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Better Governance with the New Public Administration
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After mass overdose in California, police say they had been 'waiting' for fentanyl problems

After mass overdose in California, police say they had been 'waiting' for fentanyl problems | Moral Panics, Rent-Seeking Behavior & Fake News | Scoop.it
The chief of a Northern California police department investigating what is suspected to be a mass drug overdose on the fentanyl said they had been “waiting” for this to happen amid reports that the powerful narcotic was heading west.

One person died and another 12 people were hospitalized after the mass overdose at a residence that was reported Saturday morning, Chico Police Chief Michael O'Brien said at a news conference Saturday.

On Sunday, Enloe Medical Center said that of its nine remaining patients from the incident, two were in serious condition, three were in fair condition and four were in good condition, according to reporting from local station Action News Now.

Police suspect the substance involved in the overdoses is fentanyl, a synthetic opioid.
Rob Duke's insight:

Geez! NBC: way to misquote.  The Chief isn't saying they've been waiting giddily; they've been waiting for the other shoe to drop knowing that it was just a matter of time until there was a mass o.d. event.  Rightly so, Chico is the home to Cal State Chico known as a "party" school.  Frankly, it would be a job to prevent this party culture from imploding...the best that the police can do is educate on the one side and try to interdict on the other.

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UC Davis Student Government Group Says Officer Corona's Photo Is Racist

UC Davis Student Government Group Says Officer Corona's Photo Is Racist | Moral Panics, Rent-Seeking Behavior & Fake News | Scoop.it
A UC Davis student commission has accused Officer Corona's photo of being racist.
Rob Duke's insight:

What a dumb-ass thing to do at a time when her family is grieving.  Kant said you should never make a person a means to an ends, because people are always ends....in other words, don't try to make hay at anyone's expense.

If you want to make an issue with the thin blue line flag, that's fine, but not at the expense of this officer and her family.

End of rant.

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Victor Davis Hanson: Two Californias –

Victor Davis Hanson: Two Californias – | Moral Panics, Rent-Seeking Behavior & Fake News | Scoop.it
The last three weeks I have traveled about, taking the pulse of the more forgotten areas of central California. I wanted to witness, even if superficially, what is happening to a state that has the…
Rob Duke's insight:

Dickens perhaps said it best: "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to heaven, we were all direct the other way--in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on it being received, for good or evil, to the superlative degree of comparison only."

Opening lines: A Tale of Two Cities

 

California is a presage of what will happen in the next generation across the U.S. if we don't roll back the Republic.  I say "roll back", which again harkens to the work of Ted Lowi, but I really believe that we in a Hegelian dialectic more like what Roscoe Pounds thought was a natural cycle where we evolve...making mistakes and then correcting them...but we don't want to wait for the revolution for the correction.

James Buchanan noted that the institutions in place are probably the best that could have been arrived at given the resources and information available at that time.  We can't compare ourselves to yesterday in terms of a public morality, but the social animal is always evolving and getting better.  Of course, Buchanan emphasized that this was only true if you had an open, plural, fair, and free society...something that is debatable about the U.S.

My best guess is that first we fix the fairness and plural issues, and then we'll have the tools to begin tackling the open and free portions of that equation.

The courts, unfortunately, must lead the way by rolling back campaign finance laws, as unconstitutional, and adapting a new analysis so that Citizen United removes the super-influence of corporations from the political sphere.  Tackling campaign finance probably means publicly funding races and giving equal advertising.  Then the courts need to follow Lowi's advice and move out of policy and administration, except to correct Constitutional crisis.  The legislature should also stop passing impossible laws that guaranty absolute protections....some reasonableness and discretion are in order and called for since all matters of controversy should be debated openly and over perhaps a generation.

Elsewhere I turn Rawls on his head and argue for a "final position" analysis where a better ethical model, with all due honor and respect to Rawls, can't start from an "original position" and veil of ignorance where none know where they'll be born, but instead in the final position where we all know that in 100 years none of us will be affected.  I see no evidence to support Rawls' ideas put forth officially in 1971.  On the other hand, there's some evidence that people can put solutions together that recognize and acknowledge existing arrangements and the investments and expected returns that are assumed (or at least hoped for) and contemplate a way for those interest-holders to transition to new institutional arrangements in such a way that they can see a path to maintain, if not improve their position(s).  I think that was what Washington had in mind when he suggested outlawing importing slaves in 1812, and freeing all slaves in 1832.  He knew that there was no path to abolition in 1792 and the resulting Civil War would open us up to attack by one of the world powers, but he also suspected that all interest-holders could adapt with something like 40 years notice of impending change.

In American Quarter Horse racing and in the Black Angus Beef Association there have been two genetic developments, which each association handled differently.  In horse racing, a certain genetic defect Impressive disorder, so named for the champion horse that the defect can be traced back to as the origin point (Impressive, foaled: April 15, 1969).  The defect, Equine Hyperkalemic Periodic Paralysis Disease (HYPP) is rare, and shows up later in the horse's career, and looks like the horse goes berserk, but is in fact a rare genetic anomaly where two sets of nerves grow and compete for control of muscles.  This can manifest as mild twitching, or the aforementioned berserk behavior, or simply as a loss of respiratory function leading to death.

