Saturday, February 23, 2019

Debating the IRS Budget

February 22, 2019 by Dan Mitchell @ International Liberty

I recently appeared on CNBC to talk about everyone’s favorite government agency, those warm and cuddly folks at the IRS..

Our tax system is a dysfunctional mess, but you’ll notice that I mostly blamed politicians. After all, they are the ones who have unceasingly made the internal revenue code more complex,
starting on that dark day in 1913 when the income tax was approved.

But I don’t want to give the IRS a free pass.

McKee Cartoon 2

I’ve cited IRS incompetence and misbehavior in the past, most notably when discussing political bias, targeted harassment, and other shenanigans.

And, as illustrated by these five examples, we can always cite new evidence.  Such as lack of accountability.
…a new report from the Cause of Action Institute reveals that the IRS has been evading numerous oversight mechanisms, and it refuses to comply with laws requiring it to measure the economic impact of its rules. Congress has passed several laws, including the Regulatory Flexibility Act and the Congressional Review Act, that require agencies to report on their rules’ economic impact to lawmakers and the public. …These good-government measures are meant to ensure unelected bureaucrats can be checked by the public. …the IRS has made up a series of exemptions that allow it to avoid basic scrutiny. The agency takes the position that its rules have no economic effect because any impact is attributable to the underlying law that authorized the rule.
Such as inefficiency.
Private debt collectors cost the Internal Revenue Service $20 million in the last fiscal year, but brought in only $6.7 million in back taxes, the agency’s taxpayer advocate reported Wednesday. That was less than 1 percent of the amount assigned for collection. What’s more, private contractors in some cases were paid 25 percent commissions on collections that the I.R.S. made without their help…the report stated, “the I.R.S. has implemented the program in a manner that causes excessive financial harm to taxpayers and constitutes an end run around taxpayer rights protections.”
Such as rewarding scandal.
The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) issued more than $1.7 million in awards in fiscal 2016 and early fiscal 2017 to employees who had been disciplined by the agency, a Treasury Department watchdog said. “Some of these employees had serious misconduct, such as unauthorized access to tax return information, substance abuse and sexual misconduct,” the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) said in a report made public this week. …in fiscal 2016 and early fiscal 2017, the IRS had given awards to nearly 2,000 employees who were disciplined in the 12 months prior to receiving the bonus.
By the way, the IRS has a pattern of rewarding bad behavior.
Such as pursuing bad policy.
…for 35 years the Internal Revenue Service has exempted itself from the most basic regulatory oversight. …Tax regulations (like all regulations) have exploded in recent decades, and of course IRS bureaucrats impose their own policy judgments. The IRS has in recent years unilaterally decided when and how to enforce ObamaCare tax provisions, often dependent on political winds. In 2016 it proposed a rule to force more business owners to pay estate and gift taxes via a complicated new reading of the law. …Secretary Steve Mnuchin’s Treasury…department is inexplicably backing IRS lawlessness with a string of excuses.
Again, this is not the first time the IRS has interfered with congressional policy.

Such as stifling political speech.

The Internal Revenue Service infamously targeted dissenters during President Obama’s re-election campaign. Now the IRS is at it again. Earlier this year it issued a rule suppressing huge swaths of First Amendment protected speech. …The innocuously named Revenue Procedure 2018-5 contains a well-hidden provision enabling the Service to withhold tax-exempt status from organizations seeking to improve “business conditions . . . relating to an activity involving controlled substances…” The rule does not apply to all speech dealing with the listed substances, only that involving an “improvement” in “business conditions,” such as legalization or deregulation. …This is constitutionally pernicious viewpoint discrimination.
In other words, the bureaucrats didn’t learn from the Lois Lerner scandal.

Now that I’ve hopefully convinced people that I’m not going soft on IRS malfeasance, let’s look at the budgetary issue that was the focus of the CNBC interview.

Is the IRS budget too small? Should it be increased so that more agents can conduct more audits and extract more money?

Both the host and my fellow guest started from the assumption that the IRS budget has been gutted. But that relies on cherry-picked data, starting when the IRS budget was at a peak level in 2011 thanks in part to all the money sloshing around Washington following Obama’s failed stimulus legislation.
Here are the more relevant numbers, taken from lines 2564-2609 of this massive database in the OMB’s supplemental materials on the budget. As you can see, IRS spending – adjusted for inflation – has nearly doubled since the early 1980s.

In other words, we shouldn’t feel sorry for the IRS and give it more money.

To augment these numbers, I made two simple points in the above interview.
  • First, we should demand more efficiency from the bureaucracy.
  • Second, we should reform the tax code to eliminate complexity.
The latter point is especially important because we could dramatically improve compliance while also shrinking the IRS if we had a simple and fair system such as the flat tax.

Last but not least, here’s a clip from another recent interview. I explained that the recent shutdown will be used as an excuse for any problems that occur in the near future.

Standard operating procedure for any bureaucracy.

P.S. My archive of IRS humor features a new Obama 1040 form, a death tax cartoon, a list of tax day tips from David Letterman, a Reason video, a cartoon of how GPS would work if operated by the IRS, an IRS-designed pencil sharpener, two Obamacare/IRS cartoons (here and here), a collection of IRS jokes, a sale on 1040-form toilet paper (a real product), a song about the tax agency, the IRS’s version of the quadratic formula, and (my favorite) a joke about a Rabbi and an IRS agent.

Cartoon of the Day

Cancer fear-mongering has got to stop

Alex Berezow Jan. 24, 2017 

Stories like the Nutella scare are an embarrassment to journalism and a dereliction of duty. Imagine what a typical American might do for breakfast: Fry a few slices of bacon, slather Nutella on a piece of toast, and pour a hot cup of coffee while checking e-mail on a smartphone. If we are to believe everything we read in the news, then that rather common daily ritual could cause you to die from cancer.

Nutella, a chocolate hazelnut spread, was the latest victim in the ceaseless fear-mongering over food.

Outrageous headlines went viral on the Internet. The Daily Mail breathlessly shouted, “Could Nutella give you CANCER?” while Quartz wrote, “Stores Are Pulling Nutella After Report Links It To Cancer” — later corrected because initial reports by the BBC and other outlets were wrong.

