Saturday, June 29, 2013

Your Blog is a PAC. Now Pay Up.

Amazingly, even after that horrible McCain-Feingold law got gobsmacked, we are still getting stuff like this. A case regarding...(adapted from source below)... Ed Corsi, an activist and blogger in Ohio. He called his blog the Geauga Constitutional Council, and he paid for the website and any printed material out of his own pocket. Ed's not rich, so he didn't spend much money. A local official who was criticized by Corsi's blog and pamphleteering didn't like what he was up to and complained to the Ohio Election Commission (OEC).

Too often such laws enable government officials to retaliate against critics by throwing them in legal quicksand. Ohio law defines a political action committee (PAC) as two or more persons if their "primary or major purpose . . . is to support or oppose any candidate." This sounds like the law was written so as to comply with the landmark Supreme Court case, Buckley v. Valeo. In that case, the court said groups could be regulated as PACs only if they were "under the control of a candidate or [had] the major purpose" of expressly advocating the election or defeat of candidates.

Unfortunately for Ed, the OEC interpreted the law in a very strange manner. The OEC ignored the vast majority of his blogging on issues and local concerns. Their analysis, if you could dignify it with that word, could be summed up this way: you had people help you with your blog, so you have two or more persons. You endorsed a few candidates. Therefore, you are a PAC, and you violated the law by failing to register as a PAC and report all your activity.

 More after the jump

Friday, June 28, 2013

Further adventures in Summer School

My summer class is winding down, and I'm still enjoying it (except for the ungodly starting time). We had another class today where the Learning Catalytics software really came through. Students were clearly having issues on public goods and common resource problems, but were not very forthcoming, so we went into the questions I'd prepared on the topic.

These questions go to their phones, tablets, or computers, where they answer and then  I see on my laptop either the individual answers if I've asked for a graph or a short answer, or the distribution of answers if the question was multiple choice.

On the first three questions, the splits were almost even between correct and incorrect, so without revealing the correct answer, I had the students discuss their answers with someone who had a different answer. In each case this "peer-instruction" (I never call it that in class), got us to around 75-80% correct, at which point I showed the distributions to the class and we talked through the incorrect answers.

On the last couple questions, we were getting 85-90% correct on the first round, and the mood in the room had brightened visibly.

It doesn't happen like this every class, but several times this process has really gotten the class to a place we might not have reached without this tool.

Politicians from Another Planet

Our Favorite Headlines:

'I lost my virginity* to an alien holographic at the age of FIVE': Labour politician appears on TV to defend his claims of encounters with extra-terrestrials.  

That's a pretty long headline, but there was a lot to pack in there.

He notes that being repeatedly "taken" (eww!) by aliens does not interfere with his work as a left-wing politician. [Editorial comment:  We agree with that. Indeed, it may improve his performance, in several ways].  The story goes on: "Cllr Parkes, who also claims his 'real mother' is a 9ft green alien with eight fingers, said people only claim he is mad because they have not shared his experiences and that the encounters don't affect his work on behalf of Whitby residents."

* (You can lose your virginity to a holograph? If so, I guess I lost my virginity when I was about 12, to some forgotten story in National Geographic)

Nod to MK

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Markets in Everything: Spouse Broker

Florida man has sign in car window.  

"Looking for Wife.  (Phone number)"

Amazingly, women actually call the number.

But it's not for him.  He is just the middle man.

Nod to @PieFarmer, and of course to LeBron...

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

An Obvious Solution

I'm missing something about the SCOTUS decision yesterday, on VRA.

The court (rightly) struck down the portion of the VRA that maintained restrictions that fall differently on different states.  And those differences demonstrably have no basis in actual misbehavior, or in fact any empirical data at all.

Yes, I understand the 15th Amendment says that Congress "shall have the power to enforce..."  But it's with "APPROPRIATE legislation."  The VRA as redone is not appropriate, and in fact it's clearly unconstitutional, for the reasons the court gave yesterday.  Two biggies:

1.  The 10th Amendment reminds us that certain rights belong to the states.
2.  The Constitution says, in Article I, Section 4, that the "time, place, and manner" of elections will be left up to the state legislatures.  Yes, it goes on to say that Congress can pass laws, like the one that coordinated Presidential elections, but that goes for all the states.  The Congress can't pick and choose, to say "We like this state, we don't like this state," without violating the 10th Amendment.  There has to be a reason.  A good reason.  A reason good enough to pass what judges call strict scrutiny.

So far, so good.  The court did the right thing.  But then they did something bizarre.  If you are going to say that Congress has to redo the section on deciding which states have to get pre-clearance to impose new restrictions or new rules, why in the name of sweet fancy Moses would you say "no states"?  They could have said, "Given the stakes, the current rules stay in place for a year, so Congress can change it."

But the obvious answer is this:  Congress can absolutely pass a law that says ALL states must pre-clear.  They passed a law that made unacceptable and unfounded differences in burden, so we'll strike that part down.  Then the SCOTUS should have said, "Until or unless Congress passes a new version of this section, all states have to pre-clear."  There is nothing unconstitutional about THAT.  The problem is the different burdens on different states.

