No list of federal crimes exists

Another amazing job done by the federal government.

Two objections to the current state of federal law have been that no one knows how many federal crimes there are, and no one can easily find them all…

No List Exists

The American legal system has always presumed—often incorrectly[3]—that every person knows every criminal law. In fact, no one—no police officer, no prosecutor, no judge, and no law professor—knows all of them.[4] One reason why this problem has existed is that there is no compendium of all federal criminal laws that a person—or a lawyer—could turn to when issues arise.

In the past the Justice Department and the American Bar Association (ABA) separately attempted to prepare a list of federal offenses. Neither the Justice Department nor the ABA succeeded, no other component of the executive branch has picked up the baton since then, and no comprehensive, easily accessible list exists today…

The federal government has the legal and moral responsibility to make the federal criminal laws known to the public before someone can be charged with a crime. To date, it has not met that responsibility.

So the federal government creates all these laws that the people must obey or face criminal prosecution, but then the government provides no way for the people to see what those laws are. And since ignorance of the law is no defense, the public faces the risk of running afoul of laws they don’t even know exist. The government’s irresponsibility increases the burden of responsibility for the citizen. This reminds us of the high error rate on advice given by the IRS.

The January 2004 report of the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration [TIGTA] confirms the IRS’s error rate for advice it gives at its hundreds of walk-in Taxpayer Assistance Centers (TACs) remains unacceptably high.

The report reveals the IRS provided “flatly incorrect answers 20 percent of the time.” In another 15 percent of the cases, the IRS provided a “correct” answer without first obtaining the background information necessary to provide a correct answer–a serious oversight when providing tax advice.

But of course, the IRS is not responsible if you file an incorrect return on the basis of their bad advice. The taxpayer always retains full responsibility. The government can screw up on its own tax rules, but the taxpayer can’t.

Likewise, airport security run by the TSA is incompetent, inefficient, and irrational, and has never caught a terrorist…but you have to just shut up, take off your belt and shoes, and keep that line moving.

A vivid way to see the extent to which the people have lost control of their own government is to reflect how often the government cuts the citizen no slack, despite itself being inept and bungling in the same field. In a truly free republic it would be the other way around; the government would need to get its act together before the public had any obligation to pay or to obey.

Cost of Flying

This recent Los Angeles Times article focuses on a not often discussed risk of flying:

As the sea of luggage twists and turns down rollers from terminals at Los Angeles International Airport, the bags stop briefly at large platforms where workers separate them for flights across the world.

It is there, police said, that a group of baggage handlers pulled off one of the largest property heists in airport history.

For months, detectives said, workers rifled through bags looking for items to steal.

Anyone who has spent time around an airport knows there is no such thing as secure luggage.  We all know that TSA rules prevent you from locking your bags, but few travelers realize how exposed their luggage is as it makes its way from the airport ticket counter to the carousel at their destination airport. So here is some advice: never leave anything truly valuable in checked luggage!

Human Achievement Hour: Let your lights shine brightly!

Tonight from 8:30 – 9:30, supporters of human freedom around the world celebrate Human Achievement Hour by switching on lights. The point is to express “appreciation for the inventions and innovations that make today the best time to be alive and the recognition that future solutions require individual freedom not government coercion.”

In contrast, political leftists tonight will be switching their lights off in order to observe what they call Earth Hour. Economist Ross McKitrick had a very good take on Earth Hour.

I abhor Earth Hour. Abundant, cheap electricity has been the greatest source of human liberation in the 20th century. Every material social advance in the 20th century depended on the proliferation of inexpensive and reliable electricity. Giving women the freedom to work outside the home depended on the availability of electrical appliances that free up time from domestic chores. Getting children out of menial labour and into schools depended on the same thing, as well as the ability to provide safe indoor lighting for reading. Development and provision of modern health care without electricity is absolutely impossible. The expansion of our food supply, and the promotion of hygiene and nutrition, depended on being able to irrigate fields, cook and refrigerate foods, and have a steady indoor supply of hot water. Many of the world’s poor suffer brutal environmental conditions in their own homes because of the necessity of cooking over indoor fires that burn twigs and dung. This causes local deforestation and the proliferation of smoke- and parasite-related lung diseases. Anyone who wants to see local conditions improve in the third world should realize the importance of access to cheap electricity from fossil-fuel based power generating stations. After all, that’s how the west developed.

