Countless crows, droppings rankle Ohio residents

Here is an odd story from A.P. reporter Lisa Cornwell:

Thousands of crows roosting at night in a western Ohio city’s downtown have some residents comparing the landscape with the Alfred Hitchcock movie “The Birds” as they work to drive them away.

The crows troubling Springfield aren’t aggressive, as birds in Hitchcock’s 1963 thriller were portrayed. But their overwhelming presence on trees and buildings causes concern over damage and potential health hazards from droppings, said Roger Sherrock, CEO of the Clark County Historical Society.

The society operates the Heritage Center of Clark County, one of the buildings favored by the federally protected crows.

“It can be unnerving to walk outside and see thousands of crows on trees, buildings and everywhere, especially if you’re familiar with Hitchcock’s movie,” Sherrock said.

He estimates as many as 50,000 crows gather downtown after scavenging for food by day in fields surrounding the city of around 60,000, some 80 miles northeast of Cincinnati. State wildlife officials say there has been a roost in the area for decades, but Sherrock says crows began roosting downtown in huge numbers about three years ago


Springfield is, of course, about thirty miles northeast of Dayton as the crow flies.


Law Lets I.R.S. Seize Accounts on Suspicion, No Crime Required

No, we are not making this up.  Here is a New York Times story showing that the I.R.S., although seemingly hapless in retrieving computer files, is really good at extortion:

ARNOLDS PARK, Iowa — For almost 40 years, Carole Hinders has dished out Mexican specialties at her modest cash-only restaurant. For just as long, she deposited the earnings at a small bank branch a block away — until last year, when two tax agents knocked on her door and informed her that they had seized her checking account, almost $33,000.

The Internal Revenue Service agents did not accuse Ms. Hinders of money laundering or cheating on her taxes — in fact, she has not been charged with any crime. Instead, the money was seized solely because she had deposited less than $10,000 at a time, which they viewed as an attempt to avoid triggering a required government report.

“How can this happen?” Ms. Hinders said in a recent interview. “Who takes your money before they prove that you’ve done anything wrong with it?”

The federal government does.

Using a law designed to catch drug traffickers, racketeers and terrorists by tracking their cash, the government has gone after run-of-the-mill business owners and wage earners without so much as an allegation that they have committed serious crimes. The government can take the money without ever filing a criminal complaint, and the owners are left to prove they are innocent. Many give up.

Clear the Bases

Here is a meaningless fun fact via USA Today:

San Francisco Giants starter Madison Bumgarner came to the plate with the bases loaded in the bottom of the second inning in Monday night’s NLDS Game 3 against the Washington Nationals, so the MLB Network broadcast pointed out an eye-opening fact:

Madison Bumgarner hit more grand slams this season than Derek Jeter did in his entire 20-year career.

The right-handed hitting lefty pitcher hit four home runs in 2014, including grand slams on April 11 and July 13. Jeter hit his lone career grand slam on June 18, 2005 against the Chicago Cubs.

Bumgarner is one of the league’s best hitting pitchers, of course, and Jeter was a contact hitter who usually batted near the top of the Yankees’ batting order. Still, plenty of Jeter’s teams had deep lineups, and it’s surprising to learn that only one of his 260 career homers came with the bases loaded — especially given the Jeter mystique.

It is somewhat surprising since there has not been a player with 200+ homers without at least one grand slam.  So I would have placed higher odds on at least a few more of Jeter’s 260 coming with the bases loaded.  Of course, the Bumgarner grand slam ratio is the real outlier.

What is ‘sustainability’?

A couple of weeks ago the University of Dayton made a very exciting announcement–the largest gift in the history of the school.


The University of Dayton is announcing today a $12.5 million gift from the George and Amanda Hanley Foundation to create the Hanley Sustainability Institute, which will focus on creating innovations in sustainability education across the University. The work of the Institute will build on our already-strong foundation of academic excellence, co-curricular activities, research and campus operations.

But what does the term ‘sustainability’ mean exactly? We’ve never seen a definition that makes logical sense. For instance, the EPA defines sustainability as follows.

Sustainability creates and maintains the conditions under which humans and nature can exist in productive harmony, that permit fulfilling the social, economic and other requirements of present and future generations.

What does this mean? If we drill for oil in Alaska, will that, or will that not, disrupt the ‘productive harmony’ of humans and nature? How do we determine if ‘productive harmony’ prevails or not? For example, is the current Alaska oil pipeline, elevated to allow migrating caribou to pass beneath, an example of productive harmony, or of harmony lost?

