American Elephants

The Business of Business. They Respond to Incentives Too. by The Elephant's Child

Everyone responds to incentives, the people will recognize the incentives that work for them; but in many a law or many a regulation there are incentives that are not at first apparent. When you write up over two thousand pages of regulations, there are bound to be a lot of incentives that may astound those who put the thing together.

U.S. pharmaceutical giant Pfizer Inc. wants to buy AstraZeneca not just because the British company has a pipeline of cancer drugs. Acquiring AstraZeneca would give Pfizer shareholders relief from a U.S. corporate tax rate that is among the world’s highest. Pfizer can get a better return paying $100 billion or so to buy a foreign company than  paying punitive rates to return its money to the U.S.

Pfizer Chairman and CEO Ian Read told securities analysts that the primary drivers behind his merger attempt are “improved growth prospects in innovative businesses and redundancies they can take out.” The combined firm would aim for leading positions in immunology, oncology, vaccines and chronic diseases. The Wall Street Journal  said “this is what companies always say, and it may turn out to be true.” Pfizer also noted that the deal would be “structured to achieve an efficient tax structure.” The combined state-federal corporate income tax rate in the U.S. is nearly 40% while it is only 21% in the UK.

Pfizer is a U.S. company, but more than 70 of its cash— amounting to more than $35 billion—is sitting overseas. Bringing it home would cost the shareholders a bundle. Incentives. Unplanned by those who thought a 40% tax rate was fine for evil corporations.

A group of Walgreens’ investors are urging the company to ‘re-domicile’ overseas to lessen its U.S. corporate income tax hit. Walgreens has purchased nearly half the Swiss-based Alliance Boots, a health and beauty, and is scheduled to buy the rest next year. Boots tax rate would be about 20% in Switzerland. Walgreen’s earnings per share could be increased by 75%.

U.S based Questor Pharmaceuticals was recently purchased by Mallinckrodt, which is based in Dublin, Ireland, where the corporate rate is 12.5%.

ObamaCare is creating uncertainty about how much programs like Medicare and Medicaid will pay for new medicines. ObamaCare wants to sign people up, get them dependent on the program, and then cut costs dramatically so they can afford the program they created. Pharmaceutical companies original ideas often don’t pan out, but companies eventually succeed because the learn from each step of discovery, but the process is expensive and often long.

Toyota just announced that they are moving their corporate headquarters from California to Texas. Taxes and regulation. Incentives. California, Illinois, New York, states run by Democrats, are all losing businesses—and jobs—to states the have lower taxes and fewer punitive regulations.

After I wrote this, I heard someone discussing Walgreens and Pfizer on the radio, and going on about the corporations having no loyalty, and they had an obligation to stay in this country and pay higher taxes. That it was somehow ignoble to consider moving for mere money. Is it then wrong for Toyota to move from California to Texas to avoid punitive taxes and regulations? Or is it a message to California that they are killing business and jobs with their unwise policies. I’ll vote for the latter.

The Obama administration has been advised frequently that their corporate taxes are the highest in the world, and that it would be helpful to business and for job growth to reduce the tax to a more moderate level, and ideally to remove the corporate tax entirely. Corporations don’t pay those taxes, they are passed on to consumers, and simply raise the cost of living.

A Political Disease: Running Off At the Mouth! by The Elephant's Child

Yesterday, in a press statement,  the pompous Mr. Kerry pronounced “I will not allow my commitment to Israel to be questioned by anyone.” On Friday, the Secretary of State spoke to a room of influential world leaders in a closed-door meeting of the Trilateral Commission and reportedly said “A two-state solution will be clearly underscored as the only real alternative. Because a unitary state winds up either being an apartheid state with second-class citizens–or it ends up being a state that destroys the capacity of Israel to be a Jewish state.”

(Rule One for politicians: Nothing is ever private or off the record. period.)

In his press statement, Kerry said  “I have been around long enough to also know the power of words to create a misimpression, even when unintentional, and if I could rewind the tape, I would have chosen a different word to describe my firm belief that the only way in the long term to have a Jewish state and two nations and two peoples living side by side in peace and security is through a two state solution.”

