Archives for: October 2014

Forced charity is still bullshit

The new pope is making the case that caring for the poor doesn’t make you a communist, and he is right. What can be argued makes you a communist, or if you want to be pedantic and stick to the definition that communism means the state owns everything, what it makes you is a collectivist douchebag, is when you expect government to do it after it uses force to confiscate the earnings of others, and all under the pretense it is doing so to help.

Fuck the lot of you slavers. If you want to care for the poor use your own money. That’s what makes it nobel. Speaking of using their own money, that cult in Rome can really help the poor if it sold off some of that wealth it has and used that instead. Know what I am saying pope?

Sneaking and Peaking

Holy crap:

One of the more controversial provisions of the Patriot Act was to broaden the “sneak-and-peek” power for federal law enforcement officials. The provision allows investigators to conduct searches without informing the target of the search. We were assured at the time that this was an essential law enforcement tool that would be used only to protect the country from terrorism. Supporters argued that it was critical that investigators be allowed to look into the lives and finances of suspected terrorists without tipping off those terrorists to the fact that they were under investigation.

More than a decade later, the Electronic Frontier Foundation has published an analysis on use of the sneak-and-peek power. Just as critics predicted, it’s now a ubiquitous part of federal law enforcement.

According to the EFF, there were over eleven thousand sneak and peek requests in 2013. Of those, only half a percent were terrorism cases. The vast majority were for drug investigations with the remainder for other non-terrorism criminality.

This is the reason why, however much I have criticized Bush for his War on Terror excesses, Barack Obama has been far far worse. It’s not just that sneak-and-peak requests have tripled under his watch. It’s not just the massive expansion of the drone war. It’s not just the explosion of surveillance. It’s that he has now given the bipartisan kiss of approval to all of this. Bush may have started the War on Terror, but Barack Obama has cemented it in place to an excess that would make John Ashcroft blush (Ashcroft, whom you may remember as a favored whipping boy of Democratic pseudo-civil libertarians, refused to extend the domestic surveillance program).

Radley has a few lessons we should learn from this. You should really read the whole thing. Here’s the most important:

Law-and-order politicians and many (but not all) law enforcement and national security officials see the Bill of Rights not as the foundation of a free society but as an obstacle that prevents them from doing their jobs. Keep this in mind when they use a national emergency to argue for exceptions to those rights.

We can not rely on politicians to defend our civil liberties. We must actively use them and defend them. And any intrusion into our liberty must be opposed, no matter what crisis is at hand. If we don’t defend or liberty, who will?

To Quarantine Or Not to Quarantine

As you may know, there is a brewing controversy over what to do with healthcare workers returning from the Ebola hot zone in West Africa. After Craig Spencer came down with Ebola, several governors imposed quarantines on returning healthcare workers. Controversy erupted and, I believe, we are down to home quarantine for 21 days.

A few thoughts:

First, it’s true that there has been a bit of an over-reaction. So far, we have only had two people infected while in this country and both of them were healthcare workers taking care of a dying man without adequate protection. Naturally, we need to be vigilant. The virus is unlikely to mutate to become airborne but it may mutate to become far more infectious. As Nobel Prize winner Bruce Beutler has noted, we don’t have as much information as we’d like about how infectious this strain is. But, even with those caveats, the policies being advocated in some quarters are unwarranted at this stage.1

Second, the most important thing about fighting Ebola is stomping it out in Africa. If we do not stop Ebola in Africa, it will spread. It will spread to bigger cities. It will spread to other countries. Right now, we only have to worry about people who have actually been in West Africa. If this goes on and blows up to hundreds of thousands of cases or millions, we will have to worry about everyone. A house in our neighborhood is on fire. We’ve had a few cinders land on our roof. But the most important thing is not that we spray water on our roof; it’s that we put out the fire before the whole neighborhood is ablaze.

