Patterico's Pontifications

3/30/2015

Pep Boys Mandates Discussion of Transgender Issues

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 8:10 pm

A truly hilarious commentary on the Starbucks initiative to discuss race, from Saturday Night Live. Thanks to elissa for the tip.

Putting The Proverberial Lipstick On A Pig

Filed under: General — Dana @ 3:53 pm

[guest post by Dana]

It’s a smart tactic when advocates (and people in the business of making money) take a divisive issue and attempt to normalize it in order to remove its stigma and garner public acceptance. But, if one is honest about it, whether an abortion involves a cold, sterile operating room with a vacuum suctioning out the contents of a womb or swallowing a pill from within the confines of a luxury spa, the goal is the same and the objective remains unchanged.

With its natural wood floors and plush upholstery, Carafem aims to feel more like a spa than a medical clinic. But the slick ads set to go up in Metro stations across the Washington region leave nothing to doubt: “Abortion. Yeah, we do that.”

The clinic, opening this week in tony Friendship Heights, specializes in the abortion pill and will be unique for its advertising. Its unabashed approach also reflects a new push to destigmatize the nation’s most controversial medical procedure by talking about it openly and unapologetically.

At Carafem, staff members plan to greet clients with warm teas, comfortable robes and a matter-of-fact attitude.

“We don’t want to talk in hushed tones,” said Carafem president Christopher Purdy. “We use the A-word.”

Another striking aspect of the project is the design: The clinic will have wood floors and a natural wood tone on the walls that recalls high-end salons such as Aveda. Appointments, offered evenings and weekends, can be booked online or via a 24-hour hotline.

“It was important for us to try to present an upgraded, almost spa-like feel,” said Melissa S. Grant, vice president of health services for the clinic

And without a hint of self-awareness, the author of the article explains why this move is afoot:

Plagued by political setbacks in recent years, abortion-rights activists are now seeking to normalize abortion, to put a human face — and in some cases, even a positive spinon the procedure.

Feminist Katha Pollitt explains the need to normalize the procedure:

“We need to talk about ending a pregnancy as a common, even normal, event in the reproductive lives of women,” Pollitt writes, adding that the decision to abort can be “just as moral as the decision to have a child — indeed, sometimes more moral” because “part of caring for children is knowing when it’s not a good idea to bring them into the world.”

The abortion spa will only offer the abortion pill experience to clients, thus they can be no more than 10 weeks pregnant. The charge will be $400.

With that, I’m a fan of the show “The Good Wife”. I enjoy the smart writing, quick-paced dialogue and varied story lines. In a recent episode, lawyer and staunch Democrat Diane Lockhart finds her uber-chic, smart, liberal self uncharacteristically arguing abortion rights with a Republican billionaire who exhorts her: Don’t look away from the aborted fetus. Look at it. Why is it not a baby?

The more we see abortion dressed up and “normalized”, the less we will have to (or even be able to) look at what is really happening. Which just might be the point.

–Dana

Did Hillary Clinton Employ a Private Intelligence Gatherer Who Has Promoted Brett Kimberlin?

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 1:36 pm

At the Weekly Standard, Mark Hemingway has a piece titled: Meet the Men Behind Hillary Clinton’s Private ‘Spy Network’.

Two big Clinton stories landed last week. The first is that Hillary Clinton destroyed the electronic copies of her State Department emails on her private server after the State Department subpoenaed her emails. The second is that Hillary Clinton had an aide running a “secret spy network” that was, among other things, feeding her information on Benghazi, according to a report by Pro Publica and Gawker. Earlier this month, I noted the myriad ways that Clinton running her own private email server breathes new life into the Benghazi investigation, but this last revelation takes things to a whole new level.

Specifically, this new report suggests that three men — Sidney Blumenthal, Tyler Drumhiller, and Cody Shearer — were involved in her private intelligence gathering efforts. Each of these men has a reputation for being associated with scandal.

Regarding Shearer, Hemingway says:

And two, Slate also notes that “it was Shearer who, during the 1992 presidential campaign, introduced the world–through the unlikely medium of Doonesbury–to Brett Kimberlin. Kimberlin, you may recall, was the convicted bomber, habitual liar, and all-around sociopath who claimed to have sold drugs to Dan Quayle. Was Shearer acting on behalf of the legendary Clinton ‘opposition research’ outfit, which had floated damaging rumors during the ’92 primaries about Paul Tsongas’ health and Jerry Brown’s drug use? Or was he just an enthusiastic free-lancer?” In recent years, Kimberlin has been involved in number of frivolous lawsuits aimed at shutting down conservative blogs.

