Rational Review News Digest

News


| Commentary |

Syria: At least 14 Doctors Without Borders staff, patients killed in Aleppo airstrikes

"A wave of nighttime airstrikes hit a hospital in Syria supported by Doctors Without Borders and nearby buildings in the rebel-held part of the contested city of Aleppo, killing as many as 27 people, including 14 doctors and patients -- among them children and one of the last pediatricians in war-torn Syria, the international medical aid group reported. The strikes, blamed on the embattled government in Damascus, came shortly before midnight Wednesday and hit the well-known al-Quds field hospital in the rebel-held district of Sukkari in Aleppo, according to opposition activists and rescue workers." (04/28/16)


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US House panel approves measure requiring women to register for military slavery

"The House Armed Services Committee on Wednesday approved by a narrow margin an amendment to a defense bill to require women to register for the draft. Rep. Duncan Hunter, a Republican from California, proposed the amendment to lift the restriction on women registering for the selective service at a committee-wide mark-up session of the proposed fiscal 2017 National Defense Authorization Act. ... Rep. Jackie Speier, a Democrat from California, thanked Hunter for proposing the amendment. 'I actually support universal conscription; I actually think if we want equality in this, if we want women to be treated precisely like men are treated and that they should not be discriminated against, we should be willing to support a universal conscription,' she said." [editor's note: Curiously, Speier's record of personal military service is missing from her Wikipedia bio. I guess "universal" means "everyone except Jackie Speier serves" - TLK] (04/28/16)


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Venezuela: Congress votes to censure food czar amid shortages

"Venezuela's opposition-controlled congress has voted to censure the country's food minister amid widespread shortages. Lawmakers voted Thursday to censure Food Minister Rodolfo Marco Torres after he failed to show up for a congressional hearing. Critics of President Nicolas Maduro's socialist administration said they took the vote for the good of the Venezuelan people in light of what has become a nutritional emergency." (04/28/16)


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US Senate releases final sentencing reform bill

"A revised criminal justice reform bill moved closer to a full U.S. Senate vote on Thursday when it gained support from more Republicans after being stalled for months in Congress. In a legacy-shaping issue for President Barack Obama, the measure's sponsors announced four new Republican co-sponsor senators and a new version of the bill at a press conference in the Senate. The measure now has 37 co-sponsors, according to Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles Grassley. Grassley said he had been waiting for the bill to be finalized before asking Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to bring it up for a full Senate vote, but that 'it is time for those discussions to start right now.'" (04/28/16)


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US House unanimously passes email privacy bill

"The House of Representatives on Wednesday unanimously passed an overhaul of a 30-year-old electronic privacy law that would prevent the government from reading Americans' old emails without a warrant. In a 419-0 vote, House members showed a rare moment of bipartisanship to pass the Email Privacy Act, which requires government agents to have a warrant before searching a person's email or other electronic communications, even if the information is years old." (04/28/16)


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CA: Appeals court upholds teacher tenure

"The tenure laws that provide job security for 277,000 California schoolteachers, and a target for opponents who claim they shield incompetent instructors and victimize low-income and minority students, were upheld Thursday by a state appeals court. In a resounding victory for teachers unions, the Second District Court of Appeal in Los Angeles overturned a judge’s June 2014 ruling that the state’s tenure and job-security rules violated the right of students to an equal education. The court said the plaintiffs (nine students backed by a Silicon Valley entrepreneur) had failed to show any connection between the laws they challenged and the harm that some students are suffering. Some teachers protected by tenure and seniority may turn out to be ineffective, but school officials (not the laws challenged in the suit) determine where those teachers are assigned and whom they teach, the court said." (04/28/16)


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German nuclear plant hit by computer viruses

"Computer viruses have infected PCs used at a German nuclear power plant. The viruses were found on office computers and in a system used to model the movement of nuclear fuel rods. Power firm RWE said the infection posed no threat to the plant because its control systems were not linked to the internet, so the viruses could not activate. German federal cyber investigators are now analysing how the Gundremmingen plant became infected. The viruses were found on the fuel rod modelling system and on 18 USB sticks used as removable data stores on office computers. Staff found the viruses as they prepared to upgrade the computerised control systems for the plant's Block B, which is currently not producing power while it undergoes scheduled maintenance." (04/28/16)


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WA: Judge rules Seattle trash inspections are unconstitutional

"A controversial Seattle ordinance that allowed city workers to inspect people's trash -- as part of an effort to stop residents from throwing food scraps in the wrong pile -- was ruled unconstitutional on Wednesday. King County Superior Court Judge Beth Andrus said sanitation works and other city collectors poking through everyday garbage violates privacy rights and voided the ordinance. 'I’m thrilled as can be,' Ethan Blevins, attorney for the Pacific Legal Foundation, which filed the lawsuit on behalf of eight Seattle residents, told The Seattle Times. He added, 'We have been vindicated.' The rule first went into effect last year, and was meant to compel residents to put food scraps in the same bins as yard waste, so all could be composted." [editor's note: The writers at CSI, NCIS, et al will not be happy to see this - SAT] (04/28/16)