Anything that discourages healthcare workers from going to West Africa to fight this thing is likely to make things worse. Quarantine sounds like an easy burden to impose. But, in The Hot Zone, Richard Preston describes the psychological trauma that quarantine imposes on workers at USAMRIID. This is not a light burden. And isolating them in hospitals is a good recipe for getting them sick with the opportunistic diseases that infest every hospital in the world.

That having been said, it’s not irrational to be afraid of this disease. It’s not irrational to think that healthcare workers — who are the most at risk and who have close contact with dozens of people very day — should back off until they are clear. We have been very lucky so far that this hasn’t erupted in a school or something. We’ve been very lucky that infected people have sought help immediately. We have been very lucky that this hasn’t mutated to be much more infectious. All it takes is one idiot to wait until he literally drops dead in the street for this to become a serious serious problem. All the reassurances about how we can contain this are going to be cold comfort to someone who gets infected by a returning healthcare worker.

The dilemma is that treating potential victims like pariahs increases the odds of that nightmare scenario. It encourages them to hide their symptoms and to lie. So what do we do?

To me, these problems are interlocked: getting more healthcare workers to West Africa and keeping them from spreading the disease when they return are the same problem. So here is what I would propose:

  • Healthcare workers who go to West Africa should be guaranteed early spots in the line for experimental drugs like ZMAPP. These drugs are difficult to produce and will come online in small quantities (you can read a great summary of this from the aforementioned Preston). The biggest worry healthcare workers have about Ebola is not that they will lose their jobs; it’s that they will die. Promise them that they will get the best possible care. They deserve it.
  • Congress should authorize a fund to give hazard pay to healthcare workers who volunteer to fight Ebola in West Africa. We have to be careful here to not undermine the volunteer organizations that are the frontline for these epidemics. But they are being overwhelmed. They desperately need reinforcements. This fund would also pay for healthcare, life insurance and maintaining their existing jobs. This in addition to the funds needed to provide medical equipment for them to work with.
  • This fund would will also pay volunteers to undergo a three-week home quarantine on their return, during which they will be monitored for symptoms and maintain a log of any contacts.
  • We have laws that protect military reservists from being financially or legally ruined when they are called up to active duty during a war. Extend those laws to healthcare workers who volunteer to fight Ebola or are in quarantine after their return.
  • If we are going to go to war with Ebola, we have to treat it like a war. Doctors and nurses are our soldiers in this war. Pay them, reward them, protect them. Treat them in a manner that is good for public safety but also recognizes the tremendous risks they are taking and the tremendous good they are doing. Whatever else one may think of Craig Spencer or Kaci Hickox, they have risked their lives to try to save people, most of whom are a different nationality and race from them. Let’s recognize that even as we move to secure our public health.


    1. Of course, the same media telling us we are over-reacting were also saying Ebola would never come here in the first place.

    Election 2014, Ho Friggin’ Hum

    Less than a week away, thank God

    I thought I would throw up an election post, primarily to see if you guys are as apathetic and listless about next week as I am.

    It doesn’t help living in the land of the heathen. A righty living in California is about as useless as a truth/transparency czar in Obama administration. There is zero drama concerning any state wide contests. Gov. Brown is as popular here as Kim Jong-un is in N. Korea, sans the detention camps. Ditto with his partners in crime, Lt. Governor Gavin Newsome and A.G. Kamela Harris. I have warned you guys about Newsome and Harris in other posts, these two are young,radical and well connected, you will no doubt see them on the national stage soon.

    I guess my biggest trepidation about next week is the potential for unfulfilled expectations. The GOP has turned snatching defeat from the jaws of victory into an art form. And when you consider what they have to offer, who is really surprised? They are the weak sisters, the party of “no”, the party of ,”Well, at least we ain’t Obama”, high praise indeed.

    An underlining fear is that all the planets align and they do take the Senate, what then? It will then be time to put up or shut up, put something on the table, establish an agenda, a voice, declare the demarcation line between divergent visions, are they up do it? Doubtful.

