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No, You Can’t Sue, Part Duh

I’ve made it clear where I stand on global warming: I think it’s real, I think we are causing it, I’m pretty sure it’s going to be bad, I don’t think our government has a clue what to do about it. Yet, I feel very comfortable saying that this is bullshit:

The Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) today denounced a subpoena from Attorney General Claude E. Walker of the U.S. Virgin Islands that attempts to unearth a decade of the organization’s materials and work on climate change policy. This is the latest effort in an intimidation campaign to criminalize speech and research on the climate debate, led by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and former Vice President Al Gore.

“CEI will vigorously fight to quash this subpoena. It is an affront to our First Amendment rights of free speech and association for Attorney General Walker to bring such intimidating demands against a nonprofit group,” said CEI General Counsel Sam Kazman. “If Walker and his allies succeed, the real victims will be all Americans, whose access to affordable energy will be hit by one costly regulation after another, while scientific and policy debates are wiped out one subpoena at a time.”

The subpoena requests a decade’s worth of communications, emails, statements, drafts, and other documents regarding CEI’s work on climate change and energy policy, including private donor information. It demands that CEI produce these materials from 20 years ago, from 1997-2007, by April 30, 2016.

This isn’t coming out of nowhere. Several climate activists have bene calling for precisely this sort of investigation for a while and several other AG’s have been pondering such a move. But while I strongly disagree with the CEI about the reality of climate change, this is an extremely chilling move (no pun intended).

Walter Olson again:

If the forces behind this show-us-your-papers subpoena succeed in punishing (or simply inflicting prolonged legal harassment on) groups conducting supposedly wrongful advocacy, there’s every reason to think they will come after other advocacy groups later. Like yours.

This is happening at a time of multiple, vigorous, sustained legal attacks on what had been accepted freedoms of advocacy and association. As I note in a new piece at Cato, Sen. Elizabeth Warren has just demanded that the Securities and Exchange Commission investigate several large corporations that have criticized her pet plan to impose fiduciary legal duties on retirement advisors, supposedly on the ground that it is a securities law violation for them to be conveying to investors a less alarmed view of the regulations’ effect than they do in making their case to the Labor Department. This is not particularly compelling as securities law, but it’s great as a way to chill speech by publicly held businesses.

Make no mistake. This isn’t about racketeering and it certainly isn’t about science. It’s about shutting people up. And as a defender of free speech, I will defend it for everyone. The CEI is not engaged in criminal conduct. Nor are they part of a shadow conspiracy of evil oil interests to wreck the planet. At worst, they are guilty of deception in talking about global warming. More likely, they are guilty of motivated reasoning, rejecting global warming because they don’t want it to be true. Neither of those things is a crime. McArdle, on the similar BS inquiry into Exxon Mobil:

State attorneys general including Walker held a press conference last week to talk about the investigation of ExxonMobil and explain their theory of the case. And yet, there sort of wasn’t a theory of the case. They spent a lot of time talking about global warming, and how bad it was, and how much they disliked fossil fuel companies. They threw the word “fraud” around a lot. But the more they talked about it, the more it became clear that what they meant by “fraud” was “advocating for policies that the attorneys general disagreed with.”

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman gave the game away when he explained that they would be pursuing completely different theories in different jurisdictions — some under pension laws, some consumer protection, some securities fraud. It is traditional, when a crime has actually been committed, to first establish that a crime has occurred, and then identify a perpetrator. When prosecutors start running that process backwards, it’s a pretty good sign that you’re looking at prosecutorial power run amok.

Frankly, the CEI is an odd place to start if we’re going to start bashing anti-science people. The CEI, at worst, is delaying action on a climate crisis that might have negative effects in the future (pushing aside pseudoscientific theories that global warming created ISIS and such). But anti-GMO activists, by contrast, are killing people right now. They’re preventing the use of the golden rice which could stop thousands of people from going blind right now. And don’t get me started on the anti-Vaxxers. But you don’t hear anyone talk of prosecuting them. Why not? Because they’re not associated with Evil Big Oil.

This is garbage. Attorneys General who engage in this sort of tyrannical lawfare need to hounded out of office. This is a companion to my post below on lawsuits against gun companies and it has the same principle: the law is not a weapon to use against people you disagree with. Because once we establish that it is, it will take about ten seconds for that law to be used against your interests.

No, You Can’t Sue

Hillary Clinton, feeling the heat of Bernie Sanders’ surging campaign, has decided to go after him for his support for the limited legal immunity given to gun owners. This attack became particularly sharp after Sanders gave an interview in which he said the families of the Sandy Hook victims should not be able to sue the gun manufacturers for damages, a statement that prompted this hysterical reaction from the New York Daily News:

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However, this is one issue where Bernie is absolutely right and Clinton is absolutely wrong.