The whole mentality around Earth Hour demonizes electricity. I cannot do that, instead I celebrate it and all that it has provided for humanity. Earth Hour celebrates ignorance, poverty and backwardness. By repudiating the greatest engine of liberation it becomes an hour devoted to anti-humanism. It encourages the sanctimonious gesture of turning off trivial appliances for a trivial amount of time, in deference to some ill-defined abstraction called “the Earth,” all the while hypocritically retaining the real benefits of continuous, reliable electricity. People who see virtue in doing without electricity should shut off their fridge, stove, microwave, computer, water heater, lights, TV and all other appliances for a month, not an hour.

Indeed, if modern civilization really were destroying the earth, shutting off lights for one hour per year would truly be a pathetic and futile gesture. If the political left are serious, they should go without electricity for a whole day, and do it every week. If they committed themselves to No Electricity Sunday, and did so every week, we would believe they were serious. We would still disagree with them, but we’d know they were serious. Earth Hour, however, is just another opportunity for modern liberals to engage in one of their favorite activities: low-cost moral preening.

So don’t be a fool or a hypocrite. Tonight, let your lights shine brightly!

earth_lights

How many dead babies…

…does it take to heat a government hospital?

The bodies of thousands of aborted and miscarried babies were incinerated as clinical waste, with some even used to heat hospitals, an investigation has found.

Ten NHS trusts have admitted burning foetal remains alongside other rubbish while two others used the bodies in ‘waste-to-energy’ plants which generate power for heat…

At least 15,500 foetal remains were incinerated by 27 NHS trusts over the last two years alone, Channel 4’s Dispatches discovered.

The programme, which will air tonight, found that parents who lose children in early pregnancy were often treated without compassion and were not consulted about what they wanted to happen to the remains.

One of the country’s leading hospitals, Addenbrooke’s in Cambridge, incinerated 797 babies below 13 weeks gestation at their own ‘waste to energy’ plant. The mothers were told the remains had been ‘cremated.’

Another ‘waste to energy’ facility at Ipswich Hospital, operated by a private contractor, incinerated 1,101 foetal remains between 2011 and 2013.

They were brought in from another hospital before being burned, generating energy for the hospital site.

We naturally deplore the mind-boggling inefficiency usually displayed by government. But maybe gross inefficiency in government is not such a bad thing when one considers the frequently horrific results of efficiency in government. When government tries to be efficient, what it ends up economizing on is not so much waste as decency and justice. The Third Reich in particular was far too efficient.

Guess Britain’s socialist hospitals already had all the lampshades they needed.

A Cult of Personality: Is this America?

It is said that the first casualty of socialism is truth, and in the Age of Obama, truth is indeed taking quite a beating. The lies told by the state and its manifold myrmidons on a daily basis grow ever more brazen and Orwellian.

The latest Orwellian formulation comes from basketball star Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers. Apparently, Bryant was been recruited by the White House to propagandize for Obamacare. See, a multimillionaire like Kobe would never use Obamacare himself. But he’s sure that it’s good enough for other folks. In any event, Bryant was recently interviewed on the radio by (UD graduate) Dan Patrick, who asked Bryant if President Obama could play for the Lakers.

“Yes, he could, actually,” Bryant responded. “That’s not a diss at the current roster that we have, but more of a sign of respect of the skill that the president possesses.”

He went on to compare the president to “a left-handed version” of former NBA all-star Michael Adams or Nate “Tiny” Archibald, who led the league in scoring and assists with the Kansas City-Omaha Kings in 1973.

