Rational Review News Digest

News


| Commentary |

We’re moving (and a fundraiser update)!

Dear readers,

Today is the last day of the 14th year of Rational Review News Digest. Tomorrow is our 14th birthday and the beginning of our 15th volume under the RRND label. After today's edition, you'll find RRND back at its old-time original home:

http://rationalreview.com

Of course, today's stories are still at ...

http://rationalreview.news-digests.com

... and the nearly 80,000 posts at that URL will remain available as an archive -- if not forever, at least for some time. You should continue to receive email editions as normal, although there will be some format changes we hope you'll like.

The fundraising page will be moving, too, but you can find it for the moment at:

http://rationalreview.news-digests.com/support-rrnd

Speaking of which, thanks to our contributors since December 15 -- EM, EL, LW, PS, KM, SA, SC and DH -- who've our year-end fundraiser total to $1,335.50 versus our goal of $5,000 by December 31.

Please help us get closer to that goal. I try to keep fundraising to a minimum for most of the year because I hate it just as much as you do, but RRND/FND IS a reader-supported publication. If you found it valuable this year, please return some of that value at, once again:

http://rationalreview.news-digests.com/support-rrnd

See you tomorrow at the new place!

Yours in liberty,
Tom Knapp
Publisher
Rational Review News Digest / Freedom News Digest


-----

EU rules against UK’s “Snoopers’ Charter”

"The UK government says it is 'disappointed' after the European Court of Justice said the 'indiscriminate' collection of data was against EU law. EU judges said communications data could only be retained if it was used to fight serious crime. Its verdict came after a legal challenge to the UK government's surveillance legislation. ... The Lib Dems said the ruling proved the government had 'overstepped the mark' with its Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act, branded the 'snoopers' charter' by critics, which requires communications companies to retain data for 12 months." (12/21/16)


-----

NC: Senate votes down repeal of HB2, House adjourns without vote

"The North Carolina Senate voted down a repeal of House Bill 2 and adjourned Wednesday after a day of increasingly partisan rancor that pitted conservative Republicans against the Charlotte City Council they distrust. The state House adjourned without voting on repeal of the bill that has cost North Carolina millions of dollars in lost jobs, sports events and boycotts. Senate members bickered over a measure that would repeal HB2 but temporarily ban local ordinances regulating employment practices, public accommodations or access to restrooms. Democrats and gay rights advocates attacked the measure, introduced by Senate leader Phil Berger, as falling short of a bargain to kill HB2 once Charlotte repealed the ordinance that gave rise to it." [editor's note: Surely the Charlotte council didn't really expect Republicans to keep their word. There's a first time for everything, but this was never going to be it - TLK] (12/21/16)


-----

South Korea: Court issues arrest warrant for Park associate’s daughter

"A South Korean court has issued an arrest warrant for Chung Yoo-ra, the daughter of President Park Geun-hye's friend, Choi Soon-sil, who is in custody and on trial in an influence-peddling scandal that led parliament to vote to impeach Park. ... Chung faces several allegations, including obstruction of justice, [prosecutors' spokesperson Lee Kyu-chul] said." (12/21/16)


-----

Ukraine: Hackers suspected of causing second power outage

"The same group of hackers that caused the power outage across several regions in Ukraine last Christmas holidays might have once again shut down power supply in northern Ukraine during the weekend. According to Ukrainian energy provider Ukrenergo, a cyber attack on Kyiv's power grid may have caused the power outages in the country on Saturday, December 17, near midnight. The blackout affected the northern part of Kiev, the country's capital, and surrounding areas, Ukrenergo Director Vsevolod Kovalchuk explained in a post on Facebook." (12/20/16)


-----

National Fraternal Order of Police expects Trump to honor state marijuana laws

"States with legal marijuana laws in place might not be altered under the new administration, law enforcement officials expect. In a statement released on their website last month, the National Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) listed a number of proposals they believe president-elect Trump will address within his first 100 days in office, which includes the possibility of leaving state marijuana laws alone, reports the Denver Westword. The FOP’s list of potential executive orders or actions includes a decision to 'direct federal law enforcement agencies to not pursue violations of Federal drug laws even in States which have passed legislation legalizing the use, manufacture and possession of marijuana.'" (12/21/16)


-----

Secret police cellphone surveillance tool can also block calls by the innocent

"It's no secret that state and local law enforcement agencies have grown more militarized in the past decade, with armored personnel carriers, drones and robots. But one item in their arsenal has been kept largely out of public view, to the dismay of civil liberties advocates who say its use is virtually unregulated -- and largely untracked. The device is a suitcase-size surveillance tool commonly called a StingRay that mimics a cellphone tower, allowing authorities to track individual cellphones in real time." (12/21/16)


