Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Regrettably, this is satire

Going against type, Congress is said to have prohibited the production of God's Not Dead 3, and has struck a mighty blow against wooden acting, unbelievable characters, and ham-fisted moral messages.

OK, yeah, it would be a complete violation of the 1st Amendment if passed, but at some point, Christian filmmakers need to come to grips with the fact that when I checked, Attack of the Killer Tomatoes scored better than God's Not Dead 2.  It would seem that if Christians really want to engage on the cultural playing field, we've got to get our own versions of vaudeville or community theater going.  I'm going to have trouble doing this, though.

Your "justice" department at work

The September issue of Forbes magazine has an interesting case about the plight of trader Todd Newman, whose insider trading conviction was overturned by a court of appeals, and then the Supreme Court, by refusing to take the case, affirmed that ruling.

What is at stake?  As many who have been "educated" in insider training by their companies know, there is really no actual law around insider trading except a provision in the law to prevent fraud in trading.  Historically, as the article notes, it's punished when the tipper is rewarded for inside information that the company prohibits disseminating--really it depends on what the company decides is illegal use of its information.

For Newman, however, prosecutor Preet Bharara used a novel interpretation that did not prosecute any tippers (there were four layers, something of a "telephone game" tipping), the tip was actually wrong, broke legal ground in using wiretaps and raids, whether Miranda rights were read is disputed, and a 20 minute drive to a courthouse apparently took an hour and a half.  Most importantly, historically it's vital to prove that the tipper and the recipient know that it is nonpublic information obtained illegally, but Bharara and prosecutress Antonia Apps persuaded the judge to ignore this provision.

In other words, Bharara and Apps were making up the law as they went along and using various intimidation tools to try to make it stick.  In the process, they destroyed a company and the careers of many of its employees, depriving at least half a dozen people of years of their lives.

What to do?  Well, given the definition of fraud I've linked above, the question of intent and compensation certainly ought to play a part in insider trading law, and first of all Congress ought to actually define it.   Moreover, since Bharara and Apps apparently forgot their lessons on Article 1 of the Constitution, I'd suggest that at least two other people need to lose their careers as a result of this. 

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

On the death penalty

Jeff Jacoby puts together a string of anecdotal evidence suggesting that indeed, there is a deterrent effect to the death penalty.  While this is significant--anecdotally if not statistically--there remains the question of what deterrent effect would justify the possibility of a wrongful execution.

Now the logic here is macabre, of course, but it's unavoidable; if there is indeed a deterrent effect to any punishment, from a $10 fine to Old Sparky or hanging, and especially if murder is involved, you are talking about the social cost of dead innocents.  So we might argue that if the presence of the death penalty is justified if the overall number of murders drops by more than the number of innocents executed.

We quail at that, but if sheer number of grieving families is our goal, that might be our conclusion, no?  But of course, since we are "wielding the knife", we might say that we'd rather have ten, a hundred, or a thousand innocents die before executing an innocent man...especially in light of the fact that, as things stand, it takes millions of dollars (the work product of another innocent life squandered) to execute a criminal. 

What we ought not say, however, is that the ratio is infinite--that we simply eliminate the death penalty if there is a risk of a single innocent being executed--because there is no such thing as zero likelihood.  Punish perjury and suppression of evidence?  You bet.  Harshly.  But let's not forget that the death penalty is Biblical, and that there is evidence out there that criminals modify their behavior to avoid it.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Why I'll probably never hold elected office

When I heard about the 49ers QB Colin Kaepernick refusing to stand for the national anthem, my response was "meh" to "finally, someone standing--or, rather, sitting--against our nation's sports/civic idolatry!".  While I disagree with Kaepernick's on many things--BLM ideology, tattoos, apparent move to Islam from Christianity, playing for the 49ers--I just can't get all worked up about him sitting through the national anthem.  But obviously, even in San Francisco, this is apparently a big deal with football fans, so I'll probably not do too well in elected politics.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Another solution for Global Warming?

The Babylon Bee reports that the demons in Hell are concerned because the Cubs are 81-45 and are nearly a lock to make the post-season.  I'm thinking that the problem of global warming (and the June Swoon) is solved if they win their first Series in 108 years.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

An alternative view, ecologically

NPR has published something of a radical proposal from a philosopher (note: not a climatologist) who argues that we ought to be putting birth taxes and the like on people who decide to procreate.  (H/t Michelle Malkin)  Now while I understand the motivation, I think there is a lot we can do besides something so draconian, and something that....will imperil the lives of the aged.  After all, if there are no kids around (cue the "Vulgarians" from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang), good luck getting someone to feed us applesauce and Ensure, and clean our Garfield bedpans, no?

