The Treason of the Bureaucrats

“I do not rule Russia,” Czar Nicholas is reputed to have said, “ten thousand clerks do.” Those words might take on particular significance for Donald Trump, should he be elected president. Like Czar Nicholas, a President Trump might find himself thwarted and undermined by the clerks–the federal civil servants.

Federal civil servants have become a kind of protected nobility–they cannot be fired even for incompetence or obstruction. As a result, the federal bureaucracy has set itself up as an unaccountable, decadent, and partisan 4th branch of government. Since the bureaucrats are relatively unassailable, they have considerable leeway to act in their own self interest, which usually concurs closely with the interest of the Democrat Party. The 4th branch remains perpetually under Democrat control.

It wasn’t supposed to be like this. The Civil Service Reform Act of 1883 ended the ‘spoils system’ by making it unlawful to fire bureaucrats for partisan reasons. The idea was to create a federal bureaucracy that was competent, professional, and relatively non-partisan. Instead, more than 130 years later, we have a federal bureaucracy that is full of incompetents and viciously partisan.

During the Obama Era, the partisanship and unprofessionalism of the 4th branch has been on vivid display. In one of the more appalling scandals in American history, IRS bureaucrats unlawfully hindered and harassed ‘tea party’ groups in order to diminish their influence on the 2012 election. Then the IRS engaged in a massive cover-up and obstruction of the ensuing Congressional investigation. Most recently, the FBI for political reasons refused to recommend criminal charges against the Democrats’ presumptive presidential nominee.

Amidst all this partisan, unlawful, and unprofessional behavior, it is worth noting that no bureaucratic whistleblowers have stepped forward, and no bureaucrats have resigned on principle. Apparently, the bureaucrats practice situational ethics–they take ethical stands only against Republican administrations.

And so, the partisan and corrupt federal bureaucracy that bent over for Obama is now preparing to dig in its heels against Trump. According to the Lawfare blog (affiliated with the Brookings Institution), members of the ‘national security’ bureaucracy are experiencing ‘anxiety’ over the prospect of a Trump presidency.

I am not sure I have ever seen this cadre of professionals more unsettled than they are, as a group, today. It is not uncommon to hear people asking themselves whether they could continue in their current roles under Trump. It is not uncommon to hear people ruminate about whether the right course would be to resign or to stay and act as a check—which translates roughly to being an obstructionist of some sort or another.

These high-minded professionals are dreading Trump, but they had no problem with the lawless Obama administration which featured, among others things, a Secretary of State who was running a virtual shadow government, and in the process exposing America’s secrets to America’s enemies in order to keep the truth from America’s people. That self-same Secretary of State is now Donald Trump’s election opponent, but despite her record of reckless disregard for national security she somehow inspires less anxiety among the national security ‘professionals.’ It is to laugh.

Note well the part about the bureaucrats proposing to “act as a check” by “being an obstructionist.” What gives unelected bureaucrats, however, the right to obstruct the president elected by the people? Who do they think they are?

Our constitution does provide a system of checks and balances against executive power. But those checks come from the Congress and the Supreme Court–not the civil service.

Of course, no civil service employee is obligated to follow orders he believes to be immoral or unlawful. If any bureaucrat believes he cannot in good conscience carry out administration policy, he is free to resign, and if he sees fit, to go public with his objections.

But our system of government never intended to set up the federal civil service as a kind of peerage, like the British House of Lords, that can counteract the policies of elected officials and their appointees.

The federal bureaucracy must be brought to heel, but for the longest time we’ve believed that nobody would ever do anything about it. We were therefore surprised and gratified to hear that Governor Chris Christie, acting as Trump’s agent, reportedly discussed the topic of civil service reform with some fat cat GOP donors.

If he wins the presidency, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump would seek to purge the federal government of officials appointed by Democratic President Barack Obama and could ask Congress to pass legislation making it easier to fire public workers, Trump ally, Chris Christie, said on Tuesday.

Christie, who is governor of New Jersey and leads Trump’s White House transition team, said the campaign was drawing up a list of federal government employees to fire if Trump defeats Democratic rival Hillary Clinton in the Nov. 8 presidential election.

