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 153 Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / China Proxies on: January 19, 2012, 08:30:06 AM Second post. A Summary of Climate Change over the Past Millennium in ChinaReferenceZhou, XJ. 2011. The characteristics and regularities of the climate change over the past millennium in China. Chinese Science Bulletin 56: 2985.BackgroundThe author - who is with the State Key Laboratory of Severe Weather of the Chinese Academy of Meteorological Sciences in Beijing - writes in an introductory editorial in a special issue of the Chinese Science Bulletin (October 2011) that "research on global climate change has been at the frontier of the contemporary sciences," and within this context he further states that "debate has focused on whether the greenhouse effect produced by human activities is a major factor responsible for modern climate warming."What was doneZhou reports that "in 2009, the major project 'Research on tree-ring and millennium climate change in China' was implemented under the support of the National Natural Science Foundation of China." Noting that eight articles published in this special issue of the Bulletin "present partly preliminary results obtained by the project over the past two years," he then goes on to summarize, in the broadest possible sense, their findings.What was learnedIn the words of Zhou, the eight articles "reveal some characteristics and regularities of changes in temperature and precipitation in China and in East Asian monsoons over the past 1000 years," and he says that "notable conclusions," of which he lists only two, are that (1) "temperatures in the Medieval Warm Period are comparable to those in the current warm period over China," and (2) "the effect of solar activity on climate cannot be neglected in any period of the millennium."What it meansThese two findings stand in stark contrast to what is generally claimed by the world's climate alarmists, which is no small matter, as they apply to a significant portion of the planet. Hence, they should give everyone reason to reconsider the climate-alarmist claim that modern warming has been unprecedented over the past millennium or more, which claim is also refuted by many additional scientific studies described in our Medieval Warm Period Project.http://www.co2science.org/articles/V15/N3/C3.php
 160 Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / A Little British Humor on: January 07, 2012, 02:08:13 PM Quote of the day: Newcastle did not beat Manchester United today, because the long term trend is for Manchester United to beat Newcastle.Stephen Goddard, alluding to last night's footie results.Have a hot date with my wife tonight so I'll join fray again later, I expect with several drinks in me.
 161 Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Whoops, it wasn't AGW . . . on: January 07, 2012, 02:02:00 PM . . . but zombie parasite flies:http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/observations/2012/01/03/zombie-fly-parasite-killing-honeybees/Second post.
 162 Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Bon Mots on: January 07, 2012, 01:59:56 PM List of 250 Climategate 2.0 emails that are particularly interesting. I've been enjoying the various "when did trees stop functioning as thermometer" threads:http://wattsupwiththat.com/2012/01/06/250-plus-noteworthy-climategate-2-0-emails/
 164 Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / For Those who Say it Can't Happen Here on: January 07, 2012, 01:54:35 PM FDR and Executive Order 9066Posted by Tim LynchGordon Hirabayashi died on January 2, at age 93.The Washington Post obituary notes that the  federal government put him in a prison during the 1940s. President Franklin Roosevelt issued many decrees, but the one that would lead to Hirabayashi’s imprisonment, Executive Order 9066, said that thousands of Americans residing on the West Coast had to leave their jobs and homes and promptly report to certain prison camps (“relocation centers”).  The feds said actual proof of wrongdoing was unnecessary.Hirabayashi refused to go along with the program, so he was prosecuted for disobeying the president and jailed. The courts rejected his argument that FDR had exceeded the powers of his office.  In an interview in 1985, Hirabayashi looked back on his ordeal and said, “My citizenship didn’t protect me one bit.  Our Constitution was reduced to a scrap of paper.”Even though there are written safeguards concerning due process, habeas corpus, and jury trial, presidents will sometimes assert the power to override all that. FDR did it. George W. Bush did it. And Barack Obama wants to reserve the option to do it.On January 17, Cato will be hosting a book forum about FDR’s war policies and civil liberties.For related Cato scholarship, go here and here.http://www.cato-at-liberty.org/fdr-and-executive-order-9066/
 165 Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Inform or Obfuscate? on: January 05, 2012, 06:54:30 PM @BBGQuoteDo we have experimentally verified gravitons that I missed?QuoteEinstein's Theory of Relativity (which is not a theory of gravitation) predicted bending of light which was later experimentally verified and also predicted the existence of black holes.  The LAWS of gravitation are experimentally verified probably many times every day.  There are a rather wide variety of experiments on gravitation that can be performed.  I also specifically said why they don't answer the questions required to become a Theory of Gravitation although there are many aspects of the theories that are out there that can be verified.  Perhaps I should use the word hypotheses but I was using the word that the authors of the "theories" used.Uhm, okay I think I understand. Gravitons have nothing to do with gravity, and we are both discussing and not discussing whether there is a comprehensive, verifiable theory for the stuff that keeps us from floating around. I guess there is some sort of Schrödinger's cat--wave/particle--Zen koan--sister **slap** daughter aspect of this I'm somehow missing. Whups, that last example is from Chinatown and hence is perhaps not germane to this discussion. QuoteEasily measure the concentrations of CO2 in all bodies of water on the planet? I guess Alvin has been busy. Just when did this occur? QuoteYou are going to have to remind me what this has to do with changing the absorption of infrared light by the ATMOSPHERE.  I already said this governs some removal mechanisms in accordance with Henry's Law.  It also has bearing on the analysis of potential damage to ecological systems.Sure thing. Proxies suggest there were times in the past when there were higher concentrations of of CO2 yet things were not warmer than they are now. They also suggest there were times in the past when concentrations were significantly lower yet things were warmer than they are now. 3/4s of the planet is covered by water which warehouses huge quantities CO2, yet we do not understand how CO2 exchanges between the two media, particularly over time. If we are going to hold a single variable accountable for some sort of coming conflagration we should likely understand that exchange mechanism, particularly as there hasn't been a linear relationship between CO2 and temp demonstrated in the geologic record. Or is there something in Henry's Law or the absorption of infrared that explains these anomalies? QuoteWell thank goodness then that whole "hockey stick" thing was some sort of grievous misunderstanding. Has Dr. Mann been informed?QuoteYou are going to have to remind me where one of them said that CO2 concentrations were the only factor that affected atmospheric temperatures.Whut? You want me to post that silly hockey stick graph with the temps and CO2 levels correlated over time, save for the Medieval Warming Period? Should I then recapitulate how Mann refused to release the source code he applied to his proxies until the Canadian statistician whose name eludes me at the moment backward engineered it, demonstrating processing errors along the way? Maybe I should Google "carbon dioxide & global warming" and then post the link so you can wade through the results yourself? Are you seriously going to argue that CO2 is not the single variable most AGW alarmists have seized on? If so I'm gonna have to ask if you are here to inform or obfuscate.
 167 Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / More Types of Non-Accountability than you can Shake a Stick at on: January 05, 2012, 01:33:16 PM 2nd post:Defund the IPCC NowPosted on January 5, 2012 by Willis EschenbachGuest Post by Willis EschenbachWell, I woke up to some bad news this morning. It turns out that the GAO, the US General Accounting Office, says US has been secretly hiding their funding of the IPCC for the last decade.They were already told not to do that by the GAO. In the 2005 GAO report with the swingeing title of “Federal Reports on Climate Change Funding Should Be Clearer and More Complete”, the GAO said … well, basically what the title said. But noooo, those sneaky bureaucrats didn’t do that at all.The latest 2011 GAO Report says the US government has not changed their ways. They have been clandestinely providing about half the operating funds for the IPCC for the last decade. In other words, the IPCC funding arrangements are of a piece with their “scientific” claims and their other actions—secretive, shabby, with a hidden agenda, and full of disinformation.The report says that the State Department provided $19 million dollars to the IPCC. Thanks, guys. Foolish me, I hadn’t realized that paying for bureaucrats to go party in Cancun and Durban was part of the function of the United States Department of State.I also found out that the IPCC got$12.1 million dollars from the US Global Change Research Program. That one really angrifies my blood. The IPCC flat out states that they do not do a single scrap of scientific research … so why is the US Global Change Research Program giving them a dime, much less twelve million, that was supposed to go for research? I could use that for my research, for example …The 2011 GAO report had some strong advice for the climate profiteers behind this secretive funding. They said:“Congress and the public cannot consistently track federal climate change funding or spending over time,”Oh, no, wait, that’s what the GAO said back in 2005. Unfortunately, they have no enforcement powers. What they said this time around was that the funding information:“… was not available in budget documents or on the websites of the relevant federal agencies, and the agencies are generally not required to report this information to Congress.”In other words … no change from 2005.Congressfolk, you are not paying attention. These guys are taking money for research and using it to party in Durban and other nice places around the planet. And the US has been secretly funding them for a decade.Can anyone name for me one valuable thing that the IPCC has done? Can anyone point to an accomplishment by the IPCC that justifies their existence? Because I can’t. They throw a good party, to be sure, their last global extravaganza had 10,000 guests … but as for advancing the climate discussion, they have done nothing but push it backwards.And the next Assessment Report, AR5, will be even more meaningless than the last. This time, people are watching them refuse to require conflict-of-interest statements from the authors. This time, people are watching them appoint known serial scientific malfeasants to positions of power in the writing of the report. This time, people are keeping track of the petty machinations of the railroad engineer that’s running the show despite calls from his own supporters to step down.As a result, the AR5 report from the IPCC has been pre-debunked. It will be published to no doubt great fanfare and sink like a stone, dragged down by the politicized, poorly summarized bad science and rewarmed NGO puff pieces that the IPCC is promoting as though they were real science.Folks … can we call a long overdue halt to this IPCC parade of useless and even antiscientific actions? Can we stop the endless partying at taxpayer expense? Can we “trow da bums out” and get back to climate science?Please?I say DEFUND THE IPCC NOW!w.PS—The GAO report is available here. And all is not lost, at least one Congressman is working to defund the IPCC:Wrapped into the many amendments recently passed by the House of Representatives — a total of $60 billion in spending cuts that the president called a “nonstarter” — was one by Republican Missouri Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer that would prohibit$13 million in taxpayer dollars from going to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the group whose occasional missteps have been the source of countless confrontations among climate scientists over the past year.…A congressional aide told FoxNews.com that he plans to pursue the bill — regardless of whether it is passed in the larger Republican budget.“The congressman plans to continue his effort to stop taxpayer support of the IPCC and remains cautiously optimistic that the Senate will take the amendment,” said Keith Beardslee, a spokesman for the congressman. “Failing that, Blaine has reintroduced separate legislation he first introduced in the 111th Congress to halt funding to the IPCC.”GO MISSOURI! GO LUETKEMEYER!!http://wattsupwiththat.com/2012/01/05/defund-the-ipcc-now/
 168 Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Postenvironmentalism and the Anthropocene on: January 05, 2012, 12:52:58 PM Misfiled, perhaps, but a breath of fresh air compared to the panic mongering, non-falsifiable norm. I think if the most ardent of "environmentalists" were to get on board with this perspective they'd be far more likely to achieve their putative ends. Alas, I suspect many of them find the sky-is-falling approach more congruent with their political ends.http://reason.com/archives/2012/01/04/postenvironmentalism-and-technological-aReason MagazinePostenvironmentalism and Technological AbundanceA review of Love Your Monsters, a collection of essays on a new kind of environmentalism.Ronald Bailey | January 4, 2012Environmentalists Michael Shellenberger and Ted Nordhaus famously proclaimed The Death of Environmentalism in 2004. Now they're back with an ambitious new collection of essays titled Love Your Monsters: Postenvironmentalism and the Anthropocene. Their goal is to dismantle the neo-Malthusian environmentalism of sacrifice and collapse and replace it with a new environmentalism that celebrates human creativity and technological abundance. Hooray!In their introductory essay, Shellenberger and Nordhaus make the case that technological progress and economic growth is the road to salvation, not the highway to ruin. They acknowledge that global warming may bring worsening disasters and disruptions in rainfall, snowmelts, and agriculture. However, they add, there is little evidence it will end civilization. “Even the most catastrophic United Nations scenarios predict rising economic growth. While wealthy environmentalists claim to be especially worried about the impact of global warming on the poor, it is rapid, not retarded, development that is most likely to protect the poor against natural disasters and agricultural losses.” As welcome as their conclusion is, it's not a novel insight. As it happens, a new report by the Reason Foundation (the nonprofit that publishes this website), Misled on Climate Change, [PDF] points out that the United Nations scenario in which humanity burns the most fossil fuels over the next century is also the one in which global wealth is greatest. In that scenario “by 2100 GDP per capita in poor countries will be double the U.S.’s 2006 level, even taking into account any negative impact of climate change.” For the record, current U.S. GDP per capita is $47,000. As the Reason report concludes, sustained economic growth over the next century “would not only address all of the current problems that might get worse in the future but would also enable humanity to address more effectively any other future problems it encounters, whether climate-related or otherwise.”The title of the collection comes from French anthropologist Bruno Latour’s essay, "Love Your Monsters: Why We Must Care For Our Technologies As We Do Our Children." Latour argues the story of Frankenstein has been misinterpreted by modern environmentalists as a cautionary tale about the dangers of technological hubris. In fact, Latour correctly points out that Frankenstein’s creature only became a “monster” as a result of being rejected and abandoned by his creator. In a similar manner to Frankenstein, environmentalists reject many new and old technologies out of fear of their unintended consequences. Most parents love their children despite the inconveniences posed by the noxious emissions they discharge from time to time. Latour argues that we should similarly embrace and care for our technologies despite side effects like pollution. Through love and care, both children and technologies can be civilized in ways that ameliorate and reduce noxious consequences associated with them.The next essay, "Conservation in the Anthropocene: Beyond Solitude and Fragility" is by three practicing conservationists, Peter Kareiva and Robert Lalasz at The Nature Conservancy, and Santa Clara University environmental scientist Michelle Marvier. Anthropocene is a proposed term to describe the current geological age in which humans are having a significant impact on the ecosphere. The essay begins by pointing out that “the worldwide number of protected areas has risen dramatically from under 10,000 in 1950 to over 100,000 by 2009.” This amounts to as much as 13 percent of the world’s land area, an area larger than all of South America. And yet deforestation and species extinction continue unabated.The three urge environmentalists to drop “their idealized notions of nature, parks, and wilderness—ideas that have never been supported by good conservation science—and forge a more optimistic, human-friendly vision.” They cite evidence that local people are better at managing natural resources and landscapes than are the centralized government bureaucracies favored by most environmentalist organizations. They ask, “If there is no wilderness, if nature