April 2016 Archives
Reading news about Zika victims is completely heartbreaking. Say a prayer for the children and families affected. Protecting public health should be a top priority for any government, and I urge American officials to take whatever actions are necessary to combat this disease.
Republican former Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert has been sentenced to 15 months in prison for "structuring" bank withdrawals to avoid notice by authorities.
Prosecutors say he so badly wanted to hide his past sexual misconduct, he agreed to pay a former student $3.5 million in hush money. Hastert pleaded guilty last fall to withdrawing $952,000 from the bank in increments crafted to avoid notice, in violation of banking laws. Prosecutors say when FBI investigators approached Hastert, he said he was being falsely extorted and even agreed to record a phone conversation with the individual.
"Structuring" shouldn't be a crime at all -- it's illegal to move money around for illegal purposes, and "structuring" makes it illegal to shape your transactions to avoid scrutiny. That's absurd. It's like a law against adhering to speed limit signs because that makes it harder for the police to give you a ticket for speeding.
Anyway, Hastert was guilty of some pretty reprehensible behavior. Not only did he molest a bunch of students when he worked as a wrestling coach, but he falsely told the FBI that one of his victims was extorting him.
[Judge] Durkin called it "deplorable" that Hastert lied to the FBI during an initial investigation. He also said it was "unconscionable" that Hastert initially accused Individual A of extortion, leading the FBI to begin investigating the victim.
"You set him up," Durkin told Hastert.
Hastert was one of the most politically connected people in the country, and he intentionally aimed the FBI at his abuse victim. Awful.
Still to be explained: how did Hastert get millions of dollars?
To many people it seems far-fetched that the right to bear arms that is enshrined in the Second Amendment is intended to empower citizens to protect themselves from tyranny -- but it is. And America has a sad history with tyranny. We're not immune, and we citizens need guns to protect our liberties.
"Do you really think that it could happen here?" remains a favorite refrain of the modern gun-control movement. Alas, the answer should be a resounding "Yes." For most of America's story, an entire class of people was, as a matter of course, enslaved, beaten, lynched, subjected to the most egregious miscarriages of justice, and excluded either explicitly or practically from the body politic. We prefer today to reserve the word "tyranny" for its original target, King George III, or to apply it to foreign despots. But what other characterization can be reasonably applied to the governments that, ignoring the words of the Declaration of Independence, enacted and enforced the Fugitive Slave Act? How else can we see the men who crushed Reconstruction? How might we view the recalcitrant American South in the early 20th century? "It" did "happen here." And "it" was achieved -- in part, at least -- because its victims were denied the very right to self-protection that during the Revolution had been recognized as the unalienable prerogative of "all men."
When, in 1857, Chief Justice Roger B. Taney buttoned his Dred Scott v. Sandford opinion with the panicked warning that if free blacks were permitted to become American citizens they might begin "to keep and carry arms wherever they went," he was signaling his support for a disgraceful status quo within which suppression of the right to bear arms was depressingly quotidian. Indeed, until the late 1970s, the history of American gun control was largely inextricable from the history of American racism. Long before Louisiana was a glint in Thomas Jefferson's eye, the French "Black Codes" mandated that any black person found with a "potential weapon" be not only deprived of that weapon but also beaten for his audacity. British colonies, both slaveholding and free, tended to restrict gun ownership to whites, with even the settlements at Massachusetts and Plymouth prohibiting Indians from purchasing or owning firearms. Throughout the South, blacks were denied weapons. The intention of these rules was clear: to remove the means by which undesirables might rebel or resist, and to ensure that the majority maintained its prerogatives. In 1834, alarmed by Nat Turner's rebellion in Virginia, Tennessee amended its state constitution to make this purpose unambiguous, clarifying that the "right to keep and to bear arms" applied not to "the freemen of this State" -- as the 1794 version of the document had allowed -- but to "the free white men of this State."
Paracelsus said "the dose makes the poison", and it appears that low doses of radiation may actually be beneficial, similar to the way other moderate stresses can strengthen your body.
This molecular skirmish appears to invigorate the organism. Various findings point towards the conclusion that moderate stress of any kind is advantageous. Roundworms fed small amount of arsenic live longer. People who indulge in moderate levels of alcohol have reduced risks of heart attacks, diabetes and Alzheimer's according to epidemiological studies.
Yet these blessings do seem to be coupled with notable damage to genomes. But this is as true of exercise as it is for other sources of stress. "Even when you jog," says Wetzker, "the genomes in your cells come under attack." In this instance, the impact leads to muscles being strengthened.
Wetzker hypothesizes that there is a universal principle when it comes to stress response, namely that the body can acclimatize to -- or even requires -- any kind of moderate challenge. "After a few weeks in a cast, your muscles are withered." The body needs to be regularly pushed, even with radioactivity.
Wetzker, of course, admits that caution is required when it comes to nuclear radiation. It is too difficult to calculate doses and effects. Experiments on people to gain better insights are out of the question. The researcher believes, however, that there are ill people who would be willing to accept a small amount of risk.
Much of what we "know" is wrong.
Abolitionist Harriet Tubman will be replacing President Andrew Jackson on the $20 bill. Sounds good to me... I've got no particular attachment to Jackson -- he was a slaveholder, creator of the Trial of Tears, and the founder of the Democratic Party.