-----

Puerto Rico will have a blind man as Secretary of Transportation

"Puerto Rico's governor-elect Ricardo Rossello made history Tuesday by appointing a blind man as the new Secretary of Transportation and Public Works. Carlos Contreras, an accomplished engineer with vast experience in public office, will also serve the position of executive director of the Roads and Transportation Authority 'His appointment constitutes a historical precedent, being the first person blind to occupy the secretariat of the Department of Transportation and Public Works,' said Rossello during the press conference. 'It is a source of great satisfaction that Engineer Contreras Aponte has agreed to join our administration and make available to Puerto Rico his abilities and his commitment to the public service.'" (12/21/16)


-----

California’s birth rate falls to lowest level ever

"California's birth rate dropped to its lowest ever in 2016, according to data released by the state's Department of Finance. Between July 2015 and July of this year, there were 12.42 births per 1,000 Californians. The last time birth rates came close to being that low was during the Great Depression, when they hit 12.6 in 1933. The current low birth rate is part of a years-long downward trend that likely stems from Californians increasingly attending college and taking longer to graduate, said Walter Schwarm, a demographer at the Department of Finance. When they do complete their schooling, they're interested in taking some time to pursue their careers or other goals, he said. 'Eventually you think about having a child and by this point in time you're in your early 30s,' he said. Because that's also when women's fertility begins to decrease, they end up having fewer children than if they'd started in their 20s, he said." (12/21/16)


-----

“Scientology” program accuses church leader David Miscavige of physical abuse

"Scientology adversaries, Leah Remini and Mike Rinder headed to Seattle, Wash. and Los Angeles, Calif. in Tuesday’s episode of Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath, which focused on founder L. Ron Hubbard’s successor, David Miscavige. Former parishioners Remini and Rinder met with ex-Scientologists Jeff Hawkins, Tom DeVocht and Ron Miscavige, father of the current leader, in part four of the A&E docu-series. Hawkins and DeVocht discussed weighty allegations of physical abuse in Seattle, while Ron described his experiences at the Church’s international headquarters, dubbed 'Gold Base' near Hemet, CA." (12/21/16)


-----

Trump hotels reach deal with unions, ending labor board cases

"Hotels in Las Vegas and Washington owned by U.S. President-elect Donald Trump said on Wednesday they have entered into collective bargaining agreements with more than 500 workers, who will drop claims that the hotels violated federal labor law. The four-year contracts effective Jan. 1 will provide food and beverage and housekeeping employees at Trump International hotels in those cities with annual raises and pension and healthcare benefits, Trump Hotels and four unions said in a joint statement. Under the agreement, one of the unions, Unite Here Culinary Workers Union Local 226, will withdraw a series of cases filed with the U.S. National Labor Relations Board against the Las Vegas hotel, union spokeswoman Bethany Khan said." [editor's note: Negotiation instead of government edict; what a concept! - SAT] (12/21/16)


-----

NM: Lawsuit tries to keep Quezada off county commission, overturn results

"More than a month after the election, a new lawsuit claims a county commission candidate who lost in a landslide should be put in office because of how her opponent filled out a form. Patricia Paiz, the Republican candidate for Bernalillo County commissioner, filed the lawsuit this week seeking to overturn the election results. The lawsuit claims Democratic opponent Steven Michael Quezada, who won by more than 8,000 votes, had his wife sign a declaration of candidacy form in March. It even makes the claim that Quezada was out of the state at the time and wasn’t present, but doesn't provide evidence for that assertion." [editor's note: Yes, Quezada is the actor who played Steve Gomez on "Breaking Bad" - TLK] (12/21/16)


-----

VA reverses course, releases health care quality data

"The Department of Veterans Affairs has quietly released quality-of-care ratings for its medical centers across the country, despite years of refusing to share them with the public. The move follows a USA TODAY investigation that revealed ratings for 146 VA medical centers for the first time earlier this month. VA Secretary Bob McDonald complained at the time that their publication across the USA TODAY Network caused 'unwarranted distress' to veterans and could dissuade them from getting care." (12/20/16)


-----

Pacific island of Sao Tome breaks ties with Taiwan

"Taiwan says the Pacific island nation of Sao Tome and Principe has broken their diplomatic ties. Just 21 countries and governments now have diplomatic ties with Taiwan. Most of the world and the United Nations do not formally recognize Taiwan as a condition of maintaining relations with Beijing, which considers Taiwan a part of its territory." (12/21/16)


-----

India: Gandhi accuses Modi of taking bribes

"Leading opposition figure Rahul Gandhi has demanded an investigation into allegations that two Indian conglomerates paid millions of rupees as bribes to Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2013-14 when he was governing a western state. Gandhi, the Congress Party vice president and scion of India's Nehru-Gandhi family, says the allegations were found in diary notes and computer records of the Sahara Group and the Birla Group and are in possession of income tax authorities." (12/21/16)


-----

China: Regime to ban more poultry imports from countries with bird flu outbreak

"China will ban imports of poultry and related products from countries where there are outbreaks of highly pathogenic bird flu, the agency that oversees safety of the country's imports said on Wednesday. China has already banned poultry imports from more than 60 countries." (12/21/16)


