National Science Foundation (NSF) were so pervasive they swamped the agency’s inspector general and forced the internal watchdog to cut back on its primary mission of investigating grant fraud and recovering misspent tax dollars.

“To manage this dramatic increase without an increase in staff required us to significantly reduce our efforts to investigate grant fraud,” the inspector general recently told Congress in a budget request. “We anticipate a significant decline in investigative recoveries and prosecutions in coming years as a direct result.”

The SEC has the same problem:

A senior attorney at the SEC’s Washington headquarters spent up to eight hours a day looking at and downloading pornography. When he ran out of hard drive space, he burned the files to CDs or DVDs, which he kept in boxes around his office. He agreed to resign, an earlier watchdog report said.

– An accountant was blocked more than 16,000 times in a month from visiting websites classified as “Sex” or “Pornography.” Yet he still managed to amass a collection of “very graphic” material on his hard drive by using Google images to bypass the SEC’s internal filter, according to an earlier report from the inspector general. The accountant refused to testify in his defense, and received a 14-day suspension.

– Seventeen of the employees were “at a senior level,” earning salaries of up to $222,418


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The Goldman SEC Case

April 23rd, 2010 No comments

The government’s complaint is here. Paulson thought certain securities were overvalued, and wanted to short them. It asked Goldman to construct a new security, Abacus, out of them. Goldman hired ACA to choose the securities that would make up Abacus and to go long on it. Goldman told ACA what the idea of Abacus was (without giving an opinion on whether that kind of security was overvalued) and gave ACA Paulson’s list of securities as potential ingredients. ACA chose some of the Paulson securities, and some other securities to make up Abacus. Abacus was a synthetic product, so for every party going long, somebody had to go short. Goldman advertised Abacus as having been designed by ACA. Goldman and ACA went long, and Paulson went short. Various other parties went long or short too.

This sounds fair to me. Paulson thought the securities were overvalued, but he knew that most people didn’t. He wanted one of the overvaluers to put its genuine stamp of approval on Abacus to give it credibility. ACA did that. ACA was under no pressure and no financial interest to approve securities it thought were overvalued. Its stamp of approval was genuine.

Conglomerate Blog: Business, Law, Economics & Society

As I understand it from the complaint, ACA picked every single asset referenced in the portfolio, and the only dispute is over the fact that Paulson, which had no authority whatsoever, suggested some of them to ACA, and ACA didn’t know that Paulson was hoping ACA would make bad picks.

ACA was supposed to be the expert here, which is why it was given full authority. Paulson thought ACA was a stupid expert, which was in fact true, and was helping give ACA rope to hang itself with. But to the extent that ACA was relying on Paulson rather than using its own judgment, isn’t it ACA that is failing in its duty? (Not a legal duty, but its business” duty” to maintain its reputation for doing good work and not just relying on claims by non-experts)
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Eric Rasmusen

Another point. Whenever Goldman puts together a deal, it has multiple parties involved, who pretty much always have adverse interests (each company has to hire its own lawyer, doesn’t it, rather than having one law firm for everybody?). The parties are supposed to know that some of their interests are joint— they all want to get the deal done— and some adverse–they each want a bigger share of the benefits. A party is smart to listen to the apparently helpful suggestions of another party, but stupid to blindly trust them. Isn’t that what happened here?

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Iceland Jokes

April 22nd, 2010 No comments

The Volokh Conspiracy

Reported by Michael Rubin (The Corner):

[1. I]t was the Icelandic economy’s last wish that its ashes be scattered over the EU.

[2.] Iceland goes bankrupt, then it manages to set itself on fire. This has insurance scam written all over it.

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Cloning Oneself

April 21st, 2010 No comments

Marginal Revolution: Cloning thoughts

I think it’s undisputable that the rest of us, at least, would be better off if there were 100 extra Bryan Caplans around. If nothing else, I’m sure he contributes more in tax revenue than he uses up in services.

The Darwinian question is interesting, and goes to Dawkins’s good Selfish Gene idea. Most of us don’t want a clone of ourselves– we want an almost-clone, but improved in certain ways. We would like our child to have higher IQ, no asthma, and no tendency to be pot-bellied. That would be bad, however, for our genes for stupidity, asthma, and pot-belliedness. There’s an inter-genetic conflict.

