Reasons to Hate Politics

Bryan Caplan gives a number of apolitical reasons to hate politics.  I agree with them all, but want to add one more.  Here are his:

I hate the hyperbole of politics.  People should speak literal, measured truth or be silent.

I hate the Social Desirability Bias of politics.  People should describe reality as it is, not pander to wishful thinking.

I hate the innumeracy of politics.  People should focus on what's quantitatively important, not what thrills the masses.

I hate the overconfidence of politics.  People shouldn't make claims they won't bet on, and shouldn't assert certainty unless they're willing to bet everything they own against a penny.

I hate the myside bias of politics.  People should strive to be fair to out-groups, and scrupulously monitor in-groups, to counteract our natural human inclination to do the opposite.

I hate the "winning proves I'm right" mentality of politics.  Winning only proves your views are popular, and popular views are often wrong.

Last but not least:

I hate the excuses people make for each of the preceding evils.

To these I would add:  I hate how people treat politicians as personal saviors.  I can't even understand how people can permanently glue a politician's name to the bumper of their car.

Free Books, Starting Tomorrow

Starting tomorrow, and for a limited time, the Kindle electronic version will be free for both my books.   This includes my novel BMOC and my short story String Theory.

Guide for Politicians: How to Lie in the 21st Century

Lying is an old, old skill among politicians.  What is new in the 21st century is that with the advent of the Internet and alternative media, it is much more likely for a politician to get caught publicly in a lie.  Based on my observations over the last year of the political-media process, here is my brief guide for politicians on how to lie, or more accurately, how to manage affairs when caught lying.

First, there must be a lie, as represented by this chart:

21st century lying

There is some underlying truth out there (shown with the blue dot), and given the squishiness of the English language at times, there are a variety of ways that truth could reasonably be restated, shown by the blue circle around it.  On the left we will assume someone has lied or made an incorrect statement about that truth, and again there is a reasonable range of meanings around that untrue statement, shown by the red circle around it.  Note that the reasonable range of meanings for the original statement do not encompass the truth.

So what happens next?  Well, one possibility is that no one calls you on the untruth.  Congratulations, you are done!  The other possibility, though, is that some crazy dude on the Internet found a cell phone video embedded in a World of Warcraft chat room that reveals you did not tell the truth.  So what now?

The thing to remember at this point is that you have two assets.  First, you presumably have supporters.  Your supporters want to believe you.  They are looking for some explanation or statement from you that is even minimally convincing, and they are ready to trumpet that explanation like it is the Word of God to the rest of the world.

Your second asset is the media.  Your original lie was maybe a week ago.  That is the Jurassic Period for the media.  They don't have the staff to track down what is happening today, much less go back over something from a week ago.

Taking these two assets in mind, you are going to restate your original untrue statement, as so in orange:


The key for this to work is to make sure the range of meanings from your original statement and the range of possible meanings from your new statement overlap.  By doing so, you haven't admitted to lying or changed your position -- you have clarified.  Cognitive dissonance in your supporters will cause their brains to immediately substitute all instances of your first statement in their memories with your new restatement.

OK, but what happens when that dude in his pajamas does it again, and claims you are still lying with your new restatement.  What do you do?  Same thing as last time: another restatement.  If necessary, you will keep restating until the range of meanings of your restatement overlaps with the truth:


Yay!  You are done.  If you really want to win the news cycle, take your final restatement to Politifact and get them to rate it as mostly true.   Sure, some crazies on the other side of the aisle are going to be screaming that the ultimate truth does not at all resemble your original statement, but just claim that they are dredging up old news and that it has already been settled.  For extra points, if you are a female and/or the member of an ethnic minority, claim discrimination, saying that the opposition is driven by racism, misogyny, etc.

I think this is all clearer with an example.  So let's take the case of Philander J. Donkeyphant, who is running for reelection.  Phil decides to lie about the vehicle he was driving yesterday.  Why does he lie?  Who knows, but Phil is a successful politician and senior government official and therefore one of our betters and let's not question his tactics.   So let's see how his lie plays out:

Lie:  I drove a red car yesterday

Soon, Philander has a problem.  Some crazy lady finds a traffic camera video and proves no red car drove by that could have been Philander's.  So Phil is forced into his first restatement:

First Restatement:  I was driving a deep-red pickup truck

A bit of a stretch but we can't really call it changing his story, since many folks might refer to the family car and actually be talking about a pickup truck.  And the "deep red" comment seems downright helpful, trying to provide more detail.  But wouldn't you know it, that lady can't find any deep red pickup trucks on camera.  So Phil moves to his second restatement:

Second Restatement:  I was driving a violet truck.

Again, a bit of a stretch, but violet is not far from deep-red.  He has dropped the detail of it being a pickup truck, now it is just a truck, but still arguably consistent with his immediately previous statement.

Finally, our annoying blogger-lady finds Philander and his vehicle on a video.  It turns out:

Truth:  He was driving a purple 18-wheeler.

When shown the video, old Phil says, "Sure, that's what I said.  A violet truck.  Obviously my opposition has nothing better to do than make stupid issues like this out of nothing.  Politifact confirms that "violet truck" is a truthful way to describe a "purple 18-wheeler" so the issue is closed.

I Nominate This For Worst Idea Ever for a Movie Based on a Game

Why Scams Work

The WSJ has an interesting article about why get rich quick schemes that should be so easy to demolish, particularly with Google at our fingertips, seem to attract so many people.

The article reminded me of a piece I published years ago over at my climate site.  It was about a company called "Hydroinfra" in Sweden.  I want to reprint the article as I still find the subject to be immensely entertaining.  In particular, I really really encourage you to look at the comments section of this article linked towards the bottom and see the back and forth with reader "michael".  In the face of overwhelming skepticism from pretty much every other reader, Michael desperately wants to believe -- so much so that he and a few others start heaping derision and sinister motives (interspersed with spurious appeals to authority) on those who are trying to patiently explain the science.  One can see this same desperate behavior from those who have bought into every famous pyramid scheme ever.

I got an email today from some random Gmail account asking me to write about HyrdoInfra.  OK.  The email begins: “HydroInfra Technologies (HIT) is a Stockholm based clean tech company that has developed an innovative approach to neutralizing carbon fuel emissions from power plants and other polluting industries that burn fossil fuels.”

Does it eliminate CO2?  NOx?  Particulates?  SOx?  I actually was at the bottom of my inbox for once so I went to the site.  I went to this applications page.  Apparently, it eliminates the “toxic cocktail” of pollutants that include all the ones I mentioned plus mercury and heavy metals.  Wow!  That is some stuff.

Their key product is a process for making something they call “HyrdroAtomic Nano Gas” or HNG.  It sounds like their PR guys got Michael Crichton and JJ Abrams drunk in a brainstorming session for pseudo-scientific names.

