Monday, June 29, 2009

Krugman Redefines the Meaning of Treason

Paul Krugman, never one to hold back on comments, now has declared that anyone who doe s not believe as he does on global warming is guilty of “treason against the planet.” Lest a reader think I am exaggerating, here is what he wrote:

And as I watched the deniers make their arguments, I couldn’t help thinking that I was watching a form of treason — treason against the planet.

To fully appreciate the irresponsibility and immorality of climate-change denial, you need to know about the grim turn taken by the latest climate research.

But, there is so much more to his apocalyptic attacks on anyone who might think differently:

To fully appreciate the irresponsibility and immorality of climate-change denial, you need to know about the grim turn taken by the latest climate research. (Emphasis mine)

The fact is that the planet is changing faster than even pessimists expected: ice caps are shrinking, arid zones spreading, at a terrifying rate. And according to a number of recent studies, catastrophe — a rise in temperature so large as to be almost unthinkable — can no longer be considered a mere possibility. It is, instead, the most likely outcome if we continue along our present course.

Thus researchers at M.I.T., who were previously predicting a temperature rise of a little more than 4 degrees by the end of this century, are now predicting a rise of more than 9 degrees. Why? Global greenhouse gas emissions are rising faster than expected; some mitigating factors, like absorption of carbon dioxide by the oceans, are turning out to be weaker than hoped; and there’s growing evidence that climate change is self-reinforcing — that, for example, rising temperatures will cause some arctic tundra to defrost, releasing even more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

This truly is amazing. Krugman pretty much now holds the view that HE is the standard of good and proper thought. Remember, throughout history, the punishment for “treason” has been death. By the way, don’t think that people like Krugman are going to back off. Holocaust “denial” in parts of Europe is punishable by prison, and I guarantee you that people like Krugman and his zealot friends will want similar legislation in the USA for “global warming denial.” I wish I were exaggerating, but I see this coming.

One thing that does interest me is that Krugman pretends that other researchers (including researchers at MIT) who hold to different views simply don’t exist, or anyone who does express a dissenting view either is an industry stooge or insane. And all of us know what must be done about these "enemies of the people," or should I say, "Enemies of the planet."

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

More Madness from the NY Times

OK, I admit that I was bored, so I decided to read the New York Times editorial page, and it did not disappoint. Today's entertainment comes courtesy of a column from Thomas Friedman, who always is ready to say Something Really Stupid.

First, let me say that the only way to be a columnist at the Times is to write stupid stuff and do it often. John Tierney was not bad, but apparently he was not stupid enough. William Kristol was too stupid, even for the times, so they ditched him.

Second, Friedman always is good for a laugh, just like Paul "Print More Money" Krugman, who swears inflation can solve almost any economic problem.

Today, Friedman provides the entertainment in this journalistic Theater of the Absurd. He calls for the USA to ruin its own economy in order to destabilize the government of Iran. This is akin to the move by Clevon Little in "Blazing Saddles" when he held a gun to his head and pretended to take himself hostage.

He demands that the government impost a $1 per gallon "Freedom Tax" on gasoline. Yes, this is really intelligent. Artificially force up the price of gasoline so that Corn Likker the government now forces us to pour into our cars will be "cost efficient." Yeah, shoot yourself in the foot. That'll teach 'em!!

Even though the USA does not purchase oil from Iran, nonetheless Friedman believes that is we destroy the oil industry, maybe -- just maybe -- President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad no longer will deny the Holocaust. Right.

We forget just how out-of-touch with reality the people at the Times really are. Here is a newspaper that still celebrates the Pulitzer Prize that it won via Walter Duranty's lies about the government-caused Ukranian famine of the early 1930s. For that matter, some of us still remember the newspaper's abominable coverage of the Duke Lacrosse Case.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Paul "Hair of the Dog" Krugman

Paul Krugman loves to remind people that he predicted the housing bubble collapse before others did. (Actually, I think he is confusing himself with Peter Schiff, but I digress.) Well, maybe there is another reason why The Great One did such a good self-described job in "predicting" the bubble: He called for the government to create one.

