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July 30, 2014

Coffeehousin'

Coffeehouse

A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square

Eric Maschwitz and Manning Sherwin ©1939

Live at the Coffeehouse dot Com

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Three Cheers for Redmond!

Microsoft is fighting for full Fourth Amendment protection of your email in the cloud. General counsel and executive vice president for legal and corporate affairs, Brad Smith, has a guest editorial in the WSJ today describing the principles and tactics:

Microsoft believes you own emails stored in the cloud, and that they have the same privacy protection as paper letters sent by mail. This means, in our view, that the U.S. government can obtain emails only subject to the full legal protections of the Constitution's Fourth Amendment. It means, in this case, that the U.S. government must have a warrant. But under well-established case law, a search warrant cannot reach beyond U.S. shores.

The government seeks to sidestep these rules, asserting that emails you store in the cloud cease to belong exclusively to you. In court filings, it argues that your emails become the business records of a cloud provider. Because business records have a lower level of legal protection, the government claims that it can use its broader authority to reach emails stored anywhere in the world.


July 29, 2014

"Windy" the Wind Imaging Laser System

This amazing device was developed by some friends of mine. Check it out and please share it widely.


July 28, 2014

2,000 Words

White House SPAM on Inversions:

wh_inversion.gif

CATO on Inversions:

cato_inversions.jpg

But jk thinks:

Top-hatted, bearded gents with cigars -- ruining our great nation with their filthy greed!

Posted by: jk at July 28, 2014 7:24 PM
But johngalt thinks:

Limbaugh was brilliant on this today. "Did you hear Obama over the weekend say he is ready to get serious about enforcing border security? Yeah, he's ready to militarize it to keep US corporations from getting OUT."

Now it's my turn:

"Mister Obama, Tear. Down. This. Wall."

Posted by: johngalt at July 29, 2014 1:50 AM

Un-Hail Insty

Or . . . oh, hail no!

insty140728b.gif

Good thing the good perfesser teaches law and not economics, I grimace at his Mickey Kaus-esque immigration posts, but this is really disappointing. His link goes to Ann Althouse. I appreciate wanting Gov. Walker to win -- really I do. He has taken brave stands on education and public sector unions and he has been subjected to far far worse and far less true attacks than these.

But are we going to stand for anything?


All Hail Insty!

insty140728.gif

Posted by John Kranz at 11:16 AM | What do you think? [2 comments]
But johngalt thinks:

Yes, I know.

But it should be repeated at least annually.

Posted by: johngalt at July 28, 2014 3:33 PM
But jk thinks:

This is a favorite of Reynolds's; he posts it more than once a year. Every week would be fine with me -- it is the whole world and everything in it.

Posted by: jk at July 28, 2014 7:00 PM

Quote of the Day

Jonathan Cohn, ObamaCare's cheerleader at the New Republic, quoted Mr. Gruber on Friday as saying his remark "was just a mistake" and he didn't recall why he made it. We can think of a reason: It was the truth. Liberals feared some states wouldn't set up exchanges, so they deliberately wrote incentives into the law so the states would do so. This was the conventional liberal wisdom until this year when it suddenly became legally and politically inconvenient for the Administration to admit it. -- WSJ Ed Page
UPDATE: The WSJ's "Notable & Quotable" today is my "All Hail Harsanyi" from last week. Saved you $240. You're welcome.

July 27, 2014

Just Three Pages of Econ . . .

UPDATE: Now I had not seen (nor heard of) Kristen Bell's until this came out. I made a point of finding hers and watching it first.

In a bit of reflection, this struck me as a microcosm of the left-right debate. We have facts, reason, and a guy who looks like Remy. They have total sophistry, but put it into a clever package. Ms. Bell is distractingly attractive, even primped up as Mary Poppins.

We're doomed I tell you. Doomed.

UPDATE: Ari Armstrong weighs in.

But johngalt thinks:

Yep. It doesn't even matter that the hot chick's stated premise is that employers should pay more because GOVERNMENT takes so much.

(Or that "just a three dollar increase" is a 41% raise.)

But really, mostly, because "Snap! Federal and state income tax, Medicare and Social Security? Why, you're living below the poverty line!"

Ummm, "we're from the government and we're here to help - by making your employer give government more money when, instead, we could simply take less from you."

Posted by: johngalt at July 28, 2014 3:48 PM
But jk thinks:

But then, how would they enforce the minimum wage laws?

Really, man, I don't think you thought this through.