is resilient rather than fragile, and if people are actually part of nature and not the original sinners who caused our banishment from Eden, then what should be the new vision for conservation?” They answer that conservation must “embrace a priority that has been anathema to us for more than a hundred years: economic development for all [emphasis added].” Among other things, economic development means more people living in cities and fewer on the landscape; more productive crops grown on fewer acres; and cleaner technologies with fewer side effects. “Nature could be a garden—not a carefully manicured and rigid one, but a tangle of species and wildness amidst lands used for food production, mineral extraction, and urban life,” they argue.Geographer Erle Ellis asserts in "Planet of No Return: Human Resilience on an Artificial Earth" that Malthusian environmentalism has gotten it completely wrong when it claims that there are limits to growth. Human social and technological ingenuity creates more resources over time. Ellis suggests, “As populations, consumption, and technological power advance at an exponential pace, industrial systems appear to be evolving in new directions that tend to reverse many of the environmental impacts caused by agriculture and prior human systems.” For example, more people are moving from the landscape into cities where they have better access to health care, education, incomes, housing, markets, transportation, and waste treatment. Agriculture productivity modernizes and intensifies potentially sparing more land for nature.Next philosopher Mark Sagoff deconstructs ecological economics which asserted that the scope and scale of the human enterprise was overloading ecological systems and causing them to collapse. Ecological economists argued that there were such things as ecosystems in which organisms and physical resources were tightly bound and which evolved together as a community. Disturbing these tight linkages could result in a collapse of the whole system. Subsequent empirical research finds that plant and animal “communities” are a figment; plants and animals just show up and survive as best they can where they find themselves. There is no balance of nature to be upset. Of course, unintended consequences of technological and economic development must be dealt with, but there are no ultimate constraints on economic growth.A devastating critique of Malthusian environmentalism is offered by Daniel Sarewitz in his essay "Liberalism’s Modest Proposal, Or the Tyranny of Scientific Rationality." He begins by citing Jonathan Swift’s famous satirical essay, "A Modest Proposal," in which Swift suggested that the problem of Irish famine might simply be dealt with by eating Irish babies. Sarewitz argues that Swift’s goal was to show that “pretty much any position, however repulsive, could be advanced on the back of rationality.” Sarewitz argues with regard to the problem of climate change modern environmentalists have adopted a form of scientific rationality in which the fact that burning fossil fuels to produce cheap energy harms the climate suggests that solution is to “make energy more expensive.” Sarewitz then points out that the access to cheap energy is, in fact, “a basic requirement for human development and dignity.” He adds, “This fact is so blindingly obvious that nearly any large developing country has treated the idea of a global agreement to raise the price of energy as a joke of Swiftean character. The difference being, of course, that it was not a joke.”Sarewitz then identifies the political incoherence that lies at the heart of environmentalism. On the one hand, environmentalists want to avoid the risks of new technologies and on the other Malthusian hand they worry about declining stocks of natural resources. Consequently, environmentalists “find themselves, for reasons of risk, opposing new technologies that could help resolve issues of scarcity.” As an example of this political and scientific incoherence, Sarewitz cites the case of genetically enhanced crops which environmentalists oppose because of their alleged risks to human health although such crops would ameliorate environmentalist concerns about soil and water depletion, pesticide residues, and population growth. Sarewitz cuts through the current incoherence by rejecting the environmentalist scheme to raise energy prices by means of a global cap-and-trade regime on fossil fuels. Sarewitz instead argues for an intensive research effort aimed at developing cheap low-carbon energy sources.The collection ends with an essay by engineer Siddhartha Shome, "The New India Versus the Global Greens Brahmins; The Surprising History of Tree Hugging." Shome details the history of the Chipko movement in the 1970s in which Himalayan village women literally hugged trees in forests near their homes in order to prevent outside loggers from cutting them down. This story was retold as an ecological tale in which the women were cast as protectors of nature. As Shome makes clear, the villagers intended to preserve their traditional forest rights from outsiders. The villagers wanted to maintain local control over resources, not create a nature preserve. Research shows that in fact local people tend to be better stewards of natural resources than centralized bureaucracies.Malthusian environmentalists like to cite factoids like the average American child over the course of her lifetime will consume 35 times more resources than the average Indian child. Shome shows that villagers are now abandoning the countryside, flocking to India’s economically dynamic cities seeking a better life for themselves and their families. They have every intention that their children will catch up to American kids when it comes to material welfare. Instead of reconciling themselves to ascetic poverty as Mahatma Gandhi urged, Shome shows that India’s poor are following the lead of the father of India’s constitution, Babasaheb Ambedkar. Ambedkar argued, “Machinery and modern civilization are thus indispensable for emancipating man from leading the life of a brute … The slogan of a democratic society must be machinery, and more machinery, civilization and more civilization.”One big problem with the collection is that it fails to recognize the context that enabled the technological progress of the past two centuries to occur—the rise strong property rights and market economies. There simply has been no appreciable technological innovation in countries that do not have these institutions. In addition, Shellenberger and Nordhaus assert that many ecological problems—global warming, deforestation, and overfishing—are the unintended consequences of human technological success.Obviously technology contributes to these predicaments, but the chief problem is that they (and nearly all other environmental problems) occur in open access commons. If there is no clear ownership of rights to a natural resource, the users of the resource will overexploit it. If they leave something behind, the next guy will simply take it. In general the best way to protect resources is to privatize them and put them into the market, but that’s a subject for another time.It turns out that the “monsters” feared by environmentalists are largely figments of their cramped Malthusian imaginations. Sure, there are unintended consequences to technologies, but the solution is not to abandon them, but to improve them. The way to protect and preserve nature is to make humanity more prosperous. In the end, given its failure to understand both ecology and economics, one is left wondering what the purpose of environmentalism was supposed to be anyway?Ronald Bailey is Reason's science correspondent. His book Liberation Biology: The Scientific and Moral Case for the Biotech Revolution is now available from Prometheus Books.  169 Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Pathological Science on: January 04, 2012, 09:41:44 PM Quote from: Chuck B on January 04, 2012, 04:14:11 PM@BBG,QuoteChuck is right that there are many theories that explain gravitation, though none that are experimentally verifiable.Actually many of them are experimentally verifiable but they fail to account for all instances and they fail to tell us what gravity is although they can tell us what it does. Accordingly many people do not consider them to be theories but rather are laws.Hmm, that's a mishmash of qualifications. Do we have experimentally verified gravitons that I missed? Moreover, you seem to be contradicting your original point "THAT THEIR IS NO THEORY OF GRAVITY." Which is it?QuoteDo we understand the CO2 absorption cycle of the water that covers three quarters of the planet?QuoteBut we can easily measure atmospheric concentrations of CO2 so this unit is only related to removal mechanisms but not instantaneous estimates of the heat trapping ability of the planet's atmosphere.Easily measure the concentrations of CO2 in all bodies of water on the planet? I guess Alvin has been busy. Just when did this occur? QuoteDo we have geologically significant data sets that correlate the sun's cycles to climate fluctuations?QuoteBut we can measure solar energy striking the planet, we can determine the spectrum of light that strikes the planet and we can determine the spectrum of light that leaves the planet which puts us well on the way toward calculating energy accumulation.Guess you missed the "geologically significant" part of the question.QuoteBottom line there are a huge number of variables that we've barely begun to catalogQuoteAnyone that ever claimed otherwise was a fool and I have met few people that would make such claims.Well thank goodness then that whole "hockey stick" thing was some sort of grievous misunderstanding. Has Dr. Mann been informed?QuoteTo claim a settled science comprised of a single variable is the iron clad truth is silly.Perhaps it is a single variable, but the only way that energy enters or leaves this planet is as electromagnetic radiation so it seems rather important.And why isn't that single variable water vapor, methane, O3, volcanic sulfides, or myriad other possibilities? Methinks the doomstruck seized on a single variable, trumpeted it to the point they couldn't back away even when 50 million climate refugees failed to materialize, yet find themselves so invested in a simplistic explanation of a complex phenomena that they have little choice to double down on the bet.  170 Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / 2000 Guns to Cartel? See HR on: January 04, 2012, 09:17:34 PM Hmm, so it looks like the next act will have the DOJ treating Gunwalker as a personnel issue rather than a criminal one. Be interesting to see if the sacrificed take issue with the coming passion play:Breaking: ATF reportedly relieves Fast and Furious managers prior to OIG reportDavid Codrea, Gun Rights ExaminerJanuary 4, 2012 - Like this? Subscribe to get instant updates.Gun Rights Examiner and Sipsey Street Irregulars received information this evening that three of the prime Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives players in the Fast and Furious gunwalking scandal have been relieved of duties.William Hoover, ATF's Deputy Director during Fast and Furious, who was recently reassigned as Special Agent in Charge of the Washington Field Office, Assistant Director in Charge of Field Operations Mark Chait, likewise reassigned as head of the Baltimore Field Office, and Deputy Assistant Director of Field Operations William McMahon have reportedly been sidelined pending the outcome of the anticipated report from the Office of Inspector General. Debbie Bullock a mid-level manager has reportedly been advised that she is now the acting SAC for Baltimore, and will assume Chait's functions.These three were the recipients of a January 20, 2011 email from ATF Associate Chief Counsel Barry Orlow, advising them and other Bureau attorneys of Gun Rights Examiner's “Open Letter to Senate Judiciary Committee staff on 'Project Gunwalker',” which put Senator Chuck Grassley's office on notice that ATF employees want d to come forward to provide testimony and documentation about gunwalking to Mexico. They were also prominent in a position issued by the CleanUpATF webmaster:Whereas overwhelming evidence establishes that substantial acts of wrongdoing may have been committed by senior Officials of the United States Government, including persons such as Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr., Ronald H. Weich, Dennis Burke, and others acting for or on behalf of the United States Department of Justice (DOJ), Kenneth E. Melson, William J. Hoover, Mark Chait, William G. McMahon, William D. Newell, George Gillett Jr., and others of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF), and possibly other officials within the Obama Administration, CleanUpATF.org hereby respectfully requests that Congress should enact and empower, on behalf of the American people and pursuant to 28 C.F.R. PART 600, one or more Special Prosecutors...Disciplinary actions could take momentum away from that. Sources tell Gun Rights Examiner and Sipsey Street Irregulars that "ATF is going to follow the long-awaited OIG report to a 't': If OIG says XX gets terminated, they are going to terminate." That this would be treated as a personnel matter, subject to disciplinary procedures, as opposed to a criminal matter, subject to prosecution was the topic of a recent post in this column.Left unsaid is why these three have been singled out prior to the OIG report being submitted, particularly since their sharing findings with the Department of Justice and ATF subjects of their investigation would violate all principles of independence from influence. If that did not happen, a fair conclusion to assume would be that the process of the investigation itself led those answering questions and providing documentation to an inevitable conclusion. House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Darrell Issa wrote a December 7 column claiming Attorney General Eric Holder, scheduled to testify again on February 2, was "protecting staff over 'Fast and Furious'."This latest reported development lends itself to the observation that Holder is protecting something else, and that this is a tactical move in anticipation of the report's release and his next trip to the Hill.http://www.examiner.com/gun-rights-in-national/breaking-atf-reportedly-relieves-fast-and-furious-managers-prior-to-oig-report  171 Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / The Gravity of Global Warming on: January 04, 2012, 11:50:46 AM Yet we are supposed to spend trillions of dollars to remediate CO2 to a barely observable degree, Doug. Go figure.I've scanned some of the recent posts here and see the debate is certainly spirited, though producing more heat than light to my mind. There has been an analogy raised, however, that I feel lends some focus to the debate, specifically the science of gravitation v. climate science. Chuck is right that there are many theories that explain gravitation, though none that are experimentally verifiable. Whether you are a string theorist, more of a quantum kind of person, or look at things through Einstein's lens the strings, god particles, gluons, weak forces, whatever that have to be postulated to make one theory more or less fit can not be experimentally verified, much less replicated.The same applies to AGW. Do we have a data set for deep ocean current temperature fluctuations over a geologically significant period? Nope. Do we understand the CO2 absorption cycle of the water that covers three quarters of the planet? Nope. Are the effects of cosmic rays on cloud formation well understood? Nope. Do we have geologically significant data sets that correlate the sun's cycles to climate fluctuations? Perhaps in some limited sense if proxies are used, but certainly not to a degree that the issue would be called settled in any other science. Bottom line there are a huge number of variables that we've barely begun to catalog, much less understand, and much much less have clean data sets for over a geologically significant period of time, that will all have to be replicated and verified before their impact on other barely understood variables can be studied and understood. To claim a settled science comprised of a single variable is the iron clad truth is silly, particularly in view of the less than settled nature of gravitation, a phenomenon we grapple with daily but still have no experimentally verifiable theory for.  172 Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Climate Summit Podcast on: January 04, 2012, 09:00:57 AM Interesting podcast from a Walter Cronkite-type figure working for the BBC. Synonymous to Cronkite's "the Vietnam War is lost" moment, IMO:Friday, December 16, 2011MICHAEL BUERK ON THE CLIMATE SUMMITSo why no debate on the assumptions behind the more apocalyptic forecasts?Example: the UN forecast 50 million climate refugees by 2010 – where are they? Agitator/Climate summit The latest so-called Climate Summit, that’s been taking place in Durban, hasn’t made many waves. It could be because global warming seems less daunting if you can no longer afford heating bills. It could also be that we’re getting fed up with the bogus certainties and quasi-religious tone of the great climate change non-debate.Now, I don’t know for certain that man’s activities are causing the planet to heat up. Nobody does. We simply cannot construct a theoretical model that can cope with all the variables.For what it’s worth, I think anthropogenic warming is taking place, and, anyway, it would be a good thing to stop chucking so much bad stuff into the atmosphere. What gets up my nose is being infantilized by governments, by the BBC, by the Guardian that there is no argument, that all scientists who aren’t cranks and charlatans are agreed on all this, that the consequences are uniformly negative, the issues beyond doubt and the steps to be taken beyond dispute. You’re not necessarily a crank to point out that global temperatures change a great deal anyway. A thousand years ago we had a Mediterranean climate in this country; 200 years ago we were skating every winter on the Thames.And actually there has been no significant rise in global temperatures for more than a decade now.We hear a lot about how the Arctic is shrinking, but scarcely anything about how the Antarctic is spreading, and the South Pole is getting colder.Droughts aren’t increasing. There are fewer of them, and less severe, than a hundred years ago. The number of hurricanes hasn’t changed, the number of cyclones and typhoons has actually fallen over the last 30 years.And so on.There may be answers, I think there probably are - to all these quibbles – I would like to hear them.I don’t want the media to make up my mind up for me.I don’t need to be told things by officialdom in all its forms, that are not true, or not the whole truth, for my own good.I resent the implication that the exercise of my reason is “inappropriate”, an act of generational selfishness, a heresy.I want a genuine debate about the assumptions behind the more apocalyptic forecasts.As recently as 2005, for instance, the UN said there would be 50 million climate refugees by 2010.That was last year.OK – so where are they?I would like to hear a clash of informed opinion about what would actually be better if it got warmer as well as worse.Where do you see reported the extraordinary greening of the Sahel, and shrinking of the Sahara that’s been going on for 30 years now – the regeneration of vegetation across a huge, formerly arid swathe of dirt poor Africa. More warming means more rainfall. More CO2 means plants grow bigger, stronger, faster. I would like a real argument over climate change policy, if only to rid myself of the nagging feeling that sometimes it’s a really good excuse for banging up taxes and public-sector job creation. It’s not happening. It’s a secular issue but skepticism is heresy. They talk the language of science, but it is really a post-God religion that rejects relativist materialism.Its imperative is moral.It looks to a society where some choices are obviously, and universally held to be, better than others.A life where having what we want is not a right and nature puts constraints on the free play of desires.To reinvent, in short, a life where there is good and bad, right and wrong.As with all religions, whether the underlying narrative is true, has become beside the point. ends http://www.thefifthcolumn.co.uk/the-agitator/michael-buerk-on-the-climate-summit/  173 Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The War on Drugs on: December 23, 2011, 06:40:48 PM Yes, settled to protect the children from the very dysfunctions we're imposing to "protect" them. But hey, if you have any quibbles with the data Neurobonkers presented, perhaps stating them may prove more productive than again embracing the snarky ad hominem. Me, I thought the charts spoke for themselves, particularly where the current meth boogieman was concerned.  