But hold on, this is the best part.  Check out the description of HNG and how it is made:

Splitting water (H20) is a known science. But the energy costs to perform splitting outweigh the energy created from hydrogen when the Hydrogen is split from the water molecule H2O.

This is where mainstream science usually closes the book on the subject.

We took a different approach by postulating that we could split water in an energy efficient way to extract a high yield of Hydrogen at very low cost.

A specific low energy pulse is put into water. The water molecules line up in a certain structure and are split from the Hydrogen molecules.

The result is HNG.

HNG is packed with ‘Exotic Hydrogen’

Exotic Hydrogen is a recent scientific discovery.

HNG carries an abundance of Exotic Hydrogen and Oxygen.

On a Molecular level, HNG is a specific ratio mix of Hydrogen and Oxygen.

The unique qualities of HNG show that the placement of its’ charged electrons turns HNG into an abundant source of exotic Hydrogen.

HNG displays some very different properties from normal hydrogen.

Some basic facts:

  • HNG instantly neutralizes carbon fuel pollution emissions
  • HNG can be pressurized up to 2 bars.
  • HNG combusts at a rate of 9000 meters per second while normal Hydrogen combusts at a rate 600 meters per second.
  • Oxygen values actually increase when HNG is inserted into a diesel flame.
  • HNG acts like a vortex on fossil fuel emissions causing the flame to be pulled into the center thus concentrating the heat and combustion properties.
  • HNG is stored in canisters, arrayed around the emission outlet channels. HNG is injected into the outlets to safely & effectively clean up the burning of fossil fuels.
  • The pollution emissions are neutralized instantly & safely with no residual toxic cocktail or chemicals to manage after the HNG burning process is initiated.

Exotic Hyrdrogen!  I love it.  This is probably a component of the “red matter” in the Abrams Star Trek reboot.  Honestly, someone please tell me this a joke, a honeypot for mindless environmental activist drones.    What are the chemical reactions going on here?  If CO2 is captured, what form does it take?  How does a mixture of Hydrogen and Oxygen molecules in whatever state they are in do anything with heavy metals?  None of this is on the website.   On their “validation” page, they have big labels like “Horiba” that look like organizations thave somehow put their imprimatur on the study.  In fact, they are just names of analytical equipment makers.  It’s like putting “IBM” in big print on your climate study because you ran your model on an IBM computer.

SCAM!  Honestly, when you see an article written to attract investment that sounds sort of impressive to laymen but makes absolutely no sense to anyone who knows the smallest about of Chemistry or Physics, it is an investment scam.

But they seem to get a lot of positive press.  In my search of Google, everything in the first ten pages or so are just uncritical republication of their press releases in environmental and business blogs.   You actually have to go into the comments sections of these articles to find anyone willing to observe this is all total BS.   If you want to totally understand why the global warming debate gets nowhere, watch commenter Michael at this link desperately try to hold onto his faith in HydroInfra while people who actually know things try to explain why this makes no sense.

Years later, doing a Google search, I still seem to be the only person in the first 10 pages of Google results that wrote a skeptical article.  Seriously, I figured out this was all bullsh*t from about 60 seconds of studying their web site -- is this really what happens in tech journalism?  I got the same press release in my box that they did.  I (and many of the tech site commenters) figured this out quickly, why didn't any actual journalists?


In Defense of Profits -- Why They Are At Least As Moral as Wages

Quick background:  my company privately operates public parks, making our money solely from the entry fees voluntarily paid by visitors and campers.  We don't get paid a single dollar of tax money.

A major partner of ours is the US Forest Service (USFS), which actually operates more recreation sites than any other agency in the world (the National Park Service has a higher profile and the Corps of Engineers has more visitors, but the USFS is the most ubiquitous).  Despite the USFS being an early pioneer of using private companies to reduce the operating costs of parks and campgrounds, the USFS still has a large number of employees opposed to what we do.  The most typical statement I hear from USFS employees that summarizes this opposition -- and it is quite common to hear it -- is that "It is wrong to make a profit on public lands."

It would be hard to understate the passion with which certain USFS employees hold to this belief.   I discovered, entirely accidentally through a FOIA request my trade group had submitted to the USFS, that a Forest Supervisor in California (a fairly senior person in the USFS management structure) whom I have never met or even had a conversation with circulated emails through the agency about how evil he thought I was.

This general distaste for profit, which is seen as "dirty" in contrast to wages which are relatively "clean" (at least up to some number beyond which they are dirty again), is not limited to the USFS or even to government agencies in general, but permeates much of the public.  As a result, I thought I would describe a conversation I had with a USFS manager (actually this is the merger of two conversations).  The conversation below had been going on for a while discussing technical topics, and we will pick it up when the District Ranger makes the statement highlighted above (a District Ranger is the lowest level line officer in the USFS, responsible in some cases for the land management functions of an area the size of a county.  I have cleaned up the text (I am sure the sentences would not be as well-formed if I had a transcript) but I think this captures the gist of it:

Ranger:  I think it's wrong that you make a profit on public lands

Me:  So you work for free?

Ranger:  Huh?

Me:  If you think it's wrong to make money on public lands, I assume you must volunteer, else you too would be making money on public lands

Ranger:  No, of course I get paid.

Me:  Well, I know what I make for profit in your District, and I have a good guess what your salary probably is, and I can assure you that you make at least twice as much as me on these public lands.

Ranger:  But that is totally different.

Me:  How?

At this point I need to help the Ranger out.  He struggled to put his thoughts on this into words.  I will summarize it in the nicest possible way by saying he thought that while his wage was honorable, my profit was dishonorable, or perhaps more accurately, that his wage paid by the government was consistent with the spirit of the public lands whereas my profit was not consistent

Me:  I'm not sure why.  My profit is similar to your wage in that it is the way I get paid for my effort on this land -- efforts that are generally entirely in harmony with yours as we are both trying to serve visitors and protect the natural resources here.    But unlike your wage, my profit is also a return on the investment I have made.  Every truck, uniform, and tool we use comes out of my profit, whereas you get all the tools you need paid for by your employer above and beyond your salary.  Further, your salary is virtually guaranteed to you, short of some staggering malfeasance.  Even if you do a bad job you likely would just get shunted to a less interesting staff position at the same salary, rather than fired.   On the other hand if I do a bad job, or if one of my employees slips up, or even if some absolutely random occurrence entirely outside my control occurs (like, say, a flood that closes our operations) my profit can completely evaporate, or even turn into a loss.  So like you, I get paid for my efforts here on public lands, but I have to take risk and make investments that aren't required of you.  So what about that makes my profit less honorable than your wage?

