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  • Archive for the 'Politics' Category

    The state of state surveillance technology

    Posted by Mrs. Davis on 25th March 2017 (All posts by )

    All the discussion of the Trump “wiretapping” seems to assume that there are targets of surveillance. I thought that had passed away years ago and that NSA was simply capturing all transmissions in the ether, converting them from voice to text and storing both in a searchable data base. While additional land lines may be intercepted, the vast majority of signals are now airborne at some point so the NSA has access to virtually all electronic communication, foreign and domestic. Likewise, they do not, except in extraordinary circumstances, have acres of analysts sitting in cubes listening to conversations in real time. Instead, software constantly crawls the text database for terms of interest or manually input searches, such as the names of everyone on the Trump transition team. This is how team 0bama got the dirt that has been leaked to the press.

    Politics is now under the influence of those at NSA with search authorization much more than the Kremlin, except to the extent they have comparable capabilities. I suspect the Kremlin has comparable intellectual capabilities but less access to transmissions and even less processing bandwidth. Given the acceptance of the loss of privacy by the facebook generation, this can only expand. And to think that only 80 years ago a Secretary of State could opine that “Gentlemen do not read each others mail.” Things have changed, and once again, not for the better.

    Got that off my chest. Now if only the tin foil would stop irritating my scalp.

    Posted in America 3.0, Big Government, Current Events, Human Behavior, Just Unbelievable, Politics, Privacy | 11 Comments »

    Numb

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 22nd March 2017 (All posts by )

    That’s the condition my condition is in, regarding the latest public atrocity in London. Just – numb. Sorry for the unfortunate victims, obligatory silent prayers for the dead … but it has all become a kind of dreadful routine. The next numbers in the grand atrocity calculus are the usual – the on-the-spot memorials of flowers, candles and teddy bears, the Book of Face meme to do something with your photo, the obligatory whines from the usual parties not to blame Islam (and the usual fears for an anti-Muslim backlash; although since there have hardly been significant non-fake incidents after the last couple of dozen or so public atrocities one wonders how long the usual parties can go on riding/flogging THAT particular pony), some heartbreaking stories about the victims, vows of eternal vigilance by the law-keeping and intelligence-supervising specialists … and then nothing much, until next time. I suppose this is what it’s like for Israelis; swab off the blood, fill in the divots, bury the victims and wait for the next high-velocity demonstration by representatives of the “Religion of Peace. ™

    Posted in Current Events, Islam, Miscellaneous, Politics | 23 Comments »

    Seth Barrett Tillman: This Is What Is Wrong With The American Judiciary

    Posted by Jonathan on 16th March 2017 (All posts by )

    Excerpt:

    For example, judges, like anyone else in any other role, want a reasonable amount of time to meet their responsibilities. So a compressed briefing and argument schedule is onerous. But all temporary restraining orders are onerous in just this way. That being so, it is difficult to credit why this all too common fact of judicial life is among the “worst conditions imaginable.” Bybee’s overstatement here is palpable.
     
    Even more problematic, Judge Bybee states that “intense public scrutiny” is another of these “worst conditions imaginable.” That is a problem. Judges have extraordinary public power. They are supposed to be scrutinized, and that includes scrutiny by the wider public. The only legitimate question is whether the scrutiny is fair, not how “intense” it is. The First Amendment does not end at the courthouse door, nor do parties’ First Amendment rights end because they find themselves dragooned into litigation.
     
    Moreover, it is wholly “out of … bounds” for an American judge to instruct litigants that their out-of-court statements are inconsistent with “effective advocacy.” Even if not specifically intended, the natural, probable, and expected effect of the dissent’s language is to chill constitutionally protected speech.* It amounts to a directive, from the court** to the lawyers before it, to instruct their clients to shut up during ongoing litigation. Bybee’s extraordinary language here demands a response from the public, the wider legal community, and the elected arms of the government.

    Read the whole thing.

    UPDATE: I Was Wrong

    Posted in Anglosphere, Civil Liberties, Civil Society, Law, Political Philosophy, Politics | 17 Comments »

    Free Trade with a Hostile Mercantilist Empire?

    Posted by Kevin Villani on 14th March 2017 (All posts by )

    2017 marks the 200 year anniversary of David Ricardo’s publication on the theory of comparative advantage that underlies the economic case for free trade. Several years later Frederic Bastiat wrote the satirical Candle Maker’s Petition debunking the arguments in favor of protectionism. This was an ironic choice, as candle makers were politically protected by the Founding Fathers as necessary for the Revolutionary War. These protections lasted several centuries, and in 2016 Senator Chuck Schumer sought it re-instated on grounds of unfair competition from China.

    President Trump’s trade representative economist Peter Navarro is making both the political and economic case against free trade with China, which he considers a mercantilist trader with military ambitions hostile to the U.S.

    Navarro’s political case is an update of that faced by the Founders regarding candle making. China is viewed as pursuing a trading strategy to accumulate wealth and technical know-how to challenge the U.S. militarily in the South China Sea and globally. China’s mercantilist trade practices result in huge export surpluses with the U.S. He argues that China uses this advantage to weaken America’s industrial base and future defensive capability.