174 Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / The Meaning of "Militia" when Militias were Founded on: December 23, 2011, 06:35:19 PM Exhaustive look at the meaning of the second amendment in the context of the militias formed prior to the revolution and the Federalist/Antifederalist debates during the Constitution's ratification. Probably second only to Halbrook's "That Every Man be Armed" in scope:http://www.secondamendmentinfo.com/Journal/index.html  175 Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / UK Drug Death Data on: December 23, 2011, 12:48:49 PM BD: But when was the last time you were smacked by an iron lung?Lotsa charts, graphs, and interesting ways of visualizing UK drug death data here:http://neurobonkers.com/2011/12/22/the-year-in-drug-deaths-and-data-fraud/Difficult to view this info and come to any conclusion other than drug enforcement efforts are not based on consistency or a rational assessment of sensible criteria. Interesting to note: more people died from helium exposure in the UK than from cannabis. Time to declare was on lighter than air balloons, for the children, eh?  176 Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Lieberman Expands the Scope? on: December 22, 2011, 04:07:31 PM Lieberman directs staff to examine Fast and Furious coordinationBy Matthew Boyle - The Daily Caller 12:13 AM 12/22/2011ADVERTISEMENTConnecticut independent Sen. Joe Lieberman has directed the staff of the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee, which he chairs, to examine miscommunication between law enforcement agencies related to the Justice Department’s Operation Fast and Furious.A spokesperson told The Daily Caller Wednesday that Lieberman “believe(s) that the lack of interagency coordination along the border merits further examination, and as Chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, he has directed his staff to follow up with the relevant federal agencies on that topic.”Fast and Furious was a program of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, overseen by Holder’s DOJ. It sent thousands of weapons to Mexican drug cartels via straw purchasers — people who legally purchase guns in the United States with the known intention of illegally trafficking them somewhere else.At least 300 people in Mexico were killed with Fast and Furious weapons, as was Border Patrol agent Brian Terry. The identities of the Mexican victims are unknown.Some reports suggest that the FBI, the Drug Enforcement Agency and Immigration and Customs Enforcement were also involved in some manner or another with the operation.For instance, Pajamas Media reported that the night Terry was killed, an FBI informant was in the drug cartel rip crew that used Fast and Furious weapons to murder him. Rip crews are armed groups of bandits who work for specific drug cartels and try to rob rival cartel shipments and illegal immigrants as they’re crossing the border.Pajamas reports that the DEA also had some knowledge of that drug cartel rip crew’s whereabouts. Assuming the reports are true, the DEA and the FBI failed to “deconflict,” or warn other agencies including the Border Patrol about potentially deadly risks.With Lieberman’s committee now examining Fast and Furious details, that means two Senate committees are probing the matter — the homeland security committee and the judiciary committee.On the House side, the oversight and judiciary committees are investigating the DOJ’s role in Fast and Furious and the homeland security committee’s subcommittee on oversight has launched an investigation into the Department of Homeland Security’s role in Fast and Furious, a spokesperson for subcommittee chairman and Texas Rep. Michael McCaul confirmed for TheDC.Sixty-one congressmen, two U.S. senators and two sitting governors have called for Attorney General Eric Holder’s resignation over Fast and Furious. Lieberman has not called on Holder to resign.http://dailycaller.com/2011/12/22/lieberman-directs-staff-to-investigate-fast-and-furious-coordination/  177 Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Bonjwa Voyage on: December 22, 2011, 07:46:17 AM First time I've encountered this source; his CV is certainly interesting. I'm no slouch when it comes to making a desktop computer do my bidding, but my kids multitask digitally in manners that amaze me: they keep a lot of different balls in the air while still working on a primary task, often gaming. This gent thinks they might have what it takes to be a next generation war fighter:The Future of Drone WarfareOver half of Air Force UPT (undergraduate pilot training) grads are now assigned to pilot drones rather than a real aircraft.* The big question is why are drone pilots, guys that fly robots remotely from a computer terminal, going to a very expensive year of pilot training? I can understand why the Air Force has chosen to send drone jockeys to pilot training: A shift to piloting drones rather than real aircraft is an assault on organizational culture of the Air Force. In the Air Force, pilots do the fighting and as a result take most of the leadership positions. A transition to robotics upends that arrangement, and is why the USAF has strenuously resisted taking control of the drone mission until recently. In this light, sending these drone jockeys to a very expensive year of UPT is an attempt to ease the cultural transition. However, culture aside, is it the best training? Drone Pilots TodayI suspect it isn't. Here's why. The assumption that combat with drones is going to be the same as combat without them is flawed. It's going to be VERY different. So far, it's hard to see that. Most engagements today involve:a drone flying leisurely over a village in Pakistan controlled by a pilot at a terminal in Las Vegas/Nellis, waiting for five or more armed men to assemble in a single house (which is a terrorist "signature" that green lights authorization to eliminate the threat), and then pushing a button and holding a cursor over the house until it disappears. That's not going to last long. Drone CombatHow does the addition of drones change the nature of combat/conflict? Why? The tech is moving too fast. Here are some of the characteristics we'll see in the near future:Swarms. The cost and size of drones will shrink. Nearly everyone will have access to drone tech (autopilots already cost less than$30).  Further, the software to enable drones to employ swarm behavior will improve.  So, don't think in terms of a single drone. Think in terms of a single person controlling hundreds and thousands.Intelligence.  Drones will be smarter than they are today.  The average commercial chip passed the level of insect intelligence a little less than a decade ago (which "magically" resulted in an explosion of drone/bot tech).  Chips will cross rat intelligence in 2018 or so.  Think in terms of each drone being smart enough to follow tactical instructions.  Dynamism.  The combination of massive swarms with individual elements being highly intelligent puts combat on an entirely new level.  It requires a warrior that can provide tactical guidance and situational awareness in real time at a level that is beyond current training paradigms.Training Drone BonjwasBased on the above requirements, the best training for drones (in the air and on land) isn't real world training, it's tactical games (not first person shooters).  Think in terms of the classic military scifi book, "Ender's Game" by Orson Scott Card. Of the games currently on the market, the best example of the type of expertise required is Blizzard's StarCraft, a scifi tactical management game that has amazing multiplayer tactical balance/dynamism.  The game is extremely popular worldwide, but in South Korea, it has reached cult status.  The best players, called Bonjwas, are treated like rock stars, and for good reason:Training of hand/eye/mind.  Speeds of up to 400 keyboard mouse (macro/micro) tactical commands per minute have been attained.  Think about that for a second.  That's nearly 7 commands a second.Fight multi-player combat simulations  for 10-12 hours a day.  They live the game for a decade and then burn out.   Mind vs. mind competition continously.To become a bonjwa, you have to defeat millions of opponents to reach the tournament rank, and then dominate the tournament rank for many years.  The ranking system/ladder that farms new talent is global (Korea, China, SEA, North America, and Europe), huge (millions of players), and continuous (24x7x365). Currently, the best Starcraft bonjwa in the world is Flash. Here's his ELO rating.  Nearly all of the above would likely apply to cyber warfare too.  http://globalguerrillas.typepad.com/globalguerrillas/2011/12/drone-bonjwas.html
 178 Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Dreaded Equasty & Déjà Vu All Over Again on: December 21, 2011, 11:17:18 AM A book review: http://reason.com/archives/2011/12/20/modern-day-prohibitionReason MagazineModern-Day ProhibitionThe eternal temptation to ban things that give people pleasureJeff Stier from the January 2012 issueThe Art of Suppression: Pleasure, Panic and Prohibition Since 1800, by Christopher Snowdon, Little Dice, 246 pages, $19.99The new Ken Burns and Lynn Novick documentary Prohibition is a five-and-a-half-hour missed opportunity to demonstrate why bans on substances are doomed from the start. Fortunately, for those who want to understand the irresistible lure of all types of prohibitions, there is Christopher Snowdon’s The Art of Suppression: Pleasure, Panic and Prohibition Since 1800. Although Snowdon’s comprehensive history will never reach as many people as the PBS series, The Art of Suppression makes the case that Burns seems to go out of his way to avoid: that prohibition of products that people desire, whether alcohol a century ago or Ecstasy today, is bound to fail miserably.Deploying a colorful cast of characters, Snowdon, a British journalist whose first book, Velvet Glove, Iron Fist (2009), documented the history of anti-tobacco campaigns, tells the story of prohibition’s broader context. He brings to the task the stinging humor reminiscent of H.L. Mencken, whom he quotes in describing one of the book’s central villains, the Anti-Saloon League lawyer Wayne Bidwell Wheeler: “He was born with a roaring voice, and it had the trick of inflaming half-wits.” Wheeler was a prototypical activist, Snowdon says, “the undisputed master of pressure politics…no one was more skillful or less scrupulous in applying pressure to wavering politicians.”Just as it is today, Ohio was a battleground state in the early 1900s, when Wheeler targeted popular Republican Gov. Myron T. Herrick, who had the audacity to challenge provisions of a prohibitionist Anti-Saloon League bill. Wheeler, Snowdon writes, held hundreds of dry rallies in favor of Herrick’s opponent and “scurrilously accused Herrick of being in the pocket of the drinks industry.” Seeking to make an example of the governor, Wheeler marshaled tens of thousands of churchgoers, who flooded into the polls and bounced Herrick out of office. The result? Practical political hypocrisy on the issue of alcohol. Wheeler’s effort, Snowdon explains, was “a bleak warning to wet politicians that it was safest to drink in private and support prohibition in public.…Politicians knew that they could placate their tormentors by supporting dry laws, but they also knew they could placate drinkers by failing to enforce them.” The wet/dry debate was a key issue in American politics for the quarter centuries before and after 1900. Issues as varied as women’s suffrage, race relations, urban vs. rural life, and religious tensions all played out in the context of alcohol prohibition. Wheeler’s mad female counterpart was known as “Christ’s bulldog,” the “hatchet-wielding vigilante” Carrie Amelia Moore, whose 1877 marriage of convenience to David Nation gave her a “striking name that she viewed as a sign of providence.” Arriving in officially dry Wichita, Kansas, on January 21, 1901, Carrie A. Nation assumed leadership of the militant wing of the so-called temperance movement, declaring loudly, “Men of Wichita, this is the right arm of God and I am destined to wreck every saloon in your city!” Together with three Woman’s Christian Temperance Union colleagues, Snowdon writes, “she set to work on two ‘murder shops’ with rocks, iron rods and hatchets, only stopping when the owner of the second saloon put a revolver to her head.” Vandalizing illegal saloons didn’t get Nation arrested, but attacking a policeman in a hotel lobby eventually did. “Showing considerable leniency, the chief of police released the teetotal delinquent on bail on the condition that she smash no more saloons until noon the following day. Nation’s first act as a free woman was to stand on the steps of the police station and inform the waiting crowd that she would recommence her reign of terror as soon as the clock struck twelve.” As it turned out, she could not wait even that long.Nation, who was widely believed to suffer from mental illness, may not have been a typical prohibitionist, but her antics made her one of the more conspicuous ones. Her visibility allowed outlets such as The New York Times to position themselves as moderate by condemning her tactics but not her underlying stance. Today’s prohibitionists are less colorful but no less determined. Consider the sad story of psychopharmacologist David Nutt’s brief term as chairman of the British Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs. Shortly after he was appointed to the position in May 2008, the Sun reported that Nutt thought Ecstasy and LSD should be removed from the legal category ostensibly reserved for the most dangerous drugs, kicking off a Fleet Street frenzy.Instead of backing down, Nutt doubled down. In a satirical article published by the Journal of Psychopharmacology in January 2009, he analyzed “an addiction called ‘Equasy’ that kills ten people a year, causes brain damage and has been linked to the early onset of Parkinson’s disease.” Nut added that Equasy “releases endorphins, can create dependence and is responsible for over 100 road traffic accidents every year.” Had Nutt not revealed that Equasy was simply the time-honored sport of horseback riding, activists certainly would have rushed to introduce a ban. Nutt pointed out that since Equasy causes acute harm to one out of 350 riders, it is far riskier than Ecstasy, for which the fraction is one out of 10,000. His point, of course, was that prohibition has less to do with risk than with the importance society attaches to a risky activity. As Snowdon puts it, “If the cultural baggage is put to one side, and activities are assessed on the basis of mortality rather than morality, there are glaring inconsistencies in the way laws deal with different hazards.” In October 2009, British Home Secretary Alan Johnson fired Nutt for failing to recognize that “his role is to advise rather than criticise.”While The Art of Suppression does not include a chapter on marijuana legalization, Snowdon leaves no doubt about his position on the issue. “Legal highs may not be as good as the real thing,” he writes, “and they are often more dangerous, but at least users don’t have to worry about being arrested.” Snowdon describes a cycle in which so-called “killer drugs” receive an inordinate amount of tabloid media attention, driving up consumer interest until the substance is finally banned based on sensationalistic claims about its dangers. Yet as soon as one chemical is banned, a newer one—often more dangerous—is created to elude the ban. “In the restless pursuit of hedonistic diversions,” Snowdon writes, “human beings will try almost any substance if more appealing avenues of pleasure are closed off.” In addition to sardonic humor, Snowdon offers new reporting on how distorted science and unfounded health claims are driving lesser-known prohibitions in the modern world, such as the 1986 European ban on all oral tobacco products, including Swedish snus. Snowdon documents in detail how a 2003 scientific report funded by the European Commission and the Swedish National Institute of Public Health, intended to provide legal and scientific justification for the ban, was altered after leaving the hands of the scientists who wrote it. Among the many questionable editorial changes in the report was one that glossed over the fact that snus, unlike less refined oral tobacco products, does not cause oral cancer. While the original version said “there can be no doubt that the current ban on oral tobacco is highly arbitrary,” that phrase was missing from the published report. In response to accumulating evidence supporting the use of snus as a harm-reducing alternative to cigarettes, supporters of the E.U. ban have become more brazen. Based on information from Asa Lundquist, the tobacco control manager for the Swedish National Institute of Public Health, the Swedish press reported that snus (which remains legal in Sweden) causes impotence and infertility. Luckily, Swedes, who have suffered through decades of similar scares, insisted on seeing the study behind the allegations. As it turns out, the scare itself was impotent. The supposed source, the Karolinska Institute, admitted “there is no such study.” Rather, “we have a hypothesis and plan to conduct a study among snus users after the new year.” Here in the U.S., the Food and Drug Administration is considering whether to exercise its authority to ban menthol cigarettes, even though studies repeatedly have found that they are no more harmful than non- mentholated cigarettes. Drunk with power, regulators and those encouraging them are using catchy slogans such as “Menthol: it helps the poison go down easier.” Prohibitionists ignore or belittle concerns that a ban on menthol cigarettes would turn citizens into criminals, increase unregulated youth access to cigarettes, and even encourage people to make their own mentholated cigarettes (all it takes is a regular cigarette, a cough drop, and a ziplock bag). It is hard to miss the similarities between current prohibition campaigns and their historical predecessors. The Woman’s Christian Temperance Union’s “stated desire was to ‘reform, so far as possible, by religious, ethical, and scientific means the drinking classes.’ ” Likewise today, says Snowdon, self-righteous activists and their allies in government do not seek to improve public health by following the dictates of science but rather use pseudoscientific arguments and “subtle deceit” to advance laws that dictate how we live.It is easy now, as Ken Burns has masterfully done, to ridicule the prohibition of alcohol. But Snowdon does the heavy lifting of catching modern-day Carrie Nations in the act. Despite a long history of failure, the public always seems ready to enlist in prohibitionist campaigns, perhaps believing, as Snowdon puts it, that “utopia is only ever one ban away.”Jeff Stier is a senior fellow at the National Center for Public Policy Research in Washington, D.C.  179 Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: We the Well-armed People (Gun rights stuff ) on: December 21, 2011, 11:13:27 AM Sigh. Arming the most violent and criminal gangs in the hemisphere resulting in hundreds of deaths with no rational means of interdiction available = nothing to see here, move along in JDN land. Agent testimony that they were specifically instructed to ignore standard investigatory procedures for this case and no other = a random case of directed incompetence in JDN land. Moving all the supervisors into into cushy, high paying desk jobs while firing or harassing all the whistle blowers and others who testified off the talking points = some sort of crazy coincidence in JDN land. Arming foreign entities engaged in hostilities against your nation that then kill your citizens and law enforcement officers with those arms would be construed as an act of war by numerous nations and leaders going back thousands of years, except in JDN land where it is no doubt an invitation to engage in meaningful dialog or some other twaddle. You, sir, are a troll. There is no point in engaging you. Quote that in a manner that turns it's meaning around 180 degrees and insert my moniker in it to cement your trolling credentials.  180 Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Can't Track what you Aren't Watching on: December 21, 2011, 09:11:41 AM Hmm, very interesting memo that was written the day before the DOJ withdrew its false letter to Grassley. JDN's equivocations aside (by the way, dude, quit citing me as the source when in fact you are [inaccurately] referring to source material I posted) the "no surveillance teams" info strikes me as incredibly damning:U.S. Department of JusticeBureau of Alcohol, Tobacco,Firearms and Explosiveswww.atf.govFebruary 3, 2011MEMORANDUM TO: Special Agent in Charge, Dallas Field DivisionTHRU: Resident Agent in Charge , Lubbock Field OfficeFROM: Gary M. Styers, Special Agent, Lubbock Field OfficeSUBJECT: Contact with Congressional InvestigatorsOn February 2, 2011, at approximately 1500 hours, ATF Special Agent Gary Styers was contacted telephonically by Robert Donovan and Brian Downey, representing United States Senator Chuck Grassley and the Senate Judiciary Committee. Downey and Donovan after identifying themselves asked Special Agent Styers if he would be willing to answer some questions regarding the time Special Agent Styers spent on a detail to the Phoenix Field Division, Phoenix Group VII Office. Special Agent Styers said he would be willing to answer questions to the best of his knowledge.Special Agent Styers was asked if he was familiar with the large firearms trafficking case in Phoenix Group VII and Special Agent Styers said he was. Downey and Donovan asked if Special Agent Styers knew the name of the case and he responded that it was "Fast and Furious". Downey and Donovan then asked if Special Agent Styers knew who the case agent was and Special Agent Styers said it was Special Agent Hope McAllister. Special Agent Styers was also asked who the supervisor of the group was and Special Agent Styers said it was Group Supervisor David Voth. Downey and Donovan also asked who helped Special Agent McAllister, Special Agent Styers said that Special Agent McAllister had a CoCase Agent from hnmigration and Customs Enforcement CICE) as well as an agent from Group VII. Downey and Donovan asked who was the Agent from ICE and Special Agent Styers told them it was Lane France.Downey and Donovan asked Special Agent Styers ifhe knew what the agents were assigned to do on the investigation. Special Agent Styers explained that a group of agents were assigned to the case and that since the case was in the stage of an active wiretap, some agents were working within the group and others were working at various functions related to the wire. Special Agent Styers further said that he did not specifically know the role of each individual agent.Downey and Donovan inquired as to the role that Special Agent Styers had in this case and Special Agent Styers advised that he had assisted with some surveillance operations with the case. Special Agent Styers was asked to describe the operations and relayed that one of the operations was a suspected transaction that was to occur at a gas station and detailed agents were asked to cover the transaction. While positioning to observe the suspects, Special Agent Styers and other detailed agents were told by Special Agent McAllister that agents were too close and would burn the operation. Special Agent McAllister told all the agents to leave the immediate area. While the agents were repositioning, the transaction between the suspects took place and the vehicle that took possession of the firearms eventually left the area without agents following it.Downey and Donovan asked Special Agent Styers ifhe ever saw guns actually go into Mexico. Special Agent Styers said he did not see any firearms cross the border to Mexico. They also asked if Special Agent Styers had worked with any agencies in Mexico, Special Agent Styers relayed that he had not, but had knowledge that other agents within Group VII spoke of communication with other ATF Special Agents assigned in Mexico.Downey and Donovan then asked if Special Agent Styers had any knowledge that Federal Firearms Licensees (FFLs) were reporting suspected straw purchasers. Special Agent Styers explained that FFLs were indeed reporting such situations and that Special Agent Styers had numerous contacts with FFLs in the Phoenix area and had also worked inside of an FFL in an undercover capacity, while an individual attempted a large scale straw purchase. Special Agent Styers told Downey and Donovan that in speaking with the FFL holder and owner of the gun shop, he told Special Agent Styers that he had asked ATF to install cameras inside his shop and to have an undercover agent inside on a more regular basis. Downey and Donovan inquired as to what the procedures were and who handled the calls from the FFLs when they reported such suspected transactions. Special Agent Styers told them that he had no knowledge of any special procedures. If the FFLs called during normal business hours, Special Agent Styers assumed that, if they called the office number, their call was handled by the Group Supervisor.Special Agent Styers also told Downey and Donovan that if the FFLs were calling individual agents within the group, he had no direct knowledge of those calls and what the ATF response was to those reports. However, Special Agent Styers did tell Downey and Donovan that he had heard from within the group that FFLs were calling case agents.With regards to statistics and reporting, Downey and Donovan, questioned Special Agent Styers as to whether he had any knowledge of "padding of statistics or inconsistent reporting". Special Agent Styers advised them that he had no knowledge of a wide scale effort to skew statistics. However, Special Agent Styers relayed that he did question the Group Supervisor as to why he wanted Special Agent Styers to trace firearms that had not been recovered. Special Agent Styers was assigned to the investigation and provided the ATF Form 4473s, the Firearms Transaction Record, and told to trace said frrearms. Special Agent Styers asked as to why, when ATF has the Suspect Gun Database, which is designed for such firearms that have yet to be recovered by law enforcement. Group Supervisor Voth said he wanted them traced so that if someone else traced the firearms, they would know the firearms were connected to the case Special Agent Styers was assigned. Special Agent Styers relayed that even though he disagreed with the requested procedures, he follow the request of Group Supervisor Voth. Special Agent Styers also informed Donovan and Downey that he asked several agents also assigned to Group VII if they had to submit similar firearms traces and they replied that they in fact also were told to trace all firearms in a similar fashion.Special Agent Styers was then asked about his general impression of the Fast and Furious case. Special Agent Styers stated that the case had systematically divided and isolated agents from the group. The case agent had solicited the advice of numerous experienced agents, inclucding Special Agent Styers, regarding how to conduct and end the wiretap operations and case overall. Special Agent Styers gave the case agent his honest opinion and advice since Special Agent Styers had worked two wiretap investigations in his career. Special Agent Styers felt that his advice and opinions, as well as other agents' advice and opinions were widely disregarded. Along with other agents within the group, Special Agent Styers explained that he was no longer asked to assist with Fast and Furious and concentrated on his assigned cases and provided necessary assistance to fellow agents within the detail and group.Downey and Donovan asked Special Agent Styers what he felt was incorrect about the way the Fast and Furious case was conducted. Special Agent Styers explained that first and foremost, it is unheard of to have an active wiretap investigation without full time dedicated surveillance units on the ground. Special Agent Styers relayed that no agents in the group were assigned to surveillance on the Fast and Furious case. Special Agent Styers said that other agencies or task force officers may have been used to conduct surveillance and respond to calls of FFLs, but it seemed that either the case agent or Group Supervisor would poll the office for agents who were available to respond at short notice.Secondly, Special Agent Styers said that it appeared odd to have a majority of ATF Agents working on a wiretap investigation, who had never worked such a case. Especially, when numerous, permanent Group VII agents and detailers had previous wiretap experience.Special Agent Styers was provided with contact information for Downey and Donovan and the conversation was ended. Special Agent Styers contacted the Lubbock Resident Agent in Charge, Jim Luera at 1545 hours after the conversation with Downey and Donovan ended, to inform him of the contact. Special Agent Styers was later asked to document the conversation herein and attempted to do so to the fullest extent possible.Respectfully,Gary M. StyersSpecial Agent, ATFOriginal here:http://www.grassley.senate.gov/judiciary/upload/ATF-12-14-11-Styers-memo.pdf  181 Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Administrative Compliance & the Fifth on: December 16, 2011, 03:59:49 PM http://reason.com/archives/2011/12/15/the-epa-vs-the-constitutionReason MagazineThe EPA vs. the ConstitutionThe Supreme Court prepares the hear a major Fifth Amendment case.Damon W. Root | December 15, 2011The Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution declares that no person shall be “deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.” This means that if the government infringes on your rights, you are entitled to mount a timely and meaningful defense of those rights in court. It’s one of the cornerstones of our entire legal system, with roots dating back at least as far as the Magna Carta, which declared, “No free man...shall be stripped of his rights or possessions...except by the lawful judgment of his equals or by the law of the land.”Unfortunately, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) prefers a less venerable form of justice, as the Supreme Court will hear next month during oral arguments in the case of Sackett v. Environmental Protection Agency. At issue is the EPA’s enforcement of the Clean Water Act through so-called administrative compliance orders, which are government commands that allow the agency to control the use of private property without the annoyance of having to subject its actions to judicial review.The case started four years ago when a married couple named Mike and Chantell Sackett received an EPA compliance order instructing them to stop construction on what was supposed to be their dream home near Priest Lake, Idaho. The government claimed their .63-acre lot was a federally-protected wetland, but that was news to the Sacketts, who had procured all the necessary local permits. Their lot, which is bordered by two roads and several other residential lots, was in fact zoned for residential use.The Sacketts contend that the compliance order was issued erroneously and they would like the opportunity to make their case in court. Yet according to the terms of the Clean Water Act, they may not challenge the order until the EPA first seeks judicial enforcement of it, a process that could take years. In the meantime, the Sacketts risk$32,500 in fines per day if they fail to comply. And complying doesn’t just mean they have to stop building; they must also return the lot to its original condition at their own expense.Moreover, if they did eventually prevail under the current law, the Sacketts would then need to start construction all over again. By that point they would have paid all of the necessary compliance costs plus double many of their original building expenses. And who knows how much time would have been lost. Where’s the due process in that? The Sacketts understandably want the right to challenge the government’s actions now, not after it’s become too late or too expensive for them to put their property to its intended use.For its part, the EPA argues that old-fashioned judicial review would simply get in the way. As the agency states in the brief it submitted to the Supreme Court, “A rule that broadly authorized immediate judicial review of such agency communications would ultimately disserve the interests of both the government and regulated parties, by discouraging interactive processes that can obviate the need for judicial action.”Of course, the whole point of due process is that people sometimes do have “the need for judicial action” against overreaching government officials. Why should those people have to give up that right to the EPA? More to the point, why should the Supreme Court allow it to happen?As the Institute for Justice observes in the friend of the court brief it filed on behalf of the Sacketts, “If other governmental agencies were to adopt an enforcement mechanism like that used by the Environmental Protection Agency in this case, the constitutional guarantee of due process under the law would be severely harmed and the ability to own and use private property would be subject to the unrestrained and unreviewed orders of government officials.” There’s a term for that sort of unchecked government power, and it’s not interactive processes.This case boils down to the protection of a fundamental constitutional right. It’s not about hamstringing bureaucrats or overturning environmental laws. The Supreme Court simply needs to ensure that the Sacketts—and all other property owners—get their day in court by ruling that administrative compliance orders are subject to judicial review. Due process demands nothing less.Damon W. Root is a senior editor at Reason magazine.