The liability protections for gun companies were created in the mid-2000s. The reason it was created was because Democrats like Richard Daley and Andrew Cuomo were trying to use the Courts to bypass the legislatures. They were filing massive suits against gun manufacturers to hold them liable for the cost of people getting shot. Such lawsuits have no basis in common law or American legal tradition. You can sue people for making defective products or breaking the law (or lying about their products as the cigarette companies did). But you can’t sue someone who makes a perfectly legal product because you don’t like what people do with it. This would be like suing airplane manufacturers over 9/11. Or suing Apple because someone wrote something libelous on a Mac.

Walter Olson:

PLCAA codified the common-law principles that have long applied in tort claims following shootings: if an otherwise lawful firearm has performed as it was designed and intended to do, its maker and seller are not liable for its misuse. (Exceptions permit liability in some situations where, e.g., a defendant has broken regulations or knowingly sold to a buyer intent on harm.) In other words, Congress acted specifically to preserve the law’s traditional handling of gun liability as against activists’ efforts to develop novel legal doctrine.

A good way of visualizing it was posted by Harley on Facebook earlier this week:

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While the lawsuits were bullshit and were mostly rejected by judges and juries, the hope was that either a) one jury would get stupid and open the door to multi-billion dollar suits; or b) the pressure of being sued by governments with effectively unlimited legal resources would force gun companies to make changes to their guns or sales procedures. In fact, this is exactly what happened in 2000, when Bill Clinton coerced Smith and Wesson into adopting more restrictive sales procedures. That’s what’s really going on here: having failed to get gun control through Congress, the gun grabbers want to use the threat of lawsuits to enact gun control through the back door.

And that’s why Congress was absolutely right to put a stop to it. Because allowing anyone to bypass Congress and legislate through the courts is an invitation to disaster. Once you’ve opened that door, there’s nothing to stop interest groups from using it to do whatever the hell they want. There’s nothing to stop President Cruz from effectively outlawing abortion by allowing thousands of wrongful death suits against abortion providers. There’s nothing to stop President Lieberman from enacting censorship on movies and video games by suing claiming it causes violence. When you’ve embraced the idea that companies can be sued for doing something legal because you don’t like it, the entire rule of law is upended. All that has to happen is for an industry to become unpopular and they can be crushed.

Hillary Clinton is not an idiot. She knows this. Any Democrat with two brain cells to rub together knows this. But the gun grabber hysteria on the Left is too strong right now for them to say, “Uh, no I favor gun control but we can’t upend the rule of law to do it.” This is effectively what Bernie Sander is saying. And for that, he’s being castigated by a gullible press and a desperate Presidential candidate.

Book Review: Unlearning Liberty

I just finished reading Greg Lukianoff’s excellent book Unlearning Liberty. Lukianoff, who is the President of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (aka, the FIRE) has spent the last decade fighting attempts in higher education to stifle free speech, trample on free association and turn campuses to indoctrination centers.

I highly recommend the book. It’s four years old but it’s age is actually a strength. Over the last year, we have witnessed an explosion of illiberal, speech-crushing actions on college campuses. We’ve seen communications professors try to “muscle” the press. We’ve seen pro-Trump chalking decried as “hate speech”. We’ve seen students scream at a professor because he thought they could decided for themselves what Halloween costumes were appropriate. We’ve seen student demands less freedom, more censorship and the hiring of hordes of new administrators to teach sensitivity and fight racism (and then wonder why college costs so much).

This eruption of political correctness didn’t come from nowhere. It was built over two decades and Unlearning Liberty details how it was built. Lukianoff shows how speech codes (which afflict about half of college campuses) have been used to silence dissent and promote liberal agendas (and to silence critics of administrators and student government). He describes professors declaring certain ideas to be undebatable in their classroom. He details how universities will allow exclusively black or gay groups on campus, but fight against exclusively Christian groups. He details a maddening questionnaire incoming students are forced to fill out that asked them such things as whether they would have sex with someone of a different race. And then he details how refusing to answer such questions could earn mandatory sensitivity training sessions with crackpots teaching from “oppression wheels”.

Viewed through this lens, the current climate on campuses is not surprising. This is simply the poison hatching out after years of indoctrination (that really starts in high school). This isn’t just a generation of crybaby students. It’s a generation that has been taught from Day One that liberal ideas are right, that disagreement is hate and that further indoctrination is good.

(It has also empowered and enriched people who are, frankly, crackpots. When you read about what these people believe (or claim to believe) it’s crazy totalitarianism. Penn and Teller once had an interview with a “cultural auditor” who makes tons of money teaching about political correctness on campus. Every word this man said was garbage, a word salad of high-sounding nonsense. And the stuff he was teaching was frequently racist garbage, such as it was “insensitive” to expect black people to be on time for things.)

