Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Cruising the Web

Whew! All the country's problems will soon end.
Oscar-winning actress Jennifer Lawrence said she is taking a yearlong break from acting to focus on activism and help “fix our democracy.”

...“I’m going to take the next year off,” Lawrence told Entertainment Tonight, “I’m going to be working with this organization I’m a part of: Represent.Us. It’s just trying to get young people engaged politically on a local level.”

She claims her activism work will have nothing to do with partisan politics. “It’s just anti-corruption and stuff trying to pass state-by-state laws that can help prevent corruption, fix our democracy. And then I don’t know what I’m doing next.”

The organization Lawrence got involved in claims to bring together “conservatives, progressives, and everyone in between to pass powerful anti-corruption laws that stop political bribery, end secret money, and fix our broken elections.”
Gee, if only we'd realized that earnest young people could get politicians to stop being partisan? And why wouldn't a person with the following views be able to bring together people of all views?
Lawrence has long expressed interest in activism, attacking President Donald Trump multiple times. In 2015, she said, “If Donald Trump becomes president, that will be the end of the world,” according to Entertainment Weekly.

More recently, she suggested the devastating hurricanes in Texas and Florida last year were signs of “Mother Nature’s rage and wrath” at America for electing Trump and not believing in man-made climate change.

“You know, you’re watching these hurricanes now, and it’s really hard, especially while promoting this movie, not to feel Mother Nature’s rage and wrath," she said back in September.

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J.D. Tuccille writes at Reason
to imagine what will happen if we actually do pass a law to ban semiautomatic weapons.
Warned by experts that yet another "assault weapons" ban made no sense because "as a matter of functionality, these guns are just like other rifles. They're more powerful than some handguns and rifles, and less powerful than others," they decided to go a step further. Encouraged by Supreme Court turnover and the resulting opportunity to redefine the Second Amendment out of existence, Congress banned all semiautomatic firearms in private hands, with compensation promised in return.

Many lawmakers later admitted that they never realized that semiautomatics made up maybe half of the 310 million guns estimated by the Congressional Research Service to be in private hands as of 2009. Just as important, they'd never understood that, outside of a very few jurisdictions with some sort of registration on the books, the government really didn't know who owned what guns. Even in those jurisdictions, compliance had been spotty—15 percent compliance with assault weapon registration in Connecticut, and 5 percent in New York. Many owners had openly refused to abide by registration laws out of fear of precisely what had come to pass: compensated confiscation.

A few million guns were surrendered, and victory weakly proclaimed—to much cheering in some media circles, and jeering elsewhere in the fractured country. The largely unplanned-for cost of compensating the owners of those few million guns sparked a new round of jeers. The surrendered guns came overwhelmingly from the jurisdictions with registration, and from people sympathetic to the law.

Congress summoned its energy one more time and passed ammunition restrictions. From now on, you could only purchase ammunition for weapons registered in your name.

Gun sales surged again, now for bolt- and lever-action rifles chambered in rounds traditionally used in semiautomatic rifles, and revolvers that similarly accepted traditionally semiautomatic calibers. It escaped nobody's notice that ammunition purchased for a legal weapon could also be used in guns that never made it to the registration lists.

Enjoying similar surges in popularity were ammunition reloading supplies, purchased by people who wanted to stay entirely clear of registration lists. A new generation of 3D printers and CNC machines also saw booming sales as enthusiasts flocked to arsenal-in-a-box solutions that let them manufacture almost anything they wanted at home. The simplest CNC machines converted 50 percent lowers into finished firearm receivers—that was down from 80 percent, but likely to go no further after engineers scolded legislators that they were coming close to criminalizing blocks of metal.

Enforcement of the new laws proved to be exceedingly uneven, with many state and local law enforcement agencies—especially those serving gun-friendly constituencies—explicitly opting out. "It is well established that the federal government cannot force state officials to implement federal laws," legal experts reminded angry gun control advocates. That left the most enthusiastic enforcement in areas where support for the law and compliance was already strongest.
Tuccille links to this 2015 column by UCLA law professor Adam Winkler that explains why an assault rifle ban wouldn't reduce gun violence. First of all, assault weapons have been banned since 1986. What people are talking about now are what are sometimes called semi-automatic rifles like the AR-15.
These rifles are easy to use, even for beginners. They are accurate, have little kick and are highly customizable with add-ons such as special sights and grips. In part because of these attributes, and in part because of their sleek military styling, these guns have become hugely popular among law-abiding gun owners.

As a matter of functionality, these guns are just like other rifles. They're more powerful than some handguns and rifles, and less powerful than others.

They're "semiautomatic" — a technical term that applies to the way rounds are chambered, not to the way the guns shoot. Many handguns are semiautomatic too. Military-style rifles fire only one round for each pull of the trigger, just like a revolver, a shotgun, a hunting rifle or any other of the 300 million legal guns in America.