Now, in Krugman's defense, he did not demand that the Fed create a new housing bubble; he just suggested it as a good idea to jumpstart more consumption. He wrote back in 2002:

To fight this recession the Fed needs more than a snapback; it needs soaring household spending to offset moribund business investment. And to do that, as Paul McCulley of Pimco put it, Alan Greenspan needs to create a housing bubble to replace the Nasdaq bubble.

This, my friends, is better known in my home state of Tennessee as the "hair of the dog," which is what some of the Good Ole Boys take after a night of guzzling down lots of "Lynchburg Lemonade." Since the stock market was in the toilet, what better way of trying to "stimulate" consumption without the economy producing anything than to do it in the housing market!

The problem here is not withKrugman's recommendations, as awful and stupid as they were (and still are). The problem is more basic; Krugman's Keynesian "economics" is stupid, wrong-headed, and as crude a "theory" as the economics profession could create.

To his "credit," Krugman actually admits that he wrote that Really Stupid Comment. Furthermore, he does not exactly disown it:

Guys, read it again. It wasn't a piece of policy advocacy, it was just economic analysis. What I said was that the only way the Fed could get traction would be if it could inflate a housing bubble. And that's just what happened.

Uh, sorry. It was advocacy. Bubbles exist because of easy credit and easy money, and Krugman already is on the record as claiming that inflation will give an economy "traction," which is Keynesian-speak for "stimulating" spending.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Dean (Wormer) Krugman to the Band: Stay the Course

All of us who warmly remember “Animal House” can recall the scene at the end in which the band is trying to walk through the wall at the end of the alley, having been led there by one of the pranksters from Delta House. Obviously, like the rest of the movie, this moment is an absurdity, but nonetheless I can think of no better way to describe Paul Krugman’s latest exhortation to the Obama administration to “stay the course.”

Krugman’s most recent book is The Return of Depression Economics and what he says in his column is consistent with the advice he gives in the book: when in doubt, print money, lots of it. If I am to stick with the “Animal House” analogy, Krugman’s advice would be analogous to Dean Wormer urging the Deltas to have yet another toga party, break out the booze, and get drunk, really drunk.

Krugman himself realizes that his advice sounds a bit off, given that “conventional” economics actually emphasizes things like work, production, and living within one’s means:

For this is the third time in history that a major economy has found itself in a liquidity trap, a situation in which interest-rate cuts, the conventional way to perk up the economy, have reached their limit. When this happens, unconventional measures are the only way to fight recession.

Yet such unconventional measures make the conventionally minded uncomfortable, and they keep pushing for a return to normalcy. In previous liquidity-trap episodes, policy makers gave in to these pressures far too soon, plunging the economy back into crisis. And if the critics have their way, we’ll do the same thing this time.

And what are those “conventional” things? Indeed, they might include concern about federal budget deficits that are approaching numbers so gargantuan that it is difficult to place them in any perspective. The coming deficit, nominally speaking, will be greater than the entire federal budget of just eight years ago. Their also are concerns about inflation, although I would expect an “economist” who claims that inflation cures just about every economic problem not to have a problem with printing money.

Nonetheless, we really should ask just what is this “course” that the Nobel Prize winner claims must be kept in place at all costs, and what would be the real cost of abandoning this “path of wisdom.” To do so, however, we have to remember that Krugman is a fervent disciple of John Maynard Keynes, and to him the General Theory is to economics what the Bible is to Christianity.

Keynes argued that the standard views of economics were mistaken. Thrift was bad, especially if lots of people saved at the same time. There was no particular “structure of production” in which an economy dealt with a mix of capital and consumption goods. An economy simply was (and is) a “blob” in which only spending matters, and it does not matter on what one spends, just as long as enough spending exists to place resources at “full employment.”

This is a strange economy, indeed, and it fails to address an important point about just what an economy really is. In the real world, an economy is the social organization that comes about when large numbers of people act to alleviate scarcity. Economies are based upon exchange, since all production itself is a form of exchange, something Murray Rothbard makes abundantly clear in his classic Man, Economy, and State.

