Gas Cans Suck–Thanks to The Federal Government

Jeffrey Tucker has a pretty good rant about the new gas cans that don’t work–thanks to the federal government.

The nozzle doesn’t quite go in. I tilted it up and tried to jam it in.

I waited. Then I noticed gas pouring all down the side of the car. So I pulled it out and experimented by pouring it on the ground. There was some weird contraption on the outside and it wasn’t clear how it worked.

I poured more and more on the ground. Some got on my shoe. Some got on my hands. Some got on my suit.

Gas was everywhere really — everywhere but in the tank. It was a gassy mess. If someone had lit a match, I would have been a goner.

Finally I turned out the crazy nozzle thing a few times. It began to drip in a slightly coherent direction so I jammed it in. I ended up putting about one cup of gas in, started my car and made it to the gas station.

I’m pretty sure gas cans used to work. Yes. It was a can. It had a spout. It had a vent hole on the other side. You stuck in the spout and tipped. You never saw the gas.

Then government “fixed” the gas can. Why? Because of the environmental hazards that come with spilled gas. You read that right. In other words, the very opposite resulted. Now you cannot buy a decent can anywhere. You can look forever and not find a new one.

Instead you have to go to garage sales. But actually people hoard old cans. There is a burgeoning market in kits to fix the can.

The whole trend began in (wait for it) California. Regulations began in 2000, with the idea of preventing spillage. The notion spread and was picked up by the EPA, which is always looking for new and innovative ways to spread as much human misery as possible.

An ominous regulatory announcement from the EPA came in 2007: “Starting with containers manufactured in 2009… it is expected that the new cans will be built with a simple and inexpensive permeation barrier and new spouts that close automatically.”

The government never said “no vents.” It abolished them de facto with new standards that every state had to adopt by 2009. So for the last five years, you have not been able to buy gas cans that work properly. They are not permitted to have a separate vent. The top has to close automatically. There are other silly things now, too, but the biggest problem is that they do not do well what cans are supposed to do…

There is no possible rationale for these kinds of regulations. It can’t be about emissions really, since the new cans are more likely to result in spills. It’s as if some bureaucrat were sitting around thinking of ways to make life worse for everyone, and hit upon this new, cockamamie rule.

These days, government is always open to a misery-making suggestion. The notion that public policy would somehow make life better is a relic of days gone by. It’s as if government has decided to specialize in what it is best at and adopt a new principle: “Let’s leave social progress to the private sector; we in the government will concentrate on causing suffering and regress.”

Whenever bureaucrats actually do anything, they make our lives worse. The best we can hope for is that they just cash their paychecks and talk football around the water cooler.

In any event, online forums, particularly those related to boating, are full of comments by people bitching and moaning about the new cans. In one of those comment threads, somebody asked if it’s possible to fill a non-approved can such as a water can or jerry can at a gas station. No, came the reply, if they see you they will shut off the pump. That reply induced a frustrated commenter to speculate that there must have been more freedom even in Nazi Germany. Well, Nazi Germany was not in fact freer in every respect, but it’s true that under the Nazis you could as least go to a gas station and fill a jerry can. After all, they invented it!

Another response to the new cans is that people have posted loads of amusing youtube videos on how to hack the cans to make them work properly. For instance, in the video below, the hack involves drilling an air vent and plugging it with a tire valve stem. The problem with this hack, however, is that ethanol in the gas will cause the valve stem to deteriorate.

And why does the gas contain ethanol?

Washington Post: We Need to Ban Porn Because Donald Trump

In case we needed any more evidence that the political left has gone all-in with the Female Imperative, washingtonpost.com this week published a piece calling for a ban on pornography. And what is the specific social harm that justifies such a ban? Well, we read the article pretty closely, and here’s the only specific alleged social harm attributed to pornography.

Even the rise of Donald Trump provides evidence of pornography’s social harm. How to understand the success of Trump’s makeup-caked, misogynistic candidacy, except as an eruption onto the political stage of the pornographic subterrain?
If you cringe at Trump’s sneering misogyny, then join me in calling for a ban on the thing that made his crude appeal possible. Pornography’s enjoyments may be private, but its harms are inescapably public.