These stories give “fake news” a bad name. They are an embarrassment to journalism and a dereliction of duty. Once again, the media simply copied and pasted what other outlets reported, and few if any major news organizations did their jobs properly by reading the original scientific report.....To Read More..... 

A 40-Year Controversy: Baby Formula Does Not Increase Infant Mortality

By Chuck Dinerstein — March 20, 2018

Paul Gertler is an economist and expert on the impact of interventions on public issues, most recently in a working paper on his website looking at the effect of introducing baby formula on infant mortality. Paul Gertler is not a scientist, nor apparently are any of his co-authors. The paper is more screed than science.

There has been significant controversy about the introduction of baby formula in place of or to supplement breastfeeding in lower and middle-income countries, a controversy that peaked 40 years ago. To use baby formula, mother’s mix the powder with water so that using untreated, unsanitary water results in an unsanitary formula. Gertler “found,” in the sense that he calculated, that the combination of the introduction of formula and the “use” of surface water, the least clean source of water, increased infant mortality........To Read More....

Abortion and the Catholic Surrender to Politics

By William Dodd

This past week, Father John I. Jenkins, president of the University of Notre Dame, released a statement expressing their disdain for the Reproductive Health Act ("RHA"), just signed into law by Governor Andrew Cuomo.  Father Jenkins's statement is titled "Who is Next?," a rhetorical question for abortion advocates asking: if medical care is not required for babies surviving abortion in New York, what group is next to be denied medical care?

The commentary from Father Jenkins is surprising from several perspectives.  The influential Notre Dame platform has in recent decades been used by Jenkins and other university officials to advocate mostly liberal views on social matters — views that have in some cases conflicted with traditional Catholic teachings.  

In this article, Father presents a surprisingly conservative perspective.  Coming from him, it has diluted credibility.  After all, it was Father Jenkins who in 2009 invited President Obama, the most pro-abortion president in our country's history, to be his and Father Hesburgh's honored guest and speaker at the university's graduation ceremony.  Obama's speech from that platform gave the impression to the world that Catholic Notre Dame may consider abortion a subject for debate or dialogue rather than a doctrinal matter.............  To Read More

Quote of the Day

"We live in a time when great efforts have been made, and continue to be made, to falsify the record of the past and to make history a tool of propaganda; when governments, religious movements, political parties, and sectional groups of every kind are busy rewriting history as they wish it to have been, as they would like their followers to believe that it was." - Islam Bernard Lewis', historian

Thought For the Day

Regarding this article: Science publishes Left-coast loons’ organic ag propaganda - Expert panel calls for ‘transforming US agriculture’

Junk Science Editor Says: Science‘s decent into eco madness is almost complete. Modern industrial agriculture is the more economically, socially and environmentally sustainable option and currently protects vast areas of marginal lands from the plow through high productivity. As Science should know before printing this kind of irresponsible pap there is no serious support for the assertion “organic” food is more nutritious even for trendy Left-coasters, unless you count feeding their delusions.

Much worse, however, is the fact that there is not sufficient land in all the world to support the livestock or grow the humus stock that would allow “organic” agriculture to produce anything like the quantities of food enabled by modern agriculture and how would you transport and apply all that compost even if you could produce it? The only way “organic” agriculture can “feed the world” is to fit the population to low-productivity, high input, labor-intense agriculture. In other words these are just another bunch of misanthropic cranks out to trim the human population – in the name of “sustainability”, of course.
Review of Encyclopedia of Religion and Nature

After eight years of work Thoemmes published the Encyclopedia of Religion and Nature (2005). The project was conceived during a 1997 American Academy of Religion conference when Professor Jerry Kaplan expressed interest in the “religion of nature” after noticing it was a worldview common to both his specialty, the racist right, and radical environmentalism, a specialty of the Encyclopedia’s editor Professor Bron Taylor.

The Encyclopedia, a manifesto of sorts, has 1,000 entries from 500 academics. Many entries were written by key movement personalities such as Arne Naess, Jane Goodall, and Steven Rockefeller. Taylor stresses, “every standard entry in this encyclopedia was fully peer reviewed”.

(1) The Encyclopedia affirms a wide connection between a “religion of nature” and fascism and an equally broad overlap between a “religion of nature” and environmentalism.

The Encyclopedia betrays environmentalism as a social movement lousy with neo-Nazis, devil-worshippers, superstitious lunatics, pseudo-intellectuals, history fabricators, saboteurs, murderers and genocidal maniacs, narcotized youth, romantic primitivists and perniciously elitist anti-democratic religious nutters who corrupt science and slander technology while offering no realistic way to live in the modern world…….

Ecology is sometimes called “the subversive science”. This is too generous because Ecology should not be grouped with the sciences at all – it is a religion.

Ecology is Pantheism and Pantheism is nature worship. Among the sciences and humanities, this highly political “religion of nature” functions like a computer virus. Many faculties over the last 40 years have imparted sub-disciplines led by the “eco” prefix or the “environmental” adjective. Ecology aspires to theocracy – to Pantheocracy. This is not some distant dystopia. Already, across the West development proposals are routinely vetted through environmentalist inquisitions where the precautionary principle, the rights of migratory animals, complexity theory and the sacrality of nature are within the realm of legitimate discourse.
Editor's Note:  And to think that some of you thought that I had strong opinions. RK

Commentary: The Dark Side of Deep Ecology

By James A. Marusek

Editor's Note:  I originally published this article on October 29, 2009.  But this is just as profound now as it was then, and worth bringing back, often!

Mr. Maursek's old site, IMPACT, is no longer available. However, his work can now be found at The Other Side of the Global Warming Debate and The Legacy of the Environmental Movement which may be found at these new addresses. I would like to thank Mr. Marusek for allowing me to republish this excerpt which is from a much larger commentary, Solar “Grand Minima” Preparedness Plan, i.e. Little Ice Age Preparedness Plan. RK

Deep Ecologists push radical depopulation, perhaps to as few as 500 million people worldwide, as the best medicine to cure the human infection and again permit nature to flourish. Some believers have become advocates of thinning the world’s population through genocide, abortion, euthanasia, pestilence, famine and war. But some Deep Ecologist are actively pursuing this objective now with whatever means are available as we stand by and watch from the sidelines.