Posted by: jk at July 28, 2014 7:02 PM
But johngalt thinks:

How 'bout this:

Kristin Bell in Walt Disney's 'Mary Poppins is Taxed Enough Already.'
Posted by: johngalt at July 29, 2014 12:50 AM
But jk thinks:

Let it go.

Posted by: jk at July 29, 2014 9:48 AM
But johngalt thinks:

Can't hold it back anymore.

Posted by: johngalt at July 29, 2014 11:14 AM
But johngalt thinks:

We are all The Tea Party now.

Even the beautiful people.

Posted by: johngalt at July 29, 2014 1:41 PM
But johngalt thinks:

Heh. I'm not the only one. Ari - Spoonful of Coercion

Posted by: johngalt at July 29, 2014 1:57 PM

Review Corner

[Milton] Friedman titled his column "Steady as You Go," giving due credit to [George] Shultz, and explained that Nixon had begun to reverse the harmful interventionist policy of the Johnson administration, which Friedman called "fine-tuning with a sledge hammer!" He was looking forward to a more stable and prosperous decade. But that decade didn't come to pass, because Nixon soon gave up on "steady as you go" for political reasons before it could yield positive results.
[...]
In practice , the wage and price controls brought interventionism beyond what anyone could have imagined when they thought about the idea in principle . To administer the freeze, government bureaucrats had to consider the intricate details of production and product definition. At a meeting on August 17, 1971, in the Roosevelt Room in the West Wing of the White House, Nixon’s advisers were debating such things as whether chicken broilers were a raw agricultural product and thereby exempt from the price freeze, or a processed product and thereby subject to the freeze.
Yes, I think Madison mentioned in Federalist #10 something about an energetic executive's classifying goods for price controls. Or maybe that was #69, I get them mixed up.

John Taylor believes in predictable and consistent rules for both fiscal and monetary policy. his eponymous rule could replace the Fed with a twenty year old HP Calculator and we'd all be better off. In First Principles: Five Keys to Restoring America's Prosperity, Taylor correlates periods of predictable principled policy with economic growth and dynamism. He also shows how the interventionism of the 1930s, 1970s and present relate to extended periods of negative or slow growth.

As these principles developed over the years, we can see periods when careful attention was paid to them and alternating periods when they were neglected. And we can draw clear conclusions from this history: When policymakers stuck to the principles, economic performance was good. When they ignored or compromised on the principles, economic performance deteriorated.

The 30s have been better plowed of late and Taylor gives props to Amity Shlaes's The Forgotten Man [Review Corner]. Taylor looks at it more econometrically. Taylor gives equal treatment to the 70s, in which we saw interventionist fiscal policy and mad monetary policy after President Nixon pulled us out of Bretton Woods. George Shultz, Milton Friedman, Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford retrospectively seemed an unlikely group to unleash a bold era of interventionism, but we know how the story ends. As it happens, I was there in a powder blue leisure suit.
There went the principles. The 1975 decision represented a compromise in which some principles were sacrificed in exchange for others, such as holding down the growth of spending as Greenspan recommended in his memo. Despite his own misgivings about such interventions, Greenspan compromised, thinking that no bill (or a worse bill) would be more harmful to the economy than the bill with the rebate. Moreover, with both the House and the Senate controlled by the opposition party, the veto would likely be overridden anyway.

Then President Carter rode in to save the day, and ... no, wait ...
It's difficult to recall now the seriousness of the U.S. economic slump by the end of the 1970s. Economic growth was weakening, unemployment was rising, and the dollar was sinking. Confidence in U.S. economic leadership was plunging at home and abroad. Sound familiar? But then the winds of economic freedom started blowing again, starting with very strong gusts at the start of the incoming Reagan administration. No more short-term actions and interventions. Temporary was out. Permanent was in. Reagan proposed and the Congress passed long-term reforms such as the tax rate reductions, which reduced income tax rates by 25 percent across the board.

Out with temporary, in with permanent. While we have many improvements over the 1970s -- beyond the leisure suit -- in predictability and consistency, it is much worse. "Temporary" tax cuts, fiscal cliff legislation, and phased tax expenditures seem part of every piece of legislation lately.
After being largely out of use and out of favor for over two decades , Keynesian activism arose from the dead in the 2000s. It started in the George W. Bush administration and reached unprecedented heights in the Barack Obama administration. In retrospect, it started with a whimper rather than a bang when a temporary stimulus was added, as part of the Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2001, to the permanent reduction in personal income tax rates that President Bush proposed during the 2000 campaign.

