The IRS Scandal Reaches the President

July 23rd, 2013 1 comment

First, the Administration said there was no IRS mistreatment of Tea Party groups. Second, the Administration said there was, but it was the Cincinnati office’s fault, not the IRS in Washington. Third, it became clear it was the fault of the IRS in Washington. Fourth, it became clear that it was the fault of the IRS Chief Counsel’s office in Washington. Now, we discover that the IRS Chief Counsel met with President Obama at a crucial time. An anonymous federal lawyer wrote this to TaxProf: (my boldface)

As someone who works as an attorney at an agency general counsel’s office, I think people are missing the significance of Obama meeting with the IRS chief counsel Read more…

Categories: IRS, obama Tags:

A Trayvon-Zimmerman Miscellany

July 20th, 2013 1 comment

I’ll use this post to list interesting things about the Zimmerman-TrayvonMartin case as they come up, so it will grow over time.

July 20a. Some people say that the standard should be reduced from “beyond a reasonable doubt” to “preponderance of evidence” or something. Wikipedia has a nice Legal Burden of Proof article with:

2.1.1 Reasonable suspicion
2.1.2 Reasonable to believe
2.1.3 Probable cause for arrest
2.1.4 Some credible evidence
2.1.5 Substantial evidence
2.1.6 Preponderance of the evidence
2.1.7 Clear and convincing evidence
2.1.8 Beyond reasonable doubt

Maybe relaxing the burden is a good idea. Read more…

Categories: crime, law, race Tags:

Idol Worship in Modern America

July 19th, 2013 No comments


It would be OK, perhaps, if we sang the last verse:

O, thus be it ever when freemen shall stand,
Between their lov’d homes and the war’s desolation;
Blest with vict’ry and peace, may the heav’n-rescued land
Praise the Pow’r that hath made and preserv’d us a nation!
Then conquer we must, when our cause is just,
And this be our motto: “In God is our trust”
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

I wrote an essay on this, “Should everyone put their hand on their chest, stand, and sing the national anthem while facing the flag at the sporting events of Christian schools?” An excerpt:

We Protestants feel very self-satisfied about images. Foolish Roman Catholics fall into idolatry, and the Jews were so foolish that the Bible had to give more attention to idolatry than to any other sin, but we are too modern for that to be a danger. Read more…

Categories: religion, Roman Catholicism Tags:

God before Country: Placement of the “Christian Flag”

July 19th, 2013 No comments



“We are used to putting government above God. We are so used to it that we don’t even realize it. “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9), and “Every way of a man is right in his own eyes: but the LORD pondereth the hearts” (Proverbs 21:2). We are careful about obeying the government. We are worse at obeying God.”

That’s an excerpt from an essay I wrote, “Should the “Christian flag” be flown below the U.S. flag on the pole in front of a Christian school?” The images are from here and here.

Categories: authority, flag burning, religion Tags:

Computer Icons Are a Stupid Idea

July 19th, 2013 No comments

I hate icons. They are a regression to the era of the cave man.

Suppose we want to have a symbol for “email” on the computer so that you know where to click to look at your email. What would we think, starting from scratch, if our designers pondered whether they should use a picture of a mailbox, or of a letter, or maybe a line with a lightning sign, or a little mailman, and brought all those symbols to the CEO for his choice. Read more…

Categories: computers, inventions Tags:

“Top Differences Between the UCC and the Common Law of Contracts”

July 17th, 2013 No comments

Prof. Cunningham has a good post, “Top Differences Between the UCC and the Common Law of Contracts” . For example:

6. Acceptance by Shipment: buyer orders for “prompt shipment” can be accepted either by promise or prompt shipment, at the seller’s election. 2-206. – See more at:

Categories: contracts Tags:

Would Zimmerman Have Been Convicted if He Were Black? — Black-on-Nonblack Killings Claiming Self Defense

July 16th, 2013 No comments

Over at Legal Insurrection, I skimmed the comment thread on ‘The “what if Trayvon were white” logical fallacy’ and did a bit of googling, and found some black kills hispanic or black kills white self-defense cases. (Black man shoots out of his window and kills a hispanic teenager. Charges dropped. ) Read more…

Categories: crime, race Tags:

