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Friday, December 31, 2010

Legal Insurrection's Official New Year's Resolutions for 2011

Following up on my Official Predictions and Not Predictions for 2011, I have put together, with input from readers, Legal Insurrection's Official New Year's Resolutions.

Actually, it comes down to just a single resolution, as follows:
To keep up the fight against a seemingly unstoppable expansion of government into every aspect of our lives, and to restore a Constitutional balance between government and citizen.
In practice, this will hopefully fulfill the following reader suggestions:
  • JohnJ - "Deal liberalism a crushing defeat and secure the freedom of America for another generation."
  • lgstarr - "to find the best possible candidate to beat Obama in 2012 so that we can stop Obamacare and start the process of restoring our constitutional republic!"
  • frances glass - "To continue to be one of the logically soundest and politically sanest voices on the web"
  • Lynndh - "To stay angry with the pols and drink lots of Tea"
The one thing I cannot promise to do is that which was suggested by Clink, "convert at least one liberal Cornell professor, thereby increasing the conservative side by 100%."  I may be a dreamer, but I'm not crazy.

Happy New Year to all my regular readers.  I've appreciated the time you've spent here, the comments, and the faith you have placed in me. 

[insert obligatory thanks to the Wife here]

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Worst Tweet of the Year

Last year the Worst Tweet of the Year Award went to Spencer Ackerman, who just after the Undie-bomber almost blew up a plane over Chicago, tweeted what he meant:  "Al-Q is a joke."

This year the Award goes to Sissy Willis, for tweeting something she didn't mean. 

If you follow Sissy, you'll know that she doesn't mince words.  She takes no prisoners, although she does take hostages.

So when I saw this tweet, I not only got a little sick to my stomach, I also thought "Sissy, we really didn't need to know this."

But it turns out Sissy was not really bragging about her "boy-gas." 

Sissy informs me that she was bragging about her burgers and trying to spell out phonetically how someone from Brooklyn would pronounce the word "burger."  Okay.

Nonetheless, the internet is an unforgiving place; there are no second chances or explanations allowed.

So for bragging about her "boy-gas," Sissy Willis gets the Worst Tweet of the Year.

Related Posts:
The Definitive "They Didn't Know What Hit Them" Tweet
Save This Tweet For Use In Political Emergency
The First Twitter Execution

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Most Immature Bumper Sticker of the Year

Spotted in Ithaca a couple of months ago, and saved for a special occasion.  I'll let you enlarge it, if you must:

Related Posts:
Bumper Stickers - The Series

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Least Subtle Bumper Sticker of The Year

Taken in late November by a reader in Tampa, Florida.  I'm pretty sure this guy does not want anyone touching his junk:

Related Posts:
Bumper Stickers - The Series

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Thursday, December 30, 2010

Taking Suggestions

Tomorrow I will release Legal Insurrection's Official New Year's Resolutions for 2011.

Taking suggestions.

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Parisian Cars, Parisian Problems

In the Parisian news today, it was announced that a "fleet of blue, eco-friendly electric cars will hit the streets of the French capital next autumn and cost no more than a tube fare to zip around town." I was skeptical when I first read this, it was too good to be true and to come from the private sector.

Certainly, "Bertrand Delanoë, the city's Socialist mayor hopes Autolib will be as popular as Vélib, the hit bike rental scheme he introduced in 2007 and which has been adopted by cities around the world including London. [The] town hall had selected a four-seat vehicle made by the French company Bolloré, whose industrialist owner famously lent his mega-yacht to President Nicolas Sarkozy after his election." "Hit bike rental" is generous, my boyfriend, a native Parisian (he works, I swear!), tells me that it has been plagued with many problems - most notably theft. (Suspiciously, they all gather at the bottom of large hills, too.)

The context of the article is key, "Paris' mayor has declared war on privately-owned cars, building a network of bus and cycle lanes that are the bane of motorists." I've also been told that they're considering banning 4x4 cars in Paris. Conveniently for the mayor, his "eco-friendly" program will be considered "acceptable."

I'm certain this plan is privy to a plethora of problems. Something that I do believe has a bright future for changing cities in 2011, though, is a service called "Agent Anything." I wrote about it's predecessor this past summer, which creates a network for hiring people to run tasks and errands for a fixed, negotiated price. Not surprisingly, it wasn't a mayor's personal initiative to manufacture the way citizens live.

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Not Predictions for 2011

I gave you my "predictions" for 2011 yesterday.