It's true that these rifles are often sold with detachable high-capacity ammunition magazines that increase their lethality, enabling a shooter to fire more than a dozen rounds quickly. (Such magazines are illegal to sell in California.) But again, these firearms are not unique in this. About half the handguns in the U.S. also have detachable high-capacity magazines.

The only thing unique about assault rifles is their menacing name and look, and it is these elements that make them such an appealing — if not particularly sensible — target of gun control advocates.
There was a federal ban on those guns from 1994 to 2004. Eight states have assault weapon bans.
The laws, however, are largely ineffectual. Because these guns are really just ordinary rifles, it is hard for legislators to effectively regulate them without banning half the handguns in the country (those that are semiautomatic and/or have detachable magazines) and many hunting rifles as well.

Lawmakers have instead focused on cosmetics. The federal ban applied to all semiautomatic rifles with detachable magazines and two or more military-style features, like flash suppressors and a bayonet attachment. California law tightens the rules a bit; even one of the military-style features is prohibited.

But gun makers have been able to easily skirt these laws. They just sell the same semiautomatic rifle, with the same lethality, but without the military-style features.

Little wonder then that a 2004 study commissioned by the Department of Justice found that the federal ban didn't lead to any decrease in gun crime or gun deaths. For starters, rifles, assault or otherwise, are rarely used in gun crime. Notwithstanding the two rifles used in San Bernardino (and a few other memorable mass killings), rifles account for only about 3% of criminal gun deaths. Gun crime in the United States

This is an astounding chart.
Mark Perry of the Carpe Diem blog had posted the chart and now he reports some of the comments that he received on the chart from Twitter.
See any patterns? Tradeables (with import competition like TVs) vs. non-tradeables (like childcare), manufactured goods (with import competition like clothing and cars) vs. services (medical, hospitals, education), competitive (software) vs. protected industries (healthcare), degree of government involvement/funding/regulation?

Here are some comments from Twitter about the chart, which I posted there a few days ago and which has been re-Tweeted more than 200 times.

1. Blue lines = prices subject to free market forces. Red lines = prices subject to regulatory capture by government. Food and drink is debatable either way. Conclusion: remind me why socialism is so great again.

2. Interesting, almost all of the items above the line are protected industries while those below the line are subject to generally robust competition…

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Kevin Williamson notes
a "tell" that Trump uses when he's lying.
Strange thing about Trump and his superlatives: It isn’t enough for him to be rich—he is compelled to pretend he is richer than he is. It isn’t enough to be a playboy who disposes of used wives like old newspapers—he is compelled to lie about his sex life to the press he claims to hold in contempt, inventing imaginary friends such as John Barron to peddle lies to reporters on his behalf. And it isn’t enough that he was elected president—he is compelled to pretend that he was elected in a landslide, by a historically large margin rather than a relatively small one. Trump is an odd specimen, indeed: a confidence man lacking in confidence.

In his weekend tweetstorm, the president (typing the preceding words is dismay-inducing) lied about having denied Russia’s election adventure. “I never said Russia did not meddle in the election,” he wrote. In fact, he said that a number of times. E.g. this Fox News postelection interview: “I think it’s ridiculous. I think it’s just another excuse. I don’t believe it. I don’t know why, and I think it’s just — you know, they talked about all sorts of things. Every week, it’s another excuse.”

And the next sentence out of his mouth was: “We had a massive landslide victory, as you know, in the Electoral College.”

Trump has some pretty obvious tells. No wonder he lost his shirt in the casino business.

K.C. Johnson, who has a been a fierce defender of due process rights for university students accused of sexual assault, points to this statement from Ruth Bader Ginsburg in an interview in The Atlantic.
Rosen: What about due process for the accused?

Ginsburg: Well, that must not be ignored and it goes beyond sexual harassment. The person who is accused has a right to defend herself or himself, and we certainly should not lose sight of that. Recognizing that these are complaints that should be heard. There’s been criticism of some college codes of conduct for not giving the accused person a fair opportunity to be heard, and that’s one of the basic tenets of our system, as you know, everyone deserves a fair hearing.

Rosen: Are some of those criticisms of the college codes valid?

Ginsburg: Do I think they are? Yes.

Rosen: I think people are hungry for your thoughts about how to balance the values of due process against the need for increased gender equality.

Ginsburg: It’s not one or the other. It’s both. We have a system of justice where people who are accused get due process, so it’s just applying to this field what we have applied generally.
Since so many of the victims of the university's denial of due process rights are suing the schools (and winning), K.C. Johnson predicts that Ginsburg's words will "find its way into some of the campus due process complaints & perhaps even a decision or two."

Michael Barone points
out that Ginsburg's words put her on the same side as the woman the left detests, Betsy DeVos.

Jazz Shaw links to this story about how the Marine Corps has lowered requirements to become a Marine combat officer so as to help out women to pass the course.
The U.S. Marine Corps will no longer require prospective officers to pass a punishing combat endurance test to graduate from the service’s Infantry Officer Course.

Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Robert Neller quietly made the shift to standards in November, altering the test from a pass/fail requirement to just one of many exercises measured as part of overall IOC evaluation, the Marine Corps Times first reported on Thursday.

The course is considered among the military’s toughest training programs, with about a quarter of all students failing to complete it, according to the Washington Post. Most of the 30-plus women who have attempted IOC dropped on the first day during the combat endurance test.

Only one female Marine has graduated from the course since former Defense Secretary Ash Carter announced that all military combat roles would be open to women in 2015.

Marine Training Command officials rejected the notion that the change slackens service standards and said it brings the exercise back to its original intent of assessing the "retention of knowledge, skills, and fitness achieved" at IOC, reported....

Officials said a Marine’s score on the combat endurance test would "inform" their overall graduation assessment.

Though some have proposed abandoning the test as a fail point in IOC, others have said such a change would lower overall Marine standards.

Marine 2nd Lt. Emma Stokien argued in a 2014 op-ed that removing the required passage of the test would negatively impact female integration into the service.

"Changing this rite of passage will be doing female Marines no favors in trying to be infantry officers," Stokien wrote in War on the Rocks. "Female Marines often have to work much harder than their peers to earn the same respect, and entering the infantry under the dark cloud of even perceived lowered standards will make this a practically impossible challenge and potentially cause real harm to unit cohesion and the faith between leader and led."
Shaw comments,
The few details known about the training regimen are daunting. Applicants are tossed out on a forced march in the dark of night carrying 80 or 100 pounds of gear on their backs. They have to carry that gear and hold their rifles over their heads while treading water, scaling walls, completing an obstacle course and other tasks. They’re also “taken by surprise” in simulated enemy ambush situations and judged by how they “respond to pain” in realistic combat scenarios.

Obviously, the number of women who are capable of all that is vanishingly small in the general population. Heck, the number of men who can manage it is no doubt far below one percent. Why do you think we call them the few and the proud?

But the fact is, there were a few women completing the CET. In the first year of trials, three women made it through, though they didn’t finish the entire IOC. And wasn’t that always the expectation? We supposedly weren’t guaranteeing any particular number of women roles as combat officers in the Marine Corps. We were just giving them the opportunity to try and prove they have what it takes.

But now, some aspiring officers (presumably of both genders) who fail to complete the CET will still make it through and lead Marines into combat. You can say that you’re “not lowering the standards” until you’re blue in the face, but it sure looks that way from the outside.

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Accusations have been roiling British politics
The Sun found documents in the Czech archives that Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn had met with a Czechoslovakian spy back in the 1980s. Jan Sarkocy, the Czechoslovakian agent, claims that Corbyn was a paid informant with the codename "Agent Cob." Corbyn claims that he didn't know that the guy was a spy and just thought he was a Czech diplomat. The Czech government today is saying that Corbyn was not an informant. There is another accusation about Corbyn's questionable activities during the Cold War.
A second file on Mr Corbyn is reportedly held in the archives of the former East German secret police, the Stasi, and can only be released with the Labour leader’s permission. Almost 5,000 people have signed an online petition calling on him to request the file is released.
How convenient that he is not giving permission for the files to be released.

Who knows if the story is true or not. But, as Douglas Murray points out, is there anything in Corbyn's personal history that would lead us to be shocked if the story took out to be true?
The Labour party leader has been in the most obscure corner of British politics for three decades, only moving to the front-bench — let alone his party’s leadership — in 2015. During those decades, he used his obscure corner of politics to only one discernible end: to agitate for almost any group so long as they opposed the British state. He was, for example, the most prominent supporter in Parliament of the IRA, inviting its leaders to Parliament just after they had attempted to assassinate a British prime minister, and even standing to honor as “martyrs” IRA terrorists killed in an attack on a British police station. Today. Corbyn’s supporters like to pretend that their leader was merely the foremost, advance-brigade of the “peace” business and that in all the years supporting IRA killers he was in fact merely paving the way for the Good Friday Agreement. An agreement in which he paid no part.

A similar story has played out since 2015 regarding Corbyn’s support for almost any Islamist extremist he can get his hands on. Whenever he has been quizzed in recent years on why he has been so keen to meet Hamas, Hezbollah, and any free-floating Holocaust-denier who might not otherwise have made it into his orbit, here too his supporters explain that this is all just part of a broader search for “peace.” Albeit a peace that involves only meeting one side and then expressing unyielding solidarity with their cause.

The list goes on. His support for, and apologism on behalf of, the government of Venezuela remains immovable. As do his set-responses when quizzed about an even worse alliance. When asked why between 2009 and 2012 Corbyn received £20,000 from the government of Iran via its “Press TV” propaganda channel, he and his supporters claim that all this happened many years ago and that besides £20,000 isn’t an enormous amount. Few people can honestly assess the record of Corbyn’s beliefs, pay, and connections and come away believing the claim that he is indeed merely a fair-minded fellow with the best interests of his country at heart.