In the Black Angus breed of beef cattle, a similar genetic disorder, AM or Arthrogryposis Multiplex or "Curly Calf Syndrome".  Not nearly as romantic as the quarterhorse story, this syndrome has been tracked back to a bull known as "1680".  Calves from this line are born with undeveloped legs and usually still born.

Now where this gets interesting is that the American Quarter Horse Association is trying to handle this problem in an original position sort of manner where they try to figure out ways to allow owners to bargain and adjust, but with no clear plan to stop the mutation (this analysis was told to me by a vet friend a couple years ago, so something may have changed--hopefully so).

In contrast, the Black Angus association simply said: "we're quarantining all genetic strands back to bull 1680 and you can still sell the beef as "Black Angus", but we won't allow any further out-breeding and after a date certain in the future (which I think has passed), none of these cattle lines will be considered "Black Angus".  What has happened is that the value in Black Angus beef as a brand has caused all these ranchers to transition to bull lines not affected by AM.

We need a similar plan in American Society, but this is going to take a bipartisan commission...something legislatures were supposed to be able to do, but can no longer seem to accomplish.  Who takes the lead?  My guess is that it needs to be something like: George Bush, Bill Clinton, or Barack Obama as Chair or perhaps someone like Chief Justice Roberts would co-chair.  I don't see anyone else having the "stature" to pull this off.

 

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New York meteorologist fired after using racial slur on air

New York meteorologist fired after using racial slur on air | Moral Panics, Rent-Seeking Behavior & Fake News | Scoop.it
A television station in Rochester, New York, fired a meteorologist Sunday after he used a racial slur on air.

During WHEC-TV's Friday evening broadcast, Jeremy Kappell said "Martin Luther Coon Park," when referring to a downtown Rochester park named after slain civil rights movement leader Martin Luther King Jr.

In a video viewed by CNN, Kappell says "King" immediately after using the slur and continues with the broadcast.
Rob Duke's insight:

C**n can be a racial slur, but if you're from around the Texas-Arkansas, Louisiana area, then it's simply a slang word for people of Cajun descent...which can be any mixture of French, Black, Indian, and White.  Cajuns routinely referred to themselves that way, and even growing up for a few years in the region, it was considered to be a good thing to be "ace-boon-c**n-buddies", which meant lifelong friends or having grown up with one another.  What I've heard more to mean as an insult is c**n-ass...

This context is probably more of a tendency to think it might have been a Freudian slip, but as a "one-off" that's difficult to tell.  As one who had a long-time gradeschool through college friend who stuttered, I find myself thinking in that cadence still and have had these verbal "flubs", so I'm predisposed to empathize with him....

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Chuck Norris Criticizes California’s ‘Lax Immigration Laws’ After Officer’s Death

Chuck Norris Criticizes California’s ‘Lax Immigration Laws’ After Officer’s Death | Moral Panics, Rent-Seeking Behavior & Fake News | Scoop.it
Chuck Norris, star of the popular "Walker, Texas Ranger" television series, took issue with the Golden State's "lax immigration laws" in a recent article.
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Apple Sure is Riding a Very High Privacy Horse in Vegas

Apple Sure is Riding a Very High Privacy Horse in Vegas | Moral Panics, Rent-Seeking Behavior & Fake News | Scoop.it
With the Consumer Electronics Show just days away, a very curious billboard has surfaced in Las Vegas that prominently touts Apple’s privacy standards. Playing to city’s own infamous tagline, it reads: “What happens on your iPhone, stays on your iPhone.”
Rob Duke's insight:

iPhone's motto: What happens on your iPhone, stays on your iPhone....unless you're in Saudi Arabia or China, then we give you up without a fight.

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NAACP links earthquake signs in Oregon to white supremacy

NAACP links earthquake signs in Oregon to white supremacy | Moral Panics, Rent-Seeking Behavior & Fake News | Scoop.it
PORTLAND, Ore. — A new city policy requiring public signs on brick buildings warning they might collapse in an earthquake is part of a long history of white supremacy aimed at forcing black people to move out of neighborhoods, the NAACP of Portland, Oregon, says.

The group on Thursday decried the policy affecting some 1,600 unreinforced masonry buildings that are on average 90 years old, many in areas with a predominantly black population, The Oregonian/OregonLive reports.

The policy "exacerbates a long history of systemic and structural betrayals of trust and policies of displacement, demolition, and dispossession predicated on classism, racism, and white supremacy," the group said.

The NAACP said the policy will make it tougher for owners of brick buildings to get loans and will discourage investment. It says that means buildings will have to be sold, and that developers will demolish and redevelop, increasing the cost to live there and forcing current residents out.