Monetary policy has also become interventionist. He relates a great story in which Ben Bernanke published a paper using the Taylor Rule ["the Fed should set the interest rate equal to 1 ½ times the inflation rate, plus ½ times the percentage amount by which the GDP differs from its long-run growth path, plus 1"]. Taylor thought things would be okay until he got a call from Milton Friedman: "John, this is exactly what I mean. In this paper you see a policymaker with an activist bent making use of your curve to justify that activism." Again, we know how the story ends.
The annual meeting of the world's financial leaders in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, each August illustrates how radically things had changed since Volcker wrestled monetary policy back from the brink in the early 1980s. I attended the first monetary policy symposium in August 1982 and was there for the thirtieth meeting in August 2011. The Tetons were still there, but virtually everything else was different. Volcker attended the meeting in 1982; Bernanke, in 2011.

Taylor is no fan of Dodd-Frank or the PPACA. "While the Dodd-Frank bill neglects many of the principles of economic freedom, the 2010 health care law recklessly ignores and violates them all." The heart of Taylorism is rules: rule by law not by men -- monetary policy by function and not be discretion.
Government regulation should rely more on the rule of law and less on the rule of men. Any plan to restore American prosperity must remove the regulatory drag on the economy and the crony capitalism and regulatory capture that magnify it. Consistent with principles of economic freedom and proposals in the two previous chapters, which would roll back recent excesses in fiscal and monetary policy, the 2010 financial legislation and the 2010 health care legislation should be scaled back or amended and replaced with legislation based on market incentives and the rule of law, not on the discretion of government bureaucracies.

Much needs doing, but Taylor remains optimistic that a return to principles will return us to prosperity. I think he does well to examine long periods of prosperity and stagnation. Too many political economists try to relate a recession in a congressional or presidential term; there is too much latency and too many exogenous events to make sense. But Taylor looks at extended periods of prosperity under sound principles in the 80s and 90s against extended problems in the 30's, 70s and the present malaise.

It's a great book that any ThreeSourcer would enjoy -- enough detail to present a substantive argument, but not enough to bog down the reader and cloud the message. Five stars.


July 26, 2014

Meta

Not as in Mick Jagger's singing "Meta gin soaked bar room queen in Memphis." Meta as in:

I have a probably very non-political Review Corner coming up someday for Wetware: A Computer in Every Living Cell by Dennis Bray. I am about halfway in and it is very good.

Biology was never my strong suit. The highlight of sophomore bio was when I was chosen to go to the board and draw the cell from a cheek swab. I had not completed the assignment and borrowed the lab book of my lab partner Bobbi (as in Roberta...) I boldly drew the XX chromosomes to the raucous laughter of a class that assumed "class clown" was in on the joke.

Let's say I have some catching up to do. Bray describes the inner workings of cells and single-cell organisms with analogies to microchips and electronic circuits. Very interesting stuff.

While the review will be non-political -- unless he turns to the phenyl-alkaloid proof of Socialism in Chapter Eight -- I had a political thought while reading. I was reading about the electro-chemical processes in nerve cells, placing them into the author's thesis of circuitry -- all the while reading the book which I had downloaded onto my Kindle.

Had I succumbed to legal Centennial State weed, this would have been a moment for an extended "Woooooah!" and possibly a break for a snack. But I do not do that. I instead enjoyed the meta moment of the author's transferring his synaptic activity to mine via the Amazon Cloud.

And my thoughts turned to anti-Saganism. Carl Sagan's trademark was telling humans that they were insignificant based on their infinitesimal size on galactic and universal scales. My (predominantly lefty) friends love to post Sagan and Neil deGrasse Tyson quotes that highlight this. A favorite is a picture from Voyager: the small speck that is Earth is pointed out and we are invited to think of our insignificance. I always reply" "Jeepers, we sent a spaceship all the way out there, had it take a picture, send it home, and you posted it to the Internet. We're actually pretty f-ing awesome critters!

So I boldly proclaim arrogance, not for myself, but for my species, for our self awareness. Bray does not claim for his entire branch of science a comprehensive understanding of even a lowly amoeba. But they're working on it. And he wrote a book. And I bought it and downloaded it onto a small computer based on the circuitry he compares to brain cells. So, suck it, Carl.