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Keyes: Obama “anti-black” for honoring Tubman with the twenty

"Failed presidential candidate Dr. Alan Keyes blasted Pat Buchanan for his racist rant excoriating the 'Obama administration’s' recent decision to replace Andrew Jackson with Harriet Tubman on the new $20 bills. But that doesn’t mean that Keyes, who, while serving in the Reagan State Department, defended South Africa’s policy of apartheid, thinks that Tubman should be honored with the currency. He thinks that Obama is actively denigrating her with the honor. According to Keyes, Pat Buchanan is a “purblind wordling” who fails to understand the definition of “great.” ... But one of the criteria that Buchanan missed, according to Keyes, was that he failed to take into account that Tubman had no access to power; thus her ability to guide slaves to freedom makes her actions many times greater than actions conducted with the power of an army or the state that one might have." [editor's notye: SO how does this "denigrate" her? She just jumped another notch up in my book - SAT] (04/28/16)


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Lawmakers urge more US naval operations in South China Sea

"Members of Congress urged the Obama administration on Wednesday to order more naval operations close to disputed islands in the South China Sea. The State Department said Beijing risks conflict and isolation through its assertive behavior in those waters. Twice since the fall, the U.S. Navy has sailed by artificial islands built by China, and Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that such operations will take place regularly." (04/28/16)


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Greece: Athens finding vibrancy can revive before economy does

"By almost every measure, Athens is a city of deprivation. Rates of homelessness, poverty, bankruptcy (even suicide) have steadily increased across the Greek capital since the country needed its first bailout in 2010. But as storefronts shuttered and those Greeks who could left for opportunity abroad, Greek architect Haris Biskos returned home. He describes a scene in 2012 of physical deterioration. 'You walked around the city and saw total emptiness. Nothing was happening in the public space,' says Mr. Biskos. 'As an architect it is nice to have a new challenge, Greece was in that moment.' Today, he says, from his sunny, central office with dirt-cheap rent: 'It’s an exciting time to be in Athens.'" (04/28/16)


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Anti-drug McCain’s fundraiser caught operating meth lab, dealing heroin & cocaine

"United States Senator John McCain is conducting damage control after a staff member of his re-election fundraising campaign was arrested Tuesday. Emily Pitha, 34 was arrested Tuesday on suspicion of drug charges after Maricopa County sheriff's deputies raided her home and found an active meth lab along with other illicit drugs. Immediately following the bust, McCain's campaign fired Pitha and issued a statement decrying her actions." [editor's note: Maricopa is Sheriff Joe Arpaio's county, so the arrest is immediately suspect. I wonder if he or an ally is planning to challenge McCain for Senate? - TLK] (04/27/16)


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OK: Volunteer deputy convicted in killing of unarmed man

"A former Oklahoma volunteer sheriff's deputy and wealthy insurance executive faces up to four years in prison for killing an unarmed suspect. Sheriff's deputies wasted no time whisking Robert Bates away in handcuffs. The former Tulsa County reserve deputy was convicted of second degree manslaughter for killing Eric Harris, reports CBS News correspondent Omar Villafranca. ... Bates said he meant to use his Taser to subdue Harris, but accidentally pulled the trigger on his pistol. Bates'[s] lawyer failed to convince jurors that Harris died from a bad heart and a mix of drugs found in his system and not from the gunshot wound. The jury deliberated less than three hours and recommended the maximum sentence for Bates, determining that Bates had acted recklessly." (04/28/16)


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China: Regime cracks down on foreign NGOs

"A Chinese government offensive against civil society that campaigners describe as the worst in nearly three decades has intensified with Beijing's approval on Thursday of a controversial new law that gives security forces control over foreign NGOs operating in the country. Campaigners attacked the move as the latest phase of President Xi Jinping's bid to rein in opposition to the Communist party. They said it represented a severe blow to non-profit groups involved in issues such as the environment, public health and education, as well as human rights." (04/28/16)


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Philippines: Duterte says he will pardon himself for mass murder

"Philippine presidential frontrunner Rodrigo Duterte waded into controversy yet again Thursday, telling a group of businesspeople in Manila that he would pardon himself for mass murder if elected. ... According to Agence France-Presse, the Davao City mayor -- who has previously boasted of running vigilante death squads that killed over 1,700 people -- added that he would pardon soldiers and policemen accused of human rights abuses. 'I will issue 1,000 pardons a day,' he said, before referencing a law that allows the president to pardon himself." (04/28/16)


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SpaceX will launch private Mars missions as soon as 2018