Contrary to what Krugman seems to believe, an economy does not just happen. Capital does not appear out of nowhere, and people do not develop special employment skills just to be doing something. Furthermore, there is no decent causal mechanism in Krugman’s pushing of Keynes’ “liquidity trap” theory. In Krugman’s world, people suddenly stop spending, the economy moves into the “liquidity trap,” and then government must rescue it by spending, spending, and more spending.

To come up with such an interpretation of events, Krugman must become creative with his facts. Witness the following claim:

The U.S. economy grew rapidly from 1933 to 1937, helped along by New Deal policies. America, however, remained well short of full employment.
Yet policy makers stopped worrying about depression and started worrying about inflation. The Federal Reserve tightened monetary policy, while F.D.R. tried to balance the federal budget. Sure enough, the economy slumped again, and full recovery had to wait for World War II.

Whatever economic recovery there was in the 1930s was hampered by the New Deal, not driven by it. The first New Deal was an attempt to organize the U.S. economy into a series of hundreds of cartels in which firms held back output in order to keep prices high. On the agricultural front, the government ordered the destruction of thousands of acres of crops, once again to keep agricultural prices high.

This is not policy that drives recovery; this is an attempt to keep a recovery from happening. There was “rapid” growth (or at least by GDP numbers) because the economy had fallen so far into a hole by 1933 that any growth would look spectacular. However, the rate of unemployment was still well in double-digits in 1937, which hardly was a recovery.

There is something else Krugman does not mention, although Robert Higgs does in his classic 1997 paper on “Regime Uncertainty.” Indeed, if one reads Krugman regularly, one finds out that in the period from 1936 to 1938, the Franklin Roosevelt administration was following the Krugman playbook. First, FDR railed against the “economic royalists” just as Krugman has done from his own perches. Second, the tax increases that Krugman believes were harmful were the “soak the rich” taxes that Krugman and others of his ilk have supported. (I remember Krugman blaming tax cuts for the recession of 2001-02, so the man cannot have it both ways. If cutting taxes causes a recession, then raising them cannot cause one, too, not even by Krugman’s logic.)

To add to the Krugman playbook, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of the National Labor Relations Act in 1937 (in response to FDR’s announced plan to “pack the court”) and upheld a number of other government initiatives to raise business costs, make it easier for labor unions to organize businesses, and make it easier for the government to attack private property rights. Indeed, this would be a Krugman paradise, a plan for permanent prosperity.

In Krugman’s world, prosperity is created by spending, and it does not matter who spends what on whom just as long as someone is spending. If consumers cannot empty their wallets fast enough, then government can do it, and when governments run out of revenues, they can create them via the printing press. Borrowing and printing simply are different sides of the same coin, and to do anything less, Krugman argues, would be disastrous:

Well then, what about all that government borrowing? All it’s doing is offsetting a plunge in private borrowing — total borrowing is down, not up. Indeed, if the government weren’t running a big deficit right now, the economy would probably be well on its way to a full-fledged depression.

If that is a “course” to economic recovery, then the brick wall in front of the “Animal House” band was nothing more than a temporary obstacle. Understand that businesses do not borrow simply to be spending money; they borrow because they believe the investments they are making with borrowed money will lead to future growth of their businesses, which will enable them to pay back those loans. It is that simple.

Unfortunately, Krugman’s “Wonderland” is devoid of such logic. Krugman is like Dean Wormer himself butting his head against the wall and demanding that the rest of us do the same. Wall? What wall?

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Krugman: Post Hoc Ergo Propter Hoc

One of the first lessons we learn in statistics is that correlation does not necessarily mean causality, and the farther one goes in learning stats, the more one understand just how important that point becomes. Unfortunately, the "elites" in American education have not learned that lesson, and heading the list is none other than -- drumroll, please -- Paul Krugman.

In his latest blog post, Krugman gives us a graph which shows that unemployment in the United States increased after the Reagan tax cut of July 1981. He puts in graph in answer to a comment made by House Minority Leader John Boehner of Ohio that the Obama stimulus program has been followed by higher unemployment.

