Economic Reality Bites

Many people became convinced that data releases earlier this year indicated that “recovery” in the U.S. was imminent. But as I have been saying for months, this evidence would ultimately be shown to be as reliable as sightings of Bigfoot. Lots of people claim to say they have seen it, some even produce plaster footprints, but in the end all we have is a guy in an ape suit. The economic recovery, that has been discussed so loudly and often in recent months, will be shown to be similarly mythical.
A ...


Tech at Night: Pushing Obama to oppose China online, Microsoft to default Do Not Track?, EFF hypocrisy

Tech at Night

It’s funny how certain names come up again and again in this space. There are just certain Republicans who are becoming solid Tech leaders. Marsha Blackburn is one of them, pushing to force Barack Obama to take a stand against the Chinese online.

Again, a Republican governor comes out for the sales tax compact, this time Governor Christie. The Marketplace Fairness Act I still say needs firm, explicit protections against a national sales tax added onto the state harmonized sales taxes, but the principle is reasonable.

Cue the gnashing of teeth at Google when Microsoft enables Do Not Track by default in MS Internet Explorer. You know there’s no chance Google would do the same with Chrome. Remember that point in case someone accuses Microsoft of abusing market power.

More business model protection: When you have to criminalize people merely having a copy of your software because you’ve made up some ludicrous theories about how much money you’re “losing” on those copies (hint: the marginal cost to them of those copies is $0.00), you’ve moved beyond copyright and to government handout.

When I heard about EFF going off on Apple, insanely comparing use of iPhone with going to prison, I just thought they were on drugs. Well, Jerry Brito asks the key question: is EFF subtly making a call for regulation?

New Tech site I’m going to have to watch: Communications Liberty and Innovation Project. The word innovation is so key there. We need a pro-innovation environment. The left claims massive regulation promotes liberty, but they can’t say that government dictates create innovation, not when they’re trying to regulate every new thing out of existence.

CLIP is starting out with a technical argument against yet another FCC mandate idea. Funny how the “pro-liberty” EFF is ranting about free private choices Apple customers make, while we “authoritarian” rightys are the ones calling out government action, eh?


Reason Writers Around the Internet: Brian Doherty’s This is Burning Man Declared Number 4 “Book of the New Edge” by Huffington Post

Jonathan Talet Phillips, author of
The Electric Jesus
and co-founder of names the "Top
10 Books of the New Edge" at Huffington Post and
names my
This is Burning Man
as number

This Is Burning Man: The Rise of a New American Underground

"Books of the New Edge," Phillips writes, are those:

Featuring a brutally honest look at the shadow aspects of the
Self, and society at large, these books -- while often focused on
healing -- are not fluffy New Age "Celestine Prophecy" reads nor
"The 7 Laws of Spiritual Materialism." They are harder to define,
hosting a multidimensional mix of spiritual awakening, new media
activism, visionary art, punk attitude, permaculture principles,
Burning Man aesthetic and Occupy ideologies.

As if exploring some quantum physics conundrum, they fuse the
world of observer and observed, where the researcher flies
third-eye-first into the mystical fields they are

And This is Burning Man, Phillips writes:

gives Burning Man aficionados exactly what they are looking for
- the myth behind America's most creatively extravagant festival.
Tracing the event from its humble origins with a few dozen
onlookers at San Francisco's Baker Beach to its five-square-mile
explosion of radical self-expression in the Nevada desert. One
early scene (before the festival instigated a number of guidelines)
has co-founder John Law racing his rental car across the desert
flats, "flying on mushrooms," drinking wine and having sex with his
girlfriend while shooting guns out the window at teddy-bear
targets. Hedonistic, yes, but also the stuff of legends.


Drones Are Better Than All-Out War So Obama is Okay

At The San Francisco Chronicle, moderate liberal
columnist Jon Carroll
writes paragraphs of criticism towards the very Obama-heavy system
of drone strikes
 detailed in The
New York Times
a few days ago.
Carroll calls the
program "assassinations." He admits they are "not
strictly legal." He calls them "creepy." And he (correctly)
identifies that yes, full-out war is much, much worse. And so:

And I don't see any way around it. We're not going to war with
or in Yemen; we're not going to go to war with or in Pakistan.
There is a real enemy out there, even though worries about that
enemy have been ginned up to allow for various policies, like
airport pat-downs and secret police surveillance of mosques.