    While economists can’t reject this political concern out of hand, it does seem several decades premature given the relative size of the two countries’ navies. At present the US could quickly secure sources of supply for military purposes, and protectionism tends to linger for decades or even centuries.

    The second case against free trade with a mercantilist trader relates mostly to the loss of jobs due to “unfair” competition, i.e., not due to inherent comparative economic advantages as much as political subsidies, in China’s case a purportedly cheapened currency and weak labor and environmental protections. The standard argument is that such trade generally benefits consumers at the expense of high cost producers, resulting in a less political more fair distribution of consumption as well as a higher overall level. Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Big Government, Business, China, Economics & Finance, International Affairs, Japan, Markets and Trading, Politics, Public Finance, Trump | 11 Comments »

    Seth Barrett Tillman: NPR’s Planet Money, President Trump, and the Foreign Emoluments Clause

    Posted by Jonathan on 12th March 2017 (All posts by )

    Noel King & Robert Smith, NPR Podcast #758, Can Trump Take the Money, NPR: Planet Money (Mar. 10, 2017), http://tinyurl.com/zg6cgte.
     

    Noel King: Presidents and other elected officials have been so paranoid that they might seem to be in violation of [the Foreign Emoluments Clause] that they do everything they can to avoid it. In fact, in the handful of times it does come up it sounds ridiculous.

    Noel King: Or if Presidents or other U.S. officials do accept gifts, they do what the [Foreign Emoluments] [C]lause says they got to do, they ask Congress for permission.

     
    Dear Noel,
     
    I listened to your full podcast. In fact, I listened to it twice. And then I delayed two days before writing you.
     
    In your podcast (at 10:20ff), you state that Presidents have done “everything they can to avoid” application of the Foreign Emoluments Clause “or … they ask Congress for permission [to keep the gift].”
     
    I find your willingness to make this claim more than a little troubling. You interviewed me for well over an hour, and you and I discussed in detail President George Washington’s diplomatic gifts: gifts which he received, acknowledged, and kept, absent any request for congressional consent.
     
    [. . .]

    Read Seth’s full post.

    Posted in History, Law, Media, Politics, Trump | 5 Comments »

    Seth Barrett Tillman: Some Thoughts on the 2016 Presidential Election

    Posted by Jonathan on 6th March 2017 (All posts by )

    Seth re-games the election. The conclusion:

    A 269 to 269 tie would have come about in those circumstances because of the 2 electoral vote bonus awarded to each state. Trump carried 30 states (each bringing a bump of 2 electoral votes), but Clinton only carried 20 states and the District of Columbia. It appears that Republicans go into presidential elections with about a 10 state or 20 electoral vote bonus.

    Worth reading in full.

    Posted in Conservatism, Elections, Politics, Systems Analysis, Trump | 4 Comments »

    The attempted coup d’etat going on now.

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on 4th March 2017 (All posts by )

    The fact that Obama has set up an opposition movement in the District of Columbia is a worrisome bit of news.

    Obama’s goal, according to a close family friend, is to oust Trump from the presidency either by forcing his resignation or through his impeachment.
    And Obama is being aided in his political crusade by his longtime consigliere, Valerie Jarrett, who has moved into the 8,200-square-foot, $5.3-million Kaloroma mansion with the former president and Michelle Obama, long time best friends.
    Jarrett played a vital – if at times low-key – role in the Obama presidency. She lived in the White House, dined with the Obamas, and help shape his domestic and foreign policies.

    She was also born in Iran and speaks Farsi. I wonder at her role in the Iran deal.

    Now, we find more bad news.

    Obama used the US intelligence apparatus to spy on Trump’s presidential campaign.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Elections, National Security, Obama, Politics, Trump | 36 Comments »

    THE SECOND UNDERCARD BOUT

    Posted by Subotai Bahadur on 2nd March 2017 (All posts by )

    From June 16, 2015 we have been hearing about how the Republican Party is tearing itself apart. The battle for the Republican nomination pitted every dynastic interest against Donald Trump. And Trump won. The General election was characterized by Republican Party and elected officials declaring themselves as #NeverTrump, and functionally supporting the Democrat candidate Hillary Clinton. And now that Trump is President despite them, it is a fact the Republicans in Congress are slow-walking all of Trump’s nominees alongside the Democrats. It is the Republican Senate Majority Leader who is predicting that Obamacare will only be tinkered with around the edges, and the Republican Speaker of the House who is saying that there will be no tax reform, and that controlling the border may not happen.

    Why do we hear this? It is because the MSM is a subset of the Democrat Leadership and operates temporarily in alliance with the GOPe leadership since the election. It is the media that tries to set the bounds of what we hear. And, in accordance with the dicta of government propagandists worldwide, the most important part of controlling public attitudes is what they do NOT allow us to hear.

