Patterico's Pontifications


San Bernardino Terror Attack One Year Later: Blame The Christmas Party

Filed under: General — Dana @ 11:46 pm

[guest post by Dana]

It was reported this week that last year’s terror attack in San Bernardino may have been the result of… Christmas trees and other symbols of holiday cheer:

Authorities believe the terrorist attack on Dec. 2, 2015, in San Bernardino may have been triggered by a mandatory employee training session and lunch replete with holiday decorations, including a Christmas tree, that shooter Syed Farook was forced to attend.

Emails discovered by the FBI and police reveal Farook’s wife, Pakistani native Tashfeen Malik, objected to the Christmas setting and was upset her husband had to go.

“She had essentially made the statement in an online account that she didn’t think that a Muslim should have to participate in a non-Muslim holiday or event,” said San Bernardino Police Chief Jarrod Burguan in an exclusive interview with ABC News that aired on ABC News’ “Nightline.”

“That really is one of the very, very few pieces of potential evidence that we have that we can truly point to and say, ‘That probably is a motive in this case,’” he said.

As a reminder, Syed Farook left the Inland Regional Center that fateful day as the department was transitioning from a training session to a holiday party for employees. Farook was gone for approximately 30 minutes, only to return with his wife and open fire. If, as the report claims, it was the holiday party that was so upsetting to Farook, why even return to the venue? Why not just stay home? After all, he had already participated in the training portion that morning.

During an appearance on Capitol Hill just a week after the attack, FBI director James Comey had testified that Farook and his wife “were radicalized for quite a long time before their attack” and that they were “inspired by foreign terrorist organizations.” Further, since 2013, the couple had been talking to each other about jihad and martyrdom. And according to investigators at the time, “[T]he couple had been adherents of a radical strain of Islam long before the massacre.” But with this latest discovery of a motive, maybe we should just discard Comey’s silly talk.

Let this be a lesson to us all: Never underestimate the power of jingle bells and Christmas trees to inspire the most evil of acts.


Straight-Up Fascism Never Results In A “Meaningful Discussion,” No Matter What The Brown-Shirt Thugs Claim

Filed under: General — Dana @ 2:30 pm

[guest post by Dana]

This is utterly infuriating. I would have called the police.

These clowns are a spectacular indictment against current higher education in America. I suspect the obnoxious chick doesn’t realize this kind of harassment only serves to compel citizens to demand that immigration laws on the books be fully enforced. And unfortunately for her, we have an incoming administration that might actually do just that.

Kudos to the guy for keeping his cool during such an ugly provocation.

Motherfuckers, indeed.


No, Jazz Shaw, the Holdout Juror in the Slager Trial Should *Not* Consider the Consequences of Hanging the Jury

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 1:30 pm

Michael Slager has been convicted by the media, but not yet by the jury

Jazz Shaw at Hot Air, on the possibility that the jury in the Michael Slager trial will declare itself deadlocked:

That’s why there’s a bigger risk in having this trial fail than the basic question of justice and seeing the guilty convicted. We’re talking about the trial of a cop who killed a suspect and almost every one of these instances winds up causing major public controversy.

. . . .

I don’t know what’s going through the mind of that one juror who, “cannot with good conscience consider a guilty verdict.” But they should be aware that they’re endangering a lot more than one murder case.

With all due respect to Jazz Shaw, this is dead wrong. Dangerously, appallingly wrong.

A juror in a criminal case should look at the evidence presented in the case, and the law given them by the judge . . . period. End of story. They are to find the facts, apply the law to those facts, and completely ignore public sentiment or the possible societal reaction to their verdict.

For Jazz Shaw to encourage jurors to consider the possibility of civil unrest in the wake of their verdict misunderstands the nature of our jury system. It is wrong and fundamentally contrary to the values of our country.