"It speaks to our houses of worship and everything about the black presence in the North-Northeast area," said the Rev. E.D. Mondaine, a pastor at Celebration Tabernacle Church in north Portland and president of the Portland NAACP chapter.

City officials say the ordinance approved in October is part of an effort ultimately aimed at upgrading old buildings to withstand an earthquake, though seismic upgrades likely wouldn't be required for at least 20 years. Such upgrades could cost brick-building owners millions of dollars.

Experts say Portland is at risk because there's close to a 50 percent chance of a giant earthquake along the Cascadia Subduction Zone off the Oregon coast in the next 50 years.

The warning signs and a requirement that building owners must file a record of compliance is "really just a disclosure," said Alex Cousins, a spokesman for the city Bureau of Development Services. "That's the purpose behind it."

The warning signs are to go up on public buildings this month, and on most other buildings by March 1. The warning on them says: "This is an unreinforced masonry building. Unreinforced masonry buildings may be unsafe in the event of a major earthquake."

In related action, a nonprofit coalition of Portland brick building owners recently filed a lawsuit seeking to block the ordinance, arguing it's unconstitutional under free-speech and due-process rights.

"The government is forcing private property owners to basically broadcast the government's message instead of their own," said John DiLorenzo, an attorney for the group.
Rob Duke's insight:

Public policy has difficult and unintended consequences.  Since 1973, Oregon law has required cities to have an Urban Growth Boundary (UGB) as a way to protect farms, forest, and open space from sprawl.  Cities update their UGB's every 5 years to maintain a 20-year supply of land, but that still tends to result in an insufficient supply of housing, particularly affordable housing; and, there's pressure on existing housing to go "upscale" in what is sometimes referred to as "gentrification".  While there's debate about whether "gentrification" is "bad", it's easy to see why existing residents worry that they'll be "pushed" out.

California's been no better, however, as the Subdivision Map Act, General Plan Law, and California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), all passed in 1972, have made housing expensive and difficult to entitle, which has meant developers have tended to pursue incentives that are more lucrative for the so-called McMansion instead of density and affordable housing.

So how do we protect open space and traditional neighborhoods?  I think there's a market solution where governments could create land development banks, similar to carbon credits and the most efficient development types would proceed in a relatively dense fashion. Developers would welcome the change because it would replace a system based upon uncertainty and bargaining with opposition groups with a predictable market mechanism. 

As Charles Tiebout explained in his seminal 1956 article, A Pure Theory of Local Expenditures*, some people want to live in a place where they can have a coon dog sleep on the porch, but we could encourage these regional zonings to be compatible with open space preservation by having minimum lot sizes and building envelopes that protect things like the water table, drainages, and view sheds.

  • *Journal of Political Economy, Vol 64, No. 5, Oct. 1956, pp. 416-424.
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The Philosopher Redefining Equality

The Philosopher Redefining Equality | Moral Panics, Rent-Seeking Behavior & Fake News | Scoop.it
By letting the lucky class go on reaping the market’s chancy rewards while asking others to concede inferior status in order to receive a drip-drip-drip of redistributive aid, these egalitarians were actually entrenching people’s status as superior or subordinate. Generations of bleeding-heart theorists had been doing the wolf’s work in shepherds’ dress.

In Anderson’s view, the way forward was to shift from distributive equality to what she called relational, or democratic, equality: meeting as equals, regardless of where you were coming from or going to. This was, at heart, an exercise of freedom. The trouble was that many people, picking up on libertarian misconceptions, thought of freedom only in the frame of their own actions. If one person’s supposed freedom results in someone else’s subjugation, that is not actually a free society in action. It’s hierarchy in disguise.

To be truly free, in Anderson’s assessment, members of a society had to be able to function as human beings (requiring food, shelter, medical care), to participate in production (education, fair-value pay, entrepreneurial opportunity), to execute their role as citizens (freedom to speak and to vote), and to move through civil society (parks, restaurants, workplaces, markets, and all the rest). Egalitarians should focus policy attention on areas where that order had broken down. Being homeless was an unfree condition by all counts; thus, it was incumbent on a free society to remedy that problem. A quadriplegic adult was blocked from civil society if buildings weren’t required to have ramps. Anderson’s democratic model shifted the remit of egalitarianism from the idea of equalizing wealth to the idea that people should be equally free, regardless of their differences. A society in which everyone had the same material benefits could still be unequal, in this crucial sense; democratic equality, being predicated on equal respect, wasn’t something you could simply tax into existence. “People, not nature, are responsible for turning the natural diversity of human beings into oppressive hierarchies,” Anderson wrote.
Rob Duke's insight:

A student of Rawls with some interesting ideas regarding equality of access rather than redistributive policy.

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Rashida Tlaib "impeach the motherfucker": Will it play in Peoria?

Rashida Tlaib "impeach the motherfucker": Will it play in Peoria? | Moral Panics, Rent-Seeking Behavior & Fake News | Scoop.it
Rep. Rashida Tlaib got right to the point on her first day in office.
Rob Duke's insight:

Politics as political theater.  It's useful to refer to Francis Fukuyama's work in the Origins of Political Order (2011).  Successful government includes three elements: 1. being strong enough to preserve the government; 2. following a rule of law++; and, 3. being accountable to the people.