    Are the Republicans tearing themselves apart? Absolutely. Is that the only story out there? Not a chance. There are other events in progress that in conjunction with what we already know will greatly influence the final political outcome.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Current Events, Elections, Politics | 28 Comments »

    Some Thoughts on Trump, Free Trade, and Horses

    Posted by Lexington Green on 28th February 2017 (All posts by )

    A friend sent a link to a leaked, recorded conversation between Trump and Wilbur Ross, his nominee for Commerce Secretary. There is nothing particularly troubling in the conversation. Trump is talking like Trump. He is the same person in public and in private, which is nice.

    I responded:

    Sounds good to me.  A tariff is a consumption tax collected at the port of entry.  The American founders expected to fund the operations of the national government with revenue from a tariff, and it worked.  He is also right that the Japanese and other countries use safety regulations as non-tariff import barriers.  There is nothing bad on here at all.  

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Culture, Economics & Finance, History, Politics, Public Finance, Taxes, Trump | 20 Comments »

    The Crazy Years 21st Century Style

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 27th February 2017 (All posts by )

    I honestly thought that once the election was done and Donald Trump duly sworn into the highest office in the land that those whose favored candidate lost would calm the heck down. You know, sort of the way that those of us whose chosen candidate lost in 2012… you know, disappointed but sporting about it. We went home, sniffled a little as we communed via the internet with equally disappointed friends, assumed the fetal position and turned the electric blanket onto “high” and got over it in a week or so. That’s the way the constitutionally-mandated cookie crumbles. The day after the election, I assumed that Hillary and Bernie voters would have had the maturity to do the same; morn a little, snivel a little, write editorials in the national media-of-record rationalizing their unfortunate reversals, perhaps throwing a little blame against whomever, and then pull themselves together and put as good a face on it as they could muster, promising to do better in 2020.

    Nope; the march of the disappointed pussy-hatters the very next day, riots and protests in deep blue cities, the absolute frothing at the mouth Trump-hate at the Oscars and on the national news broadcasts, the impassioned print editorials, the ranting, raving, stompy-footing, the mass-defriending and insanely hateful rants on Facebook: Trump is a Nazi-fascist-anti-Semitic-racist-who-pulls-tags-off-mattresses and trips old ladies hobbling along on canes, and so is everyone who voted for him. Yes, over the last few years, we have kind of gotten the idea that the Ruling Class; the bi-coastal comfortable and well-connected (including the intelligentsia, the national media and bureaucracy) were contemptuous of the ordinary working and middle class residents of Flyoverlandia. Now we know for a certainty that those who form the coalition of the Ruling Class and many who aspire to be a member of that Class in good standing despise us. They despise us with a passion and fury that renders them incoherent, and unashamed of displaying that hatred.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Americas, Civil Society, Conservatism, Deep Thoughts, Leftism, Politics, Trump | 18 Comments »

    “More Trump”

    Posted by Jonathan on 24th February 2017 (All posts by )

    Assistant Village Idiot:

    Consequently, the standard for avoiding mistakes is now the same for you as you have been applying to others for your whole career. When accusing Trump of making some inaccurate statement, if you get that wrong once it outweighs nine times that you got it right. And, just between you and me and the lampost, you aren’t close to getting it right 90% of the time just now. so in the minds of the public, you are digging yourself in deeper and deeper. Fresh examples are best. There was a lot of excitement this past weekend about Trump claiming something had gone wrong in Sweden, but there hadn’t been any big incident that anyone could recognise. When I first read it, I thought What the hell is Trump talking about there? I thought the story plausible, because Trump does stuff like this. Then I saw the transcript, and without even knowing the rest of the story, I thought Unh, there’s some window there. It’s a little clumsy in the wording, but he could be talking about events in general in Sweden, maybe an “Every Friday night…” You shouldn’t try to slam dunk these, because they keep hitting off the rim. So when I read the full response, that Trump had watched Tucker Carlson on the news Friday with a story about the increase in rape and violence in Sweden due to immigration, it made entire sense.
     
    The people who always believe you – the people who will believe any bad thing about Trump (and his minions – don’t forget his minions) will throw up their hands, roll their eyes and say “Aw come on, that’s a ridiculous excuse. You got caught out, you old windbag. Don’t try to bring that crap in here.” Except it’s not ridiculous at all. That’s exactly how Trump talks, and how he thinks. He’s been talking like this for years. His claim is entirely plausible. It not only could be true, so you can’t get your slam dunk, it is actually the most likely thing that happened. Because why the hell else would Sweden suddenly occur to him? The news story was in his stew, it bubbled to the top, and he spooned it.
     
    Net result: Your pals, no change. They still don’t believe Trump but even if he had some sort of definite proof they would just scowl and wait for the next time. (We’ll get him next time.) Trump’s pals, no change. Even if you had proof they’d just shrug it off. People in the middle, that one-third of the population, most will now remember They lied about Trump again, about something really small and pointless like it was a big deal. Maybe a few will think you scored a point, but also notice that it doesn’t much matter. Small potatoes. So now you need to catch him nine times, without a miss, to make up for it. Welcome to the world you made. How does it feel to be on the receiving end?
     
    Remember the first rule of holes.

    Worth reading in full.