"The commercial spaceflight company SpaceX announced on Twitter today that it plans to send its robotic Dragon capsule to Mars as early as 2018. 'Red Dragons will inform the overall Mars architecture,' SpaceX representatives tweeted today (April 27), referring to the company's eventual plans to set up a colony on Mars -- a key goal of SpaceX and its founder, billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk. A source familiar with the company's plans said the first test flight of a Dragon capsule to Mars would demonstrate technologies needed to land large payloads on the Red Planet. That could include supplies and habitats for Martian explorers." (04/27/16)


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Judge sentences “serial child molester” Hastert to 15 months

"Former House speaker Dennis Hastert, who less than a decade ago stood second in line to the presidency, was sentenced to 15 months in federal prison Wednesday for a bank fraud case linked to allegations he sexually abused teen boys more than 30 years ago. Federal Judge Thomas Durkin called Hastert a 'serial child molester' and rejected a prosecutor's recommendation of six months in prison. Durkin also rejected claims by Haster[t]'s lawyers that Hastert didn't understand the banking law he violated when making payments to one of his teen accusers. Hastert, 74, was fined $250,000, must spend two years on supervised release after leaving prison and must register as a sex offender." [editor's note: I predict that the sex offender registration requirement will be quickly overturned on appeal -- as it should be since he was neither charged with nor convicted of any sex crime - TLK] (04/27/16)


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Iran: Khamenei says US lifted sanctions only on paper

"Iran's Supreme Leader accused the United States on Wednesday of scaring businesses away from Tehran and undermining a deal to lift international sanctions. Ayatollah Ali Khamenei told hundreds of workers that a global deal, signed between Iran and world powers, had lifted financial sanctions, but U.S. obstruction was stopping Iran getting the full economic fruits of the agreement." (04/27/16)


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AL: City makes bathroom access by gender identity a crime

"An Alabama city appears to be the first in the country to specify criminal penalties for violators of an ordinance requiring people to use bathrooms that match the gender on their birth certificates, civil rights groups said on Wednesday. The law passed on Tuesday by the city council in Oxford, located about 60 miles east of Birmingham, carries a possible punishment of a $500 fine or six months in jail. The measure raises the stakes in the U.S. bathroom wars that have caused fierce debate among state lawmakers, school officials and Republican presidential candidates. It goes further than a law enacted last month in North Carolina ... North Carolina's law applies to restrooms and locker rooms in government-owned facilities and schools. The Oxford ordinance also includes bathrooms in private businesses and explicitly makes violating the provision a crime, the Human Rights Campaign said." (04/27/16)


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Cruz formally taps Fiorina as vice presidential pick

"Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz on Wednesday formally announced that Carly Fiorina will be his running mate if he secures the GOP nomination. ... Earlier in the day, Cruz teased a 'major announcement.' The news follows reports this week that the Cruz campaign has been vetting Fiorina as a potential vice presidential candidate and that he could announce a running mate ahead of the convention." (04/27/16)


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Venezuela: Protests as government orders two-day workweek to save power

"Venezuelan cities cleaned up from a night of looting and fiery protests Wednesday as government offices closed their doors for the rest of the week in the face of a worsening energy crisis that is causing daily blackouts. In Caracas, hundreds of angry voters lined up to sign a petition beginning the process of recalling the deeply unpopular President Nicolas Maduro. The socialist administration began imposing a four-hour daily blackout around the country this week to save electricity." (04/27/16)


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Germany: Berlin confirms the replacement of their spy agency chief

"The German government has confirmed the termination of Gerhard Schindler, who headed the country’s spy agency. Reports claimed that he would be replaced by the head of the Finance Ministry Bruno Kahl. Chancellor Angela Merkel’s chief of staff Peter Altmaier said in an official statement that Schindler, who has run the BND since 2012 and is not due to retire until 2018, would be replaced on July 1 by Bruno Kahl, an official in the finance ministry responsible for privatisations and government real estate." (04/28/16)


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North Korea declares May 6 as the date for party congress

"North Korea has announced that its ruling Workers’ Party will be holding the much awaited congress starting May 6. North Korea will be holding the first such conference in 36 years as the last party congress in the country was held in 1980, even before the current leader Kim Jong Un was born." (04/27/16)


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VA: Liberty University to allow handguns in dorms next fall

"Liberty University will allow students with concealed handgun permits from the state to keep their weapons in their dorms beginning next fall. The News & Advance reports those students would need permission from the school first. The guns would be kept in safes inside the residence halls at the private Christian university. The policy change was given the go-ahead by the university's board of trustees last week. University President Jerry Falwell Jr. announced last year that eligible students could carry guns anywhere on campus. Previously, students who qualified could carry guns anywhere except residence halls." (04/27/16)


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Austria passes controversial new asylum law

