Patterico's Pontifications


“Lowering The Bar”: A Great Legal Humor Blog

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 8:45 pm

I must have seen the blog “Lowering the Bar” before — but I’m not sure. I stumbled across it tonight and will now make it a regular read. It highlights quirky and funny legal stories, and the writing is excellent.

Of the various posts I saw browsing around, my favorite was this collection of noteworthy court orders over several years. It’s worth looking at them all, but one that stood out was this one (.pdf): an Order Denying Motion for Incomprehensibility.

I think JD would appreciate this footnote:

Screen Shot 2014-06-12 at 8.40.50 PM

Make sure to add Lowering the Bar to your RSS feeds and/or bookmarks. Best blog I have found since Popehat!

UPDATE: The author has recently put out a book called The Emergency Sasquatch Ordinance: And Other Real Laws that Human Beings Actually Dreamed Up. I bought it on Kindle tonight for less than eight bucks and started reading it. The guy is funny.

Rick Perry In San Francisco

Filed under: General — Dana @ 7:55 pm

[guest post by Dana]

In San Francisco yesterday, Rick Perry spoke to the Commonwealth Club of California.

He discussed states rights, economic and social policies, as well as climate change and fracking.

Perry argued the federal government should give up much of its policy-making power, letting states chart their own courses on issues ranging from business subsidies to abortion. He joked about his frequent habit of luring California companies to Texas and called the competition between the two states healthy for both, as well as the nation.

However, what made the news was the subject of homosexuality and his comparison of it to alcoholism. As the Texas Republican Party now endorses a platform that supports access to “reparative therapy” for gays and lesbians, a widely discredited process intended to change sexual orientation, Perry, when asked about it, stated that he did not know if the therapy worked. The event host then asked Perry whether he believed homosexuality was a disorder.

“Whether or not you feel compelled to follow a particular lifestyle or not, you have the ability to decide not to do that,” Perry said. “I may have the genetic coding that I’m inclined to be an alcoholic, but I have the desire not to do that, and I look at the homosexual issue the same way.”

And although there were Perry supporters in the audience, audible murmurings and gasps were heard.

Reading a number of responses to Perry’s comments from various sites, it would appear there are two basic responses: There are those who give him kudos for honesty and courage to speak frankly (and in San Francisco, no less), and there is concern that if he plans to run in 2016, he might want to re-think, or at least refine his comments regarding such a hot button issue.


UPDATE BY PATTERICO: I am confident nobody could put me in therapy and have me come out believing I wanted to have sex with a man. So how could therapy convince a gay man that he wants to have sex with a woman?

Hillary Snaps at NPR’s Terry Gross Over Her Gay Marriage Evolution

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 6:11 pm

The fun part comes at 6:08:

Defensiveness is not attractive.

Choosing to Lose in Iraq [updated with image]

Filed under: General,Obama,War — JVW @ 9:19 am

[guest post by JVW]

Today’s New York Times — that beacon of right-wing propaganda — carries an article telling us that the Obama Administration declined the Iraqi government’s request for support in combatting insurgents with airstrikes prior to Tuesday”s capture of Mosul. Why would we refuse to help a putative ally? According to the Times, it is simply because we do not want to get more heavily involved in a conflict that “President Obama has insisted was over when the United States withdrew the last of its forces. . . in 2011.”

In other words, Obama’s wishful thinking and political calculations are allowed to override the safety and protection of the Iraqi people and the hard fought gains made by U.S. forces during the surge of 2007-08. How spooked is the Obama brain trust about angering its left flank by continuing to be involved in Iraq? President Drone Strike has even ruled out his favorite method of engagement with the enemy:

The Obama administration has carried out drone strikes against militants in Yemen and Pakistan, where it fears terrorists have been hatching plans to attack the United States. But despite the fact that Sunni militants have been making steady advances and may be carving out new havens from which they could carry out attacks against the West, administration spokesmen have insisted that the United States is not actively considering using warplanes or armed drones to strike them.

It’s one thing to decide that military re-engagement in Iraq is not worthwhile, but why on earth would we be announcing that fact to friend and foe alike? I get the administration having a quiet, unspoken policy that we are done in Iraq and I can understand the need to let Prime Minister al-Maliki know this, but the only possible reason I can think of announcing it to the public at large is to let the anti-war left know that you are still under their thumb so that they do not stage demonstrations against you right at the moment when everything else your administration has touched is turning to poo.