Kimberlin’s Justice Through Music has in the past claimed a relationship with the Hillary Clinton-era State Department:

MAY 24, 2012 – JTMP has been a participant in the State Department’s International Visitor Leadership Programfor 3 years now, where citizens from around the world involved in the arts get to come to America and visit to learn about the role of arts in the US. This year we had visitors that came from Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Iraq, Egypt, Jordan and Tunisia to see how Justice Through Music Project uses art to raise awareness on issues, and to bring about social change. This year’s contingent had musicians, playwrights, and people involved in art production. We gave them a presentation and showed them many of our musical art videos that deal with politics and issues, while we spoke about how we operate and produce our art videos. We then showed them how we use this art on our website and YouTube channel to raise awareness on an issue to help bring about positive social change.

It would be interesting to know just how close that relationship was.

Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act: How About a “General Freedom Restoration Act” Instead?

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 12:10 pm

I’m not sure why Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act is getting all this press when 19 other states and the federal government have similar laws.

But to me there is a more fundamental principle at stake. If the courts interpret laws to require makers of wedding cakes or photographers to participate in weddings that violate their religious beliefs, the courts are forcing these people to engage in labor against their will. I don’t believe courts should ever be doing that if a participant has not agreed to engage in the labor.

At its most basic level, our culture has begun to define “rights” not merely as people’s right to be left alone by the government, but as their entitlement to force others to do their bidding.

Thus, a “right” to health care is nothing more than using government coercion to force doctors to give their services to people for a non-market wage. (If they do it for a market wage, no “right” need be enforced.)

A “right” to affordable housing is nothing more than using government coercion to force property owners to provide housing at a non-market rent. Alternatively, this “right” can be vindicated by using government coercion to take money from citizens through compulsory measures (taxes) to subsidize rent. Either way, government is using coercive measures to force people to do things.

And a “right” to a wedding cake or photos is nothing more than using government coercion to force bakers or photographers to provide goods or services against their will.

There is nothing exalted or high-flown about this. It is simply one group using collective brute force to bend others to their will. To me, you shouldn’t need a “religious freedom” law to fight this. Mere “freedom” alone should suffice.

So: instead of a “Religious Freedom” Restoration Act, how about a “Freedom” Restoration Act? Let’s take away government’s power to coerce people to do things where it is not necessary to maintain order or vindicate property rights. A radical notion, no doubt, this idea of actual “freedom.” And yet, it is the principle we should always be striving for.

Shooting At NSA Headquarters At Fort Meade

Filed under: General — Dana @ 9:09 am

[guest post by Dana]

An investigation is currently underway following a shooting at the entry gate of Fort Meade this morning that left one person dead and another one wounded. Bizarrely, two men dressed up as women used their SUV in an attempt to crash through the entry gates:

One person was killed and at least one other was injured Monday when shots were fired after two people in a vehicle tried to ram a gate at Fort Meade, a military installation in Anne Arundel County that houses the National Security Agency, according to officials with knowledge of the investigation.

Authorities did not release any details of exactly what happened, but law enforcement officials said police officers with the National Security Agency shot at the two people in the vehicle. One of them was killed, the officials said.

And, several hours into the investigation, officials are claiming that this does not appear to be terrorist-related:

“The shooting scene is contained, and we do not believe it is related to terrorism,” said Amy J. Thoreson, a spokeswoman for the FBI. She said the incident is being investigated by the FBI with NSA Police and other law enforcement agencies

–Dana

3/29/2015

Bumper Sticker As Harbinger

Filed under: General — JVW @ 11:26 am

[guest post by JVW]

While taking a beach constitutional earlier on this glorious Southern California morning (just a little dig at you guys who are still dealing with snow), I came upon this car parked on the street and couldn’t help but notice the bumper sticker:

Hillary!

So, so many messages conveyed in this one image. Hillary! Version 2016 hasn’t even officially launched, but already this bumper sticker is ragged, worn, and about to fall off. Here are a few questions to ponder:

Is the bumper sticker in such sad shape because it has been subject to unreasonable abuse or was it simply of grossly defective quality to begin with?
Has the vehicle’s owner had a change of heart and is in the process of abandoning the bumper sticker?
Has it proven to be extremely difficult to get rid of the bumper sticker, which somehow is managing to tenaciously hold on, even though it looks pathetic?
Can the bumper sticker really manage to hold out for another nineteen months?
Can a better quality bumper sticker be substituted, or is it just a losing cause all around?