The advantage of this is that, as a practical matter, the status quo is going to be privileged.  Saying that "No states have to pre-clear, but Congress can fix that", sounds fine, in theory.  But Congress can't find its own...well, knee with both hands right now.  The SCOTUS has set up a bitter and dangerous fight.  Go the other way:  make the status quo ALL states have to pre-clear.  Then, if Congress does nothing there is still a protection against state abuse by majorities.  And Congress is much more likely to do something, because there might be bi-partisan support in a majority of states to pass a new and more sensible law.

UPDATE:  Commenter notes "SCOTUS can't do that."  I should have been more careful.  SCOTUS cannot impose a new law.  But it is absolutely common either to stay the impact of a decision, or to impose by judicial order a reversion point when the elimination of the law itself would impose a harm worse than the harm being corrected.  So I am only proposing that the SCOTUS do this by judicial order, with a fuse.

If you read the VRA, and look at Section 4,  you'll see that the law says "(b) The provisions of subsection (a) shall apply in any State or in any political subdivision of a state which..."  It's the part after the "which" that was struck down.  So, the question is how to interpret that?  If you get rid of the part that describes the conditions, do you go to ALL states, or NO states?  You have to choose.  It's not obvious that NO states is required of the court.  They can say that by striking down the conditions on application of pre-clearance, that ALL states have to preclear, until Congress fixes the law.  That sort of thing happens all the time in election law.

So, commenter, your point is well taken, given what I wrote originally.  But I didn't mean "change the law."  I meant "change the temporary reversion point, by judicial order.

Let Them Try to Eat Cake!

A story of fibs and justice....from the LMM.

Alice Grayson was to bake a cake for the Baptist Church Ladies' Group in Tuscaloosa, but forgot to do it until the last minute. 

She remembered it the morning of the bake sale and after rummaging through cabinets, found an angel food cake mix & quickly made it while drying her hair, dressing, and helping her son pack for scout camp. When she took the cake from the oven, the center had dropped flat and the cake was horribly disfigured and she exclaimed, "Oh dear, there is not time to bake another cake!" 

So, being inventive, she looked around the house for something to build up the center of the cake. She found it in the bathroom - a roll of toilet Paper. She plunked it in and then covered it with icing. Not only did the finished product look beautiful, it looked perfectly delicious.  (MORE AFTER THE JUMP)

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Garbage and Class

Interesting.  Is recycling a luxury good?

A response to the exchange at Cato Unbound.

A Theory of Justice: The Musical

I bet that evil seductress Ayn Rand steals the show.  Though, she (born 1905) was a bit old for Nozick (born 1938), I would have thought.  That minx!

A Theory of Justice:  The Musical

Recycling Anecdote

News from the front: ...about five or six years ago while in Greensboro I took the garbage to the curb [regular and recycle]. This was around 5 am in the morning.  Around 8 am went back out to throw another item in the can when I see a Ford parked by my curb and a lady with yellow gloves going through my garbage. Yep! The garbage police. 

Well, she is going to write me a warning citation. How so? I threw an empty dried out paint can in the garbage. I said what the devil I'm suppose to do with the paint can? Well, she says on certain dates and times I can take such can to a particular address across town where they handle paint cans. 

So being the professional smart a*s that I am, I tell her go ahead and write the citation and I'll put it in the recycle can and they can recycle it. Apparently garbage police have no sense of humor. She goes over to the Ford gets on the radio and calls in the garbage SWAT. 

Not a minute goes by and her supervisor shows up in another Ford. He reads me the riot act. I couldn't stop laughing at these two and they were getting more and more angry. They asked me to take them seriously and that this was a serious issue. Told them when they finally get around to getting a real job I'd take them seriously. Turned around, and went back inside the house. Never did see those two nor the garbage police again...BUT...the lady did leave a warning citation tucked under the lid of the garbage can which was recycled as I had promised. 

Nod to WH.

Now, I understand that actual paint, liquid paint, is a problem.  It's hazardous waste, in fact.  But DRIED paint?  I'm pretty sure that there was dried paint on that broken pot I threw out last week.  And if it's the can that's valuable, we face again the problem that cleaning and transporting this garbage dwarfs whatever small value the material might have.

Economist Questions

AIER does an occasional post where they ask an economist to answer some questions.  Some of the questions are pretty serious, some more whimsical.

I gave it a shot. 

Monday, June 24, 2013

Rule #1 at KPC:

Don B on Immigration

Don Boudreaux on immigration....


A few friends whose opinions I hold in the highest regard have challenged me recently to reconsider my support for open immigration. Their challenge springs neither from the economically uninformed Luddite view that immigrants will steal ‘American jobs’ (or lower Americans’ wages) nor the worry that more immigrants will be a net drain, through their direct use of the existing welfare state, on the public fisc. Their challenge springs instead from the more plausible concern that immigrants will use their growing political power to vote for government policies that are more interventionist and less respectful of individual freedoms. 