So pornography is “the thing” that made the rise of Donald Trump possible. We’ve read a number of different theories attempting to explain Trump’s support, but this one really takes the caked makeup.

But it’s not just that the article insanely links Trump to pornography. It’s that in justifying a ban, the only specific ‘social harm’ the article cited was Trump. No other specifics. Literally, we need to ban pornography because Trump!

Meanwhile, here’s a link to an article in Scientific American (“The Sunny Side of Smut”) that cites several peer reviewed studies suggesting that porn actually decreases the incidence of rape.

Needless to say, the Washington Post article cited none of those peer-reviewed studies. Such are the intellectual standards of the Washington Post.

Government Competence: Can’t Make This Up

This story is from three years ago, but we just ran across it.

The Internal Revenue Service is under fire again for sending $46.3 million dollars in tax refunds to one address in Atlanta, according to a 2012 Treasury Inspector General audit now gaining renewed attention through social media.

The audit report blamed IRS management for ignoring a tax loophole that allowed individuals to defraud the government.

“It’s ludicrous,” said Darrell Bell of Marietta. “How do you miss something like that? That’s crazy.”

The total was $46.3 million, but how many different checks were sent to this same address?

Answer: 23,994 refunds sent to the same Atlanta address.

Government bureaucrats. What else can we put them in charge of? Health care? Education? What could possibly go wrong?

Settled Science Update: The Origins of Civilization

For many decades, scholars believed that the invention of agriculture gave rise to civilization and also to organized religion. Agriculture meant that people no longer needed to remain on the move, searching for food. People for the first time could stay in one place and build permanent settlements and structures. As the settled population grew, religion developed as a way of establishing a social hierarchy and maintaining social order. The sequence of events can be summarized as follows:

Agriculture => Settlement => Civilization => Religion.

This sequence of events was very widely accepted by scholars–settled science, so to speak. But in just the last 20 years, a single archeological site in Turkey has turned the conventional wisdom on its head.

[D]ozens of massive stone pillars arranged into a set of rings, one mashed up against the next. Known as Göbekli Tepe (pronounced Guh-behk-LEE TEH-peh), the site is vaguely reminiscent of Stonehenge, except that Göbekli Tepe was built much earlier and is made not from roughly hewn blocks but from cleanly carved limestone pillars splashed with bas-reliefs of animals—a cavalcade of gazelles, snakes, foxes, scorpions, and ferocious wild boars. The assemblage was built some 11,600 years ago, seven millennia before the Great Pyramid of Giza. It contains the oldest known temple.

The amazing thing about Göbekli Tepe is that it is an example of monumental architecture built by people who were literally stone age; they had no wheels or metal tools. Moreover, they were foragers. Agriculture had not yet been invented. For foragers to build monumental architecture is something no one even imagined possible.

Discovering that hunter-gatherers had constructed Göbekli Tepe was like finding that someone had built a 747 in a basement with an X-Acto knife. “I, my colleagues, we all thought, What? How?” Schmidt said. Paradoxically, Göbekli Tepe appeared to be both a harbinger of the civilized world that was to come and the last, greatest emblem of a nomadic past that was already disappearing. The accomplishment was astonishing, but it was hard to understand how it had been done or what it meant. “In 10 or 15 years,” Schmidt predicts, “Göbekli Tepe will be more famous than Stonehenge. And for good reason.”

Given that the site appears to have served a religious purpose, the story of civilization would seem to start with religion. Accommodating this new evidence now seems to require reversing the historical sequence of events to put religion at the beginning and agriculture near the end. A common religion would have helped to foster settlement by increasing trust and cooperation among people.

Religion => Settlement => Agriculture => Civilization

That’s an amazing reorientation of our understanding of human history.

And the broader lesson is that science is never ‘settled.’

Obama Okays Rapists at College

The political left keeps telling us that rape is endemic on college campuses, even though FBI statistics indicate that rape incidence is actually lower on campuses than in the rest of America. But that fact hasn’t stopped the left from pursuing various policies, including suppressing fraternities and setting up kangaroo courts, to deal with the alleged problem of ‘rape culture.’