What #DumpKelloggs and Trump’s Threats Have in Common: Unintended Consequences

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 1:00 pm

A few days ago, embarked on a jihad against the Kellogg Company, after Kellogg pulled its advertising from Breitbart, saying the sometimes incendiary site wasn’t “aligned with our values.” Breitbart then “launched a #DumpKelloggs petition and called for a boycott of the ubiquitous food manufacturer.” (An amusing side effect of this was the emergence of a hashtag on Twitter called #BreitbartCereals, featuring cereals that would be approved by the alt-right, such as Special KKK, Count Cuckula, or Reich Krispies.)

I was reminded of Breitbart’s actions when I saw numerous articles about Donald Trump’s pledge to punish companies who decide to go overseas (as well as his decision to reward Carrier, a company that decided to keep some of its jobs in country, with Pence-induced state tax breaks that will apparently be specific to Carrier).

What concept links these two incidents? Let me answer that question by telling a third story which ought to make the connection obvious. Two women, Betty and Veronica, are standing on the corner watching Cheryl, a gorgeous redhead, walk out of Archie’s house. “Oh, it looks like Cheryl decided to leave Archie, ” says Betty. “What do you mean?” asks Veronica. “Don’t you see Cheryl’s black eye?” asks Betty. “Archie always beats up girls when they say they’re going to leave him. He thinks it will make them stay with him.”

Do you think Veronica is likely to want to date Archie?

Hopefully the point is clear. The statement: “If you leave me, I’ll punish you!” does not ensure people will stay with you. In fact, it often causes bystanders to ask: “Why would I want to be with you in the first place?”

Breitbart, by savaging one of its advertisers, is sending a message to all other companies that might consider advertising with Breitbart: “If you leave us, we may engage in a campaign to destroy your reputation.” (One might say that they are simply disincentivizing advertisers from declaring their discontent with Breitbart as they leave — but Kellogg’s, looking at Milo-penned Breitbart articles like “Birth Control Makes Women Unattractive And Crazy,” may have felt it had little choice but to openly distance itself from the site. And other potential advertisers watching the whole debacle understand this.)

Similarly, Trump, by telling companies that they will suffer consequences if they leave America, is going to cause some number of companies not to set up shop in the United States to begin with.

The incentives created by Trump and Breitbart are examples of unintended consequences called “perverse results,” where someone intends one outcome and unintentionally creates the opposite result. Government actors are actually fantastic at creating such perverse results, because they love to throw their power around, and rarely reflect on how their actions might backfire.

Anti-discrimination laws in employment are excellent examples of this perverse effect. By punishing employers who allegedly fire members of a particular class (women, minorities, etc.) because they belong to that class, these laws often have the effect of making employers less willing to hire from those groups to begin with. These employers know that they are more likely to be sued by someone they fired than they are to be sued by people they turned down for jobs. So many conclude that it’s just not worth the hassle to hire such people, and consequently hire as few as they think they can get away with hiring. The net effect is that the laws end up harming the very people they were supposed to help.

Trump’s Carrier deal is likely to have another perverse effect: it will cause more companies to threaten to move to Mexico or overseas, in order to squeeze concessions from government. This is a different type of perverse result, which can be categorized as the “rat effect” after the famous and entertaining story about the rats in Hanoi.

The government of Hanoi, which was overrun with rats, decided to pay its citizenry to help kill the rats, offering a monetary bounty for a severed rat tail. Inexplicably (or so the government thought), the rat problem got worse! How on Earth could this happen? You have probably already guessed the answer: people started breeding rats to cut off their tails and claim their reward. This is known as the “rat effect” (or “cobra effect,” since it allegedly happened with cobras in Delhi as well), wherein if government pays for something, it gets more of it.

The citizens of Hanoi saw people getting paid for rat tails, and decided to produce their own rat tails, creating more rats, and making the initial problem worse. Similarly, companies in the U.S. see Carrier getting paid for threatening to move jobs overseas, and will inevitably produce their own new plans to move plants overseas, making the initial problem worse. It is likely that under President Trump, you will see more companies declaring an intent to move out of the country than ever before.

Trump will bribe some of them and “save” more jobs, and his more economically illiterate fans will applaud.