-----

Google updates algorithm to demote Holocaust denial and hate sites in search results

"In recent months, Google has confronted a new and unsettling trend: Its top search results for questions about the Holocaust lead to neo-Nazi sites while queries about different ethnic groups direct users to racist or inflammatory material. The company last week said it was reluctant to take action, citing a desire to preserve the integrity of the company’s algorithms, which are designed to turn up relevant information. But on Tuesday, a Google spokesperson told Fortune it is making some changes. ... the episode provides more fodder for the debate over how the influence Google and Facebook have over news and information, and the role of social media in creating so-called 'filter bubbles' that lead people to shut out divergent opinions." (12/21/16)


-----

Indonesia: Police say Christmas bomb plot foiled, three killed

"Indonesian police have foiled plans by an ISIS-linked group for a Christmas-time suicide bombing after killing three suspected militants Wednesday and discovering a cache of bombs, authorities said. A firefight erupted at a house in South Tangerang 25 kilometers (15 miles) west of the capital Jakarta, with police saying the alleged militants had opened fire at officers." (12/21/16)


-----

“MethBot” ad fraud operators making $5 million revenue every day

"The biggest advertising fraud ever! A group of hackers is making between $3 Million to $5 Million per day from United States brands and media companies in the biggest digital ad fraud ever discovered. Online fraud-prevention firm White Ops uncovered this new Ad fraud campaign, dubbed 'Methbot,' that automatically generates more than 300 Million fraudulent video ad impressions every day." (12/20/16)


-----

Premeditated killings of prisoners by state employees are down, but voters still support barbarism

"In 2016, 30 people were sentenced to death in America, and 20 people were executed. Those numbers are the lowest in decades, according to a report by the Death Penalty Information Center, which collects data on capital punishment in the United States, and advocates against the death penalty. The 2016 numbers fit with a multi-decade trend. Death sentences and executions have been declining steadily since the mid-1990s. But 2016 also generated seemingly contradictory information about how the public views capital punishment. Even as jurors have increasingly voted for life in prison instead of execution, voters in three states rejected propositions that would have eliminated the death penalty." (12/21/16)


-----

CA: Border thugs steal $3 million

"The U.S. Border Patrol says over $3 million has been [stolen] after it was found on Tuesday inside two cars in Escondido, California. It's the largest cash [theft] ever made by the Border Patrol in San Diego County." (12/21/16)


-----

UN rights chief urges probe of Duterte for murder

"The UN rights chief urged the Philippines on on Tuesday to investigate President Duterte for murder, after he boasted that he in the past had personally killed suspected criminals. Mr. Duterte said in a speech last week that when he was mayor of Davao, where he served three terms between 1988 and 2016, he personally killed people to set an example for police. He made the comments in a speech to businessmen as he discussed his campaign to eradicate illegal drugs, which has seen police and unknown assailants kill thousands of people since he became President on June 30." (12/20/16)


-----

Obama blocks drilling in Arctic, Atlantic oceans

"President Obama on Tuesday formally blocked offshore oil and gas drilling in most of the Arctic Ocean, answering a call from environmentalists who say the government needs to do more to prevent drilling in environmentally sensitive areas of U.S.-controlled oceans. Obama is invoking a 1953 law governing the Outer Continental Shelf to block drilling in federal waters in the Arctic's Chukchi Sea and most of its Beaufort Sea. He also protected 21 underwater canyons in the Atlantic Ocean from drilling, White House officials said Tuesday. ... The announcement locks in a decision Obama made last month to block drilling in the Atlantic and Arctic Oceans during an offshore leasing plan that runs through 2022." (12/20/16)


-----

Obama plans up to 18 more Guantanamo prisoner transfers before leaving office

"President Barack Obama plans to transfer as many as 18 more prisoners from the Guantanamo Bay military prison before leaving office, a source close to the matter said, further shrinking the inmate population but still far short of meeting his longtime pledge to close the facility. The Obama administration notified Congress it intends to send the detainees, nearly a third of the remaining 59 held at the U.S. naval base in Cuba, to at least four countries, including Italy, Oman, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, before President-elect Donald Trump is sworn in on Jan. 20, the source said." (12/20/16)


-----

Senegal: Former Guinean military leader sought in massacre arrested

"Authorities in Senegal have arrested a former Guinean military leader long sought in connection with a 2009 stadium massacre that killed more than 150 people, Guinean officials confirmed Tuesday. Abubakar 'Toumba' Diakite was the head of the presidential guard at the time of the massacre, and an investigative commission later determined he was to blame for ordering the violence. An Interpol notice was issued for him five years ago." (12/20/16)


-----


Commentary


| News |

Screw the way things are, I want out

"Everywhere I turn, some kind of ruler, sub-ruler, enforcer, regulator, or 'right-thinking' quasi-enforcer demands not only my money but also for me to make myself easy to punish, thus showing myself to be a good subservient. That's not just wrong; it's a disease. I don't care whether such people are 'following orders,' 'just doing their job,' or whatever else they tell themselves to soothe their rightly troubled souls. That mode of living is perverse, and these people are enforcing a disease. Let me make this part very clear: The desire to control others is disease; it is corruption. Willing controllers are a morally inferior class. And the truly deranged thing is that these people rule the world!" (12/21/16)


-----

Capital punishment: Can we cut it out already?