I would not classify the following as predictions unless they come true, in which case I am a genius.  Here are some things I'm looking at in the coming year (list to be updated throughout the day).
  1. There will be a government shutdown crisis over the House budget, which will include major spending cuts and defunding of Obamacare.  Someone will blink.  My guess is it will be the Republicans.
  2. The mainstream media will steadily chew through Republican candidates until they find someone they claim to like.  Establishment Republicans will coalesce around the same person, because that person will be viewed as electable.  I just can't figure out who that person is.  
  3. The price of gasoline will rise, and "drill baby drill" will be back.
  4. The housing and the mortgage bubbles will continue to deflate, and the White House will renew its "blame Bush" messaging with even more vigor than before.
  5. Townhall meetings during the summer of 2011 will be hotter, politically, than the summer of 2009.
  6. There will be war in the Middle East as a result of the build up of Hezbollah in Lebanon and Iran's frustration with Israeli and western covert actions against Iran's nuclear program.  It is impossible to predict the event which will be the spark, but it will be something unexpected.
  7. The European economic model will fail; yet it still will be the model pushed by the Democratic base.
  8. The person who emerges as the Republican frontrunner through the process described in #2 above will be torn down by the same mainstream media outlets which promoted the person.  Establishment Republicans will blame the Tea Party movement.  This may not happen until 2012, but I didn't want to wait until my 2012 "not predictions" to make the point.
  9. The media "story" of the political year will be Obama as the guy caught in the middle, the sympathetic only sane guy in the room.
  10. Unemployment will be about what it is now, but there will be no further extensions of unemployment insurance payments beyond the current extension.  The debate will be whether to make the current extension permanent.
  11. The "tax deal" will not stimulate the economy.
  12. There will be no serious primary challenges emerging in 2011 to any Republican incumbents running for re-election in the Senate in 2012 unless those incumbents break with the Republicans in a big way in 2011.  Any sins of 2010 will be forgotten, if not forgiven.
  13. None of the most mentioned likely V.P. nominees (Rubio, Jindal, Cantor, Christie, others?) will thrown his hat into the presidential ring, even if #14 happens.
  14. Boldest not prediction - at least two and possibly three of the four GOP "frontrunners" will not run, opening the door to Tim Pawlenty or Mitch Daniels.  Jeb Bush will throw his hat in the ring if and only if this happens.
Please add your "not predictions" in the comments.

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Boney M

That is a name I had not heard in decades.

When I studied in the Soviet Union many of the East European students loved the group Boney M and were surprised that none of the Americans in our group had heard of it.  To them, Boney M was supposed to be one of the leading bands in the U.S. 

The Soviet Bloc students played Boney M in much the way we might play various classic rock anthems -- they knew all the words and swayed together as the music played.

When I returned to the U.S. I even went out and bought a Boney M album, more as a momento than anything else.  It would be impossible to explain to friends the absurdity of the East European perception without actually playing the music.

I can't recall the last time that I thought of Boney M before today, when I saw a Tweet by the Lebanese website Naharnet that "Boney M's Bobby Farrell Dies" with a link to this article:
Bobby Farrell, singer and dancer with 1970's disco group Boney M, died early Thursday in a hotel room in Saint Petersburg, where he had been performing, city officials said. He was 61.

The Saint Petersburg investigative committee of prosecutors said the Aruba-born Dutch singer was found dead in his bed by a staffer at the city's Ambassador hotel.

"There was no sign of violent death," a committee source said. "The investigation continues."
Farrell died in St. Petersburg, Russia.  I guess the former Soviets still were his best fans.

Here is a video of Boney M's Rasputin, shot on scene in Moscow, which I have to admit I kinda like.  Maybe because it brings back memories.

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Your Morning Rare Earth Minerals Update (With Some Stuxnet Too)

As a follow up to my post the other day regarding the reopening of a rare earth minerals mine in the U.S., China announced yesterday that it was slashing exports:
China, which produces about 97 percent of the global supply of the metals used in the production of numerous high-tech products, cut its export quota by 35 percent for the first half of 2011 compared with a year earlier, saying it wanted to conserve reserves.
Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu reiterated at a regular news briefing in Beijing that the quotas were necessary for environmental protection.
Unlike an earlier cutback when China appeared to be putting political pressure on Japan, the current cutback may indeed have an environmental impetus, since many of the rare earth mineral mines in China are run by gangs with little environmental controls.