And naturally you are welcome to substitute the word “campaign” for the term “bumper sticker” in the above questions.

- JVW

3/28/2015

Open Thread: NCAA Basketball

Filed under: General — JVW @ 5:32 pm

[gust post by JVW]

Pertinent questions:

Can Notre Dame beat Kentucky (can anyone)?
Is Tom Izzo the best tournament coach of his time?
Will Gonzaga’s size give Duke fits?
What are the chances that Rick Pitino wears his white first communion suit tomorrow?
Isn’t Wisconsin a fun team to root for?

Discuss.

- JVW

Paul Krugman’s Babysitting Co-op, Debunked

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 1:25 am

Krugman brings up this babysitting co-op example all the time and referred to it again on March 25:

And by the way: if you want a simple, homely example of how demand shocks can happen and cause unemployment, there is the baby-sitting coop.

The link goes to a famous, and ridiculously flawed, Krugman article in Slate from 1998. Since Krugman constantly brings up this babysitting co-op example, I think it’s about time a modern, conservative/libertarian blog not narrowly specializing in economic theory took on this canard. I am at your service!

I’ll let Krugman describe the problem at length, and then I will reveal what he didn’t tell you. Finally, I will ask you if you can figure out the solution — which seems to me to be perfectly obvious.

Here’s 1998 Krugman:

Twenty years ago I read a story that changed my life. I think about that story often; it helps me to stay calm in the face of crisis, to remain hopeful in times of depression, and to resist the pull of fatalism and pessimism. At this gloomy moment, when Asia’s woes seem to threaten the world economy as a whole, the lessons of that inspirational tale are more important than ever.

The story is told in an article titled “Monetary Theory and the Great Capitol Hill Baby-Sitting Co-op Crisis.” Joan and Richard Sweeney published it in the Journal of Money, Credit, and Banking in 1978. I’ve used their story in two of my books, Peddling Prosperity and The Accidental Theorist, but it bears retelling, this time with an Asian twist.

The Sweeneys tell the story of—you guessed it—a baby-sitting co-op, one to which they belonged in the early 1970s. Such co-ops are quite common: A group of people (in this case about 150 young couples with congressional connections) agrees to baby-sit for one another, obviating the need for cash payments to adolescents. It’s a mutually beneficial arrangement: A couple that already has children around may find that watching another couple’s kids for an evening is not that much of an additional burden, certainly compared with the benefit of receiving the same service some other evening. But there must be a system for making sure each couple does its fair share.

The Capitol Hill co-op adopted one fairly natural solution. It issued scrip—pieces of paper equivalent to one hour of baby-sitting time. Baby sitters would receive the appropriate number of coupons directly from the baby sittees. This made the system self-enforcing: Over time, each couple would automatically do as much baby-sitting as it received in return. As long as the people were reliable—and these young professionals certainly were—what could go wrong?

Well, it turned out that there was a small technical problem. Think about the coupon holdings of a typical couple. During periods when it had few occasions to go out, a couple would probably try to build up a reserve—then run that reserve down when the occasions arose. There would be an averaging out of these demands. One couple would be going out when another was staying at home. But since many couples would be holding reserves of coupons at any given time, the co-op needed to have a fairly large amount of scrip in circulation.

Now what happened in the Sweeneys’ co-op was that, for complicated reasons involving the collection and use of dues (paid in scrip), the number of coupons in circulation became quite low. As a result, most couples were anxious to add to their reserves by baby-sitting, reluctant to run them down by going out. But one couple’s decision to go out was another’s chance to baby-sit; so it became difficult to earn coupons. Knowing this, couples became even more reluctant to use their reserves except on special occasions, reducing baby-sitting opportunities still further.

In short, the co-op had fallen into a recession.

Since most of the co-op’s members were lawyers, it was difficult to convince them the problem was monetary. They tried to legislate recovery—passing a rule requiring each couple to go out at least twice a month. But eventually the economists prevailed. More coupons were issued, couples became more willing to go out, opportunities to baby-sit multiplied, and everyone was happy. Eventually, of course, the co-op issued too much scrip, leading to different problems …

If you think this is a silly story, a waste of your time, shame on you. What the Capitol Hill Baby-Sitting Co-op experienced was a real recession. Its story tells you more about what economic slumps are and why they happen than you will get from reading 500 pages of William Greider and a year’s worth of Wall Street Journal editorials. And if you are willing to really wrap your mind around the co-op’s story, to play with it and draw out its implications, it will change the way you think about the world.