"I'm not saying that there aren't crimes worthy of death. In fact, I heartily support the killing of violent criminals in defense of self or others at the scene of the crime. But once a criminal has been apprehended, disarmed and caged, killing him or her isn't self-defense any more. Execution is just the gratuitous, vengeful taking of a human life for public show. And no matter how much lipstick the practice's supporters put on the pig to try and turn it into something else, that's all it will ever be. Capital punishment is also completely incompatible with the notions of 'limited government' that most libertarians and some conservatives claim to support, not to mention the basic civil liberties that both libertarians and liberals publicly sustain." (12/21/16)


-----

Hollywood does Orwell

"When you see videos of Hollywood celebrities -- like the latest with Martin Sheen, Debra Messing and Bob Odenkirk -- earnestly telling Americans how to live up to their brand of liberal politics by rejecting the GOP, the first question you have to ask yourself is: Why? I still ask myself that after watching the latest pitch under the Orwellian hashtags #UniteForAmerica (the ad hoc group's disingenuous name) and #SupportTheElectors. A montage of stars sotto voce urges 'Republican members of the Electoral College' to vote their conscience -- that is, against their own fellow citizens' considered election choice." (12/18/16)


-----

Religious liberty under fire in Culpepper

"Spend any time surfing conservative websites and you cannot help being impressed by the degree to which they seem to care about religious liberty. One day they are defending nuns from birth control mandates; another, they are sticking up for businesses that don't want to endorse gay pride or gay marriage. So you would think they would be outraged that Culpeper, Va., has denied a permit that would let a small group of the faithful build a house of worship. On that score, unfortunately, you would be wrong. Conservative organs such as National Review, The Daily Caller and The Daily Signal have published scads of commentaries about Hobby Lobby, the Little Sisters of the Poor, wedding-cake makers and so on. But they have not said word one about the Islamic Center of Culpeper (ICC)." (12/21/16)


-----

Congress just punched a big hole in ObamaCare

"President Obama signed the 21st Century Cures Act on December 13. Promoted as a pro-innovation bill, the new law will improve the Food and Drug Administration's regulatory processes; as well as fund Vice-President Biden's Cancer Moonshot, the National Institutes of Health, and steps to reduce the opioid epidemic. However, the final version of the bill also included an important payment reform: Significantly expanding the use of Health Reimbursement Arrangements (HRAs) by small businesses." (12/21/16)


-----

Public infrastructure as stealth privatization

"Donald Trump hasn’t released an infrastructure plan but has given a good sense of the direction his administration will take. His proposal will likely use giant tax breaks to spur a massive increase in private control of public infrastructure in what David Dayen called a 'privatization fire sale.' Trump will be able to say the plan will both mean no new taxes and guaranteed profits for investors for decades. It’s too good to be true. There’s no doubt America needs a massive infrastructure upgrade. The American Society of Civil Engineers estimates nearly $4 trillion in needs including decades of deferred maintenance of our drinking and waste water systems, our roads and bridges and more, as well as new infrastructure such as light rail and broadband communications needed respond to 21st century challenges and opportunities." [editor's note: Were it actual privatization and not crony-corp cartelism, this would not be a bad thing - SAT] (12/21/16)


-----

The six mysterious elves of the commercial marketplace

"One reason that the Brothers Grimm fairy tales have such appeal -- more so than the folklore that came before -- is that they deal with a world that is familiar to us, a world that was just being invented in the early 19th century, when these stories were first printed and circulated. They deal with people, scenes and events that affect what we call the middle class today, or the bourgeoisie. This was the world that serves as the backdrop to the tales of the Brothers Grimm." (12/21/16)


-----

Chicago Teachers Union prefers money over students reading books from the library

"Budget cuts continue to affect students, parents, and school staff in Chicago Public Schools. This time the librarian at Pritzker Elementary in Wicker Park was handed the pink slip. To keep the library open for more than 700 students, parents of Pritzker schoolchildren volunteered to operate the checkout process. However, the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) objected to the parent volunteers, thus, keeping the library closed. The message this sends is simple: only those paying union dues can work in the school library. This is not the first time CTU has chosen what is best for the union over what is best for the students." (12/21/16)


-----

Will Guantanamo Bay’s prison ever close?