Political theater aside, these three elements must remain the foundation, so whatever follows in the next two years should be grounded in the rule of law++.

In his follow up book, Political Order and Political Decay (2014), Fukuyama further argues that two forces are principally responsible for decay: 1. lack of or rigidity of political institution (arguably we have too much rigidity or sacred cows: i.e., the electoral college, the primary system, senate and congressional rules, and campaign finance just to name a few); and, 2. "Repatrimonialization", which Fukuyama uses to illustrate the slide back away from the ability of government to be accountable to the "people" instead of being captured by smaller special interests.  The U.S., as other new republics without the benefit of a long history of a strong bureaucracy, initially fell into a period where government was captured by strong commercial interests, but through the Populist movement, we broke free.  Now, however, our system has had a unique interaction such that our Constitution and Courts somehow allowed the system to "Repatrimonialize".  Fukuyama essentially restates Ted Lowi's thesis, which I've argued at length elsewhere is as good a template as I've found for what's gone wrong in America.  Suffice to say that we've legalized "gift exchange" at the highest level in a manner that undermines accountability to the people (i.e., PACs and Super PACs, Citizen United, and the reinvention of government movement that made bureaucracies accountable to "customers" have each contributed to a concentration of power in the hands of lobbying groups).  In addition, the legislature has poorly drafted legislation, often with universal guarantees that cannot actually be accomplished.  The executive (who has shifted the blame regularly to the bureaucracy) and bureaucracy have not been able to deliver perfect protection; and, the courts have felt a need to become involved in delivery and direction of services in an attempt to enforce poorly drafted legislation (or to re-write that legislation--and develop public policy with little accountability to the people). 

Our very system of checks and balances, and poorly conceived mechanisms to "share" that power (see Federalist No. 51 for the discussion of "parchment barriers) have brought our system to the brink of decay.

What to do?  It's not easy, but here's my take:

1. the courts need to do some soul searching and look up from the foxholes and trenches of "stare decisis" to see if we're on the path that those earlier decisions hoped we be on...and, if not, then reset some decisions;

2. the courts also need to exercise some constraint in trying to enforce impossibly complex areas of law so that they neither become the executive branch, nor start to write policy;

3. all three branches should create bipartisan commissions to attack this problem of decay and the sacred cows that are contributing to the decay;

4. all three branches should work to unwind campaign finance institutions that allow PACs, Super-PACs, and Citizen United;

5. all three branches should recognize a unique role for public administration* that is separate from the three branches of government, and has the limited independence to search for reasonableness and human dignity (equity) such that the exercise of discretion is done for the benefit of the weakest members of society in any particular transaction...and the courts to recognize this role with respect to legislation that tends to over-promise protections.

6. Limit discretion in ways that have the primary purpose of benefiting the government, the bureaucracy, or a more powerful member of any transaction.  This limits the public administration's power such that they won't act as policy makers, but only as quasi-judicial brakes on quick action that is detrimental to the weak..., and, the levers of power will still be available to override any discretionary actions/inactions that the executive or legislature find are inappropriate.

 

*NOTE: in my mind "public administrators" are separate and distinct from the "public policy", "political scientists", and "public managers" that typically reside within legislative and elected officials' staffs.  These "other" public branches are respectively linked closely to deciding how to "get what one wants" and "constrain and organize expenditures" as opposed to the "public administrators" who focus on service delivery and reasonableness/human dignity/equity.

++NOTE: By rule of law, I'm adopting Fukuyama's definition where the rule of law is a constraint on political power, particularly the most powerful political actors in the political system.  Some handwaving, because I'm not convinced that we haven't already lost this in America.

 

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Netflix blocks comedy episode in Saudi Arabia after Kingdom complains | Euronews

Netflix blocks comedy episode in Saudi Arabia after Kingdom complains | Euronews | Moral Panics, Rent-Seeking Behavior & Fake News | Scoop.it
The streaming giant removed an episode of Hasan Minhaj's "Patriot Act" show in which the US comedian is critical of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's role in the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi..
Rob Duke's insight:

It seems that corporations cannot have souls.  We've given them everlasting life (assuming they can fight off competition), and the courts recognize them as people for the purposes of prosecution (see the Ford Pinto case) and lobbying (see Citizens United case), but corporations continue to show that they can't be trusted to act against their profit interests.

We see Apple and Facebook resisting law enforcement efforts on U.S. soil, but crumbling to authoritarian regimes....which indicates some sort of regulation will be needed to control their actions in the future.  The courts are doing a reasonable job of exploring ways to ensure law enforcement access, but this cooperation with authoritarian regimes is probably going to need regulation of some sort....