In unrelated news, Stuxnet has been named the Top Middle East Story of 2010 and 2010 has been dubbed The Year of the Worm.

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Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Dem. Rep. - We'd Repeal Obamacare If It Didn't Increase The Deficit

There is an emerging argument by Democrats against repeal of Obamacare... deficit reduction.

As reported by The Hill:
A leading liberal lawmaker said Tuesday Democrats could be open to compromising with Republicans on a "fix" of healthcare reform — but only if congressional budget scorekeepers back off their opinion that the bill cuts the deficit.

Rep. Robert Andrews's comments on Fox News come as Democrats have been accusing Republicans of being hypocritical for pushing repeal even though it would violate their campaign pledge to tackle the deficit.

"If [Republicans] would make the repeal of the law contingent upon the Congressional Budget Office certifying that it wouldn't increase the deficit to repeal it," Andrews (D-N.J.) said, "maybe that is something we could compromise on."
I saw part of the Andrews' interview, and it was clear that he was playing games based upon the previous CBO scoring of Obamacare. 

As posted here repeatedly, the CBO score was contrived  by completely unrealistic assumptions built into the bill which the CBO was required to follow in its scoring.  One of those assumptions, that the so-called Doc Fix would not happen, already has been broken.

But, Andrews makes a good point which Republicans should keep in mind.  Many Democrats who are loath to defend the merits of Obamacare will grab the mantle of fiscal responsibility and claim they are against repeal because of the deficit.

So among other things, Republicans would be wise not only to attack Obamacare on the merits, but also communicate why the prior CBO scoring was unrealistic.

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Really Good Advice, Heeded?

I am trying to take this advice, offered by a regular reader, to heart (emphasis mine):
"Professor Jacobson,

A long time ago my grandfather gave me some very good advice I often follow, but not all the time, due to my competitiveness. I am sure you have heard it before and think it bears repeating based on some of the back and forth I have read with regard to the 'charges' against Haley Barbour. I have to admit I have never heard anyone question Mr. Barbour's views towards non-white people before.

'Be careful with who you argue - especially idiots - you run the risk of onlookers mistaking one of 'them' as the reasonable one'.

My work is done here. Carry on."
I understand the point, and it applies with extra force on the internet.  When you put your views out there day in and day out, there will be the inevitable nasty e-mails, sniping by other bloggers, and PhotoShopping.  I agree it is best to ignore all this stuff whenever possible and just move on to the next blog post.

I also have no problem whatsoever when my colleagues respond to my blog posts with reasoned arguments, even if I disagree with those arguments.

But what to do with this comment left at a Matthew Yglesias blog post at Think Progress by newly-minted Assistant Professor Beth Livingston, a specialist in gender and diversity studies, who teaches "Staffing" at the Cornell School of Labor and Industrial Relations, referring to me:
"On behalf of Cornell professors throughout Ithaca, I am ashamed. I promise that we're not all that devoid of logic."
An almost identical comment was made by Prof. Livingston about me over at The Atlantic.

On the one hand, while Prof. Livingston is "ashamed" of me, I am embarrassed for Prof. Livingston that she feels the need to troll blog posts taking hit-and-run potshots at other Cornell faculty.  I also find it humorous that Prof. Livingston has appointed herself the spokeswoman for the Cornell University faculty.

On the other hand, the advice above is sound.  If I engage Prof. Livingston in kind, I might end up looking like the unreasonable person.

So I have a true dilemma here.  I value my readers' advice (even as to that entity whose name cannot be mentioned anymore).

I'm inclined just to ignore it.  Am I right?

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WikiThieves And False Analogies

Defenders of WikiLeaks have portrayed Bradley Manning and Julian Assange as heroes who only want transparency, and who did no real harm.

In fact, WikiLeaks has put lives at risk and damaged international attempts to rid Zimbabwe of the Mugabe regime.  And beyond that, Wikileaks has damaged our ability to conduct diplomacy, where off-the-record frank conversations are critical.

Defenders of WikiLeaks have constructed a justification that Manning is just another Daniel Ellsberg of Pentagon Papers fame someone who sought to bring truth to the historical account of major events, and Assange as merely a conduit.  Since Ellsberg is something of a folk hero to the left, the comparison has a superficial appeal.

Thanks go out to Floyd Abrams, one of the premier First Amendment lawyers in the country (and a Senior Partner at the law firm I worked at right out of law school) who represented The NY Times in the Pentagon Papers case, for destroying the Ellsberg analogy. 