Mr. Kerry is simply following instructions. Obama made his ideas clear in his 2009 Cairo speech. His views were formed from his friendship with Palestinian firebrand Rashid Khalidi and Bill Ayers. Ayers, Obama friend and neighbor in Chicago, former and unrepentant Weatherman terrorist, joined other tenured faculty in signing an anti Israel petition, accusing Israel of apartheid, and calling for academic boycott, disinvestment and sanctions. Khalidi speaks with a raging, uncontrolled hatred for Israel.

According to Obama’s Cairo speech, it was “undeniable” that for sixty years the Palestinians has suffered in pursuit of a homeland, endured the pain of dislocation, and been confined “in refugee camps in the West Bank, Gaza, and neighboring lands,” waiting, ever waiting for “a life of peace and security that they have never been able to lead.” This is the worst kind of nonsense.

The “poor, suffering refugees living in squalid refugee camps” is probably an appealing image in the faculty lunchrooms, but when Palestinians turned down Israeli citizenship, the Palestinians were turned down by Jordan, though they are the same people, and by the Egyptians, who share a border with Gaza, and who use complete brutality to keep them out of Egypt.

Palestinians don’t want a separate state, they want Israel destroyed. They teach their smallest children to hate Israel, how to be jihadists. The Arabs have turned down every offer to create a Palestinian state, over and over.

Obama came to office convinced that the entire reason for “violent extremism” in the Middle East was Israel. His goal was to restart the peace process, and by forcing Israel to give in to the poor refugee Palestinians, there would be peace in the Middle East, and Obama would deserve to get another Nobel Peace Prize.

Andy McCarthy, whose book The Grand Jihad, clarifies the problems of the Middle East, offers an excerpt to explain Kerry’s embarrassing statement, and what it really means. It’s helpful to look at the Cairo speech in the current situation. Looking back, it’s a strange speech. As McCarthy says: “I do not understand how anyone who heard Obama’s Cairo speech could be remotely surprised by Kerry’s “apartheid” remarks.”

Chien drole mange a table by The Elephant's Child
April 29, 2014, 3:10 pm
Filed under: Entertainment, Fun n Games, Humor, YouTube | Tags: , ,

(h/t: Maggie’s Farm)

Sanctions, Strategic Pivots, Peace Processes: Nothing’s Working! by The Elephant's Child

From the front page of the New York Times:

TOKYO — President Obama encountered setbacks to two of his most cherished foreign-policy projects on Thursday, as he failed to achieve a trade deal that undergirds his strategic pivot to Asia and the Middle East peace process suffered a potentially irreparable breakdown.

Mr. Obama had hoped to use his visit here to announce an agreement under which Japan would open its markets in rice, beef, poultry and pork, a critical step toward the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the proposed regional trade pact. …

In Jerusalem, Israel’s announcement that it was suspending stalemated peace negotiations with the Palestinians, after a reconciliation between the Palestine Liberation Organization and the militant group Hamas, posed yet another obstacle to restarting a troubled peace process in which Secretary of State John Kerry has been greatly invested.

From the Wall Street Journal:

The U.S. and the European Union imposed more sanctions on Russia Monday and both the ruble and Moscow stock index rallied, the latter up 1.5% The markets didn’t take this response to the Kremlin’s war on Ukraine seriously, and neither will Vladimir Putin.

The Journal added:

Sanctions only make sense if they cause enough economic pain to make Russians begin to question the wisdom of Kremlin imperialism. Otherwise they make the West look weak and disunited. This is exactly what Mr. Putin is counting on, and so far he’s been right.

Oh What a Tangled Web We Weave, When We Get All Excited About the Climate by The Elephant's Child
April 28, 2014, 4:48 pm
Filed under: Politics | Tags: , ,

102663325_265637c (photo by Dan Kitwood)
This is how absurd it gets in climate alarmist politics. Considered Britain’s biggest CO2 polluter, Drax in North Yorkshire is suing the UK government after they have lost a lucrative contract when a media investigation revealed that they had stopped burning coal and are burning wood pellets from US forests as a “green” alternative to coal. The government had agreed to pay double for power generated this way, but withdrew the offer when it was made public that it was shipping biomass pellets 3,000 miles from North Carolina forests.

Environmentalists say endangered species, habitats, greenhouse gases.