Once again, we see Krugman's dishonesty in action. First, and most important, Krugman elsewhere has blamed recessions on tax cuts, as he was doing in the early years of the Bush administration. Now, an economic downturn must have a cause, so when Krugman declares that tax cuts cause recessions, he needs to have a causal mechanism. Not surprisingly, he fails to give one. (When one is a political operative, as is Krugman, one does not need to bring logic into the picture, and especially economic logic.)

Second, if he is going to blame the tax cut for higher unemployment because higher unemployment followed the tax cut, then such logic needs to be applied to the stimulus as well. Instead, we see the infamous post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy in action.

Now, I would not be surprised to see someone like Rahm Emmanuel or Boehner use this fallacy, as politicians are famous for butchering logic. However, when a Nobel Prize-winning economist does it, we have to ask questions. Krugman carries a heavier burden than do politicians, for we expect nothing less than lies from them.

When Krugman butchers the truth, we have to ask questions as to his motivation. Krugman is famous for assigning mad motives to anyone who disagrees with him, but I would like to turn this back on him. Why should Krugman be free to fudge on the truth?

The thing to keep in mind is that to Krugman, there are no such things as economic fundamentals. There is no structure of production, and there is no capital malinvestment. Instead, the entire economy is a "blob" that operates on a mysterious "circular flow." Thus, if Krugman's logic is correct, then the implementation of a government "stimulus" should have immediate results. After all, this is a guy who wrote in his latest book that nearly all economic problems can be solved simply by having the government print more money. He really said that. No kidding.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

The Demand to Criminalize Speech

For many of us involved in the infamous Duke Lacrosse Case, one of the biggest issues that came up was the attempt by many faculty members at Duke to establish a regime there akin to a Maoist re-education camp. K.C. Johnson at Durham-in-Wonderland has written a couple of eye-opening posts about the short-lived "Campus Cultural Initiative" Committees set up at Duke after Mike Nifong secured his false indictments of Reade Seligmann, Collin Finnerty, and David Evans.

What defines the radicals at Duke and at other college campuses is the attempt to suppress all speech but the speech that they favor. In fact, campus speech codes have been an unfortunate staple of college life for more than a decade and there is every indication that they are getting worse.

However, until recently, most of this kind of suppression was confined to the academic world, and while there is no excuse for it, at least the rest of us did not have to live by the rules that Karla Holloway and Houston Baker and Larry Moneta at Duke wanted to force on their students. I'm afraid that day is past and the anti-speech disease that has defined American academics now is spilling out into mainstream journalism and our body politic.

In a recent column in U.S. News, Bonnie Erbe, a mainstream journalist, called for arresting and imprisoning people who engage in speech that she declares to be "hate speech." Writing after the tragic shooting this past week at the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C., these are her words:
It's not enough to prosecute these murders as murders. They are hate-motivated crimes and each of these men had been under some sort of police surveillance prior to their actions. Isn't it time we started rounding up promoters of hate before they kill?
She began her column with the following:
If yesterday's Holocaust Museum slaying of security guard and national hero Stephen Tyrone Johns is not a clarion call for banning hate speech, I don't know what is.
Now, she does not just deal with the three men who are charged with the murders of the museum guard, abortion doctor George Tiller, and the U.S. army recruiter. No, she also targets President Barack Obama's former pastor, Jeremiah Wright, zeroing in on this AP news passage:
"Them Jews ain't going to let him talk to me. I told my baby daughter that he'll talk to me in five years when he's a lame duck, or in eight years when he's out of office," Wright told the Daily Press of Newport News following a Tuesday night sermon at the 95th annual Hampton University Ministers' Conference.
Understand what she is saying. She is calling for Jeremiah Wright to be arrested and imprisoned for what he said. Notice that Wright has not called for violence against anyone; he is stating his own opinion, and the wrongness of it does not make it criminal.

Unfortunately, Erbe is not the only person out there calling for the state to suppress speech. Paul Krugman goes up to the edge in this column, but it is clear that he wants the government to shut up anyone with whom he disagrees.