Ranger:  Working on public lands should be a public service, not for profit

Me:  Well, I think you are starting to make the argument again that you should be volunteering and not taking a salary.  But leaving that aside, why is profit inconsistent with service to the public?  My company serves over 2 million visitors a year, and 99.9% give us the highest marks for our service.  And for the few that don't, and complain about a bad experience, every one of those complaints comes to my desk and I personally investigate them.  Do you do the same?

Why do I make such an effort?  Part of it is pride, but part is because I understand that my margins are so narrow, if even 5% of those visitors don't come back next year -- because they had a bad time or they saw a bad review online -- I will make no money.  Those 2 million people vote with their feet every year on whether they think I am adequately serving the public, and their votes directly affect how much money I make.  Do you have that sort of accountability for your public service?

Postscript:  Interestingly, though perhaps not surprisingly, the government ranger did not bring up what I would consider the most hard-hitting challenge:  How do we know your profits are not just the rents from a corrupt, cronyist government contracting process.  Two things let me sleep well at night on this question.  The first is that I know what lobbying I do and political connections I have (zero on both) so I am fully confident I can't be benefiting from cronyism in the competitive bid process for these concession contracts.  Of course, you don't know that and if our positions were reversed, I am pretty sure I would be skeptical of you.

So the other fact I have in my favor, which is provable to all, is that the recreation areas we operate are run with far lower costs and a demonstrably higher level of service than the vast majority of recreation areas run by the government itself.  So while I can't prove I didn't pull some insider connections to get the work, I can prove the public is far better off with the operation of these parks in private hands.

The Problem With Parsing Feedback From Customers

We have a number of ways to collect customer feedback and I ensure that any negative score or comment we get from any source comes right to my email box so I can investigate personally.  We don't get that many negative comments, perhaps a couple a month (which is pretty good with over 2 million visitors last year).  The most common negative comment is something like "your employee was very rude to me."

This comment is a good illustration of how it can be hard to parse customer comments.  Because from my experience, the comment "your employee was rude to me" tends to mean one of two very different things:

  1. My employees were actually rude to the customer, requiring an immediate intervention on my part
  2. My employees were as patient and polite as can be expected, but were giving the customer an answer the customer did not want to hear (e.g. "you can't park on the grass, I need you to move your car.")

This year, I would say explanation #2 is in the lead by about 70%-30% over explanation 1.  As an operator of a public campground, we must enforce the rules set by the public agency.  We frequently encounter customers who simply do not like the rules and therefore consider the existence of the rules to be a violent aggression against them.  A great example is food storage.  In areas of high bear activity, it is important that customer properly store their food so as not to attract bears to the campground -- campers in these areas are given literature about food storage and our hosts come by to explain the rules and answer questions.  But there are folks who simply won't comply, and these folks frequently complain to me that my people are being rude.

Postscript: As an added bonus, I will give you one example of why businesses often tear their hair out over online reviews.  A year or so ago we got a Yelp review at a lakefront campground saying that the customer had been "lied to" because she was not allowed to use her jetskis in the lake.  I was surprised at this, since the no jetski rule is set in stone by our government partner and I thought we had made it pretty clear on the web site.  So I contacted the customer asking what we had done to mislead her.  She said that her dad promised her that she could jetski and we wouldn't let her so that is why she said we lied.   There are times in life when you just have to move on, and this seemed like one of them, so once I assured myself there was nothing we could do to correct errors in our web sites, I said "thanks for the feedback" and hung up.

Your Good Intentions Mean Virtually Nothing

I am exhausted with folks, particularly on the Progressive Left, judging themselves and each other based on their intentions.  Your intentions mean virtually nothing.  I suppose it is better to have good intentions than bad, but beyond that results, particularly in the public policy arena, are what should matter.  And the results of most Progressive well-intentioned legislation are generally terrible.  For example, as I wrote earlier today, poverty in this country is mainly caused by lack of work rather than low wage hours, but Progressives preen over their good intentions in introducing higher and higher minimum wages that will only serve to reduce the work hours of low-skilled poor people.

Via Mark Perry comes this great article on Progressive good intentions in Seattle collapsing into rubble.  It does not except well, so I recommend you check it out, but I will summarize it.

Begin with a libertarian goal that should be agreeable to most Progressives -- people should be able to live the way they wish.  Add a classic Progressive goal -- we need more low income housing.  Throw in a favored Progressive lifestyle -- we want to live in high density urban settings without owning a car.

From this is born the great idea of micro-housing, or one room apartments averaging less than 150 square feet.  For young folks, they are nicer versions of the dorms they just left at college, with their own bathroom and kitchenette.

Ahh, but then throw in a number of other concerns of the Progressive Left, as administered by a city government in Seattle dominated by the Progressive Left.  We don't want these poor people exploited!  So we need to set minimum standards for the size and amenities of apartments.  We need to make sure they are safe!  So they must go through extensive design reviews.  We need to respect the community!  So existing residents are given the ability to comment or even veto projects.  We can't trust these evil corporations building these things on their own!  So all new construction is subject to planning and zoning.  But we still need to keep rents low!  So maximum rents are set at a number below what can be obtained, particularly given all these other new rules.

As a result, new micro-housing development has come to a halt.  A Progressive lifestyle achieving Progressive goals is killed by Progressive regulatory concerns and fears of exploitation.  How about those good intentions, where did they get you?

The moral of this story comes back to the very first item I listed, that people should be able to live the way they wish.  Progressives feel like they believe this, but in practice they don't.  They don't trust individuals to make decisions for themselves, because their core philosophy is dominated by the concept of exploitation of the powerless by the powerful, which in a free society means that they view individuals as idiotic, weak-willed suckers who are easily led to their own doom by the first clever corporation that comes along.

Postscript:  Here is a general lesson for on housing affordability:  If you give existing homeowners and residents the right (through the political process, through zoning, through community standards) to control how other people use their property, they are always, always, always going to oppose those other people doing anything new with that property.  If you destroy property rights in favor of some sort of quasi-communal ownership, as is in the case in San Francisco, you don't get some beautiful utopia -- you get stasis.  You don't get progressive experimentation, you get absolute conservatism (little c).  You get the world frozen in stone, except for prices that continue to rise as no new housing is built.  Which interestingly, is a theme of one of my first posts over a decade ago when I wrote that Progressives Don't Like Capitalism Because They Are Too Conservative.

Postscript #2:  So, following the logic above, one can think of building restrictions and zoning as a form of cronyism.  Classic cronyism is providing subsidies to politically favored companies and restricting the ability of new competitors to arise to compete with them, granting them an effective monopoly and the ability to jack up their prices.  So what do we do with housing?  We give massive subsidies to home-owners and restrict competition from new housing that might reduce their home value, thus granting current homeowners an effective monopoly and the ability to jack up their prices.  I challenge anyone to tell me that rising home prices in Palo Alto are not driven by the exact same government actions for favored constituents as are rising prices for Epipens.