Is this America? Because we always thought that speaking of the head of state as if he were a demigod was a phenomenon characteristic of only totalitarian states. For instance, consider the following.

He was walking at three weeks and talking at eight weeks. He wrote six operas in three years at university, as well as no fewer than 1,500 books. The “Lodestar of the 21st Century” is also credited with 11 holes-in-one and a 38-under par the first time he picked up a golf club and is equally a genius at architecture and directing movies.

No, this is not about Obama. Surprise! It’s North Korean propaganda about tyrant Kim Jong-il. Nonetheless, the claims are no more outlandish than the notion that the 52-year-old momjeans-wearing Obama could play in the NBA. What we have here is a phenomenon known as the cult of personality.

A cult of personality arises when an individual uses mass media, propaganda, or other methods, to create an idealized, heroic, and at times, god-like public image, often through unquestioning flattery and praise. Sociologist Max Weber developed a tripartite classification of authority; the cult of personality holds parallels with what Weber defined as “charismatic authority”. A cult of personality is similar to hero worship, except that it is established by mass media and propaganda.

Why would Kobe Bryant promote a cult of personality in America? Maybe he needs to kiss butt because he is in trouble with the IRS. But even this explanation would speak to the frightfully outsized power of the state. Sometimes, we hardly recognize this country anymore.

Of course, one might be tempted to dismiss this incident by saying that Bryant and Patrick were just joking. The problem is that their dialogue (listen to the whole thing here) was more creepy and surreal than funny. Humor must contain an element of truth.

For real humor, see the video below, which somewhat surprisingly, has not yet been blocked by The Regime.

Big Money

The Wall Street Journal’s “Real Time Economics” blog has an interesting item on the five hundred euro banknote.  It may well be replacing the U.S. $100 bill as the currency of choice for members of international drug cartels and other organized crime syndicates.  But a different role role played by the 500 euro note is discussed by Antti Heinonen, a member of the subcommittee that created the euro banknotes:

As for the legitimate uses for the €500, Mr. Heinonen mentioned one: a stabilizer during a financial crisis.

After the collapse of Lehman Brothers in 2008, public’s faith in banks wavered in many countries, sending people to exchange their savings for cash. Demand for the euro banknotes surged in and outside the euro area. “We could have not handled it without the €500 note,” Mr. Heinonen said.

Privatization of science

The New York Times had an interesting report about how scientific research is increasingly receiving funding from billionaire philanthropists.

American science, long a source of national power and pride, is increasingly becoming a private enterprise.

In Washington, budget cuts have left the nation’s research complex reeling. Labs are closing. Scientists are being laid off. Projects are being put on the shelf, especially in the risky, freewheeling realm of basic research. Yet from Silicon Valley to Wall Street, science philanthropy is hot, as many of the richest Americans seek to reinvent themselves as patrons of social progress through science research…

They have mounted a private war on disease, with new protocols that break down walls between academia and industry to turn basic discoveries into effective treatments. They have rekindled traditions of scientific exploration by financing hunts for dinosaur bones and giant sea creatures. They are even beginning to challenge Washington in the costly game of big science, with innovative ships, undersea craft and giant telescopes — as well as the first private mission to deep space.

The new philanthropists represent the breadth of American business, people like Michael R. Bloomberg, the former New York mayor (and founder of the media company that bears his name), James Simons (hedge funds) and David H. Koch (oil and chemicals), among hundreds of wealthy donors. Especially prominent, though, are some of the boldest-face names of the tech world, among them Bill Gates (Microsoft), Eric E. Schmidt (Google) and Lawrence J. Ellison (Oracle).

Privatization of science seems to us a good thing, because it can preclude the politicization and bureaucratization that occurs when science relies on funding from government. Indeed, the article notes that the philanthropists have different expectations than does the public sector.

The donors are impatient with the deliberate, and often politicized, pace of public science, they say, and willing to take risks that government cannot or simply will not consider.