Of course, hate speech to Krugman is anything that might even speak of the truth. He zeroes in on a recent statement from the Republican National Committee:
It’s not surprising, then, that politicians are doing the same thing. The R.N.C. says that “the Democratic Party is dedicated to restructuring American society along socialist ideals.”
Understand that he is including this passage in a rant against "hate speech," which means that he says any description of what Obama is doing to the economy falls into that "hate" category. Now, when the government nationalizes the mortgage industry, effectively nationalizes General Motors, take control of AIG, and determines which auto dealerships are going to be permitted to stay open, I would say that we are looking at socialism.

When government takes ownership and control of key industries -- as did Great Britain's Labor government following World War II -- that is called socialism, and at least the Brits had the truthfulness to use the "S-Word." Today, however, even using that word, according to Krugman, is hate speech, and we know that hate speech needs to be criminalized.

Of course, who can leave out Keith Olbermann on MSNBC who in his commentary on the museum murder drags in Ron Paul. Now, there most likely is no politician in the USA who is more against violence than Paul, yet according to Olbermann, Ron Paul is just another hatemonger, and because the man accused of the museum murder ranted against the Federal Reserve System, anyone who now raises any questions at all about the Fed and its inflationary policies is a promoter of "hate speech."

In a column before last year's presidential election, John Barone (also of U.S. News, interestingly) wrote that he feared the upcoming Obama regime would be "thuggish" in large part because Obama had cut his political teeth in the shadow of the modern American college campus. I hoped he was wrong, and I still do hope that the Obama administration will not listen to those who would turn speech into a crime.

Unfortunately, I don't hold out much hope, anymore. It would be one thing if those calling for suppression of speech were extremists; they are not. They are mainstream journalists (who, of course, would demand that their words be exempt from the "hate speech" laws), and now the Nobel Prize winner in economics. I fear that it only is a matter of time before words that offend our political classes and mainstream journalists will land us in prison.

Anthony Gregory had a fine column recently on Lew Rockwell's page about hate speech and collectivism, and it is worth reading. Or, at least read it while Gregory's words still are legal.

Do not forget that Great Britain now routinely imprisons people for "hate speech," as is done in Canada. The United States inherited its former love of free speech from the venerable "Rights of Englishmen" that no longer exist. And, yes, there will come a time in this country when the very words I am now writing can be enough to land me in a prison cell. That is where we are headed.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Sotomayer: "Procedure" over Innocence

As one who came into blogging because the State of North Carolina and Michael B. Nifong decided to pursue false charges against three Duke University lacrosse players, I am especially sensitive to situations in which people are falsely convicted in the American "justice" system. There is nothing worse that can happen in the pursuit of "justice" than for the state to finger and then convict an innocent person, and it happens too often.

I turn to the recent nomination of Sonya Sotomayer to the U.S. Supreme Court, whom President Obama nominated in large part -- and let's admit it -- to her Hispanic identity. Furthermore, we have Sotomayer herself claiming that being a "wise Latina woman" gives her special insight into the law and how it is applied.

Thus, I was interested to know how she viewed situations in which police and prosecutors railroad innocent people into prison. Would her background as a "wise Latina woman" make her especially sensitive to such things; after all, African-Americans and Hispanics are more likely to meet that fate. Unfortunately, we have our answer, and it seems that the "wise Latina woman" is pretty much like her white counterparts: Deadlines don't matter for me, but they do for thee.

Jeffrey Deskovic spent 16 years in a New York prison for something he did not do. That is not unusual in the Empire State, where police and prosecutorial corruption is the order of the day. (Just ask Martin Tankleff, who spent 17 years in prison for a double-murder he did not commit. Innocence means nothing in New York.)

Deskovic was unlucky enough to have police coerce a confession from him at age 16 (they also coerced a confession from Tankleff). People often think that a confession trumps everything else, but it is not unusual for people to give false confessions, especially when police are putting on the screws.

The problem for Deskovic was that he filed his appeal four days too late because a clerk had given his attorney the wrong date. That mistake was enough for Sotomayer to turn down his request; according to the New York Times:

Ms. Sotomayor, along with the other judge on the panel, ruled that the lawyer’s mistake did not “rise to the level of an extraordinary circumstance” that would compel them to forgive the delay.
You have to keep this in perspective. During the 2000 Florida recount, the Florida Supreme Court said that deadlines set by law did not matter, and that they amounted to a "hyper-sensitive" view of law. When Robert Toricelli resigned his position in the U.S. Senate during the election and the Democrats faced not being able to run a new candidate because the deadline for filing had long passed, the New Jersey Supreme Court (dominated by Democrats) declared that in that circumstance, the law really did not matter and paved the way for their favored candidate to enter the election and win.