Also, how much oil should the present generation use and how much should be preserved for the use of future generations? What’s the proper allocation of oil sharing among generations?

This definition of sustainability raises more questions than it answers.

Will Eschenbach makes a similar point and, as an example, asks whether digging in his garden with an iron spade would be sustainable.

Every kilo of iron ore that is mined to make my shovel is a kilo of iron ore that is forever unavailable to “future generations to meet their own needs”. It’s unavoidable. Which means that we will run out of iron, and thus any use of iron is ultimately unsustainable. My shovel use is depriving my great-grandchildren of shovels.

Oh, sure, I can recycle my shovel. But some of the metal will inevitably be lost in the process. All that does is make the inevitable iron-death move further away in time … but recycling doesn’t magically make iron extraction sustainable.

And if me using a steel shovel to dig in my own garden is not sustainable … then what is sustainable? I mean, where are the “peak iron” zealots when we need them?

Most people would argue that wind turbines and solar panels are sustainable. But manufacturing wind turbines requires mining neodymium, a “rare earth” metal. And solar panels pose a similar issue involving a different metal.

Thin, cheap solar panels need tellurium, which makes up a scant 0.0000001 percent of the earth’s crust, making it three times rarer than gold.

Is mining rare earth metals sustainable?

What is sustainable? If anyone could provide us with a sensible definition of sustainability we would really appreciate it.

More Great Moments in Government

You really can’t make this stuff up:

TRENTON, N.J. – (AP) — The issue has stymied New Jersey politicians for decades. It’s taken more than 50 years of intense lobbying, sweat and tears. It has pitted lawmaker against lawmaker, governor against Legislature, North Jersey against South Jersey.

But a three lawmakers from different corners of the state have hammered out a bipartisan deal that they hope will solve this longtime problem facing New Jersey:

Its lack of a state song.

State Sens. Michael Doherty (R-Warren), Richard Codey (D-Essex) and Jeff Van Drew (D-Cape May) — who have not always been in sync on the state song — came together last Monday to propose a bill (S2438) that would create not one, but five different tunes New Jerseyans could officially call their own.

“I’ve been told from all the players involved that there seems to be a mutual agreement that these are going to move forward, so it’s positive,” Doherty told

Wow, they “came together” to get the job done! These clowns should just resign if they think a state song is important right now. Guess in their world everything is fine, all their relatives have state jobs, they will get a fat pension, and will likely get re-elected without doing much. Thank goodness nonsense issues like road, property taxes, the state budget, and the dysfunctional education system can wait. And anyhow, all five of the options mentioned in the story sound lame.  If they want some free advice….

GOP Caves on Export-Import Bank

Here’s a proposition for you. Want to lend some of your money to an enterprise overseas that is too risky for banks and markets to lend to, at least at the terms on which the enterprise would like to borrow? No? Too late, the Export-Import bank has already done it–with your money!

The Export-Import bank is a New Deal institution that subsidizes loans to foreign entities for big-ticket purchases from major American corporations like Boeing and Caterpillar. The corporation receives a benefit because the Ex-Im Bank’s credit insures that the corporate seller can not only make the sale, but probably also get a better price than they would otherwise. But this gain comes at the expense of the American taxpayer, who is effectively forced to make a loan on terms that banks and other lenders will not accept due to the risk. Thus the Ex-Im bank effectively enables crony capitalism–big corporations win, taxpayers lose.

Of course, the Ex-Im Bank uses faulty accounting to claim that it actually makes money. But a study by the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office estimated that the Bank would lose $2 billion over 10 years, or about $200 million per year. A similar but somewhat higher figure was computed independently by economists at the Manhattan Institute.

This simple approach – which is based on a method outlined in a National Bureau of Economic Research paper by Debbie Lucas of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology – suggests that the Ex-Im bank’s long-term loan guarantee program actually provides guarantees at a loss for taxpayers, not a profit. Moreover, this analysis reveals that the Ex-Im bank’s loan guarantees are made at sufficiently generous terms that borrowers receive subsidies of about 1% of the amount borrowed. That translates into a $200 million cost for taxpayers on the $21 billion in loans that the bank will make in 2012. Because the bank’s smaller loan programs already carry positive subsides under FCRA, the total subsidy level for the entire Ex-Im bank business is even higher than $200 million using fair-value estimates.

No wonder a Senator back in 2008 called the Bank “little more than a fund for corporate welfare.” That was Senator Barack Obama.

And of course, whenever taxpayer money is being handed out, corruption is inevitable.