There’s also a good philosophic question. If my almost-clone is smart and non-asthmatic, is he really like me? Have I really perpetuated myself? What, especially, if I am centrally defined by my bad qualities—arrogance, cowardice, and stupidity?

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Self Defense Threats in Kansas

April 21st, 2010 No comments

The Volokh Conspiracy » Kansas Now Allows Threat of Deadly Force in Self-Defense, and Not Just Use of Such Force

You wouldn’t think that it would take a statute to do this. After all, if it’s OK to kill someone to defend against a threat of death or serious injury, the lesser harm of threatening to kill someone should be fine, too. 

But last year the Kansas Supreme Court held that existing Kansas law only allowed a defense for actual use of force, which didn’t include threats; earlier this year, the Kansas Court of Appeals faithfully applied this principle. Fortunately, the Kansas Legislature (apparently prompted by the urging of gun rights advocates) passed a law that — among other things — makes clear that threats of force should qualify as justifiable self-defense, to the same extent that the actual use of force qualifies; and just yesterday, the governor signed the bill. Good work.

On blackmail: the illegality is not in the threat, but in the promise not to carry out the threat if money is paid. It’s perfectly legal for me to say to you that I’m going to tell your wife about your adulterous behavior. What’s illegal is to ask for money to be silent.

In self-defense, the threat is a statement that if you come closer to me with your knife, I will shoot you. It is not trying ot make a deal; it is simply informing you of what will happen— what I would do even if I hadn’t made the threat. A bystander could have made the statement with the same effect: “If you go any closer to Rasmusen holding that knife, he’s going to shoot you.”

The mere announcement that you are going to exercise your legal rights should not be illegal.

If a mother tells her child, “I’m going to spank you,” is that assault even tho the spanking itself is legal? If a boxer tells his opponent, “I’m going to land one right on your nose,” is that assault even tho the blow itself would not be? I hope not. Maybe Kansas will need a couple of other new statutes to cover those cases too, tho.

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A Quaker Joke

April 21st, 2010 No comments

The Volokh Conspiracy » Kansas Now Allows Threat of Deadly Force in Self-Defense, and Not Just Use of Such Force

the old joke where the Quaker farmer finds a burglar in his house: ‘Friend, I would not harm thee for all the world, but thou are standing where I am about to shoot’.

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Nuclear Proliferation

April 17th, 2010 No comments

Nonproliferation? How Quaint! – Mark Steyn – National Review Online

If you read in the paper that New Zealand had decided to go nuclear, would you lose a moment’s sleep over it? Personally, I’d be rather heartened. It would be a sign that a pampered and somnolent developed world had woken up and concluded that betting your future on the kindness of strangers is a helluva gamble. What Obama and his empty showboaters failed even to acknowledge in their “security” summit is the reality of the post–Big Five nuclear age: We’re on the brink of a world in which the wealthiest nations from Canada to Norway to Japan can barely project meaningful force to their own borders while the nickel-’n’-dime basket cases go nuclear.

How long do you think that arrangement will last? Iran has already offered to share its nuclear technology with Sudan. Sudan? Ring a vague bell? Remember that “Save Darfur” interpretative-dance fundraiser you went to where someone read out a press release from George Clooney and you all had a simply marvelous time? Hundreds of thousands of people have been killed — with machetes. That’s pretty labor-intensive.

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Share of Defense Spending

April 16th, 2010 No comments

Story comments –

Some commentors have been claiming that national defense was half the government budget. Far from it. In 2009, according to the Administration itself 749.7 billion was spent on defense, out of a total of 3,833 billion— 20% of the federal budget, and less than social security by itself. See

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The Secret Leader of the Tea Party Movement

April 16th, 2010 No comments

Hundreds turn out for Tax Day tea party in Bloomington:

Organizer Parker spoke briefly to the crowd through a megaphone, pointing out the movement’s successes, such as the election of fiscally conservative governors in New Jersey and Virginia, as well as that of Republican Scott Brown to the Massachusetts Senate.

Leiter also spoke to local protesters, saying the mainstream media had tried to give the movement a leader in Glenn Beck, Sarah Palin or Sean Hannity.

“Who is our leader?” he asked. “We are,” the crowd chorused back.

“Exactly,” Leiter said, garnering applause and hoots of appreciation.