“As you know from his other career, Donald likes to fire people,” Christie told a closed-door meeting with dozens of donors at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, according to an audio recording obtained by Reuters and two participants in the meeting.

Christie seems particularly concerned with the practice of ‘burrowing,’ by which political appointees get their status converted to protected civil servants who can’t be fired. But rather than focusing just on burrowing, the GOP should consider replacing the 1883 Civil Service Act in order to finally allow the president to fire bureaucrats for incompetence or obstruction.

The American Federation of Government Employees, the largest federal employee union in the United States, said while it was concerned about the practice of “burrowing,” current law protected most federal employees from at will firing.

“The federal government is a serious undertaking. It’s not a reality TV show, with ‘You’re fired!'” said Jacqueline Simon, policy director at AFGE.

Most everybody else in America can be fired for not doing their job. Why should you federal employees be different? Why should you be more privileged than the rest of us?

Christie’s comments caused the liberal tabloid Slate to take to its well-worn fainting couch.

Obviously, some appointees come and go with a new president, and that makes complete sense—you need your people in key positions—but what Christie is proposing resembles more of a witch hunt where federal staffers will be judged by their loyalty to the regime.

But why shouldn’t they be judged on the basis of loyalty? Their job is to loyally carry out the president’s policies. That’s their job and why they are paid. They’re not paid for their disloyal pursuit of their own agendas. Why should the taxpayers pay to employ bureaucrats who are disloyal to the president the taxpayers have elected?

We’re glad to hear that Trump and Christie have at least some awareness of the problem, but in order to secure the political support needed to achieve real reform, they should take their case to the people. Trump should be running against the federal bureaucracy.

Michigan State Discriminated Against Men for 91 Years

Michigan State University, in apparent violation of state and possibly federal anti-discrimination statutes, maintained a women-only study lounge without offering the same accommodation to men. Mark Perry, an economist, Michigan taxpayer, civil rights activist, and former classmate of ours, decided to do something about it.

The University of Michigan-Flint professor filed a complaint with the Michigan Department of Civil Rights over the women-only study lounge at Michigan State, which does not have a similar space for men, MLive reported Monday.

The school claims it hasn’t received Perry’s complaint yet – the agency told the Lansing State Journal it was received July 7 – and says it was already planning to make the lounge coed, after 91 years open to women only…

MSU doesn’t appear to have said anything publicly about this pending change to the lounge  – which is becoming an “all-purpose quiet study area” – before Perry’s complaint made the news, judging by the shocked reactions of mostly women on social media this week.

The State News published a selection of outraged tweets responding to Perry’s complaint. One angry alum even called the addition of a private lactation station to the updated lounge “a bizarre cop-out.”

Predictably, there’s already a Change.org petition with 2,800 signatures, explicitly filed in response to Perry’s complaint, to “take back our study lounge, reinstate the Women’s Resource Center, and the support our Women’s Counsel.”

LOLZ. Tell us again how feminism is about ‘equality.’

In any event, Kudos to Mark Perry. His excellent blog can be found here.

Idiocracy is Real

At least seven different peer reviewed studies have recently found IQs declining in various developed countries, mostly in Europe. In France, for instance, IQ researchers Edward Dutton and Richard Lynn found that over the ten years from 1999 to 2009, the average IQ of the population declined by about 4 points.

Researchers remain unsure as to the reason for the decline. Some of it is probably attributable to immigration. But the most likely explanation for most of the decline is ‘dysgenic fertility,’ specifically, the tendency of lower IQ women to give birth more often than higher IQ women. Indeed, a study by Satoshi Kanazawa of the London School of Economics finds that every one-standard-deviation increase (about 15 points) in IQ decreases a woman’s odds of lifetime parenthood by more than 20 percent.

Kanazawa predicts that dysgenic breeding will impair the long-term IQ of the population.

Because women have a greater impact on the average intelligence of future generations, the dysgenic fertility among women is predicted to lead to a decline in the average intelligence of the population in advanced industrial nations.

Years before Kanazawa published his results, however, Mike Judge presciently anticipated the results of dysgenic fertility in his 2006 film Idiocracy. The film is supposed to be a comedy, but it’s actually more terrifying than any horror movie.

Second look at (voluntary) eugenics?

