Meanwhile in Venezuela... sounds like Ragnarok came early.

Don't Forget: Ragnarok Starts Tomorrow

The countdown clock at the JORVIK Viking Center is under 20 hours at this writing. Hope you're prepared -- just in case.

Turnpike Troubadours

Good red dirt country, and they put on a great show, if you can catch them.

Here's three of theirs I like, though I haven't found any I didn't like yet. (Yeah, the first two are from the same album, so the video starts w/ the same cover.)

Update: Two of my favorite country bands got together without telling me ... I'm hurt. (And YouTube won't let me embed it for some reason.)

Checking In On Queensland

Remember when we were talking about the new Aussie laws against bikers? Groups declared to be "gangs" by government fiat could no longer hire plumbers, because any plumber who worked with them would have his license pulled. Queensland has started making noises about pushing that concept on lawyers, too. After all, lawyers have licenses that can be pulled, and too many lawyers have been willing to side against the government by defending people charged under these laws:
Not content with upsetting the blue-collar workforce, Queensland premier Campbell Newman labelled members of the legal fraternity involved in defending bikies as:

…part of the machine, part of the criminal gang machine.
Turns out these lawyers are real bad apples.
Mr Newman shocked the legal community last week when he labelled lawyers who represented bikies as “hired guns”.

“They take money from people who sell drugs to our teenagers and young people. Yes, everybody’s got a right to be defended under the law, but you’ve got to see that for what it is,” he said.

“They are part of the criminal gang machine and they will see, say and do anything to defend their clients and try and get them off, or indeed progress their sort of case, their dishonest case.”
What about the plumbers, though? Can the plumbers hire lawyers without being 'part of the criminal gang machine'?

And, by the way, if you could prove these were criminal gangs, why wouldn't you just do that without going after their lawyers and plumbers?

Friday Night AMV

Police. State.

Cyborgs. Robots. Computer surveillance. Computer hacking. Secret government security organization infighting. Amazing amounts of weaponry. Health Ministry Commandoes.


McArdle on how important it is to be able to learn to fail. Learning how to fail well is one of the secrets to success. I've failed at very many things, over the years. If you're not failing, you're not really pushing yourself. You're not growing. You're not learning important lessons about how to bounce back when -- as is inevitable -- you do hit a wall you can't get over. She's quite right about all this.

No one will listen, of course, because the stakes are too high. It isn't just colleges that think this way, because these markers of perfection aren't really about accomplishment but about obedience to the expectations of your superiors. The Unfailing are reliable, not for the kind of entrepreneurs that McArdle is thinking of when she talks about the Dot-Coms, but for the big bureaucracies that dominate the centers of power in DC and New York.

Get on with one of those, and you're set for life. It won't matter that you've never learned to think for yourself, but only to parrot carefully what you've been told by your superiors is the right answer. That's just what they want you to do. Unfailingly.

An End To An Era

Did I miss the point at which Pravda bought out the Washington Post?
With the 2015 budget request, Obama will call for an end to the era of austerity that has dogged much of his presidency and to his efforts to find common ground with Republicans.
Well, I mean, last year's projections do look a bit like austerity, if you're stone blind.

Obviously that kind of thing can't continue. I had some notion that the correction might run the other way, though.

Why Not The First?

What's so special about the First Amendment, anyway? The Tenth is treated as a dead letter. Why shouldn't the First be?
[U]nder the Obama administration, the Federal Communications Commission is planning to send government contractors into the nation's newsrooms to determine whether journalists are producing articles, television reports, Internet content, and commentary that meets the public's "critical information needs." Those "needs" will be defined by the administration, and news outlets that do not comply with the government's standards could face an uncertain future. It's hard to imagine a project more at odds with the First Amendment.

The initiative, known around the agency as "the CIN Study" (pronounced "sin"), is a bit of a mystery even to insiders. "This has never been put to an FCC vote, it was just announced," says Ajit Pai, one of the FCC's five commissioners (and one of its two Republicans).
That's funny, "sin." Everybody remember how that Alinsky book was formally dedicated to Lucifer? Ha, ha, ha. What a great joke.
Participation in the Critical Information Needs study is voluntary—in theory. Unlike the opinion surveys that Americans see on a daily basis and either answer or not, as they wish, the FCC's queries may be hard for the broadcasters to ignore. They would be out of business without an FCC license, which must be renewed every eight years.