Joe Lieberman had it absolutely right almost six years ago.

UPDATE: John Hinderaker at Powerline created this great image and has invited everyone to share it.



C-17 Pilot: We Could Have Gotten Americans Out of Benghazi

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 7:55 am

The pilot of the C-17 that picked up the bodies of the Americans killed in the terrorist attack in Benghazi says they could have gotten to the consulate:

[Ret. Major Eric] Stahl also contended that given his crew’s alert status and location, they could have reached Benghazi in time to have played a role in rescuing the victims of the assault, and ferrying them to safety in Germany, had they been asked to do so. “We were on a 45-day deployment to Ramstein air base,” he told Fox News. “And we were there basically to pick up priority missions, last-minute missions that needed to be accomplished.”

“You would’ve thought that we would have had a little bit more of an alert posture on 9/11,” Stahl added. “A hurried-up timeline probably would take us [an] hour-and-a-half to get off the ground and three hours and fifteen minutes to get down there. So we could’ve gone down there and gotten them easily.”

Stahl also says that he talked to intelligence agents who heard the terrorists using seized cell phones to report the success of the attacks to their leaders:

The terrorists who attacked the U.S. consulate and CIA annex in Benghazi on September 11, 2012 used cell phones, seized from State Department personnel during the attacks, and U.S. spy agencies overheard them contacting more senior terrorist leaders to report on the success of the operation, multiple sources confirmed to Fox News.

The disclosure is important because it adds to the body of evidence establishing that senior U.S. officials in the Obama administration knew early on that Benghazi was a terrorist attack, and not a spontaneous protest over an anti-Islam video that had gone awry, as the administration claimed for several weeks after the attacks.

. . . .

In an exclusive interview on Fox News’ “Special Report,” Stahl said members of a CIA-trained Global Response Staff who raced to the scene of the attacks were “confused” by the administration’s repeated implication of the video as a trigger for the attacks, because “they knew during the attack…who was doing the attacking.” Asked how, Stahl told anchor Bret Baier: “Right after they left the consulate in Benghazi and went to the [CIA] safehouse, they were getting reports that cell phones, consulate cell phones, were being used to make calls to the attackers’ higher ups.”

What difference, at this point, does it make?

No, World War II Did Not End the Great Depression — Why Paul Krugman’s Love of GDP Is Wrong, Part Four

Filed under: GDP,General — Patterico @ 6:00 am

This is Part Four of my continuing series on GDP, or, Why Paul Krugman Is Wrong About Almost Everything.

The lessons learned from the Great Depression continue to influence the way we manage the economy today. Understanding why it ended, therefore, is of paramount importance even today — because it affects how we manage crises such as the bursting of the housing bubble. Historians used to argue that FDR ended the Great Depression with the New Deal; they are now starting to concede that this argument is not only wrong but ridiculous: the New Deal both intensified and prolonged the economic slump during the 1930s.

But it’s only within the last year that I learned that the historians’ fallback argument is also totally wrong. They claim World War II ended the Great Depression. It did not.

I will now turn over the microphone to Tom Woods, who does a tremendous job of explaining why this claim is patently absurd — and does so in about 7 minutes.

If you don’t have time to watch the video, let me summarize Woods’s main points, and add a few thoughts of my own.

It’s true that unemployment plummeted during World War II. If you wanted a job, you could have a job. But does that represent a normal healthy business expansion? Not hardly. Ten million people were drafted, and many others volunteered, for patriotic reasons (and to stay out of the infantry, which is a pretty rotten assignment if you like staying alive). A mere reduction in unemployment numbers does not tell the whole story, if you don’t explain how you got there. After all, as Woods notes, you could simply execute ten million jobless people, and that would reduce unemployment too. So, sure: when the government drafts people by force, and threatens them with prison if they do not comply, unemployment goes down. But as Robert Higgs dryly notes: “that’s not how we normally reduce unemployment in this country.”