Postscript #3:  I will ask a question using Progressive terminology -- you were worried about these young renters and their power imbalance vs. development companies and landlords.  So how much more powerful are they now with a thousand fewer rental units on the market?  Consumers have power when supply is plentiful.  Anything done to reduce supply is going to reduce consumer power.

Interesting Timing

This last Sunday, September 11, on the same day Hillary Clinton's staff were struggling to erase concerns that Hilary was in poor health after her collapse in New York, PBS Masterpiece aired a nice little movie called "Churchill's Secret".  I recorded it but did not watch it last night, so only yesterday saw the connection:  the movie was about a major stroke Churchill suffered circa 1953, in the midst of his second stint as Prime Minister of the UK.   One subplot, and the reason for the title, was of Churchill's political staff working like crazy to (successfully) hide Churchill's stroke and incapacity from everyone -- media, the public, his own party.  I wonder if PBS, likely Clinton supporters to a person, regrets the timing?

Why the Minimum Wage is A Bad Anti-Poverty Policy in One Chart

This is a regular chart used by Mark Perry, updated for the most recent data.  It is one of my favorites.

click to enlarge

Mark has a lot of great analysis of this data, too long to excerpt, so I refer you back to the link to see his comments.  But I want to add one of my own.

Let me restate the numbers in this chart one other way to give a pretty stark view of utility of raising the minimum wage as a poverty program. Let's look at the first lowest vs. the second lowest quintile.

Raising current workers in the poorest quintile to second quintile earnings ($28,970 to $35,858) would increase the first quintile's average income by $2,962. On the other hand, keeping first income wages flat but raising first quintile household's average earners to second quintile number of earners (0.43 to 0.91) increases the first quintile's average income by $13,905.

By this analysis, increasing first quintile hours worked (and % employment) has 4.7 times more leverage than fiddling with wage rates.

So now consider raising the minimum wage, which will raise some wages but reduce unskilled employment -- it is exactly the wrong thing to do, even before we consider that the majority of minimum wage earners who benefit from such an increase and keep their jobs are not in the lowest quintile but are 2nd and third earners in rich and middle class households.

Remember When I Said It Was All About the Mix?

The 21st Century's Worst Media Trend (So Far)

It's not downsizing, or bias, or general shallowness (though those are all contenders).

It's the click bait top 10 list, which requires 10+ clicks to see what could be shown in a table taking about 2 column-inches of space.

Here is a particularly irritating example, as it was a topic I was interested in.  Here is a taste of the article:

To measure the states that are most attractive to Americans on the move, we developed an “attraction” ratio that measures the number of domestic in-migrants per 100 out-migrants. A state that has a rating of 100 would be perfectly balanced between those leaving and coming.

Overall, the biggest winner — both in absolute numbers and in our ranking —  is Texas. In 2014 the Lone Star State posted a remarkable 156 attraction ratio, gaining 229,000 more migrants than it lost, roughly twice as many as went to No. 3 Florida, which clocked an impressive 126.7 attraction ratio.

Most of the top gainers of domestic migrants are low-tax, low-regulation states, including No. 2 South Carolina, with an attraction ratio of 127.3, as well as No. 5 North Dakota, and No. 7 Nevada. These states generally have lower housing costs than the states losing the most migrants.

So what would you expect to see next?  A nice graphic -- a bar chart perhaps but at least a color-coded map -- showing the data for all 50 states.  But no, we can't have that.  All we get is this clicky thing -- the same technology used by web sites to show the "you won't believe what these 10 child actors look like today" results.  20+ page views to see 20% of the data.

The MPAA Responds, Urges that Taxpayers Continue Paying for Their Movie Productions

The MPAA wrote me back in response to my post here thanking our local paper for actually considering (for the first time I have ever seen locally) that subsidizing movie production locally might not be a good idea.  The MPAA sent me a response, which in full is online here.

I will state in general that the whole academic sub-field of making net economic contribution calculations (always full of fact juicy multipliers) is a total write-off in my mind.  You can pretty much throw out everything you read as crap.  Because most are funded by the folks (e.g. sports team owners) who want the subsidy, so the analyses almost always miss the unseen:  Here are all the job gains and benefits in our industry!  But these studies almost always miss the opportunity cost effect of taking tax money and revenues from other industries.  Besides, I truly believe the economy is far too complicated to pull out one single variable out of billions and forecast changes to overall economic numbers from changes in that single variable.

Here is the email I wrote back:

Sorry, but all industry-specific government subsidies are a total useless gravy train for the politically-connected industries that are able to obtain them.

  1. These state subsidies are only shifting jobs from state to state.  Why should Americans be paying taxes just to move companies to different places around the country?
  2. The implication is that somehow your jobs you provide are better than the jobs my company provides, since you get taxpayer money handed to you and I don't.  Why?  Can you really make an academic argument that your multiplier of your jobs is somehow higher than my employees' multiplier?  Your jobs last 3 months or so in my state, and the highest skilled and highest paid jobs go to people who travel only temporarily in from out of state.    My jobs in my company have lasted for over 25 years.  Remember -- you are essentially demanding that I be forced to pay money from my business to yours.
  3. Markets do a really good job of allocating capital.  No industry, I suppose, feels like investors give them all they deserve.  But what you are doing in effect is demanding that the market's allocation of capital be interrupted, and capital that would have been used for other purposes should be forced to be used for your purposed instead.  What basis do you have for claiming this?  And do your analyses ever consider the opportunity cost of what that tax money you are using would have been used for if it were not grabbed away for you?
  4. Your problem is basically that your movies don't make enough money on their own to cover costs and you need taxpayers to make up the difference.  After all, you are arguing that less activity would occur without these subsidies so these subsidies must be the difference between losing and making money (and thus between greenlighting and turning down certain projects).  To which I would provide a suggestion -- you need to do what all the rest of us business owners who don't have access to Uncle Sugar's money spigots must do when revenues don't cover costs:  Fix your costs or increase your revenues.  Make better movies or get your costs under control.  Don't demand that I, as a taxpayer, have to make up the difference because you are too lazy or greedy to fix your own financial problems.
  5. I can't prove it, but I am not at all convinced subsidies make more movies.  I think that subsidies tend to just increase the income of those in the movie production chain with the most bargaining power, such as actors and producers.  This certainly is what has happened with sports subsidies.  We insanely subsidize every pro sports team in America.  Do you really think we would have fewer pro sports teams without the subsidies?  No -- the subsidies have simply flowed to increasing the income of the top athletes and team owners.