Surprisingly, none of the news articles about Tubman note her party affiliation or her choice of weapon.
Organic, locally-sourced food is a scam. I mean, obviously.
It's hard to be too angry at consumers. To be sure, they probably should have known that you couldn't really buy organic, locally sourced food year-round at just a smidge more than you'd pay for a regular meal. After all, the average American spent half their income on food in 1900, while the modern American now spends a paltry 12 percent, even including a lavish helping of restaurant meals. That should give us some sign that local, artisanal food is not going to be cheap. But most Americans are not economic historians.
But it's not even that easy to be mad at the restaurants. They're in a viciously competitive business where most places don't survive. In a competitive equilibrium where so many people want to be told they're eating farm-fresh food -- and so few people seem willing to pay for it -- many of them probably feel that their choice is "lie or die."
The Left is all about virtue signalling, not actual virtue.
So says Speaker Paul Ryan, explicitly ruling himself out as an option for the Republicans. However, don't miss the subtext: the Democrats are stuck with Hillary and Bernie.
"I simply believe that if you want to be the nominee -- to be the president -- you should actually run for it," said Mr. Ryan, who will be the convention chairman. "I chose not to. Therefore, I should not be considered. Period. I just think it would be wrong to go any other way."
Ryan is proficient at political brinksmanship, and perhaps he has concluded that the country (and party) is most likely to prosper if both Republicans and Democrats are saddled with their current candidates. If he accepted the nomination -- or even flirted with it seriously -- he would open the door for Joe Biden or another Democrat to swoop in and save the Democrats from Hillary or Bernie.
UnitedHealth Group is pulling out of ObamaCare, but the law is "clearly" beneficial.
UnitedHealth's decision to pull back in Georgia and Arkansas beginning next year comes just days after a new Gallup survey documented a sharp decline in the rate of Americans who are still without coverage. Despite its rocky performance during its first two full years of operation - including higher than anticipated premiums and copayments and lower enrollments than projected - the ACA, along with expanded Medicare, clearly has been a boon for the nation's uninsured.
The problem with the "clearly" is twofold:
1. The assumption that a person covered by a plan with high premiums and co-payments is better off than a person without coverage. The costs may or may not outweigh the benefits, but the government has put its thumb on the scale by creating tax penalties for people who might otherwise benefit by foregoing coverage.
2. The mistaken conflations of insurance coverage with health care, and of health care with improved health. The possession of health insurance may or may not lead to better health care for an individual, and better health care may or may not lead to improved health. The goal is better health, but the only lever the government has is health insurance, which is doubly indirect.
So, the Gallup survey alone doesn't justify the use of "clearly". Let's wait to see some data showing actual improved health, not just more insurance coverage.
President Obama says that Hillary Clinton was careless with her top secret emails, and Hillary agrees.
Did Hillary jeopardize American security?
"Here's what I know," Obama told Wallace. "Hillary Clinton was an outstanding Secretary of State. She would never intentionally put America in any kind of jeopardy."
"You were prepared to say she didn't jeopardize," Chris Wallace said.
"I continue to believe she has not jeopardized America's national security," Obama defended Clinton.
Never intentionally. But damage caused by carelessness is never intentional, is it? The carelessness may be intentional.
It seems impossible to believe that putting top secret information on an insecure server didn't jeopardize national security, even if no actual damage was done. The use of an insecure server increased the potential for damage, which is what jeopardy means. The only way the potential for damage couldn't have been increased is if none of Hillary's information was valuable to our adversaries.
"What I also know, because I handle a lot of classified information, is that there are -- there's classified, and then there's classified," Obama told Fox News. "There's stuff that is really top-secret, top-secret, and there's stuff that is being presented to the president or the secretary of state, that you might not want on the transom, or going out over the wire, but is basically stuff that you could get in open-source."
It was top-secret, but not top-secret top-secret.
So basically the best defense law professor Obama can come up with is that Hillary was careless, but she didn't know anything important anyway.
The recently leaked Panama Papers reflect pretty well on America and "global capitalism". It's the corrupt, kleptocratic countries that look bad, but that's nothing new.
Consider the big names that have shown up so far on the list. With the notable exception of Iceland, these are not countries I would describe as "capitalist": Russia, Pakistan, Iraq, Ukraine, Egypt. They're countries where kleptocratic government officials amass money not through commerce, but through quasi-legal extortion, or siphoning off the till. This is an activity that has gone on long before capitalism, and probably before there was money. Presenting this as an indictment of global capitalism is like presenting Romeo and Juliet as an after school special on the dangers of playing with knives.
Since there are so few Americans named in the leak, some people have wondered if the American government is behind it. Who knows?
Hillary has angered pro-abortion advocates by acknowledging the personhood of unborn children. Presumably she'll "correct" herself, which makes the evil of abortion even more apparent.
"The unborn person doesn't have constitutional rights," Mrs. Clinton said on NBC's "Meet the Press." "Now that doesn't mean that we don't do everything we possibly can in the vast majority of instances to, you know, help a mother who is carrying a child and wants to make sure that child will be healthy, to have appropriate medical support."
As long as a mother wants her child to be healthy, "we" will give her and the child appropriate medical support. For a mother who wants an unhealthy child, "we" will help kill the baby and harvest his organs.