Sunday, 31 July 2011


Toward a government of men...

"Discretionary” "Justice”  Dept
In response to last weekend’s Wall Street Journal article As Criminal Laws Proliferate, More Ensnared, a law professor writes:
...You suggest that it is "increasingly easy for Americans to end up on the wrong side” of a "balloon[ing]” body of federal criminal law.  What you fail to discuss is the prosecutorial discretion imbedded in our criminal justice system.  Not every violation of criminal law brought to the attention of law enforcement authorities results in an indictment...  I suspect that in each of the cases [cited in the article] the prosecutors had reasons beyond the surface elements of the crimes... for commencing the particular prosecution.  I also suspect that in each of their jurisdictions many more instances of similar conduct were resolved civilly or not pursued at all.

The real question, in my view, isn’t wheher Congress has criminalized innocent behaviour, but whether prosecutors are exercising their discretion properly...
Prof. R. Michael Cassidy
Boston College Law School
Newton, Mass.
Prof. Cassidy writes as if the "many more instances” being "not pursued” is a good thing.  He’s wrong.  Every violation of the law "brought to the attention of law enforcement authorities” that does not lead to prosecution takes us one step closer to a "government of men, not laws,” in which there will be one law for the elite and connected, and another law for the targeted (and the rest of us).   The only barrier:  The good behaviour of men who, after all, are not only lawyers but also politicians.

That Cassidy sees the question of "whether Congress has criminalized innocent behaviour” as less important than whether prosecutorial discretion is being "properly” exercised may stem from confidence that a J.D. (Harvard) "Masonic handshake” will protect him from the "ballooning law + prosecutorial malice” mousetraps that lie in wait for the rest of us.  But circumstances have a way of changing; just ask Martha Stewart.

Outside reading (HT for some: Instapundit):

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Saturday, 30 July 2011

In Passing

Taking in each other’s laundry

Walter Russell Mead believes the future of employment lies in "value-added intermediation”:

There is much more room for growth in non-traded services than people think. Last spring Matt Yglesias had an important post that offered a glimpse of the promised land.

In "The Yoga Instructor Economy” Yglesias pointed out that there will be a rising demand for personal services that can’t be outsourced.  Dinners in fancy restaurants are more labor-intensive than burgers at McDonald’s.  Yglesias continues:
Artisanal cheese is more labor-intensive to produce than industrial cheese.  More people will hire interior designers and people will get their kitchens redone more often.  There will be more personal shoppers and more policemen.  People will get fancier haircuts.
That makes it sound like the new economy will be all about frills, but in reality much more serious forces are at work.  Three in particular need to be taken into account: We are developing a surplus of both educated and uneducated labor, making workers relatively cheap; the drastic decline in the prices of computing power and bandwidth has changed our relationship to the world of information; the rise of the two-career family and the growing demands of the professional workplace have created a substantial group of families who are, comparatively speaking, money rich and time poor.
Value added intermediation is the rationale for a whole range of services that entrepreneurs will be building in coming years.  You might have a family tech agent that for some reasonable fee reviews and manages your communications life: helping you select the right phone package for your family’s patterns and needs, advising you about major electronic purchases, making sure you get the most out of your equipment and software, serving as your tech back up and troubleshooting.  When something goes wrong you don’t call New Delhi; you call the people down the street.
I’m not sure that Matt Yglesias is the person whose ideas I’d want to bet my future on, and this strikes me as ridiculous for several reasons.

The key assumption (which Mead expands upon) is that our massive decline of manufacturing and the accelerating outsourcing of white collar jobs will still leave behind a sufficient population of "money rich and time poor” "professionals”[1] to support a projected horde of personal assistants, financial advisors. party planners, and other "intermediators.”  And not only support them, but support them at a close-to-"professional”-level income, so they themselves will find it not only affordable but also desirable to employ other "intermediators.”  (Sort of everyone taking in each other’s laundry, right?)

And Mead goes on to assume a population of well-educated workers who are unwilling, unable, or uninterested in becoming part of the "professions,” and will therefore be ready and eager to work as "intermediators.”  But in the quote above, Mead stumbles over the problem: The current fire sale on otherwise-unemployable educated people cannot last.  Because "intermediators” gotta work cheap (otherwise the "professionals” won’t be able to hire enough of them to support everybody), but if they’re that cheap, how do they pay for their schooling?[2]  Wow, dilemma!

And just how many "personal trainers,” "private college counselors,” or "relocation advisors” will some barista be able to afford, anyway?


[1]  Just what these professionals will do to earn their keep is unclear.  I assume that Mead has in mind doctors, lawyers, politicians, corporate executives, top bureaucrats, academics (and other members of the chattering class), and criminals.

[2]  See: Bubble, Education

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In Passing

So... Who’s “the party of no” now?

Via:  Instapundit.

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Wednesday, 27 July 2011

In Passing

Run for the border!

Buddies may be Buddies, but Business is Business  Dept
General Electric Co.’s health care unit, the world’s biggest maker of medical imaging machines, is moving the headquarters of its 115-year-old X-ray business to Beijing.

"A handful” of top managers will move to the Chinese capital and there won’t be any job cuts, said Anne LeGrand, general manager of X-ray for GE Healthcare.
However, the facility’s "65 new engineers and support staff” will be Chinese, as will the "large number” of engineers already hired and in training.

GE CEO (and chairman of the president’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness) Jeff Immelt was unavailable for comment.


HT:  razorbacker, who wonders whether GE will have to pay taxes in China.

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In Passing

THIS may have something to do with THAT...