At the end of the day, your industry is particularly good at getting this money forced out of taxpayer hands for two reasons.  The first  is that politicians hope for financial support from you in the next election.  Hell, you might even convince me that local small-time politicians do it entirely just for a photo op with some actor or celebrity.    And the second is that you make for a sexier press release.   Politicians like saying they funded Apple or Tesla or highbrow art like "Sausage Party" -- it makes for a better soundbite in their campaigns than saying they funded a call center or a machine shop.

Update:  The Tax Foundation has also replied to the MPAA

Will Aspirin Become the Next Epipen?

Aspirin is grandfathered from all the FDA silliness, right?  That's what I thought until this:

But if the FDA gets its way, nitroglycerin will not be obtainable for pennies. The situation was stable until Pfizer went through the time and expense required to test its particular version of nitroglycerin, Nitrostat, which the FDA approved in 2000. Once the FDA did that, other versions became officially "unapproved." In 2010, the FDA sent warning letters to two companies, Glenmark and Konec, ordering them to cease marketing their versions of nitroglycerin, known as sublingual nitroglycerin tablets, leading to the New York Times headline above. The article quotes Dr. Harry M. Lever, a cardiologist at the Cleveland Clinic, who said, "If it's not approved and no one has tested it, we can't be sure that it's safe and effective." He added that if patients with angina took substandard or ineffective nitroglycerin tablets, their pain might not subside and the problem could potentially progress to a heart attack.

His statement is false. The unapproved versions have been tested in three important ways: the companies that manufacture these drugs thoroughly vet them to make sure that they are pure and offer a consistent dose of nitroglycerin; these marketed drugs have been tested in the bodies of millions of Americans in regular medical practice over many years; and many different organizations have tested nitroglycerin in countless clinical trials.

I can't think of anything about the situation in nitroglycerin that doesn't obtain for aspirin.  By this, all it would take would be for one company to have the cojones and cash to get FDA approval for their aspirin and they might be able to wield a monopoly.

It Is All About Mix

After 20+ years of technical, economics, and business analysis, I will offer up my best piece of advice to young data analysis folks looking to make an name for themselves:  Focus on the mix.  Or more particularly, changes in the mix.

The mix of what?  It could be most anything.  Here is a recent example from economics, arguing that the slowdown in wages is in part due to a mix shift in the country's employment to lower-paying industries.  In the corporate world, it could be the mix of markets, or customers, or regions.   Typical metrics used in the business world almost always miss mix.   In a large aerospace company, we had the irritating situation that the profitability of every single product line was rising at the same time revenues were rising but overall profitability was falling.  The problem was the mix.  The most profitable product lines were all on older aircraft, ironically because they were the least reliable (aerospace parts companies have traditionally operated on a razor and blades model, so that more failures let one sell more really profitable aftermarket parts).  As airlines modernized, our mix shifted to new product lines which were less profitable.  This difference in profitability was also due to a mix shift -- since newer products were way more reliable, more newer aircraft in the fleets shifted the mix from aftermarket sales (which were astoundingly profitable) to OEM sales (which were often made at a loss).

Because Everybody Knows Rich White Males Will Be Hurt the Most By Higher Fuel and Electricity Prices

Apparently, BLM is now protesting for climate action of some sort, temporarily closing an airport in the UK.

BLM has created a very hot brand, and at least for certain segments of the population, it has a lot of accumulated virtue credits.  Now, everyone on the progressive Left wants to use that brand and those virtue credits, and are trying to shove their particular issues under the BLM tent.  BLM is thus in the process of being hijacked.  I give the movement about 60 days to get its messaging in order before its power to actually affect its original issue (police and proprietorial abuse) is at an end.  That doesn't mean that BLM will go away -- if successfully jacked it may be around for decades, but it will be just another progressive shell organization.  This will make its leaders more prominent and even perhaps a lot richer (think gigs at MSNBC), but it will make the goal of getting more accountability applied to police forces a dead letter.

My Apologies to Colin Kaepernick

A while back, I implied that Colin Kaepernick's refusing to stand for the National Anthem may have been in part a strategy to avoid being cut from the 49ers.

I apologize.  Even if that were true -- and it was pure speculation on my part -- he has done everyone in this country a favor.  Until a month ago, there was no ceremony much more empty than the pro forma singing of the National Anthem at sporting events.  As I wrote before,

I am not a big fan of enforced loyalty oaths and patriotic rituals, finding these to historically be markers of unfree societies.  For these sorts of rituals to have any meaning at all, they have to be voluntary, which means that Kaepernick has every right to not participate, and everyone else has every right to criticize him for doing so, and I have the right to ignore it all as tedious virtue-signalling.

In the past, people stood for the national anthem because that is what you do.  Mindlessly.  It was, for many, a brief ritual before you got to the good stuff.  It was singing happy birthday before you got the cake. (I am speaking for the majority of us, I know there are folks who have always approached the anthem as a deep and solemn rite).

But this weekend, suddenly, and perhaps for the first time at a ball game, everybody who stood up for the National Anthem at an NFL game likely thought about it for a second.  They were not standing just because that was what everyone else was doing, they were standing (or sitting) to make some sort of statement, and what exactly that statement was took a bit of thought.  Standing for a ceremony that has 100% dutiful participation means zero.  Standing for a ceremony with even a small number of folks who refuse has a lot more meaning.

So thanks, Colin.

BLM: OK, You Have Our Attention -- and Many of Us Are Sympathetic -- What in the Hell Do You Want Done?

Well, it appears that Black Lives Matters has moved on to climate activism, or whatever, but has mostly fallen off message on police accountability.  Protests in the vague hope of ending racism by closing busy highways and airports and kneeling during the National Anthem are going to get nothing done -- the solution to the problems that sparked the BLM movement are to be found in legislative efforts to create better police accountability measures and to roll back a number of egregious protections from accountability that exist in many union contracts.  The solution is not to throw blanket hate on police officers, many or most of whom are doing a good job, but to recognize that when we give officers unique powers to use force, they need extra accountability to go with those powers.  Today, most police have less accountability for their use of force than you and I do.

Unfortunately, doing that is hard.  It is a tough legislative slog that has to go local city by local city, with few national-level shortcuts available.  It faces opposition from Conservatives who tend to fetishize police, and from Liberals who are reluctant to challenge a public employees union.  And it requires that BLM translate their energy from disruption and attention-grabbing (which they are very good at) to policy and legislation, which they have shown no facility for.  They need to be working on model legislation and pushing that down to the local level.  This original plan actually looked pretty good, but apparently it has been rejected and gets little or no attention.

As a result, BLM seems to be stuck in a pointless do-loop of disruption and virtue-signalling.  I just want to scream at them, "OK, you have our attention -- and many of us are sympathetic -- what in the hell do you want done?"  Unfortunately, their current lists of goals have almost nothing to do with police accountability and appear to be a laundry list of progressive talking points.  It appears to be another radical organization that has been jacked by the Democratic establishment to push mainstream Democratic talking points.