 182 Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: We the Well-armed People (Gun rights stuff ) on: December 14, 2011, 05:32:44 PM Jeepers, maybe everyone who favors limiting second amendment protections by any means at hand calls this false flag operation a "sting" because they don't want the general public to know it's really a false flag operation. Too bad they were so ham fisted about it. Be that as it may, giving criminals money with which to buy guns to give to other, violent, criminals so that they use those guns in numerous crimes including 300 murders that can then be blamed on American gun stores as an opening gambit to subvert the second amendment is not only many kinds of criminal act, but can be construed as an act of war. Any other conclusion is equivocation of the rankest sort.
 185 Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / How Doctors Die on: December 14, 2011, 11:41:44 AM How Doctors DieIt’s Not Like the Rest of Us, But It Should Beby Ken MurrayYears ago, Charlie, a highly respected orthopedist and a mentor of mine, found a lump in his stomach. He had a surgeon explore the area, and the diagnosis was pancreatic cancer. This surgeon was one of the best in the country. He had even invented a new procedure for this exact cancer that could triple a patient’s five-year-survival odds—from 5 percent to 15 percent—albeit with a poor quality of life. Charlie was uninterested. He went home the next day, closed his practice, and never set foot in a hospital again. He focused on spending time with family and feeling as good as possible. Several months later, he died at home. He got no chemotherapy, radiation, or surgical treatment. Medicare didn’t spend much on him.It’s not a frequent topic of discussion, but doctors die, too. And they don’t die like the rest of us. What’s unusual about them is not how much treatment they get compared to most Americans, but how little. For all the time they spend fending off the deaths of others, they tend to be fairly serene when faced with death themselves. They know exactly what is going to happen, they know the choices, and they generally have access to any sort of medical care they could want. But they go gently.Of course, doctors don’t want to die; they want to live. But they know enough about modern medicine to know its limits. And they know enough about death to know what all people fear most: dying in pain, and dying alone. They’ve talked about this with their families. They want to be sure, when the time comes, that no heroic measures will happen—that they will never experience, during their last moments on earth, someone breaking their ribs in an attempt to resuscitate them with CPR (that’s what happens if CPR is done right).Almost all medical professionals have seen what we call “futile care” being performed on people. That’s when doctors bring the cutting edge of technology to bear on a grievously ill person near the end of life. The patient will get cut open, perforated with tubes, hooked up to machines, and assaulted with drugs. All of this occurs in the Intensive Care Unit at a cost of tens of thousands of dollars a day. What it buys is misery we would not inflict on a terrorist. I cannot count the number of times fellow physicians have told me, in words that vary only slightly, “Promise me if you find me like this that you’ll kill me.” They mean it. Some medical personnel wear medallions stamped “NO CODE” to tell physicians not to perform CPR on them. I have even seen it as a tattoo.To administer medical care that makes people suffer is anguishing. Physicians are trained to gather information without revealing any of their own feelings, but in private, among fellow doctors, they’ll vent. “How can anyone do that to their family members?” they’ll ask. I suspect it’s one reason physicians have higher rates of alcohol abuse and depression than professionals in most other fields. I know it’s one reason I stopped participating in hospital care for the last 10 years of my practice.How has it come to this—that doctors administer so much care that they wouldn’t want for themselves? The simple, or not-so-simple, answer is this: patients, doctors, and the system.To see how patients play a role, imagine a scenario in which someone has lost consciousness and been admitted to an emergency room. As is so often the case, no one has made a plan for this situation, and shocked and scared family members find themselves caught up in a maze of choices. They’re overwhelmed. When doctors ask if they want “everything” done, they answer yes. Then the nightmare begins. Sometimes, a family really means “do everything,” but often they just mean “do everything that’s reasonable.” The problem is that they may not know what’s reasonable, nor, in their confusion and sorrow, will they ask about it or hear what a physician may be telling them. For their part, doctors told to do “everything” will do it, whether it is reasonable or not.The above scenario is a common one. Feeding into the problem are unrealistic expectations of what doctors can accomplish. Many people think of CPR as a reliable lifesaver when, in fact, the results are usually poor. I’ve had hundreds of people brought to me in the emergency room after getting CPR. Exactly one, a healthy man who’d had no heart troubles (for those who want specifics, he had a “tension pneumothorax”), walked out of the hospital. If a patient suffers from severe illness, old age, or a terminal disease, the odds of a good outcome from CPR are infinitesimal, while the odds of suffering are overwhelming. Poor knowledge and misguided expectations lead to a lot of bad decisions.But of course it’s not just patients making these things happen. Doctors play an enabling role, too. The trouble is that even doctors who hate to administer futile care must find a way to address the wishes of patients and families. Imagine, once again, the emergency room with those grieving, possibly hysterical, family members. They do not know the doctor. Establishing trust and confidence under such circumstances is a very delicate thing. People are prepared to think the doctor is acting out of base motives, trying to save time, or money, or effort, especially if the doctor is advising against further treatment.Some doctors are stronger communicators than others, and some doctors are more adamant, but the pressures they all face are similar. When I faced circumstances involving end-of-life choices, I adopted the approach of laying out only the options that I thought were reasonable (as I would in any situation) as early in the process as possible. When patients or families brought up unreasonable choices, I would discuss the issue in layman’s terms that portrayed the downsides clearly. If patients or families still insisted on treatments I considered pointless or harmful, I would offer to transfer their care to another doctor or hospital.Should I have been more forceful at times? I know that some of those transfers still haunt me. One of the patients of whom I was most fond was an attorney from a famous political family. She had severe diabetes and terrible circulation, and, at one point, she developed a painful sore on her foot. Knowing the hazards of hospitals, I did everything I could to keep her from resorting to surgery. Still, she sought out outside experts with whom I had no relationship. Not knowing as much about her as I did, they decided to perform bypass surgery on her chronically clogged blood vessels in both legs. This didn’t restore her circulation, and the surgical wounds wouldn’t heal. Her feet became gangrenous, and she endured bilateral leg amputations. Two weeks later, in the famous medical center in which all this had occurred, she died.It’s easy to find fault with both doctors and patients in such stories, but in many ways all the parties are simply victims of a larger system that encourages excessive treatment. In some unfortunate cases, doctors use the fee-for-service model to do everything they can, no matter how pointless, to make money. More commonly, though, doctors are fearful of litigation and do whatever they’re asked, with little feedback, to avoid getting in trouble.Even when the right preparations have been made, the system can still swallow people up. One of my patients was a man named Jack, a 78-year-old who had been ill for years and undergone about 15 major surgical procedures. He explained to me that he never, under any circumstances, wanted to be placed on life support machines again. One Saturday, however, Jack suffered a massive stroke and got admitted to the emergency room unconscious, without his wife. Doctors did everything possible to resuscitate him and put him on life support in the ICU. This was Jack’s worst nightmare. When I arrived at the hospital and took over Jack’s care, I spoke to his wife and to hospital staff, bringing in my office notes with his care preferences. Then I turned off the life support machines and sat with him. He died two hours later.Even with all his wishes documented, Jack hadn’t died as he’d hoped. The system had intervened. One of the nurses, I later found out, even reported my unplugging of Jack to the authorities as a possible homicide. Nothing came of it, of course; Jack’s wishes had been spelled out explicitly, and he’d left the paperwork to prove it. But the prospect of a police investigation is terrifying for any physician. I could far more easily have left Jack on life support against his stated wishes, prolonging his life, and his suffering, a few more weeks. I would even have made a little more money, and Medicare would have ended up with an additional $500,000 bill. It’s no wonder many doctors err on the side of overtreatment.But doctors still don’t over-treat themselves. They see the consequences of this constantly. Almost anyone can find a way to die in peace at home, and pain can be managed better than ever. Hospice care, which focuses on providing terminally ill patients with comfort and dignity rather than on futile cures, provides most people with much better final days. Amazingly, studies have found that people placed in hospice care often live longer than people with the same disease who are seeking active cures. I was struck to hear on the radio recently that the famous reporter Tom Wicker had “died peacefully at home, surrounded by his family.” Such stories are, thankfully, increasingly common.Several years ago, my older cousin Torch (born at home by the light of a flashlight—or torch) had a seizure that turned out to be the result of lung cancer that had gone to his brain. I arranged for him to see various specialists, and we learned that with aggressive treatment of his condition, including three to five hospital visits a week for chemotherapy, he would live perhaps four months. Ultimately, Torch decided against any treatment and simply took pills for brain swelling. He moved in with me.We spent the next eight months doing a bunch of things that he enjoyed, having fun together like we hadn’t had in decades. We went to Disneyland, his first time. We’d hang out at home. Torch was a sports nut, and he was very happy to watch sports and eat my cooking. He even gained a bit of weight, eating his favorite foods rather than hospital foods. He had no serious pain, and he remained high-spirited. One day, he didn’t wake up. He spent the next three days in a coma-like sleep and then died. The cost of his medical care for those eight months, for the one drug he was taking, was about$20.Torch was no doctor, but he knew he wanted a life of quality, not just quantity. Don’t most of us? If there is a state of the art of end-of-life care, it is this: death with dignity. As for me, my physician has my choices. They were easy to make, as they are for most physicians. There will be no heroics, and I will go gentle into that good night. Like my mentor Charlie. Like my cousin Torch. Like my fellow doctors.Ken Murray, MD, is Clinical Assistant Professor of Family Medicine at USC.http://zocalopublicsquare.org/thepublicsquare/2011/11/30/how-doctors-die/read/nexus/
 190 Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Throwing Money at the Wrong Threat on: December 08, 2011, 09:23:15 AM Insider: $56 Billion Later, Airport Security Is JunkBy Spencer Ackerman Email Author December 6, 2011 | 6:30 am | Categories: Crime and Homeland SecurityFollow @attackermanThe Department of Homeland Security has spent billions since 9/11 trying to keep dangerous people and dangerous explosives off airplanes, and treating us all air travelers like potential terrorists in the process. But according to a former security adviser to a leading airline, the terrorists have changed the game — and the government hasn’t yet caught on.According to Ben Brandt, a former adviser to Delta, the airlines and the feds should be less concerned with what gels your aunt puts in her carry-on, and more concerned about lax screening for terrorist sympathizers among the airlines’ own work force. They should be worried about terrorists shipping their bombs in air cargo. And they should be worried about terrorists shooting or bombing airports without ever crossing the security gates.Brandt says aviation security needs a fundamental overhaul. Not only is the aviation industry failing to keep up with the new terrorist tactics, TSA’s regimen of scanning and groping is causing a public backlash. “From the public’s perspective, this kind of refocusing would reduce the amount of screening they have to put up with in the United States,” Brandt tells Danger Room, “and refocus it where it’s needed.”In the new issue of the CTC Sentinel, a wonky security newsletter published by West Point’s Combating Terrorism Center, Brandt all but indicts his former industry and its government protectors. “Government regulators suffer from a lack of imagination in anticipating and mitigating emergent and existing threats” to air travel, he writes.Think first about what aviation security is. Since 9/11, it’s largely been a line of defense ahead of a departure gate to keep dangerous people and dangerous materials off a plane. By Brandt’s calculations, it’s cost$56 billion since 9/11. In one sense, it’s worked as planned: No planes have been blown up or hijacked for a decade.But the last several years’ worth of plots on the friendly skies indicate the terrorists have switched their game plans. In January, a suicide bomber didn’t try to board a plane at Moscow’s Domodedovo airport. He detonated before going through security, in the crowded entranceway, killing 35 people and wounding over 150 more. Last fall, al-Qaida’s Yemen branch skipped the boarding call and shipped bombs packed in printer cartridges back to the States.Less conspicuously, terrorists have started to infiltrate the airlines and airports themselves. Rajib Karim, for instance, worked as an IT specialist for British Airways. But inspired by al-Qaida YouTube preacher Anwar al-Awlaki, Karim offered to help al-Qaida sneak bombs aboard planes at London’s Heathrow airport, and claimed to have support from sympathetic airport workers. The airlines and airports barely conduct employee background checks, Brandt claims — and of course, none of those employees need to go through a “porno scanner,” get a pat-down or have their luggage rifled through.Speaking of those scanners: We all remember how on Christmas Day 2009, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab packed explosives into his underwear and headed on a flight to Detroit. That plot that failed only because of Abdulmutallab’s inability to light himself on fire. That’s how we got the invasive new scanners, which seek to catch the explosives or components that traditional metal detectors miss. But Brandt says they’re not so great: They “detect only two popular explosive compounds,” he writes. (He declines to name them in the interest of public safety; the Department of Homeland Security opted not to comment on Brandt.) Explosives detection equipment “is also not designed to detect the components of improvised incendiary devices (IIDs), making the use of these correspondingly attractive to terrorists.”TSA is trying to get away from its stigma of being the guys who grope and photograph you. It’s taking the porno out of the scanners by getting rid of the “nude” imaging displays. Its director, John Pistole, talks about becoming an “intelligence driven” agency that compiles behavioral profiles of potential terrorists and — someday — targeting its toughest screening on only those who fit the profile. Kids no longer have to take their shoes off before boarding a plane.Just one problem, according to Brandt: The behavioral science is no panacea. “The scientific community is divided as to whether behavioral detection of terrorists is viable,” he writes. According to the Government Accountability Office, TSA put together a behavioral profiling program “without first validating the scientific basis for identifying suspicious passengers in an airport environment.” Even if the science was sound, the office found last year, TSA officers “lack a mechanism to input data on suspicious passengers into a database used by TSA analysts and also lack a means to obtain information from the Transportation System Operations Center on a timely basis.”Pistole talks about creating a “robust and multi-layered system” of defense, in case a certain measure fails. That’s a worthy effort, but it needs even more layers, Brandt argues. Abdulmutallab boarded his flight in Amsterdam — taking advantage of its relatively lax security, a harbinger of threats to come. ”Given that most aviation-focused attacks are likely to originate outside the U.S., it would seem to make more sense to upgrade screening for U.S. airline operations at those airports,” Brandt says.None of this is going to be easy, or cheap. Brandt proposes that the government subsidize airlines for better employee background checks or explosives detection tech. But that’s could strike taxpayers as a bailout.On the other hand, he and Pistole actually share the same headspace, so it’s possible that TSA will buy his overall critique. “The best defense is still developing solid intelligence on terrorist groups interested in targeting aviation,” Brandt says. Beats treating us all like terrorists.http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2011/12/unsafe-skies/