"In his final State of the Union address this year, President Obama repeated his call to close the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. 'I will keep working to shut down the prison at Guantanamo. It is expensive, it is unnecessary, and it only serves as a recruitment brochure for our enemies,' he said. But as Obama's presidency comes to its end, he has fallen short of that goal. ... Obama has repeatedly pushed plans to close the prison, without much success. This year, he sent a plan to Congress outlining where the remaining detainees could be transferred. He argued that keeping the prison in operation 'is contrary to our values.' Congressional Republicans quickly denounced the effort." (12/21/16)


-----

The growing movement for marijuana amnesty

"With an estimated $7 billion in sales in 2016 and potentially exponential growth due to recent ballot initiatives on recreational use, the legal marijuana industry has a lot of businesses seeing green. But as is so often the case in this country, there’s a darker side to this story and it splinters on the lines of race. For decades, the war on drugs has disproportionately targeted black and brown users for arrest and incarceration, and legalization efforts have until recently not addressed what happens to people who have been put in prison for possessing a substance that voters have since opted to make legal. The American Civil Liberties Union found in a 2013 report that, between 2001 and 2010, 88 percent of marijuana arrests were for possession, as opposed to intent to distribute. These arrests accounted for 46 percent of all drug arrests in the United States at that time. And though studies suggest that African-Americans and whites use marijuana at similar rates, African-Americans were nearly four times more likely to be arrested for a marijuana crime." (12/21/16)


-----

High tax slows Bitcoin development in Norway

"Norway is such a beautiful country and has been named a top summer tourist destination for those in search of picturesque mountains, fjords, and glaciers. But how is the Bitcoin scene fairing in this small Scandinavian country rich in natural resources and warm at heart?"


-----

Do you support our opposition to John Bolton for Assistant Secretary of State?

"We've never opposed a presidential nomination to an Executive Branch position. Objecting to individuals (as opposed to ideas and proposals) has always smacked of high school politics to us. We didn't want to join partisan frays. But we were wrong because ... Personnel is policy ... The people a President hires to execute policy may actually have more control over that policy than the President himself does. If true, then it's folly to remain silent about appointments." (12/21/16)


-----

Many unseen — but very real — fellow citizens

"Nothing that you say to someone who loses his or her job to changing market conditions is likely to satisfy that person. The personal almost always trumps the abstract. The seen hides the unseen. The proximate overwhelms the distant. The present is real while the future is still to be created. This reality, however, does not diminish the importance of defending free trade honestly, unconditionally, and without apology." (12/20/16)


-----

Yes, 2016 was bad, but next year could be worse

"The killing of Russia’s ambassador to Turkey on Monday evening might have prompted knee-jerk comparisons to the 1914 assassination of Archduke Francis Ferdinand, but it almost certainly won’t spark a World War One-type conflict. The lethal truck attack that killed 12 in Berlin a few hours later, however, could ratchet up the prospect of yet another political shock in Europe. 2016 looks set to keep throwing out unexpected, often brutal surprises right to its end. If 1989 (the year the Berlin wall fell) was the point at which globalization, liberal democracy and the Western view of modernity was seen to triumph, the year now concluding might yet be seen as when the wheels came off. That may be a dramatic overstatement. However, the electoral surprises of the Brexit vote and the election of Donald Trump (as well as dozens of other examples across the globe) are stark reminders of just how much consensus has unraveled. The next year could see a step back towards moderation. But it could equally see things spiral further out of control." (12/21/16)


-----

Baker’s Dozen (TM) things that government fears

"Truth is not just the first casualty in war, but in politics and the legislative and bureaucratic process. Government assumes (usually rightly) that if the truth gets out about it, its activities, its motives, and its results, that people will turn against it." (12/21/16)


-----

Don’t make Facebook the Ministry of Truth

"The assumption underpinning the fake-news panic is that ordinary people are too stupid to work out what is real and what is not. The suggestion that the millions of Americans who voted for Trump did so as a result of being duped by fake-news stories is ridiculous and insulting. Moreover, the idea that Facebook, inventor of the cyber poke, will now be the gatekeeper of all that is true, guiding their poor, low-information users through the internet's maze of lies, is risible. The internet has created a free flow of information that allows ordinary people to access, quickly and easily, multiple news sources. Imposing limits to this freedom would be a step backwards. Zuckerberg should have stuck to his guns the first time round. We do not need a ministry of truth." (12/21/16)


-----

State services will always be a crappy deal

"When some private company wants to get your money, it has to produce something -- like goods or services -- that you would freely choose to buy. So they both have to: 1) produce something you want; and 2) sell it at a price you're willing to pay for it. Since you don't have to deal with them at all, the pressure is all on them to produce better stuff for a lower price, so you will choose to take the deal. And because other companies compete with them, that puts even more pressure on them to make better stuff and charge less for it. Now compare that to 'government' 'services.' Let's use the example of the crappy indoctrination camps called 'public schools.'" (12/21/16)


-----

Death in Ankara

"If you think the assassination of the Russian Ambassador to Turkey, the same day terrorist attack in Berlin, and the announcement the next day of an agreement by Russia, Turkey, and Iran to end the Syrian civil war are all a monumental coincidence, then you haven't been paying attention." (12/21/16)


-----

Title IX: “Bureaucratic sex creep” gone wild

"If you want to see how the federal bureaucracy can mess things up, and create huge new areas of overburdening regulation, just look at what it has done with Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. Title IX simply reads: 'No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.' That’s all. But from this small, simple statement (there shall be no discrimination on the basis of sex) has been created a regulatory Tower of Babel governing sports teams, student discipline and even, and most dubiously, sexual consent." (12/20/16)


-----

Is civilian control of the military in jeopardy?