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A Sign of Reagan’s Talent

April 16th, 2010 No comments

General Election 2010: How to win the great TV debate – Telegraph

Asked about the age issue in 1984, Reagan generously promised not to bring up his opponent’s “youth and inexperience”. The 56-year-old and much-experienced Walter Mondale couldn’t help joining in the laughter.

So far as I have been able to learn, none of Reagan’s handlers suggested the lines and Reagan didn’t tip them off in advance.

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Obama Isn’t Pardoning Anyone

April 16th, 2010 No comments

Obama should exercise the pardon power

Kenneth Lee

April 12, 2010

During a recent oral argument in a case involving the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines for crack cocaine, Justice Anthony Kennedy asked a curious question: “Does the Justice Department ever make recommendations that prisoners like this have their sentence commuted?”

When the Justice Department attorney could not answer the question, Kennedy remarked that the president had not granted a single act of clemency during the past year and wondered aloud whether “something is not working in the system.”

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Congressional Races in the Odd Years?

April 15th, 2010 No comments

RealClearPolitics – How Bad Could 2010 Really Get For Democrats?

Chart I below lists the “wave” midterm elections since the country began having regular midterm elections after the Civil War (before then, many states held their Congressional elections the year after and the year before the Presidential election, i.e. odd-numbered years, while other states followed the Presidential/midterm model).

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The Political Views of Fans of Different Sports

April 15th, 2010 No comments

Taki’s Magazine, edited by Taki Theodoracopulos

A new survey of the athletic and political tastes of 218,313 American adults confirms old stereotypes and identifies fun new ones. The Politics of Sports Fans from the marketing research firm National Media Research, Planning and Placement includes a sophisticated graph that rewards careful scrutiny: Your browser may not support display of this image.

A few random notes:

Fans of PGA golf are represented by the red disk in the upper right corner. They both vote the most Republican (which is why they are farthest to the right on the horizontal Party axis) and just plain vote the most (they are nearest the top on the vertical Turnout axis).

(By the way, the red and blue hues merely reiterate visually which quadrant a sport falls in.)

The larger a sport’s dot, the higher the percentage of grown-ups who say they are “very interested” in it. Not surprisingly, pro football (the big red “NFL” disk near the center) has the most, and most-average, fans.

The least likely to vote are pro wrestling fans (the pale blue dot in the lower left). The most Democratic are the small number of fans of the Women’s NBA, while the NBA’s fans are the second most liberal.

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Franck on Geoff Stone on Jurisprudence

April 15th, 2010 No comments

Bench Memos – National Review Online

Everybody Must Get Stone [Matthew J. Franck]

Today the New York Times gives 1,100 words’ worth of prime newspaper real estate to University of Chicago law professor Geoffrey Stone to set us all straight on how to think about the Constitution. It was actually more words than he needed, so let me provide you with the condensed version in case you are pressed for time:

“Those conservatives who rail about liberal judges ‘making’ law rather than ‘applying’ it get my goat. Originalism is disingenuous. We know this because the Constitution contains open-ended language, whose meaning is simply unknown to us, whereas the aspirations of the framers are perfectly well-known to us.

“Conservative judges routinely make bad rulings, actually driven by ideology rather than original meaning, which will be obvious to you as soon as I recite some of the outcomes they have produced.

“Liberal judges, equally obviously, make good rulings, driven by the framers’ aspirations rather than ideology, which I will again prove to you by reciting some notable outcomes for which they were responsible.

“Oh, did I mention that the perfectly knowable aspirations of the framers, hidden just behind the impenetrable words they wrote whose meaning is unknowable, are best fulfilled by an empathetic, that is, liberal approach to modern realities? Well, they are, because I say so.”

I begin to understand why some of the law faculty at Chicago were willing to offer a permanent position to part-time lecturer Barack Obama, despite his evident lack of scholarly accomplishments.

Very nice. It’s no exaggeration– read Stone’ article. It’s amazing. Here’s a sample:

Rulings by conservative justices in the past decade make it perfectly clear that they do not “apply the law” in a neutral and detached manner. Consider, for example, their decisions holding that corporations have the same right of free speech as individuals, that commercial advertising receives robust protection under the First Amendment, that the Second Amendment prohibits the regulation of guns, that affirmative action is unconstitutional, that the equal protection clause mandated the election of George W. Bush and that the Boy Scouts have a First Amendment right to exclude gay scoutmasters.