In an Op-Ed in The Wall Street Journal, Abrams explains that unlike Manning and Assange, Ellsberg specifically held back a large stash of diplomatic documents:
In 1971, Daniel Ellsberg decided to make available to the New York Times (and then to other newspapers) 43 volumes of the Pentagon Papers, the top- secret study prepared for the Department of Defense examining how and why the United States had become embroiled in the Vietnam conflict. But he made another critical decision as well. That was to keep confidential the remaining four volumes of the study describing the diplomatic efforts of the United States to resolve the war.

Not at all coincidentally, those were the volumes that the government most feared would be disclosed. In a secret brief filed with the Supreme Court, the U.S. government described the diplomatic volumes as including information about negotiations secretly conducted on its behalf by foreign nations including Canada, Poland, Italy and Norway. Included as well, according to the government, were "derogatory comments about the perfidiousness of specific persons involved, and statements which might be offensive to nations or governments."

The diplomatic volumes were not published, even in part, for another dozen years. Mr. Ellsberg later explained his decision to keep them secret, according to Sanford Ungar's 1972 book "The Papers & The Papers," by saying, "I didn't want to get in the way of the diplomacy."

Julian Assange sure does. Can anyone doubt that he would have made those four volumes public on WikiLeaks regardless of their sensitivity? Or that he would have paid not even the slightest heed to the possibility that they might seriously compromise efforts to bring a speedier end to the war?

Abrams goes on to point out the there are valid grounds for an indictment of WikiLeaks under the 1917 Espionage Act and that "if Mr. Assange were found to have communicated and retained the secret information with the intent to harm the United States—some of his statements can be so read—a conviction might be obtained."

Thank you Mr. Abrams, for scraping off the gloss people like Glenn Greenwald are putting on the whole WikiLeaks affair.

Manning, Assange and the others involved in WikiLeaks should be prosecuted.  The real wonder is why this wasn't done months ago.

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Colt State Park

It was great to clear my head this morning with a walk through Colt State Park in Bristol, Rhode Island. 

I wonder what the guy in the second photo below was feeling as he dug for clams in this frigid weather.  Probably stayed focused on the eatin'.

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Legal Insurrection's Official Predictions for 2011

Here are Legal Insurrection's Official predictions for 2011:
  1. Obama will give an unscripted speech announcing he is resigning to take a year-long road trip to play golf in each of the 57 states.
  2. Joe Biden, the second in line to the presidency, will become President upon Obama's resignation, and head the Democratic 2012 ticket with V.P. nominee Alvin Greene.
  3. The Palin-Coulter ticket will emerge as the overwhelming favorite for 2012, winning the all important Gawker, Maddow, and Feministe endorsements, because sisterhood and breaking the glass ceiling counts for more than partisan politics. 
  4. The House and Senate will repeal Obamacare, and newly installed President Biden will sign the Repeal Bill using crayons from the recently defunded office of Kathleen Sebelious.
  5. Harry Reid will admit the war wasn't lost, and the surge didn't fail.
  6. Sheldon Whitehouse will give a speech on the floor of the Senate thanking health care protesters for participating in our democratic process.
  7. Chris Dodd will return to the Senate floor to blame Barney Frank for the mortgage bubble; Barney Frank will take to the floor of the House to blame Chris Dodd for the mortgage bubble; Jamie Gorelick will rat them both out for the reward money.
  8. Alan Grayson will run television ads stating that what he meant to say was, "Republicans want you to be happy and live forever."
  9. Media Matters, Think Progress, Frank Rich, Paul Krugman, The Gail Collins and MoDo will form a new media corporation named "You Didn't Think We Were Serious, Did You, LLC."
  10. Stuxnet will worm its way up Mahmood Ahmadinejad's ... (oh, forget it).
  11. Glenn Greenwald, Philip Weiss and Helen Thomas will chain themselves to the gates of the Palestinian consulate in New York, while singing "Am Yisrael Chai."
  12. Jon Ralston will endow a Professorship in my honor at his alma mater.
  13. The makers of the "Coexist" bumper sticker will change the wording to "No Surrender."
  14. The Southern Poverty Law Center will rename its "HateWatch" blog the "WeHateYourPointOfView" blog, and will call off its search for the Klan in Rhode Island.
  15. Congress will convene a Nancy Pelosi Eye Roll Commission.
  16. Someone finally will fix the sidewalk in front of MY house.
  17. Dale Peterson will replace Janet Napolitano as Secretary of Homeland Security, and will shoot anyone who comes near our junk.
  18. California will boycott itself, and spare us the trouble.
  19. Upper East and West Siders will start opening their own doors, just like the hicks Upstate.
  20. The Constitution will be amended to add a Guns & Tobacco Mandate.
  21. The Democratic Party will officially change it's name to the Democrat Party, and will switch from the strategy of crazy to the strategy of lazy.
  22. Washington, D.C., lobbyists will decide it's not worth all the effort and that they would rather spend time with their families.
  23. Sam Alito will show up at the State of the Union address wearing an "I'm with Stupid " t-shirt.
  24. I will take some time off from blogging because I'm soooo tired, woe unto me, and if you don't like it, you can leave and don't let the door hit you on the way out.
  25. Finally, we will judge people by the content of their character, not the color of their skin.
Whoops, wrong list.  This actually is Legal Insurrection's Official Wish List for 2011.