Ministers have withdrawn their promise to guarantee profits for the part of the plant using biomass.

That wiped £400 million off the company’s share price and prompted the company to start legal action.

IPCC Author Claims Government Meddling in the Summary for Policymakers by The Elephant's Child

A lead author of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has publicly disassociated himself with the report after government officials forced him to change a highly influential scientific report on climate change to suit their own political interests.

Harvard professor Robert Stavins said that officials representing “all the main countries and regions of the world” insisted on changes to the report in a late night meeting at a Berlin conference center two weeks ago. Three quarters of the original version ended up being deleted.

Professor Stavins’ chapter of the 2,000 page document concerned ways countries can cooperate to reduce carbon emissions. He is a Harvard professor of Business and Government, and was one of two coordinating lead authors of a key report published by the IPCC’s Climate Change report earlier this month.

The theory is that IPCC reports are scrupulously independent and give scientific advice to governments around the world to help them shape policy.  The “Summary for Policymakers” is a condensed version that the world media and politicians rely on for evidence that what they want to do is actually a good idea. Governments of all sizes have enthusiastically embraced global warming as something which they can “fight” to impress their citizens, and the ‘Summary for Policymakers’ provides the evidence. It is the “consensus” that warmists embrace.

Professor Stavins told the Daily Mail that he had been especially concerned by what happened at a special ‘contact group.’ Two Summary authors were surrounded by 45 or 50 government officials who made clear that “any text that was considered inconsistent with their interests and positions in multilateral negotiations was treated as unacceptable.” Many of these officials were themselves climate negotiators working on a new treaty to replace the Kyoto Protocol in negotiations set to conclude next year.

Professor Stavins said, “This created an irreconcilable conflict of interest. It has got to the point where it would be reasonable to call the document a summary by policymakers, not a summary for them, and it certainly affects the credibility of the IPCC. The process ought to be reformed.”

Two weeks earlier, Sussex University’s Professor Richard Tol demanded that his name be removed from the summary of an earlier volume of the full IPCC report. He said:

The IPCC does not guard itself against selection bias and ‘group think’ —Alarmism feeds polarization. Climate zealots want to burn heretics of global warming on a stick.

The IPCC has always been a political operation. It was founded to be a political operation. Look up Maurice Strong on Google. The IPCC does not do science themselves, but assembles reports from chosen scientists. It has been often criticized over the years, but the Summaries are over-relied on by policy makers.

Our own government has been involved in wind farms; solar arrays; deepwater drilling; offshore drilling; fracking;  pipelines; refineries; coal mining, processing, transportation and fueling power plants; electric cars; regulations on everything from lightbulbs to shower heads and toilets; gasoline additives, ethanol, biofuel; mpg regulations; solar cell manufacturing; and environmental battles over everything previously mentioned with endangered species thrown in as a bonus. The funding, grants, contracts, subsidies, tax credits involved add up to enormous unknown totals wasted on changes in climate that many consider a natural process not amenable to human control. And there has been no warming at all in 17 years and 8 months.

Another Unaccountable Agency With Vast Powers. by The Elephant's Child

The Affordable Care Act’s Independent Payment Advisory Board has been so heavily criticized as an unaccountable body with the power to effectively ration Medicare services that even many congressional Democrats no longer support it. Ordinary people didn’t pay too much attention until Sarah Palin called it a “death panel.”

IPAB’s 15 supposed experts (yet to be nominated) are completely unaccountable and are there to preserve Medicare in its current form by making it cost less. Uh huh. This is traceable to Obama’s chosen health care advisors and their admiration for Britain’s NHS and that organization’s recognition that most of the expense driving up the cost of health care comes in seniors’ final years. Why should we waste all this money on old folks who are about to die anyway?

The unstated yet clear agenda is to impose stricter price controls within Medicare. The history of such price regulation in Medicare and around the world clearly reveals that such controls cut costs only by lowering quality and adding rationing (queues and long waits for service), as well as eliminating participants.

This is Democrats normal modus operandi. Lots of carrots to sell a policy or program, but the carrots always cost too much and one way or another the costs must be cut back. Medicare is not sustainable in its current configuration.