Oh, Good Lord. Krugman’s solution: print more money and everything is fine!!!!!

Except, not so much. That last sentence of Krugman’s penultimate paragraph (the ellipsis is in the original) should cause you to raise an eyebrow. So printing more scrip worked, but then there was too much . . . leading to “different problems” . . .

. . . which we won’t discuss, but will simply allude to with an ellipsis . . . and then we’ll move on to elaborate about how great printing money is. Woo-hoo! Printing money!

If you’re thinking: “maybe someone should Google the original article to find out what these mysterious ‘problems’ were that were caused by too much scrip” . . . then I’m one step ahead of you. Here is the article (.pdf), and here is what happened:

Whatever the cause, the golden age lasted only a couple of years. (Golden ages are like that.) Maybe morals deteriorated-or perhaps the scrip was again out of whack. Now the problem was that more people wanted to go out than to sit.

In fact, the ten-scrip reform has moved the co-op from a position where there was too little scrip and the amount was shrinking, to a position where there was just about the right amount of scrip but the amount was growing. After a while, it naturally followed there was too much scrip and more people wanted to go out than to sit.

What a shock.

So: it turns out that Krugman’s little money-printing solution was not the ideal solution after all. It ended up leading to inflation and excessive demand (for babysitting services). Who could have guessed?!

Krugman’s description of the co-op’s initial reaction is hilarious, and says so much about how government responds to economic problems.

Let’s remind ourselves what the problem was; too much supply (of babysitting services) and not enough demand. And look at what the co-op did to try to address this problem: “They tried to legislate recovery—passing a rule requiring each couple to go out at least twice a month.”

In other words, faced with low demand . . . they tried to pass a rule ordering demand to increase! You vill go out and consume der babysitting services!

I’m wiping tears from my eyes at how much this reminds me of government.

After listening to an episode of the Tom Woods podcast that briefly alluded to this, I spent a little time Googling some discussion, and (especially because this seems like a very simple problem to solve) I was very amused at some of the bizarre reactions. Here’s an Austrian economist who says we’re not talking about money at all, but barter. (Brian Doherty at Reason.com seems to agree.) And this fellow thinks the problem was “consumer confidence” — and that the members of the co-op simply needed to be rational, put their heads together, and agree to stop hoarding scrip! And here’s a guy (at Forbes, no less! Forbes!) who says: Krugman is exactly right — and that Krugman’s amazing observational skills prove that Bitcoin is doomed. Doomed!

Oh. My. God. Is this really that difficult, folks? Really?

Again: let me remind you what the problem was: too much supply and not enough demand.

Can you imagine a possible solution to this incredibly difficult conundrum?

Please leave your suggestion below in the comments before reading the extended entry — which you can read from the main page by clicking “more.”

(more…)

3/27/2015

Hillary Clinton: Scandal Plagued

Filed under: General — Dana @ 6:11 pm

[guest post by Dana]

Poor Hillary! Girlfriend just wants to announce her presidential campaign, but between the pesky issues of all things Benghazi, an email scandal that won’t go away, a Nigerian donor, an Iranian government front group , a cronyism scandal involving her brother and others and a sharply declining favorability rating, she has felt compelled to delay the announcement.

Now this:

Hillary Clinton wiped “clean” the private server housing emails from her tenure as secretary of state, the chairman of the House committee investigating the 2012 terrorist attacks in Benghazi said Friday.

“While it is not clear precisely when Secretary Clinton decided to permanently delete all emails from her server, it appears she made the decision after October 28, 2014, when the Department of State for the first time asked the Secretary to return her public record to the Department,” Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.), chairman of the Select Committee on Benghazi, said in a statement.

Clinton was under a subpoena order from the panel for all documents related to the 2012 attacks on the American compound there. But David Kendall, an attorney for Clinton, said the 900 pages of emails previously provided to the panel cover its request.

Kendall also informed the committee that Clinton’s emails from her time at the State Department have been permanently erased.

Gowdy said that Clinton’s response to the subpoena means he and Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) will now contemplate new legal actions against Clinton.