    Sure, the high drama of pushing Obama to a decision (something he really hates to do) to make him veto legislation that most thinking Americans can see (if presented capably) is in their and the country’s best interest, this example of the political process in action, highly entertaining.

    But this presumes an ability, a skill not yet surfaced from the GOP as of yet. They have the talent. Start with some selective ingredients from Paul Ryan’s Roadmap For American Prosperity, add some hard nose Cruz conservatism, a dollop of “less government is better government” from Rand Paul, some Trey Gowdy Rule of Law is preeminent to our way of life, some input from Mike Lee and Justin Amish, then maybe provide a fresh face to present it, someone like a Susan Martinez from NM. Nothing half assed, reactionary or marginal will do, you are only as good as your opening night. Hit your mark, know your lines, and wow them, anything less and 2016 will be another debacle.

    I am amused (and disgusted) with the lengths at which some dem candidates are using to distance themselves from President Toxic. Ferguson is being used, as well as birth control. And the Chippendale crowd (do they still have those? I think I just dated myself) is being put in play;

    Now that I got CM’s attention :)

    A great opportunity, magnificently squandered, this is why I am averting my eyes and tuning out all election predictions. I have seen this rerun before.

    Any local or state races of interest to any readers out there>

    It sucks to have a shitty religion

    Just yesterday, because my company announced changes to our benefit enrollment plans and opened up enrollment this week, I was having a discussion with a hard core lefty and Obama supporter about the fact that the costs have yet again gone up, the plan offerings have gone down, and providers have yet again been restricted. In addition to now making every employee with healthcare that has a spouse with access to her own plan (from their employer) basically pay a fine, one that amounts to the difference of having a spouse pay for her own plan, they jacked up premiums by 12% (after similar jumps for the past 3 years), widened the various plan’s donuts (that portion you have to pay before the plan kicks in again) by anywhere from 10-25%, and jacked up copays. So here is this Obamacare supporting supposedly educated moron, complaining about how he now had to pay more to cover his spouse, at the same time as his plan’s rates went up, his donut had widened, and his copays had been jacked, and worse yet, his doctor no longer was on the plan for some reason, and then blaming it, of all things, on the insurance company he used. Blah blah blah – bad insurance company! I lost it

    Despite the writing being on the wall for years now and the whole fiasco of a government healthcare takeover hitting him smack between the eyes, he doesn’t get it. We have had countless articles like this one, showing how Obamacare was going to wreck the industry, cost all of us more, provide less quality care, restrict access, and most importantly, going to end up being used by petty bureaucrats of the usual liberal variety as a tool to subjugate those pesky and ungrateful serfs. Anyway, when I pointed out that the fault lay with the idiotic law, and cornered him with the facts to prove so, he did what all liberals do: a double take, and then returned to the talking point that they always use which is how evil insurance companies screw people over, so government was the only entity able to do the right thing for the people. That’s when I asked him if he was putting his faith in that government which is responsible for idiotic things like this or this, and pointed out that other examples are in abundance of stupidity and pain that makes whatever the insurance companies do, even when they engage in it out of malfeasance, look tame.

    I basically pointed out to him that the difference between progressives, or whatever they call themselves these days, and people like me amounts to progressives being willing to bend over, grabbing their ankles, and letting the usual suspects ass rape them, over and over again, all so they could stay true to the cause. No matter how blatant the lies or how outrageous the bullshit, the progressives stick to the “social justice” nonsense and ignore reality. That was the end of the conversation. And that was simply because he didn’t like the pillars of his faith challenged. Liberalism is a mental disorder, and one that causes a lot of harm, I tell you. In the mean time we all get to suffer and pay more for it, because of these idiots.

    Those that experience true Progressive paradise on earth

    Sooner than later, if given the opportunity, will gravitate back towards capitalism, and that’s despite the inequality and unfairness, as this survey of support for a free market, especially amongst those that have firsthand experience with collectivism points out.