Whatever one thinks of these decisions, it should be apparent that conservative judges do not disinterestedly call balls and strikes. …

Liberal judges, on the other hand, have tended to exercise the power of judicial review to invalidate laws that disadvantage racial and religious minorities, political dissenters, people accused of crimes and others who are unlikely to have their interests fully and fairly considered by the majority. Liberal judges have ended racial segregation, recognized the principle of “one person, one vote,” prohibited censorship of the Pentagon Papers and upheld the right to due process, even at Guantánamo Bay. This approach to judicial review fits much more naturally with the concerns and intentions of people like Madison who forged the American constitutional system.

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Our Local Republican Congressional Primary

April 14th, 2010 No comments

The Hoosierpundit: 9th District Debate Roundup

watching the debate last night changed my mind. Of the four candidates Mike Sodrel, I felt, was the most polished, gave the better responses, had a better command of the issues and presented himself as the best candidate to beat Baron Hill in the fall. Todd Young spent the night taking potshots at Sodrel’s record and trying to draw Sodrel into a fracas. The first couple times it seemed legitimate but, over time, it grew tiresome. And the crowd sensed that it was tiresome, it seemed like he was trying to conduct a prosecution. Every time Travis responded to a question he would speak as if he was in front of a large crowd without the benefit of a PA system. He was literally shouting in a clipped campaign style that did not seem appropriate for this type of setting. Sodrel seemed relaxed and was able to provide examples of his previous term in Congress to issues like immigration, national defense and tax policy. Philosophically, there is not much separating the four. They all support term limits, are pro-life, favor strong national defense and want to secure our borders. But of the four I felt Mike Sodrel has the benefit of having been there before and knowing what to expect and how to get things done in Congress.

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University Racial Quotas

April 10th, 2010 No comments

The Volokh Conspiracy » Blog Archive » A Department That Doesn’t Look Like America

Eric Rasmusen says:

I think most universities would say they would be very unhappy if 95% of their faculty or students in a given subject were Jewish, and would take active steps to reduce the percentage. That’s essentially what the Ivy League colleges did in the early 20th century, except the Ivies had a much lower cutoff level than 95%. Thus, I think we can say we have Jewish quotas now, and are hypocritical in saying we oppose the idea, as opposed to the exact level— the present quotas just aren’t a binding constraint, except insofar as they are lumped in with the White-Asian-Foreigner constraint, which is tightly binding.

Jewish student quotas in the 1920s were:

Yale 10%
Princeton 3%
Harvard: 10–12%
Columbia 20%
Dartmouth 5%

Antisemitism: a historical encyclopedia of prejudice and …, Volume 1
edited by Richard Levy. p. 514.

A helpful distinction in looking at racial discrimination is whether the discriminator places value on the discriminated-against group, and hence has a minimum quota (even tho it is nonbinding) as well as a maximum quota. That is true of present affirmative action discrimination and of the anti-Jewish discrimination of the 1920s, but not of the racial segregation of the American South. Present affirmative action proponents don’t want too many whites, Asians, or foreigners, because given the limit on the total number of people that would displace others, but they certainly want some of them, given valued things they bring to the university. The same was true of the 1920’s Ivy Leagues— even Princeton— which valued smart Jews, but didn’t want too much of the class to be made up of smart Jews, Midwesterners, and so forth. They could have reduced the quotas to 0, legally, but they did want some of the Jews. On the other hand, the Southern colleges of the same era wanted zero black students, not just a very small number of very good black students.

Perhaps that is what is captured in the notion of discrimination motivated by positive desires versus discrimination motived by negative desires.

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The Tax Burden across Countries

April 8th, 2010 No comments

Greg Mankiw’s Blog

Taxes/GDP x GDP/Person = Taxes/Person

Here are the results for some of the largest developed nations:

.461 x 33,744 = 15,556

.406 x 34,219 = 13,893

.390 x 35,165 = 13,714

.282 x 46,443 = 13,097

.334 x 38,290 = 12,789

.426 x 29,290 = 12,478

.373 x 29,527 = 11,014

.274 x 32,817 = 8,992

The bottom line: The United States is indeed a low-tax country as judged by taxes as a percentage of GDP, but as judged by taxes per person, the United States is in the middle of the pack.

