Trump is not the problem; the system that created Trump is the problem

As 2016 Super Tuesday results filed in, a sinking feeling could be felt across the country. Political pundits and lay voters alike realized that Donald J. Trump had a good chance of securing a majority of the states’ primaries, which meant that he could win Super Tuesday, and winning Super Tuesday could propel him toward the nomination, and if he won the nomination he could foreseeably win the presidency. That sinking feeling led to an eerie realization: The Donald could become president of the United States of America.


What had been an impossibility suddenly became real; what was for so long a joke was suddenly no laughing matter.

A chorus arose from the commentators, soft at first, but by Super Tuesday a full-blown bellow: Stop Trump! The Donald would be atrocious for American democracy, and we must do everything we can to prevent his nomination. People pulled out the stops; comparisons to Hitler were rife; Whoopi Goldberg threatened to leave America.

But, in reading over the commentary, hit pieces, and outright propaganda that arose to stop the unconventional candidate, it occurred to me that Trump really isn’t the worst thing for American democracy—the troop of anti-Trumpers and their logic are. Sure, Trump is a clown and has no business being the president of the country. But the anti-Trump haters are out-clowning him, and almost making a Trump presidency appealing because of it.

Find the entire article here:

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The conundrum of rights–natural rights vs. civil rights and the disintegration of order

If the recent debate over RFRA laws and same-sex marriage teaches us anything, it is not that there are a bunch of bigots out there or that there are people being unjustly discriminated against. It is that, as a nation, we are facing a crisis of rights.

Witness the recent news item from Oregon: Last month, a judge pronounced that two bakers should pay $135,000 in damages for refusing to bake a same-sex wedding cake.

Now, we can look at this from a few angles. It could be that a couple of bigots are getting what they deserve. Or it could be that they are being unfairly demonized for doing their conscience. There are good people with good arguments on both sides of the debate.

We can all agree, however, that the Oregon case signifies a clash between opposing rights. Both sides of the argument claim to be in the right and to have the right to do what they are doing. On the one side are the bakers’ rights to conduct business as they please and to practice their conscience. On the other side are the customers’ rights to buy available goods and to not be discriminated against. The bakers’ rights necessarily infringe upon the customers’ rights, and vice versa.

One is tempted to chalk up the skirmish to an inevitable consequence of rights. The thought is that people want different things, and sometimes those wants come into conflict with each other. As it is with a rancher who wants to herd his cattle on someone else’s pasture, or the driver who wants to cut someone off while exiting the highway, sometimes it’s just ‘my rights versus yours’.

But, more than anything, this underscores a deep misunderstanding of the concept of rights. It is to assume that all rights are the same, and all conflict between them is an inner conflict within a self-contradictory system. We blithely accept the idea that the bakers’ rights are the same as the customers’ rights because, of course, they are both called ‘rights’.

A closer look reveals that the rights concerned are substantively different even though they use the same appellation. The fact is that the bakers’ rights do not force anyone to do anything while the customers’ rights more or less force the bakers to do something, and particularly something that would go against their consciences. This discrepancy means everything, and highlights the difference between two conflicting, even contradictory sets of rights.

Read the full article: How We Got Rights So Wrong

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The foibles of traffic regulation

On Jan. 1, 2015, San Antonio will begin enforcing a new cell phone ban for drivers. The ban is, by many accounts, common sense and will catch the city up with progressive California and New York bans. It also happens to be a terrible idea.
To begin, let it be said that I do not condone texting or talking on the phone while driving. It is undoubtedly a distraction, the consequences of which are seen everywhere. Any time I see poor driving—swerving, driving 15 miles an hour on the highway, crashing into cement barricades—it is doubtless because the driver is focused on a handheld device and not the primary task of driving. It goes without saying that the tragedies we see in the news where kids or families are killed in accidents due to distracted driving are horrible, and we should do all we can to eliminate such senseless catastrophes.

This ban is not the answer.