    Despite the fact that most people are very concerned about the gap between the rich and the poor in their country, majorities across the globe are willing to accept some inequality to have a free market system. A global median of 66% say most people are better off under capitalism, even if some people are rich and some are poor.

    Belief in the free market tends to be highest in developing countries (median of 71%). Nearly two-thirds or more in all nine of the developing economies surveyed agree that most people benefit from capitalism, including 80% of Bangladeshis, 75% of Ghanaians and 74% of Kenyans.

    Publics in emerging markets also generally support the free market. More than half in 21 of the 25 countries surveyed agree that most people are better off in a free market system even if there is some inequality, including roughly three-quarters or more in Vietnam, China, Nigeria, Turkey, Malaysia and the Philippines. Support is much lower in Colombia, Jordan, Mexico and Argentina. Argentines are the least likely to see the benefits of capitalism among all 44 countries surveyed.

    And this comes as no surprise to me. If you experience the ravages of the various incarnations of the “social justice” systems the left loves, you are far less inclined to want any more of that. That is, unless you are one of the people that thinks you will be amongst the “lucky few” that will reap all the rewards, or are part of the “unlucky many” that because you can’t do shit, like the idea that others will be hobbled and held back to the same as what you will accomplish (i.e. nothing). Others, like Argentina, which are in the death throes of the collectivist system strangling them, are far less likely to want out. That’s because until everything implodes and one is forced to walk away, letting go of these systems is very hard to do.

    What is sad to see is the usual effect of cronyism and the support for capitalism:

    Advanced economies are somewhat more divided over the free market. At least seven-in-ten in South Korea, Germany and the U.S. say most people are better off under capitalism, but fewer than half in Greece, Japan and Spain agree. In most advanced economies, people who say the gap between the rich and poor is a very big problem are much less supportive of the free market than those who worry less about inequality.

    In general, there has been moderate change in support for the free market between 2007 and 2014 among the countries surveyed in both years. The Spanish (-22 percentage points) and Italians (-16) stand out for their declining belief in capitalism over the course of the global recession. At the other end of the spectrum, the Turks (+14) and Indonesians (+13) are more likely today to say the free market is better for everyone than they were seven years ago.

    The western democracies have not had capitalism for decades. The crony systems where government is in bed with a few selected winners, using its power to make others losers, has been nothing but detrimental to economic growth, but the takers outnumbering the makers keep the system going. There was a clear indication of how this work from one of the findings in the survey:

    In some countries, lower income and less educated individuals are less likely to express support for capitalism than higher income and more highly educated people.

    What’s not said is that the “some countries” are likely all wealthy western democracies, where the takers like the system that fleeces the productive to buy their votes. Not to mention that these progressive systems in the west also see the largest economic gaps between the haves and have-nots. And that’s all by design. It’s not a coincidence or aberration that the age of Obama has seen the gap widen faster than ever. That’s by design of that system where a few elites pretend to do things for the masses.

    The Definition of Insanity

    Is government housing policy:

    Recent steps by federal regulators make it clear: low down-payment loans, a feature of the housing market’s boom, are coming back.

    On Monday, Federal Housing Finance Agency Director Mel Watt announced that mortgage-finance companies Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac would start backing loans with down payments as low as 3%.

    And on Tuesday, three federal agencies approved a loosened set of mortgage-lending rules, removing a requirement for a 20% down payment for a class of high-quality loan known as a “qualified residential mortgage.”

    Loans with little to no down payment were a common feature of the lax lending practices that were prevalent during the housing market’s bubble years.

    Yes, my friends. Not content with easy mortgages wrecking the economy and destroying what little wealth the poor and middle class had accumulated, our government is back for more.

    Why on Earth would they want to do this? McArdle:

    Because, I think, most of us still haven’t managed to shed the idea that buying a house is a good way to get some unearned bonus wealth. Too many people managed to do just that for too many years. We think of 2008 as an aberration, rather than reversion to the mean. And that’s a costly mental error.