Juggling with robots

This guy is having a blast.

Ted Cruz is winning

David Harsanyi on the debt ceiling cave:
As much as some of us are fans of “dysfunction,” tactically speaking, playing defense forever is no strategy.  Yes, the establishment works tirelessly within the political realities of the day.  Cruz, it seems, is more interested in changing the reality of his situation.  Forcing a 60-vote threshold on the debt ceiling wasn’t only about the debt ceiling (which Cruz surely understood would be hiked), and it wasn’t only about his presidential ambitions (which he surely has), but creating the type of problems for the GOP that will help bring a bunch of Matt Bevins into the Senate and solidify his position.

Gloating From Left Field

'Joe the Plumber' became famous in 2008 for questioning candidate Obama about how his higher taxes might disrupt those like himself who wanted to start small businesses. He managed to get the candidate to admit to something embarrassing, and as a result became the most hated man in America for a little while. It didn't change the election, and Joe -- like millions of other Americans -- found the business climate poisoned against small business both by tax changes and, especially, by the unknowable costs of health care 'reform.'

So he invested his money in part-ownership of a gun store (which has to have been one of the savvier investments anyone has made in this endless bad economy), and went back to being a working man. Turns out he has a new job.

It's a union job. Now I've always been a supporter of unions myself, provided that they play fair with their members and don't go making monopolies out of themselves. I've seen firsthand how unions in Savannah helped people from the working class, for whom advanced education was never an option, nevertheless climb into stable middle-class lives.

That's a good thing, and a job at Chrysler is honest work. Still, for a man who wanted to own his own business, it's kind of a fall to have to go back to working for somebody else.

If you follow the first link, you can read some pleased-with-themselves commentary about how lucky he is that the unions were there to help him find a job with good pay and benefits.

Well, sure.

But let's not forget that he has to look for a job with the unions precisely because he was right about candidate Obama. If the 2008 election had gone the other way, there'd be a lot more people who started small businesses -- and those good union jobs could go to some of our millions of unemployed. In fact, there would be more union jobs because all those small business owners and all their employees would be making money that could be used to buy cars.

I hope you enjoy the gloating, because it sure has been expensive.

There's A Little Cursing On This Video

In their defense, though, they can't possibly hear what they are saying.

More of the story at BLACKFIVE.

More happy economic news for flyover country

Occidental Petroleum spins off its California "assets" and moves its headquarters to Houston.  Something about wanting to be near places where people still conduct drilling operations.  And that pesky Perry is probably at it again.

John Kerry falls off turnip truck, gives interview

Hey!  It almost looks as if both Syria and Russia were operating in bad faith.  It's no wonder Kerry isn't getting what he wants, if that kind of unexpected development is going to keep sabotaging his strategies.

As Powerline notes:
I am starting to understand why so many liberals are isolationists.  If your foreign policy is going to be this bad, isolationism might well be a better alternative:  a variant on the medical injunction, “First, do no harm.”

More happy labor news for the South

Maybe New York really isn't for conservatives.


I asked earlier this week why VW couldn't listen to its employees in Chattanooga without establishing a union.  I started to notice a routine statement included in every story on the recent anti-union vote to the effect that "labor experts" agree it would be illegal to set up a works council without a union.

Hmm.  Now why would that be?  Do we need some kind of Protestant Reformation to establish the right of workers to speak directly to management without the intercession of a union and the sacrifice of 2-1/2 hours a month to pay for union dues?