If Trump had been in charge of the colonial administration in Hanoi during the rat crisis, he would have simply made sure the TV cameras were there when he held up the bags of rat tails.

And his subjects would have applauded. You know, to the extent they had time to applaud in between dodging all the rats everywhere.

P.S. If this sort of discussion about free-market economics is your thing, you might enjoy my group The Constitution Vanguard. It’s a group of like-minded people who believe in the free market, liberty, and the Constitution. There’s a newsletter, a private Facebook group, and a private discussion forum, for members only. We’d love to have you! Join up here.

[Cross-posted at RedState.]


If Trump’s Carrier Deal Favors One Business Over Others, It’s Crony Capitalism, Says . . . Sarah Palin

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 11:50 pm

Sarah Palin has an op-ed that is being reported as criticism of Trump’s Carrier deal. I’m not sure it’s fair to say Palin is criticizing the deal, as she continually says that the terms are not yet clear. But she does make a very good point: if the deal favors one company over others, that’s crony capitalism — and it’s not supposed to be what Republicans stand for:

I am ecstatic for Carrier employees! Their bosses just decided to keep shop onshore. What a relief for hundreds of workers. Merry Christmas Indiana!

We don’t yet know terms of the public/private deal that was cut to make the company stay, but let’s hope every business is equally incentivized to keep Americans working in America.

. . . .

When government steps in arbitrarily with individual subsidies, favoring one business over others, it sets inconsistent, unfair, illogical precedent. Meanwhile, the invisible hand that best orchestrates a free people’s free enterprise system gets amputated. Then, special interests creep in and manipulate markets. Republicans oppose this, remember? Instead, we support competition on a level playing field, remember? Because we know special interest crony capitalism is one big fail.

. . . .

But know that fundamentally, political intrusion using a stick or carrot to bribe or force one individual business to do what politicians insist, versus establishing policy incentivizing our ENTIRE ethical economic engine to roar back to life, isn’t the answer.

I have had my doubts about Sarah Palin recently. But this is a courageous thing for her to say. She’s being considered for a position in the Trump administration, allegedly. For her to speak on behalf of conservative, free-market principles, especially at a time when it appears Donald Trump may be violating them, speaks well of her.

Good for Sarah Palin.


In (Accidental?) Major Shift in U.S. Policy, Trump Has Phone Call with President of Taiwan

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 7:11 pm

If we all believed that this was a deliberate move by Trump to signal a different policy towards China and Taiwan, that would be one thing. One might even admire it . . . with some trepidation. After all, Taiwan should have a right to its independence, right? The U.S. should respect that and recognize that, right?

But instead, I can’t shake the feeling that Trump just didn’t bother to read his briefing books and had no idea of the significance of what he was doing:

President-elect Donald Trump spoke with Taiwan’s President Friday, threatening to ignite a diplomatic showdown with China even before he takes office.

“President-elect Trump spoke with President Tsai Ing-wen of Taiwan, who offered her congratulations,” Trump’s transition team said in a statement. “During the discussion, they noted the close economic, political, and security ties exists between Taiwan and the United States. President-elect Trump also congratulated President Tsai on becoming President of Taiwan earlier this year.”

Trump’s conversation marks the first publicly reported call between a US President or President-elect and the leader of Taiwan since Washington established diplomatic relations with Beijing in 1979, said Bonnie Glaser, a China expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

The telephone call is certain to incense China, which considers Taiwan a renegade province. It is the first major sign of the unpredictability that Trump has vowed to bring to long-held US relations with the rest of the world.

The call, first reported by the Financial Times, risks throwing US-China relations into a tailspin before Trump takes the oath of office on January 20. China’s state-run CCTV quickly issued a statement saying Trump made “an unprecedented break with the One-China Policy and accepted US-Mainland protocol.”

Trump is claiming on Twitter that the President of Taiwan called him. Taiwan is saying: no, Trump arranged the call. Asked by Anderson Cooper whether Trump was reading his briefing books, Kellyanne Conway replied that Trump “has access” to them. When specifically asked by Cooper whether he is actually using them, Conway responded that of course he is.