"One could argue that many elements of the movie's [Seven Days in May] plot are present today: a military infrastructure bred and fed on decades of war is suddenly threatened by a peacetime posture, defense cuts, and a deal with a rival power that's unpopular with many in the ranks. In the movie, one general, played forbiddingly by Burt Lancaster, believes it is his duty to right the wrongs of the civilian leadership (a peace deal with the Russians) and, thanks to the size and autonomy lavished upon the post-WWII military-industrial complex, can marshal the makings of an elaborate coup right under the noses of official Washington. Getting from real-world Trump to celluloid Seven Days is, of course, a fun exercise in hyperbole. But critics say that movies like that exist for a reason -- the nation was founded on the healthy fear that unbalanced power in the hands of the military could eventually lead to dictatorship, that the military as an institution is not wired for democratic policymaking, governing, or statecraft. Its coding, rather, is to defend, deter, or kill." (12/21/16)


-----

John Deere really doesn’t want you to own that tractor

"John Deere is at it again, trying to strip customers of the right to open up and repair their own property. In the new License Agreement for John Deere Embedded Software, customers are forbidden to exercise their repair rights or to even look at the software running the tractor or the signals it generates. ... The new License Agreement is John Deere's attempt to write its own private law. It's perfectly legal under copyright law to repair your own equipment, reverse engineer its software, and tinker with it to meet your needs. But where your rights interfere with manufacturers' ability to extract the most possible value from you, documents like the License Agreement are the go-to method for them to make your rights disappear." (12/20/16)


-----

Hydrocarbon elites post-Trump

"The elites of the hydrocarbon industry, including ExxonMobil, Shell, BP and Chevron, have endorsed carbon pricing -- or planned for its promulgation -- as the world seeks to reduce the risks from climate change. With the incoming Trump administration, which strongly proclaims its intent to be a friend to the energy extraction business, the time is right for the hydrocarbon elites to put their notional support into practice. For all of their publicly stated support, hydrocarbon elites have been slow to demonstrate to policymakers what they think carbon pricing ought to look like -- in the United States, or elsewhere." (12/21/16)


-----

Whack the bob

[T]he dominant progressive-left paradigm has proven itself incapable of dealing with the challenges of the present age -- most being caused by their own policies. Worse yet, those on the vanguard left have become moral scolds and petty language tyrants. Yes, political correctness is one of the big offenders, here. So, of course there's a backlash. But, turnabout being fair play, if the move to the 'right' goes too far -- as it probably will -- we can expect another swing leftward. Isn't it time to give that pendulum bob a whack, to initiate something like an equilibrium position? Many of today's problems are caused by partisans trying to force their kind of change down others' throats. There is an alternative: limit government, setting it to just a few tasks, letting society evolve naturally, without forced central planning." (12/21/16)


-----

Waging class war in comfort

"In a typical corporate board of directors meeting, what do CEOs see when they look out across their richly lacquered boardroom tables? They see . . . lots of other CEOs. That’s no accident. CEOs today purposely pack their corporate boards with their pals, who often turn out to be current or former chiefs at other corporations. Everybody who’s anybody just feels more comfortable that way. The most powerful corporate executive in 1950s America, GM's Charlie Wilson, served as defense secretary and paid three-quarters of his income in taxes. The most powerful corporate executive in 1950s America, GM’s Charlie Wilson, served as U.S. secretary of defense -- and paid three-quarters of his income in taxes. President-elect Donald Trump, a big-time business chief himself, certainly seems to want to feel comfortable, too. No other President-elect has ever packed his cabinet with more business bigwigs." [editor's note: Although there are also a lot of Congressthugs in that list, at least some of the corporati chosen might be seen as tough overseers of their departments, who know how to make things run effectively, cut costs ... Just sayin' - SAT] (12/19/16)


-----

Progressives: Stop blaming the Russians

"Zeal to blame Russia for a bad election outcome has spread like contagion among countless self-described progressives, understandably appalled by the imminent Trump presidency. But those who think they're riding a helpful tiger could find themselves devoured later on. If civil liberties instead of repression and diplomacy instead of war are progressive values, then all too many progressives -- eager to tar Trump as a Kremlin product -- have been undermining those values. Already, from witch-hunt legislation in Congress to pernicious media blacklisting, the anti-Russia hysteria -- being fueled by the high octane election-intervention storyline -- has gained enormous momentum." (12/21/16)