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Collingwood’s Idea: Look at the Question to Understand the Answer

April 7th, 2010 No comments

Being And Time | The New Republic

This also gave him one of his central targets: philosophers who find it easy to yank a sentence from Plato, Leibniz, Hume, or whomever, and triumphantly demonstrate that it is false or meaningless or both, without paying any attention to the problem to whose solution it was intended as a contribution.

You understand someone, according to Collingwood, not in the way you might come to understand a piece of machinery or any other mechanical or causal process, but by “re-enacting” in your own mind the problem they were addressing and the solution they were proposing.

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Why Make Ugly Art?

April 7th, 2010 No comments

Being And Time | The New Republic

In London during World War I, Collingwood walked every day past Sir George Gilbert Scott’s Albert Memorial, and by his own account it was this eyesore that first turned his mind toward serious questions of history and art:

Everything about it was visibly misshapen, corrupt, crawling, verminous; for a time I could not bear to look at it, and passed by with averted eyes; recovering from this weakness I forced myself to look, and face day by day the question: a thing so obviously, so incontrovertibly, so indefensibly bad, why had Scott done it? To say that Scott was a bad architect was to burke the problem with a tautology; to say that there was no accounting for tastes was to evade it by a suggestio falsi. What relation was there, I began to ask myself, between what he had done and what he had tried to do? Had he tried to produce a beautiful thing; a thing I meant, which we should have thought beautiful? If so he had of course failed. But had he perhaps been trying to produce something different? If so he might possibly have succeeded. If I found the monument merely loathsome, was that perhaps my fault? Was I looking in it for qualities it did not possess, and either ignoring or despising those it did?

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Being Gracious to Opponents Is Easier if You’re Not Their Victim

April 6th, 2010 No comments

The Corner – National Review Online

Sen. Tom Coburn (R., Okla.) defended House Speaker Nancy Pelosi from personal attacks at a town hall in Oklahoma:

While discussing his policy disagreements with Pelosi, Coburn said “she’s a nice lady,” which brought hisses and hoots from the crowd.

Said Coburn: “Come on now. She is nice — how many of you all have met her? She’s a nice person. Just because somebody disagrees with you doesn’t mean they’re not a good person… So don’t catch yourself being biased by Fox News that somebody is no good. The people in Washington are good. They just don’t know what they don’t know.”

Coburn also has an unlikely friendship with President Obama.

Full story here.

UPDATE: From a reader:

I understand what Sen. Coburn is saying, but I don’t think he really appreciates the view point of his audience. I believe it is relatively easy for a person in/with power to be gracious to an adversary. Think of how many buddies Ted Kennedy had among Republican senators. When they lose a fight with a Kennedy or Pelosi they may have bruised pride, but they are not significantly hurt in any material way by that loss. Us ‘commoners’ can and are hurt in significant ways when a Coburn loses a political fight. It’s not just a disagreement to us. So maybe he can be a little more sympathetic to those of us that personalize being @#$@%#@% over by the Dems and their policies.

It’s also significant that Pelosi and Coburn can trade favors, and need a good working relationship.

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The CBO Obamacare Cost Estimate

March 30th, 2010 No comments

The Bus Econ Brown Bag was interesting today. I attach a couple of documents explaining OBamacare. The Kaiser summary looks good. It misses the key sentence in the CBO budget projections, tho, which says the CBO is relying on cost reductions by a Board which is forbidden to suggest any savings method that rations care, increases private spending via taxes or copayments, or affects hospitals.

From the CBO:

“The projected longer-term savings for the legislation also reflect
an assumption that the Independent Payment Advisory Board
established by H.R. 3590 would be fairly effective in reducing
costs beyond the reductions that would be achieved by other
aspects of the legislation.” ( p. 14, March 20, 2010 CBO letter to
Speaker Pelosi)

From a summary of the plan:

“Establish an Independent Payment Advisory Board comprised of
15 members to submit legislative
proposals containing recommendations to reduce the per capita
rate of growth in Medicare spending
if spending exceeds a target growth rate….