There are five key reasons why this City Council ordinance is not only not good, but potentially harmful:

1. The law is redundant.

2. The law is inconclusive.

3. It throws out the baby with the bathwater.

4. It doesn’t solve the problem and might make it worse.

5. The law doesn’t make us good, even when we’re following it.

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Democracy no more

(PolicyMic) A new scientific study from Princeton researchers Martin Gilens and Benjamin I. Page has finally put some science behind the recently popular argument that the United States isn’t a democracy any more. And they’ve found that in fact, America is basically an oligarchy.

An oligarchy is a system where power is effectively wielded by a small number of individuals defined by their status called oligarchs. Members of the oligarchy are the rich, the well connected and the politically powerful, as well as particularly well placed individuals in institutions like banking and finance or the military.

For their study, Gilens and Page compiled data from roughly 1,800 different policy initiatives in the years between 1981 and 2002. They then compared those policy changes with the expressed opinion of the United State public. Comparing the preferences of the average American at the 50th percentile of income to what those Americans at the 90th percentile preferred, as well as the opinions of major lobbying or business groups, the researchers found out that the government followed the directives set forth by the latter two much more often.

It’s beyond alarming. As Gilens and Page write, “the preferences of the average American appear to have only a minuscule, near-zero, statistically non-significant impact upon public policy.” In other words, their statistics say your opinion literally does not matter.

That might explain why mandatory background checks on gun sales supported by 83% to 91% of Americans aren’t in place, or why Congress has taken no action on greenhouse gas emissions even when such legislation is supported by the vast majority of citizens.

This problem has been steadily escalating for four decades. While there are some limitations to their data set, economists Thomas Piketty and Emmanuel Saez constructed income statistics based on IRS data that go back to 1913. They found that the gap between the ultra-wealthy and the rest of us is much bigger than you would think, as mapped by these graphs from the Center On Budget and Policy Priorities:

Piketty and Saez also calculated that as of September 2013 the top 1% of earners had captured 95% of all income gains since the Great Recession ended. The other 99% saw a net 12% drop to their income. So not only is oligarchy making the rich richer, it’s driving policy that’s made everyone else poorer.

What kind of oligarchy? As Gawker’s Hamilton Nolan explains, Gilens and Page’s findings provide support for two theories of governance: economic elite domination and biased pluralism. The first is pretty straightforward and states that the ultra-wealthy wield all the power in a given system, though some argue that this system still allows elites in corporations and the government to become powerful as well. Here, power does not necessarily derive from wealth, but those in power almost invariably come from the upper class. Biased pluralism on the other hand argues that the entire system is a mess and interest groups ruled by elites are fighting for dominance of the political process. Also, because of their vast wealth of resources, interest groups of large business tend to dominate a lot of the discourse. America, the findings indicate, tends towards either of these much more than anything close to what we call “democracy.”

In either case, the result is the same: Big corporations, the ultra-wealthy and special interests with a lot of money and power essentially make all of the decisions. Citizens wield little to no political power. America, the findings indicate, tends towards either of these much more than anything close to what we call “democracy” — systems such as majoritarian electoral democracy or majoritarian pluralism, under which the policy choices pursued by the government would reflect the opinions of the governed.

Nothing new: And no, this isn’t a problem that’s the result of any recent Supreme Court cases — at least certainly not the likes FEC v. Citizens United or FEC v. McCutcheon. The data is pretty clear that America has been sliding steadily into oligarchy for decades, mirrored in both the substantive effect on policy and in the distribution of wealth throughout the U.S. But cases like those might indicate the process is accelerating.

“Perhaps economic elites and interest group leaders enjoy greater policy expertise than the average citizen does,” Gilens and Page write. “Perhaps they know better which policies will benefit everyone, and perhaps they seek the common good, rather than selfish ends, when deciding which policies to support.

“But we tend to doubt it.”

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Venice independence

( With an 89 percent majority, the voters of Venice have elected to leave Italy. In practice, what this really means is that the Venetians plan to no longer send tax revenues to Rome. Apparently, the Venetians, who inhabit the historical capital of one of humanity’s richest and most successful republics, wish to no longer subsidize the famously-corrupt bureaucrats in Rome. Southern Italy has long been regarded by the richer, cleaner, and more efficient North as a drain on their resources. According to the Daily Mail, at least, there is talk of extending the secession movement to other areas of the North as well.