-----

Christmas isn’t the capitalist wet dream

"I've seen a lot of posts and articles in the past few days from libertarians and other capitalists that suggest that Xmas is some kind of Uber Capitalist Celebration, like it's just this zenith of capitalist ideas and a wonderful, grand thing. In the interest of religious friends, I want to draw a distinction between Xmas and Christmas, because I'm not sure they're the same thing. Christmas is a holiday about love, family, and friendship -- regardless of where it may have its roots. Xmas is a holiday tied to Black Friday and is directly at odds with family and friendship because of this." (12/21/16)


-----

The Tom Woods Show, episode 807

"The thick vs. thin libertarianism debate: Have I been wrong all this time? Entrepreneur and blogger C. Jay Engel joins me to discuss." [various formats] (12/20/16)


-----

Free Talk Live, 12/20/16

"Chris from Think Penguin Joins Us :: Technology and Privacy :: Are Digital Devices Worse than Heroin for Children? :: Ralph on Race :: Facebook Addiction :: Rooting Phones :: NES Addiction :: Adult Video Game Addiction :: Antigovernment Sarah." [Flash audio or MP3] (12/20/16)


-----

The Libertarian Angle, 12/21/16

"FFF president Jacob Hornberger and Richard Ebeling talk about the choices that president-elect Donald Trump has been making for his cabinet." [various formats] (12/21/16)


-----

Ten fundamental laws of economics

"In the midst of so many economic fallacies being repeatedly seemingly without end, it may be helpful to return to some of the most basic laws of economics. Here are ten of them that bear repeating again and again." (12/21/16)


-----

Cultivate the ego, spread freedom

"The primary tool of libertarians has been logical deduction (I know a bunch of statists are laughing about this but in this case logical is in the eyes of libertarians, not you guys). Libertarians, myself included, have tried to point out the bloody history of statism, economic consequences of central banking, terrible toll of the drug wars, and other pitfalls of centralized power. What has this gotten us? Jack shit. I would submit that logical deduction doesn't work, at least not initially, to spread the message of freedom. Why? Since I cannot read another person's mind I cannot provide a definitive answer. However, I can offer speculation based on experience and observation. In my experience, the biggest thing statism has going for it is that it preys on fear. Fear is a powerful tool. If you can wield it successfully you can influence people's actions." (12/20/16)


-----

The LAVA Flow Podcast, episode 52

"Merry Capitalistmas! Is the free market the reason for the season? What's in the News with stories on job security for judges, federal government hacking states, e-cig updates, good cop fired, Obamacare, and the IRS. Also, a Muh Roads segment on a city in Georgia that is privatizing all the things, and a Statists Gonna State segment on CEO pay." [various formats] (12/20/16)


-----

Economists are skeptics, not cynics

"Since Oscar Wilde defined a cynic as 'A man who knows the price of everything, but the value of nothing' in Lady Windermere's Fan (1892), economists have often been called cynics, commonly as justification for ignoring them whenever they oppose someone's latest political diagnosis or panacea. However, one cannot dismiss economists as mere cynics who can safely be ignored. A better description would be that economists tend to be justified skeptics of claims, and government prescriptions based on them, that are at odds with economic principles." (12/20/16)


-----

Killings in Berlin explain the Middle East

"No, this commentary is not in reference to the terrible terrorist attack on Dec. 19 in Berlin, in which an Islamic fanatic drove a truck into a crowd, killing 12 and injuring 50. Rather, it's in reference to killings that happened in Berlin in 1921 and 1922 -- killings that help to explain why the Middle East is such a dangerous, volatile region today and why the West is victim to attacks by Islamists. ... The killings that took place in 1921 and 1922 were actually three assassinations. The assassins were Armenians from Turkey, and the assassinated were three Young Turks, which was the name of the Muslim leaders of the Ottoman Empire during the First World War. The three Young Turks had been given asylum in Germany after the war when it came to light that they had sanctioned the Armenian genocide, a genocide that had resulted in the deaths of between 700,000 and one million Armenians." (12/20/16)


-----

Break the state: A New Year’s resolution for the ages

"Weapons training is critical but don’t forget that rebellion is fed by logistics and mature operating systems for strategic narrative and vision for cooperating resistance organizations. The reason this is critical is that most successful revolutions in human history are cooperative venture among a variety of loosely confederated interest blocs. Witness the Committees of Correspondence during the First American Revolution and the current webs of resistance intrigue across the Middle East. Real revolution starts between your ears and using your transmission means for your family. Friends are a choice so be careful because Mordor has a vast and deep informant network where they buy the loyalty of people for a price that would be embarrassing if revealing to friends, families and neighbors of the snitch." (12/20/16)


-----

A public service

"Sometimes someone inadvertently performs a public service by bringing an unbelievably stupid and dangerous idea to the surface, where it can be exposed for what it is. The New York Times can be credited -- if that is the word -- with performing this public service in a recent editorial against proposals to allow law-abiding citizens to carry concealed guns. They refer to what they call the National Rifle Association's 'fantasy that citizens can stand up to gunmen by shooting it out.' Nobody has suggested any such thing. Data collected over many years -- but almost never seeing the light of day in the New York Times or the rest of the mainstream media -- show many thousands of examples of people defending themselves with a gun each year, without having to pull the trigger." (12/20/16)


-----

What’s next for Cuba?