I suspect that Sotomayer approved both decisions. After all, she is a partisan Democrat and I don't recall reading or hearing anything from her to the contrary. To be sure, I cannot know her opinions on these issues but from what I have read -- or not read -- I don't think that there exactly was a groundswell of dissent from Democratic judges.

So, when it comes to politicians and elections, the law is whatever judges want it to be at the time. However, when the situation is about someone being wrongfully convicted, well, deadlines trump innocence.

To me, this speaks volumes about Sotomayer. Keep in mind that I have not attacked her on the grounds of her Identity Politics, although they have bothered me. I believe that President Obama can pick someone he wants to be on the court, and I am sure that she has the qualifications to serve on the High Court.

However, when judges declare that legal deadlines for politicians are arbitrary, but that deadlines trump evidence of innocence in a possible wrongful conviction, then I cannot support them under any circumstances. What Sotomayer did was wrong and immoral, and if her attitude toward innocent people is to let them rot in prison, then I hope she is not confirmed. Having said that, her confirmation is already predetermined, and everyone knows that.

Given such a state of affairs, I do hope that someone on the Senate Judiciary Committee asks her about this horrible decision to let an innocent man rot in prison. Unfortunately, I doubt seriously that anyone will broach that subject, and that is too bad.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Krugman's Healthcare Fantasies

The more I read Paul Krugman's column in the New York Times, the more I realize the guy is not an economist. Yes, I know he is the current winner of the Nobel Memorial Prize for Economic Science (given by the Swedish central bank), which supposedly is bestowed upon real-live economists, but this time the committee gave its prize to someone who cannot even define something as simple as a cost.

Krugman's greatest political passion -- after demanding that the government go trillions into debt to finance his wild spending schemes -- is socialist medical care. In his Friday, June 5, column, Krugman lets himself go (again). The reason that medical costs are rising is ... private insurance.

Now, I agree that third-party payments in general are the main reason medical costs have gone up at unprecedented rates over the last three decades. Yet, study after study tells us that the big engine in medical cost increases has been government payments and mandates, and especially beginning with the implementation of the Medicare program in 1965.

At one level, it makes sense. If we could buy "grocery insurance," no doubt grocery prices would go through the roof. Third-party payments remove the consumer from the service provider and create an atmosphere in which someone else is spending someone else's money, a sure recipe for making sure that no one minds the store.

When you add the fact that medical professionals are forever being sued by the tort lobby, which pretty much owns the Democratic Party, Krugman somehow manages to leave out that part. Instead, he elsewhere has given a pretty stupid reason for explaining increasing medical costs: new technology.

Now, in every other industry involving a scarce good, the addition of new capital lowers costs. (Think fiber optics and the Internet.) However, in Krugmanworld, capital forces up costs. This makes no sense, but illogic is part-and-parcel to Krugman's analysis.

However, according to Krugman, if the government takes over medical care and the limits costs as they do in Canada and elsewhere -- by making people stand in line or deny care altogether -- then Americans are going to be in for a real shock. Granted, the Paul Krugmans and others who are politically-connected won't have to worry about being at the back of the line, but others who have thought that a government-run system will provide unlimited care at zero cost, well they are going to learn some painful lessons.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Yet Another Wrongful Conviction

Wendy McElroy writes of yet another wrongful conviction and later exoneration, this time in Ohio. The details are depressingly familiar: a crime is committed, the police zero in on a suspect, and then refuse to follow the trail to an obvious perpetrator. The prosecution pounds the square peg into the round hole and the jury -- yes, another American jury -- buys into the nonsense, since prosecutors always are right, even when they are not:

The Dayton Daily News reports, "(Private Investigator Martin) Yant can tick off a laundry list of other problems with the [Elkins] case: sloppy police work, haphazard investigation, authorities rushing to judgment, incomplete forensics.
Yant has written that he believes about 10,000 people in this country are wrongfully convicted each year. Of course, with all of the weapons that prosecutors are able to use, I suspect that even more people who are innocent are coerced into guilty pleas just because they don't have the resources to fight the state.