–Dana

Jay Cost: Two Reasons Not To Leave The GOP (With Added Graphic Of Current GOP Field)

Filed under: General — Dana @ 9:58 am

[guest post by Dana]

In the past few years, an increasing number of commenters here at Patterico’s have expressed their disenchantment and frustration with the Republican party. Some have already reached their tipping point and made the decision to leave the party. After all, how long does one keep waiting…and waiting… and waiting to see promises be kept and conservative principles represented?

With that, last week Glenn Beck announced he was leaving the Republican party to become an Independent. Beck’s reasoning was not surprising:

They surrendered on the abortion bill, surrendered on executive orders on illegal immigration, common core. They helped push through $3.5 trillion in deficits this last year. They won’t fight Obamacare. They voted to confirm Katz Unstein (ph). They thwarted the bill on the NSA data collection. They’re still not doing anything on Benghazi. They haven’t done anything on the targeting of conservatives with the IRS. They haven’t done anything on the VA. They also threw an election against Chris McDaniels to Thad Cochran. They actually went to the Democrats and played the race card. I mean, I can get that from Hillary Clinton’s people….

We had to have the house. Then we had to the House. Then we had to have the House and the Senate. Now we have to have the White House. And then when they get the White House, the House, and the Senate then it becomes the Bush administration where it’s just as bad on deficits and everything else. They don’t have any intention of doing anything.

He also noted the establishment GOP’s disrespectful treatment of Tea Partiers like Sens. Mike Lee and Sen Ted Cruz.

His final word on the matter was one of futility:

“Four years ago I was with them. Four years ago I said ‘work from the inside: Let’s change it. Let’s get new guys in there.’ I think it’s too late.”

Days later, Jay Cost offered two reasons why Beck should reconsider his decision: the lack of a viable third party and the belief that party reform can happen.

[T]he Republican party is not going to let conservatives go anywhere else. There has never been a viable third party in the country, at least not one that has persisted over the long run. This has to do with the nature of our elections. Political theorist Maurice Duverger demonstrated fifty years ago that winner-take-all contests centered around discrete geographical areas typically produce a two-party system. There are exceptions, but they’re rare.

Moreover, third parties that do thrive temporarily are co-opted by one of the two major parties — usually to the detriment of the ideological movement that spawned the third party in the first place.

As if all that isn’t enough, even the seemingly easy task of forming a third party is a challenge. The two parties can be thought of as opponents in most respects, but they can also be understood to operate a cartel that restricts entry by competitors. A third party will thus have to jump through all sorts of hoops to get itself listed on the ballot, and even more to be included in presidential debates. None of this is coincidental. The two parties want us to have a choice … between the two parties!

Regarding a GOP reformation, Cost remains optimistic about the future in light of positive changes that have already taken place:

[T]he Republican party can be reformed. It may be very hard to do so, but the GOP is not a political machine. It is not a closed system, impervious to change. It’s open, and grassroots reformers have recourse — in the form of party primaries. They may be seriously out-financed in those contests. Still, it is one thing to be an underdog, and another to have no hope of change at all. And there is hope.

In fact, I’d argue that there has been an extraordinary amount of change within the GOP over the last generation. Reformers have made some real gains.

Further:

…The group of solid conservatives, meanwhile, has grown. The Senate already had many such members, like Mike Lee, Ted Cruz, and Tim Scott. But now they are set to be joined by Tom Cotton, Ben Sasse, and Joni Ernst. My back of the envelope calculations suggest that the number of solid conservative senators has risen from about a dozen in 1995 to 20 or so today.

Cost also notes changes in the House as well, observing that the “insurgent” class of House reformers is now large enough to make real noise.”

And yet, he makes an important distinction: while conservative reformers have won elections, there have been little to no actual breakthroughs. He believes this is by design:

That is one of Madison’s big points in Federalist #10 and #51; he wants our system to be responsive to changes in public mood, but — fearful of fractious majorities — he also promotes a system of checks and balances to slow change down. Moreover, the powers that be in the Republican party have been doing things a certain way for a century and a half. They are not going to give up just because conservatives have won a handful of elections.

Regardless, Cost believes conservative reformers should remain in the party, be inspired by recent conservative wins and continue to push the big rock uphill toward reform.

–Dana

NOTE: I’m adding Nate Silver’s “graphic conception of the GOP field” as I think it’s helpful to have a visual of the various divisions and overlaps of the current GOP field. Thanks to Kevin M. for the link.

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