The Board is prohibited from submitting proposals that would
ration care, increase revenues or change benefits, eligibility or
Medicare beneficiary cost sharing (including Parts A and B
premiums), or would result in a change in the beneficiary premium
percentage or low-income subsidies under Part D. Hospitals and
hospices (through 2019) and clinical labs (for one year) will not be
subject to cost reductions proposed by the Board.”

( “Summary of New Health Reform Law,” Kaiser Family Foundation,
p. 8 source they list:

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Judicial Activism: What Conservative Activism Would Look Like

March 29th, 2010 No comments

Suppose we adopt the following reasoning:

P1. The Constitution protects all important human rights.
P2. The right to have an abortion is an important human right.
C1: The Constitution forbids state laws against abortion.

Prof. Marshall believes P1, and Justice Scalia does not, so Justice Scalia thinks Prof. Marshall’s conclusion C1 is wrong, regardless of whether P2 is true or not.

If P1 is good jurisprudence, then it also applies here:

P1. The Constitution protects all important human rights.
P3. The right to not be aborted is an important human right.
C2: The Constitution forbids state laws allowing abortion.

Prof. Marshall believes P3 is false, but Justice Scalia believes it is true. Since Justice Scalia thinks P1 s false, he thinks C2 is false too. Suppose, however, that Prof. Marshall talked with Justice Scalia and convinced him that P1 is good jurisprudence. Justice Scalia would then adopt C2.

At the moment, Prof. Marshall’s position should be: Given that Justice Scalia believes P3, it is wrong for Justice Scalia to hold back from Conclusion C2 and allow abortion. Scalia’s abortion decisions are unduly deferential to state legislatures. If Scalia had had a majority on the Court in 1973, then the morally right thing for them to do would have been for the Court to strike down California’s legalization of abortion. To be sure, Prof. Marshall thinks their view of human rights is wrong, but a judge has to go with what his own views on that when the text gives no guidance.

I would like to make it clear that I don’t believe P1. Thus, I do think it would be constitutional to ban having more than one child— just as all kinds of stupid and unjust policies are constitutional. If the electorate has voted for a one-child policy, however, we’ve got a lot worse problem than just that one policy— we have an electorate that will do crazy things, and 5 sane judges aren’t going to stop that. I worry more about the possibility of getting 5 crazy judges than 151 million crazy citizens.

I also don’t think it would be unconstitutional to have a state law saying that if the parents agree, they can murder their child if it is less than one year of age. That’s an unlikely law. It’s less likely, though, than a Supreme Court that would say that the right to kills one’s children is a natural human right. After all, that was what the Romans believed, and I don’t doubt but that it’s common in other cultures. ( Brent Shaw tries to refute the idea that Roman law said this, but I find his article quite fails at its attempt. Raising and Killing Children: Two Roman Myths. Brent D. Shaw Mnemosyne, Fourth Series, Vol. 54, Fasc. 1 (Feb., 2001), pp. 31-77 .)

Two more examples of possible conservative activism:

1. One might argue that the Constitution requires that any state government fund religious private schools (in fact, *all* private schools) at the same level as non-religious government schools.

2. One might argue that high marginal tax rates (federal plus social security plus state taxes) are Takings, or unjust on grounds of natural law. A reasonable and workable rule would be that any combined marginal tax rate less than 1/3 is always ok, a rate between 1/3 and 2/3 is justified if the government has a special need such as war finance, and a rate over 2/3 is never justified.

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Cover on Blood and Judges

March 29th, 2010 No comments

A quote I heard today at the law school:

Some interpretations are writ in blood and run with a warranty of blood as part of their validating force. Other interpretations carry more conventional limits to what will be hazarded on their behalf….

For the courts, too, may or may not speak in blood. To be sure, judges characteristically do not have to use their own blood to create meaning; like most power wielders, they usually write their bloodier texts in the bodies of the inmates of the penal colony. But the fact that all judges are in some way people of violence does not mean they rejoice in that quality or write their texts lightly…. The community that disobeys the criminal law upon the authority of its own constitutional interpretation, however, forces the judge to choose between affirming his interpretation of the official law through violence against the protesters and permitting the polynomia of legal meaning to extend to the domain of social practice and control. The judge’s commitment is tested as he is asked what he intends to be the meaning of his law and whether his hand will be part of the bridge that links the official vision of the Constitution with the reality of people in jail.