    Posted in Big Government, Elections, Human Behavior, Leftism, Media, Politics, Trump | 11 Comments »

    The Revolt Against the Experts

    Posted by Jonathan on 9th February 2017 (All posts by )

    ‘Trump makes sense to a grocery store owner’

    Economist-mathematician Nassim Nicholas Taleb contends that there is a global riot against pseudo-experts
     
    After predicting the 2008 economic crisis, the Brexit vote, the U.S. presidential election and other events correctly, Nassim Nicholas Taleb, author of the Incerto series on global uncertainties, which includes The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable, is seen as something of a maverick and an oracle. Equally, the economist-mathematician has been criticised for advocating a “dumbing down” of the economic system, and his reasoning for U.S. President Donald Trump and global populist movements. In an interview in Jaipur, Taleb explains why he thinks the world is seeing a “global riot against pseudo-experts”.

    Taleb has a typically thoughtful and contrary take on Trump’s electoral victory. Worth reading in full.

    (Via Peter Saint-Andre.)

    Posted in Big Government, Book Notes, Civil Society, Politics, Trump, USA | 13 Comments »

    What, if anything, is being done about the rioters in Berkeley and elsewhere?

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on 3rd February 2017 (All posts by )

    20117-trump-inauguration-protest-arrest-3-216p-rs_031539a9264cc5e7b3c513193890a317.nbcnews-ux-2880-1000-800x500_c

    It has been frustrating to see what appear to be professional rioters destroying property and injuring innocent people, with no visible attempt to arrest or stop their depredations.

    A word should be said on behalf of Berkeley students. I am convinced that the violent rioters were not students from the campus, but were organized outside agitators from off campus that exploited the event. Most students today, even my left-leaning students (I have quite a few in class), were angry about what had happened, as they resented having their protest hijacked by thugs, and the victory it delivered Milo, who is the Kim Kardashian of political theater. Instead of speaking to 500 people in an auditorium last night, he spoke to perhaps 4 million on TV. I think the net present value of the protest to him, in increased book sales and media market value, is at least $1 million—probably considerably more.

    That may be comforting to think the riots are driving people to Trump and the political right. But what about the rioters and those supporting them?

    The FBI may be investigating the Mayor of Berkeley for supporting the rioters and discouraging police intervention.

    U.S. Code 2385:

    Whoever knowingly or willfully advocates, abets, advises, or teaches the duty, necessity, desirability, or propriety of overthrowing or destroying the government of the United States or the government of any State, Territory, District or Possession thereof, or the government of any political subdivision therein, by force or violence, or by the assassination of any officer of any such government; or

    Whoever, with intent to cause the overthrow or destruction of any such government, prints, publishes, edits, issues, circulates, sells, distributes, or publicly displays any written or printed matter advocating, advising, or teaching the duty, necessity, desirability, or propriety of overthrowing or destroying any government in the United States by force or violence, or attempts to do so; or

    Whoever organizes or helps or attempts to organize any society, group, or assembly of persons who teach, advocate, or encourage the overthrow or destruction of any such government by force or violence; or becomes or is a member of, or affiliates with, any such society, group, or assembly of persons, knowing the purposes thereof—

    Shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than twenty years, or both, and shall be ineligible for employment by the United States or any department or agency thereof, for the five years next following his conviction.

    Will this work ? Maybe we need better intelligence about who these people are.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Anti-Americanism, Crime and Punishment, Current Events, Politics, Terrorism | 11 Comments »

    Seth Barrett Tillman on Irish Television and Radio

    Posted by Jonathan on 2nd February 2017 (All posts by )

    Sharon Ní Bheoláin & Bryan Dobson, RTÉ News: Six One (Jan. 31, 2017, 6:00 PM) (interview), http://tinyurl.com/h2yatsx ; http://tinyurl.com/hx3ndjc

    Cormac Ó hEadhra, The Late Debate, RTÉ Radio 1 (Jan. 31, 2017, 10:00 PM) (panelist), http://tinyurl.com/hfs62h2

    Pat Kenny, The Pat Kenny Show, Newstalk.com 106–108fm (Feb. 1, 2017, 9:00 AM), http://tinyurl.com/gvvqdnb

    (Link to blog post.)

    Posted in Current Events, Law, Media, Politics | 4 Comments »

    Now That We Have a New Administration

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 26th January 2017 (All posts by )

    I had an appointment with my primary care health provider at the dot of 9 AM Wednesday morning, down at the primary care clinic at Fort Sam Houston. Some years and months ago, they moved that function from the mountainous brick pile that is the Brooke Army Medical Center, into a free-standing clinic facility on Fort Sam Houston itself. I would guess, in the manner of things, that this clinic facility will undergo some kind of mitosis in about ten years, and split into another several facilities … but in the meantime, this is where I get seen for my routine medical issues … mainly high blood pressure. So; minor, mostly – immediately after retiring, I went for years without ever laying eyes on my so-called primary care provider. A good few of them came and went without ever laying eyes or a stethoscope on me, as well. But this last-but-one moved on, just at the point where he and I recognized each other by sight and remembered each other from one yearly appointment to the next. But once yearly, I must go in and see my care provider, and get the prescriptions renewed, and Wednesday was the day …