(It should not go unnoted that the whole Homeland Security
infrastructure puts bread on the table of a lot of U.S.
corporations, and there is no financial incentive at all to "win"
the war on terror any time soon. It's a permanent war; what will
happen when the al Qaeda list runs out? My guess: More will be
created. We always have enemies somewhere.)

So we have a paradox. We have a president trying to do it right,
trying to protect the nation he governs and to take personal
responsibility for the lethal decisions his administration makes,
serving the greater bad of an American dialogue drenched in

So the relevant question becomes: How much do we trust Barack
Obama? We elected him, those of us who voted for him, to rescue us
from corruption and despair. The corruption continues and the
despair escalates. What do we do now?

I am left with the image of Obama poring over the "baseball
cards" he gets listing every possible target's personal
information, suspected crimes, current whereabouts and family
affiliation; sitting late at night in the Oval Office looking at
photos of the pre-dead. It's not a heroic vision, but it may be the
one we're stuck with.

Modern warfare is non-heroic, which is probably a good thing -
too many heroes are dead.

Ah, the war and
"hero" problem.

Sure, targeting people faraway certainly does not require the
bravery that traditional fighting does. And yes, George "the
decider" Bush started two boots-on-the-ground wars and that is
undeniably worse than what is happening now. Even for pure body
counts, there is no comparison. But then, it's awfully hard to
compare with any accuracy when the U.S. figures for deaths from
drones are so lacking in credibility. Death counts are
definitely higher
than the U.S's timid estimates and this was
confirmed moreso recently, since Obama turns out to dub
any soldier-aged males killed by missiles as "combatants". That

should offend anyone
who objects to war on moral grounds, so
should the utter lack of transparency. So, indeed, should the whole
narrative of Obama supposedly weighed down by the seriousness of
this obligation (drone strikes aren't a joke!).
How comforting! Carroll writes "The president's insistence on
seeing the faces and hearing the personal details of the people he
may order killed strikes me as admirable." 

So to people like Carroll, who can identify all the things wrong
with what Obama is doing, and yet still end up with this meek,
vague summation that the world is difficult and so Obama is doing
his best, just say it; say when it's wrong, even if it's a lesser
wrong than what came before. Why it it so hard to fully condemn
Obama? The people who should be held to the highest standards,
presidents, are excused because they are on your team or because
the last guy was even worse. Just say it. Say it's not okay to wage
a secret campaign, justified by secret memos, to assassinate people
in countries that the U.S. is not even at war with. Say targeting
17-year-olds is not okay. Say killing American citizens without
trial isn't okay.

Why can't they just say it?

The New York Times article has the same problem as
Carroll's banal little column: the critique of Obama is withering,
the details harsh, yet the takeaway is still forgiving and
respectful. The headline says it all "Secret ‘Kill List’ Proves a
Test of Obama’s Principles and Will." It's all about him: how
difficult it is to possess such powers over the rest of us.

Reason on


Friday Night Jam: Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros – Man on Fire


More Stealth Inflation: Shrinking Portion Department

You know how nobody (except the vast
majority of Americans
) considers inflation a problem? How
inflation is
under control
, and
doesn’t even exist
, and wouldn’t be a threat if it
did exist, and in fact needs
to be even higher

This kind of sophisticated economic theory is hard for ordinary
mortals to understand because our money has
only lost 10.9 percent of its value
over the course of the
worst recession since World War II. (Does it really need to be
pointed out that in times of economic stagnation prices are
supposed to go down, not up?)

maybe you should just buy Hillbilly Holler instead. It’s also hard because so many
distracted shoppers miss an important mechanism for increasing
price: reducing the portion size and charging about the same
amount. A while back I noted
this phenomenon
in describing how ice cream
underwent stealth
 late in the Bush Administration, when the
venerable half-gallon container was disappeared and replaced with
1.5-quart and 1.75-quart lookalikes.

Here’s an even more obvious price-up. While New York Mayor
Michael Bloomberg has been waging war against
bigger serving sizes
, one of America’s most beloved portions –
the venerable 64-ounce carton of orange juice – has been downsized
by 12.8 percent. And it
happened more than two years ago

I’m chagrined not to have noticed this swindle for so long. All
those hours of stalking supermarkets in a simmering rage of price
checks, only to miss an obvious one like this! Nor is this a
challenge that can be solved through the mythical “substitution
.” This now-standard 59-ounce container is full of
Florida’s Natural – which in my experience is the cheaper
to Tropicana and Minute Maid. (Maybe I should
switch to SunnyD? Does the
basket consider that an OJ equivalent?) 