 194 Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / REINSing in Regulatory Spending on: December 07, 2011, 10:51:28 AM Going Off the Rails Against the REINS ActJonathan H. Adler • December 7, 2011 8:52 amToday the House of Representatives is expected to vote on the REINS Act, a bill to enhance political accountability over regulatory decisions. The bill has two essential features. First, it bars new “major” regulations (those anticipated to cost more than $100 million annually) from taking effect unless approved by both houses of Congress. Second, it creates an expedited review process that forces each house to vote on each major rule. So while requiring Congressional approval, REINS prevents members of Congress from ducking their responsibility to vote yay or nay.REINS is a controversial bill, in part because it effectively limits the delegation of broad regulatory authority to federal agencies, but to read some critics, REINS would usher in an anti-regulatory armageddon. While I support the legislation, for reasons detailed in these posts (and summarized in this NRO piece), I recognize that there are reasonable arguments to be made on the other side. What’s so interesting watching this debate, however, is how many opponents refuse to make them, relying instead on inaccurate and fanciful characterizations of the bill. It’s telling when opponents of legislation are unable or unwilling to describe it accurately when making their case.To take one example, US PIRG’s Ed Mierzwinski argues that the REINS Act would lead to unsafe toys on the market and emasculate the CPSC.One bill, the REINS Act, would not only allow but require congressional meddling in the implementation of all public health and safety rules. A single member of Congress, at the behest of some powerful special interest or campaign contributor, could block the public database, block science-based lead standards for children’s products, block crib safety rules or any number of protections that provide a safer consumer marketplace.The idea that REINS would allow a single member of Congress to block new regulations is a common claim. The Center for American Progress makes it here. It’s also false. The bill expressly limits debate, waives procedural objections, and requires a vote on the merits. Under REINS, if some members of Congress wish to block needed safety rules at the behest of a special interest, they will have to do it out in the open, and will only succeed if they can win a majority vote. How could this undermine legislative accountability? It’s true REINS requires that legislative approval occur within a set period of time, but it also ensures the vote occurs before the deadline expires.The NYT worries REINS will “undermine the executive branch.” Really. Why? Because it will be too easy for a majority in either House to prevent a President from rewriting regulatory requirements. The NYT also argues REINS is “deeply undemocratic.” Got that? Requiring legislative votes on major regulations — that two or three of the most consequential regulatory decisions made by federal agencies — is “undemocratic,” whereas allowing agencies to rely upon decades-old statutes to remake industries and reconfigure whole sectors of the economy is not.The REINS Act would dramatically alter how major rules are made, but it would do so by making sure the people’s representatives have a greater say on — and greater accountability for — the major regulatory actions our federal government takes. If the public wants greater regulation of environmental or other problems, REINS won’t stand in the way. Only if the public is skeptical of such regulations, or unconcerned by legislative vetoes of proposed rules, will REINS slow down the adoption of new rules. And perhaps that’s what the REINS Act’s opponents are truly afraid of: A regulatory process that more accurately reflects what the public wants.UPDATE: For unhinged commentary on the REINS Act, it’s hard to do better than this piece which, among other things, claims the Act would “essentially return environmental regulation to 1890s standards – when corporations polluted with impunity.” That’s an astounding charge given that REINS a) does not have any effect whatsoever to regulations already on the books and b) would apply equally to deregulatory initiatives, such as any effort by a future President to repeal existing regulations.http://volokh.com/2011/12/07/going-off-the-rails-against-the-reins-act/  195 Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Another Shoe? on: December 06, 2011, 08:40:46 PM Oh goody, Sharyl Attkisson, who has done some of the best MSM Gunwalking reporting, now sets her sights on the State Department. One can only hope this trend continues. Anyone want to make book on what percentage of the "guns not submitted for trace" were funneled to Mexico by State? Wouldn't it be great if there was a memo somewhere that stated "please don't submit guns obtained through 'direct commercial sales' lest we have to end the program"?Legal U.S. gun sales to Mexico arming cartelsBy Sharyl Attkisson(CBS News) Selling weapons to Mexico - where cartel violence is out of control - is controversial because so many guns fall into the wrong hands due to incompetence and corruption. The Mexican military recently reported nearly 9,000 police weapons "missing."Yet the U.S. has approved the sale of more guns to Mexico in recent years than ever before through a program called "direct commercial sales." It's a program that some say is worse than the highly-criticized "Fast and Furious" gunrunning scandal, where U.S. agents allowed thousands of weapons to pass from the U.S. to Mexican drug cartels.CBS News investigative correspondent Sharyl Attkisson discovered that the official tracking all those guns sold through "direct commercial sales" leaves something to be desired.One weapon - an AR-15-type semi-automatic rifle - tells the story. In 2006, this same kind of rifle - tracked by serial number - is legally sold by a U.S. manufacturer to the Mexican military.Three years later - it's found in a criminal stash in a region wracked by Mexican drug cartel violence.That prompted a "sensitive" cable, uncovered by WikiLeaks, dated June 4, 2009, in which the U.S. State Department asked Mexico "how the AR-15" - meant only for the military or police - was "diverted" into criminal hands.And, more importantly, where the other rifles from the same shipment went: "Please account for the current location of the 1,030 AR-15 type rifles," reads the cable.There's no response in the record.The problem of weapons legally sold to Mexico - then diverted to violent cartels - is becoming more urgent. That's because the U.S. has quietly authorized a massive escalation in the number of guns sold to Mexico through "direct commercial sales." It's a way foreign countries can acquire firearms faster and with less disclosure than going through the Pentagon.Here's how it works: A foreign government fills out an application to buy weapons from private gun manufacturers in the U.S. Then the State Department decides whether to approve.And it did approve 2,476 guns to be sold to Mexico in 2006. In 2009, that number was up nearly 10 times, to 18,709. The State Department has since stopped disclosing numbers of guns it approves, and wouldn't give CBS News figures for 2010 or 2011.With Mexico in a virtual state of war with its cartels, nobody's tracking how many U.S. guns are ending up with the enemy."I think most Americans are aware that there's a problem in terms of the drug traffickers in Mexico, increases in violence," said Bill Hartung, an arms control advocate with the Arms and Security Project at the Center for International Policy. "I don't think they realize that we're sending so many guns there, and that some of them may be diverted to the very cartels that we're trying to get under control."The State Department audits only a tiny sample - less than 1 percent of sales - but the results are disturbing: In 2009, more than a quarter (26 percent) of the guns sold to the region that includes Mexico were "diverted" into the wrong hands, or had other "unfavorable" results.The National Shooting Sports Foundation's Larry Keane, who speaks for gun manufacturers, said he understands the potential for abuse."There have been 150,000 or more Mexican soldiers defect to go work for the cartels, and I think it's safe to assume that when they defect they take their firearms with them," Keane told CBS News.But Keane said the sales help the U.S."These sales by the industry actually support U.S. national security interests," Keane told Attkisson. "If they didn't, the State Department wouldn't allow them.""Do they need better oversight?" asked Attkisson."It's certainly for the State Department and the Mexican government to try to make sure that the cartels don't obtain firearms that way," he replied. "But that's really beyond the control of the industry."Mexico is now one of the world's largest purchasers of U.S. guns through direct commercial sales, beating out countries like Iraq. The State Department office that oversees the sales wouldn't agree to an interview. But an official has told Congress their top priority is to advance national security and foreign policy.http://liten.be//jAOkC  196 Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Originalism & the 14th on: December 05, 2011, 04:55:58 PM Interesting meditation on originalism and the 14th Amendment:The original meaning of the 14th Amendment regarding interracial marriagefrom The Volokh Conspiracy by David Kopel(David Kopel)Over at Balkinization, Andrew Koppelman (Northwestern) has an interesting and thoughtful post on the state of originalism. Synthesizing analysis by Jamal Greene and Jack Balkin, Koppelman writes, “Originalism is fundamentally about a narrative of rhetorical self-identification with the achievements of a founding historical moment. That is the real basis of its power. An originalist argument will be powerful to the extent that can persuade its audience that it can keep faith with that identification.”Thus, “Originalist argument is an artifact designed to recall the Constitution’s origin and connect what we are doing now with that origin. Once this functional definition of originalism is understood, it follows that the range of possible original arguments is quite broad. It is not, however, infinite.” So, argues Koppelman, the fact that originalists differ among themselves in many important details about what “originalism” really is, is not a fatal flaw. Simiilarly, there are many different things called “aspirin” (e.g., Excedrin, generic products, St. Joseph’s children’s aspirin, etc.), but they all contain acetylsalicylic acid, and they all have a generally similar function. Which particular one you use at a given time will depend on the particular purposes for which it is needed.I do want to quibble, though, with one particular legal history claim that Koppelman makes: “Thus originalists struggle with the problem whether the general purpose of the Fourteenth Amendment, to mandate the legal equality of blacks, should trump the framers’ specific intention to permit school segregation and miscegenation laws.” Michael McConnell and Randy Barnett have written on the school segregation issue, but I’d like to add something on miscegenation. I don’t think that the historical record unambiguously supports the claim of a specific intent in the 14th Amendment to allow the continuation of laws against interracial marriage.We do know for certain that one very specific intention of the 14th Amendment framers was to provide a solid constitutional foundation for the Civil Rights Act of 1866. According to the Act: “All persons within the jurisdiction of the United States shall have the same right in every State and Territory to make and enforce contracts, . . . as is enjoyed by white citizens. . .”Early exposition by courts is one source of original public meaning. (Although this source is not always guaranteed to be reliable. See, e.g., the Slaughter-House majority’s dicta). In 1872, the Alabama Supreme Court ruled that the state’s 1866 constitutional ban on miscegenation violated the “cardinal principle” of the Civil Rights Act and of the Equal Protection clause. Burns v. State, 48 Ala. 195 (1872). That same year, the Texas Supreme Court unanimously ruled that the 14th Amendment’s Privileges or Immunities clause and Equal Protection clause had “abrogated” the old state law against miscegenation Bonds v. Foster, 36 Tex. 68 (1872). As detailed in Peggy Pascoe’s book, What Comes Naturally: Miscegenation Law and the Making of Race in America (2010), in the years after the Civil War, eleven states repealed their bans on interracial marriage.It was the Indiana Supreme Court that figured out the way to evade the clear statutory language about the equal right of contract. According to the court, marriage is “more than a mere civil contract”; it is an institution fundamental to society. The Indiana court insisted at length that the 14th Amendment had not limited the traditional police power of the states. If Congress could ban states from imposing racial discrimination in the right to enter a marriage contract, then Congress would (supposedly) have the power to legislate on all aspects of marriage. State v. Gibson, 36 Ind. 389 (1871).I don’t find the Indiana court’s 1871 reasoning persuasive, and, apparently, neither did the Alabama and Texas Supreme Courts in 1872. But courts cannot stand forever against the sustained will of the electorate. After four losses, the proponents of anti-miscegenation won on their fifth try in the Alabama Supreme Court. When the courts in the various states finally acquiesced to anti-miscegenation laws, Gibson was the essential citation, because it came from a state where slavery had never legally existed. The Texas intermediate Court of Appeals provided the legal reformulation that marriage was “status” and not “contract,” and was therefore not covered by the Civil Rights Act: “Marriage is not a contract protected by the Constitution of the United States, or within the meaning of the Civil Rights Bill. Marriage is more than a contract within the meaning of the act. It is a civil status, left solely by the Federal Constitution and the laws to the discretion of the states, under their general power to regulate their domestic affairs.” Frasher v. State, 3 Tex.App. 263, (Tex. Ct. App. 