Fen’s Law, however, states that the left does not really believe any of the things they lecture the rest of us about. And so, consistent with Fen’s Law, the Obama Administration is now telling colleges they have to accept convicted criminals, presumably including convicted rapists. The Administration has even introduced a new Orwellian euphemism for students with criminal records: “justice-involved students.” As if they’re majoring in criminal justice or something.

The Obama administration has ordered the nation’s colleges and universities to stop asking applicants about criminal and school disciplinary history because it discriminates against minorities… Colleges and universities are to take it a step further by offering students with criminal histories special support services. This is to include targeted academic and career guidance as well as counseling, legal aid services, mentoring and coaching. “Institutions should recruit and train peer mentors with previous justice involvement to work with justice-involved students to ensure a smooth transition to postsecondary education and provide support and resources throughout their time at the college or university,” the new directive states. “These peer mentors could begin their work by acting as navigators who help acclimate justice-involved students to the educational institutions.” Perhaps colleges and universities should also start sending recruiters to jails across the country.

Now, if the left really cared about campus rape, why would they act to make it easier for rapists and other criminals to gain admission to college? Also, if they really care about getting tough with campus rapists, why do they adjudicate rape cases in campus tribunals rather than, you know, calling the police, and letting the justice system handle it? Rape tribunals, incidentally, would never fly in the corporate world. If corporate America starting adjudicating rape cases with internal committees, the left would howl with rage. So why is the same policy OK in academia?

One day, some coed will be raped or murdered by some ‘justice-involved’ student, and hardly anybody will remember that Obama and his minions made it possible.

Fen’s Law turns out to be remarkably accurate. And the reason for its accuracy is that leftists, regardless of what they claim, always act solely in the interest of enhancing their own status and power.

Free Speech Hardly Exists

If you ask most Germans if their country has freedom of speech, they will respond affirmatively. And German law, on its surface, seems to support that position.

Freedom of expression is granted by Article 5 of the Basic Law for the Federal Republic of Germany, which also states that there is no censorship and freedom of expression that may be limited by law.

But the reality of free speech in Germany is that a court scrutinizes a poem to determine which lines may be publicized and which may not.

A court in the German city of Hamburg on Tuesday banned the author of a poem lampooning Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan from publicly reciting passages from his work.

The court ruled that only six lines of the 24-line poem by German comedian Jan Boehmermann could be recited, offering the Turkish leader a partial legal victory.

If that’s freedom of speech, what does censorship look like?

Now let us direct your attention to Canada. Most Canadians, like most Germans, believe their country has freedom of speech. And Canadian law makes assertions to that effect.

Freedom of expression in Canada is guaranteed by section 2(b) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms:

2. Everyone has the following fundamental freedoms: … (b) freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication…

But in practice, freedom of speech in Canada looks like this.

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A true regime of free speech would be able to accommodate a debate on whether people with penises should be allowed in the ladies’ room. It follows that a law placing that debate off limits is not concordant with freedom of speech.

The political class in Western countries has done a remarkably good job convincing the peons that they have freedom of speech when in fact they don’t.

Afghanistan’s Price Tag: $113 Billion and Counting

$113 billion is a lot of money. Enough, in fact, to build new homes that could house about one million Americans. Or enough to pay for 3.3 million new automobiles, one for every household in New Jersey. But instead of those homes or automobiles, the U.S. government spent the money in Afghanistan, with virtually nothing to show for it. Good job!

Much of the Afghan reconstruction funds have been lost to waste, fraud, abuse and rampant corruption…

Take security projects and programs, which account for roughly 60% of the $113 billion in Afghan reconstruction funding.

Despite spending some $5 billion a year to stand up a national army and police force, “neither the United States nor its Afghan allies know how many Afghan soldiers and police actually exist,” the report says.

A large share are AWOL. In fact, Afghan military and police rolls contain potentially tens of thousands of “ghost” personnel, whose cost we still pay and whose absence distorts the security picture. Without US combat troops, the capital of Kabul is now relying almost exclusively on unreliable forces to defend itself from sacking.

Efforts at drug interdiction have also failed. Despite spending $8.4 billion on counter-narcotics programs, the poppy fields of Helmand province have largely been reclaimed by the Taliban, which sells opium to finance terrorism.