This concern isn’t absurd (especially to those of us who believe that culture and rhetoric play a leading role in determining the actual law and policy of society and the performance of the economy). If too many people from countries less free and economies less dynamic than America come to the U.S. and then vote for the same policies that condemn their native countries to second- or third-world status – policies based chiefly on envy, zero-sum thinking, hostility to bourgeois pursuits, belief in secular salvation by Great Leaders, and mountains of plain old economic ignorance – then the very commitment to freedom that leads me to support open immigration might be inconsistent with the long-run maintenance of freedom.

His answer is interesting.  ATSRTWT 

Monday's Child

1.  This is just creepy.  Seriously.  Bad enough at a crematorium.  But a GERMAN crematorium?  What did they do with the shoes?

2.  Remarkable.  John Kiriakou's letter from prison.  Almost Gramsci quality, in its own way.

3.  Free the humans!  Ben Powell on immigration and trade.

4.  Gubmint concludes it would be better to prevent people from working....because there are RULZ, darn it!  Amazingly dumb rules, sure, but rules.

5.  The landlords from hell.  The reason?  Because SF "protects" renters.  The consequence, as Russ and I discussed at some length for such rules, is that preventing the price mechanism from working creates very large rents.  And since people can't buy or sell, they fight.  Markets are not the cause of the problem, but rather are the way to avoid the problem.  Suppress markets, and oppress the people.

6.  The enemy of markets is, for the most part, large corporations.  The government helps, but large corporations lead the way.

7.  My favorite mayor, my favorite topic:  mandatory composting.  This is a violation of 1st Amendment, folks.

8.  Father, 13 year old son hit HIO on same hole.  That's nice, 'cause now they can split buying the house a round back in the clubhouse.  Unless they BOTH have to buy the house a round....hmmmm.  Bankruptcy.  Unless they had HIO insurance.  Hey, WH, do you handle that sort of policy?

9.  Okay, so this is satire.  It is frighteningly accurate.  Phone call from George Orwell. He wants to know why you people didn't read his book.

10.  My student, with whom I am well pleased!  Bill English publishes his SECOND Am Pol Sci Rev paper.  And that's not easy.

11.  Clap is catching.  In fact, ovations are socially contagious, it appears.

12.  Warrior Princess...

13.  Absolutely fascinating article on the nature of obesity.  I just read (at the beach) Fast Food Nation, a remarkably tendentious and poorly researched piece of trash.  But I had assumed that there was at least some truth to the claim about fast food and obesity.  Maybe not...People eat more fast food, and people are getting fatter.  But marmosets and lab rats are getting fatter, too.  And they are on constant, controlled diets.  Do I know why?  I do not.  Am I skeptical of conspiracy theorists who think that there are bogeymen in the closet, selling french fries?  Yes, I am.

14. some pretty good company here!

15.  A gap in process:  one of those "human" mistakes.  Hee.

16.  Gazprom is promoting its status as a "green" company.  A bit of a lie, but okay, that's what giant corporations do.  What's interesting is that Gazprom appears to be financing front operations, or otherwise genuine environmental groups, as a means of suppressing shale oil.  And of course shale oil is the #1 competitive threat to Gazprom's lucrative monopoly.   It is a shame that it comes down to choosing which of two sets of profit-motivated rent-seekers to distrust more...But that's where we are right now.

17. Angus tweeted it. I'm just reporting it.  Your word for the day is "invigilator."

18.  Many of our Presidents are immoral crooks, because only an immoral crook would want to be President.  Starting out younger....

19.  Dan Drezner once called Mungowitz chopped liver.  So it is with some glee that I note that Dan Drezner is now chopped liver.  'Course he may go all fast zombie on that guy.  'Cause D-Drez is TOTALLY a zombie intellectual.  Or something like intellectual zombie.

20.  As usual, "small farmers" are just a stage prop for a Congress bought and paid for by large corporate food processors.  Distort incentives, make food more expensive, and raise the deficit, with zero benefit for the small farmers that members of Congress (mostly Repubs, but Dems also) claim they want to help.

21.  As good an example of a "just so" story as I've ever seen.  Plant has spines.  Sometimes (rarely) sheep get caught.  Dead sheep provide nutrients, when they decompose.  Therefore, plant has spines to catch sheep.  Phone call for Alex Rosenberg.

Headline Meme:

1.  Whitby Councilor Claims to Have Fathered Alien Child

2. Perhaps the single best example of the genre.  Unbelievably good.  Ready?
Woman dressed as vagina stops street fight between penis and man in Glastonbury
Story contains the line, "I could tell by his body language he was really upset."  Bless you, @muttface , that is quite a find.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

On Snowden and NSA

(1) what YOU don’t know can’t hurt YOU, 
(2) what THEY don’t know can hurt YOU, 
(3) THEY need to know what YOU know, 
(4) but YOU need not know that THEY need to know, 
(5) And YOU certainly do not need to know what THEY know,
(6) moreover, if YOU know THEY need to know, then the big WE can get hurt, so THEY can hide that, out of concern for YOU. 
(7) And mostly, we should all care more about the big WE than anything else. Especially, the big WE is more important than YOU, or YOU, or... 

Or so THEY say...

Nod to WH