In June, it was reported that the bank had dismissed three officials and placed a fourth on leave in response to accusations of impropriety. Few details have been disclosed and only one of the employees has been named – Gutierrez, who appeared before a House Oversight and Government Reform subcommittee and refused to answer any questions. Gutierrez lost his position at the Bank after it was revealed that he took money from a Florida company which was angling for Ex-Im funding.

The hearing did yield some further interesting tidbits, all damaging to the Export-Import Bank. Hochberg, the bank’s president, stated that the accusations against Gutierrez and his three colleagues stem from three different incidents. Moreover, the subcommittee’s chairman, Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) noted that the bank’s own inspector general was looking into at least 40 potential fraud cases.

Even the makeup of the bank’s own advisory committee raises questions. The Daily Caller found that “fully half” of the committee members headed entities “that directly benefitted from Ex-Im financing during their term.” Furthermore, five additional members saw Ex-Im funding reach their organizations before joining the committee. And the questions for the advisory committee start right at the top. It’s probably not a coincidence that the current chair is former Democratic Gov. Christine Gregoire of Washington State – the home of Boeing and, according to one study, recipient of 43.6 percent of Ex-Im funding, far and away the most of any state.

The Export-Import Bank’s charter was set to expire at the end of September, and for the last several months, a number of Congressional Republicans have been making noise about putting an end to the Bank by not renewing the charter. Of course, it’s exceedingly rare that wasteful government programs are eliminated or the size of government scaled back. All the talk this summer about killing the bank, however, heightened expectations that it might actually happen. But in the end, Republicans caved and agreed to extend the charter for nine months.

House Republicans moved Tuesday to extend the authority of the Export-Import Bank this month as part of a government-wide funding bill needed to prevent a shutdown at month’s end.

Republicans unveiled the measure, which would extend the bank’s charter through June 30, 2015, late Tuesday. House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, had telegraphed the move earlier in the day when he told reporters that even a powerful foe of the bank, Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas, believed a temporary extension was in order.

The Export-Import Bank is actually a fairly tiny component of the federal government’s overall massive assault on taxpayers. It is also one of the few wasteful programs that reformers have managed to subject to considerable public scrutiny. But despite the scrutiny and the relatively small size, reform was not achieved. The result is not encouraging. If reformers can’t defeat the Export-Import Bank, what hope for much larger programs like farm subsidies, welfare programs, and entitlements? Things are going to have to get much worse before they get better.

And finally, a word on politics. For what it’s worth, a considerable portion of the GOP’s Congressional caucus has spoken out against the Bank. But among Democrats, the Bank enjoys “widespread support.”

Democrats failed in an attempt to pressure GOP leaders into passing a long-term, five-year extension of the bank.

Among those Democrat supporters is Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, a noted populist firebrand who pretends to “fight” for the middle class and against greedy corporations.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) may market herself as a progressive populist, but when forced to choose between everyday Americans and billion dollar international corporations, Warren sides with the corporations.

“Senator Warren believes that the Export-Import Bank helps create American jobs and spur economic growth,” Warren spokeswoman Lacey Rose wrote in an e-mail to Bloomnberg News, “She looks forward to reviewing re-authorization legislation if and when it is introduced.”

“Progressive” voters hate big corporations and support politicians like Warren who pretend to ‘fight’ for the ‘little guy.’

Guess Lincoln was right. You really can “fool some of the people all of the time.”


Go Scotland Go !!

Scotland has been tied politically to England for some 300 years, but that might change after a September 18 vote on independence. How the vote will turn out is anyone’s guess, but the possibility that Scotland will break away is quite real. A recent YouGov poll put the pro-independence vote up narrowly, by 51 to 49 percent.

Scotland seems to want to end the union largely because the socialist Scots think that England, particularly London, a hub of world finance, is too capitalist. The Scots apparently want to build the proverbial Socialism in One Country, which of course, has failed everywhere it’s been tried.

In the long run, a break up would probably be good for both countries. English taxpayers pay a lot of welfare subsidies to Scotland, and they would welcome relief from the burden. Scotland needs England a lot more than England needs Scotland. Moreover, removing leftist Scottish voters from national elections might permit the rest of the UK to move in a less socialist direction. John Fund speculates that once Scottish voters are gone, the UK might even be able to extricate itself from the clutches of the European Union.