Science shows that adding chlorine to drinking water was the biggest advance in the history of public health, virtually eradicating water-borne diseases such as cholera. Every year, nearly 1.5 billion people --mostly children under five -- suffer from preventable water-borne diseases such as cholera, typhoid fever, amoebic dysentery, bacterial gastroenteritis, giardiasis, schistosomiasis, and various viral diseases such as hepatitis A. Yet now there is a mounting campaign, led by environmental activists in wealthy industrialized nations, to eliminate every last man-made chlorine molecule from the face of the earth.

As Greenpeace's Joe Thornton explains, There are no uses of chlorine which we regard as safe. Yet chlorination -- considered one of the greatest advances ever in public health and hygiene -- is almost universally accepted as the method of choice for purifying water supplies. In the United States alone, 98 percent of public water systems are purified by chlorine or chlorine-based products. In 1991, an epidemic of cholera started in Peru and spread to the rest of Latin American. This epidemic reached the U.S. in 1992 via an outbreak among 75 commercial airline passengers from Peru. This epidemic is reported to have caused as many as 1 million cases of cholera and as many as 10,000 deaths.

Although the epidemic was reportedly started by a ship which dumped its bilge within reach of Peruvian waters, the epidemic's spread has been credited in part to the Peruvian government's decision to stop chlorinating drinking water supplies under the urging of environmental activist.

Please read - Cholera Epidemic in U.S. Courtesy of EPA "Science" and Dirty Water; Will the United States repeat Peru's chlorine folly?

Ten thousand people were killed and 10 to 15 million left homeless when a cyclone slammed into India's eastern coastal state of Orissa in October 1999. The U.S. Agency for International Development provided corn and soy meal as humanitarian aid to thousands of hungry storm victims. A staunch member of this eco-religion, Vandana Shiva, of the Research Foundation for Science, Technology, and Ecology demanded this food aid distribution immediately be halted because it contained genetically modified (GM) food and accused the United States of using the people of India as guinea pigs. This is despite the fact that Americans have been growing and eating biotech crops for years with no ill effects (about one third of all the corn grown in the United States has been genetically modified).

In 2002, eco-religious groups from Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth and Comers International convinced the government of Zambia to block the distribution of American-donated genetically enhanced corn to its starving people. As 3 million people in his country face starvation, the president of Zambia let some 15 million metric tons of donated corn sit untouched in storage because some of it was genetically modified.

Please read; Biotech Food Politics: Zambia Revisited and Africans Starve Rather than Accept Bounty of GM Corn and Zambia Allows Its People To Eat

In 2008 a cholera epidemic in Zimbabwe has sickened more than 100,000 and killed at least 4,500. A simple innovation, using GM rice plants, to produce a rice-based oral rehydration solution was developed. This innovation has been shown to cut the duration of disease in children in Peru. But its introduction and use in Zimbabwe was opposed by various eco-religious groups.

Environmental activist urged Chad to fight global warming and the government responded by banning the manufacture, importation and use of charcoal – the sole source of fuel for 99% of Chadians. Women giving birth could not even find a bit of charcoal to heat water for washing.

Another dark aspect of this religious movement is it spawns religious fanatics, such as the Earth Liberation Front (ELF), that believe terrorism such as the destruction of property and threatening human lives, are justified in the name of their eco-religious beliefs.

It’s Time to Fish or Cut Bait

By Rich Kozlovich

I would like to extend my personal commendation to now former Governor Strickland of Ohio for taking a stand for Ohio’s citizenry and the citizens of the entire nation. He sent this letter to Lisa Jackson, current administrator of the United States Environmental Agency, regarding the EPA’s position on the use of propoxur to defeat this plague of bed bugs that is infecting the nation. This well developed and well thought out letter is dated December 27th, 2010. In his letter he points out the inconsistencies and unscientific stands that EPA has taken over this issue. If ever there was an issue that clearly shows that the EPA is the political animal that President Richard Nixon created and intended; this is it.

Clearly Governor Strickland's letter was sent as an act of integrity and concern for the people of Ohio in the last days of his administration. He is to be commended by all of Ohio’s citizens.

Somewhere along the line everyone is going to come to a startling conclusion. The EPA isn’t a department of the government; it is an agency! Supposedly it works for the Department of the Interior and is subject to the authority of that Secretary of the Interior; supposedly!

And at some point someone is going to come to the conclusion that they are an entirely too powerful, too intrusive, and an entirely unscientific agency at that. It will also come as a shock to many to discover that a big chunk of their “legislative” authority did not come from the U.S. Congress, but from the courts.

Although the EPA may have been instrumental in the ‘70s for establishing clean water and air they got out of control. There are seven pieces of legislation the Congress needs to address in order to fix this problem.

Dr. Jay Lehr outlines what they are:
• The Water Pollution Control Act (which later became the Clean Water Act)
• The Clean Air Act
• The Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (which dealt with waste disposal)
• The Safe Drinking Water Act
• The Federal Insecticide, Rodenticide and Fungicide Act (FIRFA)
• The Superfund, and
• The Surface Mining and Reclamation Act.
I would have added the Endangered Species Act, since no other act has the potential to impact private land ownership as this one. This is one of the most outrageous and abusive pieces of legislation the U.S. Congress ever passed.  But this wasn't an area in which he worked apparently.

Dr. Lehr was part of the group that developed the programs he outlines, and he feels that “During that decade we did a terrific job”. He goes on the say; “However in the ‘80s that work was complete and then the pendulum swung. Environmental advocacy groups saw the environment as a way to promote big government and liberal ideas that reduced individual freedom, and threw a monkey wrench in the path of progress and capitalism.”

He goes on the say that, “Quite frankly, US EPA has done nothing useful since 1980, and is, in my opinion, the worst agency today in the federal government and one that could be disbanded with no negative impact on the public. Each state has their own EPA and they do a good enough job that we really don’t need the anymore."

This whole idea that “green” is everything isn’t new. He went on to say that, “We found threads of green in the conservation movement and in philosophical writings. The idea that the earth and nature is superior to man goes back a very long way.”

Make no mistake about this.  Irrespective of one's personal beliefs,  this is a battle between neo-paganism i.e. eco-religion that makes mankind a creation of nature and traditional Judaic-Christian values where the Earth was created for mankind. The Druids would be very comfortable with the modern green movement, especially with the idea that people have to be sacrificed. Oops…there are modern Druids....... and they are the greenies….imagine that!