Harvard Law Review NOVEMBER, 1983 97 Harv. L. Rev. 4 THE SUPREME COURT, 1982 TERM: FOREWORD: NOMOS AND NARRATIVE Robert M. Cover

He should have cited De Maistre who, I think, said something related.

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The Pope and Pedophilia

March 29th, 2010 1 comment

It will be interesting to see if Pope Benedict can defend himself against charges that he protected pedophilia. I did have the sense that as an administrator he wanted to take a harder line than Pope John Paul II, who was part of the problem. But it now seems that even if he did oppose the old Pope’s policies, he was a loyal subordinate and kept quiet about evil thigns he knew were happening, rather like a Nazi who argued against death camps but helped build them when he lost the argument. I hope that isn’t true, and that we’ll find out otherwise. The Pope isn’t defending himself very well, though– he’s just brushing off the issuee–which is a very bad sign.

I’m a Calvinist, and the point that people are evil and you need people to have institutions is a good one. Every organization is going to contain people who do evil. What’s more important is how the organization responds to that. But Roman Catholics do talk a lot about the One True Church, and maybe the protection of pedophilia by its bishops is a sign that the Roman Catholic denomination is not it.

If a political party had that much corruption in the leadership, I wouldn’t want to be associated with it even if its doctrine was sound.

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Politicians Totally Surprised by Honest Accounting

March 29th, 2010 No comments

The American Spectator : Obama in Rude Denial

The White House political and legislative operations were said to be livid with the announcement by several large U.S. companies that they were taking multi-million or as much as a billion dollar charges because of the new health-care law, the issue was front-and-center with key lawmakers. By last Friday, AT&T, Caterpillar, Deere & Co., and AK Steel Holding Corp. had all announced that they were taking the one-time charges on their first-quarter balance sheets. …

On Friday White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel and Obama senior advisor Valerie Jarrett were calling the CEOs and Washington office heads of the companies that took the financial hits and attacked them for doing so. One Washington office head said that the White House calls were accusatory and “downright rude.”

The companies are taking the charges because in 2013 they will lose a tax deduction on tax-free government subsidies they have had when they give retirees a Medicare Part D prescription-drug reimbursement.  …

“Most of these people [in the Administration] have never had a real job in their lives. They don’t understand a thing about business, and that includes the President,” says a senior lobbyist for one of the companies that announced the charge. “My CEO sat with the President over lunch with two other CEOs, and each of them tried to explain to the President what this bill would do to our companies and the economy in general. First the President didn’t understand what they were talking about. Then he basically told my boss he was lying. Frankly my boss was embarrassed for him; he clearly had not been briefed and didn’t know what was in the bill.”

It isn’t just the President who didn’t understand his own proposal. Late Friday, House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman and Rep. Bart Stupak, chairman of the Oversight and Investigations panel, announced that they would hold hearings in late April to investigate “claims by Caterpillar, Verizon, and Deere that provisions in the new health care reform law could adversely affect their company’s ability to provide health insurance to their employees.”

Neither Waxman or Stupak — who betrayed the pro-life community by negotiating for more than a week with the White House to ensure his vote on the health care bill — had anything more than a cursory understanding of how the many sections of the bill would impact business or even individual citizens before they voted on the bill, says House Energy Democrat staff. “We had memos on these issues, but none of our people, we think, looked at them,” says a staffer. “When they saw the stories last week about the charges some of the companies were taking, they were genuinely surprised and assumed that the companies were just doing this to embarrass them. They really believed this bill would immediately lower costs. They just didn’t understand what they were voting on.”

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Japanese Armor, Heirlooms, and Boys’ Day

March 29th, 2010 1 comment

One Perfect Suit of Samurai Armor –

Lightweight and flexible, the armor was considerably more ingenious and practical than its clanking European counterparts. The suit could be donned with relative ease; its flaring shapes allowed the warrior on horseback to move freely and to easily engage in hand-to-hand combat. Mr. Welch believes it may have belonged to the daimyo, or warlord, in charge of the Kii province in the southern part of the island.Samurai armor is often part of a family’s heritage and is typically stored away, usually in a kura, or Japanese treasure house. “If you go around Tokyo or other historic cities,” Mr. Welch explains, “you’ll see a walled family estate and then, rising above it, a white plaster building with very thick walls, which is where the family keeps all the precious things that aren’t in use.” On May 5, Boys’ Day, it is traditional to bring out the suit of armor (or a replica) and other symbols of male strength.