 

How to Profit from America’s Demise: Buy Pizza Stocks

Are you anticipating widespread public lawlessness and civil unrest? Then according to some Wall Street analysts, you might want to buy pizza stocks.

Papa John’s International Inc. was upgraded to overweight from sector weight at KeyBanc Capital Markets with analysts expressing the surprising view that diners, concerned about political and civil unrest, are choosing to stay home for pizza delivery rather than head out for a meal.

[…]

“After speaking with several large operators and industry contacts, we believe the recent decline in casual dining restaurant segment fundamentals—traffic down 3% to 5% the past several weeks—may be the result of consumers eating more at home amid the current political/social backdrop, which we believe could last through the November election,” KeyBanc analysts wrote in a note published Tuesday.

Diners’ shift to a preference for convenience will benefit pizza delivery businesses like Papa John’s, according to KeyBanc.

[…]

Papa John’s shares, which jumped 3.8% Wednesday, are up 23.0% over the past three months. The S&P 500 is up 2.9% for the last three months.

President Obama has presided over the weakest economic recovery in U.S. history, but at least he’s been good for the pizza industry.

Oh, and the gun industry. Smith & Wesson up 707% in five years. Not too shabby.

dfdb

Another Line Crossed: JAMA Publishes Obama

Although polls show that trust in virtually all public institutions–government, media, churches, etc.–has been declining for many years, science and the scientific community still retain a fair amount of trust and prestige. That won’t last for long, however, if scientists start acting like political hacks. It certainly hurts the credibility of science, for instance, when so-called scientists try to shut down debate on the hypothesis of anthropogenic global warning.

Most recently, the credibility of science took another blow as a leading peer-reviewed medical journal published an article with byline by a career politician with zero scientific credentials. The journal in question is the Journal of the American Medical Association, and the politician is a sitting president: Barack Obama. We agree with Alex Berezow and Tom Hartsfield, writing in the Los Angeles Times, that this publication sets an ominous precedent.

It would be difficult, if not impossible, to find another paper in any scientific journal in which a politician was allowed to subjectively analyze his own policy and declare it a success. This is a textbook definition of conflict of interest.

Moreover, despite the scholarly nature of this academic journal, the president seems incapable of resisting political rhetoric. He glazes over contentious details of the ACA [Affordable Care Act, i.e., Obamacare] with poorly substantiated claims. For instance, he writes, “For most Americans … Marketplaces are working.” Are they? A majority of Americans want ACA repealed, while others would prefer a universal healthcare system.

Worse, when it comes to those who disagree with his ideas, Obama responds with petty jabs. After denouncing “hyperpartisanship,” he then goes on to criticize Republicans for “excessive oversight” and “relentless litigation” that “undermined  ACA implementation efforts.”

One-sided commentary is perfectly fine for the campaign trail, but it has no place in a scientific journal, or in the scientific record alongside the discoveries of DNA and black holes. On the contrary, a good scientific paper devotes space to seriously considering the objections of other scientists. Failure to do so would often be grounds for rejection. Rather than ignoring or belittling opposing ideas, it is the author’s job to convince his readers that his data and ideas are superior.

Obviously, JAMA held the president to a different, lower standard than it would an academic scientist. In fact, JAMA editor-in-chief Howard Bauchner admitted as much. In an interview with the Chronicle of Higher Education, he said that Obama’s article was peer reviewed, but that he was allowed “a bit more flexibility because of who he is.”

That’s a stunning admission. Publication in a scientific journal is supposed to be based solely on the quality of the research, not on the social status or political clout of the author. Perhaps unwittingly, editor Howard Bauchner has freely confessed his own failure to adhere to scientific integrity.

Right now as I write this real scientists are hard at work doing research they hope will translate into a top academic publication. Some of those scientists are professors under pressure to ‘publish or perish’ in order to earn academic tenure, and many would no doubt be thrilled to publish their work in JAMA. But at least one of those authors will have to be disappointed, as Editor Bauchner decided instead to publish agitprop produced by White House staffers. Viewed this way, Bauchner’s decision is not just a minor departure from scientific ethics, it’s a crime against truth and justice.

Allowing politicians to plant partisan hackery in academic journals is a line that should never be crossed. And it’s tempting, unfortunately, to view this incident as just the latest example of declining standards across the whole of our society. We keep seeing lines crossed that should never be crossed–which is precisely what we’d expect to see in a civilization in decline, is it not?