(Please do not consider this a "Best Of" of "Favorites Of" 2010 List, because that would be très pretentious.)

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Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The Best Of Thing

Everyone seems to be doing the "Best Of" thing this time of year.

Worth a try?  If so, what?

Would it be completely pretentious to do a "Best Of" my posts for the past year?

If not, any favorites?

(In case you were wondering, I am not taking suggestions for "Worst Of").

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WikiTerror In Zimbabwe

Heroes of the American Left, Bradley Manning and Julian Assange, have destroyed the best hope for ridding Zimbabwe of madman Robert Mugabe by releasing U.S. State Department cables of communications  between Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, the leading opponent of Mugabe, and U.S. and E.U. officials, in which Tsvangirai secretly expressed support for sanctions against the brutal Mugabe regime as the only way to establish democracy in Zimbabwe.

As reported by Christopher Albon, the result of the leak of the cable has been to enable Mugabe to continue his reign of terror and to put the opposition leader's life at risk:
The reaction in Zimbabwe was swift. Zimbabwe's Mugabe-appointed attorney general announced he was investigating the Prime Minister on treason charges based exclusively on the contents of the leaked cable. While it's unlikely Tsvangirai could be convicted on the contents of the cable alone, the political damage has already been done. The cable provides Mugabe the opportunity to portray Tsvangirai as an agent of foreign governments working against the people of Zimbabwe. Furthermore, it could provide Mugabe with the pretense to abandon the coalition government that allowed Tsvangirai to become prime minister in 2009.

The reaction in Zimbabwe was swift. Zimbabwe's Mugabe-appointed attorney general announced he was investigating the Prime Minister on treason charges based exclusively on the contents of the leaked cable. While it's unlikely Tsvangirai could be convicted on the contents of the cable alone, the political damage has already been done. The cable provides Mugabe the opportunity to portray Tsvangirai as an agent of foreign governments working against the people of Zimbabwe. Furthermore, it could provide Mugabe with the pretense to abandon the coalition government that allowed Tsvangirai to become prime minister in 2009.
Perhaps all the people raising money for Assange and Manning will raise money for Tsvangari, not that it would do much good when Mugabe's thugs come calling in the middle of the night.

The blood of the Zimbabwe people, and the terror they will endure, are on the hands of Manning, Assange, and their supporters.

Update:  Competing Hypotheses blog reported on this a couple of days ago, Mugabe looks to pin 'treason' on the opposition.

Related Post:
WikiLeak Supporters Declare Cyberwar on Palin, Others
No Negotiation With WikiTerrorists
Meet WikiLeaks' Likely First Victim

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Guest Column: The Rights of Corporations

Today's guest column is from Allison McCarty, a senior at Pepperdine University in Malibu, CA majoring in Philosophy and Economics. She interned this past summer at the Institute for Justice through the Koch Summer Fellow Program. Her post is relevant to some of the research she has done in the past year:

With Tiger cheating and BP oil wells leaking, the year 2010 was rife with excitement and scandal. Even the Supreme Court was not immune from drama. The Court’s January decision in Citizens United v. FCC—which struck down sections of the 2002 McCain-Feingold Act for unconstitutionally limiting the First Amendment rights of corporations—sparked a visceral public reaction, drowning out the decibel of any public outcry since the 2005 Kelo v. City of New London decision.

According to a 2010 Washington Post-ABC News poll, eight in 10 Americans believe that Citizens United was wrongly decided. In 2005, a similar 81 percent of the American public disagreed with Kelo’s holding in favor of eminent domain for private development, per a Saint Index Survey.