As for the Scots, if they pursue socialism, they will fail, and as a result, they will learn a valuable lesson. Forced to finally take responsibility for themselves, they’ll have no choice but to put their house in order. No longer will they be able to rely on subsidies from London. Nor will they be able to blame London for their problems. According to John Fund, a similar dynamic ensued back in the 1990s when the Slovaks separated from the Czechs.

I was in the Slovak capital of Bratislava in early 1993 when Czechoslovakia peacefully broke up. The two halves of the country had struggled for three years after the fall of Communism to stay together, but the Slovaks thought the state was too centered on the Czech capital of Prague, and the Czechs resented subsidies and over-representation of Slovaks in key bodies….

Back then, Czechs viewed the Slovaks as more statist and slower to seize economic opportunities than they were. But today, both countries have shown remarkable improvement in the Heritage Foundation’s Index of Economic Freedom; and last year, Slovakia’s economy grew by 2.1 percent…

“We are doing very well,” Miroslav Lajcak, Slovakia’s deputy prime minister, told the BBC last year. “The Czech republic is doing well, and our friendship is better than ever,” he said.

Slovakia’s population of 5.4 million is almost precisely that of Scotland, and its success shows how small countries can do well on their own.

And finally, as if any further confirmation were needed that the UK is a nation off its collective rocker, 16-year-olds will be allowed to vote on the referendum.

Even though 16- and 17-year-olds account for only 2.5 percent of eligible voters, they could make the difference in a close vote. Polls show that they are the most eager for independence.

Because video-game-playing 16-year-olds are known for carefully thinking through difficult questions of national sovereignty and political constitutions.

For hundreds of years, Scotland’s warrior class battled in vain to make their country independent of England. How remarkable that what legendary Scots such as William Wallace, Robert the Bruce, and Bonnie Prince Charlie all failed to achieve through blood and iron might now be accomplished by 16-year-olds with ballots.

It Takes a Village…to Ignore Child Rape

A prominent politician once famously said that “it takes a village” to raise a child. In reality, placing responsibility for children in the hands of the ‘village,’ meaning the state, too often results in child abuse of one form or another. In Britain recently, the state-enabled child abuse assumed a form so horrific as to beggar belief.

At least 1,400 children were subjected to appalling sexual exploitation in Rotherham between 1997 and 2013, a report has found.

Children as young as 11 were raped by multiple perpetrators, abducted, trafficked to other cities in England, beaten and intimidated, it said.

The report, commissioned by Rotherham Borough Council, revealed there had been three previous inquiries.


Professor Alexis Jay, who wrote the latest report, said there had been “blatant” collective failures by the council’s leadership, senior managers had “underplayed” the scale of the problem and South Yorkshire Police had failed to prioritise the issue.

Prof Jay said: “No-one knows the true scale of child sexual exploitation in Rotherham over the years. Our conservative estimate is that approximately 1,400 children were sexually exploited over the full inquiry period, from 1997 to 2013.”


The inquiry team found examples of “children who had been doused in petrol and threatened with being set alight, threatened with guns, made to witness brutally violent rapes and threatened they would be next if they told anyone”.


Failures by those charged with protecting children happened despite three reports between 2002 and 2006 which both the council and police were aware of, and “which could not have been clearer in the description of the situation in Rotherham”.

Prof Jay said the first of these reports was “effectively suppressed” because senior officers did not believe the data. The other two were ignored, she said.

The inquiry team found that in the early-2000s when a group of professionals attempted to monitor a number of children believed to be at risk, “managers gave little help or support to their efforts”.

The report revealed some people at a senior level in the police and children’s social care thought the extent of the problem was being “exaggerated”.

Prof Jay said: “The authorities involved have a great deal to answer for.”

Allison Pearson offers a few more details regarding the failure of the police.

One 11-year-old known as Child H told police that she and another girl had been sexually assaulted by grown men. Nothing was done. When she was 12, Child H was found in the back of a taxi with a man who had indecent pictures of her on his phone. Despite the full co-operation of her father, who insisted his daughter was being abused, police failed to act. Four months later, Child H was found in a house alone with a group of Pakistani men. What did the police do? They arrested the child for being drunk and disorderly and ignored her abusers.

More, from Tony Woodlief.

Local police have known about this for over ten years. So have all manner of child welfare authorities and local government officials. They convened conferences to discuss it. They combatted it with guidelines and policies. They bravely met for many hours, and boldly authored internal memos.

Perhaps we should expect no more when community preservation is outsourced to bureaucracies, but the unavoidable reality is that on many occasions, Rotherham police came upon children being sexually exploited—in some cases, in the very instance of being raped—and arrested no one. The perpetrators are Pakistani; they might call us racists. The children seemed to consent. These gangs are violent.

