Economics humor

April 26, 2015

I know… sounds like an oxymoron, doesn’t it?

Via CoyoteBlog


The battle over unions in Wisconsin

April 26, 2015

Here’s a recent article in National Review about an on-going political battle in Wisconsin.

Wisconsin’s Shame: ‘I Thought It Was a Home Invasion’

Cindy Archer, one of the lead architects of Wisconsin’s Act 10 — also called the “Wisconsin Budget Repair Bill,” it limited public-employee benefits and altered collective-bargaining rules for public-employee unions — was jolted awake by yelling, loud pounding at the door, and her dogs’ frantic barking. The entire house — the windows and walls — was shaking.

She looked outside to see up to a dozen police officers, yelling to open the door. They were carrying a battering ram.

She wasn’t dressed, but she started to run toward the door, her body in full view of the police. Some yelled at her to grab some clothes, others yelled for her to open the door.

“I was so afraid,” she says. “I did not know what to do.” She grabbed some clothes, opened the door, and dressed right in front of the police. The dogs were still frantic.

“I begged and begged, ‘Please don’t shoot my dogs, please don’t shoot my dogs, just don’t shoot my dogs.’ I couldn’t get them to stop barking, and I couldn’t get them outside quick enough. I saw a gun and barking dogs. I was scared and knew this was a bad mix.”

She got the dogs safely out of the house, just as multiple armed agents rushed inside. Some even barged into the bathroom, where her partner was in the shower. The officer or agent in charge demanded that Cindy sit on the couch, but she wanted to get up and get a cup of coffee.

“I told him this was my house and I could do what I wanted.” Wrong thing to say. “This made the agent in charge furious. He towered over me with his finger in my face and yelled like a drill sergeant that I either do it his way or he would handcuff me.”

They wouldn’t let her speak to a lawyer. She looked outside and saw a person who appeared to be a reporter. Someone had tipped him off. […]

Most Americans have never heard of these raids, or of the lengthy criminal investigations of Wisconsin conservatives. For good reason. Bound by comprehensive secrecy orders, conservatives were left to suffer in silence as leaks ruined their reputations, as neighbors, looking through windows and dismayed at the massive police presence, the lights shining down on targets’ homes, wondered, no doubt, What on earth did that family do? […]

Largely hidden from the public eye, this traumatic process, however, is now heading toward a legal climax, with two key rulings expected in the late spring or early summer. The first ruling, from the Wisconsin supreme court, could halt the investigations for good, in part by declaring that the “misconduct” being investigated isn’t misconduct at all but the simple exercise of First Amendment rights.

The second ruling, from the United States Supreme Court, could grant review on a federal lawsuit brought by Wisconsin political activist Eric O’Keefe and the Wisconsin Club for Growth, the first conservatives to challenge the investigations head-on. If the Court grants review, it could not only halt the investigations but also begin the process of holding accountable those public officials who have so abused their powers.

But no matter the outcome of these court hearings, the damage has been done. In the words of Mr. O’Keefe, “The process is the punishment.”

I’ve read a couple of accounts of this affair over the last few years and my impressions are:

First, that those in favor of strong public sector unions in Wisconsin are using their official powers to try to silence those who would limit the power of public sector unions (teachers, police and the like). Since I agree that the power of public sector unions often needs to be curbed, I’ve supported Governor Walker.

Because there’s something wrong with a system where legally-required union dues can be used by union leadership to support politicians who, in turn, are the people the unions negotiate their contracts with. Just look at one example of what’s happened in California when a situation like that is written into law.

My second impression, though, is that the worm has turned. The rise of unions was no walk in the park and the story of how unions came to be is filled with examples of those who opposed them using the force of the State against them. (Of course, most of those early struggles weren’t on behalf of public sector workers.)

All of which brings me back to my usual position: if we don’t want events like these to happen, we need to limit the State’s power so that those who would abuse that power can’t. It sounds as though Wisconsin needs to work on its law for John Doe investigations.


Bad forensics

April 25, 2015

Here’s an article from the Washington Post about problems with forensic hair analysis. Many folks have been pointing out the pseudo-scientific nature of hair analysis, bite-mark analysis, and the like. for some time now. It’s good to see it getting more attention.

FBI admits flaws in hair analysis over decades

The Justice Department and FBI have formally acknowledged that nearly every examiner in an elite FBI forensic unit gave flawed testimony in almost all trials in which they offered evidence against criminal defendants over more than a two-decade period before 2000.