1877). (The regressive Frasher decision is one more data point in support of the observation in Henry Sumner Maine’s great 1861 book Ancient Law: “we may say that the movement of the progressive societies has hitherto been a movement from Status to Contract.” Maine’s book elaborates in great detail why marriage law fits this paradigm.)By the time that Plessy v. Ferguson was decided in 1896, the Supreme Court majority, which was willfully oblivious to contemporary social reality (e.g., if blacks consider a segregation mandate to be a “a badge of inferiority,” that is “solely because the colored race chooses to put that construction upon it”) , was also lazily ignorant of legal history: “Laws forbidding the intermarriage of the two races may be said in a technical sense to interfere with the freedom of contact, and yet have been universally recognized as within the police power of the state.” The sole citation for this allegedly “universal” recognition was State v. Gibson. The Court was right that as of 1895, miscegenation laws were constitutionally safe, but the Court seemed quite unaware that during the first years when the 14th Amendment and the Civil Rights Act were the law of the land, the issue was in dispute.Although the late Professor Pascoe’s book is suffused with critical race/gender theory, readers who find such theories useless will still find Pascoe’s book to be enormously useful. It is an excellent legal history of anti-miscegenation laws and cases, and not just during Reconstruction. You will learn about the national panic to spread such laws during the early 20th century because the black boxer Jack Johnson (who defeated a string of opponents who were billed as “the Great White Hope”) notoriously consorted with white women; how courts struggled with interpreting miscegenation laws in the West (which were mainly aimed at Asians, and which raised questions such as whether a ban on white marriage to “the Mongolian or Malay races” applied to Filipinos); the NAACP’s political opposition to new miscegenation laws coupled with its great reluctance to mount legal challenges to existing ones; and the extremely risky litigation (not endorsed by NAACP) which led to the landmark 1948 California Supreme Court Perez v. Lippold decision (won mainly on arguments of void for vagueness, the fundamental unenumerated right to marry, and First Amendment free exercise of religion, rather than a categorical attack on all racial discrimination).Justice Carter’s concurrence in Perez is a good illustration of the main thesis of Koppelman’s post, and of the point made by the second Justice Harlan (and also by Jack Balkin) that our “tradition is a living thing,” in which our national understanding of the original meaning can be deepened by new experiences. Rebutting respondent’s collection of social scientists who contended that race-mixing was destructive to the health of the white race, Justice Carter quoted some essentially similar claims from Hitler’s Mein Kampf’. Justice Carter continued: “To bring into issue the correctness of the writings of a madman, a rabble-rouser, a mass-murderer, would be to clothe his utterances with an undeserved aura of respectability and authoritativeness. Let us not forget that this was the man who plunged the world into a war in which, for the third time, Americans fought, bled, and died for the truth of the proposition that all men are created equal.” And so, “In my opinion, the statutes here involved violate the very premise on which this country and its Constitution were built, the very ideas embodied in the Declaration of Independence, the very issue over which the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, and the Second World War were fought, and the spirit in which the Constitution must be interpreted in order that the interpretations will appear as ‘Reason in any part of the World besides.’”http://volokh.com/2011/12/05/the-original-meaning-of-the-14th-amendment-regarding-interracial-marriage/  197 Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / "Kingpin Act" & Gunwalker? on: December 05, 2011, 11:26:12 AM Gunwalker: Justice Dept. Violated U.S. Laws Beyond Those Being InvestigatedI know, because I was the principal drafter of some of the legislation.byJAMES K. STINEBOWERBioDecember 5, 2011 - 12:00 amTweet As we continue to watch the general uproar over the Operation Fast and Furious program, and specifically what Attorney General Holder knew and when he knew it, it needs to be noted that perjury is not the only apparent violation of law to have occurred.I refer to the apparent violation of at least one (probably two) major U.S. laws by the Holder Justice Department. A few years ago, the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (50 U.S.C. 1701, the follow-on to the Trading with the Enemy Act) was expanded in order to criminalize any transactions between U.S. entities — to include departments and agencies of the U.S. government — and all foreign drug cartels.I am familiar with these prohibitive statues because several years ago, while serving as the senior drug analyst for the Senate Intelligence Committee, I was tasked to initiate and became the principal drafter of legislation which became known as the Kingpin Act (21 U.S.C. §§ 1901-08). The Kingpin Act is an extension of the highly successful IEEPA sanctioning program specifically targeting Colombian drug cartels. It expands sanctions authority against various drug cartel operations worldwide — including Mexico — which have been determined by the president to be threats to the national security, foreign policy, or economy of the United States.A violation of any of the IEEPA sanctioning programs or the Kingpin Act carries stiff penalties, both criminal and civil, and potentially totaling decades in prison and tens of millions of dollars in fines. It is not necessary that an individual or governmental entity be shown to have “knowingly” violated any of these programs: it is illegal for any U.S. entity or individual to aid, abet, or materially assist — or in the case of Operation Fast and Furious, to facilitate others to aid, abet, or materially assist — designated drug traffickers. There are no exceptions within IEEPA programs for unlicensed U.S. law enforcement or intelligence agency operations.Based on the July 5, 2010, memo to Eric Holder, it would appear that Fast and Furious facilitated the delivery of weapons to — at a minimum — the Sinaloa cartel in Mexico. The U.S. Department of the Treasury, which administers both the IEEPA and Kingpin Act programs, has designated numerous members of the Sinaloa cartel under both programs. IEEPA prohibitions apply to the U.S. government as well as to individuals, and as stated there are no exceptions within IEEPA programs for unlicensed U.S. law enforcement or intelligence agency operations.There is a provision in the Kingpin Act for “authorized” law enforcement and intelligence activities, however the only procedure by which an Operation Fast and Furious program could have been “authorized” under the Kingpin Act was by the U.S. attorney general requesting a waiver (known within the Treasury Department as a Specific License), prior to any such operation being undertaken. To illustrate and emphasize this point: even during the run-up to war in Iraq, the U.S. secretary of Defense had to obtain waivers (specific licenses) from the Treasury Department to allow U.S. Special Forces and their necessary equipment (to include weapons, intelligence gathering, and targeting gear) to go into Iraq, as Iraq at the time was under separate IEEPA sanctions.As an aside: having spent many hours in discussions and negotiations over the exception in the Kingpin Act for authorized law enforcement and the intelligence community, I can assure the reader that the intent of this provision was not to allow for the transfer of thousands of semi-automatic weapons to cartel members. The intent of this portion of this particular Act is to allow for cash payments by U.S. law enforcement and intelligence agencies to confidential informants and intelligence sources within cartels to aid in their dismantlement, and not to facilitate the transfer of weapons used to murder hundreds of innocent civilians in Mexico and a U.S. Federal Border Agent.As part of Congress’ ongoing investigation, as well as its constitutionally mandated oversight activities, it should be asked of Attorney General Holder if any such specific licenses were requested or granted by the Treasury Department. Additionally, Treasury Secretary Geithner should explain whether his Department has begun an investigation into these apparent violations of IEEPA and the Kingpin Act.Interestingly, and of serious note — if Secretary Geithner finds that the laws and programs which his Department administers have been violated, Treasury procedures mandate that the matter be referred to Eric Holder’s Justice Department for enforcement!Perhaps the appointment of a special prosecutor is necessary after all.Mr. Stinebower is a former Navy Intelligence Officer, Professional Staff Member to the Senate Intelligence Committee, and Naval Attache.http://pjmedia.com/blog/gunwalker-justice-dept-violated-us-laws/?singlepage=true  198 Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Who's Counting Correctly? on: December 01, 2011, 02:44:06 PM Which November Jobs Report Estimate Is Wrong?By Robert HolmesSenior Writer | TheStreet.com – 2 hours 23 minutes agoBOSTON (TheStreet) -- After the best three-day winning streak for stocks since March 2009, there's a lot riding on Friday's employment report. Unfortunately, investors are faced with two separate estimates that paint two very different pictures about the U.S. labor market.After yesterday's announcement of coordinated action by central banks around the globe to add liquidity to the banking system, the S&P 500 surged 4.3%, capping a 7.6% gain over three days. Amid the euphoria, investors cheered the ADP Employment Report, which estimated that the private sector added 206,000 jobs in November, double that of previous months. For investors, it was a loud signal to buy stocks."November's increase in employment normally would be associated with a decline in the unemployment rate," Joel Prakken, chairman of Macroeconomic Advisers, said in a statement Wednesday. "An acceleration of employment is consistent with data showing that GDP growth, which slowed sharply around the turn of the year, is gradually recovering."ADP's estimate compares with economists' consensus of 126,000, according to a survey by Bloomberg. TrimTabs Investment Research is even more cautious. The company said Wednesday that the U.S. economy likely added only 64,000 jobs in November, an estimate that went unnoticed by investors caught up in the exuberance of a nearly 500-point gain on the Dow Jones Industrial Average."The sharp deceleration in job growth in November has us concerned," says Madeline Schnapp, director of macroeconomic research at TrimTabs. "It appears that hiring managers have rolled up the welcome mat due to the raging debt crisis in Europe."How could two firms measuring employment come to such disparate figures? The difference between ADP's call of 206,000 and TrimTabs' 64,000 is a staggering 142,000. For some context, the Bureau of Labor statistics said the U.S. economy added only 80,000 jobs in October.ADP says its estimate for private payrolls growth is derived from actual payroll data. Chances are that your paystub has the ADP logo in the top right corner, which means the firm is measuring jobs in the most direct way it can.TrimTabs' employment estimates are based on an analysis of daily income-tax deposits to the U.S. Treasury from all salaried U.S. employees. Schnapp says that while the measure isn't perfect, it's a better view than a survey subject to revision."Everybody looks to the BLS Bureau of Labor Statistics as the be-all, end-all when those numbers are substantially revised," Schnapp says. "We have no idea what the BLS is going to publish. We just look at how much money is in people's pockets. That's a measure of wages and salaries. Ultimately, that will determine how good the economy is."TrimTabs says estimates using tax deposits are historically more accurate than initial estimates from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Schnapps says that once the government is through with revisions, TrimTabs' estimates are usually within 10% of the final figure.So how did Schnapp react when she saw the ADP Employment Report show a substantially greater increase to private payrolls than her firm's estimates?"It is frustrating because it moves the markets," she says of the ADP report. "One of us is going to be closer to the truth. Everyone looks at how close you are to the BLS. I can only call what the numbers are telling me."The numbers are telling Schnapp that there was a "pretty substantial decay in November." To explain the difference between her estimate and ADP's, Schnapp says that companies may have postponed their tax deposits until December because of the Thanksgiving holiday, although that should be followed by a bounce in tax-withholding data that we haven't seen yet."It could also be that people changed their withholdings, but that doesn't happen until January," she says. "We're all over tax increases, so I doubt that's a factor. So you get back to that the tax withholdings are weaker. Considerably weaker. Unless there's something we don't know could be impacting the data. We'll find out tomorrow."ADP didn't immediately respond to a request for comment. But as the chart below shows, the total employment data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics doesn't always match up perfectly to the private sector employment data ADP collects.Even though the government's nonfarm payrolls data will be released at 8:30 a.m. New York time Friday, investors may not ultimately find out who was closest until all revisions to the data come in. As we've seen, it took the Bureau of Labor Statistics more than a year to revise employment data for the months during the financial crisis, which isn't a big help to investors.-- Written by Robert Holmes in Boston.http://finance.yahoo.com/news/Which-November-Jobs-Report-tsmf-3215130537.html?x=0  199 Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Interview w/ Vernon Smith on: November 29, 2011, 12:22:34 PM http://reason.com/archives/2011/11/29/we-dont-face-any-good-options‘We Don’t Face Any Good Options’Nobel Prize–winning economist Vernon Smith on the financial crisis, Adam Smith’s underrated insights, and his journey from socialist to libertarianNick Gillespie from the December 2011 issue“I remember the ’30s like it was yesterday,” says economist Vernon Smith. And he’s not kidding. In 1935, when the future Nobel Prize winner was 7 years old, his family decamped to their Kansas farm to wait out the hard times. “On the farms,” Smith explains, “you can eat.” His parents only made it to eighth grade, but “they were people who read,” and they expected their son to go to college. They got their wish—and then some. Smith’s higher education began with remedial work at a local Quaker college (“I was not a good student in high school,” he says) but eventually took him from a Caltech electrical engineering degree to an economics Ph.D. at Harvard. Beginning at Purdue University, and then at the University of Arizona and George Mason University, Smith founded and developed the pioneering field of experimental economics, which studies actual human behavior—a major breakthrough in a discipline obsessed with abstract models. This work culminated in 2002, when Smith was awarded the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences “for having established laboratory experiments as a tool in empirical economic analysis, especially in the study of alternative market mechanisms.”Over that time span, Smith’s political views evolved in tandem with his economic insights. He left behind the socialism he learned at his mother’s knee for a more libertarian outlook. He says “experimental economics destroyed whatever was left in me of the notion that somehow you could do better than to find institutions that organized this decentralized information and create.” Now continuing his lab work at Chapman University, Smith is riding out the second most serious economic crisis of his 84 years in sunny California. In July, Smith sat down with reason.tv Editor in Chief Nick Gillespie to discuss his ideological journey, how FDR (and perhaps George W. Bush) saved capitalism, why some of Adam Smith’s most important intellectual contributions are overlooked, and what experimental economics has to say about the collapse of the housing market. reason: We’re sitting in your office at Chapman University, a beautiful campus in Orange County, California. Tell us about your setup here, what kind of experiments you’re running, and what you’re hoping to find with them.Vernon Smith: We’re asking some questions that came out of the economic crisis. We started doing asset-trading experiments in the ’80s and discovered bubbles, quite unintentionally.reason: In your experiments, you were able to create bubbles, or did they just pop up?Smith: They popped up. We thought we would create bubbles, but we never had to.reason: How does a bubble take place? Smith: Right now, we don’t understand why people get caught up in self-reinforcing expectations of rising prices. The first time you’re in this experiment, you may have bought early and you may have sold before the break. Bring those same people back in another two or three days, put them in the same environment, and we get a lower-volume bubble. Typically, it booms earlier and crashes earlier; they are expecting a bubble. Bring them back a third time, and they tend to trade fairly close to fundamental value.reason: How does this type of experiment map onto, say, the last five years in America?Smith: If you think about the housing bubble, buyers, sellers, borrowers, lenders, real estate agents, government regulators—everybody believed that prices would rise and continue to rise. And that is the essence of a bubble. Suppose a regulator in 2003 or 2004 said, “Hey, this thing is not sustainable. We’ve got to do something to stop it.” I think he’d have been fired. If the bubble had been stopped in 2003 or 2004, it probably would have been a lot less damaging. But who’s going to know that?