"Austria has passed a controversial new law that restricts the right of asylum and allows most claimants to be rejected directly at the border. Rights groups say the law undermines the principle of protection from war and persecution. It comes days after Austria's far-right came top in the first round of a presidential election. Austrian officials say they are also considering building a fence at the main border crossing with Italy." (04/27/16)


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Commentary


| News |

It’s not about drones, it’s about lazy war

"Someday perhaps very soon we in the US are going to be very sorry that we normalized drone warfare. Not, again, because the tech is inherently wicked. Or that it should be restricted heavily (because then law enforcement and military will claim exceptions). No, it’s just that drones are brilliant tools for keeping a lazy, constant presence in other countries. And someday soon, they will be used in a terrorist attack." (04/29/16)


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The problem with Trump’s version of “America First”

"'America First,' says Trump, 'will be the major and overriding theme of my administration.' Some non-interventionists, especially those of a libertarian bent, cheer the use of that phrase, thinking back to the movement to keep the US out of World War II and even to Thomas Jefferson’s proclaimed policy of 'peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations, entangling alliances with none.' But neither of those remotely resemble Trump’s position, to the extent that he has a coherent position at all." (04/28/16)


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The establishment’s Trump card

"[G]iven Trump's 'America First' foreign policy speech of April 27, 2016 to the Center for the National Interest, a speech outlining a policy reminiscent of Pat Buchanan and paleo-conservatives with only a few rhetorical flourishes lifted from Neocon talking points, the necessity of the globalist Neocon/liberal alliance to put Hillary Clinton in the White House becomes obvious. Brad suggested the possibility of a Ted Cruz or other conservative candidacy to draw votes from a Trump GOP candidacy, electing Hillary. I pointed out that by the time of the Republican Convention in Cleveland, July 18 to 21, 2016, 18 states would have closed ballot access for independent candidacies. I then suggested a strategy the NeverTrump forces could use to elect Hillary: throw PAC support and inclusion of its candidate in the presidential debates to the candidate of the Libertarian Party, who will be on most if not all of the 50 state ballots." (04/27/16)


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Statists take & don’t compensate

"The Fifth Amendment in the Bill of Rights constitutionally prohibits the schemes of the statists. It specifically provides that: 'No person shall ... be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.' Today, however, the statists controlling local governments everywhere are telling individuals that they don't enjoy the right to rent their own property. They're imposing restrictions on how and to whom individuals can lease their own real estate and refusing to compensate property owners for such unjust impositions." (04/28/16)


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The national security states of Communist China and the United States

"Inadvertently, the New York Times has pointed out what is not supposed to be pointed out in America: that both China and the United States have governmental structures that are based on a national-security state establishment. After all, it's important that Americans carry on with their myths -- that the U.S. government is structured the way the Framers intended -- the way the federal government has always been -- that nothing fundamental has ever changed -- and that Americans really are a free people living in a free society, unlike people who suffer under communist tyranny." (04/28/16)


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College too pricey? Wait till it’s “free”

"As he panders for the youth vote, Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders promises free tuition at public colleges and universities because, he says, 'a college degree is the new high school diploma.' Rival Hillary Clinton supports President Barack Obama's plan to make community college tuition-free -- that is, publicly funded. Beware, America: Imagine how expensive college tuition will be if Democrats somehow manage to make more of it 'free.' As for value, if Sanders has his way, you can expect the college degree to be the new high school diploma." [editor's note: Yep, and more functional illiterates who can't balance a "swipe card" descend on the world with degrees and entitlements - SAT] (04/28/16)


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The imaginary predator in America’s transgender bathroom war

"You have to pee. If you're like 99% of America, you look at pictograms, predictable gender binaries, to guide you toward the appropriate toilet. A person in pants on the left. A person in a dress on the right. If you're a woman, it's irrelevant that you have a vagina, are wearing jeans and can't recall the last time you donned a triangle dress to a dinner party. You know to hang a right, while men go left. The signage isn't literal, it reveals how our culture wants your gender to look. It reveals what door it wants you to walk through. The bathroom is a bastion of segregation. It's where we sort people." [editor's note: One big room, lots of stalls with doors & locks on inside, sinks on one wall, a trough on the other ... pick your spot, do your business and leave -- end of problem - SAT] (04/28/16)


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The next Chernobyl may be intentional

"Chernobyl’s 30th anniversary on April 26 comes against the backdrop of growing apprehension that nuclear reactors may become a terrorist target. Serious concern arose during the recent Islamic State attacks in Brussels. Evidence suggested that the assailants were considering a nuclear-related incident. The terrorists had a senior Belgian nuclear official under surveillance, and two former nuclear power-plant employees were reported to have joined Islamic State. This may help explain why Belgian authorities rushed military forces to protect its nuclear plants. The scare provided a reminder that nuclear reactors are radiological mines that terrorists could exploit. Destruction of a plant would mark a zenith of terrorist violence." (04/27/16)


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Does the First Amendment justify corruption?

