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They Mean Well

Yesterday a local radio host played a sound bite of Commissioner Mike Opat saying that the Constitution is not relevant in Hennepin County. The context was whether the county was prepared for a scenario where ObamaUnicornCare was declared unconstitutional. He didn’t quite blithely dismiss the highest law of the land. He just seemed focused on making government do the work he thinks government should do.

The bite, in two versions, surely sounded hostile to the concept of government by the people. Opat sees things that need doing, and by god he’s going to bend or ignore the law for the good of the people.


I Ain’t Gonna Attend Maggie’s University

The current President has claimed a college education should be available to every American kid. And he says he has signed into law changes that help college become more affordable.

But really, he’s just bought support from Big Ed by making sure tuition stays high while making student debt nearly permanent.

Infographic showing how Federal Government has captured student loan profits

H/T: Vox Popoli


Irreconcilible Differences

I’ve argued around the intertracks and in the meat world that the United States is already in a state of civil war. There’s been no organized violence. Or at least none perpetrated by anyone outside current governments. But physical combat is only one aspect of war.

I see several factions with irreconcilible differences. They’re currently waging rhetorical and legal battle to bring the force of the state to bear on their enemies. I say the so-called uncivil dialog we’re being lectured about is not a precursor to war, but evidence that war is at hand. Because we’re hiring lawyers instead of Hessians to fight on our behalf certainly makes day-to-day living easier, but there’s a bullet waiting behind every legal brief.

The factions are not perfectly aligned into two camps. But as the differences become more obvious, polarity will increase. My forecast sees manifest violence precipitated not by the anti-government factions. Instead, I see all the dependents of the government getting unruly when the state can no longer afford the handouts and the structure of protective favoritism collapses.



Spartacus screen capture with text overlay

Via Borepatch:

We've all seen what happens when you combine crazy gun laws with possibly politically motivated government.  A bunch of folks took this kind of personally. People have been asking what they can do.

TJIC himself has been pretty gracious about the whole thing, saying that he's in good shape (so far) and recommending that people toss another sawbuck in the plate on Sunday if they want to help the world out.  Fine advice for all of us.


Cops Invade TJICistan

I noticed a day or few ago that was down. I thought it was either a hosting problem or something related to a site upgrade.

It was not:

Police Captain Robert Bongiorno said Monday that police suspended Corcoran’s firearms license on the grounds of “suitability” pending the results of an investigation into whether a comment Corcoran allegedly made online was intended as a threat in reference to the Jan. 8 shooting in Arizona that left six people dead and 13 wounded.

After U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords was shot in the head in the rampage, Arlington Police Captain Robert Bongiorno said police received information that Corcoran posted a comment online saying “one down 534 to go” in reference to Giffords and the other 534 members of the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate.


We Must Love Each Other Or We Must Die

The Daisy spot from Lyndon Johnson’s 1964 Presidential campaign is legendary:

As soon as the ad aired, Johnson's campaign was widely criticized for using the prospect of nuclear war, as well as the implication that Goldwater would start one, to frighten voters.


Promiscuous Judgment

The more laws you have, the less relevant guilt becomes.

Quoted from: The Last Psychiatrist

H/T: Maggie’s Farm

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Nature’s Law Cannot Be Overruled

The aroma of California’s Central Valley will endure in my memory. The scent of lettuce with a gentle undertone of soil arrives as a stark contrast to motorists heading west out of the desert.

Apparently that overpowering lushness is disappearing:


The Scales of Justice

If the law is not reasonable, the behavior of those who reject it often will not be either.

Quoted from: Vox Day

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How Economics Saved Christmas

Art Carden adapts Theodor Geisel:

Every Who down in Whoville liked Christmas a lot.

But the Grinch, who lived just north of Whoville, DID NOT.

He stood and he hated the Whos and their noise

He hated the shrieks of the Who girls and boys

For fifty-three years he’d put up with it now—

He had to stop Christmas from coming, somehow.

He asked and he questioned the whole thing’s legality

Then his eyes brightened: he screamed “externality!

To the Grinch, the Whos were polluters, spewing their joyful noise into his cave.

A tax that was equal to external cost

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Homeland Security

The United States can be attacked, but it cannot be conquered. As the Japanese Admiral who led the attack on Pearl Harbor is often (mis)quoted, “You cannot invade the mainland United States. There would be a rifle behind every blade of grass.”

Yamamoto was correct:

Over the last two months, the eighth largest army in the world – more men under arms than Iran; more than France and Germany combined – deployed to the woods of a single American state [Wisconsin] to help keep the deer menace at bay.


Play Poker, Not Roulette

The rhetoric about profiling as a means to inhibit terrorists assumes what I’ll call biographic profiling. The knee-jerk opponents to profiling like to charge “Racism!” or “Fill-in-the-blank-ophobia!” when it is suggested that there are visual clues about who might deserve more scrutiny. And the knee-jerk reaction to the first jerks is to accept those terms. “Fine! Call me a racist, but why are we groping grannies when zero grannies have exploded airliners?”