One pro-secessionist sounds like a Hoppean:

Campaigner Paolo Bernardini, professor of European history at the University of Insubria in Como, northern Italy, said it was ‘high time’ for Venice to become an autonomous state once again.

‘Although history never repeats itself, we are now experiencing a strong return of little nations, small and prosperous countries, able to interact among each other in the global world.’

‘The Venetian people realized that we are a nation (worthy of) self-rule and openly oppressed, and the entire world is moving towards fragmentation – a positive fragmentation – where local traditions mingle with global exchanges.’

Naturally, the large nation-states of Europe hate and fear developments like this. But for anyone who can remember history, there’s little “tradition” here that the nation-states can lay claim to. Italy is a made-up country, much like Germany, hammered together in the 19th century by powerful authoritarian politicians like Otto von Bismarck who of course hated classical liberalism and capitalism with every fiber of his being.

It will be interesting to see what Rome does. Will they send an army to take their tax money? Perhaps they’ll just wage some sort of campaign of hate against the Venetians, appealing to Italian patriotism. Given that Obama recently declared all secession movements illegitimate (except those supported by the US Government, of course) it’s unknown how much support Venice can expect from the international community.

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An alternative to government science

(New York Times) American science, long a source of national power and pride, is increasingly becoming a private enterprise.

In Washington, budget cuts have left the nation’s research complex reeling. Labs are closing. Scientists are being laid off. Projects are being put on the shelf, especially in the risky, freewheeling realm of basic research. Yet from Silicon Valley to Wall Street, science philanthropy is hot, as many of the richest Americans seek to reinvent themselves as patrons of social progress through science research.

The result is a new calculus of influence and priorities that the scientific community views with a mix of gratitude and trepidation.

“For better or worse,” said Steven A. Edwards, a policy analyst at the American Association for the Advancement of Science, “the practice of science in the 21st century is becoming shaped less by national priorities or by peer-review groups and more by the particular preferences of individuals with huge amounts of money.”

They have mounted a private war on disease, with new protocols that break down walls between academia and industry to turn basic discoveries into effective treatments. They have rekindled traditions of scientific exploration by financing hunts for dinosaur bones and giant sea creatures. They are even beginning to challenge Washington in the costly game of big science, with innovative ships, undersea craft and giant telescopes — as well as the first private mission to deep space.

The new philanthropists represent the breadth of American business, people like Michael R. Bloomberg, the former New York mayor (and founder of the media company that bears his name), James Simons (hedge funds) and David H. Koch (oil and chemicals), among hundreds of wealthy donors. Especially prominent, though, are some of the boldest-face names of the tech world, among them Bill Gates (Microsoft), Eric E. Schmidt (Google) and Lawrence J. Ellison (Oracle).

This is philanthropy in the age of the new economy — financed with its outsize riches, practiced according to its individualistic, entrepreneurial creed. The donors are impatient with the deliberate, and often politicized, pace of public science, they say, and willing to take risks that government cannot or simply will not consider.

Yet that personal setting of priorities is precisely what troubles some in the science establishment. Many of the patrons, they say, are ignoring basic research — the kind that investigates the riddles of nature and has produced centuries of breakthroughs, even whole industries — for a jumble of popular, feel-good fields like environmental studies and space exploration.

Gordon Moore–funder of the Thirty Meter Telescope

As the power of philanthropic science has grown, so has the pitch, and the edge, of the debate. Nature, a family of leading science journals, has published a number of wary editorials, one warning that while “we applaud and fully support the injection of more private money into science,” the financing could also “skew research” toward fields more trendy than central.

“Physics isn’t sexy,” William H. Press, a White House science adviser, said in an interview. “But everybody looks at the sky.”

Fundamentally at stake, the critics say, is the social contract that cultivates science for the common good. They worry that the philanthropic billions tend to enrich elite universities at the expense of poor ones, while undermining political support for federally sponsored research and its efforts to foster a greater diversity of opportunity — geographic, economic, racial — among the nation’s scientific investigators.

Historically, disease research has been particularly prone to unequal attention along racial and economic lines. A look at major initiatives suggests that the philanthropists’ war on disease risks widening that gap, as a number of the campaigns, driven by personal adversity, target illnesses that predominantly afflict white people — like cystic fibrosis, melanoma and ovarian cancer.