Lukianoff describes himself as a liberal Democrat but has admirably spent much of his time fighting for campus conservative and Christians with whom he disagrees. The book will give you an excellent contrast between a classical liberal like Lukianoff and what Andrew Sullivan has dubbed “the illiberal left” — a group of Left Wing advocates who have decided that free speech, free association and free religion can not be tolerated if it might disrupt their agenda.

One final thought that struck me when I finished the book: has political correctness ever solved a problem? Ever? I’m serious about this. Has all this nonsense with safe spaces and speech codes and affirmative consent and intersecionality and oppression wheels actually solved any of society’s problems?

I would argue that it hasn’t. In fact, I would argue that by depriving us of our ability to discuss issues of gender and race in frank terms, by stomping down ideas considered “incorrect”, by putting everyone on tenterhooks, political correctness has made things worse. It has created political paralysis on key issues. It has created armed political camps that lack the ability to discuss and debate issues lest someone be offended. It has left institutions of higher learning in the hands of cranks who have no idea what they’re doing. In fact, Lukianoff thinks the illiberalism on college campuses is a big reason why our politics have become so partisan: a generation of college students are coming of age who have never had to engage opposing ideas or consider that their own ideas might be wrong. They are used to retreating into ideological “safe spaces” where their ideas can not be challenged. And, of course, only talking to people with whom you agree has a tendency to make one even more extreme.

Look at a serious issue: sexual violence on campus. We can’t warn students about the connection between alcohol and sexual violence because that’s blaming the victim. We can’t have fair trials because the issue is too important. We push this idiotic model of affirmative consent which has little bearing on the realities of human sexuality. Brandeis, a university named a fierce civil liberties advocate, found a student guilty of sexual misconduct with no trial because his boyfriend decided after the relationship was over that some stuff had not been consensual. This process is becoming extremely expensive, driving up college costs and creating a virtual police state.

(Each link in that paragraph, BTW, is a must-read.)

But all this is necessary, we are told. All of this is critical to destroying rape culture and making campuses safe.

The problem: according to the Left, it’s not working. The Left claims that one-in-five women on campuses are victims of sexual violence. Let’s put aside that this number is almost certainly a wild exaggeration. If we accept it at face value, this means that all this political correctness has made things worse for women, not better:

Sexual violence in our society is down — way down. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, rape has fallen from 2.5 per 1000 to 0.5 per thousand, an 80% decline. The FBI’s data show a decline from 40 to about 25 per hundred thousand, a 40% decline (they don’t account for reporting rate, which is likely to have risen). RAINN estimates that the rate has fallen 50% in just the last twenty years. That means 10 million fewer sexual assaults.

Yet, for some reason, sexual assault rates on campus have not fallen, at least according to the favored research. They were claiming 1-in-5 in the 80′s and they are claiming 1-in-5 now. The sexual violence rate on campus might fall a little more slowly than the overall society because campus populations aren’t aging the way the general population is and sexual violence victims are mostly under 30. But it defies belief that the huge dramatic drops in violence and sexual violence everywhere in the world would somehow not be reflected on college campuses.

I explain how you can unbias the current research to show that sexual violence has, in fact, declined on college campuses. But if you accept the Left’s number, it has not. All that censorship, all that sensitivity, all those kangaroos courts. And, if you believe them, the result is that women are in more danger than ever.

Political correctness has also deprived us of our ability to recognize and deal with actual racism and misogyny. After all, when you’re kicking students off campus for just having a book about the decline of the KKK, how are you going to emotionally deal with, say, some racist asshole who goes into a black church and murders a bunch of people? When you’ve called the campus vice squad on someone for complimenting a woman’s appearance, how are going to deal with someone demanding sex for a promotion?

You have to be tough to deal with discrimination. And political correctness doesn’t make people tough; it makes them weak. It makes them incapable of dealing with ideas they don’t like without three college administrators holding their hands. I’ve had to deal with anti-Semitism from time-to-time. Would I be more or less capable of doing that if the mere sight of a Christmas decoration gave me a fainting spell?

I’m not saying that people should ignore “microagressions” or small acts of racism and sexism that many people experience very day. I’m saying we need to keep thing in perspective, to differentiate between things we can deal with by engaging other people and things we need to literally make a federal case over. Screaming racism and bringing the wrath of a college administration on someone over a racist joke is not going to solve anything. It’s going to make people defensive and entrench any discriminatory beliefs they have.

Even worse, a lot of the time, the dictatorial powers we have given college campuses are being used to silence and punish the very students they are supposed to help. See, e.g., Brandeis putting a black mark on gay student’s record without so much as a hearing.