Last year New York Fed President William Dudley stirred up a
wave of ridicule by
noting that the price of an iPad had not risen
. That one’s
good for a few chuckles
, but it does reveal something about how
your betters think. Bernankenomics will afford you the rare
privilege of staying exactly where you are right now, as long as
you can go without eating anything or drinking anything. In fact,
do yourself a favor and don’t check the price of anything


“High-Tax and High-Regulation” California Targets Underground Economy With New Bureaucracy

I'm heading for Phoenix, folks.California's self-inflicted economic woes are
nicely summarized in the state Senate's passage of a bill targeting
underground economic activity, and a Board of Equalization press
release trumpeting the same. In explaining the need for
SB 1185
, BOE Vice Chair Michelle Steel describes her own
Bulgaria on the Pacific as "a high-tax and high-regulation state"
in which "it becomes attractive to operate businesses outside the
law in order to obtain a competitive advantage." Is the solution to
reduce taxes and ease regulation? Of course not! Instead, the
legislation establishes a new bureacracy with its own staff to
which people can snitch about off-the-books businesses, and which
will also pool data compiled by other agencies.

As described in the June 1, 2012 Board of Equalization press release

The BOE is partnering with Senator Curren D. Price, Jr. (D-Los
Angeles) to promote legislation (Senate Bill 1185), which would
create a Centralized Intelligence Partnership (CIP) – a
central location for the BOE, the Franchise Tax Board, and the
Employment Development Department to share information that will
help them expose, investigate and prosecute illegal operators as
well as create a statewide evasion hotline for the public to
anonymously report illegal activities. SB 1185 continues to
accelerate towards becoming law, heading next to the Assembly.

Steel's full rationale is:

“The underground economy takes a heavy toll on California
businesses and state revenue,” said Vice Chair Michelle Steel. “In
a high-tax and high-regulation state such as California, it becomes
attractive to operate businesses outside the law in order to obtain
a competitive advantage over law-abiding citizens. We must work
together to ensure that no California business is put at a
competitive disadvantage for simply following the law.”

With regard to Steel's comments above, it may be worth noting
that Chief Executive magazine has ranked
California dead last
in terms of business environment for eight
consecutive years. "Once the most attractive business environment,
the Golden State appears to slip deeper into the ninth circle of
business hell. ... Each year, the evidence that businesses are
leaving California or avoid locating there because of the high cost
of doing business due to excessive state taxes and stringent
regulations, grows."

The Tax Foundation puts California at
48 out of 50

The Pacific Research Institute's 2008 Economic Freedom Index put
California at
47 out of 50

Forbes doesn't quite agree, giving the state's
regulatory climate a
merely awful 40
out of 50.

Maybe there's a clue in there. As I've pointed out
, Friedrich Schneider, one of the world's foremost
experts on "shadow" economic activity — business conducted out of
the sight of government that would be perfectly legal if forms were
filed and taxes paid —
, "tax and social security contribution burdens are one of
the main causes for the existence of the shadow economy," and
"every available measure of regulation is significantly correlated
with the share of the unofficial economy."

If you want people people to work in the open, you can't tax
them and regulate them so heavily that they'd rather hide. That's
not so hard to understand, is it?

But California opted for a new intelligence bureaucracy,
instead. Wait ... Let me modify that to an expensive new
intelligence bureaucracy, instead. An analysis of the bill released
May 29 by the California Senate Rules Committee (I'd link to it,
but the new legislative Web site doesn't seem to generate permanent
links) included in its "Fiscal Effect" section staffing and
facility costs adding up to around $2.5 million annually, plus
"[s]ignificant cost pressures to hire additional administrative,
investigative, and enforcement staff among the participating
entities upon full implementation of the Partnership." This is
supposed to be offset by "[u]nknown future revenue gains, likely
tens of millions of dollars annually beginning in 2014-15."

In fact, the BOE bold-facedly trumpets that the legislation "is
expected to generate $38 for every dollar invested by its third
operating year."

Really? Has any bureacracy ever generated such a return? And
this one seems to be nothing more than a glorified snitch line and
filing cabinet for tax data.

California: a state that acknowledges its problems, and picks
exactly the wrong solutions. Head for the exits, folks.