Pretty Good! For a Bug Man!

By Rich Kozlovich

Many years ago I became friends with guy who was a manager of a chicken sandwich restaurant. This store was part of a very large franchise with quality people as their owners and managers. I never met one who wasn’t pleasant and well mannered.  I mention this to give impetus to what I am about to say.

A number of us were sitting in his dining room one morning having coffee, and solving the world’s problems, when I made some cogent observation that impressed him. He said to me; “Wow, that’s pretty good for a bug man”!

In turn I said, “Yeah; if I was any smarter I’d be a restaurateur”.

Was he deliberately being insulting? No, we were friends, but he just let slip his view of what I did for a living.  Not necessarily me, but my profession. We're just bug men.  How smart could we possibly be?   It is unfortunate that some people have such a low view of exterminators and I often wonder where this comes from. 

One of the things I've learned over the years - there's a lot of really sharp people in the pest control industry.  Not only are exterminators sharp, but exterminators are among the most adaptable group of people I've ever worked with.  The pest control industry of today is substantially different than the industry I came into 37 years ago.   The ability to adapt simply goes with the territory.  Products change, techniques change, regulations change, chemical companies and products disappear, and this is happening on a regular basis.  We have to adapt to those changes, and we do!

In Ohio a number of years ago they wanted to give teachers tests to see if they really were qualified to be teachers. I told one teacher at one of my accounts that I didn’t understand why they were so upset; after all, this test was geared to fifth graders. I went on to say that we (exterminators) had to study, take tests and then take continuing education classes in order to be allowed to  continue to do our work. She snorted and said; “That’s ridiculous! You could take anyone and tell them to mix this with that and then have them spray it around”. In other words….any stupid person could do what you do! I thought this was particularly ironic, since I mentioned this conversation to the Vice Principle in passing....and it turns out the Vice Principal thought she was an idiot.

Currently Paradigms and Demographics is getting over 30, 000 hits a month and P&D peaked some years back at over 47,000, and from all over the world.    I know that's nothing compared to the big blogs.  I don't do sports and I don't do Hollywood unless it has something to do with social commentary or geopolitics, and I try to focus on those things that will draw serious readers and thinkers to my site.  No one is working in the background to promote my site, and I'm not aligned with any larger organization that makes P&D more accessible, so I'm pleased with the response.

P&D has only one staff member - me!  However, over the years I've had the privilege of making friends with a number of prominent scientists and writers who have allowed me to publish their work, and in some cases, they've published my work on their sites. 

Not bad….for a bug man! If I was any smarter I would be a _______ Oh well, you can fill in the blank.

Environmentalism is Antithetical to Human Progress!

By Rich Kozlovich

History is the paved road leading to future, and it's good to go back and see what happens when people get stupid and become infected with the latest philosophical flavor of the day.

Bill Ford of Ford Motor Company became the “Carbon Laughingstock” in April 2011.  For years he shot off his mouth about CO2 emissions and then someone took him seriously, and he found out what happens when industry sides with green leftist loons.  Thirteen states adopted more stringent CO2 tailpipe emission standards that was going to seriously impact production, and then he whined about it to Congress.  What did he think was going to happen?  How stupid can someone be? 

When business people get to that level you have to think they are pretty smart.  I no longer think so.  Apparently they had been listening to the wacky ideas promoted by the activists who have taken over the Ford Foundation.  If Henry Ford could see what happened to his company and his foundation he would roll over in his grave.

Somehow they think they are making points with the greenies and their lackeys in government, and they believe that is some way they will get a leg up on their competitors. In reality they are undermining everything they are and everything they do.

No agreement with the greenies will ever be honored because they have no command and control system. Just as soon as one group makes a deal with industry the others will attack both. And there will never be an end of their demands because everything you give them is a "good start"!

This Neville Chamberlain policy of appeasement approach with environmentalists is madness.

That same year Wal-Mart had to give up on "going green" and return to basics "after suffering seven straight quarters of losses, today the merchandise giant Wal-Mart will announce that it is “going back to basics,” ending its era of high-end organic foods, going “green,” and the remainder of its appeal to the upscale market. Next month the company will launch an “It’s Back” campaign to woo the millions of customers who have fled the store. They will be bringing back “heritage” products, like inexpensive jeans and sweatpants."

I remember when Wal-Mart made the decision to go down this road. The pundits all predicted that they were so big that this would alter the merchandising landscape in favor or “organic” and “all natural” forever. Wal-Mart was going to turn the world green. I said then and I say it now, Wal-Mart is today what Sears was fifty years ago and fifty years from now someone else will be what Wal-Mart is today. Get over it!

They did not and will not turn the world green and the CEO who took them down this road should be fired and anyone on the board of directors who supported him should be escorted right out the door with him. The other officers of the corporation should be looked at very seriously also. Unfortunately they guy who pushed this is a greenie who was awarded an obscene amount of money for promoting failure.

I do so hope that those who've been reading P&D will remember that I had said when they went down the “green brick road” that if Sam Walton was alive he would roll over in his grave….so to speak.

It is impossible for “green” to be a good business proposition. Those who promote green and those who promote capitalism are fundamentally at odds. Greenies want to destroy capitalism and capitalists wish to expand capitalism. How can there possibly be any common ground?

The more you give in to the greenies the more they will demand. We shouldn’t be trying to cooperate with ‘green’, nor should we be trying to define or redefine ‘green’. We should be defeating it.

Thinking that we need to be at the table in order to help define “green”, or believing that we will enhance our business image by going green is delusional.

Green is their issue and they will define it the way they choose to define it and your being at the table will be meaningless in the long run. Green ideas have consistently shown that they are bad business because greenies don't have a clue as to what works and what doesn't.  Because everything they promote.....doesn't . 

In the retail market it is clear much of society is suffering from “green fatigue”; people just can't stand it anymore and don't care because they have come to the correct conclusion that 'green' is a load of horsepucky. I do believe that 'green fatigue' is a phrase I coined and I give everyone permission to use it…..often.

It is also bad social policy because history has spoken! To be green is to be irrational.