If you were Mr. Evil Republican White Christian Male and wanted to maintain racism, sexism and bigotry in our society, you’d be hard pressed to find a better weapon than today’s political correctness. It makes people weak and hypersensitive. It brings debate and understanding to a grinding halt. And it’s spreading out from college campuses to infect the media, the workplace and our personal lives.

So what do we do about it? For one, keep calling it out. Young people especially need to be calling this out. On a political level, the federal government needs to stop supporting and even mandating this garbage through Title IX and other provisions. Even better, it could come out and make a bold statement against unconstitutional speech codes and indoctrination, declaring that it will always throw its weight on the side of free speech and free minds. If college campuses knew the Justice Department would side with a student punished for speaking his mind, they’d think twice about their ridiculous speech codes. Simply putting down the Federal foot down on the side of decency and respect would go a long way toward restoring some sanity to our campuses.

So, buy Lukianoff’s book. And better yet, support the FIRE. The last thing we need is this country is another generation of voters who retreat into their own navels when their ideas are challenged.

The Bernie Pill

The amazing thing about the Bernie Sanders campaign is that his ideas are so … tired. Nothing he has proposed — “free” healthcare, “free” college, “free” daycare — is particularly original or innovative. Sanders admits as much, saying that he wants is to imitate the model of the social democracies of Scandinavia. Of course, that itself is an indication of how outdated his ideas are. Many of those social democracies have moved beyond Sander’s 1970’s ideal of what they really are, privatizing and shrinking government and now enjoying comparable or even superior economic freedom compared to the United States.

Matt Welch has a thorough rundown of just how bad many of his ideas area. A lot of them are things I’ve hit on these pages: how expensive socialized medicine would be, how ineffective “universal pre-K” is, how bad a federal minimum wage of $15 would be. But it also hits a few topics I haven’t gotten around to such as Sanders’ opposition to reforming the VA:

Sanders was lucky the question wasn’t about his actual track record as chairman of the Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs. As The New York Times reported in February, “a review of his record in the job…shows that in a moment of crisis, his deep-seated faith in the fundamental goodness of government blinded him, at least at first, to a dangerous breakdown in the one corner of it he was supposed to police.” Ouch.

What was Sanders doing in May 2014 instead of holding oversight hearings and sounding the alarm bell over a national disgrace? Complaining to The Nation magazine about “a concerted effort to undermine the V.A.,” led by “the Koch brothers and others,” who “want to radically change the nature of society, and either make major cuts in all of these institutions, or maybe do away with them entirely.”

(The VA, incidentally, was long upheld as the shining model of what single payer healthcare would be like in this country. Well … they weren’t entirely wrong about that. Much of Sanders’ blind support for the VA was precisely because he wanted it to be the example for single payer.)

You should read the whole thing.

So why is Sanders so popular? Is it because America loves his crackpot ideas? No.

First, like Trump, he really isn’t that popular. He’s drawing about half the votes in a Democratic primary, which means about 10% of the vote. If he were the nominee, he’d have to get a lot more independent and conservative votes, which I don’t see materializing unless Trump is the Republican nominee.

Also, like Trump, he’s appealing to economic populism. Sanders supporters hate it when you compare Trump to Sanders (which is one of the reasons I like doing it). But they both harp on a similar message — trade is bad, Washington doesn’t work, you’re being rooked, vote for me. That sort of populism traces through a long and diverse array of politicians from Roosevelt I to George Wallace to Trump/Sanders. It never has worked out.

(Both also prefer a more isolationist foreign policy; another key element of populism).

But I think the main reason, as I’ve said before, is that Sanders isn’t Clinton. Sanders is honest about what he thinks, has stayed positive and his earnestness is almost refreshing contrasted against the calculated fumbling of Clinton. Last week, the Clinton camp said she wouldn’t debate Sanders any more unless he changed his “tone”. Even for Clinton supporters, like the ever-reliable Vox, this was laughable. Sanders’ tone has been very respectful toward Clinton. The only thing she could complain about is that he’s called her out — accurately, as it happens — on such things as her Wall Street ties, her support for the Iraq War and her role in runaway criminalization.

In any case, I don’t expect Sanders to be the nominee. But I do expect that his success will lead to an insistence that his ideas are awesome and that this country is ready for socialism. Don’t be fooled. Single payer healthcare failed to gain support in Sanders own state once it became obvious how much it was going to cost. Even Clinton’s plans are going to require big tax increases that I don’t see the public swallowing.

So let the socialists enjoy their moment. Once the extent and cost of their ideal system becomes clear, support for it will evaporate. Because it’s one thing to promise the moon; anyone can do that. It’s another to actually deliver it.

(PS – Speaking of Vox, Yglesias has another article arguing that the Democrats shouldn’t be too concerned with how to pay for their pipe dreams. Since interest rates are low, he argues, we should be borrowing to pay for “investments”.