It is my belief that there are no excuses at all -- none -- for wrongful convictions. The forensic science is there to use, and everyone in the system is well aware of the real pitfalls in eyewitness indentifications. However, the problem is twofold. First, prosecutors rarely care. They are the products of law schools that preach winning at all costs, and since most of them either are elected or have political ambitions, being "tough on crime" is a requisite item on their resume, and being reflective and being thorough to make sure no errors are made simply is not "being tough."

Second, prosecutors can operate under cover of immunity. In most professions, people who make serious errors of judgment that result in real harm done to others are held accountable for their actions. Prosecutors, on the other hand, are protected by immunity.

Just as we saw reckless behavior on behalf of people on Wall Street who knew their backs were covered by the "Greenspan and Bernanke Put," prosecutors are covered by policies of immunity that protect them no matter how dishonest, illegal, and terrible their conduct. If one wishes to live a life of crime, I would tell that person to become a prosecutor, since the state always will seek to cover its own.

Michael Nifong never really had to pay for his crimes in the Duke Lacrosse Case. Even now, the system is bending backward to protect the police and Nifong for all of their lying, fabricating evidence, and criminal behavior. That is what "immunity" does: it enables those who "enforce the law" to break the law with impunity and pay no price for it.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Virginians Dodge a Bullet

Virginia Republicans choose their candidates via the political convention (which I wish were the still the situation for presidential candidates on a national scale), and last weekend they voted for their candidates to run this coming fall. One of the announced candidates for attorney general was John L. Brownlee, the former U.S. attorney in the southwestern part of the state.

Brownlee lost to Ken Cuccinelli II by a lopsided margin, and while I have no idea what kind of AG Cuccinelli would be, I do know that Brownlee is a threat to liberty and decency anywhere. His record while being the U.S. Attorney in Roanoke was as shameful as that of Mike Nifong, the infamous prosecutor in the Duke Lacrosse Case. While Nifong had North Carolina law helping him along, Brownlee was aided by federal criminal laws which are so broad and have so much latitude that they pretty much allow prosecutors to target anyone they please and bring charges against them.

Furthermore, federal prosecutors get to be something akin to feudal lords, treating everyone else in their districts as serfs who can and should be prosected for something. I have little good to say about federal prosecutors, but even among a class of people who are likely as not to lie and stretch the truth, Brownlee stood out even among that crowd.

Here was a guy who prosecuted the people who run the D-Day Memorial in Bedford, Virginia, for fraud, even though there was no evidence of it. Here was a guy who went after Dr. Cecil Knox, a pain management specialist, on charges that were ludicrous. As Dr. Knox's wife, Donna (an attorney herself) wrote in a scathing denunciation of Brownlee:

Having launched an offensive against Cecil where none was justified, Brownlee set about concocting a case. He accused Cecil of intentionally addicting patients to narcotics to make them return for more; of being responsible for the death of a patient he hadn't seen in 18 months; of trading narcotics for drugs many times with a convict who, at trial, couldn't even identify him.
But there is more:
Brownlee stooped to disingenuous press conferences and distortion of the Medicare billing process to set up fraud, conspiracy and racketeering charges. He indicted Cecil's staff, terrorizing them with inexcusable threats. He disregarded the Medical Board's earlier findings that Cecil's treatments were appropriate. It was a telling display of over-reaching by a prosecutor without a case.
After failing to win a conviction in Roanoke, Brownlee re-indicted Knox and then demanded -- and received from the judge (who is the godfather of Brownlee's children) -- a change of venue to a place where he believed he better could gain a conviction. Knox, who was suffering from cancer, agreed to plead to a misdemeanor that had nothing to do with the original charges. Brownlee's response was to tell the press that he had "stopped" a "major drug kingpin."

Prosecutors are supposed to be restrained in their public comments, but federal prosecutors are of a different breed and are above the law. (Nifong was disbarred in part because of his public comments that came against the Duke lacrosse players even before he secured indictments.)