The Four Pillars of Modern Environmentalism: Junk Science, Regulatory Abuse, Secular Neo-Paganism and Insanity!

By Rich Kozlovich

I came upon an old article entitled, Global Warming must be true, Charles Manson believes in it.  Whodda thunk it.....Manson was a greenie.  Well, maybe that's not as strange as it seems.

Here are some of his thoughts:
'Everyone’s God and if we don’t wake up to that there’s going to be no weather because our polar caps are melting because we’re doing bad things to the atmosphere. ‘If we don’t change that as rapidly as I’m speaking to you now, if we don’t put the green back on the planet and put the trees back that we’ve butchered, if we don’t go to war against the problem...'….On the environment, Manson said: 'Sooner or later the will of God will prevail over all of you. And I was condemned as the will of God.' 'We are all martyrs. Love is a martyr... I am a martyr. But I am also a victim. And I'm a performer……I'm both. I am everything. I am nothing.'
Yup….he’s qualified…..he’s a greenie. Crazy as a loon and vicious as a viper!
Much of what you see being touted by animal rights and green activists was first put into practice on a national level by the first green government, Nazi Germany. Hurt an animal and Herman Gehring would have you dealt with in some unpleasant way. That is the problem with all the greenies from then until now; they love the world, its people they hate.

When I read comments from “normal” people who "know" that global warming is "real" , even after all that has come out demonstrating all the junk science and political chicanery behind it, I wonder at which Temple of the Church of the Warming Globe do they worship, and is smoking funny cigarettes part of the worship service.

Do I believe in global warming? Yes, and I believe in global cooling also. Why? Because we have more than enough historical data to show that the Earth has warmed and cooled often in its history.  That record also shows huge swings in temperature, and mankind didn't have a thing to do with any of it.
What about the disasters they're predicting for today?
Did those kinds of disasters occur then when the temperatures during the Medieval Warming period and the Roman Warming Period where substantially higher than they are now or predicting for the future?  There is absolutely nothing in the historical records, or anywhere else, to show these things happened then! Why then should we believe they will occur now?  We shouldn't!

As for Ocean acidification - that's just more horsepucky to push an agenda of global governance. If it isn’t CO2, it will be ocean acidification. If it isn’t that it will be some other high sounding complicated claim that will be as equally un-provable as all the other horsepucky they have spewed out over the decades.

This issue is singular. Does mankind have the ability to control the weather in any way? The answer is no! So why should we believe that the minute amount of CO2 mankind puts into the atmosphere will alter the climate, especially since we know from the data that the amount of CO2 has fluctuated dramatically over the eons. And data also shows that the CO2 increases did not precede the warming periods, it followed them.
But hey! Charles Manson believed in global warming, right along with Prince Charles who talks to plants to make them grow better.  Wow!  Well, that sure makes all the difference for me. 
Now I know it's horsepucky!

Recession: Are We There Yet?

By John Mauldin February 22, 2019

Dramatic Weakening
Missing Inversion
No Credit Stress
Not Going Global
The Rest of the Story
“I’m an American!”—Pat Caddell—RIP
Dallas, Athens, and Houston

An old joke says economists predicted 15 of the last 10 recessions. In other words, they’re frequently wrong and often too pessimistic.

I think it’s not so simple. Every recession prediction is eventually correct; some just get the timing wrong. That’s because, so long as we have a business cycle, a recession is always coming. The only question is when it will strike.

There’s also some dispute about what, exactly, counts as “recession.” The usual definition is two consecutive quarters of falling real GDP. But as I’ve written, GDP itself is a nebulous statistic with substantial margin of error. We can never be quite sure.

My own outlook has been consistent: The current growth phase is getting old and will end as they all do, but we probably have another year or so. That is about as far out as my data reads can actually give us any statistical confidence. Macro events like Federal Reserve error, trade war, ugly Brexit, and others could hasten the decline. But as of now, the US and the developed world seem likely to sustain at least mild growth through 2019.............To Read More....

Illinois is the test case for Democrat economic and tax policies

The new Democrat governor in Illinois, billionaire heir to the Hyatt Hotels fortune J.B. Pritzker, gave a speech about how grave the budget situation is. He correctly said the problem has compounded itself for decades, but somehow, he mostly blamed Republican Governor Rauner, who was in office for four years, for the problems and didn't comment at all on the Democrat-controlled Legislature.

The governor pointed out that Illinois's 2020 budget was $3 billion in the hole with a backlog of $15 billion in unpaid bills. Somehow, his solution was to tax more, with a series of new taxes totaling $1.1 billion. He also wants to tax more in the future by changing our state constitution to allow for a progressive income tax, which he says will be on the "rich," to get away from what he describes as our current regressive income tax structure; spend more on new and existing programs; spread out payments more on the massively underfunded pensions; and borrow $2 billion to throw into the pension plan........... To Read More......

Friday, February 22, 2019

Police Shootings in Black America: The 2018 Data Is In

Adrian Norman, Epoch Times, January 15, 2019 27 Comments

There were 15 shooting deaths by police of unarmed black men in the United States in 2018, according to official data compiled by The Washington Post.   These figures come despite pervasive, yet misplaced, public outcry that has characterized police shootings of blacks as pathologically widespread and the most critical issue facing the black community.

Year after year, the statistics don’t support that narrative, and 2018 was no exception. 

The political left in America incessantly characterizes the police and the country itself as racist, in part based on the occurrence of police shootings, even with the statistically paltry numbers of officer-involved shooting deaths. And while they routinely rile their base by mischaracterizing police shooting data as they engage in demagoguery of political opposition, they ignore a real crisis within the black communitythe thousands of blacks who are shot every year by non-police.

Let’s discuss the real tragedy of last year. 

The Baltimore Sun reported that 217 blacks were killed in Baltimore in shooting deaths, while The Los Angeles Times said that 124 black victims were shot and killed in Los Angeles in 2018, and the Chicago Tribune reported 279 blacks were shot to death last year.

In three of the largest cities in the country, 620 blacks were slaughtered with no outcry from leftist media pundits. There were no candlelight vigils or marches, no outrage from celebrity athletes or prominent leftist black leaders, and certainly no attention from the Democrats who control policymaking in those cities.