Yglesias is usually a reasonable voice but this is one area where he, and many liberals, have lost their minds. Interest rates will not remain low forever. And when they come up, we’ll not only have $19 trillion in debt to roll over, but massive structural deficits for all this new spending. Any increase in spending increase the baseline for future spending. Deficit spending now because interest rates are low is a long walk off a short plank.

Besides, it’s not like the deficit isn’t about to explode anyway.)

The Fields Incident Gets Weirder

Let’s review how we got here:

On March 8, Breitbart reporter Michelle Fields claimed she was asking Trump a question when campaign manager Corey Lewandowski yanked her away from Trump, grabbing her hard enough to leave bruises on her arm. The Trumpers and her own employer turned on her, saying she made it up.

Video and audio then surfaced, confirming that Lewandowski grabbed her. At least one reporter supported her account. They were called liars and told they were exaggerating. “Why don’t you file an assault complaint!” the Trumpers said. So Fields filed an assault complaint. And yesterday, Lewandowski was charged with one count of simple battery.

The response from the Trump camp has been nothing short of astonishing. They’ve been coming up with all sorts of explanations for what happened other than that Lewandowski manhandled her. Trump speculated that she might have gotten those bruises anywhere. They claimed that Lewandowski thought she was a danger to Trump. They brought up a video still showing something in her hand and claimed it could have been a pen-shaped bomb (Fields apparently being a secret Islamist or something). By now, they might be claiming she accidentally fell down a flight of stairs.

Of all the political stories of 2016 so far, this has be the most bizarre. This should have been a minor incident. A reporter claims she was grabbed, the campaign says they’re sorry without admitting anything, story done. And yet, here we are, with battery charges and accusations of assassination attempts.

Normally, I wouldn’t write about this sort of thing. But it has provided an astonishing insight into Trump. Bear with me for a moment.

Read more… »

The Minimum Wage Insanity

Well, here we go:

A deal to raise California’s minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2022 was reached Monday by Gov. Jerry Brown and state legislators, making the nation’s largest state the first to lift base earnings to that level and propelling a campaign to lift the pay floor nationally.

The increase will boost the wages of about 6.5 million California residents, or 43% of the state’s workforce, who earn less than $15, according to worker group Fight for $15. The proposal had been headed to a statewide referendum. It’s now expected to be approved by the state assembly.

This $15 thing is part of Sanders campaign and may be passed into law in New York as well. We’re told that this will increase the earnings of low-wage workers and … somehow … not increase unemployment.

Megan McArdle has a really good must read about why the people proclaiming that minimum wage hikes won’t increase unemployment — a tenet of economics that was proclaimed to be gospel as recently as ten years ago — should worry:

The people confidently proclaiming their ability to see the future are often what I like to call “one-study wonders”: people who have gotten their hands on a single study that confirms what they already believe (or would very much like to) and then proceed to wave it around while ignoring the rest of the vast, conflicting, suggestive but hardly definitive economic literature on the subject.

One-study wonders are always dangerous. A single study, no matter how well done, is never proof of anything. It’s too easy for something to accidentally go wrong.

Because being unemployed, especially for a long time, is about the worst thing that can happen to someone in a modern democracy, short of death or dismemberment. People adjust even to terrible life events such as divorce or widowhood; five years after the loss, research shows that happiness levels recover to about where they were before. But five years in, the unemployed are nearly as miserable as they were on the day they got the sack — and this research was done in Germany, which had a quite generous unemployment compensation program.

Moreover, the people affected are most likely to be low-skilled workers, who are most in need of jobs, not just for the money, but also for the skills that employment provides. The job market is like a ladder, and the lowest rungs are where people gain the critical skills and experience to climb that ladder. If you keep someone off those bottom rungs, studies show that their future employment and salary prospects can be permanently harmed.

The case that minimum wage hikes do not cause unemployment is mostly based on one study — the Card and Kreuger study. In this study, they looked at what happened when New Jersey raised its minimum wage and Pennsylvania didn’t. New Jersey saw a slight increase in employment. Supporters of the minimum wage have proclaimed this to be “the perfect experiment” (ignoring perfect experiments that don’t support their theory). But it’s not. No matter how well done the study was:

  • It’s one study.
  • It measured a relatively small increase in minimum wage.
  • It’s one study.
  • It didn’t look at long-term effects, such as whether people didn’t open new stores as a result of higher wages.
  • It’s one study.
  • It was done in 1992, when regulations were way less burdensome, the economy was in a strong recovery phase and Obamacare did not exist.
  • It’s one study.