A lot may depend on the name.  According to the N.Y. Times, "A works council is a committee, common at German factories, in which white-collar and blue-collar workers elect representatives who establish policies on issues like work hours, vacations and standards for firing workers."  Taken this way, a "works council" is a body with the power to lay down the law for workers.  Federal labor law prevents the establishment of such a body if it is "controlled" by management:
Many American labor experts say it would be illegal under federal law for a company to establish a works council unless workers first voted to have a union represent them.  Without that, a works council might be viewed as an illegal company-dominated, company-created employee group.
Apparently, however, there is such a thing as an "American-style works council," which "could be consulted only on some limited matters rather than negotiate with management on working conditions."   A pro-management labor expert explains:
[A]s long as any workforce body only "consults" with management, they may meet U.S. labor law but if they "deal" -- or negotiate -- with management then that would not be allowed.  "The test is whether they are exchanging ideas and proposals with management.  If they refrain from that, you will have a committee with diluted power, but more likely will be accepted" under U.S. labor law, he said.
According to Truth Out,
Works councils were established in Germany through a 1920 law, specifically as an alternative to the workers’ councils that had sprung up in many factories after World War I.   Workers attempted to take direct democratic control of the plants through the workers’ councils, on their way to a revolution that would take over the government.  That uprising was thwarted. 
The works councils, then, were the German government’s attempt at pacifying militant workers.  There were mass demonstrations by workers who opposed the works councils law, charging it would hinder workers’ independent organization.  Forty-two were killed by police and a state of emergency was declared, but the law went into effect. 
The works councils were abolished by the Nazis but reinstated after World War II under the military government of the United States and its allies.
The Washington Post interviewed Sen. Bob Corker (R.-Tenn.), who is no fan of the UAW:
"Our concern is not with the works council and never has been, and Volkswagen knows that very well.  U.S. labor relations and German relations are very different.  There's some question as to how a works council can be set up in the U.S., and there are various opinions on both sides of the spectrum, one says you have to have a union, one says you don't.  But we in no way have been negative relative to the works council.  It's really been the fact that the UAW would be the implementing entity.  We've even told Volkswagen that, 'why don't you guys create your own union within the plant, if you feel like that is something that is necessary to fully implement this in a way you see fit.'  I will say that BMW has implemented its works council without the UAW." 
Note:  BMW embraces a co-determination model, but has not responded to a request for clarification about whether or not it has a works council at its U.S facilities, nor was Corker's staff able to confirm the nature of employee-management relations there.  "If they do have a works council, it's illegal," says Thomas Kochan, Co-Director of the MIT Sloan Institute for Work and Employment Research.  "You cannot have a company-sponsored union."
But according to a former NLRB member appointed by George H.W. Bush,
Volkswagen's Chattanooga employees can achieve all that a German-style labor board is set up to do without having to join a union. 
"Discussions over productivity, workplace safety, working conditions, we can have those discussions," said John Raudabaugh, who is now a labor law professor at Ave Maria School of Law in Naples, Fla. 
Raudabaugh, an NLRB member from 1990 to 1993 who later practiced in the Washington, D.C., office of the Nixon Peabody law firm, said VW employees and the company can "reach a win-win outcome without having to pay a third party" such as the United Auto Workers. 
However, a UAW official took issue with Raudabaugh, saying it is "universally recognized that you can't have a German-style effective works council system without a union to negotiate it." 
Gary Casteel, a UAW regional director in Lebanon, Tenn., said there is "no way under U.S. labor law" to set up such a labor board that could deal with substantive matters or have authority such as a union with the power to negotiate.  A works council, which could represent blue- and white-collar employees of a plant over issues such as hours or working conditions, is envisioned by the UAW in Chattanooga.  VW's Chattanooga plant could become the first auto factory in the U.S. to have such a German-style works council arrangement. 
Raudabaugh said the NLRB prohibits situations where employees and management engage in back and forth discussions to specifically reach a mutual agreement on wages and work conditions.  But, he said, companies don't need unions to talk to employees. 
"They can meet for free without paying a union," said Raudabaugh, who was appointed to the NLRB by former President George H.W. Bush.  "Employees should focus on using their money for their personal purposes."

Root causes

In a twist on the usual "root causes" argument, the Sultan of Knish argues that the left's welfare state and the right's police state are both attempts to treat symptoms rather than diseases:
The police escalation that shows up on countless videos exists because the people demanded it. And the people demanded it because liberal social policies made entire cities unlivable.  The militarized police forces out of cities like Los Angeles filtered down to the suburbs and the rural areas as the same policies and populations that made cities unlivable began spreading outward. 
The police state, associated with the right, worked in tandem with the social policies of the left, to dull the pain of those policies.  That "dulling" has become the new role of conservative politicians in America who manage the disaster instead of rolling it back.  The left realized that without the police state, its policies faced a much broader level of rejection so it learned to tolerate the pigs and the man.

Once Again, The World Confirms The Wisdom of Lewis Grizzard

A Kentucky pastor who starred in a reality show about snake-handling in church has died -- of a snakebite. Jamie Coots died Saturday evening after refusing to be treated, Middleborough police said.
Maybe you've heard the story.

I'm Rich!