"A decade ago, if a politician had argued before the Supreme Court that he had a First Amendment right to trade political favors for a Rolex watch, his lawyers may have feared for their professional reputations. But that argument is one basis for ex-Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell’s appeal of his eleven-count corruption conviction in McDonnell v. United States, which the Court hears in oral arguments on Wednesday. The case demonstrates how the First Amendment has begun to evolve from a tool to protect Americans with unpopular beliefs into a shield used by corporations and political donors to justify rules-free policymaking and electioneering." (04/27/16)


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Why Hillary Clinton should fear Donald Trump

"With Hillary Clinton’s strong performance on Tuesday night, the Democratic primaries are effectively over. Barring an unforeseen catastrophe, Clinton will be the Democratic nominee. And it’s increasingly likely that her opponent will be Donald Trump, who won a clean sweep of five states on Tuesday and only seems to be getting stronger. Both parties must now gear themselves for a Clinton-Trump match-up in the fall. ... If winning the presidential election were all that mattered, Trump would be Clinton’s dream opponent. The Democratic front-runner struggles with poor approval ratings (55.6 percent unfavorable, according to Huffington Post’s aggregation of the polls), which means she needs to compete against someone who is even less popular than her. Trump fits that bill handsomely, standing at 63.6 percent unfavorability. Furthermore, Trump’s racism and misogyny are likely to motivate the very voters that Clinton most needs to attract: people of color, single women, and young people. " (04/27/16)


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Warning: TPP rearing its ugly head

"The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) went dormant in Congress after election season began. It became clear that the public despises our country’s corporate-dominated 'trade deals' that let companies just lay people off and close factories here to take advantage of conditions in countries that allow people and the environment to be exploited. Candidates who could sense which way the wind was blowing told voters they oppose TPP, and Congress dropped it -- for now. But now people who follow these things are hearing more and more talk behind the scenes that indicate corporate America is going to try to push TPP through in the 'lame duck' Congressional session after the elections. This is a session in which the old Congress consisting of the ones who might have gotten voted out minus new ones who just got voted in, and the re-elected incumbents who won’t be up for re-election for two more years can sneak things past the public with little or no accountability.(04/26/16)


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With fiat money, everything is relative

"An important factor in setting the purchasing power of money is the supply of money. If over time the rate of growth in the US money supply exceeds the rate of growth of the European money supply, all other things being equal, this will put pressure on the US dollar. Since a price of a good is the amount of money per good, this now means that the prices of goods in dollar terms will increase faster than prices in euro terms, all other things being equal." (04/28/16)


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Why ex-felons should be allowed to vote

"The chief result of disenfranchising former inmates is to discourage them from changing their ways and fully integrating into society. The people likely to be obstructed from voting are not the incorrigible criminals but the reformed ones. They get jobs, pay taxes and keep their noses clean—the sort of behavior that Republicans, as well as Democrats, should want to encourage." (04/28/16)


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The Jason Stapleton Program, 04/27/16

"We’ve had some very intelligent people come out in recent years to talk about AI (artificial intelligence) and warn us of the dangers. Steven Hawkins being among the most notable. But are the fears justifiable? Are robots going to put all of us out of work?" [various formats] (04/27/16)


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Monetary policies misunderstood

"Ever since the U.S. Federal Reserve (Fed) began to consider raising the federal funds rate, which it eventually did in December 2015, a cottage industry has grown up around taper talk. Will the Fed raise rates, or won't it? Each time a consensus congeals around the answer to that question, all the world's markets either soar or dive. This obsession with taper talk -- the interest rate story -- is simple, but strange. Indeed, it is misguided -- wrongheaded. So, why the obsession? It is, in part, the result of a Keynesian hangover." (for publication 05/16)


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The return of class origin to the BBC

"We did rather think that Britain had got over this sort of nonsense these days. It's no longer necessary to have an accent that makes the Queen sound positively estuarine in order to get onto the radio these days for example. And yet we seem to be getting back this idea that class origin should be the (or at least a) determinant of who reads the footie scores out to us ..." (04/28/16)


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The Tom Woods Show, episode 649

"Liberalism portrays itself as the ideology of liberty and liberation, as neutral between competing views of the good, and as the position all right-thinking people should adopt. None of this is true, but it is all brutally enforced. Jim Kalb and I discuss the true nature of liberalism in today’s episode." [various formats] (04/27/16)


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Unconstitutional: Search warrants based on governmental “need”

"Would all of our lives be safer if the government could break down all the doors it wishes, listen to all the conversations it could find and read whatever emails and text messages it could acquire? Perhaps. But who would want to live in such a society? To prevent that from happening here, the Framers ratified the Fourth Amendment .... Evidence procured that is the fruit of the poisonous tree has been inadmissible in federal criminal prosecutions in the United States for the past 100 years and in state criminal prosecutions for the past 50 years. Until now. Now comes the super-secret court established by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, reaffirmed by Congress last year under the so-called USA Freedom Act. Beware the names of federal statutes, as they often produce results that are the opposite of what their names imply; and this is one of them." (04/27/16)