There are enormous amounts of fraud in Medicare. It is quite possible to find ways to reduce costs that do not assume that doctors are all too rich and charge too much. If you honestly look for ways to be more efficient, they are there to be found. That’s how American productivity keeps growing. Ideological assumptions about unearned wealth and an ever increasing need for more control by more bureaucrats prevents efficiency from being found. The assumption that unaccountable bureaucrats can run the medical profession better than those who have spent years in training to learn how to preserve life and heal the afflicted seems a little odd when looked at straight on.

The IPAB’s little-known cousin the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation has managed to escape the political radar. Its seemingly innocuous mission is promoting new and more efficient “payment systems” and “models of care.” This agency is just as dangerous as the IPAB. It is an agency run by the president’s political appointees, but never has to go back to Congress to get an appropriation. Obama provided it with $10 billion up front, to cover its costs for 10 years. At the end of that time the agency will get another $10 billion appropriation.

The big infusion of funding has allowed the CMMI to grow from 60 employees in 2012 to a planned 440 full-time workers in 2015. Ten percent of the funding is devoted to personnel and administrative expenses. Congress usually requires agencies to return to Congress to request a new appropriation each year, which at least gives the illusion of competency being reported and checked.

The premise is that government bureaucrats are best positioned to lead an effort in innovation in medical delivery. (stop laughing!) The history of Medicare’s payment systems over four decades is one of politicized decision-making by regulators who know little about what they are regulating, protection of incumbent providers and roadblocks to new technologies or new ways of doing business. Inefficiency is rampant, and made far worse by government attempts to direct doctors’ time and practice. They will routinely try to cut costs by eliminating the highest and lowest-cost providers.

There has never been an industry, a profession or a product that has not been improved by competition. Politicians policy prescriptions are based on the implicit assumption that government is full of wise platonic guardians who automatically recognize market failures and instinctively recognize the remedies for such failures. Democrats don’t like competition anyway. It’s not fair.

Both agencies should be shut down at the earliest opportunity.

Standing in Defense of Free Speech—Even When It’s Hard. by The Elephant's Child

The Supreme Court heard arguments this week in a case aimed at overturning an Ohio law that makes it a crime to make false statements in a political campaign. Should you be able to make a commercial, write a column, put up a billboard, or make statements on the radio about a candidate that you know to be false, and are likely to affect the outcome of the election? Or is that a violation of free speech, and you should be able to say whatever you want, because they have the opportunity to deny it?

Rasmussen Reports took up the question.  “Should the government be allowed to review political ads and candidates’ campaign comments for their accuracy and punish those that it decided are making false statements about other candidates?”

Fifty-five percent (55%) of Likely U.S. Voters believe the government should be allowed to review political ads and candidates’ campaign comments for their accuracy and punish those who are making false statements. A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 31% oppose such government oversight. Fourteen percent (14%) are undecided. Here are the survey questions’ wording. So only 31% have an understanding of freedom.

Mark Steyn believes that free speech in America is under serious attack, and I think he’s right. The notion that we must not offend anyone is characteristic of the left—yet ignored when they want to take someone on. (See Harry Reid) Some believe that the fear is not warranted, but look to the appalling firing of Brendan Eich at Mozilla. That wasn’t even words, but a six year-old political donation to an issue with which most Americans agree. American colleges and universities now have speech codes, and some even have “free speech zones.” Two colleges recently banned students from handing out free copies of the Constitution.

Free speech is essential for our country, yet always poorly understood. Everybody is for free speech until it is their ox that is getting gored. Free speech means you can be mortally offended, and all you get to do is talk back. Harry Reid can say the most obnoxious things about Republicans, and we can only point out that he is an ill-mannered jerk who is unfit the be a member of Congress, let alone a “leader.”We can suggest that the people of Nevada fire him when he next faces election — and that is our free speech right back at him.

Putting government in charge of monitoring free speech in electoral campaigns goes directly to the heart of the First Amendment, and it seems inconceivable that 55% of the people understand the First Amendment so little and in spite of all evidence to the contrary believe “the government” is a good and benign guardian of such things.

If you are proud of this country and you care about its future, teach your children about the First Amendment and its meaning, and arm them against those who would take away their rights.