Rant Posted by John Kranz at 12:18 PM | What do you think? [0 comments]

Quote of the Day

Jonah Goldberg [subscribe] on l'Affaire Jonathan Gruber;

In case you're not up to speed, let's recap. It's really a wonderful, feel-good story for the whole family. In the Halbig decision this week, the court ruled that according to a plain reading of the law, only state exchanges are eligible for premium subsidies under Obamacare. As a political and policy matter, this would be the equivalent of throwing a very large mackerel on a house of cards. It wouldn't necessarily destroy Obamacare, but that would be the way to bet.

UPDATE: The best concise version of the story from Shikha Dalmia


July 24, 2014

Libertario Delenda Est!

I got into a very good Libertario Delenda Est on Facebook today. Several bright folks, most of whom I know from Liberty on the Rocks -- Flatirons. I did pretty well but my performance is tarnished by a pretty well deserved pushback against my humor. The public at large is not inured to it as are ThreeSourcers. I issued a well deserved apology. (It was not even a People's Front of Judea joke).

What I will share is a post from State Senator Chris Holbert (SD 30). Other members on thread are inclined to stay home, vote LP, vote a blank top ballot, &c. We have a less-than exciting GOP Gubernatorial nominee in Rep. Bob Beauprez, but Sen. Holbert issues this cri de Coeur:

Please don't saddle the liberty leaders in the state House and Senate with another four years of Hickenlooper. Please allow for some measure of improvement on the first floor. For those of us who have and will continue to actually run repeal bills, please don't draw a line in the sand and demand that only the greater of evils will sit in that office for the next four years.

It's rather odd to willingly meet the repeal demand in the legislature while hearing from people who want repeals, but are not invested in preventing Hick from shutting down such efforts.

He'll just be worse in his second and last term. Please don't put him back in that chair, please give us a chance.


I'm on your side, Senator -- Libertario Dlenda Est!

But johngalt thinks:

Can you link the post where the comment appeared?

Posted by: johngalt at July 25, 2014 12:20 PM
But Jk thinks:

Is that accepted FB etiquette? I messaged it to you and would do any others on request.

(You just don't believe I apologized to someone...)

Posted by: Jk at July 25, 2014 9:53 PM

Better than Milhouse

Hat-tip: Mankiw

Obtuse Milhouse allusion: Review Corner


All Hail Harsanyi

I'm going to post this here if that is okay. For all their faults, I'd like to continue to see my family.

But ThreeSources's favorite, David Harsanyi, dares question the unchallenged truth of teachers' compensation.

Recently, the National Council on Teacher Quality found that schools are training twice as many K-5 elementary school teachers as they need every year.

With this kind of surplus, the question we really should be asking is: how are teacher salaries so high?

The second, and less obvious problem, with Vox's mechanic-teacher comparison is the snobbish suggestion -- thrown around by teachers unions and their allies all the time -- that working with your hands is less meaningful or valuable to society than working with kids.

Now, auto technicians make an average of $35,790 nationally, with 10 percent of them earning more than $59,590, according to BLS data. According to a number of experts from large car companies, there will be a serious shortage of mechanics in the near future, as demand expected to grow 17 percent from 2010 to 2020. That's 848,200 jobs, according to USA Today. And judging from the information, mechanics are asked to learn increasingly high-tech skills to be effective at their jobs. It wouldn't be surprising if their salaries soon outpaced those of teachers.


I forgot who said it (sorry!) but my favorite line is "Teachers: they demand to be treated like professionals but paid like factory workers."


July 23, 2014

Wasn't Expecting to Miss Mitt...

The snot-nosed kid and the grownup.

Some are going too far in their appreciation for Governor R. Had he clearly articulated the case for the economic liberty that has so enriched his life, it may or may not have won the election, but it would have provided a clear choice.

So, I am not crying for the Governor to win the nomination in 2016. But I don't mind pointing out that the electorate made the wrong choice in 2012.

Hat-tip: IJReview

2012 Posted by John Kranz at 6:33 PM | What do you think? [3 comments]
But johngalt thinks:

Supposing Mitt were president today, and had displayed "backbone" for the past 2 years, would things be any different? In Iraq, perhaps yes. In Ukraine? Would the US have sent more bailout cash to them by now? Would the EU? Tensions would certainly be higher with the Russians, and western media would regard Romney as making things worse, not better. (Kind of like those who now go too far in their appreciation for Governor R are doing to President O.)

Is it not a fatal conceit to believe that American "leadership" can prevent bad acts around the world?

Posted by: johngalt at July 24, 2014 11:30 AM
But jk thinks:

Conceit, perhaps, but I hope it is not fatal; I just bought a new guitar...