It’s precisely this lack of attention to the biggest problem concerning violence in black communities that leads many to suspect that, for Democrats, black lives don’t really matter, just black votes.

“The vogue commentary of the liberal left in the 21st century is to drone on about the many failures of the white devils. Those evil white supremacists who are invariably described as conservative Republicans,” Tamara Enalls-Fenner, author of “How the Democrats Destroyed the Black Community … and No One Noticed” told me in an interview.

“It’s a dog bone thrown by the dog whisperers of today, calling for an attack on an entire group of people who have nothing to do with the [15] shootings of unarmed black men who fell prey to the weapon of a police officer in 2018.”

Enalls-Fenner is an activist who co-authored the white paper Reforming the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 (The Crime Bill): A Rebuilding of the Criminal Justice System.

“Where is the outrage for the deaths of black men shot by other black men?” she asked.

“Democrats have overseen the most populated cities in the United States for decades, and yet, in the most impressive of ways, they somehow are taken seriously when they screech, ‘It’s those conservative Republicans’ fault,’ a party who has had no representation, thus no voice, in these cities for years. At some point, the black community needs to shake the dust off of its collective eyes and admit there is a real problem and it’s not conservatives.”

She couldn’t be more correct.

Data from the Federal Bureau of Investigation showed that in 2017, there were 2,627 murders of blacks by other blacks in the United States. For perspective, consider that this nearly equates to the number of the lives lost in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. And this is happening annually within our communities.

Such an honest examination of the data isn’t meant to excuse legitimate cases of police brutality. In such cases, the officers involved should be (and often are) charged and convicted.

Take, for instance, the case of Walter Scott, a South Carolina resident who was shot eight times in the back by police officer Michael Slager. Slager was charged with murder, convicted, and was sentenced to 20 years in prison.

A more recent example would be the case of officer Amber Guyger, a white police officer in Dallas, who was charged with murder after she allegedly shot and killed her black neighbor Botham Jean in his apartment. As of the time of writing, Guyger is awaiting trial and faces a possible sentence of life in prison.

Also, in 2018, white police officer Jason Van Dyke was convicted of second-degree murder in the shooting death of black teen Laquan McDonald, who was shot 16 times.

Police shootings of this nature are the exception, not the norm. However, sweeping coverage from leftist news organizations would have you believe otherwise. Additionally, the above examples illustrate that in clear-cut cases of wrongdoing, officers do face severe punishment.

Yet, even if each of the 15 shootings of unarmed black men resulted in the conviction of a police officer, it pales in comparison to the violent deaths we inflict upon ourselves.

Just 0.01 percent of the murders of blacks in the United States are from officer-involved shootings. To state this more clearly, 99.99 percent of murders of blacks in the United States are non-police related.

This is the real epidemic.

America’s black communities certainly have a problem with shootings. But the police aren’t the ones pulling most of the triggers. This Appeared Here

P&D Today


Commentary: Peter Zeihan on Geopolitics

American Evolutions, Part 1 of 3: From Sears to Google

Today’s story begins with the once-behemoth that is the American retail firm, Sears. In the last week of September Sears’ stock dipped below $1 a share, reducing the company’s market value below $100 million. Sears may still linger on a bit, but when a big firm falls into penny-stock territory, its outright liquidation is a foregone conclusion.

Sears (originally Sears, Roebuck and Company) is the iconic store of the American modernization experience. As a relative latecomer to the world stage, Americans got in on the industrial revolution significantly after most Western European nations. The vast majority of Americans lived on farms until late in the 19th century. Urban Americans had access to manufactured goods, but in rural regions most people made their own clothes and tools – or tapped the expertise of craftsmen in local towns. Most of these in-town purchases were managed via general stores where managers, knowing farmers had no alternatives, gouged on pricing, credit terms and selection.

Enter Sears.

Sears sourced manufactured goods from American cities (and abroad) and built a distribution network deep into every nook and cranny of the American territories. Starting with luxury goods in 1886 and rapidly moving into everyday products, by turn-of-the-century Sears’ 500+ page mail order catalogues had become ubiquitous not just in cities, but in farmhouses. It was Walmart and Amazon all in one. Sears completely overhauled what Americans considered to be centuries-old economic norms and pushed cheap, high quality manufactured goods into every single home. Sears quickly became America’s largest firm and largest employer. Quite unwittingly, Sears started the United States on the long path to urbanization, the industrial age, and the destruction of the local retail store.

(Incidentally, when the British Empire brought its manufactures to German lands, the economic dislocation helped start a German civil war. So anytime you think Americans can’t handle transformative economic stress, please try to keep it in perspective.)

Sears’ near-death today is part of a similar economic transformation. Just as Sears was a physical manifestation of the Industrial Revolution, Sears’ end is part of the Digital Revolution. Gathering, processing and distributing information has been the bugaboo of corporate systems as long as there have been firms with a reach further than they could see. The steamship and telegraph obviously helped, but managing anything big first and foremost requires an information system.

The Digital Revolution thus far has reduced the cost of storing information to nearly zero. In the early 1980s storing a gigabyte of data cost roughly $500,000 and I think that’s without accounting for inflation (economists and techies don’t always have the best relationships when it comes to data comparisons). Today storing that same volume of data costs roughly three cents. Information transfer costs follow a similar path (part of why all publicly available email clients are available at no-cost).

With information now being in effect free, the biggest restraint on industrial expansion became… humans. Someone still needs to analyze and distribute the data, and then check up on the results. Humans in the data chain have become the general store managers of our time, gatekeepers to the consumer that escalate prices. Enter algorithms, designed from day1 to remove humans from the data management equation. With the elimination of those pesky human barriers, the Digital Revolution reached out into the real world of sales and distribution and killed the job-destroying monster that preceded it. That’s remade how we design, order, manufacture, transport and warehouse goods. It allows us to instantly transmit architectural plans, military orders, payroll, and cat videos as well as get two-day (or less) deliveries for free.

The problem with algorithms is twofold. First, we have yet to figure out how to program in value judgements and ethics. Second, anything that introduces a hiccup into the information flow – say, fact-checking – increases the cost to something above zero. Just as Sears’ systematically cut out costs, algorithms and the human decision-makers who design and manage them see the human element as a block on progress. Something to be ruthlessly excised.