The ancient republic has perished, and the Great Caesar now instructs the doctors even through their own journal.

Pro-Rhino Non-Profits: Saving Rhinos, or their Budgets?

Justin DelPrince brings to our attention this fascinating Snopes report on the possibility of reducing Rhino poaching by marketing synthetic Rhino horn. At least four companies have announced plans to produce artificial horn that is genetically indistinguishable from the real thing. One company claims it can sell the fake horn at only one-eighth the current black market price of horn. If flooding the market with fake horn can successfully take the profit out of selling real horn, this will solve or at least greatly reduce the problem of poaching.

The really interesting part of the story, apart from the technology, is that the major non-profits dedicated to protecting Rhinos have come out against marketing artificial horn. The International Rhino Foundation along with Save the Rhino International issued a joint statement that made a number of points, not all of which seem logical.

  • Selling synthetic horn does not reduce the demand for rhino horn or dispel the myths around rhino horn and could indeed lead to more poaching because it increases demand for “the real thing”.

It’s certainly plausible that synthetic horn might not ‘dispel the myths’, but dispelling myths won’t be necessary if synthetic horn takes the profit out of real horn. If synthetic and real horn become equivalent on the market, then real and synthetic horn will sell for the same price: as little as one-eighth the current price. At one-eighth the price, poachers are not going to risk arrest and Rhino attacks to procure real horn. That’s the point.

There are some possible, though perhaps improbable, scenarios in which synthetic horn might increase the demand for real horn. For instance, the relatively low price of synthetic might introduce more consumers to horn. Synthetic horn might serve as a kind of starter good that eventually causes more consumers to seek out the real thing. But for that story to work, consumers would have to be able to distinguish between real and synthetic. And it’s not clear to us how that would be possible, given that the two are chemically identical. Sellers of real horn would have the incentive to demonstrate authenticity, but again, it’s not clear to us how they would do so. If sellers of real horn can’t demonstrate authenticity, then nobody will willingly pay more for their product. In that case, we don’t see how synthetic horn would increase demand for real horn.

Regarding the ability of consumers to distinguish real from fake, the bullet points from the non-profits contradict each other. First, they assert:

  • Users buy from trusted sources and value “the real thing.”

Those sources would have to be very trusted indeed if the real and fake are genetically identical. We’re not sure we’d trust some of our own family to this degree.

  • How can consumers and law enforcement officials distinguish between legal synthetic horn that looks real, and illegal real horn?

This bullet point contradicts the previous one. In any event, consumers not being able to distinguish real from fake is not a problem, it’s the solution! This inability to distinguish would destroy the market for real horn.

  • Companies benefitting from making synthetic horn have shown very little commitment to use their profits to help the core problem of rhino poaching; besides which, those profits would meet only a tiny fraction of the total rhino protection costs that would remain to be met as long as demand reduction campaigns falter, as they would with the marketing of synthetic horn.

Translation: “Makers of synthetic horn won’t share their profits with us, the Rhino non-profits, and even if they did, it wouldn’t be enough to fund our operations.”

So long as synthetic horn successfully destroys the market for real horn, what does it matter how the producers use their profits?

  • Finally, the manufacture / marketing / sale of synthetic horn diverts funds and attention from the real problem: unsustainable levels of rhino poaching.

Translation: “The real problem is that the manufacture / marketing / sale of synthetic horn diverts funds and attention from the International Rhino Foundation and Save the Rhino International.”

That’s our (admittedly cynical) interpretation. If you set up an organization–a non-profit or government bureau–dedicated to solving the problem of ‘X’, that organization will never solve ‘X’, because doing so means putting itself out of business.

Do pro-Rhino non-profits really want to see Rhinos thrive, to the extent that the animals would no longer require resources for protection?

Maybe, but we have our doubts. As Lily Tomlin used to say, “I get more and more cynical every day, but still find it hard to keep up.”

Feds Approve Radioactive ‘Dirty Bomb’ Material for Fake Company

Here’s just the latest stunning example of government competence. A sting operation by the General Accounting Office fooled nuclear regulators into approving permits for radioactive ‘dirty bomb’ material.