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Democratic Lying Campaign about Threats

March 26th, 2010 No comments

Michelle Malkin has a long list of past Democratic false charges that opponents made threats against them– a remarkably long list. She also talks about the current purported threats, a number of which have been completely discredited almost immediately and none of which have been confirmed as the work of non-Democrats.


AN IMPLAUSIBLE REPORT IN THE SEATTLE TIMES: “A rock was thrown through the window of Driehaus’ Cincinnati office Sunday.”

Justin Binik-Thomas emails from Cincinnati that Rep. Driehaus’ office “is on the 30th floor of a skyscraper downtown.” He also says that he spoke to Driehaus’ office today and they said this never happened. Which is too bad, in a way, as the Reds could use a guy with an arm like that . . . .

The Seattle Times should run a correction.

From Wikipedia:

The Gleiwitz incident was a staged attack by Nazi forces posing as Poles on 31 August 1939, against the German radio station Sender Gleiwitz in Gleiwitz, Upper Silesia, Germany (since 1945: Gliwice, Poland) on the eve of World War II in Europe.

This provocation was the best-known of several actions in Operation Himmler, a Nazi Germany SS project to create the appearance of Polish aggression against Germany, which would be used to justify the subsequent invasion of Poland….

For months prior to the 1939 invasion, German newspapers and politicians like Adolf Hitler accused Polish authorities of organizing or tolerating violent ethnic cleansing of German nationals living in Poland.[6][7]

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Some numbers useful for thinking about health care:

March 25th, 2010 No comments

Some numbers useful for thinking about health care:

IU PPO $900 Deductible. The middle expense plan.  (2010)
Single person:  396.  $4800/year.
Married  or cohabiting couple:  966.  $11,600/year
Family with children: 1097. $13,164/year


Employee average age: 34. Half male.
Average family size: 2.11.
15% claimed less than $250.  (remember: there is the deductible
to overcome)
 43% claimed 250-2500.
20% claimed  2500-10000
 7% claimed 10,000-50,000
1% claimed over 50,000


Marginal tax rates.
    It looks as if including state taxes, payroll taxes, everything this
is what the CBO got for 2005, roughly (Figure 5):
0-8000/year income:  8-20% marginal rate.
8-40,000:  33% marginal rate
40-90,000: 40% marginal rate
90,000+: 33% marginal rate

So we pretty much have a flat tax.

 The biggest difference in the married couple (one earner) picture
is that the 25,000-40,000 marginal rate is 50%.

CBO, Effective Marginal Tax Rates on Labor Income


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The December Senate Rule Breaking by the Parliamentarian

March 25th, 2010 No comments

For RedState’s very thorough post on this, with a Senate transcript, excerpts from the Senate rules, and so forth, go to OpenCongress makes the same argument that rule changes have sneaked past before, not mentioning that objections were made to any of them.

The later RedState post says,

Making the Death Panels Permanent | RedState, expands as below. AceofSpades argues the other side by saying that the Senate has used less than a 2/3 majority before to include a rules change, but RedState points out that they did it with no senator objecting, to which AceofSpades has no reply. Dailykos talks about the issue too, but only with insults, no attempt at real argument.

There are always, when some of us on the right blow up an issue like Harry Reid’s rules changes, some people who say we’re overreacting.

I have to say I think they miss the point.

First, I do agree with Gabriel Malor that “a quick glance at the Library of Congress website and Google shows that language similar to that used here to except these provisions from the Standing Rules has been used dozens of times in the past thirty years in both the Senate and the House, including in the 109th Congress when Republicans controlled both chambers.”

Second, I do agree the GOP has done thing, including with Medicare Part D.

But, in most all of the cases, though not all including Medicare Part D, the Senate first went through a procedural vote requiring a two-thirds vote in recognition that there would be a change of Senate Rules.

In several of the cases, including Medicare Part D, when that two-thirds vote did not first happen, the 51 person vote went forward without an objection being raised by the Democrats on that point.

Here is where I think the people saying we’re overreacting are totally missing the point.

In the case at hand, an objection was raised and very clearly the rules were being changed. The Senate President, however, ruled that the rules were not being changed, just procedure, despite the clear wording of the change being a rules change.

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