Throwing Good Money After Bad

The Labor Department reported that the U.S. economy added 69,000 jobs last month, the lowest number since May of last year. Concurrently, the unemployment rate increased for the first time in eleven months. The “official” jobless rate rose to 8.2%. Additionally, it reported that in the past two months 49,000 fewer jobs were created than originally stated. The Bureau of Labor Statistics also revealed that in America, 766,000 fewer women are employed today than in January 2009, when the current administration first took office.
As a result, the U.S. Stock Market ...


Must You Be a Republican (or, God Forbid, a Romney Fan) to Defend Freedom of Speech?

Writing in The Huffington Post,
Rep. David Price (D-N.C.)
to a
 in which I argued that super PACs are making
politics more competitive. Price, whose concerns about the "undue
influence" of such groups I quoted in the column, does not really
address my argument. Instead he cites dollar figures for
independent spending, vaguely suggesting that politicians—not him,
of course, but other politicians—are bound to be
corrupted when so much money is being spent on messages aimed at
influencing voters. He notes that Mitt Romney locked up the
Republican presidential nomination despite lukewarm-to-hostile
feelings toward him within the party's base, an outcome he
attributes to the $46.5 million spent by the pro-Romney super PAC
Restore Our Future. But Romney, who was deemed the front-runner
from the outset, had additional advantages, including his
experience in the 2008 race, his well-developed organization, and
the $90 million or so spent
by his own campaign during the primary season. Indeed, as I
noted in my column, Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich—two challengers
who presented themselves as conservative alternatives to
Romney—were able to stay in the race longer than they otherwise
would have thanks to independent spending by wealthy supporters. If
either of them had sucked a little less, he might even have lasted
as long as Ron Paul.

After complaining that Big Money prevented conservatives from
picking a GOP nominee they perceived as one of their own, Price
worries that "wealthy conservatives" are determined to deliver the
general election to Romney by spending whatever it takes. If they
have that kind of power, why didn't they use it to nominate someone
more to their liking? Perhaps sensing the contradiction, Price
immediately pivots to a personal attack, suggesting that I am
carrying water for an "alliance of wealthy conservatives and
special interests" because they help to pay my salary. "On the same
day Sullum's column was published," he ominously notes, "an
alliance of conservative groups announced a
plan to spend $1 billion in an attempt to dictate the outcome of
the general election. Prominent members of the group include the
Koch brothers—who also happen to be major donors to the foundation
that funds Reason magazine, a fact Mr. Sullum
did not disclose in his fortuitously timed column."

I'm not sure how "fortuitously timed" my column was. It was
here on March 14, two and a half months before the
Politico story
about anti-Obama spending to which Price links. That was when
Creators Syndicate distributed the piece to the various outlets
that carry my column. Later a slightly revised
appeared in the June issue of
Reason (which came out in late April) and as a result
got cycled back to the website on Tuesday, which I guess is when
Price happened to notice it. In any case, I am
no fan
of Mitt Romney, and I am inclined to think we'd be
better off if Obama were re-elected, provided he faces a Congress
controlled partly or entirely by the opposing party, than if Romney
were elected along with Republican majorities in both

Although Price seems to think I play for the Red Team, I am not
now, nor have I ever been, a Republican, and I am puzzled by his
assumption that campaign finance regulation has to be a partisan
issue. The beauty of freedom of speech is that anyone can exercise
it, regardless of affiliation or ideology. The same Supreme Court

that let businesses say what they want about politics
allowed labor unions to do the same, and it simultaneously
unmuzzled nonprofit advocacy groups of every political stripe. Rich
progressives such as George Soros and Peter Lewis are just as free
to spend their own money on political messages as rich
conservatives such as Sheldon Adelson and Foster Friess (and always
have been). The super PAC that brags about pushing Rep. Dan Burton
(R-Ind.) into retirement, the Campaign for Primary Accountability,
also helped former El Paso City Councilman Beto O'Rourke
another complacent incumbent, Silvestre Reyes (D-Texas),
in a race that Mother Jones called
"a classic case of an up-and-coming insurgent taking on the

When Price talks about the "undue influence" of "outside
groups," he presumably is thinking of people whose opinions differ
from his. Likewise, although he says people who spend money on
anti-Obama or pro-Romney ads are trying to "dictate the outcome of
the general election," I doubt he would say the same thing about
people who spend money on pro-Obama or anti-Romney ads. Because I
am not a member of any party, it may be easier for me to perceive a
truth that eludes Price: In all of these cases, there is no
dictating; there is only persuading, a process the Framers wisely
put outside the control of censorious politicians.