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Car dealers ought to be afraid

This company is light years ahead of the competition.

(Forbes) Tesla Motors TSLA -2.85% is being courted by four Southwestern states for its $5 billion gigafactory, but there’s another state that is kissing Tesla goodbye.

The New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission voted Tuesday to ban the direct sale of vehicles in the state, becoming the third state in the nation to prevent Tesla from selling to consumers. That would force Tesla, founded by billionaire Elon Musk, to sell its cars through dealers.

Instead, Tesla will stop selling cars in New Jersey on April 1, according to Dow Jones. That means the auto company won’t have access to one of the nation’s most lucrative markets for luxury vehicles, while well-heeled New Jerseyites will have to pick up their Teslas somewhere else.

The commission’s vote followed month of discussions between Tesla and members of Gov. Chris Christie’s administration, according to a post on Tesla’s blog. The auto company said it thought that the commission and the administration were working to help it in the face of opposition from the New Jersey Coalition of Automotive Retailers.

Like many other dealer groups across the country, New Jersey dealers did not want Tesla to be able to sell cars directly to customers. On Monday, Tesla said it learned that “Governor Christie’s administration has gone back on its word to delay a proposed anti-Tesla regulation so that the matter could be handled through a fair process in the Legislature.”

Tesla said it had already been issued two licenses to open dealerships in New Jersey. “This is an issue that affects not just Tesla customers, but also New Jersey citizens at large, because Tesla would be unable to create new jobs or participate in New Jersey’s economic revival,” the Tesla blog said.

Meanwhile, a spokesman for Gov. Christie said Tesla officials would need to convince the state legislature to reverse the New Jersey ban on direct sales.

Christie spokesman Kevin Roberts said, “Since Tesla first began operating in New Jersey one year ago, it was made clear that the company would need to engage the Legislature on a bill to establish their new direct-sales operations under New Jersey law. This administration does not find it appropriate to unilaterally change the way cars are sold in New Jersey without legislation, and Tesla has been aware of this position since the beginning.”

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The return of rational

Psychonomics: How Modern Science Aims to Conquer the Mind and How the Mind Prevails

Introducing the new book by Eric Robert Morse—Psychonomics: How Modern Science Aims to Conquer the Mind and How the Mind Prevails. An excerpt from the book:

Franz Gall was no crank. We laugh at him now because his conclusions were found to be incorrect. But his method was founded in science, and he did much research to further anthropological and biological understanding of our species.

His 1819 book had a long title and a captivating idea. The title was The Anatomy and Physiology of the Nervous System in General, and of the Brain in Particular, with Observations upon the possibility of ascertaining the several intellectual and Moral Dispositions of Man and Animal, by configuration of their Heads. The idea? That we can tell a person’s personality and intelligence by the bumps on his head. Thus Cranioscopy, or Phrenology as it was later known, was born.

It is clear in retrospect that his science wasn’t quite as rigid as one would hope. The notion that the size of a given mental organ indicates its strength was never scientifically proven. Nor was the concept that bumps in the skull could reveal the size of brain regions within. And these were central to the theory behind Phrenology. As such, the science has been widely discredited.

Vocal moderns have also indicted Phrenology due to its use as a scientific justification for racism. In England, ruling classes were keen to point out the differences between their own skulls and those of their colonial subjects. It later became the bedrock for scientific race discrimination in the United States and a key defense of slavery.

We look back on the Phrenology craze with some amusement and some pity. It is a shame, we think, that such a backward, inexact practice could pass as scientific and that so many otherwise intelligent people could fall for such a trap. Considering how dangerous it was, the thought is as maddening as it is puzzling. Certainly we would never fall for such a swindle these days. We are far too advanced and sophisticated to let bad science convince us and dictate our thoughts and actions, both public and private. Or are we?

In Psychonomics, I have tried to show that things aren’t as easy as that. The allure of bad science lives well today, and there is no switch to flip that allows us to start seeing things as they are and cease being misled by fallacy and folly. We spend a great deal of effort persuading ourselves that we are above such fancies as Phrenology, but the fact is that we are just as prone to confusion and mistake as the 19th century followers of Franz Gall.