“GAO’s covert testing of NRC [Nuclear Regulatory Commission] requirements showed them to be effective in two out of our three cases,” according to the report.

However, “in a third case, GAO was able to obtain a license and secure commitments to purchase, by accumulating multiple category 3 quantities of materials, a category 2 quantity of a radioactive material considered attractive for use in a ‘dirty bomb’—which uses explosives to disperse radioactive material,” according to the report.

“In the third case, the official from the regulatory body accepted GAO’s assurances without scrutinizing key aspects of the fictitious business, which led to a license being obtained,” according to the report.

The findings are particularly concerning as GAO “made no attempt to outfit the [fake business] site to make it appear as if a legitimate business was operating there.”

The NRC handed a paper license to an undercover GAO operator during the undercover operation.

“Our application was approved and the paper license was handed to our GAO investigator posing as a representative of our fictitious company at the end of the prelicensing site visit,” according to the report.

The NRC also believed several lies by these undercover inspectors.

“During the application process and site visit, the regulatory official accepted our written and oral assurances of the steps that our fictitious company would take—to construct facilities, establish safety procedures, hire sufficient qualified staff, and construct secure storage areas—after receiving a license,” the report states.

“The official from the regulatory body accepted our assurances without scrutinizing key aspects of our fictitious business to the extent that the other regulatory bodies had,” the report adds.

The GAO was ultimately able to use this license to get commitments to obtain enough category 3 materials to reach a category 2 quantity of radioactive material, which the GAO says is an attractive source for use in building a dirty bomb.

Given the fundamental incompetence of the federal security state, it’s frankly surprising we don’t see more terrorist attacks. When it comes right down to it, there must not be very many competent terrorists out there. Really competent terrorists who can put together and execute sophisticated plans–like we see in movies–would run circles around the bureaucratic doofuses who are supposedly paid to protect us.

Germany: Speak against government policy, go to jail

If living in a free society means anything, it must be that ordinary people get to participate in choosing the government and its policies. That means, ordinary citizens get to speak out to make their views known on public policy. If people are not free to speak, there can be no real public discourse, and therefore no real freedom.

Germany is supposedly a free society, and by far the biggest policy issue there is the recent massive migration of Arabs into the country, and the prospect that the migration will continue. As we reported previously, the issue is so momentous that a mainstream Brookings economist called the policy a “radical social experiment” that could potentially “change the face of Germany.”

On a matter of such grave import for the fate of the nation, people in a free society would be expected to publicly express their views. But when a couple in Germany set up a members-only Farcebook page critical of the migration policy, a judge fined them and threatened them with jail.

Peter M. founded a secret group called AFB (Anti Refugee Movement) about a year ago on Facebook. As a secret group, people who are not members of it would have been unable to see its content. He and his wife Melanie were administrators of the Facebook group, so both had to attend the court on charges of sedition.

The offending Facebook page’s founding statement was read out in the courtroom. Written by Peter M. it read: “The war and economic refugees are flooding our country. They bring terror, fear, sorrow. They rape our women and put our children at risk. Bring an end to it!”.

In a free society, that’s legitimately protected speech. But Germany is apparently not a free society. Indeed, Facebook examined the site and could find no problems with it.

Unhappy with the fact that Facebook would take no further action, anonymous users turned to a police station in Lübeck. There, officers traced the internet activity to a computer in Vierkirchen in the Dachau district of Bavaria.

Raiding the couple’s flat, their computing items and digital storage were seized by the criminal investigation department in Furstenfeldbruck.

So Germany is a country where the police make ‘raids’ on citizens for exercising their fundamental rights. Guess some things never really change.

Judge Lukas Neubeck, presiding over the case, said the fact the group had a picture of a German flag on its Facebook page confirmed for him that AFB (Anti-Refugee Movement) is a right wing group.

The leftist judge’s mind is so distorted that he takes an expression of patriotism–posting the German flag–as incriminating evidence. If only the organizers had thought instead to post the hammer and sickle, or perhaps the black flag of Al-Qaeda. Then at least the judge wouldn’t have been able to indict them for being ‘right wing.’

In court, Peter M. and Melanie’s 10-month-old son sat on his mother’s lap and the pair had no one legally defending them. The barrister had resigned before the trial.