Here is a good example, for a number of reasons.  In the past, the officer likely would have been believed and the woman might have been convicted of something.  I think this happens to people across the racial spectrum, but African-Americans have had a particularly hard time -- given both racist perceptions and lack of good counsel -- in these he-said-she-said cases with police.  Not to mention that African-Americans -- for a variety of reasons including racial profiling in things like New York's stop and frisk program to the tendency of poor black municipalities to fine the crap out of their citizens to generate revenue -- come in contact with police disproportionately more often.

I offered my plan to help African-Americans a number of times in the past:

  • Legalize drugs.  This would reduce the rents that attract the poor into dealing, would keep people out of jail, and reduce a lot of violent crime associated with narcotics traffic that kills investment and business creation in black neighborhoods.  It would also reduce the main excuse for petty harassment by police that falls disproportionately on young black men.  No it's not a good thing to have people addicted to strong narcotics but it is worse to be putting them in jail and having them shooting at each other.
  • Bring real accountability to police forces.  When I see stories of folks absurdly abused by police forces, I can almost always guess the race of the victim in advance.  I used to be a law-and-order Conservative that blindly trusted police statements about every encounter.  The advent of cell-phone video has proven this to be supremely naive.  No matter how trusted, you can't give any group a pass on accountability.
  • Eliminate the minimum wage   (compromise: eliminate the minimum wage before 25).  Originally passed for racist reasons, it still (if unintentionally) keeps young blacks from entering the work force.  Dropping out of high school does not hurt employment because kids learn job skills in high school (they don't); it hurts because finishing high school is a marker of responsibility and other desirable job traits.  Kids who drop out can overcome this, but only if they get a job where they can demonstrate these traits.  No one is going to take that chance at $10 or $15 an hour
  • Voucherize education.  It's not the middle class that is primarily the victim of awful public schools, it is poor blacks.  Middle and upper class parents have the political pull to get accountability.   It is no coincidence the best public schools are generally in middle and upper class neighborhoods.  Programs such as the one in DC that used to allow urban poor to escape failing schools need to be promoted.

The NLRB Is Not A Neutral Arbiter, It Has Its Thumb on The Scales for Unions

If you don't believe me, check out the NLRB's essentially no-show status in this case.  Had the employer engaged in even 1% of the practices the union had, the NLRB would have intervened in a second

In 2005, the SEIU decided to try to break into Houston by pushing “justice for janitors.” It began persuading the biggest janitorial companies in town to accept Local 5 as the representative for their workers. Five firms agreed. The sixth was Professional Janitorial Services.

The union wanted to organize workers through “card check,” which allows it to pressure workers one by one to sign an “authorization for representation.” But PJS insisted on a vote by secret ballot, as is its right.

The union responded with a campaign whose goals, according to internal emails entered into evidence, were to “cost PJS money” and “cost PJS accounts.” It accused the company of withholding workers’ pay, forcing them to work off the clock, and firing those involved with the union—none of which was substantiated.

The union filed “unfair practices” complaints against the company to the National Labor Relations Board, then withdrew some of them before they could be disproved. It filed a lawsuit against PJS that was dismissed. Mr. Zavitsanos argued to the jury that the union was trying to use these processes to libel-proof itself, since it cited the legal actions to substantiate its attacks on PJS.

The union sent letters to the building-management companies that contracted with PJS, spreading accusations. It circulated vicious fliers at disruptive demonstrations. One building manager said in a deposition that she fired PJS after protesters stormed her conference rooms while tenants were using them. PJS lost a dozen contracts. Usually somebody from Local 5 would email a colleague to take credit, which made damages easy to prove once the emails were discovered. In 2007, PJS announced in a press release that it would sue the union for “harassing and intimidating our customers along with companies and individuals that may be contemplating doing business with us.”

Mr. Zavitsanos argued to the jury that the Local 5 was operating out of an official SEIU playbook. This document, called the “Contract Campaign Manual,” surfaced five years ago in a different case, a racketeering lawsuit brought against the union by the food-services company Sodexo, which ultimately was settled. The manual advised union workers to “disobey laws which are used to enforce injustice against working people” and to threaten managers with accusations of racism or sexism.

Note that the Left came within an ace several years ago of eliminating secret ballots in union authorization votes.  The Left argued that card check was functionally equivalent to a secret ballot, but if this is true, why is the union going through so much trouble to avoid a confidential vote?

Artists and 9/11

Nick Gillespie discusses the difficulty artists have had grappling with 9/11, and suggests two that did a particularly good job.  I was not familiar with the Elton John performance and it did not really move me seen today out of context from its original airing.  But I did see the documentary "Man on Wire" and think it's fabulous -- the world is made better by peaceful eccentrics and Philippe Petit's story of walking a tightrope between the twin towers is amazing.  It should be noted that he developed his overpowering vision of walking a wire between the two towers before he had ever once climbed on a tightrope.

I would like to add one more successful artistic treatment of 9/11 -- the Onion's 9/11 issue.  The issue was in its way as brave as Petit's tightrope walk, as it came out when no one was joking about the tragedy (hell, no one really attempts to address it with humor to this day).  But the Onion staff put out an amazing issue that was both funny and respectful and a spot-on tribute.

click to enlarge

The entire archive is here, keep scrolling some of the best are at the bottom.  But even the small throwaway details are great -- who else in September of 2001 could have written the (likely spot-on) headline "Rest of Country Temporarily Feels Deep Affection for New York"?  And perhaps it is just me, but I still laugh at stuff like this, particularly in this age of virtue-signalling.

Dinty Moore Breaks Long Silence On Terrorism With Full-Page Ad

NEW YORK—Nearly two weeks after the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, the makers of Dinty Moore beef stew finally weighed in on the tragedy Monday with a full-page ad in USA Today. "We at Dinty Moore extend our deepest sympathies to all who have been affected by the terrible events of Sept. 11, 2001," read the ad, which pictured a can of Dinty Moore beef stew at the bottom of the page. "The entire Dinty Moore family is outraged by this heinous crime and stands firmly behind our leaders." Dinty Moore joins Knoche Heating & Cooling and Tri-State Jacuzzi in condemning terrorism.

Direct links to a few of the lead articles:

U.S. Vows To Defeat Whoever It Is We're At War With  (an article that highlights what is still the major problem in the supposed war on terror)

Hijackers Surprised To Find Selves In Hell

God Angrily Clarifies 'Don't Kill' Rule

American Life Turns Into Bad Jerry Bruckheimer Movie

For those who are younger and don't remember the day that well, the last article may seem a little random, but one of the odd reactions one heard everywhere on 9/11 was people saying that the jets ramming the towers and the later collapse of the towers all looked like a movie, like things we only expected to see in special effects and not in real life.