The opium trade, in fact, is flourishing. Here’s a stomach-turning stat: The 3,300 tons of opium the United Nations figured Afghanistan produced last year is the same number the UN calculated for the country’s opium production in 2000. So literally nothing has changed…

Despite spending $760 million improving Afghan education, moreover, 3.5 million primary-school-age children — 75% of them girls — remain out of school. Recently, some 714 schools were closed.

“Nonexistent or ghost teachers have been a long-standing problem and, in most cases, attendance sheets are not filled out or are frequently forged,” the report said. The inspector general also found fully-staffed schools attended by only a handful of students.

Efforts to promote businesses have been a joke, despite nearly $800 million invested in that area. Taxpayers might be shocked to know, for example, that they invested $6.1 million in the development of a “Cashmere goat industry” that’s already flopped.

The inspector’s report concluded that economic-development programs have “done little to spur economic growth in Afghanistan.”

Washington nation-builders had projected they’d add $1.3 billion in growth to the Afghan economy in 2015. But no such boost has occurred. In fact, Afghan GDP actually fell to $19.7 billion in 2015 from $20.4 billion in 2014.

Nation-building in Afghanistan has been a boondoggle for US taxpayers. Yet in his fiscal year 2017 budget, President Obama calls for an additional $4.8 billion for major reconstruction funds there.

With no progress in 15 years, Afghanistan looks to be a hopeless cause. At what point do we wake up and stop pouring money into this bottomless pit?

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Leftists Try to Rationalize Venezuela’s Collapse

A few days ago, we pointed out that prominent leftists don’t have much to say about the implosion of Venezuela’s socialist economy. Not-so-prominent leftists, however, do leave comments at various news sites. For instance, The Atlantic recently published a piece on Venezuela’s worsening food shortages.

The combination of Venezuela’s sky-rocketing prices and chronic product shortages have left many struggling to put regular food on their tables and maintain a balanced diet … poorer families say they are sometimes skipping meals and relying more on starch foods. According to one recent study, 87 percent of Venezuelans say their income is now insufficient to purchase their food needs.

Here are a couple of samples from the article’s comment thread. First up, “Kalen.”

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Ah, so the U.S. is to blame. But who in the U.S. in particular? Does Barack Obama hate Venezuela? We notice, however, that aside from the issue of blame, this comment implicitly admits that Venezuela’s socialist economy is not succeeding.

Pre-Chavez Venezuela did have a lot of poverty. But Venezuela has long been categorized as a middle-income country, not a poor country. In fact, back in 1980, Venezuela had the highest income per capita in Latin America. But as The Atlantic explains, under socialism, Venezuela has clearly taken a turn for the worse.

In the last two years Venezuela has experienced the kind of implosion that hardly ever occurs in a middle-income country like it outside of war. Mortality rates are skyrocketing; one public service after another is collapsing; triple-digit inflation has left more than 70 percent of the population in poverty; an unmanageable crime wave keeps people locked indoors at night; shoppers have to stand in line for hours to buy food; babies die in large numbers for lack of simple, inexpensive medicines and equipment in hospitals, as do the elderly and those suffering from chronic illnesses.

Next up, “Austin Blues.”

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Yeah Austin, none of those countries is really socialist. And the last time China was socialist, nearly 40 years ago, it teetered on the brink of starvation. Kind of like Venezuela today.

Leftists seem to have no good answers on Venezuela. That’s all the more reason why they need, at every turn, to be asked about it. Somebody should start by asking Bernie Sanders and Paul Krugman and lots of tenured college professors.

Patriotism means paying as little tax as possible

Throughout history, statist scolds have tried to convince people that they should feel good about paying a lot of taxes. For instance, on display above the entrance to the IRS building in Washington, DC, is a quote from Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.: “Taxes are the price we pay for a civilized society.” Similarly, Joe Biden in 2008 and again in 2012 argued that high-earning Americans had a patriotic duty to pay high taxes.

“It’s time to be patriotic,” Biden said. “Time to jump in, time to be part of the deal, time to help get America out of the rut.”

Biden’s view, however, was recently contradicted by Donald Trump. In an interview, Trump and Democrat operative George Stephanopoulos had the following exchange:

TRUMP: I fight very hard to pay as little tax as possible.