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Three post-war liberals strove to establish the meaning of freedom - Rawls rules

Three post-war liberals strove to establish the meaning of freedom - Rawls rules | Moral Panics, Rent-Seeking Behavior & Fake News | Scoop.it

Berlin, Rawls and Nozick put their faith in the sanctity of the individual


Print edition | Schools brief
Aug 30th 2018
ONE definition of a liberal is a person who supports individual rights and opposes arbitrary power. But that does not tell you which rights matter. For example, some campaigners say they want to unshackle transgender people, women and minorities from social norms, hierarchies and language that they see as tyrannical. Their opponents say that this means limiting what individuals do and say, for instance by censoring frank discussions of gender, or forbidding the emulation of minority cultures. Supporters of these kinds of “identity politics” claim to be standing up for rights against unjust power. But their opponents do, too. If both claim to be “liberal”, does the word mean much at all?

The problem is not new. Isaiah Berlin identified the crucial fault line in liberal thought in Oxford in 1958. There are supporters of “negative” liberty, best defined as freedom not to be interfered with. Negative liberties ensure that no person can seize his neighbour’s property by force or that there are no legal restrictions on speech. Then there are backers of “positive” liberty, which empowers individuals to pursue fulfilling, autonomous lives—even when doing so requires interference. Positive liberty might arise when the state educates its citizens. It might even lead the government to ban harmful products, such as usurious loans (for what truly free individual would choose them?).

Berlin spied in positive liberty an intellectual sleight of hand which could be exploited for harm. Born in Riga in 1909, he had lived in Russia during the revolutions of 1917, which gave him a “permanent horror of violence”. In 1920 his family returned to Latvia, and later, after suffering anti-Semitism, went to Britain. As his glittering academic career progressed, Europe was ravaged by Nazism and communism.

Under positive liberty the state is justified in helping people overcome their internal, mental vices. That lets government decide what people really want, regardless of what they say. It can then force this on them in the name of freedom. Fascists and communists usually claim to have found a greater truth, an answer to all ethical questions, which reveals itself to those who are sufficiently adept. Who, then, needs individual choice? The risk of a perversion of liberty is especially great, Berlin argued, if the revealed truth belongs to a group identity, like a class or religion or race.

To reject positive liberty is not to reject all government, but to acknowledge that trade-offs exist between desirable things. What, for example, of the argument that redistributing money to the poor in effect increases their freedom to act? Liberty must not be confused with “the conditions of its exercise”, Berlin replied. “Liberty is liberty, not equality or fairness or justice or culture, or human happiness or a quiet conscience.” Goals are many and contradictory and no government can infallibly pick among them. That is why people must be free to make their own choices about what constitutes good living.

Yet determining the proper sphere of that freedom has been the great challenge all along. One lodestar is the harm principle. Governments should interfere with choices only to prevent harm to others. But this is hardly a sufficient rule with which to exercise power, because there are plenty of harms that liberals typically do permit. An entrepreneur might harm an incumbent businessman by bankrupting him, for example. The most significant attempt of the 20th century to find a stronger boundary between the state and the individual was made by the Harvard philosopher John Rawls in 1971.

Rawls’s “A Theory of Justice” sold over half a million copies, reinvigorated political philosophy and anchored debates between liberals for decades to follow. It posited a thought experiment: the veil of ignorance. Behind the veil, people do not know their talents, class, gender, or even which generation in history they belong to. By thinking about what people would agree to behind the veil, Rawls thought, it is possible to ascertain what is just.

To begin with, Rawls argued, they would enshrine the most extensive scheme of inalienable “basic liberties” that could be offered on equal terms to all. Basic liberties are those rights that are essential for humans to exercise their unique power of moral reasoning. Much as Berlin thought the power to choose between conflicting ideals was fundamental to human existence, so Rawls argued that the capacity to reason gives humanity its worth. Basic liberties thus include those of thought, association and occupation, plus a limited right to hold personal property.

But extensive property rights, allowing unlimited accumulation of wealth, do not feature. Instead, Rawls thought the veil of ignorance yields two principles to regulate markets. First, there must be equality of opportunity for positions of status and wealth. Second, inequalities can be permitted only if they benefit the least well-off—a rule dubbed the “difference principle”. Wealth, if it is to be generated, must trickle all the way down. Only such a rule, Rawls thought, could maintain society as a co-operative venture between willing participants. Even the poorest would know that they were being helped, not hindered, by the success of others. “In justice as fairness”—Rawls’s name for his philosophy— “men agree to share one another’s fate.”

Rawls attributed his book’s success with the public to how it chimed with the political and academic culture, including the civil-rights movement and opposition to the Vietnam war. It demonstrated that left-wing liberalism was not dreamed up by hippies in a cloud of marijuana smoke, but could be rooted in serious philosophy. Today, the veil of ignorance is commonly used to argue for more redistribution.

Ironically, since 1971 the rich world has mostly gone in the opposite direction. Having already built welfare states, governments deregulated markets. Tax rates for the highest earners have fallen, welfare benefits have been squeezed and inequality has risen. True, the poorest may have benefited from the associated growth. But the reformers of the 1980s, most notably Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan, were no Rawlsians. They would have found more inspiration in Rawls’s Harvard contemporary: Robert Nozick.