All of which amount to an admission by those police officers that they are cowards, and something less than men. I’m reminded of the janitors who discovered Penn State coach Jerry Sandusky’s rape of children, and who said nothing, for fear of losing their jobs. They were cowards too, and deserve to be remembered as such.

This site is dedicated to chronicling examples of government failure. Our intention is to persuade through the weight of accumulated evidence. But this particular instance of government failure is so horrendous that it makes other failures we document look trivial by comparison. We’re tempted to rest our case against government on this one post alone, and then to retire from the blog. Law professor Glenn Reynolds thought the failure so bad as to call into question the implicit social contract between the citizenry and the state.

A moral response to this behavior might involve those officials, among others, hanging from lampposts. The legal system is, ultimately, an ancient bargain: Renounce your mob violence and blood feuds and we will provide you with justice. It could be argued that such a default as this calls the whole bargain into question, and justifies self-help along ancient lines.

No doubt, heads must roll. The officials involved must be sacked, and in some cases, jailed. And more generally, if the quality of governance in the Western World continues its relentless deterioration, the time might soon arrive when the more public-spirited among the citizenry will need to seriously contemplate resorting to rebellion and rope.

Notable and Quotable

Jonah Goldberg:

It’s a little bizarre how the Left has always conflated statism with modernity and progress. The idea that rulers — be they chieftains, kings, priests, politburos, or wonkish bureaucrats — are enlightened or smart enough to tell others how to live is older than the written word. And the idea that someone stronger, with better weapons, has the right to take what is yours predates man’s discovery of fire by millennia. And yet, we’re always told that the latest rationalization for increased state power is the “wave of the future.”

That phrase, “the wave of the future,” became famous thanks to a 1940 essay by Anne Morrow Lindbergh. She argued that the time of liberal democratic capitalism was drawing to a close and the smart money was on statism of one flavor or another — fascism, Communism, socialism, etc. What was lost on her, and millions of others, was that this wasn’t progress toward the new, but regression to the past. These “waves of the future” were simply gussied-up tribalisms, anachronisms made gaudy with the trappings of modernity, like a gibbon in a spacesuit.

The only truly new political idea in the last couple thousand years is this libertarian idea, broadly understood. The revolution wrought by John Locke, Edmund Burke, Adam Smith, and the Founding Fathers is the only real revolution going.

Lady Luck?

This is a very interesting story.  My takeaway is that marrying a lawyer is probably not the best idea:

Harold Hamm is an improbable billionaire, the 13th child of sharecroppers who grew up to control more oil than anyone who isn’t a king or a dictator. So from the moment the news broke last year that he and his wife of 25 years were divorcing, the expectation on Wall Street was that Hamm would accept a fight for his cash and his company. Just not a fight like this.

In Hamm v. Hamm, which is in its second week at trial inside a closed Oklahoma City courtroom, one of the world’s largest personal fortunes is caught up in a timeless conundrum of cause and effect. Did Mr. Hamm become one of the planet’s 50 richest people because he was essentially lucky, a Jed Clampett whose shot happened to strike black gold? Or did he climb the human ziggurat primarily because of sweat and skill, a Ragged Dick whose labor set him free?

In legal terms, the case comes down to “active” versus “passive” appreciation of marital assets, explained Carolyn Thompson, a prominent divorce lawyer in Oklahoma City. “To the extent that it was his work that made him wealthy, then it’s a marital asset, subject to equitable division. If it is attributable to what we call ‘passive’ factors—outside his control—then it remains Harold’s property.”

In February Judge Howard Haralson set this question in motion. He ruled that Mr. Hamm’s stake in Continental Resources was personal property. After all, Mr. Hamm had founded the company back in 1967, two decades before he married a brown-eyed lawyer named Sue Ann.

But Continental’s value has quintupled in recent years, producing more than $17 billion in value, according to an economic analysis by his wife’s legal team. On Monday Judge Haralson released that document, and within the next few weeks he plans to apportion the $17 billion based on what he believes created it: the work of Mr. Hamm, the grace and beneficence of Mother Earth, or, most likely, some combination.

The result is a downright Shakespearean drama, according to a lawyer familiar with the case. In one corner, the richest energy mogul in America—a drawling, cantankerous, fire-eyed game hunter and amateur pilot—is claiming that all $17 billion was essentially dumb luck. In the other, his wife—who moved out years ago—is claiming that all $17 billion is the result of her husband’s infinite wisdom.