We pride ourselves on the way in which we base so many of our thoughts and actions on science, and we think that, because we spend so much energy and effort on facts, figures, and statistics, we have reached a new level of enlightenment and are no longer vulnerable to the appeal of the vague and the bunk. And yet, that very condition is exactly why we are vulnerable. Because we base so much of our thoughts and actions on science, we blindly follow when we should be skeptical; because we focus so much on the facts, figures, and statistics, we are distracted by the numbers and lose sight of the reality before us.

Behavioral Economics shows us how this can happen in the modern setting. The field is overflowing with mesmerizing experiments, mind-boggling data, and confounding conclusions—what curious bystander can help but be taken in by the scientific grandeur? We find that its very appeal is what opens the door to its failures. The researchers build up abstractions so complex and convoluted that they are practically impossible to unwind. We get lost in a maze of logic and illogic so that, when we finally arrive at the conclusion, clean and simple as it always is, we have no choice but to accept it. It doesn’t matter that the conclusion reached defies common sense and condemns human rationality—the experiments prove it, just look!

When we hear a story like that of Franz Gall and Phrenology, we indulge our conceit to think that they were much different then than we are now. We laugh at how immature they were and pride ourselves on our advanced objectivity. The truth is, Gall and Phrenology were more legitimate than we like to believe; and today, we are more misguided than is comfortable to admit.

In his founding of Phrenology, Gall contributed several key insights to both neuroanatomy and psychology that survive to this day. It is shortsighted to forget that he settled, once and for all it would seem, the question of whether or not the brain was the seat of the mind. Prior to Gall’s work, there was great debate over where the mind was located, and a strong contingent, reaching as far back as Ancient Egypt, held that it in was the heart. Gall also established the principle of brain function localization. Everyone recognizes the antique diagrams of a man’s profile and his head dissected into compartments labeled for their function. After this approach became a sensation throughout the 1800s, it lost favor in the early 20th century, only to return again as the dominant stance on brain function. Today, the brain-mapping endeavor seeks to do with computers what Gall did with pen and ink.

And yet, despite the advances achieved by the bizarre practice, we shun the entire enterprise because it failed on other levels. Since it was a part of something notably unscientific and patently abhorrent—slavery—we believe that the whole thing was unscientific and thus abhorrent.

By contrast, we view a new science like Behavioral Economics with unbridled reverence. We watch with wide eyes and dropped jaws as researchers demonstrate our own faulty decision-making and predictable irrationality. We don’t question it when the studies prove that we are incapable of sound judgment and thus require heavy doses of government regulation to save us from ourselves. The experiments, the brain scans, the statistics, are all too mesmerizing to refuse.

And yet, as we have seen, Behavioral Economics is, like all modern sciences, a great abstraction. By taking human behavior and breaking it down into abstract functions like choices in a hypothetical, keystrokes in a computer simulation, or decisions stripped of context, researchers reduce a rich, complex phenomenon to its spare outline.

To be sure, this allows us to view human behavior in a new light, and offers us insight into our thought processes and actions. But still, it must be admitted that the process renders an abstraction as far from reality as the GDP is distorted from the economy or ‘g’ is distorted from a person’s mental abilities. When we analyze the abstractions and arrive at the conclusion that we are liable to cognitive errors and biases, we are guilty of reifying the abstraction just as Franz Gall did with Phrenology. As a matter of scientific fidelity, it can be said that Behavioral Economics is no more sophisticated than its 19th century precursor.

Certainly, the goal in this book is not to diminish today’s efforts and laud those of the past. All can agree that we have advanced tremendously as a result of much hard work and innovation and cannot justify going backward in the least. But with our advances has come a blind credence that has allowed the sciences to grow ever sloppier and more imprecise. We absorb all manner of scientific research even when it isn’t rigorous or reproducible. We accept it because it’s scientific and thus surrender its scientific legitimacy.

With Psychonomics, I hope I have shown that all science is valuable only when it is viewed with staid skepticism. And, in so doing, I hope that I have done what few science writers have done in the latest fervor over Psychology: helped to return the sciences to their rightful place as the greatest tool for analyzing and understanding the natural world we have available.