Nozick’s book “Anarchy, State and Utopia”, published in 1974, was an assault on Rawls’s idea of redistributive justice. Whereas Rawls’s liberalism relegates property rights, Nozick’s elevates them. Other forms of liberty, he argued, are excuses for the immoral coercion of individuals. People own their talents. They cannot be compelled to share their fruits.

Nozick questioned whether distributive justice is even coherent. Imagine some distribution of wealth that is deemed to be just. Next suppose that a large number of people each pay 25 cents to watch Wilt Chamberlain, then the top player in the NBA, play basketball. A new distribution would emerge, containing a very rich Mr Chamberlain. In this transition, people would have engaged in purely voluntary exchanges with resources that are properly theirs, if the initial distribution really is just. So what could be the problem with the later one? Liberty, Nozick said, disrupts patterns. Justice cannot demand some preferred distribution of wealth.

His work contributed to a philosophy in favour of small government that was blooming at the time. In 1974 Friedrich Hayek—Thatcher’s favourite thinker—won the Nobel prize in economics. Two years later it went to Milton Friedman. But although the world moved rightward, it did not shift far enough to become Nozickian. “Anarchy, State and Utopia” called for only a minimal, “nightwatchman” state to protect property rights. But vast government spending, taxation and regulation endure. Even America, despite its inequality, probably remains more Rawlsian.

Too much Utopia
Some of Rawls’s fiercest critics have been to his left. Those concerned with racial and gender inequality have often seen his work as a highfalutin irrelevance. Both Rawls and Nozick practised “ideal theory”—hypothesising about what a perfect society looks like, rather than deciding how to fix existing injustices. It is not clear, for example, whether Rawls’s principle of equality of opportunity would permit affirmative action, or any other form of positive discrimination. Rawls wrote in 2001 that the “serious problems arising from existing discrimination and distinctions are not on [justice as fairness’s] agenda.” Nozick acknowledged that his views on property rights would apply only if there had been no injustice in how property had been acquired (such as the use of slaves, or the forced seizure of land).

Rawls was also more concerned with institutions than with day-to-day politics. As a result, on today’s issues his philosophy can fire blanks. For example, feminists often say he did too little to flesh out his views on the family. His main prescription is that interactions between men and women should be voluntary. That is not much help to a movement that is increasingly concerned with social norms that are said to condition individual choices.


Rawlsianism certainly provides little to support identity politics. Today’s left increasingly sees speech as an exercise in power, in which arguments cannot be divorced from the identity of the speaker. On some university campuses conservative speakers who cast doubt on the concepts of patriarchy and white privilege, or who claim that gender norms are not arbitrary, are treated as aggressors whose speech should be prevented. The definition of “mansplaining” is evolving to encompass men expressing any opinion at length, even in writing that nobody is compelled to read. Arguments, it is said, should be rooted in “lived experience”.

This is not how a Rawlsian liberal society is supposed to work. Rawls relied on the notion that humans have a shared, disinterested rationality, which is accessible by thinking about the veil of ignorance, and is strengthened by freedom of speech. If arguments cannot be divorced from identity, and if speech is in fact a battleground on which groups struggle for power, the project is doomed from the outset.

Rawls thought that the stability of the ideal society rests on an “overlapping consensus”. Everyone must be sufficiently committed to pluralism to remain invested in the democratic project, even when their opponents are in power. The polarised politics of America, Britain and elsewhere, in which neither side can tolerate the other’s views, pushes against that ideal.

The more that group identity is elevated above universal values, the greater the threat. In America some on the left describe those who have adopted their views as “woke”. Some fans of Donald Trump—who has taken the Republican party a long way from Nozickian libertarianism—say they have been “red pilled” (a reference to the film “The Matrix”, in which a red pill lets characters realise the true nature of reality). In both cases, the language suggests some hidden wisdom that only the enlightened have discovered. It is not far from there to saying that such a revelation is necessary to be truly free—an argument that Berlin warned is an early step on the path to tyranny.

The good news is that pluralism and truly liberal values remain popular. Many people want to be treated as individuals, not as part of a group; they attend to what is being said, not just to who is saying it. Much hand-wringing about public life reflects the climate on social media and campuses, not society at large. Most students do not subscribe to radical campus leftism. Still, backers of liberal democracy would do well to remember that the great post-war liberals, in one way or another, all emphasised how individuals must be free to resist the oppression of large groups. That, surely, is where liberal thought begins.

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Louis C.K., Ricky Gervais, & Chris Rock Resurfaced N-Word Video Sparks Outrage

Louis C.K., Ricky Gervais, & Chris Rock Resurfaced N-Word Video Sparks Outrage | Moral Panics, Rent-Seeking Behavior & Fake News | Scoop.it
Some things don't age that well — and one of them is a resurfaced video clip of Louis C.K., Ricky Gervais, Chris Rock and Jerry Seinfeld in the 2011 HBO special Talking Funny. The video clip joins the conversation with C.K.
Rob Duke's insight:

I'm an intentionalist here and would invoke Kant.  The issue is whether a person has an evil intent.  I'd agree that these guys weren't pure in their intentions, there are some backhanded compliments and outright insults being thrown around.