That has set up Silicon Valley for the mother of all government smack-downs.

Let’s divide the American political spectrum into four rough blocks: the center-left, center-right, populist-right, and populist-left – and then look at how their view of Silicon Valley has radically shifted during the past three years.

America’s center-left originally adored Silicon Valley because they were corporate titans with social agendas that matched the center-left’s general political views – particularly when it came to social policies on issues such as education, gay rights, and multiculturalism. The center-left – epitomized by politicians such as Chuck Schumer and Diane Feinstein – saw Silicon Valley as remaking corporate America from within.

But as information transmission became free, this happy marriage collapsed. Silicon Valley resisted anything that might infringe upon information flow, including flows that harmed issues the center-left valued. For example, Russian attempts to spawn race riots or shift the direction of a presidential campaign, or the ISIS live-streaming of executions, or disinformation campaigns blaming train derailments on Hilary Clinton after she lost the election. Consequently, the center-left hasn’t simply dropped its support for the Valley, it now sees the valley as a threat to democracy itself. The Valley’s chronic misogyny in the age of MeToo doesn’t help the Valley’s case with the center-left either.

America’s center-right – represented in Washington by folks such as Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnel – similarly were wedded to Silicon Valley’s aura. In the Valley the center-right saw a heavenly manifestation of what could be achieved with American know-how and new technology and a spirit of entrepreneurship in a low-regulatory environment.

This happy marriage has also ended. At first it was about politics: Valley CEOs started to get a bit too public with their enthusiasm for left-leaning issues, and charges erupted that some in the Valley were censoring right-leaning political viewpoints on platforms they controlled. But the center-right’s concerns soon deepened to something much more fundamental: much of the Valley committed to never working for the American government – most notably the intelligence community and the Defense Department. But Valley services remained fully available for sale so their work could benefit other government’s programs.

The idea that the political liberalism of Silicon Valley is better served by allying with Xi Jinping’s dissident eradication systems or Vladimir Putin’s systematic repression than the U.S. military requires mental contortions the center-right considers unfathomable. The center-right now doesn’t merely question the Valley’s ideology or even its patriotism, but its sanity. The most pro-business part of the American political spectrum is now firmly anti¬-Silicon Valley. Concerns about cybersecurity and the regulations those concerns will likely spawn is only the icing on the cake.

But as much credence as there is to the points of America’s centrist politicians, the concerns of the American populists are actually more valid. The populist right started out furious with Silicon Valley. Whether the politician is Ted Cruz or Donald Trump, the Main Street verses Wall Street discourse is not only a powerful one, it is broadly accurate. The current manifestation of Silicon Valley is fundamentally designed to remove as much human labor from the economy as possible. It – statistically – is the greatest job-destroying machine in American history.

The populist left is, if anything, even more angry at the Valley. Algorithms and robots don’t pay taxes, but their profitable outputs still accrue. This concentrates the income of what used to benefit human laborers to the operators and designers back in San Jose. Politicians like Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren are fundamentally correct when they assert this is a leading reason for America’s deepening economic inequality.

All four factions are correct. All four factions are edging towards policies that would revoke the Valley’s unlimited license via some sort of constraining regulation.

Tesla is probably in the greatest danger. Technically, Tesla is a car firm, but its valuation and finance-raising systems mirror Silicon Valley rather than Detroit. That gives it access to ridonkulous amounts of cash – something necessary to pioneer fundamentally new technologies – but lands it with the metrics of a conventional automotive firm. Therein lies the rub.

When it comes to evolving ethics in a dynamic regulatory environment, most investors go with what they know. They know Tesla is a badly-run company that has yet to figure out how to move metal around its own factory floor. They know Tesla has almost never met a production goal. They know Tesla cannot break into the mass market (the cheapest available Model3 is at fifty grand, with the subsidy). They know Tesla’s technology and materials science is insufficient to its goals. They know Tesla faces stiff, rising competition from more experienced market players.

They know Tesla is led by a CEO whose social media strategies mirror a broadly-disliked president. They know Tesla’s CEO has bet the firm’s future on a political ideology that provides subsidies that will not last. They know Tesla’s CEO sees no problem cross-subsidizing the firms of family members. And they know Tesla’s CEO has settled with the SEC on charges of stock manipulation which cost the firm that has never made a profit $20 million. There is no shortage of preexisting business norms and regulations that could bring Tesla down. Should the investment community ever believe Washington is coming for Silicon Valley, they will ditch the weak players first. It doesn’t get weaker than Tesla – ergo why the short-selling of Tesla is already so intense.

Facebook comes in second, and not simply for the role they’ve played in Russiagate. The firms’ unfettered and enthusiastic raping and selling of customer data has not simply shown no ethical constraints, but we now know Facebook actively markets its user data to scammers. Not via the web – dark or otherwise – but by sending sales reps to scammers’ convention and closing deals in person. The public trust has been lost. The question in my mind isn’t will Facebook be eclipsed and displaced by a rival, but will there be prison time for some of its executives?

Twitter may have a brighter future. Unlike Facebook, TeamTwitter admitted the role it played in Russiagate fairly early on and has taken steps to roll back the damage. Such public admissions combined with a sense of genuine regret – or at least a reasonable digital facsimile of regret – stand in stark contrast to Facebook whose grudging, plodding steps have the feel of a six-year-old who thinks moving a single pair of underwear to the hamper has cleaned up his room and thus should be allowed to go back outside to play. Are Twitter’s actions and contrition deep and fast enough? That’s a political question, but I give points for effort.

One likely path forward in regulation is the modification of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. To make a very long and technical legal explanation short, Section 230 stipulates information technology platforms are not publishers, and so are not responsible for any content they pass along. Without 230 we’d not have an Internet economy since all our infotech platforms would be liable for the accuracy of everything in every webpage, blog post, pop-up ad and email.

To date, there have only been three carveouts: copyright infringement, child pornography and sex trafficking. Silicon Valley fought those carveouts tooth and nail, asserting first-amendment rights issues, but mostly being concerned about costs. The hilarity of deliberate inaccuracies currently punctuating American political information systems – Russiagate being the prime example – are pushing many political factions to consider a fourth carveout for foreign election interference. And while with some very skilled coding an algorithm can be taught to look for prostitutes, I’m guessing that determining whether an ad that slams or celebrates Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump is accurate will require the sort of judgement call only a human can make. And humans don't work for free.