STEPHANOPOULOS: What is your tax rate?

TRUMP: It’s none of your business. You’ll see it when I release. But I fight very hard to pay as little tax as possible.

We’ve got to side with Trump on this one. There may have been times in history when paying taxes was patriotic such as during the Civil War or World War II, when the nation was engaged in a mortal struggle for a moral cause. But these days, an extra dollar in taxes doesn’t buy us more ‘civilized society.’ On the contrary, an extra dollar in taxes probably does more harm than good. The government wasting that dollar or giving it to someone undeserving–like the owners of politically connected solar companies–is almost a best-case scenario. Worst case, that dollar goes to finance literal mayhem and oppression, like funding the War on Drugs, or destabilizing Libya.

The law and the Constitution say we have to pay our taxes. But that obligation exists only so long as the government itself obeys the law and the Constitution. And the fact is that our federal government broke free of constitutional restraints long ago. A federal government that is so intrusive that it

  • tells you that you must, as a condition of lawful citizenship, purchase medical insurance
  • tells you what treatments and procedures your medical insurance must cover
  • regulates the flow of your shower head and the flush of your toilet
  • regulates sex between adults on college campuses
  • sets bathroom policy for local schools

etc.,

is a federal government that is in no meaningful sense restrained by the Constitution. As such, the government lacks legal and moral legitimacy. It follows that no one should feel guilty about paying less in tax. Nor should anyone feel good about paying more in tax. Indeed, we would argue that the moral position is to, like Trump, “fight very hard to pay as little tax as possible.” That does not mean we are advocating law breaking, but people should try to take as many legal deductions as possible.

But that’s a position that’s clearly contrary to the interests of America’s political class. While Biden argued that paying taxes was patriotic, his colleague Barack Obama maintained that paying taxes was just “neighborliness.”

If I am sitting pretty, and you’ve got a waitress who is making minimum wage plus tips, and I can afford it and she can’t — what’s the big deal for me to say, ‘I’m going to pay a little bit more.’ That is neighborliness.

We have a better idea. Instead of paying more in tax, pay less in tax, and then with the money you save, give the waitress a bigger tip.

American Leftists Don’t Want to Talk about Venezuela

Socialism in Venezuela is working out just about as badly as could be predicted. Back around 1980, Venezuela was the wealthiest country in Latin America. It still has the largest proven oil reserves of any country in the world. But 17 years of socialism have brought the country to its knees. At this point, U.S. intelligence is reportedly warning that Venezuela is “on the verge of collapse.”

With dire shortages of basic goods, a looming foreign debt payment, horrific street crime and intransigent political divisions, Venezuela is in danger of collapsing into waves of deadly violence, U.S. intelligence officials warned Friday.

The grim situation in Venezuela got us thinking: Has anybody in the press asked Bernie Sanders about this? I mean, here’s a guy who explicitly advocates socialism, and who to date has won something like 19 statewide contests for the Democratic presidential nomination. Has anybody bothered to ask him why socialism isn’t working in Venezuela? Are the Venezuelans just not doing socialism right? Maybe Bernie should go down there and show them how to do it correctly.

The other guy who doesn’t seem to have much to say about Venezuela is America’s most prominent liberal economist, Paul Krugman. We did a quick search but found very little mention of Venezuela in Krugman’s columns. About 15 months ago, Krugman mentioned that Venezuela was suffering from what he vaguely defined as “macroeconomic populism,” but he then quickly moved to change the subject.

But macroeconomic populism in the bad sense has been a real problem in some times and places; it’s clearly part of the mess in Venezuela, and Argentina has, sadly, slid from the useful heterodoxy of its stunning recovery after 2002 to a lot of the old-fashioned vices.

But let’s not talk about Latin America. Instead, let’s talk about Russia.

We suppose Venezuela doesn’t offer Krugman much opportunity to advocate for his favorite policy:  increasing government spending. After all, Venezuela’s government already spends so much that approximately one-third of the labor force consists of government employees. No, the problem in Venezuela can’t be insufficient government spending. Nor is the problem too much capitalism.

We’d like to hear more about what the left thinks about Venezuela, but they don’t seem to want to talk about it. Funny that.

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