But take the series recently when Viggo Mortensen used the N-word:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zlsmuT7Ahlg

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fI3e22cKRwU

(first clip is that a White person can never say the n-word; the second clip argues as I do below)

Viggo is Dutch-American, so that's my first point that he's not been raised in our culture, so "the" word doesn't have the same context for him--it couldn't possibly.

Second, Viggo's intention is not evil.  He's explaining that the movie is depicting a time in American history when "it" was said routinely and that no one says "N*****r" any longer.

It's unfortunate, because this controversy is likely going to impact Mr. Mortensen's Oscar chances.

I personally think that people who were the objects of an insulting name can use it to take ownership and change the way it's used and what it means.  I have an acquaintance friend who told me that he and his friends use words like "queer", "fag", "queen" simply to take ownership and reduce the sting of these words for them, but he said he still is offended if someone not from his community uses it in a derogatory fashion.

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Parkland survivor David Hogg is going to Harvard University

Parkland survivor David Hogg is going to Harvard University | Moral Panics, Rent-Seeking Behavior & Fake News | Scoop.it
Florida school shooting survivor and gun control advocate David Hogg is going to Harvard University.
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Nobel Prize-winning scientist stripped of last honorary titles over racist comments | Euronews

Nobel Prize-winning scientist stripped of last honorary titles over racist comments | Euronews | Moral Panics, Rent-Seeking Behavior & Fake News | Scoop.it
Dr. James Watson told a recenty-aired PBS documentary that genes can cause a difference on average between blacks and whites in IQ tests.
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Rahaf Mohammed Alqunun: Saudi asylum refugee teen arrives in Canada

Rahaf Mohammed Alqunun: Saudi asylum refugee teen arrives in Canada | Moral Panics, Rent-Seeking Behavior & Fake News | Scoop.it
The 18-year-old barricaded herself in an airport hotel in Bangkok and took to Twitter when Thai authorities threatened to deport her.
Rob Duke's insight:

We need to adopt something more like Canada's immigration model...they tend to attract the best/brightest.

We should join with Mexico and make our southern border regions an enterprise zone, so that it's attractive to have manufacturing and tech research on both sides of the border, which could create a new renaissance akin to what happened in Silicon Valley in the 1970's.  This would be a viable alternative to the "wall"; instead, we could help fund and maintain Mexico's much shorter wall with Guatemala.

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Complaints prompt Amazon to remove products that are offensive to Muslims

Complaints prompt Amazon to remove products that are offensive to Muslims | Moral Panics, Rent-Seeking Behavior & Fake News | Scoop.it
Amazon has pulled more than a dozen products off its website after receiving complaints that the items are offensive to Muslims.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the nation's largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization, asked the online retailer last week to remove the products, which included doormats, bath mats and other items imprinted with Islamic calligraphy, references to the Prophet Muhammad and scripture.
Rob Duke's insight:

This is not America.  Our plural values are under assault on many fronts.  You cannot have a free country that does not allow free, open, and plural discourse.  At some point, we will need to extend Constitutional guarantees from Government interference with speech and religion to the commercial sphere.  RLUIPA, Religious Land Use and Institutionalize Person Act of 2000 (42 U.S.C. §§ 2000cc, et seq) has already extended these rights to local government planning decisions, so it's not a huge stretch to extend these rights to commerce.

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Why the sketch of Jazmine Barnes' alleged killer didn't match the suspects in her death

Why the sketch of Jazmine Barnes' alleged killer didn't match the suspects in her death | Moral Panics, Rent-Seeking Behavior & Fake News | Scoop.it
Last Thursday, the Harris County Sheriff's Office released a sketch of the suspect showing a thinly built white male in his 30s or 40s with sunken cheeks and a stubble beard. At the time, police said they believed the shooter fled the area in a red pickup truck.

Activists claimed that the child's death could have been racially motivated. However, the person now charged in the child's death, Eric Black Jr., is a 20-year-old black man who was arrested while driving a different car on Saturday.

Black reportedly told police that he and a second black male suspect, partially identified in court as Larry Woodruffe, mistook Barnes' vehicle for another. Woodruffe has not been formally charged in the child's death, but court records indicate he was arrested on a drug possession charge Sunday.

King explained the discrepancy on Instagram on Sunday. He said the four eyewitnesses to the shooting confused the killer for a white man who sped off in his red pickup truck.

The mother and the girls in the car never saw the shooter. They only looked up from the carnage inside their vehicle to see the white man drive off in the pickup, he said.
Rob Duke's insight:

a. moral panics create a dominant narrative that we tend to "jump" to whenever something fits that script; but, also

b. eye witnesses are notoriously unreliable.