(Interview continues below video.) reason: Why has it taken so long for economics to become more seriously empirical in its operations? It really seems like it’s taken forever for economists to want to observe actual human beings trading either in an experimental setting or in the real world.Smith: Economics enjoyed a major breakthrough in the 1870s: the marginal revolution.reason: Give us the short definition of the marginal revolution.Smith: If you go back to Adam Smith, he was puzzled as to why diamonds command a higher price than water, whereas water is more useful. The key idea he didn’t have is the notion of marginal utility or marginal value. Unfortunately, I think we lost a lot of the other insights of Adam Smith because we’d solved this intellectual problem of understanding better the determination of prices. Equilibrium economics really [took] the driver’s seat.reason: Which holds…Smith: The idea is an economy consists of preferences and technology for producing goods. This gives you a conjunction of supply and demand where demand depends not on the price of this particular good but the price of the alternatives, because the concept of opportunity cost comes in on both the demand side and the supply side. So it’s a complex problem mathematically and intellectually, but this problem got solved and it helped them to understand the operation of a static, equilibrium world. Of course the great insight of [economist F.A.] Hayek and his criticism of equilibrium theory was that it began with a bunch of givens that are not, in fact, given to any one mind in the economy. The essential thing about a real economy is that all this information is dispersed. So the name of the game is how people discover this equilibrium. And that’s where I think the experimental work has importantly dramatized the essence of Hayek’s critique. Given the institutions of trading, people are very good in the laboratory at finding these equilibria that they don’t have any understanding of—and they get there by repetition.reason: You say you’re a libertarian with a lot of reservations. The experiments you have run and the research you’ve done over the years really argue that institutions create good and bad behavior.Smith: As a libertarian, I’d like to emphasize the property rights aspect of it. People say what we need is more regulation. All markets are regulated in terms of property rights, the dos and don’ts. The important thing is that those property rights provide people with the right incentives. What was so devastating in the mortgage market is this separation of mortgage originations from the lender without properly incentivizing the mortgage originator. What’s your incentive to do due diligence if you get your fee up front and then it goes out the back door and down the line?reason: You say we got away from understanding that everyone needs to have skin in the game. What was driving that loss of knowledge? Was it federal policy? Was it collective amnesia?Smith: The way I would describe it is: We created new mortgage and financial institutions too fast. No one had an incentive to think it through. Not only were there bad incentives up front with mortgage origination, but those mortgages then would be packaged, mortgage-backed securities issued, and then they were rated and “insured.” But they weren’t collateralized. They were exempt, you see. And exempt meant that they were exempt from the property rights rules that would have applied if derivatives had been classified as securities.reason: This has been a very long recession, and whether it has ended or not, we’re facing slow economic growth and high unemployment. What are the forces extending this crisis?Smith: The main thing is the negative equity problem in households. Or near negative equity. You have something like 22 percent of homeowners now who owe more on their house than the current market value. You don’t feel like spending money; you’re paying down debt.reason: What do you do? Do you just sit it out until enough of the debt is paid down?Smith: That’s probably the way we’re going to do it. It was a mistake to subsidize new home buyers. Existing homeowners—many of them have been given a break in their payments, but they’ve done it by giving them a lower interest rate and stretching the loans. They haven’t even changed the principal.reason: But that’s a disturbing intervention, isn’t it?Smith: Of course it’s disturbing! Forgiving debt is not a good idea. But you have to realize we don’t face any good options. If it hadn’t been done, the banking system likely would have collapsed. We’d have the same problem we had in the ’30s.reason: If this is the second worst economic crisis—except for the Great Depression—how does it stack up?Smith: I remember the ’30s like it was yesterday. See in 1932, I was 5 years old. My father worked for the Bridgeport Machine Company in Wichita, Kansas. He was a machinist. We had a farm. So in 1935 we moved to that farm. In times of stress there often is this reverse migration from cities to farms, because on the farms you can eat. We grew our own vegetables, chickens, hogs, all of that. They were very, very difficult years in terms of wheat harvests and that sort of thing.reason: You grew up in Kansas in the ’30s and then, in terms of high school—Smith: I finished high school in January 1944. I was working at Boeing at the time and continued until the following August, and then I went to Friends University, a Quaker college not many blocks from where I lived. And the reason that I went there was to make up for my high school education. I was not a good student in high school, and I did not have the math, physics, chemistry that I needed if I was going to go into science. I made up for all of that at Friends University.reason: Did either of your parents go to college?Smith: No.reason: So how did you gravitate to even thinking of that as a possibility?Smith: My parents always expected it of me, even though they only had an eighth-grade education. They were people who read. My mother was a socialist and was a political activist.reason: When you say socialist—she believed that the means of production should be collectively owned by the state, etc.?Smith: Oh, yes! But that was really common of people in the 1930s. reason: Especially in that part of the country.Smith: Oh, yes.reason: You got a master’s in economics from Kansas, and then you went to Harvard for your Ph.D. What were they teaching in economics classes?Smith: General equilibrium theory. The course I took from Wassily Leontief, which was the first-year theory class at Harvard, was a very good one. We read Irving Fisher. I’m still a great admirer. reason: What do you like about him?Smith: Fisher was a very clear writer. I remember a student once asked Leontief in class why there was no school of economics built around Fisher. And Leontief said: Well, it’s because he wrote so clearly—everyone could understand what he was saying. reason: Were people free market enthusiasts at that point? Or were they all talking about a command economy? Smith: I think the only clear-cut free market enthusiast at Harvard would have been Gottfried Haberler. He’d come out of the Austrian school. There was a tremendous exodus, of course, out of Germany and Austria of not only physicists but economists—Fritz Machlup, Jacob Marschak, [Joseph] Schumpeter, of course. And when I got to Harvard, Schumpeter had died only two years earlier and his legacy was very strong.reason: Was there a sense that FDR’s economic policies had succeeded and that economists could just sort of follow through on that project?Smith: Yes. Roosevelt, in a way, kind of saved capitalism.reason: Just like George Bush did more recently.Smith: Yeah. He kind of saved it. In fact, my grandfather, my mother’s father, who had been a supporter of Eugene Victor Debs in 1932, became a Roosevelt fan, and I think that tells you a lot about what happened in the ’30s.reason: Let’s talk about that then. It’s also a personal journey for you. And I know you said your first presidential vote went to Norman Thomas, the Socialist in 1948. And then the other presidential vote that was easy for you to make was Ed Clark in 1980, the Libertarian candidate. In a way, your journey—as demarcated by those votes—is part of a larger American story of leaving behind a kind of rule by elites, or control by elites, where “we’ll take care of everything,” to a much more individualistic understanding that it’s a libertarian country.Smith: Experimental economics destroyed whatever was left in me of the notion that somehow you could do better than to find institutions that organized this decentralized information and create. That’s the engine of wealth creation.reason: In America since 1950, there’s been a vast increase in the appreciation of and understanding of economics. Will we be better at not being stupid about how we’re acting if we know more about economics?Smith: The work that has to be done to keep us from getting off track has to be expressed in terms of institutional constraints, when what we do has serious implications for innocent other parties. Margin rules in the stock market confine the damage for the people who are doing it. There’s no external blindsiding of all kinds of people that are innocent. I see it as a property rights problem. And you know what? We got it right in most markets. The vast majority of markets work fine. And the reason why they work is that you can’t steal; you have to trade. Essentially, what we’re doing is asking whether there was a type of theft going on that was not being controlled by the right property rights regime.reason: Federal spending is currently 25 percent of the economy, a figure that hasn’t been seen since World War II. Deficits loom large in absolute numbers as well as a percentage of the economy. Is that a form of theft as well? Is that something that concerns you and needs to be reined in?Smith: We’re primarily going to solve that problem by inflating out of it. reason: I’m very sorry to hear that.Smith: I’m sorry to say it! But I think that will be the way we reduce the burden of the debt. It won’t be intended. [Federal Reserve Chairman] Ben Bernanke talks about the tools he has. One of the tools he has is to raise the interest rate he pays on excess reserves—in other words, pay them to not expand loans rapidly. But right now he’s got the other problem.reason: But is this also the delusion of the economic planner, that once things start happening—he’s very smart, he’s going to be able to control this? We’ve seen this before, where inflation isn’t a problem until it’s beyond control.Smith: It’s really interesting to look at the Federal Open Market Committee press releases in 2007. On August 7, 2007, the press release said the housing market is going through an adjustment; we’re still concerned about inflation. Three days later, because of the collapse in the credit default market, that completely changed. The Federal Reserve, Bernanke realized they had a financial crisis on their hands. That’s how quickly it happened, and the signal came from a market. It did not come from the econometric models. I think to Bernanke’s credit that he changed. He turned on a dime. How many times had he said it was not the business of the Federal Reserve to rescue investors from the consequences of their own decisions? That’s exactly what he ended up doing. I don’t believe he wanted to do it. I think he meant the earlier statements, but he had no choice.reason: If we hadn’t bailed out the banks, if we hadn’t passed TARP, the economy would have ceased to exist?Smith: I think the more important thing is what the Federal Reserve did, not the Treasury program. You can always go back and say, well things should have been done earlier to prevent that from happening. Yes, yes, I agree. But the point is, what do you do in that case? Here it is, in spite of whatever mistakes had been made before. And Bernanke is testing the Friedman-Schwartz hypothesis right now—that if the Fed had acted and flooded the system with liquidity in the early ’30s, that we’d have prevented the Great Depression.reason: Economists enjoy a possibly unprecedented kind of cultural power now. They can write best-selling books. They can run the world economy. Where does economics as a serious discipline need to be moving next?Smith: To me, the major problem in economic theory is the preoccupation with modeling for its own sake and not asking the fundamental questions. These fundamental questions have to do with dynamics; they have to do with property rights. Basic questions like: “How can it be that specialization, exchange, and property rights came about?” You can’t have one without the other. We think today of property rights as something that comes from the state. That couldn’t possibly be how they originated. Our small-group experiments are trust games. Imagine a trust game in which I’m a first mover and you’re the second mover. I move first. I can choose$10 for each of us, or I can pass to you. If I pass to you, the $20 becomes$40. You can give me 15 and keep 25, or you can give me nothing and get the whole 40. Game theory says I should never pass to you, because if you’re self-interested, you’ll take the 40. But what’s remarkable is half the people we recruit in the undergraduate lab—half of the first movers [pass] to the second. And two-thirds to three-quarters reciprocate with 15/25—they don’t take the total. You can’t understand that with game theory. You can understand it by reading The Theory of Moral Sentiments.reason: Is that a learned behavior, or is that an innate behavior? Or is that dichotomy not really relevant?Smith: It’s Adam Smith! He says imagine a human being is brought up in complete isolation from any member of the species. That person can’t have an idea of what it means for his mind to be deformed any more than he has an idea for what it means for his face to be deformed. Bring him into society, and you give him the mirror he needs. In The Theory of Moral Sentiments, Adam Smith is saying munificence is the only thing that requires reward. You don’t reward justice; what you do is punish injustice. Justice is what’s left over after you prevent injustice. Property rights come out of human sociality and then eventually get into civil government. But they arise originally in small groups.