She lies so effortlessly. She’ll make a . . . very standard press secretary.

Again: an argument could be made for changing the policy. I wish I were certain it wasn’t an accident.

But I’m not.

When you elect someone who doesn’t read, that kind of uncertainly is what you get, America.

[Cross-posted at RedState.]

Incoming Trump-Pence Administration: The Free Market Has Failed

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 10:00 am

The new official line of the incoming Trump-Pence administration is that the free market has failed, and we need their government-imposed solutions instead:

On Thursday, as he toured the factory floor here to take credit for saving roughly half of the 2,000 jobs Indiana stood to lose, Mr. Trump sent a message to other businesses as well that he intended to follow through on his pledges to impose stiff tariffs on imports from companies that move production overseas and ship their products back to the United States.

“This is the way it’s going to be,” Mr. Trump said in an interview with The New York Times. “Corporate America is going to have to understand that we have to take care of our workers also.”

. . . .

“I don’t want them moving out of the country without consequences,” Mr. Trump said, even if that means angering the free-market-oriented Republicans he beat in the primaries but will have to work with on Capitol Hill.

“The free market has been sorting it out and America’s been losing,” Mr. Pence added, as Mr. Trump interjected, “Every time, every time.”

What “free market” is that, Mr. Pence? The one that suffers under the crushing weight of federal regulation, with Obama setting records for the numbers of pages added to the Federal Register? The one that features some of the highest corporate tax rates in the world? That free market?

Every time government interference hampers the economy, government blames the free market and hampers it further. Harry Browne used to say:

The government is good at one thing. It knows how to break your legs, and then hand you a crutch and say: “See if it weren’t for the government, you wouldn’t be able to walk.”

If you don’t keep in mind that it is the government that hampers business in the first place, and that it is U.S. government regulation that makes our businesses fundamentally non-competitive to begin with, then actions like Trump’s can seem beneficial. But they aren’t. I wrote yesterday:

[T]he unintended consequences of government interference are not abstract. They are very real. Just ask Carrier’s competitors, who didn’t get a tax break because they haven’t threatened to move anything to Mexico.


But they will, if they’re smart. That’s the other thing about intervention. One act of intervention encourages more. Welfare encourages people to seek benefits from government rather than by earning money through providing value to society. Corporate welfare does the same.

What I have done is an exercise in looking at the seen and unseen — a concept I have written about before. Government policy is often popular because there are obvious good effects that can be seen. But there are other effects that are unseen, and they exist too.

Kevin D. Williamson attacks the deal from a very similar perspective today at National Review:

It is a company that has competitors — competitors who employ Americans and pay taxes, just as Carrier does. These firms and their employees are put at an economic disadvantage by the subsidies paid to Carrier thanks to Trump and Pence. That means that some of these companies probably will be less profitable, and that they will not hire people they otherwise would have hired. But you’ll see no Trump press conference celebrating that. This is a case of Frédéric Bastiat’s problem of the seen vs. the unseen. The benefits are easy to see, all those sympathetic workers in Indiana. The costs are born by sympathetic workers, too, around the country, and by their families and by their neighbors. But those are widely dispersed, so they are harder to see and do not hit with the same dramatic impact.

The concept of the seen and unseen helps you see the flaw in this widespread argument: that we should not criticize Trump, because he saved Christmas for a bunch of Indiana families. It can also help you understand why government bailouts are generally bad. Think about it: under the “he saved Christmas!” argument, you could justify a huge range of government intervention. There are many businesses that fail in the United States, all over the place. Why not use taxpayer money to save all of those businesses? Think of all the Christmases that would be saved!

Most people would probably not endorse that proposal, even if they couldn’t necessarily explain the economics of why it would be a bad idea. The answer is that when businesses fail, we see the impact that has on people who are thrown out of work. What we don’t see, but which is very important, is that the business was failing because it was doing a bad job with scarce resources. The failure of the business frees up resources to be used by a business that does a better job of satisfying consumers. If all failing businesses were kept afloat, valuable resources would be tied up in losing ventures that don’t do any good for anyone, and the economy would collapse.