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Trump’s dangerous idea

"A lot of people were impressed by the reasonableness of Donald Trump's foreign policy speech yesterday ... despite the usual hyperbolic promises of 'best' and 'great' and 'beautifully.' Its general tenor? Refreshing. Rejecting post-Cold War foreign policy for a return to 'national interest' and 'America first?' Long overdue. Like Trump, I think we should eschew nation building. But still there is that one big problem: Trump is a mercantilist."


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Home stretch questions for Gary Johnson #4

"In a recent debate with fellow Libertarian presidential aspirant Austin Petersen in Oregon, you said .... "As governor of New Mexico, I would have never ever established the Department of Homeland Security. I think it's incredibly redundant." ... The National Governors Association says otherwise in its reprint of the New Mexico Department of Public Safety's Homeland Security Strategic Plan .... The record says that you actually did exactly what you now say you never would have done ..." (04/28/16)


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The real redcoats

A few paces west of the public beach in Yorktown, Virginia, is a little cave looking out toward the water. ... It is known to this day as 'Cornwallis's Cave,' and for most of our history visitors have been told that this is where the British general took refuge during the last days of the siege. He hid there, guides said, and visitors nodded knowingly. That is because, as we all know, Cornwallis was a coward .... we have learned that is what British generals did in the war. They ponced about in their splendid red uniforms, dipped snuff, and looked down their snooty noses as the silly-billy Americans dared take on the Most Powerful Army in the History of the World. And the moment the cannons burped, they abandoned their troops to be slaughtered while they stayed safely out of harm’s way, lest their wigs get mussed. It's part of our national mythology that does not serve us well." (04/28/16)


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39 steps for creating a healthy Latin American government

"Given all of the recent corruption cases in Latin America (see: Brazil and Argentina) as well as widespread accusations of censorship (see: Venezuela, Cuba and Ecuador), it might be useful to remind ourselves what a healthy and successful administration for a Latin American government might look like. Here's a list." (04/28/16)


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On open marriages and closed elections

"Are the Democratic primaries democratic? (Hang on for a minute as we enter bizzaro-land; pay attention to the work various words and letters are doing.) Sure the Democratic primaries are Democratic. By definition. If you were a Democrat way back on October 9th and have managed to defend your 'D' registration against switching and purging all the way through to voting day, then you were or will be guaranteed the right to help select the next Democratic presidential nominee. If not, well, you might be allowed to vote, depending on the state you live in. And your vote might even be counted, if enough people think it matters to count it. Have a problem with all of this? Well, probably like Bernie you aren't really a Democrat anyway." (04/28/16)


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Religious liberty laws that have no meaning

"An overwhelming three-fourths of Americans identify as religious. Listening to some religious conservatives in the U.S., though, one might think believers were a persecuted minority on the verge of extinction. In the name of protecting the sincerely held beliefs of religious Americans, conservative lawmakers and lobbyists have introduced a spate of controversial religious-freedom legislation in recent months. But apparently Melissa McCarthy and Kristen Wiig aren't the only ones fighting ghosts in 2016. The problems these bills claim to solve don’t actually exist." (04/28/16)


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The real defense of right to try

"Advocates of the right to try argue that terminally ill patients should have access to treatments that have met the FDA's safety requirements 'but are not yet fully approved for market' (see Kurt Altman and Christina Sandefur's 'Right-To-Try Laws Fulfill The Constitution's Promise Of Individual Liberty'). The FDA's approval process takes years, and for thousands of terminally ill patients, those years may be the difference between life and death. Aware of the risks, many patients are nonetheless willing to try medicines and treatments that are still under investigation in clinical trials. For a significant number of these patients, the alternative is certain death. But the right to try has no shortage of detractors ..." (04/27/16)


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In 2016, keep saying “no!”

"People who want to live in a society organized on the basis of peaceful, voluntary cooperation don't want to be ruled by monopolists -- by states. State authority is illegitimate, unnecessary, and dangerous. But that obviously leaves open the question: what do we do now, while we're still under the state's rule, to make our own lives and the lives of the state's other victims more bearable -- and to help dismantle the state? One answer, for a lot of people, is: vote. That's an answer about which I'm increasingly skeptical." (04/27/16)


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Global warming, cost-benefit analysis, and The End of Doom