Using the International Phonetic Alphabet to Learn How to Pronounce French

July 15th, 2013 No comments

Andrew Gelman tells us of a great site for learning the French accent, and other languages too. It transforms a French phrase into the International Phonetic Alphabet, e.g. Read more…

Categories: humor, Learning, quotations Tags:

Murray’s Cops and Progressives

July 15th, 2013 No comments

Charles Murray has an excellent long essay, “Simple Justice” from about 2005 that is useful for thinking about attitudes towards the Zimmerman case and to self-defense and threat and intimidation statutes generally. He distinguishes between Progressives and Cops. Progressives dislike self-defense, retribution, and punishment generally and who do not like to differentiate people into those who follow rules and those who break them. Read more…

Losing Loved Ones

July 14th, 2013 No comments

I thought about posting this yesterday, and decided against it as too personal. At church today, I changed my mind, deciding my motive was pride and that this might be helpful to some readers. It is about the accident described here.


July 13, 2010 5:39pm
We went up to the farm today— the Suppes farm where my parents lived their last 25 years and that Elizabeth loved to visit. Read more…

Categories: personal Tags:

“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.

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Can the President Delay Obamacare Despite the Statutory Language?

July 12th, 2013 No comments

Someone wrote to me about another Law Lunch discussion of yesterday:

“…Jefferson’s refusal to spend $50,000 for gun boats in 1803, after they were no longer needed. Better yet, compare the more recent example of the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development temporarily suspending funds pending a study of whether the expenditures on low income housing were achieving the purpose Congress intended. That was upheld by the DC Circuit in Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. Lynn, 1974, with the court noting the fact that the reason for the impoundment was program-related. I see a fundamental difference between refusing to enforce the law because the President wishes it had never been passed and delaying enforcement because the President likes the law and wants it to achieve its substantive goals. Read more…

What Happens When a Void Appointee Gets Appointed Again, But Properly the Second Time?

July 12th, 2013 No comments

At Volokh Conspiracy John Elwood says that even if the President properly reappoints the same people to the National Labor Relations Board whose appointments the courts have ruled invalid, they can’t just redecide all the cases that are in the courts. Read more…

Categories: administrative law, authority Tags:

Fixing the FISA Court and Search Warrants Generally

July 12th, 2013 No comments

At the law lunch yesterday we were discussing the special FISA Court which has to approve certain kinds of search warrants for electronic communications, including the famous one which let the NSA see who is making phone calls to who. One topic that came up was court composition. The court is made up of ten or so federal district judges selected by the Chief Justice of the US Supreme Court for 7-year terms, and no judge can serve two terms. The police or NSA go to one judge on it and ask for a warrant. Appeals are made to a special 3-judge appeals court, also appointed by the Chief Justice. Further appeals can be made to the U.S. Supreme Court, I imagine.

Problem 1. Currently almost all of the judges were created judges by Republican presidents, and this looks bad when they are also chosen by a conservative Chief Justice. Read more…

Categories: crime, judges, law, law. politics Tags:

Should Jehovah’s Witness parents have the right to refuse a blood transfusion for their daughter even though the daughter will die as a result?

July 11th, 2013 No comments

An interesting question inspired by a post at Volokh Conspiracy: “Should Jehovah’s Witness parents have the right to refuse a blood transfusion for their daughter even though the daughter will die as a result?” Let us suppose that the child is 5 years old and agrees with her parent (a child who disagrees is a separate case). Let us also suppose that we believe the parents would themselves be willing to die in place of refusing a blood transfusion.

It seems the answer in most or all states is No.

Categories: authority, children, civil rights, religion, sin Tags:

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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Open Carry Laws

July 9th, 2013 No comments


Wikipedia’s Open Carry article explains something I’ve been wondering about: what about “nonconcealed carry” for guns?

Categories: crime, law Tags:

The 2013 Hyde Park Fourth of July Parade

July 4th, 2013 No comments


The McCoys again organized a 4th of July parade in our neighborhood. It’s probably a good thing when almost everybody is in the parade instead of watching it, even tho the reverse is what is common. Every neighborhood should do this— but you need the idea and the leadership.