The fundamental issue is one of distributed intelligence. Which is better to determine how resources should be used? The distributed intelligence of the marketplace, or a centralized set of government decisionmakers? When you put it that way, the answer is obvious to most — but you have to think about it first, to frame the question in the proper way.

If you don’t understand the principles of why a general bailout of all failing business is wrong, then it’s harder to see the problem when it is done on a small and highly publicized scale. A grandstanding government official who goes around showering largesse here and there, and making sure the cameras are in tow, can win a lot of popularity — especially if he has openly declared that the free market no longer works.

P.S. If you made it to the end of the post, you’re a rare reader who is interested in economics. I don’t do these posts for the mountains of clicks they generate. Trust me: they’re not as popular as the “Who did Trump interview for a cabinet position?” style of newsy post. If you enjoy in-depth discussion of the free market, liberty, and the Constitution, you might enjoy my group the Constitutional Vanguard. In addition to my periodic newsletter on these topics, we have a private Facebook page and a private forum at my blog. If you think you might like that, you can sign up here.

[Cross-posted at RedState.]


Trump 2015: Burning the American Flag Is Free Speech

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 8:50 pm

I’m not sure if you heard, but Donald Trump tweeted out something about burning the flag recently. It’s true. He did:

Oh and also he brought it up again tonight, in one of his victory lap rallies, because that’s good demagoguery.

Do you agree with my stance? That, if people burn the American flag, there should be consequence, right?

The only thing is . . . does he really believe it?

The Washington Post reports today that Trump had a different opinion in 2015 while on David Letterman’s show.

LETTERMAN: Here’s the example that I’m always proud of as an American. People, to demonstrate, they think, we’re really gonna stick it to the United States. ‘We’re going to set fire to the flag.

TRUMP: Yeah, right.

LETTERMAN: And people get — “Oh my God!” Well, no. If that’s how you feel, go ahead and burn the flag.

TRUMP: Yeah.

LETTERMAN: Because this country is far greater than that symbol, and that symbol is standing for freedom of expression.

TRUMP: Sure. It’s true. It’s happened. It’s true. You’re 100 percent right. Hey, he’s really into it tonight! I’ll tell you what. No, but I understand where you’re coming from, and it’s terrific.

I think Donald Trump should be stripped of his citizenship for agreeing with David Letterman. If you don’t agree, then you don’t love America like I do.

[Cross-posted at RedState.]

Why Crony Capitalism Like Trump’s Carrier Deal Is a Problem

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 12:00 pm

As Jay Caruso noted earlier today, the Carrier deal touted by Donald Trump is based in part on a corporate tax break offered by Indiana (Mike Pence’s state, remember?). And Jim Jamitis will have more soon about the fact that Carrier’s parent company, United Technologies, has far more to lose from its deals with the federal government. I’d like to talk here, not about the newsy part of this, but why the economics is bad.

After all, it seems reasonable to say, as a correspondent told me on Twitter: why complain about crony capitalism, which seems like an abstract notion, when 1000 more families are going to have a Christmas where the breadwinner has a job?

It’s a fair question. And convincing you that it’s a problem is not something I’m likely to succeed in doing in one blog post. If you’re a fan of the deal, I’m not looking to change your mind in a few paragraphs. All I want to do is make you wonder whether maybe — just maybe! — there is another side.

First of all, let’s look at basic fairness. Carrier has competitors, right? And they’re not all foreign. I counted 14 air conditioning manufacturers or suppliers in Indiana in this list, and only one of them is Carrier. Are all of these companies going to get the same tax breaks? If not, what would you tell the employees of the competing companies, who maybe have their salaries cut or employees get laid off because they are now having a tougher time competing against another company that got a tax break so Donald Trump could get a headline?