    The long, steep increase in American home prices from 1946 to 2008 was driven by a whole lot of trends that are hard to repeat: the invention of the 30-year, fixed-rate, self-amortizing mortgage, which allowed people to pay more for a house by lowering the monthly payments. The securitization revolution, which lowered mortgage risk by bundling the loans into large, diversified portfolios, thereby lowering rates. Rising inflation, which pushed up the price of houses. Falling inflation, which lowered interest rates and monthly payments still further and allowed people to pay even more for those houses. The credit-scoring revolution, which allowed banks to offer loans to more people, increasing demand for the existing housing stock. And in dense coastal areas, you also had the rise of NIMBY zoning laws, which made housing scarcer and therefore more expensive.

    The problem is, these things have already happened. Most of them cannot happen again — interest rates can’t really go much lower.

    Out government is consumed with the idea that home ownership is the path to wealth for the poor and lower middle class. But nothing could be further from the truth, as the last decade proved. The housing bubble hurt the wealthy … a bit. But it completely burned what little wealth existed in the lower quintiles of our society.

    The reason is that houses aren’t a great investment. They’re a good investment … if you have a stable income and employment situation and can manage money well. They’re a stable investment … if you have some equity. But people are besotted with idea of real estate as the gate to wealth.

    Low down-payment loans are especially dangerous for people trying to climb the economic ladder. They can allow people to make a quicker entry into housing. The danger, however, is that a house with low equity is a highly leveraged investment. If you make a down payment of 3% and housing prices fall 3%, 100% of your equity goes up in smoke. The reason so many people ended up in underwater mortgages with negative wealth was because they had such a thin margin of equity.

    But … they never learn. This will happen again and they still won’t learn. The people running our government and their cheerleaders in places like the Center for American Regress will continue to believe that there is a alchemical formula for creating middle-class wealth out of thin air. I guess you have to believe in something when you think that businesses don’t create jobs.

    Premature Nobel Peace Prize not worth it..

    I remember tons of pompous liberal douchebags telling everyone back when how their side would handle the dangerous and problematic world much better than the cocaine cowboy, whom they accused of turning everyone against the US, and thus, being inept at foreign policy. From the infamous and stupid “Russian Reset”, which I might add had to be admitted was a horrible failure even by your usual DNC propagandists, to all the new “kinetic actions” our Nobel Peace Prize winner has managed to get us involved in for no positive gain, it has been failure after failure. Heck, I now am convinced that the Obama administration outright lied about what happened in Benghazi to cover up some highly illegal shit they were involved with and to give them a means to push for government oversight, if not outright control, of social media – the eternal enemy of tyrannical government – because no crisis should go to waste. Remember these are the criminals that thought up “Fast & Furious”, another illegal campaign that for all intents & purposes was an act of war on a neighbor, so they could use the fallout from that dastardly and evil move to influence US public sentiment to move towards their anti-second amendment beliefs, which I should point out is another one of the big spokes in the wheel of tyrannical governments all over the place.

    The fact is that the US, since Obama took office, and even more pronounced right now, has nothing but a failed foreign policy after failed foreign policy. The thing was amateur hour under Hillary Clinton’s watch, and is making amateur hour look good under Kerry’s watch. Obama picked both of these unqualified idiots for purely political reasons, which should have been a red flag about how serious president “I am looking for OJ’s wife’s killer on golf courses, because that brother is now in jail and can’t do that himself” , takes foreign policy in the first place. The US foreign policy of Obama tenure – the last 6 years – has basically amounted to us pissing on our friend’s legs and telling them it was warm rain, while dropping onto our knees to suck our enemy’s cocks. If you doubt how ineffective and destructive the pretenders have been, take it from one of the people Obama and his crowd told us would actually engage with them because they were willing to drop down on all four and prostrate themselves to show an eagerness to talk, and weep:

    The Iranian president’s senior advisor has called President Barack Obama “the weakest of U.S. presidents” and described the U.S. leader’s tenure in office as “humiliating,” according to a translation of the highly candid comments provided to the Free Beacon.