Speaking of movies, I was in Manhattan that day -- in the championship of bad timing awards, I was scheduled to make a presentation at 9am on 9/11 to a group of investors asking them to invest in our commercial aviation internet venture, making the pitch that the commercial aviation industry (which had been slumping a bit) was poised for a turnaround.  Anyway, one thing I have never seen reported much is what Manhattan was like that night.  I was stuck in the city, planning to leave the next day in the last rental car available.  I was wandering the city looking for dinner, happy I suppose to have been only lightly touched by the disaster, not knowing yet that several of my friends from business school had died that morning.  The authorities had been letting everybody leave the island through the bridges and tunnels, but no one, not even taxis or public transportation, was being allowed back in.  By the evening, the city was deserted, like a scene out of a post-apocalyptic movie.  Perhaps one car every 10 minutes came through Times Square.  The quiet was astounding, probably the quietest the city had been then or since for 200 years.

Why Are We Making It So Hard For the Chinese to Provide Us With Lower-Cost Aluminum?

This WSJ article's hook is a huge cache of raw aluminum photographed in the Mexican desert.  American aluminum manufacturers claim that this is Chinese aluminum being illegally transshipped through Mexico to get a lower tariff rate.

The U.S. Commerce Department says it is investigating the Mexican aluminum’s origin as part of a slew of trade complaints by the U.S. metals industry against China, many of which include allegations of transshipping.

China’s booming industrial production has reordered global markets, few more dramatically than aluminum. Fueled by access to inexpensive electricity and tax breaks, Chinese aluminum output doubled between 2010 and 2015. With local demand slowing,more of it was sent to the U.S., which was importing 40% of its aluminum by 2015—up from only 14% in 2010.

By the end of 2016, only five aluminum smelters will be operating in the U.S., down from 23 in 2000.

Alcoa Inc., the largest American aluminum maker, is splitting in two, isolating its profitable parts-making units from its troubled raw-aluminum operations. Alcoa Chief Executive Klaus Kleinfeld last year said illegitimate Chinese exports were “the major driver” of lower aluminum prices.

I suppose to an incumbent who has convinced himself that he has a God-given right to his historic market share, new sources of competition are always "illegitimate."  But through the whole article I kept asking myself, why are we forcing these folks in China to jump through so many hoops just to bring us lower-cost aluminum?  Given how fundamental aluminum is to almost every manufactured product today, we should be welcoming them as heroes, not forcing them to play silly games in the Mexican desert just to deliver their product at the price they want to sell it for.

It turns out that all this government effort to "protect" us from lower cost aluminum is to support an American aluminum industry that is tiny, maybe 2% of world production.


The industry would argue that the lower prices of Chinese imports are "illegitimate" in part because the sales price in the US is subsidized by Chinese taxpayers.  To which I answer, "so what?"  Or actually, to which I answer, "yay!"  If another country's taxpayers want to pay higher taxes so that they can provide valuable raw materials to US industry at lower prices, why in the heck would we want to stop them?

Perfect Example of Blaming the Free Market for Government Interventions

Hillary Clinton, along with many politicians and most of the media, is arguing that the recent large price increase in Epipens is some sort of market failure requiring government intervention to solve.

Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton jumped into the fray over rapid price increases for the EpiPen, a life-saving injection for people who are having severe allergic reactions.

Mrs. Clinton called the recent price hikes of the EpiPen “outrageous, and just the latest example of a company taking advantage of its consumers.”

In a written statement calling for Mylan to scale back EpiPen prices, Clinton added, “It’s wrong when drug companies put profits ahead of patients, raising prices without justifying the value behind them.”

Why aren't similar government interventions required to curb greed in the pricing of paint, or tacos, or toilet paper?  Because the markets are allowed to operate and competitors know that if they raise prices too high, their existing competitors will take sales from them, and new competitors may enter the market.  The reason this is not happening with Epipens is that the Federal government blocks other companies from competing with Mylan for the Epipen business with a tortuous and expensive and pointless regulatory process (perhaps given even more teeth because Mylan's CEO has a lot of political pull).  The MSNBC article fails to even mention why Mylan has no competition, and in fact essentially assumes that Epipens are a natural monopoly and should be treated as such, despite the fact that there are 3 or 4 different companies that have tried (and failed) to clear the regulatory process over the last several years with competing products.  Perhaps these other companies would have been smarter to appoint a Senator's daughter to a senior management position.

Hillary Clinton is proposing a dumb government intervention to try to fix some of the symptoms of a previous dumb government intervention.  It would be far better to work the root cause instead.

Postscript:  Credit Vox with the stupid argument of the day:  

Other countries do this for drugs and medical care – but not other products, like phones or cars – because of something fundamentally unique about medication: If consumers can’t afford the product, they could have worse odds of living. In some cases, they face quite certain odds of dying. So most governments have decided that keeping these products affordable is a good reason to introduce more government regulation.

Hmm, let me pick a slightly different example -- food.  I will substitute that into the Vox comment.   I think it would be perfectly correct to say that there is not price regulation of food in the US, and that "If consumers can’t afford [food], they could have worse odds of living. In some cases, they face quite certain odds of dying."  In fact, the best place today to face high odds of dying due to lack of food is Venezuela, where the government heavily regulates food prices in the way Vox wished to regulate drugs prices.

Public Park Management

As many of you know, my company privately operates public parks and recreation areas.  With costs 50-70% lower than government management, one would think that private operation would be on the table as an option when government recreation budgets face shortfalls**.  However, this is seldom true.  The reason is that you will almost never, ever, ever hear discussion of efficiency improvements in any discussion of public park budgets.  100% of any such discussion will be "how do we find new revenue streams", even when those revenue streams are one or even two orders of magnitude smaller than potential efficiency gains.  When costs have to be cut, they are cut solely by closures and service reductions.

Which is why I smiled when I read this article about Connecticut State Parks sent by a reader:

The effects of state budget cuts will soon be felt at Connecticut’s 109 state parks, including cutbacks in lifeguard staffing and park maintenance and the closure of three state campgrounds.

The $1.8 million in reductions to park operations will take effect after the July Fourth holiday weekend, and Robert Klee, commissioner of the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, said he expects additional cost-cutting steps next spring. DEEP faces an overall $10 million reduction in funding from the state’s general fund.

“By carefully analyzing how and when the public uses our state park system, we will achieve the savings we need while keeping much of what we offer at our 109 parks open and available to the public,’ Klee said.

But park advocates argue these reductions point to the necessity of identifying additional revenue streams to help fund the parks.

“This just underscores the need for these sustainability funds,” said state Sen. Ted Kennedy Jr., the Democratic co-chairman of the legislature’s Environment Committee. Kennedy and other lawmakers have proposed concepts over the years such as expanded park concessions, a tax on disposable plastic bags, higher park rental fees and sponsorships.