To wit, the philosopher claims that the "carbon impact" of a baby is 9441 tons of carbon dioxide, about 5.7 times the actual carbon emissions of an individual in 80 years of life, or about six tons of carbon being burned on behalf of every American man, woman, and child each year of their life.

While this is borne out by EIA numbers for coal, oil, and natural gas production, a look at my own family's consumption says we're simply not doing our share to destroy the earth.  Although we drive an evil SUV and an evil pickup, we don't drive that many miles, keep our house cooler than average, use little air conditioning, and the like. 

Along with plants sequestering carbon through a process called "photosynthesis", it seems that there's a lot that can be done to mitigate carbon emissions (if indeed they are a problem) without government coercion.  And so we have to ask the question; is this about the environment, or expanding the government--which incidentally is (Lake Baikal, Warsaw Pact Superfund zones, etc..) the worst environmental offender of all?

Friday, August 19, 2016

Disparate impact rehashed

An interesting Washington Post column about the efforts by the Department of Justice to end "implicit bias", linked by Powerline, ironically makes the point of critics if one reads it carefully.  That is, the DOJ is more or less rehashing the old 1960s doctrines of "disparate impact" by looking at overall incidence of arrests, etc., and not comparing those arrest rates with things like conviction rates.

In other words, it's a classic error of using the wrong measurement.  If blacks were being victimized, one would anticipate that their portion of arrests and deaths at the hands of police would greatly exceed their portion of convictions, but that is not the case--it's actually the opposite in terms of deaths at the hands of police. 

So what's going on?  Well, in the name of appealing to black voters, the Department of "Justice" is choosing to leave criminals at large in black communities.  With friends like Barack Obama and Loretta Lynch, blacks don't need enemies.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Another triumph of peer review a study that purports to show that Latinos age more slowly than Caucasians.  Now given that a large portion of Latinos are, in fact, Caucasian or mixed-race including Caucasian blood, this is a very interesting way of trying to control an experiment.  When we compare significantly A vs. A, we find that A is different than A.

And apparently nobody called them on a basic violation of the law of non-contradiction, but somebody will probably get their Ph.D. and a professoriate out of it. 

(hint to the professors; you would either map out the "Latino" group by actual racial makeup, or attempt to separate Latinos of southern European descent from Caucasians of northern European descent, if you wanted to differentiate these groups)

Tuesday, August 02, 2016

Now that's a neat trick

President Obama is claiming that he's got the better argument than either Hilliary Clinton or Donald Drumpf regarding the "Trans Pacific Partnership", which is an interesting argument for a very simple reason; nobody outside of the White House, along with the negotiators for other countries, knows what's in it, and that's by law passed by Congress.

Nice try, Mr. President, but when the details aren't out, good luck making your case.  Plus, when typical "free trade" agreements amount to thousands of pages (GATT is something like 22000 pages) and there are several volumes of codes for various items to be imported and exported (I've seen them, they are huge), it's not hard to make the case that there must be a better way.  Say we could list some items (e.g. military and aerospace) as restricted or prohibited, and tax the rest of them at a reasonable rate (say 10% or so) to pay for the Coast Guard, ICE, and Navy. 

And then give a massive tax cut--start with much higher dependent deductions--so that Americans can get back to work.  But I am expecting nothing so sensible as this from the President for a very simple reason; we're still part of NAFTA and GATT.

Monday, August 01, 2016

With grudging respect?

According to David Kupelian, one of the strategies currently being used by President Obama to keep things going his way for the forseeable future is to make sure that, whatever law and code actually say, senior managers in many departments of the federal government will continue to follow in his modus operandi. 

Now with due respect to WND, this is of course unproven, but having watched the immigration debate since the days of Reagan, I have to wonder whether Obama's goal was actually achieved during the Carter or Ford administrations, if not earlier.  Or do we need to wonder how much further this will go?  I'm not sure.  But if there is something to this, for all my disagreement with President Obama, a grudging hat tip to him for realizing how these things really work.  As we say in quality engineering, corporate culture eats company initiatives for lunch.