"At the age of 85, Raul will not be around to make decisions much longer. But anyone who thinks this is the beginning of a meaningful political transition is sorely mistaken. Fidel's brother believes in combining limited market reforms with one-party rule -- the 'Vietnamization' of the Cuban model. He may not be Fidel, but he commands enough authority to make sure nothing funny happens under his watch. What is much less clear is what will happen after Raul Castro is gone. No apparatchik wields enough power to ensure the perpetuity of the system." (12/19/16)


-----

Our warped understanding of “leadership” and the Middle East

"We often hear from hawks that the U.S. is in 'retreat' and that it is not as involved in this region as the people there want it to be, but as far as public opinion is concerned there is no truth to this. No matter the country of origin, almost no respondents cited 'too little U.S. leadership' as the greatest obstacle to peace and stability in the region, and hardly any cited it as the second greatest obstacle. In most of the countries surveyed, 'too much U.S. interference' is viewed as the first or second greatest obstacle. There is simply no evidence that there is popular dissatisfaction with a lack of U.S. 'leadership,' nor is there proof of broad support in any of these countries for greater U.S. involvement in the region." (12/20/16)


-----

Trump’s cabinet is a coup waiting to happen

"A republic -- or should I say, former republic? -- founded on civilian control of the military needs true civilians as a counterweight to militarism as well as military adventurism. Recently retired generals are anything but that; they're not even speed bumps on the road to the next set of misbegotten military 'adventures.' They are likely to be only one thing: enablers of and accelerants to military action. Their presence in the highest civilian positions represents nothing short of a de facto military coup in Washington, a coup that required no violence since the president-elect simply anointed and exalted them as America's security saviors. But here's a question for you: If these men and their three- and four-star colleagues couldn't win decisive military victories while in uniform, what makes Trump and the Washington establishment think they’ll do any better while wearing mufti?" (12/20/16)


-----

How to choose the right Bitcoin wallet for your needs

"Knowing how to best safeguard your bitcoins can be tricky since many different solutions exist for various needs such as privacy, simplicity, and long term storage." (12/20/16)


-----

Once again more than a little misleading from Shelter

"Shelter tells us that all those nasty building companies are just buying land to sit on it. To watch it rise in value without their having to do any actual building of houses. Landbanking that is .... There is a basic logic problem with the initial allegation of course, which is that a company needs income and income is gained here by actually building a house that someone then buys. There won't be any profits or dividends unless something is actually sold." (12/20/16)


-----

Why our coercive system of schooling should topple

"Decades ago, schools were tolerable primarily because they didn't take too much of young people's time. Children and teens had much time after school, on weekends, and all summer long for self-directed pursuits. But over the years, the school system has intruded increasingly, and ever more disruptively, into children's and families' lives. The length of the school year has increased (it now averages 5 weeks longer than in the 1950s). The number of years of required attendance has increased. The amount of homework has increased immensely, especially in elementary schools. Recesses have been reduced, or even been eliminated. ... Children now often spend more time at school and at homework than their parents spend at their full-time jobs, and the work of schooling is often more burdensome and stress-inducing than that of a typical adult job. A century ago we came to the conclusion that full-time child labor was child abuse, so we outlawed it; but now school is the equivalent of full-time child labor." (12/20/16)


-----

Eyes wide shut: Flying blind in an age of atrocity

"The end result of every Islamist terrorist attack is: 1. Heightened authoritarian powers for governments. 2. Demonization of law-abiding Muslims. 3. More money for war-profiteers, since more war is always the ultimate response. None of these outcomes advance the attackers' cause in any way save one: more repression, demonization and war can lead to more 'radicalisation' of the people being repressed, demonized and bombed. Thus the responses, which are always the same, always reward the perpetrators of these atrocities by giving them the only thing they can get from the attacks: recruitment tools." (12/20/16)


-----

Did monetary offset cause the Great Recession?

"In the past, I've argued that tight money caused the Great Recession. But what caused the tight money? One answer is too much weight placed on inflation targeting, combined with a backward-looking approach to inflation. Consumer price inflation was quite high during the first half of 2008, due to rising oil prices and a weak dollar." (12/20/16)


-----

How to talk to your family about the police state this Christmas

"Christmas is a time for families, feasts, gifts and drawn out arguments about politics and religion with people who you love. If it has come up often in the news the past year, it will probably come up at family Christmas get-togethers, for better or worse. And so this year it is entirely likely that the subject of policing in America will be one of those topics. Try to remain calm, listen attentively and then respond with irrefutable arguments. Below are some things your family are likely to say and believe about police, followed by facts and ideas to inform your responses to them." (12/20/16)


-----