The “Narrative” or Holy Writ of the Left. by The Elephant's Child

Inequality is all the rage again. You all remember the “Occupy Wall Street” movement of a certain segment of college dropouts, current students, whiny adolescents demanding that they get a bigger share of Wall Street’s money — because they wanted it, and those who worked on Wall Street were greedy plutocrats who didn’t deserve their pay and their benefits, and the Occupy protesters were much more worthy. Their rage was all about the One Percent, and corporations. Especially evil, greedy corporations.

There they were, sitting in parks with their iPhones and iPads, their Kelty tents and Northface backpacks, Nike sneakers and goose-down coats, whining about the people who were actually working in the nearby skyscrapers. The movement stands out in memory for the filth and garbage left behind, and their absurd indignance.

Now comes a new book professing old Marxism and proposing a worldwide wealth tax. Why anyone assumes that inequality is something evil that can be fixed by wise people in government redistributing it is beyond me. It has been proven over and over that such is not the case. Marxism has not only failed everywhere it has been tried, but has created killing-fields and misery.

Walter Russell Mead, professor and editor in chief  of the American Interest is a man of the left, but always thoughtful and interesting, even when I disagree completely. The left sees national decline, and the decline is the fault of inequality—which will somehow be cured by the blue social model.

My life experience is a little different than most. I didn’t really realize that for many years until I was working in a large corporate department and found that people were fascinated by my experience, which I had never considered unusual. They, in general, all grew up in neighborhoods of similar houses and similar people. I grew up not just rural, but very rural,  in what I always considered a classless society. I have always known very poor people and extremely rich people, as did my parents, and thought little about differences.  People are different and you do the best you can with what life hands you.

You make your own way. Life doesn’t dole out its blessings equally. People have different abilities, different levels of intelligence, different determination, different history and family circumstances. Average IQ is 100, with half the population higher and half lower. Some are strong. Some are beautiful, and some are definitely not. Talents are all over the place. Some can excel at higher math, some have trouble making change.And there is plain old luck. All those things make a difference in life outcomes, and can’t be fixed by some Marxist redistribution scheme to make people equal. You have perhaps noticed that leftist programs for reducing economic inequality always have a cadre of “smarter” and “wiser” people at the top to do the redistributing. You are not going to make people more equal by taking money away from some to give to others.

For Mead, we are united in pessimism and divided, even polarized, in the way we identify our trouble and prescribe cures. For the left it is about inequality.”For Democrats, growing economic inequality is an issue that unites the disparate elements of the blue coalition behind a common narrative and summons the faithful to a defense of the blue social model. For Republicans, the issue is more of a hot potato, and the GOP would probably rather see the whole issue drop off the national agenda.” If he refers to inequality, Republicans don’t worry much about it. They worry about a jobless economy, badly managed, and how to restore the growth that will lift all boats— in Jack Kennedy’s phrase. Here’s Mead:

For most liberals, inequality is both a leading symptom of our national decline and an important talking point for the defense of what’s left of the blue social model. For blue model liberals, the last generation is best understood as a Grim Slide. In the days of FDR and LBJ, Americans knew the right way to live and to govern themselves. A strong federal government used Keynesian economics and enlightened, progressive views on social policy to reshape American life. The inevitable and eternal greed of corporations and the rich was curbed; Americans learned the right lessons of the wicked 1920s in which inequality ran riot and plutocrats flourished, only to see the false prosperity of those years vanish in the Depression. As long as those important lessons were remembered, a progressive tax code, pro-union legislation, income redistribution and tight regulation of financial corporations made America a good and decent country. The middle class flourished, prosperity was shared, recessions were mild, and life was good.

Professor Mead recognizes that this is a “narrative,” misconstrues the arguments of the right, and says he will look at attempt to “construct a conservative counter-narrative  on the question of inequality…and then try to see what the state of the inequality debate actually tells us about the state of the nation and about what we could actually do that might make things better.”

As long as liberals insist on social fixes to economic problems; regard FDR who had no clue what to do about the Depression and made it vastly worse, as a great hero who fixed things;  continue to believe that Marxism is a solution to anything without considering honestly what Marxism wrought wherever it was tried, and believe that “In the days of FDR and LBJ, Americans knew the right way to live and to govern themselves;” there’s not much hope that we can agree on much of anything.