THIS:  Ace of Spades HQ:
Doomed: Even The Vaunted Boehner Plan Cuts Only One Billion in 2012 —(post by Ace)

Over 10 years, it cuts, it is supposed, $1.1 trillion dollars.

But almost all of those cuts come in the tenth year.
The CBO scores the ten year deficit reduction as $851 billion, not $1.1 trillion.
Isn't that less than the $2 billion in 2012 that Biden and the Democrats proposed?
THAT:  The Washington Times:
House GOP revolts against Boehner plan
by Stephen Dynan and Sean Lengell

House Republicans do not have enough support to pass their debt-ceiling increase plan on their own, a top conservative said Tuesday as his party’s leaders tried to cobble together a coalition of Republicans and Democrats to put the bill over the top.

"There are not 218 Republicans in support of this plan,” Rep. Jim Jordan, an Ohio Republican who heads the powerful conservative caucus in the House, told reporters Tuesday morning.

If Mr. Jordan is right, that would mean Speaker John A. Boehner would have to rely on Democrats to pass [his] $1.2 trillion spending cuts plan — support Democrats’ top vote-counter said he’ll be hard-pressed to gain.  Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer said "very few” Democrats will vote for the Boehner plan, though he acknowledged there could be some.
Looks like YA skirmish in the war between the Ruling Class and Everybody Else.

Red State:  Boehner Grounds into a Double Play
...What was truly awful was the projected $1 billion in deficit reduction from discretionary spending next year.  Why's that important?  Well, it's the only year that counts.  The rest, the so called "out years" are promises and projects this Congress can't commit to delivering...
How ridiculously small is that number?  The Ryan Budget the House passed earlier this year would cut the deficit by $30 billion next year.  So the Boehner Plan represents a surrender on what already got passed the House.  Way to negotiate against yourself.

Mark Philip Alger:  They just don’t get it

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Sunday, 24 July 2011

In Passing

BBC runs Washington Monument ploy, return of the overnight test card?

The BBC is planning to cut costs by broadcasting more repeats, possibly scrapping Formula 1 and bringing back the test card overnight

Bosses will meet the corporation’s governing body today to explain how to save £1.3billion over four years.
The cutbacks, drawn up after a six-year licence fee freeze, are likely to see BBC1 and BBC2 cease broadcasting at 1am.  This has led to suggestions that it could see the return of the test card which for years was used when the BBC was off air.
From the Daily Mail (whose online image of test card F shows only the middle third)

Unnecessary in this era of automated broadcast operations, and probably yielding minimal actual savings (assuming they plan to keep their transmitters operating overnight, as they did in the past).  But producing maximum complaints, which was the idea all along, wunnit?

The Telegraph: BBC cuts ‘could see return of the test card’
(Their picture shows the original 4:3 test card, stretched to HD aspect ratio. Hey guys, the image in the center should be circular.)

Related: Washington Monument ploy
BBC Test Card Gallery at
I’ve done a bit about test cards here.

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In Passing

How far we’ve come!

Destroying the village in order to save it  Dept
Gabriel Hanna comments at Althouse:
If a school follows a quota, they don't have to prove they aren’t discriminating.
Unsurprisingly, the federal government is involved.

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In Passing

Can’t handle the changes

"Whaddaya mean, ‘no more money’?”  Dept
Paco offers an analogy:
You gotta love the last half of this headline at The Hill:
"Progress seen in debt talks, but outrage from Dems over lack of tax hikes”
I swear, they’re like bandits who’ve successfully robbed trains for years and then get pissed off when the railroad goes bankrupt.

Related:  Reader Michael McFatter writes to Instapundit:
Thus far the Democrats have proved intractable on these negotiations.  But more than that, they seem to be living in denial...

None of these people work for a living. Their concept of where money comes from and how wealth is created (and destroyed) is completely divorced from reality because they live in a government bubble...

We’ve been negotiating with the President and The Democrats in Congress on the assumption that they’re sane. ... [But suppose] they’re not sane.  [Suppose] they want five apples and there’s only two plus two but they CAN’T ACCEPT that two plus two equals four. ... I’m worried they’ll pull the trigger on default as just one more "political” step in the march towards freedom from want or whatever other principle they’re operating under.
So, is it malevolence or stupidity?  Ultimately, it may not make any difference.

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Wednesday, 20 July 2011

In Passing

Not how it was supposed to work...

Can you say "Unintended Consequences”?  Dept
Macedon Ranges Weekly:
AS ELECTRICITY costs surge and the nation wrestles with the carbon tax, Australians are returning to the eternal fuel of winters past.

With electricity prices rising 15 per cent to 18 per cent this month, firewood suppliers already distributing up to 6 million tonnes a year are likely to face heavier demands.
Matt Niland, of Four Seasons Nursery at Belrose, which supplies between 500 and 800 tonnes of firewood to householders a year, said the colder winter had brought a 30 per cent increase in the demand.
So let’s see: The government, in the name of "saving the environment,”  makes energy more expensive.  So people to burn more wood, instead of gas (or coal, in a power station).  Saving the environment... how?  Right.

Via:  Blair

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Tuesday, 19 July 2011

In Passing

You’d think people in the news business would know something about fair use... > Today’s Front Pages

Starting today, the Newseum is testing a watermarking system to prevent illegal downloads of the newspaper front pages.
Anyone seeking permission to use a front page must credit the Newseum and contact the newspaper directly for permission. U.S. copyright laws apply.

(Didn’t see any watermarks, but they’ve shrunken their "gallery view” images so much that they’re just about worthless.)

Elsewhere (added 110722 17:25)Bill Quick comments.

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