The Fight for Fifteen people also cite this letter from “600 economists” supporting a minimum wage. There are only four problems with this seemingly bulletproof letter. One, some of the people on that letter are not economists. Two, most of them work in academia or other fields where they can just ask the government for more money; they’re not running businesses. Three, that letter advocates increasing the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour, not $15. I suspect that many of them would argue that while small wage increases do not affect unemployment, large ones do. Four, their conclusions are theoretical. This is real life.1

Let’s take a step back. As McArdle notes, long-term unemployment can have a damaging lifelong effect on earnings, way more than low entry-level wages do. So the Democrats have decided that they are willing to gamble the long-term futures of millions of people on a theory that the Law of Supply and Demand is magically suspended because … well because they want it to be. And even that theory is stretched. It’s mostly based on one paper for a small minimum wage increase in one specific circumstance. And they are extrapolating that to a massive increase.

In the space of one hundred and seventy six years the Lower Mississippi has shortened itself two hundred and forty-two miles. That is an average of a trifle over a mile and a third per year. Therefore, any calm person, who is not blind or idiotic, can see that in the Old Oölitic Silurian Period, just a million years ago next November, the Lower Mississippi was upwards of one million three hundred thousand miles long, and stuck out over the Gulf of Mexico like a fishing-pole. And by the same token any person can see that seven hundred and forty-two years from now the Lower Mississippi will be only a mile and three-quarters long, and Cairo [Illinois] and New Orleans will have joined their streets together and be plodding comfortably along under a single mayor and a mutual board of aldermen. There is something fascinating about science. One gets such wholesale returns of conjecture out of such a trifling investment of fact. – Mark Twain

This isn’t trivial. This is people’s lives. I’m glad the liberals have a a study that makes them feel good about this. I’m sure that will be comfort to people who can’t find even the most basic entry-level jobs or people who lose their jobs to automation. Maybe they can print copies of the study and burn it to keep themselves warm. Back in reality, let’s check in with those crazy right wing hacks at … Brookings:

In a city like Washington D.C. where unemployment among those with a high school education or less is at a worrisome 15%, jobless rates will almost certainly rise. Many employers will be very reluctant to pay high wages to workers whose skills – including the ability to speak English, in the case of many immigrants – are so modest. A likely result would be not only increases in unemployment but also drops in formal labor force activity (where workers work or search for legal jobs) and perhaps some growth in undocumented work among immigrants.

It’s actually worse in California because they are raising the minimum wage in the entire state. Cities that are in economic turmoil with high unemployment? $15 an hour. Suburbs where the unemployment rate is low? $15 an hour. Minority neighborhoods were unemployment rates for young men can be as high as 50%? $15 an hour.

This isn’t some kind of fancy-schmancy rocket science here. This is math. You simply can not increase wages by 50-100% and not expect there to be an effect. The AEI has now looked at Seattle’s labor market after their big minimum wage hike. Now, granted, it’s only nine months and there are reasons to be skeptical. But the preliminary result is devastating. A full point increase in the unemployment rate.

And let’s suppose, for the moment, that this doesn’t increase unemployment. The money has to come from somewhere. People running business aren’t sitting on giant stacks of money that we can just force them to pay to their employees. So what are they going to do? Increase prices. And what kinds of businesses pay minimum wage? Is it fancy-pants restaurants in Beverly Hills? Is it software companies in Silicon Valley? No. It’s McDonalds. It’s Walmart. It’s Burger King. What do these businesses have in common? They are frequently the choice of the poor and middle class. So we’re going to give them higher wages with one hand and take it away with higher prices on the other. So why bother? Stick a pin in that question.

One frequent justification for raising the minimum wage is that low-wage workers are often eligible for food stamps and Medicaid. However, the eligibility for those programs was expanded specifically to benefit low-wage workers. You can’t expand a social program and then claim that the expansion of the social program proves you need to raise wages. On balance, having workers make less wages but get government benefits is better than having them make marginally higher wages. Because it means less unemployment. It is effectively a government subsidy of the lowest rungs on the economic ladder. Yes, I wish the government just stayed out of the whole thing. But we don’t live in that country.

Now, what is the real motivation here? Why are liberals so hell bent on raising the minimum wage? Why are unions members, who generally don’t make anywhere close to the minimum wage, so supportive of such massive increase? Well, mainly because it will increase union wages, which are frequently indexed to minimum wage.

When you see it from that angle, you see what’s really going on here. Labor unions are limited in their ability to demand more wages by the give-and-take of negotiation and by the constraints of what the market will pay for their products. What this is really about is forcing unionizing businesses to pay much higher wages through the back door (and remember, the Democrats are big supporters of card check, which would make it easier to coerce employees into unions).

So when you really break this down, it comes to this: the Democrats are screwing over the poor, screwing over the working class, screwing over the consumer and screwing over businesses so that their primary source of support — labor unions — can enjoy the benefits. And they are basing this on fuzzy-minded idealism, one-study-wonders and a media that can’t be bothered to question the narrative.