It got worse and worse. Motivated by unrestrained greed, corporations shipped millions of well-paying middle class American jobs overseas, exploiting the desperate poverty around the world to erode middle class protections and living standards here in the US. As financial markets became less regulated, the rich and the well-connected reaped huge gains, while ordinary Americans were fleeced by unscrupulous ‘banksters’. CEOs made huge salaries for firing workers, closing plants, and putting corporate assets into the hands of ruthless speculators. Our financial markets became casinos; our factories fell into ruin. As the protections of the New Deal and Great Society were dismantled, the evils of the 1920s and even the 1890s returned.

Do read Mead’s whole piece, it’s not long, but deeply interesting. He describes the left-liberal narrative quite accurately. I’m not sure that he understands the right-conservative narrative (do we have one?) at all, but we will see. Consider “Economics is Organized Common Sense” which I think is closer to the mark for the right, briefly stated.

Look Around. There Are Some Astonishing Things Out There! by The Elephant's Child

Every once in a while you trip over something new— something new to you that you had been completely unaware of previously— and you suddenly realize that there are whole worlds of things to see and learn about.

Long ago, my mother wanted me to be musical. We had a piano (which nobody played) and she rounded-up a piano teacher. I hated it. The teacher was a nice lady who wore a wig, and it didn’t fit well and kept sliding around. I remember that more than I remember the lessons. When I was supposed to practice at home, I managed to read while I poked around at piano with the other hand, so my mom could hear the piano.  My mother eventually gave up.

She didn’t attempt to interest me in another instrument, but when we later lived in Portland for a few years, she found an old lady who gave whistling lessons, who was the sound effects for Hartz Mountain Canaries on the radio. That didn’t take either, and I was always embarrassed about it, and never mentioned it to anyone. And then many years later I learned that there were Whistling Conventions and lots of people took whistling lessons, and competed nationally.  Who knew?

A chance inquiry at a feed store about harness, and how harness worked, led me to a potluck gathering of a group dedicated to preserving  the different breeds of draft horses.  With the advent of modern farm machinery, there’s not much need for draft horses except by Budweiser.The locals brought their horses, and visiting Brits talked about their breeds. I learned about harness, and stone boats, and the organizations all over the world dedicated to preserving species that had gone out of use and out of style. It was fascinating.

I had never focused my attention on materials and their development. I was vaguely aware of new plastics and other substances in the hardware store—but not on materials science as a profession developing new materials to do new things. So after writing that post, a friend asked me if I was familiar with aerogel? Huh?

Aerogel is a synthetic porous ultralight material derived from a gel…, in which the liquid component of the gel has been replaced with a gas. The result is a solid with extremely low density and low thermal conductivity. This is not new. First created in 1931, according to Wikipedia. First aerogels were produced from silica gels, then alumina, chromia and tin dioxide. Carbon aerogels came in the late 1980s. It is an excellent insulator, and lowest density solid, until eclipsed by graphene aerogel.

A new water-repellant concrete impregnated with tiny superstrong fibers promises to leave roads and bridges free of major cracks for up to 120 years. University of  Wisconsin Milwaukee has developed a concrete mix that is durable and superhydrophobic. (wonderful word) Preventing normally porous concrete from absorbing water means that liquid can’t get inside, freeze and cause it to crack. Cracks fo not form, do not propagate and cause failure. The useful life of typical concrete roads is 30 years and concrete bridges and culverts as 40-45 years. The new material not only repels water, but it can bend. They say it would pay for the increased cost with diminished maintenance costs. (“crumbling roads and bridges”)

A new bone-like material is lighter than water but as strong as steel. Jens Bauer and his colleagues at the Karlsruher Institute of Technology have developed a bone-like material that is less dense than water . but as strong as some forms of steel. This is the first experimental proof that such materials can exist.

All known materials can be represented quite neatly in one chart. Each line means the strength or density of the material goes up ten times.


The line in the middle at 1000kg/m³ is the density of water—all materials to its left are lighter than water and those on the right are heavier. No solid material is lighter than water unless it is porous. Porous materials like wood and bone exhibit exquisite structures when seen under a microscope. Materials scientists can use computer simulations to fill some empty areas on the strength-density chart that theory predicts.