Upon reflection, the ambitious reader might arrive at the author’s own resolution: Our challenge in this age of science is not to achieve the next great breakthrough or figure out a way to support science more—that will come naturally as the result of man’s innate desire to wonder and the irrefutable inertia of the disciplines. Rather, our challenge is to prevent our excitement for science from leading us blindly down the path of error or, what’s worse, oblivion. It is a formidable challenge without question. The optimist is confident that we will succeed as long as we can achieve two things: promote science, and do so without giving up our own ability and intent to think and reason.

Buy the book at these fine retailers:

Amazon paperback
Amazon Kindle

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Not a 1% problem; not a 99% problem; it’s an American problem

Chicago black grassroots activists respond to SOTU. And it’s not favorable.

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The paths of civilizations

One wonders whether the last 80 years changes much.

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Everything is peaceful at a million feet

Featuring the haunting, ethereal music of Axial Ensemble, title track “Premonition.” Aboard the ISS, we fly along over Earth’s luminous nocturnal landscapes, with Dr. Justin Wilkinson as our guide. This intimate tour takes us over cities and coastlines in the Americas, the Middle East and Europe.

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The road map to Mars

The Mars One foundation will establish a permanent human settlement on Mars. This Indiegogo campaign will help us jumpstart the first major step in our project — a private Mars Lander and Satellite mission in 2018. Your participation will help fund the 2018 mission and above all, show our partners & sponsors that the world is ready for this to happen. Mars One gives you the opportunity to participate in this historic project. This can be your mission to Mars!

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Homeschooling a fresh alternative to Statist schooling

Homeschooled: How American Homeschoolers Measure Up

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George Will, increasingly intelligent

“I’ve lived in Washington now for 44 years, and that’s a lot of folly to witness up close,” says Washington Post columnist George Will. “Whatever confidence and optimism I felt towards the central government when I got here on January 1, 1970 has pretty much dissipated at the hands of the government.”

“In part, I owe my current happiness to Barack Obama,” continues the 72-year-old Will, who “so thoroughly concentrates all of the American progressive tradition and the academic culture that goes with it, that he’s really put the spring in my step.”

Branded “perhaps the most powerful journalist in America” by the Wall Street Journal, Will received the Pulitzer Prize for commentary in 1977 and is the author of numerous books, including Statecraft as Soulcraft: What Government Does, Men at Work: The Craft of Baseball, and One Man’s America: The Pleasures and Provocations of our Singular Nation. A regular panelist on ABC’s This Week, Will has the distinction of having been attacked in the pages of Doonesbury and praised in an episode of Seinfeld (for his “clean, scrubbed look”).

More recently Will has become a champion of libertarianism, both in print and on the air. “America is moving in the libertarians’ direction,” Will wrote in a 2011 review of The Declaration of Independents, “not because they have won an argument but because government and the sectors it dominates have made themselves ludicrous.”

Will sat down with Reason’s Nick Gillespie and Matt Welch to discuss his libertarian evolution (2:16), how Sen. John McCain spurred his political transformation (4:07), Ronald Reagan (4:29), the tax code (8:45), why the Republicans are becoming more interesting (19:30), what the government should be spending money on (23:14), war hawks and foreign policy (25:19), the benefits of judicial activism (34:49), gay marriage (37:55), marijuana legalization (39:04), the importance of Barry Goldwater (40:28), Mitt Romney (45:45), the 2016 election (46:37), Medicare (48:52), how Everett Dirksen’s untimely death changed his life (50:42), why President Obama makes him happy (52:06), affirmative action (53:07), and his optimism in America’s future (57:31).

Approx. 60 minutes long.

Shot by Meredith Bragg and Todd Krainin. Edited by Bragg.

For links, downloadable audio, and more, visit:…

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On the fall of the nation-state and the return of the city-state

(TED) It often seems like federal-level politicians care more about creating gridlock than solving the world’s problems. So who’s actually getting bold things done? City mayors. So, political theorist Benjamin Barber suggests: Let’s give them more control over global policy. Barber shows how these “urban homeboys” are solving pressing problems on their own turf — and maybe in the world.