Within the Dachau courtroom Peter M. said:

“You cannot even express a little bit of criticism about refugees without getting called a Nazi.

“I just wanted to create a discussion forum where people can speak their minds about the refugees.”

[…]

Scolding the pair, Judge Neubeck said: “The description of the group is a series of generalisations with a clear right-wing background.”

The Judge sentenced Peter M. to serve a nine month suspended prison sentence, on probation. Melanie was ordered to pay a fine of €1,200.

“I hope you are clear on the seriousness of the situation. If you sit again in front of me on the dock, you will go to jail,” Judge Neubeck warned.

I must be extremely right wing, because I think the one who ought to go to jail is this commie judge.

Normal people need to wake up and start fighting back against these leftist freaks. And soon.

The Rise of Distracted Driving

I’ve observed lately a disturbing number of people using their phones while driving. Call me crazy, but I don’t feel safe when I’m sharing the road with drivers who are texting. I’ve also noticed, while walking the dog, people initiating phone calls as they pull out of their driveway when leaving home. Couldn’t they have placed that call before they left?

Now some experts think that cellphones might be responsible for the first increase in the roadway fatality rate in 50 years. Although the data are preliminary and subject to revision, the death rate per vehicle mile seems to have increased from 2014 to 2015, interrupting a continuous decline of several decades.

USA_annual_VMT_vs_deaths_per_VMT

As shown by the red curve, the fatality rate per vehicle mile has exhibited long term secular decline since at least the 1920s, and has declined pretty much year-over-year ever since the mid-1960s. (The small increase in the early 1960s might have been caused by an influx of young and inexperienced baby boomers to the population of drivers.) This declining fatality rate is attributable to continuous improvements in safety engineering of both cars and roads, and to a lesser degree, better prevention of drunk driving.

But in 2015, that long-term trend was seemingly reversed.

According to the NSC [National Safety Council], VMT [vehicle miles traveled] increased by 3.5 percent for the year, showing that the surge in driving deaths has come from factors aside from increased driving—the rate of vehicle accident deaths per million vehicle miles travelled increased by 5 percent from 2014 to 2015.

[…]

[S]afety experts are pointing to changes in driver behavior as the culprit. Specifically, distracted driving has increased as Americans are increasingly glued to their mobile devices, and the infotainment arms race has automakers competing to offer exciting and flashy features.

The NSC says that 26 percent of vehicle crashes are caused by cell phone use, and that at any given time, 9 percent of drivers are using their cell phones. Features that enable “hands-free” use of mobile devices are not a solution: Voice to text can in fact be more distracting to the driver than typing, according to new research by the Council. Furthermore, it’s a myth that talking on the phone is not more distracting than speaking to another passenger in the car, since passengers offer another set of eyes, are generally aware of driving conditions, and will often stop talking when dangerous situations arise. Of the 26 percent of vehicle crashes that are caused by cell phone use, over 20 percent are caused by voice conversations, not texting.

Interestingly, the article argues that the act of driving has evolved to become too easy to hold the driver’s attention.

Much has already been written about the decline in the modern attention span thanks to the constant barrage of media and constant connectivity. If such a decline exists, it has coincided with the increasing ease and simplicity of driving in a modern vehicle, which is no longer a very engaging endeavor.

“Humans are optimizers. We do the things that are maximally interesting and exciting, and driving has stopped being one of those activities,” writes Jonah Houston. Houston explains that driving a Model T was all-consuming: “Once you got the car running (a 10-step process in itself) there were an equal number of tasks to keep it running. Drivers had to adjust the spark timing, fuel mixture, as well as yank and tug on all variety of levers and pedals to shift gears. Steering required Herculean strength. Drivers had to watch carefully for road hazards or the tires would burst. If you weren’t paying attention to a Model T, it would stop.”

In the century since the Model T was introduced, the increasing sophistication of the car has transformed the driving experience from demanding to mundane, and it struggles to compete with our cell phones for our attention. The consequences come in the form of lives lost on the road.

Personally, I have always driven a stick shift, and have always believed that doing so kept me more engaged with the task of driving.

Driving is a big responsibility. A car is a deadly weapon. More people should take seriously that responsibility by putting the cell phone down.