Categories: holidays, political philosophy Tags:

Presidential Proclamations and the 4th of July

July 4th, 2013 No comments

I routinely read the Presidential Proclamation to my family and guests each Thanksgiving, and this year I thought I’d do the same with the 4th of July Proclamation. To my surprise, I find there isn’t any, and usually hasn’t been. I looked up 1933, 1947, 1958, 2013, 2012, 2011, 1965, 1978, 1982,1990, and 1998 at the American Presidency Project. There were, however, proclamations each year from 2000 to 2007 and then again in 2009 (see here). And I was not quite accurate about 1978. Jimmy Carter did issue a Presidential Proclamation on July 4— but it was titled “Quantitative Limitation on the Importation of Certain Meat,” an absurdity which typifies his entire administration.

Categories: Carter, holidays, presidents Tags:

An Amicus Brief for Hobby Lobby v. Sebelius on the Topic of Balancing the Equities for a Preliminary Injunction

July 3rd, 2013 No comments

I looked over the recent Hobby Lobby en banc decision and thought about it. Everybody seemed to be missing the most important things in the case. Then, yesterday, I realized that the deadline for submissions for the next stage was today (July 3) at 5 p.m. At 2 p.m. I rushed into action. I was able to use my draft amicus for United States v. Marshall as a template, though it’s a different circuit and Hobby Lobby is at District Court right now, for which there are no official rules. Read more…

Policy or Power?

July 3rd, 2013 No comments

It would be useful for everyone, liberal, libertarian, and conservative, to confront the issue of which they’d prefer:
1. A dictator with the right policies (welfare state, free market, or promotion of virtue) or
2. A democracy with the wrong policies (free market and traditional values for the liberal, welfare state and traditional values for the libertarian, welfare state for the conservative).

We can up the ante in either case by specifying whether the dictator or democracy uses heavy oppression to maintain itself, e.g. executing 100 political opponents per year (which a democracy is capable of doing, just like a dictatorship).

I think conservatives would have no trouble picking (1), and liberals would have a strong preference for (1) but be ashamed to admit it and so would pick (2). I don’t know about libertarians.

Why the Rich Are Underpaid

June 27th, 2013 No comments

Prof. Tabarrok at Marginal Revolution talks about Prof. Mankiw’s discussion of taxes, the top 1%, and productivity. I had a thought: The most productive employees are paid too little, including the most productive CEO’s. Read more…

Categories: a.research, business, contracts, taxes Tags:

Preliminary Injunctions and Regulatory Tyranny

June 25th, 2013 No comments

It looks to me as if something is very wrong with the law of preliminary injunctions when it comes to the executive branch misusing its power. Here is what is supposed to happen. Smith sues Jones, asking the court to do X. For example, Smith may ask the court to stop Jones from selling a dog Smith claims is Smith’s dog. If doing X right away instead of in a year or two after a trial would prevent irreparable harm to Smith but not to Jones, then Smith can ask the court to do X immediately, via a preliminary injunction. Then, after the trial, the court will undo X if Smith loses. Read more…

Categories: a.research, administrative law, law Tags:

The IRS Scandal— Picking on the Little Guys

June 25th, 2013 No comments

This isn’t the typical tax case, where a lawyer is helpful so the client can avoid breaking the law, or the somewhat rarer one where the lawyer helps the client fix a mess after the client accidentally breaks the law, or the even rarer kind where the lawyer helps the client after client purposely breaks the law. This is a case where a lawyer is helpful so the IRS doesn’t think *it* can get away with breaking the law. Read more…

Categories: administrative law, bureaucracy, IRS Tags:

Measuring the Cost of Health Care— The Effect of Price Controls

June 24th, 2013 No comments

I am puzzled by how we should think about measuring the value of output in health care, or any market, when the prices are not at the competitive level.
What if the government has a maximum price of $500 for an angiogram, but the free market price would be $900?
In a free market, we measure GDP using output and market prices. Read more…

Categories: a.research, health care, price theory Tags:

IRS Data– 2009-2010 White House Visitor Logs, and 2009-12 Bonuses

June 23rd, 2013 No comments

The White House visitor logs are actually available in spreadsheets, downloadable, on the web. I didn’t keep the address, but you can google it. I did edit the 2009-2010 one to extract just the likely IRS ones (Jonathan Davis is a common sort of name, so maybe not all of those are the IRS Chief of Staff). There may be some useful mining to be done on dates. The spreadsheet is at:


I already had the 2009-2012 bonus spreadsheet. I forget where I got it. Here it is, though:

Categories: Data, IRS, obama Tags:

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,, .