For example, Brownlee used terms like "house of death," "drug kingpin," and "fraud central" in his war against Knox. None of these terms were appropriate and that Brownlee was able to use them in public and not face even a Virginia State Bar hearing is amazing. Like Nifong, Brownlee should be disbarred and driven out of the practice of law altogether.

So, while I have no idea what kind of AG Virginians are going to elect next year, at least they will not have to worry about John Brownlee occupying that office. My sense is that he will try to make a political comeback, but one hopes that the voters see through him.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Paul Krugman's Deregulation Fantasy

Ronald Reagan has been dead for several years, but Paul Krugman continues to chase his ghost. In today's "Reagan Did It" column, Krugman claims that until Reagan was elected, the U.S. financial system was in great shape and that government-created cartels in finance, communications, and transportation had enabled us to have a wonderful "equal-benefits-for-all" economy.

The only problem, of course, is that Krugman is making this up, but he has been engaged in fantasy for so long that I think he has come to believe his mutually-exclusive statements. To show what I mean, look first at what he claims:

We weren’t always a nation of big debts and low savings: in the 1970s Americans saved almost 10 percent of their income, slightly more than in the 1960s. It was only after the Reagan deregulation that thrift gradually disappeared from the American way of life, culminating in the near-zero savings rate that prevailed on the eve of the great crisis. Household debt was only 60 percent of income when Reagan took office, about the same as it was during the Kennedy administration. By 2007 it was up to 119 percent.
You have to remember that this is the same Paul Krugman who has claimed that the current economic downturn has been made worse by. . . private savings. Furthermore, he also is on the record as demanding that the government engage in even more inflation than it is giving us now. But, as they say on late-night TV, "Wait! There's more!" Krugman writes:

Reagan-era legislative changes essentially ended New Deal restrictions on mortgage lending — restrictions that, in particular, limited the ability of families to buy homes without putting a significant amount of money down.

These restrictions were put in place in the 1930s by political leaders who had just experienced a terrible financial crisis, and were trying to prevent another. But by 1980 the memory of the Depression had faded. Government, declared Reagan, is the problem, not the solution; the magic of the marketplace must be set free. And so the precautionary rules were scrapped.
Uh, there is a problem here. The creation of Fannie Mae and the Federal Housing Administration during the New Deal lowered lending standards from what they had been before. Yes, contrary to our Nobel Laureate's latest whopper, FDR for the first time made the government the co-signer to mortgages, which made is possible for banks to offer mortgages with lower interest rates and less money down.

Furthermore, the push for easy credit during the 1960s and 1970s came mostly from the liberal wing of the Democratic Party, and especially from Hubert Humphrey, who believed that there should be almost no limits on bank credit at all, with the government being the Great Co-Signer. Banks already were offering mortgages with little or no money down, as long as they came through FHA or the Veterans Administration.

Financial deregulation was not a creation of "pro-free market" Republican administrations. Instead, it began in the late 1970s, being pushed by entities like one of Krugman's employers, the New York Times, which editorialized against Regulation Q, which put caps in the amount of interest that banks could offer in savings accounts. Ted Kennedy was the main force behind the deregulation of trucking, railroads, and airlines, and at last check, I think he still is a Democrat.

Jimmy Carter began the process of deregulating oil prices, and deregulation in telecommunications was well underway before Reagan was sworn into office. The highly-regulated financial cartels that Krugman praises already were proving incapable of financing the coming high-tech companies that were the engine of economic growth during the 1980s and 1990s. For example, CNN, Cellular One, MCI, Apple Computers, and other companies were financed outside of the regulated banking cartel that Krugman so praises.

In other words, Krugman believes that the heavily-regulated, high-inflation economy of 1979 and 1980 was just wonderful, a veritable wonderland. Perhaps some readers might want to go back to those days and just read what was being written then. Unemployment was moving toward double digits, and inflation was doing the same.

Contra Krugman, this was not a time of economic growth. It was an era of stagnation, as the New Deal cartels pretty much had run into the wall. Krugman can deny it all he wants, but the facts are there for anyone to see.