And if all the Indiana air conditioning manufacturers get tax breaks, what then? Well, imagine you’re a consumer who has a few thousand dollars to spend on home repair. Your air conditioning system is getting older, but so is your roof. But hey! it looks like the air conditioning manufacturers, who all got tax breaks, are offering better deals these days on new A/C systems. Meanwhile roofers, who don’t get tax breaks, are offering nothing. You, and hundreds of other homeowners like you, decide to purchase new A/C systems rather than spend your money elsewhere.

So if A/C manufacturers get tax breaks, but other businesses don’t, this too hurts other businesses and their employees.

The bottom line is this: When government picks winners, it is also picking losers. But if you see only the winners, you may conclude that there is no problem.

The thing is, government intervention is usually popular. It’s also usually counterproductive. But the counterproductive parts are harder to see until the government intervention becomes widespread. Then, when the stores go empty, and the lines for supplies get long, you can finally see it — but then it’s too late. A lot of people in Russia loved Communism, which is just government intervention to the nth degree — until millions starved. The folks in Venezuela loved them some government intervention. Ask them how they like it now.

I’m not saying one tax break is Communism, of course. It’s just an example of government interference in the economy on a small scale, while Communism is an example of government interference on a huge scale. But the unintended consequences of government interference are not abstract. They are very real. Just ask Carrier’s competitors, who didn’t get a tax break because they haven’t threatened to move anything to Mexico.


But they will, if they’re smart. That’s the other thing about intervention. One act of intervention encourages more. Welfare encourages people to seek benefits from government rather than by earning money through providing value to society. Corporate welfare does the same.

What I have done is an exercise in looking at the seen and unseen — a concept I have written about before. Government policy is often popular because there are obvious good effects that can be seen. But there are other effects that are unseen, and they exist too.

P.S. If you’re interested in discussions about free markets, liberty, and the Constitution, please join my group the Constitutional Vanguard here.

[Cross-posted at RedState.]


President Obama Campaigning For Another Republican Win In 2020

Filed under: General — Dana @ 8:48 pm

[guest post by Dana]

Still refusing to admit that the election outcome was a repudiation of his worldview and policies, President Obama has intently deflected any criticism or responsibility for the Democrats’ stunning across-the-board losses. First, he said he was not responsible for Trump’s rise to power, and then he blamed Hillary Clinton and her weak campaigning and foolish decision to skip showing up in critical states.

Continuing his blame-game denial, Obama is now pointing to Fox News for Clinton’s stunning loss. (One can also assume Fox News is to blame for the Democrats losing 63 House seats, nine Senate seats, 14 governorships and 1,000 state positions as well):

Asked whether he thinks the United States is a progressive country, Obama replied that Democrats are having trouble reaching white working-class voters. “There is a cohort of working-class white voters that voted for me in sizable numbers, but that we’ve had trouble getting to vote for Democrats in midterm elections,” said the president. “In this election, [they] turned out in huge numbers for Trump. And I think that part of it has to do with our inability, our failure, to reach those voters effectively. Part of it is Fox News in every bar and restaurant in big chunks of the country, but part of it is also Democrats not working at a grass-roots level, being in there, showing up, making arguments.”

Show of hands if you’ve been in a bar and watched Fox News at any time in your life. Anyone??

This is just Obama lobbing another derisive “bitter clingers” sneer at Americans who think differently than him, and didn’t buy what he was selling. The same Americans who didn’t take too kindly to his snobby elitism the first time around. And quite obviously, these are Americans whose programming preferences don’t involve watching the President of the United States submit himself to an interview with a woman whose “claim to fame” is sitting in a bathtub filled with Fruit Loops. You know, those kind of Americans.

President Obama spent 8 years pushing Fox News as public enemy number one. In retrospect it might have been smarter for him to have taken advantage of the giant platform available to him all these years and invite interviews, make on-air appearances to explain his policy positions to a less-than-friendly audience, and use the opportunity in an effort to persuade these Americans to actually consider his policies and how they might benefit them. Who knows, if Obama had, maybe Americans in those “big chunks of the country” might have lingered, pulled up a stool, and ordered another round while they watched.


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