Of 28 examiners with the FBI Laboratory’s microscopic hair comparison unit, 26 overstated forensic matches in ways that favored prosecutors in more than 95 percent of the 268 trials reviewed so far, according to the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL) and the Innocence Project, which are assisting the government with the country’s largest post-conviction review of questioned forensic evidence.

The cases include those of 32 defendants sentenced to death. Of those, 14 have been executed or died in prison, the groups said under an agreement with the government to release results after the review of the first 200 convictions. […]

The State is not always or necessarily your protector.

H.T. Paul


You can’t blame the wreck on the train

March 21, 2015

It looks like the Venezuelan government is still fighting that toilet paper conspiracy, among others.

Fetch me my lance, Sancho!

Venezuela To Start Fingerprinting Supermarket Shoppers

Back in August, when we wrote about the latest instance of trouble in Maduro’s socialist paradise, we cautioned that as a result of the economic collapse in the Latin American nation (and this was even before the plunge in crude made the “paradise” into the 9th circle of hell), Venezuelans soon may need to have their fingerprints scanned before they can buy bread and other staples. This unprecedented step was proposed after Maduro had the brilliant idea of proposing mandatory grocery fingerprinting system to combat food shortages. He said then that “the program will stop people from buying too much of a single item”, but did not say when it would take effect. […]

Unfortunately for the struggling Venezuelan population, the time has arrived and as AP reported over the weekend, Venezuela “will begin installing 20,000 fingerprint scanners at supermarkets nationwide in a bid to stamp out hoarding and panic buying” as of this moment. […]

On Saturday, President Nicolas Maduro said that seven large private retail chains had voluntarily agreed to install the scanners.

Last month the owners of several chains of supermarkets and drugstores were arrested for allegedly artificially creating long queues by not opening enough tills.

It gets better: Maduro also accused Colombian food smugglers of buying up price-controlled goods in state-run supermarkets along the border.

For the first time in recent history the economists who say the effort is bound to fail, are right. They blame Venezuela’s rigid price controls that discourage local manufacturing and the recent slide in world oil prices that has further diminished the supply of dollars available to import everything from milk to cars.

As BBC further adds, in January the hashtag #AnaquelesVaciosEnVenezuela (“Empty shelves in Venezuela”) became a worldwide Twitter trend, with over 200,000 tweets as Venezuelans tweeted pictures of empty supermarket shelves around the country.


Living free and dying

February 22, 2015

I suppose I wasn’t the only kid who daydreamed about being a hobo, at least among people of similar age and background. I recall reading stories that included hobo characters or which were about hobos and their foot-loose way of life was attractive to a boy living under his parents’ and schoool’s discipline.

So I enjoyed this short documentary about modern day hobos in the U.S. Watching it reminded me that I’d still like to travel across the country by train just to see what’s out there, away from the Interstates and the airports.

Are there hobos in other countries? I don’t know. There are migrant workers, surely; I wonder if they have a tradition of riding freight trains between jobs.

Thinking about hobos reminded me of Hard Times, Studs Turkel’s oral history of the Great Depression. (It’s a good book to read, if you haven’t.) That site has links to audio of the interviews he conducted while writing the book.

Here’s an interview with a former hobo named Frank Czerwonka and another with a fellow named Louis Banks.

Stories about hobos led me to thinking about songs about them. Here’s Jimmie Rodger’s Hobo’s Meditation. I particularly like the cover of this song by Parton, Ronstandt, and Harris on their album Trio.

And I can’t bring up hobo songs without mentioning Roger Miller’s King of the Road, of course. Years ago, I heard a local musician perform this and he described it as ‘flawless’.


More unnecessary spending

February 21, 2015

I spotted this Jeep in west St. Louis county recently and found the sign pretty funny. After the obvious “Jeeps are awesome” angle, I took it as a joke about libertarians. But I thought it was amusing nonetheless.

At the very least, it might make people think about government spending. And maybe some thoughtful ones will think about who builds roads and how they’re financed.


Mark Major at The Outlaw Urbanist used the sticker as a starting for point for an editorial. (I haven’t read the whole piece so have no opinion about it.)


Manifest Destiny updated

November 30, 2014

Here’s a very nicely done clip quoting Carl Sagan about space exploration. If you watch, do so in full-screen mode.


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