"I learned Austrian economics over a year before I started learning regular economics. The Austrians taught me to stonewall all cost-benefit analysis with methodological objections. It took me years to see the emptiness of their approach. Cost-benefit analysis is imperfect, but so is every performance measure. We learn a lot more about policy effectiveness if we carefully measure costs and benefits, then reflect on potentially serious flaws, than if we refuse to play the cost-benefit game. Partly as a result of this experience, I am deeply suspicious when the proponents of any policy dodge requests for cost-benefit analysis. I know cost-benefit analysis isn't everything. But if I request estimates of net benefits, and you respond with methodological scolding, I hold it against you." (04/28/16)


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Harriet Tubman and America’s immigration hypocrisy

"Today, we praise Tubman for her courage. This praise is rightly deserved. Getting caught for Tubman meant severe punishment at a minimum and the real possibility of death. After all, she was breaking the law. She was property. Those she helped escape were property. But she assumed the risk and boldly sought freedom. This is what we are celebrating by putting her on our currency. Recognizing an unjust (though legal) institution, Tubman stood up for her rights and the rights of others. She sought a better life. She was a true American. It strikes me as particularly strange, then, that we currently condemn others for doing something similar." (04/27/16)


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Duly noted

"In my romantic moods I liken myself, as conductor of this column, to a lighthouse keeper on a distant isle. Picture him, if you will: scanning the waves, tending his lamp, doing his duty so that others, duly warned of danger, may safely reach their port. Alternatively, I see myself as a prison guard standing in his tower, wary and farsighted, watching to make sure that the criminals don't run loose. In short, this is a lonely job, and it can make you a little strange." (04/27/16)


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Free Talk Live, 04/27/16

"Trump Winning Yesterday :: CPS Called on Mom for Allowing Kids to Play in Backyard :: Cactus Speed Cameras :: Pedestrian Fatalites :: Cigarettes Starting Brush Fires :: Anarcho-Syndicalism and Employee Ownership :: Employees Suck? :: Publix vs Wal-Mart :: Union Awfulness :: Calling CPS on Neighbors :: Snowden Debate :: NJ Weedman's Business and Temple Raided :: Vermont Legalization Stalled?" [Flash audio or MP3] (04/27/16)


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“Intellectual property” just keeps getting deadlier

"The whole point of proprietary software and other forms of proprietary information, coupled with the DMCA's restrictions on circumvention technology, is that you never actually own anything you buy. In fact directly accessing the source code is a crime. That's bad enough -- an injustice and an inconvenience -- when it comes to your computer operating system or a song you paid for. But when it involves the software running a device inside your own body, that you depend on to keep your heart beating, it's a lot more serious. As Doctorow says: 'However you feel about copyright law, everyone should be able to agree that copyright shouldn't get in the way of testing the software in your hearing aid, pacemaker, insulin pump, or prosthetic limb to look for safety risks (or privacy risks, for that matter).' Of course this is nothing new." (04/27/16)


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The drug war is state-sanctioned theft

"One of the biggest lies our government tells us, is that it wages the War on Drugs to keep us safe. More than 40 years after it was started, we know that it has been a colossally-expensive epic failure on its stated goals, was intentionally designed to further disenfranchise marginalized groups, and has become a full-fledged assault on our civil liberties." (04/27/16)


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Bruce Wayne: A capitalist superhero

"The real hero of the recently released Batman v. Superman film is an often overshadowed character, Bruce Wayne. Batman’s alter ego, Bruce Wayne is the CEO of Wayne Enterprises and the hero that Gotham, and in the case of this film, Metropolis needs too. Bruce Wayne is, in fact, a capitalist superhero." (04/27/16)


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Millennials hate capitalism almost as much as they hate socialism

"To many millennials, 'socialism' doesn't mean a government-managed economy but something like what we have now, only with more subsidized health care, student-loan forgiveness, and mandatory paid parental leave. ... 'Capitalism,' meanwhile, doesn't simply mean private, for-profit enterprise. It isn't a category that has anything to do with the family-owned bodega on their corner or their friend's new artisanal cupcake business or the proliferation of legal weed shops, with Tom's shoes or their local grocery or that Uber they took last night. Capitalism is Big Banks, Wall Street, 'income inequality,' greed. It's wealthy sociopaths screwing over the little guy, Bernie Madoff, and horrifying sweatshops in China. ... Takeaways for fans for free enterprise? We need to do a better job marketing capitalism, probably." [editor's note: Or you could realize that the Millennials have it right, that capitalism is a form of socialism custom-made to preserve a ruling class, and that you can have capitalism OR free enterprise, but not both - TLK] (04/27/16)


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University researchers put fracking politics before science

"Geologists at the University of Cincinnati just wrapped up a three-year investigation of hydraulic fracturing and its impact on local water supplies. The result? There's no evidence -- zero, zilch, nada -- that fracking contaminates drinking water. Researchers hoped to keep these findings secret. Why would a public research university boasting a top-100 geology program deliberately hide its work? Because, as lead researcher Amy Townsend-Small explained, 'our funders, the groups that had given us funding in the past, were a little disappointed in our results. They feel that fracking is scary and so they were hoping our data could point to a reason to ban it.'" (04/27/16)