    Fort Sam Houston – what to say about that place? Historically, it was the new and shiny and built-to-purpose military establishment after the presidio of the Alamo became too cramped, run-down and overwhelmed by the urban sprawl of San Antonio in the late 1870s. I have read in several places, that if the place is ever de-accessioned and turned back to civil authority as the Presidio in San Francisco was, that the inventory of city-owned historic buildings in San Antonio would instantly double. Yes – San Antonio is and was that important. It was the US Army HQ for the Southwest from the time that Texas became a state, the main supply hub for all those forts scattered across New Mexico Territory (which was most of the Southwest, after the war with Mexico), the home of the commander and admin staff for that administrative area. Every notable Army officer from both world wars put in serious time at Fort Sam during their formative military years, and the very first aircraft bought by the Army Signal Corps did demo flights from the parade ground. (I put a description of this in the final chapter of The Quivera Trail.)
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Current Events, Elections, Military Affairs, Politics, Texas, Trump | 25 Comments »

    National Tantrum

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 19th January 2017 (All posts by )

    As the Deity be my witness, I have never – not even since 1968 (which I am sufficiently old enough to remember, being 14 years of age in that cursed year) – seen such a massive and public temper tantrum as that which we have been observing since November, 2015. Let it be said that I am observing all this with appalled and horrified fascination. It used to be that only certain very far-leftish intellectuals and college students were given to briefly melt down in such an over-the-top fashion – but over the last month and a bit this appears to have become the chosen reaction to their side losing an election on the part of most Hollywood A- B- and C-Listers, all the social justice warrior front, most of the establishment media, a good chunk of our public intellectuals, a good few businesses (looking at you, Kellogg) a generous selection of our Democrat Party establishment, and a representative sample of leftish freelance political freaks. (As an aside – good show; displaying your contempt toward at least half of your prospective audience/consumers/& etc is a sure winner, when it comes to the consumer market. This household will never purchase Kellogg brands again. Or go to a movie with Meryl Streep in it.)

    So – why the Cat-5 hurricane degree of hysteria, which shows not the slightest degree of diminishing? A number of reasons, I would venture; and for many of the most demonstrative “Never Our President” virtue signalers it may be a combination of several of these.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Big Government, Civil Society, Deep Thoughts, Politics, Tea Party, The Press, Trump | 21 Comments »

    An Odd Couple, or a Match Made in Heaven?

    Posted by David Foster on 13th January 2017 (All posts by )

    It is interesting that there is such a high overlap of political opinion between College Professors and Entertainers…the latter category not being known for their intellectual or scholarly tastes, on the average.

    Significance, if any?

    Posted in Academia, Film, Politics, USA | 33 Comments »

    Seth Barrett Tillman: This is what balanced news reporting looks like ….

    Posted by Jonathan on 13th January 2017 (All posts by )

    [Partial automated translation:]

    Tillman also pointed out that many of the public service regulations were not valid for the purpose of preventing possible conflicts of interest for elected deputies [i.e., officials], judges and not least the presidents and vice-presidents. Tillman called [i.e., made reference to] the desired independence of the persons who hold such offices. If presidents had to submit their decisions to an ethics officer, in order to rule out possible conflicts of interest, the latter would gain a very powerful position, although he [i.e., the latter] was not legitimized by any choice [of the people]. Judges and elected representatives enjoy a trust advance.

    This is worth reading in full. Recent US reporting on the Constitution’s Foreign Emoluments Clause, like much recent US reporting on any topic that can be associated with Trump, is tendentious in the extreme.

    See also: Tillman on Trump on RTE (Irish national television) (Seth appears in the video beginning around 5:50, debating a Democratic Party representative. The clip runs about 9 minutes.)

    Posted in Law, Media, Politics, Trump, Video | 1 Comment »

    Seth Barrett Tillman: Moving the Overton Window and Student Notes

    Posted by Jonathan on 6th January 2017 (All posts by )

    When you launch a new idea, its very newness puts it outside of the mainstream. Back in 2007, in an academic article, recess appointments were one of the issues du jour. I wrote that if a President made a recess appointment, a determined Senate could kill the appointment by ending its current session and immediately starting a new one (or by doing so twice, in the case of an intra-session recess appointment). See Seth Barrett Tillman, Senate Termination of Presidential Recess Appointments, 101 Nw. U. L. Rev. Colloquy 82 (2007), https://ssrn.com/abstract=956164 (the first part of a four-part Tillman-Kalt exchange).
     
    I admit that the idea was a bit novel—but it does follow from the text of the Constitution’s Recess Appointments Clause. One student note called my “innovation[] … at once both plausible and absurd ….” David Frisof, Note, Plausible Absurdities and Practical Formalities: The Recess Appointments Clause in Theory and Practice, 112 Mich. L. Rev. 627, 643 (2014).
     
    Two years later, in 2016, what was absurd is now standard fare.
     