Benjamin Barber believes that the future of the world may lie with the politicians who implement practical change every day: mayors.

With some major logical fallacies, this talk still gets to the essence of our modern condition–the fall of the nation-state and the return of the city-state.

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Hobby Lobby standing in the way of Obamacare

( The Obama administration today filed papers taking the Christian craft store Hobby Lobby to the Supreme Court to make it comply with the HHS mandate that compels religious companies to pay for birth control and abortion-causing drugs for their employees.

In July, a federal court granted Hobby Lobby a preliminary injunction against the HHS abortion-drug mandate. The injunction prevented the Obama administration from enforcing the mandate against the Christian company, but the Obama administration appealed that ruling today. The government’s appeal makes it highly likely that the Supreme Court will decide the issue in the upcoming term.

“The United States government is taking the remarkable position that private individuals lose their religious freedom when they make a living,” said Kyle Duncan, general counsel of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty and lead lawyer for Hobby Lobby. “We’re confident that the Supreme Court will reject the government’s extreme position and hold that religious liberty is for everyone—including people who run a business.”

Duncan said the appeals court victory for Hobby Lobby this summer had the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals rejecting the Obama administration’s argument that the Green family and their family-owned businesses, Hobby Lobby and a Christian bookstore chain named Mardel, could not legally exercise their religious views. The court further said the businesses were likely to win their challenge to the HHS mandate.

The government’s petition comes the same day as a petition in Conestoga Wood Specialties v. Sebelius, another case involving a challenge to the HHS mandate.

The court will consider the government’s petition in the next six weeks. If the petition is granted, the case would be argued and decided before the end of the Court’s term in June.

After the appeals court ruling, U.S. District Judge Joe Heaton issued a preliminary injunction and stayed the case until Oct. 1 to give the Obama administration time to appeal the decision.

In an opinion read from the bench, the court said, “There is a substantial public interest in ensuring that no individual or corporation has their legs cut out from under them while these difficult issues are resolved.”

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Not feudal times, not the 1930s, but today

(HSLDA) At 8:00 a.m. on Thursday, August 29, 2013, in what has been called a “brutal and vicious act,” a team of 20 social workers, police officers, and special agents stormed a homeschooling family’s residence near Darmstadt, Germany, forcibly removing all four of the family’s children (ages 7-14). The sole grounds for removal were that the parents, Dirk and Petra Wunderlich, continued to homeschool their children in defiance of a German ban on home education.

The children were taken to unknown locations. Officials ominously promised the parents that they would not be seeing their children “anytime soon.”

HSLDA obtained and translated the court documents that authorized this use of force to seize the children. The only legal grounds for removal were the family’s continuation of homeschooling their children. The papers contain no other allegations of abuse or neglect. Moreover, Germany has not even alleged educational neglect for failing to provide an adequate education. The law ignores the educational progress of the child; attendance—and not learning—is the object of the German law.

Judge Koenig, a Darmstadt family court judge, signed the order on August 28 authorizing the immediate seizure of Dirk and Petra Wunderlich’s children. Citing the parents’ failure to cooperate “with the authorities to send the children to school,” the judge also authorized the use of force “against the children” if necessary, reasoning that such force might be required because the children had “adopted the parents’ opinions” regarding homeschooling and that “no cooperation could be expected” from either the parents or the children.

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When the government fails to do its job…

(Fox News Baltimore) As the number of street crimes committed in Baltimore City escalates, so does the level of fear. This has caused communities to look beyond the police for protection.

In Baltimore City there are four special tax districts where residents pay more to make their neighborhoods safer. Charles Village is one of them and has the lowest surtax of the four.

It was formed in the mid-1990s as a way for the community to provide supplemental security and sanitation services to what the city was already providing. The surtax charged to homeowners has never been altered.

Baltimore’s Little Italy community is one of the latest to seek to hire its own private security force, following the recent beating and robbery caught on a private security camera. The added layer of security is an effective one, City Councilman James Kraft says. “We’ve had this effort undertaken in Greektown. We’ve talked about it in Highlandtown and we’ve done it during St. Patrick’s Day at O’Donnell square.