The claim that the wartime itself was a prosperous time — with government rationing, price controls, and other forms of austerity, is laughable. (What’s more, the price controls distort the data regarding true purchasing power.) There were no new cars, and virtually no consumer appliances that required metal, which was gobbled up by the government to manufacture war equipment. Food, clothing, gasoline, and other basic items were sharply rationed, and living space was cramped and overcrowded. The war was a time of deprivation, which the populace viewed as a necessary sacrifice, to be sure — but sacrifice does not equate to prosperity.

Nor does it make sense that sending the most skilled sector of the labor force off to fight, leaving a workforce with much less work experience and skill (women and elderly men) would logically lead to giant growth rates of 13% a year. Something must be wrong with this measure.

And the problem is . . . using GDP as our measure. Woods also notes that World War II was a time of supposed prosperity because GDP shot up during the war. But if you fall for the idea that GDP is the only meaningful measure of prosperity, then you will be forced to conclude that 1946 was a depression year. Seriously. 1946.

This page provides GDP growth numbers per year since 1930, and lists the best and worst years. The best years for GDP were, admittedly, during the war. And the second worst year for GDP in the last 84 years was 1946, a year in which GDP shrunk by almost 11%. 1946 is second only to 1932 in having a dismal GDP — and 1932 was the absolute depth of the Great Depression.

And yet —

And yet, do you remember the Great Depression of 1946? The stories of people starving in the streets? The reason you don’t isn’t because you’re young. It’s because 1946 was a boom time for the United States. As Tom DiLorenzo explains:

Far from creating a depression, prying all of that money from the hands of politicians and bureaucrats and returning it to its owners – working Americans – created the largest increase in private sector economic growth in all of American history in 1946. According to statistics found in the 1995 Annual Report of the U.S. Council of Economic Advisors, based on Commerce Department data, real inflation-adjusted private sector GDP increased by 29.5 percent in that year. In no other year has the U.S. economy ever grown even half that fast. Private investment skyrocketed and stock prices soared, in complete and total contradiction of what every Keynesian economist in the world had been predicting.

So, 1946 was the best year ever for the U.S economy — and yet the GDP numbers would suggest that 1946 was a year of depression.

So what’s going on here? If you have been following my series on GDP all week, you already know the answer.

In Part One of the series, I noted that GDP takes into account government spending. GDP represents the prices of finished goods. But the only meaningful prices in our society are prices that are determined through voluntary exchanges in the free market. By contrast, government spending is often inflated and bears no relationship to satisfying consumer preferences. This was especially true during the war, when much of the economy consisted of government purchases from firms manufacturing war materiel.

In Part Two, I noted how GDP does not fully take account of capital spending. During the war, government spending went up for production of war-related goods, but private investment cratered for consumer goods. But the freefall in capital investment gets masked by GDP’s failure to fully account for capital spending.

In Part Three, I noted how GDP is boosted by activity even if it does not contribute to consumer well-being. Almost no economic activity during the war benefited consumers. Woods notes that fully 40% of the labor force was employed in some form or fashion in the armed forces, and were thus not producing consumer goods. Consumers don’t buy tanks, so while those goods might have been necessary for the war effort, they were a waste from the consumer’s point of view. So, if the government was spending a ton of money on tanks, and nothing on consumer goods, this hurt consumers — but it was great for GDP.

The Paul Krugmans of the world argue, not just that the war provided the economy with a shot in the arm, but that the war itself was a time of great prosperity. Hopefully this post has caused you to rethink that silly assertion. Makers of tanks do well in wartime. As Robert Higgs has noted, the undertaker does well. But most people are miserable in war. Perhaps nobody has put it better than Austrian economist Ludwig von Mises, who said: “War prosperity is like the prosperity that an earthquake or a plague brings.”

So what did get us out of the Great Depression? I don’t mean to sound flip, but I think that the end of the Great Depression had a lot to do with the fact that Franklin Delano Roosevelt had finally died. He had mounted a war on business for 13 years, and thrown businessmen into a state of complete uncertainty about their future. In a future post, reviewing a book about the Great Depression, I will detail some of FDR’s atrocities, but suffice it to say that businessmen never knew what was coming next. The end of American’s war against Japan and Germany mattered — but to businessmen, it mattered almost as much that FDR had ended his war on them.

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