The only cost reductions discussed in the article are reductions in service days and hours.    If one were in private industry, one would approach this by identifying all the activities performed by the organization, such as bathroom cleaning and landscaping, and then look at benchmarks to see if others do it less expensively and then try to figure out how they do it less expensively and determine if those methods could be copied.  None of this ever occurs in the public sphere.  The several times I have suggested it in senior meetings, for example in California, the whole room goes quiet and looks at me like I am insane.


** In reality, every single government agency running parks has a shortfall, even when their budget is balanced.  Why?  Because virtually no agency, including the big ones like the National Park Service or California State Parks, fully cover all of their capital maintenance costs.  All these agencies have growing deferred maintenance accounts, even when they claim that budgets are nominally balanced.

Well, WTF Was He Supposed to Do?

Update:  Well, apparently my lack of knowledge about the practice of law was particularly evident in the post below, as several readers let me know.   From this source

Since 1978, attorneys in California criminal trials have been forbidden to exercise peremptory challenges based on a lawyer’s belief that certain individuals are biased because they are a member of a specific racial, ethnic or religious group. (People v. Wheeler (1978) 22 Cal.3d 258, 276, citing, Ca. Const., art. 1, § 16 [right to representative trial by jury drawn from cross-section of community], overruled in part by Johnson v. California (2005) 545 U.S. 162, 168-173 [125 S.Ct. 2410, 162 L.Ed.2d 129].) In 1986, the U. S. Supreme Court followed California’s lead and held that jury challenges based on group bias violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. (Batson v. Kentucky (1986) 476 U.S. 79, 89 [106 S.Ct. 1712, 90 L.Ed.2d 69].) This has commonly become known as the "Wheeler/Batson" rule.

I don't want to be that guy whose point is disproved but who sticks by it anyway, but I stick by my point.  It's not clear by the timing that Kaine's actions were even illegal at the time, and the narrative below shows Kaine as responding to behavior of the opposing attorney.  If he did not at the time have access to Wheeler/Batson challenges, then his actions seem a reasonable response.  Again, it would be interesting to hear from attorneys actually involved in trials, but are there many attorneys who don't think the racial makeup of a jury makes a difference, even if they have to be more subtle in managing it?


The Washington Examiner seems to think they have somehow caught Tim Kaine red-handed:

As an attorney in the 1980s, Tim Kaine once had three white jurors struck from hearing a case in which his client, an African-American, alleged she was discriminated against by the defendant, who was white, the Daily Beast reported Monday.

Kaine explained later that the move was aimed at securing more black people on the jury, thus increasing his client's odds of winning her housing discrimination suit.

The white defendant's attorney employed peremptory strikes on the day of the trial to have three black people removed from the pool of potential jurors, the Daily Beast report explained. Kaine responded in kind: He used peremptory strikes of his own to have three white jurors removed, and succeeded in getting one African-American onto the jury.

Kaine explained later in an article for the University of Richmond Law Review in 1989 that he believed having more black people on the jury would swing things in his client's favor, implicitly admitting the tactic was race-based.

I am not an attorney, but doesn't this happen pretty much every single day in every single court?  This strikes me as about as surprising as a baseball manager substituting in a left-handed hitter to face a right-handed pitcher.  I would think that given any sort of reasonable legal ethics, if Mr. Kaine thought this action would help his client, then he was virtually obligated to do it.

If one wants to lament that black and white jurors come to different sorts of verdicts for black plaintiffs and defendants, then I suppose one could rant about that but it's hardly Tim Kaine's fault.  He has to deal with reality as it is.  If you really wanted a racial gotcha story, imagine  the facts reversed to something like "white defense lawyer refused to strike other whites from jury despite the fact it might have helped his black client."

Postscript:  And yes, I know the Lefty SJW's would have gone apesh*t if a Republican candidate as an attorney had struck black jurors from a trial to help his white client, but that does not make the critique any more correct.

This One Simple Trick -- Used by Colin Kaepernick -- Will Make It Harder To Fire You

Years ago, in Ventura County California (where I am thankfully no longer doing business), a loyal employee approached our manager and told her of a meeting that had been held the night before for our employees at a local attorney's office.  The attorney was holding the meeting mainly because he was trying to drum up business, brainstorming with my employees how they might sue the company for a variety of fanciful wage and hour violations.  Fortunately, we tend to be squeaky clean on labor compliance, and the only vulnerable spot they found was on California break law, where shifting court decisions gave them an opening to extract a bit of money from the company over how we were managing lunch breaks.

Anyway, in the course of the meeting, the attorney apparently advised our employees that if they ever thought they were about to get fired, they should quickly accuse someone in the company of harassment or discrimination or some other form of law-breaking.  By doing so, they made themselves suddenly much more difficult to fire, and left the company open to charges of retaliation if the company did indeed fire them.   In later years, we saw at least two employees at this location file discrimination or harassment claims literally hours before they were to be terminated for cause.   Since then, I have seen this behavior enough, all over the country, to believe that this is a strategy that is frequently taught to employees.

This terrible advice is obviously frustrating not only because it makes the firing process harder, but also because these charges all still have to be investigated seriously, a time-consuming process that has to involve me personally by our rules.   On at least two occasions that I can remember, we delayed a firing for cause by several weeks to complete investigations into what turned out to be bogus charges, only to have the employee do something really stupid in a customer reaction during these extra weeks that had substantial costs for the company.

Anyway, I was thinking about this in the case of Colin Kaepernick, the NFL quarterback currently employed by the 49ers but expected by many to be released (ie fired) in the coming weeks.  Last weekend he stirred up controversy when he refused to stand for the national anthem to protest treatment of blacks in America.   Personally, I barely noticed, as I am not a big fan of enforced loyalty oaths and patriotic rituals, finding these to historically be markers of unfree societies.  For these sorts of rituals to have any meaning at all, they have to be voluntary, which means that Kaepernick has every right to not participate, and everyone else has every right to criticize him for doing so, and I have the right to ignore it all as tedious virtue-signalling.

I mostly yawn and change the channel over all this, but it did make me wonder -- Kaepernick has to know that he is potentially on the chopping block.   Many folks believe that his performance last year was not good enough to earn a job on the 49ers this year.  It has been discussed on national TV for weeks, and probably for months in the local San Francisco market.  If he were to be cut, it would likely be in the next 7 days or so by the schedule the NFL sets for finalizing rosters.   So I wonder if part of Kaepernick's action the other day was to make it harder to fire him.   He and his supporters can now portray his firing as retaliation for his support of Black Lives Matters, something that would be an uncomfortable perception for any high profile organization in America but particularly in San Francisco.