This polling pattern may seem perplexing for conservative and libertarian intellectuals, who tend to support Citizens United and oppose Kelo for related reasons. Assuming that conservatives and libertarians have the correct view as a matter of jurisprudence, at least three factors can explain the undue negative public reaction to Citizens United: inattention to Bastiat’s distinction between “what is seen and what is not seen,” as well as the anti-foreigner and anti-corporate biases that are endemic in America today. Even if unjustified, the public outcry against Citizens United is understandable, and indeed must be understood in order for liberty-minded legal theory to prevail in future cases.

“What is Seen and What is Not Seen”

The late economist Frédéric Bastiat’s “broken window fallacy” admonishes us to “take into account the sum total of all effects, both immediate and future” when engaging in cost-benefit analysis, lest we praise the destructive practice of window breaking for increasing employment in the glass industry.

Human cognitive bias makes it all too easy to privilege the seen effects of a given policy while ignoring the unseen effects entirely. In the case of Kelo v. City of New London, the broken window fallacy pumps our skeptical intuitions about eminent domain for private development. Government abuse of eminent domain power is rampant—with 10,000 documented abuses and counting, according to the Institute for Justice—and highly visible. For every Susette Kelo, there is a little pink house that bashfully awaits a bulldozer, and an unmistakable sympathy towards those who fight for property rights. The implications, real or exaggerated, of economic development projects are unseen and thus underrepresented in our impact calculus.

For Citizens United, the reverse is true. We see the corrupting influence of money in politics is all around us, and wish, in the words of a April 19 New York Times editorial, "to prevent influence-buying by big contributors and influence-selling by too willing parties and politicians.” But what is unseen, and probably purposefully avoided, is whether campaign finance laws actually accomplish this objective. More likely, campaign finance reform is motivated and manipulated by incumbents who seek to protect their own power and persecute their political opponents.

Unfortunately, the American people are sold on the fallacious idea that they can break the First Amendment and garner public benefit. Increased education about public choice economics, such as the clever "Camp Politics" educational video from the Institute for Justice, is needed bring the otherwise unseen implications of legal doctrines to light.

Foreigners at the Floodgates

They took our jobs, and now they’re taking over our political process. In his 2010 State of the Union address, President Obama publically chastised the Supreme Court for Citizens United, claiming that the ruling “open[ed] the floodgates” to allow “foreign corporations… to spend without limit in our elections.”

With all due respect, the president’s statement is simply untrue. Citizens United left 2 U.S.C. § 441e intact, meaning that foreign nationals are still prohibited from directly or indirectly contributing to federal candidates or political parties and banned from making independent political expenditures.

It is improbable that foreigners would want—let alone have the means—to overshadow domestic political spending, which exceeded $3 billion dollars in the 2010 midterm elections. And even if credible, the concern that foreign political speech could smother domestic political speech cannot justify doing precisely that—smothering domestic political speech through campaign finance regulations. As usual, irrational biases lead to irrational policies. While there may be no easy solution, like singing "Kumbaya" in unison, hopefully our society will slowly become more skeptical of the "fear the foreigner" political smear tactic.

The C-Word

One obvious similarity between Kelo and Citizens United is that the ostensible victors in both cases were corporations, a legal outcome that is seen as roughly as desirable as Lindsay Lohan winning a child custody lawsuit. The American anti-corporate bias implicitly affects public sympathy towards corporate clients, and is more directly visible in the faulty argumentation surrounding Citizens United. Critics such as dissenting Justice Stevens have attacked Citizens United as an example of how the legal fiction of corporate personhood—which dates back to the 1866 ruling of Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad Company—allows the “rights of corporations” to trample the “rights of real individuals.”

This view is deeply problematic. Nobody is seriously arguing that corporations are literally persons, and the doctrine of corporate personhood does not mean that corporations are entitled to all the same rights as natural persons (among things, they lack the ability to run for political office and the protection of the privileges and immunities clause of the Fourteenth Amendment). Further, the holding of Citizens United does not depend on the concept of corporate personhood. The First Amendment protects speech per se, without regard to the personhood or corporate status of the speaker, and does not allow for discrimination based on the identity of the speaker.

The American public would do well to realize that it is anti-corporate rhetoric—not admittedly fictional legal institutions—that reifies the concept of corporate personhood at the peril of our basic liberties. Corporations are not evil, supernatural entities. Used by churches, political groups, charitable organizations, and (significantly) Starbucks, corporations are merely the legal means through which individuals engage in economic and civil society. Accordingly, curtaling the rights of corporations can only trample on the rights of the individuals who compose them.