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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“How Immigration Can Hurt a Country”

June 21st, 2013 2 comments

I’ve written an informal paper called, “How Immigration Can Hurt a Country”. Thoughtful comments are welcomed. I don’t welcome comments that just give your opinion on immigration; if you wish to comment, please make it a constructive or destructive comment on the paper.

“Can immigration (or capital inflow) hurt the welfare of a country? Yes, if there are decreasing returns to the factor, as this little paper will explain. The idea is important, and probably is new— at least, I couldn’t find it by a google search— but an economics journal would say it is obvious, I think, so I probably will not try to publish it in a journal. I will post it on the web instead. I do hope it gets into the academic literature and the policy debates. If it is received favorably, I will tidy it up and put it into journal style, adding cites and superfluous generality, and checking my arithmetic. My target audience is trained economists even now, however. Please let me know if someone has already made the external diseconomy argument. I wouldn’t be surprised if someone had done so back in the 1920’s….”

Categories: a.research, immigration Tags:

Immigration— The Congressional Budget Office Report (CBO on S.744)

June 21st, 2013 8 comments

I will post my little paper on the effects of immigration later today. In preparation for that, I downloaded the CBO report on the Senate bill. I find it unimpressive, except for the clarity of its writing style, which I do commend. Some notes:

1. The analysis assumes that immigration will raise total factor productivity. It alludes to increased specialization because of increased size of the economy, and increased innovation because of having extra high-skilled immigrants. Both are highly speculative. Yes, more Hyderabad programmers will increase innovation; that’s why the billionaires support the bill (they profit from those innovations— which is fine). But it’s dangerous to allow a fudge factor like “increased productivity from innovation” into an estimate— it can drive too much. It would be good to see these estimate with zero change in TFP.

2. I didn’t see anywhere how many of these immigrants are supposed to be high-skilled. I suspect that’s because it’s embarassingly small. If the report came out and said that we’d be adding 9.5 million low-skilled workers and .5 million high-skilled workers and productivity was going to rise as a result, people would laugh. Read more…

Categories: Economics, immigration Tags:

Out of 1,791 IRS lawyers, 38 made big contributions to Democracts and 2 to Republicans—Meaningful?

June 19th, 2013 No comments

What does it tell us if 38 IRS lawyers make big contributions to Democracts and 2 to Republicans, when there are 1,791 IRS lawyers total? The question came up today at Volokh COnspiracy. Isn’t 40 out of 1,791 too small a proportion?

No. Surprisingly, if a sample is chosen randomly, what matters is that the sample be big enough, not how big the population is. Thus, if 40 out of 500 is big enough, so is 40 out of 10,000. That’s why pollsters don’t use samples more than about 1,000— if they’re really random samples, it doesn’t help much go to higher. Read more…

Categories: politics, statistics, taxes Tags:

The Christian View of the Income Tax: Theonomist vs. Liberal

June 19th, 2013 2 comments

Gary North, noted “Christian Reconstructionist” has just published a scholarly rebuttal to a tax article by liberal Christian Susan Hamill (see here from Taxprof). This is cute, and I am glad it got published. It’s an example of how policy scholarship does have to depend on underlying ethical principles, and religious ones are just as much in need of good scholarship as atheistic ones. Read more…

Categories: law, religion, taxes Tags:

How Are Libel Laws Applied on the Web?

June 17th, 2013 No comments

Dr Cooke does not like teaching evaluation sites like Rate Your Lecturer. It’s not clear to me that these sites are a bad idea. More information about lecturer quality is good in itself; the problem is when it is misused, as student evaluations usually are by administrators in the United States, because they are too lazy to investigate actual teaching or, I fear, because the administrators really do just care about whether the students like the way a class is run. But exposing bad teaching is a good thing.

False information is clearly bad. How do the libel laws work in England? Can the victim force the website manager to divulge the names? Does the libellor have to pay your solicitor fees? If the website manager has allowed people to comment whom he cannot trace, is he himself liable? Read more…

Categories: academia, law Tags:

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 –

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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