They’re both missing the point. Their notion of profiling seems based in some kind of TV-influenced detective drama. Serial killers, for example, show many similar biographical traits. By examining evidence at a crime scene, the profiler can make educated guesses about who they’re looking for.

But all that kind of evidence is static. Biography is history. Like skin tone, the past is beyond anyone’s control.


One Good Reason to Get Rich

Penn Gillette (of Penn & Teller) had an encounter with a TSA screener last week. The screener touched Penn in his swimsuit area without first giving notice. Penn properly recognized this as assault, and filed a complaint with the local police.

As the events played out, and several TSA supervisors insisted to Penn and the cop that, “We have no problem with you, you're free to go,” Penn kept pressing the issue.

He made it clear that it was not sexual, that he was not harmed, but it was still a violation of the law to be touched without first being warned. There was mention of lawyers and such.

The reason Penn offered for pressing a seemingly trivial point:


Scare Tactics

Halloween still offers plenty of scares—and not just doughy women who really can’t pull off their trampy costumes. But we’re not scaring the kids so much anymore. It has become a day to frighten parents:

When courts or cops set up a free x-ray station for kids' candy, they send the message that we should really be worried about foreign objects in the loot.

Nobody Expects the Spanish Inquisition

There’s been some chatter about the separation of church and state. Christine O’Donnell was correct; the doctrine does not appear in the Constitution. And perhaps the best evidence against those who argue it’s there but you can’t see it is the fact that Congress still opens its sessions with a prayer.

But let’s pretend the students at the Widener Law School and the revisionists who preach that the separation is one of the highest the laws of the land are correct. Assume church and state are distinct spheres which must not overlap.

Then the simplest answer to contain and control expansive government is to expand the territory of religion. When church and state both claim to control some area of our culture and activities, the Constitution says religion wins. It says, “Congress shall make no law…”


Veto Power for the States

I was taught that the U.S. Consitution provides a system of checks and balances for the three branches of government. Congress can have its laws repealed by the Judiciary, and the Executive can be denied funding by the Congress, just for a couple of top-of-my-head examples.

The system may still be in the text, but the branches of government have decided they can interpret the Constitution as they desire. The system depends on a somewhat adversarial relationship between the branches. If all three are in basic agreement, Federal power is not checked and the whole structure goes out of balance.

And it really doesn’t matter that different political parties and factions have more weight in different branches. They’ll surely find things to argue about, but in a broader view all the big factions have a vested interest in bigger government. Constitutional limits are not vigorously enforced.


Parks for Pensions

The Federal government is broke. Minnesota government and the City of Minneapolis can’t be broke in the same way because they lack the ability to run perpetual deficits. But I say they’re functionally broke because of their inability to set spending priorities. There’s always enough for fun projects. $30 million here, $7.7 million there, and yet there’s not enough money to keep up the roads or pay firefighters.

Anyone who works to provide a core government service is always first on the budget chopping block.


Sorry, Gramps, We Owe You Nothing

It seems fair to say that there is a commonly-held belief that the U.S. Government has an obligation to make Social Security payment to those who paid into the program for decades. The benefits are part of contract between workers and the Feds that help ensure nobody has to retire to live on dog food.

Further, there’s a commonly-held idea that there is a Trust Fund, where all those worker payments are being held so there will be money to pay retirees. The promise of a trust fund is probably less trusted by the public, but they still think that they’re owed something from whatever Congress hasn’t already lifted from the trust fund cookie jar.

Well, there is a trust fund, but the cookie jar is full of empty promises instead of genuine savings:


By Your Attendance, You Assume Some Risk

The area where law and economics overlap is intensely interesting to me. The common law represents centuries of wisdom, for example, about who is responsible for what, under which circumstances. The section of law about righting wrongs between unrelated parties is called Tort Law. A central principal in torts is the concept of negligence. We expect people to know certain things, to expect certain things, and to take some care not to hurt anyone.

But accidents happen. Despite the protective glass, hockey fans get hit by pucks. And sometimes oil platforms explode.

So we have to decide who was harmed by whom, and how much the injury is worth. Putting values on things is what economics tries to do.


Censorship in the Name of Tolerance

A U.S. Judge has upheld an anti-gay activist’s right to participate in this weekend’s Gay Pride celebration in Minneapolis. Pride leases a downtown park as the center of their festival. They thought they should have exclusive control over who can be there. The Minneapolis Park Board, surprisingly, sided with the activist.

The Park Board figured that it is still a public park, and anyone who wants to be there should be allowed to show up. The activist, a Christian evangelist, had been a regular at Pride for a decade without causing a ruckus. Maybe his message wasn’t well received, but the gays did at least tolerate him. Now the gay community is getting more exclusive. According to their lawyer:



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