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Just a Bunch of Man-Originated-In-Africa Deniers

But, but, there was scientific consensus, so why is anyone questioning the theory or looking for evidence to the contrary?

As reported by AP (emphasis mine):
Israeli archaeologists said Monday they may have found the earliest evidence yet for the existence of modern man, and if so, it could upset theories of the origin of humans.

A Tel Aviv University team excavating a cave in central Israel said teeth found in the cave are about 400,000 years old and resemble those of other remains of modern man, known scientifically as Homo sapiens, found in Israel. The earliest Homo sapiens remains found until now are half as old.

"It's very exciting to come to this conclusion," said archaeologist Avi Gopher, whose team examined the teeth with X-rays and CT scans and dated them according to the layers of earth where they were found.

He stressed that further research is needed to solidify the claim. If it does, he says, "this changes the whole picture of evolution."

The accepted scientific theory is that Homo sapiens originated in Africa and migrated out of the continent. Gopher said if the remains are definitively linked to modern human's ancestors, it could mean that modern man in fact originated in what is now Israel.
Just a bunch of man-originated-in-Africa deniers, if you ask me.

Related Posts:
"So at what point in time should global warming have stopped?"
European Biofuel Plan Destroying The Planet
Watch For It - The Mexican Incandescent Light Bulb Cartel

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Things You May Have Missed

over the long holiday weekend, but really need to read now that you are back at work and have all day to waste pretending you are doing work on the computer:
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Alfred Kahn, R.I.P.

Alfred Kahn has passed away. 

As you travel during the holidays, shopping around for cheap airfares, you have Kahn to thank.  Kahn, a Professor at Cornell, was responsible for deregulating the airline industry.

I realize all you kids think airfare competition always has been a fact of life, but before Kahn government regulation restricted new entrants and maintained artificially high prices.  Let this be a lesson for government regulation of our health care industry and the internet.

From The Wall Street Journal:
Alfred E. Kahn, who presided over the historic deregulation of the airline industry during the Carter administration, paving the way for JetBlue and other low-cost carriers, died Monday. He was 93.

Kahn, an economics professor at Cornell University, died of cancer at his home in Ithaca, N.Y., the school said in a statement. University spokeswoman Claudia Wheatley confirmed his death.

A leading scholar on public-utility deregulation, Kahn led the move to deregulate U.S. airlines as chief of the now-defunct Civil Aeronautics Board in 1977-78. The board had to give its approval before airlines could fly specific routes or change fares.

"Historically, the board has insisted on second-guessing decisions by individual carriers to offer price reductions," Kahn said in early 1978 as so-called "super-saver fares" swept the industry. "During the last several months we have been abandoning the paternalistic role, leaving the introduction of discount fares increasingly to the management."

President Jimmy Carter embraced deregulation as a means of stimulating economic growth. Kahn was largely instrumental in garnering the support needed to push through the Airline Deregulation Act of 1978 — the first thorough dismantling of a comprehensive system of government control since 1935.

"I open my mouth and a fare goes down," he quipped to The Washington Post in 1978.
CNN describes what it was like to fly pre-Kahn:
Kahn spearheaded the U.S. Airline Deregulation Act of 1978 when he chaired the now-defunct Civil Aeronautics Board.

At the time, a coast-to-coast ticket cost an exorbitant sum of money and no new airlines were taking flight.

Airlines such as Pan Am, Eastern and Braniff ruled the skies, and the aeronautics board governed them, controlling routes and ticket prices, keeping fares high and eliminating competition.

"Nobody could fly an airplane commercially on any route without specific permission from the Civil Aeronautics Board, and price competition, cutting prices, was illegal," Kahn told CNN in 1998, recalling that period.
More at The Cornell Chronicle on the personal side of Kahn, including his wicked sense of humor:
Kahn was not only well known as a brilliant economist but also as an irrepressibly candid wit. Attacked by airline industry executives for not knowing one airliner from another, Kahn, a leading exponent of marginal cost theory, readily conceded, quipping, "To me they are just marginal costs with wings." When the administration admonished Kahn for alarming the public that the country could face a "deep, deep depression" if Carter's anti-inflation policies failed, Kahn thereafter used the euphemism "banana" for the word "depression," which he later switched to "kumquat" when a large banana company complained.