Both Mister Putin and the Mad Mullahs of Iran act with impunity because they know President Obama will not act. Do I want a hothead who will launch Slim Pickens at the first disagreement? Of course not. But I do want "American Leadership" in the mold of Ronald Reagan.

Curiously, that requires the threat of America doing things with which you and I would not approve. But I draw the parallel of arming oneself. You don't go out to mow people down, but the serious threat keeps you secure and counter-intuitively prevents violence.

I'm enjoying having William Easterly trash my last remnants of neocon notions about rebuilding societies and spreading democracy. I'm not even a neo-Wilsonian any more and that feels good.

But I am still a Deepak Lal, pax Americana guy. There is one guy sitting at that table whom I would trust to effectively use enough USA-brand WhoopAss™ to keep the shipping lanes (and navigable air lanes) open.

Posted by: jk at July 24, 2014 12:11 PM
But johngalt thinks:

I do agree with you. I also think a plurality of Americans still hasn't yet learned the lesson that President "make no messes" is still teaching them. Everyone younger than GenX does not know a world lacking in American leadership. At this point in history I am content to watch while they poke their finger into the pretty flame.

Posted by: johngalt at July 24, 2014 2:43 PM

Quote of the Day

"It's Virtually Impossible to Be a Successful Modern President" declares the headline of a blog post by the Washington Post's Chris Cillizza. The post has drawn a great deal of ridicule, but to our mind most of the critics fail to appreciate just how feeble an effort it is. Our aim is to correct that. -- James Taranto
But nanobrewer thinks:

ah, I've missed Taranto, and do have time now that he's behind the WSJ firewall. Do they have an electronic-only subscription rate?

Posted by: nanobrewer at July 25, 2014 1:38 AM
But jk thinks:

Yes but. They have really goosed it up this year. There's a fan club of sorts on Facebook and many complained when he went behind Rupert's wall.

I thought "you bunch of whiners -- it's, like, $89 for the best newspaper in the known universe." Then my credit card bill came in it's more, like $240. Ow.

Yet I think I will stay with it -- if you chose not to, let me know anytime you'd like me to email a story.

Posted by: jk at July 25, 2014 10:13 AM
But johngalt thinks:

Ah yes, welcome to the "introductory rate until you stop checking your credit card statement for the auto-renewal price" sales gimmick.

Posted by: johngalt at July 27, 2014 11:43 AM
But nanobrewer thinks:

Yee-ow! I thought there was an OnLine subscription for something like $14/mo.? When I get a little freer, I'll take the free trial and report back...

I do have more time now that I'm not reading Hail-Taranto!

Posted by: nanobrewer at July 28, 2014 12:39 AM
But jk thinks:

You got it, jg. In fairness, I have subscribed for more than 15 years and the digital only was $89 - $99 per year until now. It is not quite the Comcast - HBO plan.

Posted by: jk at July 28, 2014 9:48 AM

An Economc Case for Vampiric Reensoulment

Did I mention that I love the Internet? The ethics and economics of vampire re-ensoulment

This defense is fine as far as it goes, but I'd like to go further. Why presume that having more humans or human-like beings on the planet is even a problem at all? The ecological concern seems to borrow from the perspective of doomsayers like Paul Ehrlich, who have been beating the population-bomb drum for decades. And for decades, the doomsayers have been proven wrong. In 1968, Ehrlich predicted mass starvation by the 1970s or 1980s. Didn't happen. Since then, Ehrlich has continued to move the goal posts, but his predictions have stubbornly refused to come true. Instead, the world has witnessed a massive reduction in poverty. Between 1990 and 2010, the percentage of the world population living in extreme poverty fell from 43 percent to 21 percent, even while the world population rose by almost a third.
[...]
One last point. Isn't it problematic that vampires drink blood, and they would therefore be dependent on the human population for sustenance? Again, I think the answer is no. None of us are perfectly self-sufficient. How many of us grow our own food? We are all dependent on a massive web of human cooperation to provide us with food, shelter, clothing and most everything else we need. In this sense, vampires’ dependence on human blood is just a special case of everyone’s shared dependence on everyone else. The key issue for sustainability is not requiring self-sufficiency, but assuring that most people and vampires contribute enough to productivity to pay for the services that others provide them. By establishing a legal market in human blood, as suggested by Enrique Guerra-Pujol in Chapter 12, we could go a long way toward creating an incentive for vampires (especially re-ensouled ones) to eschew violence in favor of remunerative work in the combined vampire-human economy, to the benefit of both the living and the dead.

Hat-tip: Insty


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