Patterico's Pontifications


Rand Paul Speaks, UC Berkeley Listens

Filed under: General — Dana @ 10:23 pm

[guest post by Dana]

This week, Rand Paul spoke at the of the University of California at Berkeley. He focused primarily on the National Security Agency’s collection of telephone metadata and the privacy debate our country is currently embroiled in. Surprisingly, he received multiple standing ovations from what we can safely assume was a mostly left-leaning audience.

Paul’s warnings to students were blunt,

“Your right to privacy is under assault.”

“I am here to tell you that if you own a cell phone, you’re under surveillance,”

And his concerns for their privacy couldn’t be stressed enough,

“When [the intelligence community] says, ‘Oh, it’s only boring old business records,’ think what information is on your Visa bill. From your bill, the government can tell whether you drink, whether you smoke, whether you gamble, what books you read, what magazines you read, whether you see a psychiatrist, what medications you take.

I oppose this abuse of power with every ounce of energy I have. I believe that you have a right to privacy, and it should be protected.”

In response to Paul’s decision to speak at a campus which has historically been left-leaning and less than supportive of those who lean right, Roger Simon sharply observes,

The country is changing. Whole new groups are ripe for the picking, most obviously the young who are being so completely raked over by the Obama administration via Obamacare and the rest of the entitlements so many of them know they will never see. They were ready to applaud at Berkeley.

And African Americans — when, since the end of Jim Crow, have they done worse than under the Obama administration with its record black unemployment numbers and horrifying statistics on out-of-wedlock births in their community? Consciously or unconsciously, Democrats have been waging a “War on Blacks” since the days of the Great Society. It’s been a disaster for African Americans, a nightmare, in truth.

But where are the Republicans, the party of Lincoln, on that? They should be in the black communities talking to them about it, suggesting ways to make things better. Instead, they just sit around getting annoyed when the Democrats call them racists. Play offense, not defense.

Note: Simon’s observations neatly dovetail with my local assemblyman’s: Republican candidates do not campaign in pockets of minority areas struggling with high unemployment, heavy crime, and poverty. He said the mere fact that he just shows up, speaks volumes to residents who rarely, if ever, take the time to listen to Republican candidates. Furthermore, because he has taken the time to explain basic conservative principles and their practical applications, as well as taking questions from residents, he has received endorsements from civic groups that typically vote Democrat. Something as simple as showing up, opens doors. Logically, it follows, if a candidate doesn’t show up, doors will not open, and the support will not be there.

P.S. In a preview of Rand Paul’s Berkeley comments, he expressed concern over CIA spying on Congress and the the need to stop it,

“I perceive FEAR of an intelligence community drunk with power, unrepentant, and uninclined to relinquish power.”

“I am honestly worried, concerned about who is truly in charge of our government. Most of you have read the dystopian nightmares and maybe, like me, you doubted that it could ever happen in America.”

David Axelrod was compelled to mock:

Tho most Americans probably don’t know what “dystopian” means, hard to deny that Rand Paul is an interesting story.

And we all know exactly which Americans Axelrod was referring to.


Random Thought

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 7:32 am

If you plan to get elected by not rocking the boat, why should we believe you will rock the boat once you are elected?

It’s a fair and important question in a country where the boat needs some serious rocking.

Planet Money on Rent-Seeking, Part 2: The Jones Act

Filed under: Economics,General — Patterico @ 7:31 am

This is Part 2 of a three-part series about rent-seeking, a phenemonon in which rich businessmen maintain their wealth by legally bribing politicians to pass absurdly inefficient laws protecting their industries. The series relies on the NPR show Planet Money, a sometimes quietly subversive show which undermines the bases for liberal tinkering with the economy by showing how such interference creates inefficiencies.

Part 1 of the series dealt with state-created monopolies for car dealerships, a situation that has contributed to the ouster from New Jersey of the popular Tesla car. New Jersey was the perp in Part 1 — but today, in Part 2, New Jersey is the victim, as we discuss The Jones Act.

Here’s the story told in the episode. The state of New Jersey ran out of rock salt to melt ice and snow — which was a problem, because they were in the middle of a giant winter storm. But all was well: Maine had a mountain of rock salt. Even better, there was a giant ship in Maine that could easily transport 40,000 tons of rock salt in a single trip. Best of all, the ship was already on its way to Newark.

Problem solved, right?

Wrong. You see, using that particular ship was illegal.

Was the ship not seaworthy? Had the captain neglected to file necessary paperwork? Had the company that owned the ship failed to pay taxes?

No, none of that was the problem. The problem was: the ship was not made in America and did not fly an American flag. And under a law passed decades ago called the Jones Act (aka the Merchant Marine Act of 1920), any ship that carries material from one U.S. port to another must be made in America, staffed by an American crew, and must fly an American flag.

The law was passed, as laws like this often are, to protect American businessmen who couldn’t hack it in the marketplace. We wanted to keep a strong marine industry, so we hurt the consumer by passing protections for business. Thing is, it didn’t work out so well. The U.S. doesn’t build that many ships any more. (We barely build anything anymore.)

So it’s not like an equally capacious American-built ship was standing by to haul the rock salt to Newark.

No, instead everyone waited for a little barge to come to the dock. It was filled with rock salt to melt the New Jersey snow and ice. The barge then took off with its load of salt — leaving a mountain of it sitting on the dock. Because, you see, the 40,000 tons could not begin to fit on the small barge. So the barge took some salt down to Newark, dropped it off, went back to Maine, got another “fraction” of the mountain of salt, and went back to Jersey.

The reporter does not say how many trips were required to transport the whole load, but it’s clear it would be at least three.

Well. Serves New Jersey right for banning the direct sales of Tesla.

This rock salt example is just one of many examples of inefficiencies and expense created by the Jones Act. If you miss your cruise ship in a U.S. port, you’ll have to pay a giant fee to catch it in another port. A cattle rancher in Hawaii seeking to avoid the extra expense of using American-made ships has gotten his cows to the U.S. mainland in two ways. Formerly, he shipped them to Canada so they could travel over the border to the U.S. Now, he sends the cows by plane when they are younger and weigh less.

Absurd, right? You bet. Economists hate the law. Yet the chances of repeal appear to be zero.

You see, politicians don’t pay attention to what works. They pay attention to the almighty dollar.

Coming in Part 3: government-sponsored cartels in raisins, and the Stalinist-sounding “Raisin Administrative Committee.”

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