We are now in a molecular age, when scientists can start experimenting at the level of the atom.  Add 3D printing and laser technology, and new super-light materials may mean new skis and aircraft parts, and things heretofore unthought of.

David Harsanyi Makes the Case Against Democracy by The Elephant's Child

David Harsanyi is a nationally syndicated columnist and a senior editor at The Federalist. I have been following him since he was in Colorado. He has a new book just out with the delightful title: The People have Spoken (and They are Wrong): The Case Against Democracy.

Harsanyi sat down with Reason TV’s Nick Gillespie to talk about what he has against Democracy, why we put too much weight on voting, and why praising democracy is just celebrating mob rule.

“Democracy’s just a process that reflects the morals and ethics of the people who vote,” he said. “It doesn’t guarantee you freedom—just check out the Gaza Strip or Egypt or anywhere else.”

It’s a fun interview with a lot of food for thought. As Winston Churchill said “Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.”

What Do You Do When the Watchdogs Are Corrupt? by The Elephant's Child

The founders, Republicans keep trying to explain, did not have in mind a big bloated bureaucratic government in Washington D.C.. They believed that the few things that the federal government should and could do would be very limited.

They knew that big government as they experienced it, even at a great distance, was apt to become increasingly corrupt. Yet the idea of an Office of the Inspector General to keep tabs on whether the enormous numbers of federal agencies we now have  were behaving themselves, staying honest and doing only what they were supposed to do never occurred to them.

The Inspector General Act of 1978 listed the purpose of establishing the office as:

  1. To conduct and supervise audits and investigations relating to the programs and operations of the establishments listed
  2. To provide leadership and coordination and recommend policies for activities designed (A) to promote economy, efficiency, and effectiveness in the administration of, and (B) to prevent and detect fraud and abuse in, such programs and operations; and
  3. To provide a means for keeping the head of the establishment and the Congress fully and currently informed about problems and deficiencies relating to the administration of such programs and operations  and the necessity for and progress of corrective action.

So now we have the top watchdog for the Department of Homeland Security who altered and delayed investigations at the request of senior administration officials, compromising his independent role as an inspector general, according to a new report for a Senate oversight panel.

Charles K.Edwards, who served as acting DHS inspector general from 2011 through 2013, routinely shared drinks and dinner with department leaders and gave them inside information about the timing and findings of investigations. He improperly relied on the advice of top political advisers to Janet Napolitano and acquiesced to their suggestions about wording and timing of three separate reports. These actions occurred while Edwards was seeking the president’s nomination to be the permanent inspector general overseeing DHS, the third-largest government agency with a $39 billion budget and more than 225,000 employees.

Sen. Ron Johnson, the ranking Republican on the Senate oversight committee, said they found Mr. Edwards to be a compromised inspector general who was not exercising real oversight. Sen. Johnson and Sen.Claire McCaskill (D-MO) opened  the investigation while looking into the hiring of prostitutes by Secret Service agents ahead of a 2012 presidential trip to Cartagena, Colombia. Whistleblowers alleged that Edwards had ordered them to remove derogatory information about the service and evidence implicating a White House staff member.

Janet Napolitano, now president of the University of California system that neither she nor her staff ordered anything to be deleted, no changes, nothing to see here. Charles K. Edwards has been placed on administrative leave.

Michelle Malkin goes into the scandal a little deeper, and names more names. The administration is more apt to go after some Inspector Generals who expose corruption and financial improprieties than to take them seriously as corruption that must be rooted out. Which, of course, makes it plain that IGs who make corruption public may lose their jobs for doing so.

Barack and Michelle Obama learned their politics in the Chicago Democratic machine, as did a number of the members of their administration. Corruption there has been a way of life — as long as my elderly next-door neighbors can remember, they told me. And they have brought that understanding of how the world works with them to Washington. And it spreads through the ranks.

Do we now need Level II Inspector Generals to monitor the inspector generals?

Congress does search out corruption when they see it, but what they do not do is eliminate unnecessary laws and unnecessary agencies. Government does few things well. I can’t even think of an example. And most of what it does—it does badly. We need a Congress that recognizes that fact, and is willing to spend some serious time whittling down the bloated size and overreach of og government itself.

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