    The comments by Ali Younesi, senior advisor to Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, come as Iran continues to buck U.S. attempts to woo it into the international coalition currently battling the Islamic State (IS, ISIL, or ISIS).

    Yeah, that’s pretty much par for the course and exactly what all of us that had experienced the Carter years pointed out would happen back in the days the smug leftards were lecturing everyone about the failures of the cowboy and how much better they would do. I disliked the Boosh policy towards Iran’s nuclear program and have always believed that talk alone would not prevent this from happening, but what has been going on under Obama makes the Boosh approach look like pure genius, and it shows every day we hear a story about how nobody takes us seriously anymore.

    Yeahm I am gonna do it: “I told you so you morons”. Pitty we all suffer because of these inempt buffoons.

    The Palin Kerfuffle

    I won’t link to or detail it. Google can help you there if you’re interested. But a couple of months ago, a certain segment of blogosphere reacted with what I can only describe as undisguised glee at reports of a fight the Palin family got into. The adjective being flung about were things like “trashy” and “low-class”.

    As I’m sure you’re aware, I have no love for Palin. But this crossed me from day one ugly muck-raking against someone who is not a candidate for any political office. It was reveling in dirt for the revelings sake. It was sliming a disliked political figure based on partial information and innuendo.

    Well, now audio tapes have come out of a crying Bristol talking to police. And the Left Wing Echosphere — including Palin Nutter Andrew Sullivan — are reacting with unrestrained joy to a description of what, as Noah Roathman points out, can only be described as an assault:

    The overwhelming sense of superiority some in the press feel toward the Palins simply clouds their better judgment. Costello would surely see the error of her ways if she were to read her disparate reactions to these two strikingly similar events [this and the Ray Rice assault], but, in the heat of the moment, she did not see Sarah Palin’s daughter as a women who had endured a physical assault; she saw her as a caricature worthy of mockery.

    No charges were filed in this case. And it’s not clear what touched off the brawl or to what extent the family was involved in it (there are witness who claim Bristol was punching the party host). But regardless of how “trashy” the Palins might or might not have been acting and regardless of how involved they were in in the brawl, I don’t think the reaction would be the same if this were a recording of some Democrat’s kid, do you?

    The Evil Koch Brothers and Their Evil Compassion

    This should blow a few Left Wing minds:

    Koch Industries, in partnership with the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, is financing a program to provide scholarships and training for public defenders. The grant will also pay for a review of indigent defense programs to see what works in providing legal representation to those who can’t afford it.

    Charles G. Koch, the chairman of Koch Industries, said in a statement that the grant was a way “to make the Sixth Amendment’s guarantee of an individual’s right to counsel a reality for all Americans, especially those who are the most disadvantaged in our society.”

    The company’s interest grew out of its own experience during a criminal case in Texas and underscores a growing area of common ground between conservatives and progressives on criminal justice issues like sentencing reform.

    The liberal echosphere has demonized the Koch’s for so long that I expect the response to this to be a) denial; b) animosity toward the NACDL. At least once a month I point out to some Koch-knocker that the Koch’s have long supported civil liberties, gay rights, the arts and sciences only to have proof demanded over and over and over again. The idea of the Koch brothers as Satan is so embedded with some political factions that they simply can’t process reality.

    Eric Hoffer once said the following: “Hatred is the most accessible and comprehensive of all the unifying agents. Mass movements can rise and spread without belief in a god, but never without a belief in a devil.” Whether it’s the Koch Brothers, the NRA, the Tea Party or Big Oil, the Democratic Party can not survive without someone to demonize. Even if that someone is doing more to help poor people and right injustices than they are.