    All that the [Republican majority] Senate would need to do [to terminate a purported recess appointment by President Obama of Judge Garland to the Supreme Court] is end its next session by adjourning sine die and Garland’s term would end. This is because, under the Constitution’s Recess Appointments Clause, such appointments terminate at the end of the next Senate session. Adjourning sine die would require the cooperation of the House and a president’s signature, but that would be no obstacle come Jan. 20. In other words, Congress could terminate any recess appointment made by Obama in less than three weeks.

    Read the rest.

    Posted in Law, Politics | 2 Comments »

    Judith Curry Resigns Her Faculty Position.

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on 5th January 2017 (All posts by )

    The world of Climate research lost a great academic figure as Judith Curry resigns her tenured faculty position at Georgia Tech.

    She has figured largely in the climate debate as a skeptic in global warming.

    I have retired from Georgia Tech, and I have no intention of seeking another academic or administrative position in a university or government agency. However, I most certainly am not retiring from professional life.

    Why did I resign my tenured faculty position?

    I’m ‘cashing out’ with 186 published journal articles and two books. The superficial reason is that I want to do other things, and no longer need my university salary. This opens up an opportunity for Georgia Tech to make a new hire (see advert).

    The deeper reasons have to do with my growing disenchantment with universities, the academic field of climate science and scientists.

    She has endured considerable abuse from the alarmist side. She is called a “heretic” in the alarmist circles.

    over the past year or so she has become better known for something that annoys, even infuriates, many of her scientific colleagues. Curry has been engaging actively with the climate change skeptic community, largely by participating on outsider blogs such as Climate Audit, the Air Vent and the Black¬board. Along the way, she has come to question how climatologists react to those who question the science, no matter how well established it is. Although many of the skeptics recycle critiques that have long since been disproved, others, she believes, bring up valid points

    So, she might have a point. However:

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Education, Environment, Politics, Science | 6 Comments »

    Seth Barrett Tillman: Ed Kilgore, At NY Mag’s Daily Intelligencer, Asks President Obama To Use Recess Appointments: Kilgore’s Strategy Won’t Work & This Is Why

    Posted by Jonathan on 29th December 2016 (All posts by )

    Kilgore argues that the only route the Republicans would have to remove these recess appointees* would be through slow moving lawsuits which would take months, all the while leaving these appointees in place during the first year of Trump’s new administration. See Kilgore (“TR made 193 recess appointments at the beginning of 1903, and while the legality of the action has been questioned, it has never been clearly overturned. If Obama were to follow this procedure, it would take extensive litigation to reverse it, and it might stand after all.”). Kilgore is entirely wrong. No lawsuits would be needed—just two swings of the Majority Leader’s gavel. Just two swings and the recess appointees would be out.**

    Read the rest.

    Posted in History, Law, Obama, Politics | 1 Comment »

    There Is No Possible Reform for HUD

    Posted by Kevin Villani on 17th December 2016 (All posts by )

    “The Department of] Housing and Urban Development has done an enormous amount of harm. My god, if you think of the way in which they have destroyed parts of cities under the rubric of eliminating slums … there have been many more dwelling units torn down in the name of public housing than have been built.” ~ Milton Friedman, Interview, Hoover Institution, February 10, 1999

    President-elect Trump’s appointment of Dr. Ben Carson as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development is being criticized on the grounds that he lacks the requisite administrative experience. More likely, Carson’s affront was to question why HUD exists.

    Republican presidents have been ambivalent. Having bigger fish to fry, President Reagan appointed Sam Pierce HUD Secretary so that he could ignore it. George H.W. Bush repaid Jack Kemp’s political opposition by first making him HUD Secretary and then frustrating his attempts to eliminate the Department. HUD Secretary Alphonso Jackson, appointed by George W., was allegedly focused on participating in the traditional kickback schemes while his Assistant Secretary for Housing pursued homeownership policies that contributed mightily to the financial crisis of 2008.

    Democratic presidents have used it as a platform to pursue other agendas. Jimmy Carter’s HUD Secretary Patricia Harris introduced Fannie Mae housing goals – quotas – as punishment for not appointing a woman to the Board of Directors. Between scandals, Clinton’s HUD Secretary Henry Cisneros promoted the homeownership goals that left both the financial system and the new mortgage borrowers bankrupt.

    HUD’s budget is relatively small as compared to other federal departments, but it has always punched far above its budget weight in destructive power. To put HUD’s annual budget of about $50 billion in perspective, the cost of the homeowner mortgage interest tax deduction is two to three times greater, but HUD’s “mission regulation” of financial institutions has given it influence or control over trillions more.

    The initial political interest in housing during the Great Depression was entirely Keynesian, i.e., related to the short-term potential to create jobs and relieve cyclical unemployment – the “infrastructure investments” of that era. The Democrat’s approach to construction, management, and allocation of public housing was generally implemented to benefit builders and rife with corruption. FHA and Fannie Mae were chartered mostly as off-balance sheet financial institutions to stimulate housing production on the cheap.

    The problem of urban development, as many politicians and urban analysts saw it in the 1960s, stemmed from the 1956 Eisenhower initiative to build highways financed by the National Interstate and Defense Highways Act, a byproduct of which was that more affluent people commuted from the suburbs while leaving poorer families behind. The pursuit of the American Dream of homeownership left city administrations accustomed to cross-subsidizing municipal services in fiscal distress, creating a vicious cycle: as services declined, more affluent households moved out.