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The two contradictory ideas many Americans have about the economy

"In this month’s Atlantic cover story, Neal Gabler chronicles the distressing reality of life in today’s American middle class. Underneath the figures about debt-mired, financially-distressed households is also a sense of shame and betrayal. Gabler notes: 'Many middle-class wage earners are victims of the economy, and, perhaps, of that great, glowing, irresistible American promise that has been drummed into our heads since birth: Just work hard and you can have it all.' This sentiment taunts at two sacred and quintessentially American convictions -- that success is self-determined and that advancement is inevitable for anyone with a serious work ethic." (04/27/16)


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Austan antic, hey!

"The other day, Fox News Network’s Bill O’Reilly asked University of Chicago economist Austan Goolsbee a question. The subject was the socialistic gimme-gimme attitude of youthful Bernie Sanders supporters. The previous segment, 'Watters' World,' had paraded interviews with a handful of college students, asking them to clarify just how much free stuff they wanted. It was a funny segment, if you think young people talking foolishly about government is funny." (04/27/16)


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Wall Street enabled Detroit’s collapse?

"The idea of business being an enabler for government’s bad decisions strikes me as absurd for two reasons. First, the proponents of government argue that government should be making decisions for people because left to their own devices, they’ll make bad ones themselves. Second, with the recent vilification of the financial industry, the proponents of government argue that the industry needs more government regulation, oversight, and control." (04/27/16)


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Let’s make the whole of London a free speech zone

"London can claim to be the capital city where free speech was invented -- or, at least, reinvented for the modern world, after the ancient Athenians. Yet today London has become a capital of the culture of conformism and You Can’t Say That, which is undermining freedom of expression. The mayoral election could be an opportunity to change that. A mayor who believed in unfettered free speech would have a history-making platform from which to make a stand for our most precious liberty." (04/27/16)


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America’s long hangover

"In October 1931, union men in Newark, New Jersey, staged a major protest march. During the previous two years, the United States had tumbled into economic depression, with the unemployment rate rising as the stock market sank. Union jobs were especially devastated, leading to dozens of unemployment rallies and anti-eviction protests across the country. But the Newark men took no interest in that. Instead, with their ranks stretching for block after block, they held up signs proclaiming their top political priority: WE WANT BEER. What they cared about, ardently and urgently, was bringing an end to the disastrous national experiment known as Prohibition." (04/27/16)


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Do you smile every day?

"No hero on a white horse is going to come along and save the day. Not this election, or any other. And expecting the politicians to limit their evil and restore our 'rights' is as empty of promise as intergalactic space. Maybe more so. And hoping to do that by threatening not to re-elect them would be a hysterical joke if it wasn’t so painful to watch good people continue to believe in that insanity after all these years, after watching endless rubber room elections. What can you do? You may not agree at first, but I think there is something we can do, and it has to start with each of us as individuals." (04/27/16)


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Ending welfare as we know it

"Instead of tinkering around the edges of the welfare state, trimming a billion dollars here, adding a work requirement there, why not simply abolish the entire thing? Get rid of welfare, food stamps, Medicaid, housing assistance, unemployment insurance, and all the rest. Murray would even throw in Medicare and Social Security. Replace it all with a simple cash grant to every American whose income falls below the stipulated level, and then leave the recipients alone to manage their own lives free from government interference. Such a program would be simpler and far more transparent than the hodgepodge of existing anti-poverty programs." (04/27/16)


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Lung cancer and me

"Last week's column on my lung surgery struck a nerve. Many of you wished me well. Others said I deserve to die. 'He likes free markets?' sneered one Internet commenter. 'In a truly free market, society wouldn't subsidize the cost of his smoking. In a truly free market, he'd be dead.' No, I wouldn't be dead. In a real free market, I would pay for my own care and that care would be cheaper and better because that's what market competition does." (04/27/16)


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Orwell’s ghost is laughing

"When you are dealing with a liar, it’s important to parse every word, every syllable, in order to tease real meaning out of the tissue of dissimulations -- and, indeed, if we go back and do this with the President’s pronouncements over the past few years on this question, we get a sense that what is being said is not quite what we are hearing. And that, as Orwell pointed out, is the purpose of most political speech. If you listen hard, you can hear Orwell’s ghost laughing." (04/27/16)


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The bathroom wars: More freedom is going down the toilet

"Let me be frank and up front from the start. I was biologically born male, and I have always felt and viewed myself as male. In addition, I have never had an urge to cross-dress or a desire for a sex change operation. However, in a free society an individual is at liberty to dress however they want and pay for any 'radical' cosmetic surgery they wish to have. What they cannot do is impose their choices on others. Essential to the principle and practice of individual liberty is freedom of association." (04/27/16)


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