Amazon probably faces less pressure, and probably has more time. Yes, AmazonPrime and related subsidiaries are a very visible part and parcel of the whole job-destroying ethos that motivates Silicon Valley. But three issues pop up:

First, the damage to American retail is largely done. A stiff roll-back at this point would probably be counterproductive. And this is hardly the first American retail revolution: general stores to Sears to Walmart to Amazon. At each step the process is more capital intensive but less labor intensive with slimmer margins. Where do you draw the line? Do you draw a line? (A change to how Amazon is taxed, however, is an excellent idea).

Second, Amazon would operate in the red if not for a single unit that has nothing to do with getting a hairdryer to you: Amazon Web Services. AWS is the data management portion of Amazon which is wrapped up in nearly every dataflow for every business in the country. It is well-run, faces competition, and has next to nothing to do with the retail arm. Splitting the two so that the wildly-profitable AWS cannot cross-subsidize the barely profitable (and until recently, unprofitable) Amazon Retail makes a wildly great deal of sense for all players. It would certainly preserve the value-added portion of Amazon that generates lots of new sources of economic activity rather than gutting old sources.

Third, Amazon is everywhere. I don’t say this to imply U.S. government entities cannot bring it down, but instead that Amazon’s retail activities are in every American county, complete with dozens of distribution centers and tax relationships. Should the regulatory floodgates open the result will be a thick, self-ambulatory tangle of regulations at the city, country, state and national level. It will be a rancid mess that Amazon leadership will be able to exploit to buy time and – most importantly – to shape in a way to mitigate end-impacts upon the firm.

Of the big boy digital firms, that leaves Google, whose recent actions put it into a category all its own: Recent defections from Google’s development teams have exposed the firm’s work on a project they call Dragonfly, a search engine product for the Chinese market. Allegedly, Dragonfly tags certain search terms the Chinese government chooses that it thinks might indicate dissident behavior such as “how do I get a Canadian visa?” or “what happened in Tiananmen Square in 1989?” or “what is Falun Gong?” It then packages the request with other search data on the person in question, complete with IP and physical addresses and phone numbers and forwards the information on to the Chinese state. It’s a degree of privacy violation and government monitoring of civilians that would have disgusted Orwell.

If – and I emphasize the word “if” because I do not have a Dragonfly-style program covering Google HQ – Dragonfly is real, Google is in serious trouble. Collaborating with a dictatorship that is sliding into a cult of personality so complete Hitler would have salivated over the program violates every ethical and political norm of every political faction in the United States. Anything that puts Elizabeth Warren and Ted Cruz on the same side during Senate hearings should get everyone’s attention. And Google’s executives’ refusals to confirm or deny Dragonfly’s existence while under oath before Congress tends to shift my thinking that this is less bureaucratic bungling and more greed so all-consuming it constitutes treasonous behavior. It is exactly the sort of massive corporate miscalculation that has triggered catastrophic government crackdowns on major American firms in the past. The breakups of Standard Oil and Bell come to mind.

And it would happen under President Donald Trump. Make no mistake. Trump is no longer part of the party of the businessperson. Things in America have changed in politics too…

Commentary: War on Drugs: Crime, Violence, and Mental Illness

By Rich Kozlovich

Ten states and Washington, D.C., have legalized the recreational use of marijuana. Twenty-two other states, along with U.S. territories Puerto Rico and Guam, allow marijuana to be used for medical purposes. Let's examine some hidden issues about marijuana use........  Alex Berenson is a graduate of Yale University, with degrees in history and economics. He delivered a speech last month at Hillsdale College's Allan P. Kirby, Jr. Center for Constitutional Studies and Citizenship in Washington, D.C., on the hidden dangers of marijuana use. He told his audience, "Almost everything that you think you know about the health effects of cannabis, almost everything that advocates and the media have told you for a generation, is wrong."
Even the author, whom I've been reading and enjoying for years, can't bring himself to come to the right conclusion: We're losing the war on drugs because we're not fighting a war on drugs.  

For the most part I’m a firm believer people have the right to screw up their lives. I’m also a firm believe it’s not my responsibility to fix them afterwards. If they make bad decisions let them live with it. Is that cold? Yes, but it’s based on reality.

These people screw up their lives and then cry and whine to the people who told them not to do the things that messed up their lives to help them. But invariably there's this spoken and unspoken caveat - "Don't you dare to tell me to stop what their doing".   Ask anyone who deals with drug rehab how many fail.

Being an exterminator for 37 years means I've been in other people's bailiwick every week for 37 years. I can see prominent businessmen, politicans or celebrities along with the dregs of society on any given day. In pest control you see it all, and if you’re not as obtuse as a rock, you begin to see patterns.

Years ago I had a restaurant account where I had become good friends with the chef for many years- at least I thought we were friends. Then he started getting nasty and unpleasant for no seeming reason. At some point I asked him why he was acting that way, and if I had done something to offended him please let me know, I would apologize. He got nastier and told me to just shut my mouth and just do my job and turned on his heel and walked away. The next week he was gone. The company paid to put him through rehab. 

Then I remembered a conversation we had some years before when I told him one of the things I liked best about him was he was always stable. He said it wasn't always that way. He'd had a drug problem in years gone by and he said his emotions bounced all over the place.

When he returned to work, he was the same old friend he was before and apologized for treating me as he did. However, it didn’t last. It turned out to be an invaluable experience. I learned two things.

First, the nasty and unpleasant personality he displayed I see a lot. I’ve seen people go from normal and friendly to mean and nasty. I couldn’t understand it, at least until this episode.

The second thing I learned was that druggies are repeaters. In most cases they just can’t be fixed. The third thing I learned was not to automatically you are the problem… aren’t…’s them, and you need to get those people out of your life as quickly as possible.

Make not mistake about this. The violence and mental instability is going to grow like a deadly fungus on society.  The problem is we're not really fighting a war on drugs,

If society decides to ignore reality and accept drug addiction as a new social norm then there will be consequences to those addicted and those they impact. These drugs destroy people, and if and when it becomes common place, it will destroy society.

That’s history, and that history is incontestable.