And in five years, California — already enjoying one of the highest unemployment rates and inequality indices in the nation — will be wondering where it all went wrong. They’ll probably blame Republicans. I’m sure there’s one or two left in the legislature they can pin it on.

1. Another point: the Democrats are proclaiming that if the minimum wage were equal to what it was in 1968, it would be $10.66 an hour. They pick that year because it was a peak in minimum wage, a peak way higher than any year before or after. It was right after a huge increase that was enacted to deal with inflation that our government was deliberately creating. These are the same liberals who mock global warming skeptics for saying there has been no warming since 1998 — a huge isolated peak in global temperatures cause by a powerful El Nino. Again: it’s not cherry-picking data that liberals object to; it’s someone else cherry-picking data.

The Secrecy State

The WaPo has a very good rundown of the Clinton e-mail scandal. I don’t think anything will come of this legally. It is a long-established principle that there is one rule for us plebs and one rule for the elites. But it’s a good breakdown of how she potentially compromised national security in order to keep her communications secretive.

Hard to blame her thought. After all, her boss has turned out to be one of the least transparent administrations ever

Generation Eggshell at Emory

I don’t know if you heard about the latest shocking sign of oppression in the United States. Recently, at Emory University, someone traumatized the students by … writing “Trump 2016″ in chalk in various places.

Wait, seriously?

Here they are, in their own words:

“We are in pain,” one student said at a rally, according to The Emory Wheel, a student newspaper. “I don’t deserve to feel afraid at my school,” a second student reportedly said.

“The students shared with me their concern that these messages were meant to intimidate rather than merely to advocate for a particular candidate,” [Emory President] Wagner said in a statement released Tuesday. “During our conversation, they voiced their genuine concern and pain in the face of this perceived intimidation…. I cannot dismiss their expression of feelings and concern as motivated only by political preference or over-sensitivity.”

“I legitimately feared for my life,” a freshman who identifies as Latino told The Daily Beast. Another student told the publication, “Some of us were expecting shootings. We feared walking alone.”

To be fair to the students, they claim that this is but once incident in a series of racial incidents (although it’s not clear what those incidents are or how serious they were). But … here’s their draft letter on the incident. It makes it very clear that what they are objecting to is the content of the graffiti.

In the early morning of Monday, March 21st, a student or group of students vandalized spaces across campus with messages supporting a candidate for president who is the figurehead of hate, racisim, xenophobia and sexism in America. In doing so, this group of students has attacked minority and marginalized communities at Emory, creating an environment in which many students no longer feel safe and welcome.

I’m going to save my profanity for a later rhetorical excess. I’ll just … seriously? Someone puts up the name of a politician you don’t like and you’re being “attacked”?

However, we firmly believe that this has far exceeded what can reasonably be considered an expression of political support. Donald Trump is no longer a joke. Supporting him, repeating his catchphrases, and arguing for his plausibility as the leader of the free world has become a threat to our democracy and an implicit attack on the Muslim, Latin, Black and other communities at Emory and across the country. This is not political expression; this is hate speech.

There you have it, all pink and naked. Supporting a politician I oppose is hate speech.

Look, I don’t like Donald Trump. I think he is stoking some awful fires in this country, as attested by the enthusiasm among white supremacists. But for God’s sake, can we back down from the hysteria? Trump’s a crass, idiotic con man who thinks he can win the Presidency by stimulating resentment and fear (some of which, on trade and terrorism, the Democrats are more than happy to stimulate as well). He’s not Hitler. He’s barely a low-rent George Wallace.

Oh, it gets worse:

Libertarian writer Jeffrey Tucker was present on campus earlier this week, when the messages first appeared. He told me that I was wrong to mock legitimate criticisms of the “Trump 2016″ scrawlings, which he characterized as vandalism of private property. The campus is a fairly apolitical place and the Trump messages were widely perceived as racial intimidation against the campus’s significant minority population—not mere political advocacy—according to Tucker.

“It was like cross burning,” Tucker told me. “It was on private property. It was extremely damaging and the students and faculty were totally embarrassed…it was absolutely intended to intimidate everyone and it worked.”

Cross-burning? Seriously? For anyone to compare this to cross-burning is insane. I’ve had a cross burned on the lawn of my synagogue. It was terrifying. It is a recognized act of terrorism. I don’t care if someone had written “David Duke for President” all over my synagogue. That’s not even comparable.

Conor in a you-really-should-read-the-whole-thing:

Can you imagine how campus progressives would have reacted if a university president threatened to have someone punished or charged with trespassing for chalking “Obama 2012” or “Bernie 2016” on campus sidewalks? But these students see no need for viewpoint-neutral standards about politicking in presidential elections.