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The Mandate Is Obamacare's Achilles' Heel

When the first challenges to the health care mandate were brought, the legal theories were dismissed as frivolous.  Despite numbers showing a majority against the mandate, few believed the mandate could be overturned, and the numbers had stagnated.

Then earlier this month a judge in Virginia held the mandate to be unconstitutional.  Despite two contrary decisions by other judges in other cases, the Virginia holding was monumental because for the first time people began to believe.

And the numbers are moving even more dramatically against the mandate, as reflected in a CNN/Opinion Research Poll, showing (Question 26) that 60% now oppose the mandate, up from 56% in early August and 53% in February before Obamacare became law.  Only 38% support the mandate, down from 44% in August and 45% in February.

By contrast, opposition to Obamacare in general (Question 24, not specific to the mandate) has weakened, from 59% in March around the time of passage, to 56% in early August to 54% in the recent poll.  Of those who oppose, a steady 13% say the law is not liberal enough.  (Rasmussen, by contrast, shows more opposition to Obamacare and strong support for repeal.)

Two of the provisions, removing the pre-existing conditions exclusion and preventing insurance companies from dropping coverage, are very popular, north of 60%.

Clearly, the mandate is far more unpopular than Obamacare in general, and it is becoming more unpopular with time.  While the questioning does not reveal why the mandate is so unpopular, there are some likely reasons.

First, people never have liked the mandate.  It cuts against the grain of our national character.

Second, the mandate has been the focus of controversy.  People likely are more familiar with the mandate than they are with more obscure side-effects of Obamacare which will not take effect for months or years.  The Obama administration has helped keep the spotlight off of dropped insurance coverage by granting hundreds of waivers to companies.  Shining the light on these negative aspects of Obamacare can move public opinion.

Third, the Virginia decision has led people to believe that getting rid of the mandate is possible (as well as focusing attention on it).

The central theme of Obamacare -- control by the federal government -- is its Achilles' Heel, and for most Americans the mandate is the most recognizable aspect of that control.  In seeking repeal and defunding, Republicans in Congress should do everything possible to stress the controlling nature of Obamacare, and stretch that Achilles' Heel to the breaking point.

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Monday, December 27, 2010

"a discussion with the likes of Brad DeLong is not productive"

That's the title of a post by Law Professor Stephen Bainbridge about Economics Professor Brad DeLong, of U.Cal Berkeley, in which Bainbridge collects links about DeLong from a variety of academic bloggers who have had the misfortune of having to deal with DeLong.

I really don't know much about DeLong, except that everytime I read about him someone is pointing out what an offensive person he is.

So I guess I should be flattered that DeLong has written a blog post entitled "Cornell University Has Some Explaining To Do: Why Oh Why Can't We Have Better Academics?/William Jacobson Edition."

Prof. Bainbridge ended his post with this wish about Prof. DeLong:
"With luck, this'll be the last time his toxic style of intellectual thuggery and execrable personality will be mentioned in these pages."
Me too.  Except somehow, I doubt it.

(By the way, other than the invective, the DeLong post consists mostly of regurgitating a piece by Ta-Nehisi Coates, which I refute here.)

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French Medical Scandals

"French politicians of both the right and left are facing severe embarrassment and legal recriminations with the forthcoming publication of an official report on what could become the worst health scandal in the country's history.

President Nicolas Sarkozy has promised "the most complete transparency" on how a drug which is now suspected to have killed up to 2,000 people was officially approved, and subsidised, for 33 years by the French health service.

Despite repeated warnings from scientists in France and abroad, the Mediator drug was prescribed to 5,000,000 French people, originally to fight diabetes and later as an appetite-suppressing, slimming pill. A report from the French health inspectorate, due in mid-January, will investigate why successive French health ministers, of the left and right, failed to heed advice that the drug – produced by the French pharmaceutical giant, Servier – was at best useless, and at worst highly dangerous."

Hmmm, I wonder if that would have happened in a free market where people were encouraged to choose their provider and be well-informed about their options. I suppose, though, this might be the lazy consequence of when government gets in bed with corporations and legislates their interests. When healthcare was being passed, I was naturally most concerned about the atrophying of rights and choices. With this French news, though, I wonder if the age of watchdogs be trounced as well! Will programs like Obamacare manifest in a similar sense of apathy and an acceptance of government choices? Will we have headlines like the French in thirty years?

Seemingly more importantly to the press, Lady Gaga was shopping pant-less in Paris earlier this week.

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