To quote the excerpt from Ghostbusters that we linked to in a recent post, in the private sector, “they expect results.”

Nonetheless, the Times and its state-worshiping commentors engage in much hand wringing over the prospect that government might lose control over science research. Because the long record of human history clearly shows that politicians and bureaucrats set the gold standard for spending money wisely and efficiently. Or something.

It seems to us that science philanthropy also undermines the case for massive redistribution of wealth. Here’s what the science philanthropists are spending their money on.

telescope1spacex-methanebrookhaven1

In contrast, here’s what America’s underclass would spend the money on.

cigsSchlitz Malt Liquorscratch_ticket

Tell us again why income redistribution is such a great idea.

Technology and Growth

Macroeconomist Robert Gordon classified U.S. economic history into three industrial revolutions . The first (1750–1830) was powered by steam and railroads. The second (1870–1900) was sparked by electricity, the internal combustion engine, and communications. The third (1960 to the present) is the computer revolution brought on by the microprocessor and the Internet. Gordon claims that this third Industrial Revolution has been disappointing in terms of productivity. Except for a brief period, the computer revolution did not materially boost productivity growth.

But is this right? Is it possible that the enormous computing power and information that we have fingertip access to hasn’t made us more productive?  Well maybe:

Well, it looks like “Candy Crush Saga” is looking to, ahem…crush it with its IPO.

Actually, it would be King Digital Entertainment Plc, the company that makes the hit mobile game that would benefit the most from its plans to go public later this month: On Wednesday, King Digital revealed that it has set a price range of $21 to $24 a share for the 22.2 million shares involved in the company’s public offering when it’s expected to start trading on March 26.

That would give King Digital a valuation of $7.6 billi0n.

It seems like you would have to be living under a bridge to be unaware of “Candy Crush Saga”. Anyone who is on Facebook has likely received numerous invitations to play the game, and in its latest pre-IPO filing, King Digital said that an average of 144 million daily active users played the company’s games more than 1.4 billion times in February.

 

Government Cost

The BLS recently announced that the cost of employing state and local government workers is about 45% higher than the cost of hiring equivalent private sector workers. This comes as no surprise since the reality of the marketplace is suspended for government workers. The private sector seeks efficiency. Government and the non-profit sectors? Well, let’s just say they don’t.

Enemies of freedom at Harvard

Here at Yet, Freedom! we maintain this website because we believe that freedom is under siege and we want to defend it. But the reader may wonder, defend it from whom? Isn’t freedom something good that everyone supports? Well, no. Freedom has countless enemies, many of them in positions of great power and influence. These are people who strive relentlessly to undermine freedom. Don’t believe they exist? Well, check out this video from a recent panel discussion held by the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard University. The topic is (what else?) ‘climate change,’ something the Ruling Class loves to talk about because it promises to frighten the people into giving up their money and freedom.

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We don’t recommend watching the whole video, which runs more than an hour and a quarter, unless you have an Ambien prescription you forgot to refill. The key bits, however, occur right near the end. The assembled warm-mongers are discussing tactics they can use to prevail against their opponents, the climate ‘skeptics.’ At about 1:10:25, a questioner from the audience mentions something about bringing a “RICO case.” That would refer to the Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, a law that is used to prosecute the mafia. About two minutes later, panelist Naomi Oreskes, Professor of the History of Science at Harvard, reiterates support for RICO prosecutions of climate skeptics.

Now, if you ask Professor Oreskes, she will surely claim to be in support of freedom, and in particular of freedom of speech. But here she is, in a public forum, openly calling for people to be criminally prosecuted, just because they happen to disagree with her on an issue of public policy. If that’s not outright hostility to free speech, what is? And the problem is not just with Dr. Oreskes; it was a gentleman questioner who first brought up RICO, and nobody on the panel or in the Harvard audience objected or even batted an eye. Maybe it’s time to have a second look at this book.

There’s an f-word which is often misused, but which appropriately describes the way these people think.

fascism