Conor points out that cracking down on political messaging will hurt liberals and minorities way more than it hurts conservatives. Donald Trump doesn’t need sidewalk chalk to get his message out. He also points out that this … again … plays rights into Trump’s hands, showing off the very ivory tower elitism that he rails against.

Right now, I’m reading Unlearning Liberty, a great book by Greg Lukianoff about the culture of stifling dissent, debate and free thought on college campuses. This tendency and willingness of students and administrators to treat speech as dangerous has consequences. Part of it is a campus blowing up over graffiti. And part of it is this, from Conor:

Earlier this week, I noted that a black student at UC Davis suffered a hate crime near campus. Three men were later arrested for the assault. Previously, I’ve highlighted the horrifying affects of NYPD spying on innocent Muslim students and the UC Berkeley riot police that turned batons on students. There is sometimes good reason for college students to be concerned about their physical safety on campus, and there are incidents of racism that do not threaten physical safety but are nevertheless abhorrent and understandably upsetting. When students react like this to the mere appearance of the name of a leading candidate in the middle of a presidential-election year, treating the most commonplace political advocacy as if it makes them unsafe, they create perverse incentives for invoking victimhood and deflate the currency of claimed trauma and offense.

When you claim drunken consensual sex is rape, people stop paying attention to sexual violence. When you claim teaching European history is a “microaggression”, people stop paying attention to bias. And when you claim a few chalk scrawls are an “attack”, people stop paying attention to racism.

When I was a kid, my rabbi warned us about screaming “anti-Semitism” at every turn. He said we should bite down and deal with small instances of it so that people would pay attention when we complained about really bad anti-semitism (e.g., some assholes burning a God-damned cross on our lawn). The culture of coddling, hyper-sensitivity and hysteria is destroying not just our ability to deal with real problems in our society, but our ability to even recognize them.

Some students are saying this was blown out of proportion by the media. I don’t think protests and an open letter from the President are tiny things. Nor is it like this is happening in a vacuum. We are seeing this kind of blowups happen on a weekly basis.

Update: At least one student at Emory gets it.

The Tax Man Cometh

I’ve been remiss in posting this week. I have several draft and should post them soon.

In the meantime, Vox put together a calculator that shows you how much each candidate’s tax plan would cost or save you based on your income and status. We don’t make a huge amount of money, but we’d be paying $13,000 more a year if Bernie Sanders got his way. Keep in mind; many experts don’t think Sanders raises taxes enough to pay for socialized medicine. And we’re not in “the rich”, who would see marginal rates of 75%.

Now liberals will counter that we’re getting “free” healthcare and “free” college tuition. But the latter will only happen if the states cooperate, which they won’t. And the former is nice, I guess, but I’m dubious that my employer will roll those savings directly into my salary. So under Sanders, we’d be paying way more in taxes, getting crappy socialized medicine and “free” college at the two institutions that go along with his plan.

And, you know … there’s still a part of me that prefers him to Clinton.

(Trump and Cruz show a few thousand in tax cuts. I’m going to ignore those for the time being since I’m assuming the GOP won’t cut spending that much or blow that big a hole in the budget. But I’ve been wrong before on their willingness to pile up debt in pursuit of tax cuts.)

SCOTUS Second Amendment Smackdown

One of the more ridiculous argument used by anti-Second-Amendment types goeth thusly: “OK, the second amendment gives you the right to bear arms … as defined in 1789. So you can have a musket.”

The idiocy of this argument scarcely needs commenting on. No one would claim the First and Fourth Amendments didn’t apply to computers since computers didn’t exist in 1789. No one would claim Mormons can’t have religious freedom because the LDS church didn’t exist in 1789. And yet this argument has been dragged out from time to time. And a Massachusetts Court gave some credence to that argument:

Enter Jaime Caetano, a Massachusetts woman who had obtained a restraining order against an abusive ex-partner and carried a stun gun for self-protection. When police discovered the weapon in her purse, she was convicted of violating the state’s ban on stun guns. She appealed, contending that the ban violated the Constitution’s right to bear arms. The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled against her, declaring that stuns guns were not in existence when the Second Amendment was written.

So how did the Court take to this argument? Very poorly. They rejected it per curiam in scathing terms with Alito and Thomas issuing a concurring opinion. To be clear: they didn’t decide that the stun gun ban is unconstitutional; they simply sent it back to the Supreme Judicial Court with a note saying, “Think harder, Massholes.”

Again, per curiam, which means the “musket gambit” is so silly, even the liberals on the Court who voted against Heller thought it was a ridiculous argument.

Because … you know … it is a ridiculous argument. It might make for good cheer lines on The Daily Show/Full Frontal/SNL/Real Time. But it won’t hold a thimble of water in a Court.