    The Housing and Urban Development Act in 1965 established HUD as a separate cabinet department as part of LBJ’s Great Society to give a greater priority to housing and urban issues. HUD inherited a mishmash of various New Deal federal programs, ranging from public rental housing to urban renewal, as well as financial oversight of FHA and Fannie Mae.

    Faced with steep “guns and butter” budget deficits, LBJ focused on ways to further encourage off-balance-sheet financing of housing construction through “public-private partnerships.” Republicans, led by Senator Edward Brooke of Massachusetts, convinced by academic studies that the urban riots of the 1960s were the direct result of poor quality housing and the urban environment and by lobbyists for housing producers, supported the Housing and Urban Development Act of 1968. The “goal of a decent home and a suitable living environment for every American family” was first introduced in the 1949 Housing Act. Title XVI of the 1968 Act “Housing Goals and Annual Housing Report” introduced central planning without specifying the goals, a timetable for implementation, or a budget.

    In the late 1960s, the Weyerhaeuser Corporation produced a forecast of single-family housing production in the coming decade to assist with tree planting. Congressional math wizards divided the total forecast by 10 to produce HUD’s annual housing production goals for the nation. For the next decade, HUD Secretaries were annually paraded before their Senate oversight Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs to explain why they did or did not meet these production goals.

    Republicans have historically supported rental housing vouchers for existing private rental units for privately built housing to minimize market distortions. Republican HUD Secretary Carla Hills in the Ford Administration pushed HUD’s Section 8 subsidies for existing housing – something arguably better administered as a negative income tax – as a political alternative to the Democrats’ push for a return to public housing construction. But as a further political compromise, the largely autonomous local public housing authorities would administer these vouchers, leading to the same concentration of crime and urban decay as public housing. To borrow a phrase from former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, “Republican social engineering” isn’t necessarily better than “Democratic social engineering.”

    The economic goals of “affordable” housing have generally been in direct conflict with urban development. When I proposed demolishing the worst public housing projects and redeveloping the land, using the proceeds to fund subsidies for existing private market housing (something partially achieved during the Reagan Administration), Clinton Administration officials scoffed at the idea.

    HUD combines socialist goals and fascist methods that seriously distort and undermine markets. There is neither market nor political discipline on the enormous scope of its activities. HUD met unfunded goals through financial coercion, undermining both Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and their commercial banking competitors, with the collusion of the Senate Committee responsible for both financial and housing oversight, leading to the sub-prime lending debacle of 2008.

    There is no economic rationale for a federal role in housing or urban affairs in a market economy. HUD represents a continuing systemic threat for which there is no cure. May it RIP.

    Kevin Villani


    Kevin Villani

    Kevin Villani, chief economist at Freddie Mac from 1982 to 1985, is a principal of University Financial Associates. He has held senior government positions, been affiliated with nine universities, and served as CFO and director of several companies. He recently published Occupy Pennsylvania Avenue on the political origins of the sub-prime lending bubble and aftermath.

    This article was originally published on FEE.org. Read the original article.

    Posted in Big Government, Economics & Finance, Politics, Public Finance, Real Estate, Urban Issues | 4 Comments »

    Can Donald Trump Prevent the Economy from Falling Into a Black Hole?

    Posted by Kevin Villani on 13th December 2016 (All posts by )

    Interest rates will eventually rise without an even more devastating policy of financial repression. When they do, rising interest costs will produce a vicious cycle of ever more borrowing. We are already approaching the “event horizon” of spinning into this black hole of an inflationary spiral and economic collapse from which few countries historically have escaped. A substantially higher rate of growth is the only way to break free.

    National economic growth is typically measured by the growth of GDP, and citizen well being by the growth of per-capita GDP. The long run trend of GDP growth reflects labor force participation, hours worked and productivity as well as the rate of national saving and the productivity of investments, all of which have been trending down.

    The population grows at about 1% annually and actual GDP growth averaged 2% overall for 2010-2016 (using the new World Bank and IMF forecast of US GDP at 1.6% for 2016), hence per capita GDP grew at only 1%. Moreover the income from that 1% growth went primarily to the top one percent while 99% stagnated and minorities fell backwards.

    Why we are approaching the Event Horizon
    The Obama Administration annually predicted a more historically typical 2.6% per capita growth rate, consistent with the historical growth in non-farm labor productivity. How could their forecasts be so far off?

    The Obama Administration pursued the most massive Keynesian fiscal and monetary stimulus ever undertaken. Such a policy generally at least gives the appearance of a rise in well being in the near term, as the government GDP statistic (repetitive, as the word “statistic derives from the Greek word for “state” ) reflects final expenditures, thereby imputing equal value to what governments “spend” as to the discretionary spending of private households and businesses in competitive markets. But labor productivity gains stagnated at only about 1%, most likely reflecting the cost and uncertainty of anti-business regulatory and legislative policies that dampened investment, something the Administration denied, trumping even a short term boost to GDP.