Attention San Francisco Bay-Area Reasonoids! Doherty talking Ron Paul’s rEVOLution at Book Passage in Corte Madera, Monday June 4 7 p.m.

You've (probably) read me talking about Ron Paul here--now see
and hear me do it in person at the wonderful store Book Passage in
Corte Madera and tell me what
you really think.Ron Paul's rEVOLution: The Man and the Movement He Inspired

It's free and open to all, even Hit and Run commenters.

These things tend to be more about freewheeling audience
interaction and less about me just reading from the book to you, so
come prepared with your own thoughts about all things Ron Paul.

It's great if you buy a book, but not an obligation. Freedom is
popular, as Ron Paul says.

WHAT: I talk about and sign copies of Ron
Paul's Revolution: The Man and the Movement He Inspired.

WHERE: Book Passage, 51 Tamal Vista
Blvd, Corte Madera, California 94925. (That's a bit
north of the city of San Francisco across the Golden Gate

WHEN: 7 p.m. on Monday June 4

Details from
Book Passage's website

Cross-posted at the dedicated blog/site for
Ron Paul's Revolution.


Obama’s DOOM #EERS

The economy is headed in the tank and now the lefties are in a panic. Their stimulus did not work. The President faces defeat. Uh-oh.

I am stuffed. Been feeding on the tears of the left all day over this. It’s terrible economic news. The funny part is they really do think all we needed was more stimulus. Sigh. We’ll get into it tonight on the radio.

You can listen live tonight on the WSB live stream and call in at 1-800-WSB-TALK. The show is live from 6pm to 8pm ET.

Consider this an open thread.


Rock-N-Roller Confronted With Capitalism

Jack White recently of the band The White Stripes has realized something important, capitalism works. At least it works when properly approached and with the release of several special vinyl albums he is trying to do it right, much to the consternation of some of his cheapskate fans.
As it happens, Mr. White is part of Third Man Records label, a company that produces special pressings on vinyl for the collectors market. But, seeing as how they are both limited and collectors editions, they aren’t cheap. This has apparently made ...


Stuxnet Revelation Continues Obama Administration Trend of Classified Leaks

The New York Times revealed today in a major news article that the well-known Stuxnet malware attack on the Iranian nuclear program was, in fact, an American operation. Most experts had felt that was the most logical conclusion, but it had never been confirmed. The Times report is based on interviews with anonymous sources “because the effort remains highly classified, and parts of it continue to this day,” reporter David Sanger wrote. While this is an acknowledgement of U.S. prowess in...

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Remember the Keystone XL Segment Pres. Obama “Fast-Tracked”?

EPA has concerns for pipeline near coast

HOUSTON — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is concerned that permitting for the southern segment of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline could be insufficient and has asked for a more extensive review.

An official in the EPA’s region that oversees Texas [*] wrote a letter to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers saying 61 water crossings near Galveston are too large for the broad permits being pursued. The official wants an environmental review that includes a public comment period.

The letter, written in November, was released today.[**] The corps says it’s reviewing TransCanada’s permit request.

* That would be Region 6 in Dallas. Yes, Al Armendariz’s old Region, he of “crucify them” fame.

** President Obama “greenlighted” the Cushing OK to the Gulf Coast segment of the pipeline on March 22, 2012. Although what there was to greenlight is not exactly clear.

Cross-posted at Maley’s Energy Blog.


Freedom Communications Sells Florida, North Carolina Properties

The dismantling of libertarian media chain
Freedom Communications Inc. continues today with the announcement
that all of the company’s Florida and North Carolina newspapers
have been sold to Halifax Media

Halifax, which owns 16 newspapers primarily in the Southeast,
says it will offer employment to all existing workers at the
newspapers as they transfer ownership. The deal is expected to
close in 30 days.

previously reported
on the sale of Freedom’s Midwest and Texas
properties in May. Once these sales are complete, the remains of
Freedom will include only The Orange County Register in
California, The Gazette in Colorado Springs, four smaller
daily newspapers in California, one smaller daily in Arizona, and
the ancillary products they produce.


“Ambassador” or Not, the UNWTO Has Honored Mugabe

Last week, the Zimbabwean newspaper The Herald published a story that was posted on reporting that, in anticipation of the upcoming 2013 U.N. World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) General Assembly meeting scheduled to take place in Zimbabwe and Zambia, “President [Robert] Mugabe and his Zambian counterpart Michael Sata have been appointed United Nations international tourism ambassadors in recognition of the promotion and development of tourism.” The notion that the UNWTO would honor...

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