It works – it’s proven and we want to implement it where ever we can,” Kraft said. Oftentimes it’s the same people being paid to keep the community safe. “We have a program that allows us to hire off duty police officers and it allows us to get officers in neighborhoods where we have greater concerns,” Kraft said.

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From the book, Part IV, chapter 3:

The idea is not to get rid of laws but to localize them and make them relevant. It is to stress, as Elinor Ostrom puts it, “rules in use” as opposed to “rules in form”—that is, rules devised by the people and community and suited for their needs as opposed to those devised by government officials and enforced as a way to maintain hierarchy.

Only individual and personal regulation can prevent the kind of systemic collapse and hardship seen in the 2008 downturn because only the individual can take into account all the factors that may affect him. Sure, occasional failure on the personal plane is as inevitable as memory loss, but it is much less likely than failure on the interpersonal or impersonal level. In the end, it is much less maddening to lose money, time, or effort because of one’s own mistake than because of negligence by some anonymous stranger.

Self-regulation, like self-governance in general, is a form of polycentric order and flourishes naturally in response to any kind of social circumstance. American lawyer and writer Tom W. Bell pointed out that this kind of natural law has become manifest in communities around the West in the last century in response to increasingly abstract and out-of-touch federal governments. As Bell has shown, what he calls ‘polycentric law’ is thriving in three vital aspects of modern life: arbitration (with alternative dispute resolution firms), community organization (with homeowners’ associations and gated communities), and the Internet (with just about everything having to do with it). In these and other areas, individuals and groups have organized and created rules that stipulate shared ideals and help to establish order, all in effort to fill the absence of coherent state laws or to counter unjust government action. In general, the pattern has been clear: Where the state has been lacking, private interests have stepped up to fulfill the need for order.

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Hyperloop pushes the envelope of what’s possible

(Businessweek) Almost a year after Elon Musk, chief executive of Tesla Motors (TSLA) and SpaceX, first floated the idea of a superfast mode of transportation, he has finally revealed the details: a solar-powered, city-to-city elevated transit system that could take passengers and cars from Los Angeles to San Francisco in 30 minutes. In typical Musk fashion, the Hyperloop, as he calls it, immediately poses a challenge to the status quo—in this case, California’s $70 billion high-speed train that has been knocked by Musk and others as too expensive, too slow, and too impractical.

In Musk’s vision, the Hyperloop would transport people via aluminum pods enclosed inside of steel tubes. He describes the design as looking like a shotgun with the tubes running side by side for most of the journey and closing the loop at either end. These tubes would be mounted on columns 50 to 100 yards apart, and the pods inside would travel up to 800 miles per hour. Some of this Musk has hinted at before; he now adds that pods could ferry cars as well as people. “You just drive on, and the pod departs,” Musk told Bloomberg Businessweek in his first interview about the Hyperloop.

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The growing incentive to give up U.S. citizenship

(Bloomberg) Americans renouncing U.S. citizenship surged sixfold in the second quarter from a year earlier as the government prepares to introduce tougher asset-disclosure rules.

Expatriates giving up their nationality at U.S. embassies climbed to 1,131 in the three months through June from 189 in the year-earlier period, according to Federal Register figures published today. That brought the first-half total to 1,810 compared with 235 for the whole of 2008.

The U.S., the only nation in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development that taxes citizens wherever they reside, is searching for tax cheats in offshore centers, including Switzerland, as the government tries to curb thebudget deficit. Shunned by Swiss and German banks and facing tougher asset-disclosure rules under the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act, more of the estimated 6 million Americans living overseas are weighing the cost of holding a U.S. passport.

“With the looming deadline for Fatca, more and more U.S. citizens are becoming aware that they have U.S. tax reporting obligations,” said Matthew Ledvina, a U.S. tax lawyer at Anaford AG in Zurich. “Once aware, they decide to renounce their U.S. citizenship.”

Fatca requires foreign financial institutions to report to the Internal Revenue Service information about financial accounts held by U.S. taxpayers, or held by foreign entities in which U.S. taxpayers hold a substantial ownership interest. It was estimated to generate $8.7 billion over 10 years, according to the congressional Joint Committee on Taxation.

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