    As a result the national debt approximately doubled from $10 trillion to $20 trillion, with contingent liabilities variously estimated from $100 to $200 trillion, putting the economy ever closer to the event horizon. Breaking free will require reversing the highly negative trends by reversing the policies that caused them.

    Technology alone isn’t sufficient
    Obama Administration apologists argued that stagnation is “the new normal” citing leading productivity experts such as Robert Gordon who dismissed the potential of new technologies. Many disagree, but Gordon’s findings imply even greater reliance on conventional reform.

    Fiscal policy won’t be sufficient
    Raising taxes may reduce short term deficits but slows growth. Cutting wasteful spending works better but is more difficult.

    The list of needed public infrastructure investments has grown since the last one trillion dollar “stimulus” of politically allocated and mostly wasteful pork that contributed to the stagnation of the last eight years. Debt financed public infrastructure investment contributes to growth only if highly productive investments are chosen over political white elephants like California’s bullet train, always problematic.

    Major cuts in defense spending are wishful thinking as most geopolitical experts view the world today as a riskier place than at any prior time of the past century, with many parallels to the inter-war period 1919-1939.

    The major entitlement programs Social Security and Medicare for the elderly need reform. But for those in or near retirement the potential for savings is slight. Is Medicare really going to be withheld by death squads? Are benefits for those dependent on social security going to be cut significantly, forcing the elderly back into the labor force? Cutting Medicare or SS benefits for those with significant wealth – the equivalent of a wealth tax – won’t affect their consumption, hence offsetting the fall in government deficits with an equal and offsetting liquidation of private wealth. Prospective changes for those 55 years of age or younger should stimulate savings and defer retirement, improving finances only in the long run.

    The remaining bureaucracies are in need of major pruning and in numerous cases elimination but they evaded even budget scold David Stockman’s ax during the Reagan Administration.

    Americans will have to work more and consume less
    That is the typical progressive economic legacy of excessive borrowing from the future.

    The first Clinton Administration created the crony capitalist coalition of the political elite and the politically favored, e.g., public sector employees and retirees, subsidy recipients and low income home loan borrowers. The recent Clinton campaign promised to broaden this coalition, which would have accelerated the trip over the event horizon.

    Reform that taxes consumption in favor of savings and a return to historical real interest rates could reverse the dramatic decline of the savings rate. Regulations redirecting savings to politically popular housing or environmental causes need to be curtailed in favor of market allocation to productive business investment.

    Repeal and replace of Obama Care could reverse the trend to part time employment. Unwinding the approximate doubling of SS Disability payments and temporary unemployment benefits could reverse the decline in labor force participation.

    Service sector labor productivity has been falling since 1987, the more politically favored the faster the decline. Legal services are at the bottom, partly reflecting political power of rent-seeking trial lawyers, followed by unionized health and then educational services. Union favoritism through, e.g., Davis Bacon wage requirements and “card check” increases rent seeking, particularly rampant in the unionized public sector.

    Competition, of which free but reciprocal trade has historically been a major component, has traditionally provided the largest boost to well being by realizing the benefits of foreign productivity in a lower cost of goods while channeling American labor into employment where their relative productivity is highest. The transition is often painful, but paying people not to work long term is counterproductive. Immigration of both highly skilled and low cost labor (but not dependent family) generally contributes to per capita labor productivity in the same way as free trade.

    None of this will be easy. The alternative is Greece without the Mediterranean climate or a sufficiently rich benefactor.

    —-

    Kevin Villani, chief economist at Freddie Mac from 1982 to 1985, is a principal of University Financial Associates. He has held senior government positions, been affiliated with nine universities, and served as CFO and director of several companies. He recently published Occupy Pennsylvania Avenue on the political origins of the sub-prime lending bubble and aftermath.

    Posted in Big Government, Current Events, Economics & Finance, Politics, Predictions, Public Finance, Trump | 13 Comments »

    It looks like the Democrats may be trying to undo the election.

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on 12th December 2016 (All posts by )

    Many of us were pleased to see the surprise results of the November 8 election. Democrats were distraught.

    The Democrats seem to be hung up on Kubler Ross’s first stage of mourning.

    Anger and disbelief are giving way to what is starting to look like an insurrection.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Big Government, Current Events, Elections, International Affairs, Politics, Trump | 18 Comments »

    The American Virtual Civil War

    Posted by David Foster on 29th November 2016 (All posts by )

    Musings on Cirque des Crazi, at Ricochet, was inspired by two long-time (since childhood) friends of the author and his wife…one a senior nun and the other a retired IRS manager…who have “been looney, angry, mean and distempered crazies before, during and since the election”…”Yes, they are Hilaryites. They are the scourge of (his wife’s) Facebook, showing no mercy or measure of humanity. Both use language that would make Trump blush.  Many people on Ricochet have reported similar insanity and we all watch the media created Cirque Des Crazi on the streets of blue cities and the academic child care centers formerly known as Higher Education.

    Read and discuss.

    Posted in Leftism, Politics, Trump, USA | 40 Comments »