One charitable organization, The Found Animals Foundation, is offering a $25 million award to the inventor of the first single-shot, nonsurgical sterilant that works in both dogs and cats.
Where do I pick up my check?


Time and again we see prosecutors charging suspects not with the crime that they, the prosecutors, can easily prove. Rather, they charge them with some inflated version of the crime in the hope of forcing a plea bargain. This is true especially if they can reach for a capital charge, because death-qualified juries convict at higher rates.

There is a huge problem with this that is widely understood, which is that it imposes an unfair cost on the accused -- who is still presumed innocent -- in seeking his or her fair trial. You should not have to run the risk of decades in prison or death just to go to trial. At trial you should face the charge that best represents the crime you're actually alleged to have committed, not the most serious variation that can be brought against you. The price for getting to be charged as you allegedly deserve shouldn't be accepting a guilty plea.

But the other problem, less often discussed, is that if you do go to trial the prosecution sometimes loses. This is because the inflated charge damages their credibility with the jury. The crime they could have easily persuaded the jury you had committed is now off the table; instead, they have to take the inflated charge and insist, with a straight face, that the facts support it. Juries often don't buy this, for the simple and excellent reason that it is not true.

Here we have a case where the government could have charged with second degree murder and walked away with an easy conviction. It obtained attempted second degree convictions for everyone else in the car. It could have obtained an actual second degree conviction for the youth actually killed.

Instead they went with the capital crime, and now they have a mistrial. Those for whom this was an open and shut case have one less reason to believe in the reliability of the courts. Those who see racism afflicting the system have one more argument in favor of their proposition that the system doesn't treat young black men fairly.

We see it over and over, but of course it will continue because it usually works. In part due to this systematic overcharging, more than 90% of criminal cases are plead.

Our system depends on it: we try far too many people for crimes to ever hope to give them all a day in court.


Dave Morris, author of a number of successful 1980s titles for youth, writes about the coming of fantasy gamebooks:
It was the early 1980s, and children's publishers really didn't know what hit them. For decades they'd been turning out nice cozy books based on their mental picture of a short-trousered scamp with a cap gun in one hand and a bottle of ginger pop in the other. In fact, even that view may be too generous. Hardly a single children's editor was male, or under forty, and mostly I think all those nice ladies just wrote boys off as not wanting to read books. Their ideal reader was sweet, quiet and mild as milk. So, not really like most girls at the time either.

They got a rude awakening. Boys did want to read books, and tomboys too - just not the books the publishers had been churning out. They wanted blood, guts, gore, mayhem, violence, and gutsy action. And most of all they wanted to be the hero.
Any reason to think that a similar situation doesn't obtain today -- in not only children's literature, but young adult literature?

My usual preferred response is to say that there are plenty of wonderful titles for boys, they just are older. But being older, they are better! As indeed they are.

But these gamebooks serve a role as a gateway to reading, and a bridge to the older titles for children whose elders think of themselves as categorically different from the generations that came before. Why then read a 19th century redaction of a 15th century work? Why read chronicles of the Hundred Years War? Why even read about hobbits and Rangers?

Well, perhaps because you were introduced to them, and found yourself at home in their company.

A Source for Further Anecdotes, if Not Statistics

The CATO Institute has apparently opened a project on police misconduct, not limited to SWAT teams, which is attempting to aggregate news that may inform the longstanding debate we've had here. Some of the allegations are insignificant because they're trying to aggregate everything, and it's of no matter to us that a policeman got a DUI (say). It's true that this means he's breaking the laws he is sworn to enforce, but we aren't interested in whether policemen are saints. Of course they are not. A momentary lapse on the part of a single officer is not telling, and indeed may not even indicate that the one particular cop is generally unfit. Anyone can have a bad day.

We're not even really interested in cases of outright corruption, such as the case mentioned of stealing gasoline for personal use from the county depot. It may be true or false, but it doesn't affect our concern about whether the relationship between the police and the citizenry has become unhealthy. No one expects a society in which there is no corruption.

Still, there remain plenty of items that do apply to our question about the relationship between the police and the citizenry. Here's a very recent incident they're tracking. This was a mixed race marriage, so what the police saw was a large black man chasing a Latina. In the context of our culture's usual assumption that black men are violent and predatory toward women, that might have alarmed the police. The man then tried to shove past them when they got between him and her.