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California Supreme Court Wants to Know If a New Police Records Transparency Law Applies to 'Brady Lists' of Problem Officers

California Supreme Court Wants to Know If a New Police Records Transparency Law Applies to 'Brady Lists' of Problem Officers | Moral Panics, Rent-Seeking Behavior & Fake News | Scoop.it
A new public records transparency law that took effect on Jan. 1 might have pulled back the curtain of secrecy around police personnel records more than first realized.
Rob Duke's insight:

This has been such a lopsided story for the last year.  Under what was called the Pitchess' Motion, the State of California set up a system that was balanced and fair to allow criminal defendants to have access to officer records, but first required a hearing to show cause and then the judge in the case reviewed the officer's personnel file in chambers before deciding what, if any, information in the file was released to the defendant in "discovery".  This balanced the officer's privacy with the defendant's right to a fair trial.

Typically, the judge granted the look at the file and then released those complaints and investigations that were related to the allegation (i.e., the officer is too quick to use force; or the officer has engaged in a pattern of dishonesty, etc.).  Even this was often abused since some attorneys began collecting these "Pitchess' Motion" files and making these available for a fee to other attorneys.

In addition, under Brady v. Maryland (1963), Chiefs and District Attorneys were required to keep lists of officers who had been credibly accused of these aforementioned problems and to notify any defendants.  In practice, this meant most officers with credible complaints of an honesty nature, were summarily fired, but even officers falsely accused were subject to these disclosures, which then often resulted in a Pitchess' Motion, in camera review by the judge, and typically release of the investigation(s) in question to the defendant.

So, not only did California have a system to tell defendants when a questionable officer was involved in their case, but they also had a system where defendant's counsel could proactively determine that something didn't "smell right" and ask a judge to do their own investigation into the officer's file.

The California's legislature crafted a "solution in search of a problem" which is to throw open police officer's personnel files to the media and anyone willing to navigate the new process.  This will result in officers being routinely falsely accused in order to build the appearance of problems, which had already been something of a problem, but more easily managed due to the filter of the judge's review before release.  Now, we'll have to see if policing isn't again damaged in the coming years by an ill-thought out policy.

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Schiff to target potential perjury during Congress’ Russia probe

Schiff to target potential perjury during Congress’ Russia probe | Moral Panics, Rent-Seeking Behavior & Fake News | Scoop.it
He intends to share information with Robert Mueller.
Rob Duke's insight:

While I have real concerns with the FBI having the power to prosecute people for lying to them (often with little connection to the facts of the case that warranted their investigation), I have no such qualms about Congress doing so.  Why?  First, these sessions use a swear in; and, are recorded.  Thus, while there may still be some "gotcha" where questions are asked in hopes that a witness will answer contrary to facts already known, the witness at least knows that everything is preserved for any potential criminal case.  Furthermore, a witness has the ability to claim a fifth Amendment privilege and/or negotiate immunity for their testimony.  A pair of FBI agents don't have that same "gravitas".

Note: nothing in this changes my opinion that we should all, local as well as Federal officers, be able to use false statements to impeach witnesses, and, prosecute when a lie is material to the case so long as we took steps to appropriately preserve the interview.

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Here's How to Fix the Senate

Here's How to Fix the Senate | Moral Panics, Rent-Seeking Behavior & Fake News | Scoop.it
In 1995, Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan declared, “Sometime in the next century the United States is going to have to address the question of apportionment in the Senate.” Perhaps that time has come. Today the voting power of a citizen in Wyoming, the smallest state in terms of population, is about 67 times that of a citizen in the largest state of California, and the disparities among the states are only increasing. The situation is untenable.

Pundits, professors, and policy makers have advanced various solutions. Burt Neuborne of NYU has argued in The Wall Street Journal that the best way forward is to break up large states into smaller ones. Akhil Amar of Yale Law School has suggested a national referendum to reform the Senate. The retired congressman John Dingell asserted here in The Atlantic that the Senate should simply be abolished.

There’s a better, more elegant, constitutional way out. Let’s allocate one seat to each state automatically to preserve federalism, but apportion the rest based on population. Here’s how.

Start with the total U.S. population, then divide by 100, since that’s the size of the current, more deliberative upper chamber. Next, allocate senators to each state according to their share of the total; 2/100 equals two senators, 3/100 equals three, etc. Update the apportionment every decade according to the official census.
Rob Duke's insight:

See the Federalist No. 62 for Madison's rationale:

1. made up of older citizens;

2. longer terms;

3. equally apportioned (2 per each state); and, most importantly:

4. the senate is meant to regulate the more populist power of the House of Representatives.  Each state has equal power in the Senate, as it should be, so that the larger states don't have even more power to push around the smaller states.  The House caters to the will of the "people", but the Senate was intended to be more interested in protecting the rights of the individual states.

 

Perhaps California and Texas would consider breaking up in order to capture more Senate seats, but if there was a significant advantage in this approach, it seems that these ideas would have gained more traction.  More likely is that California, et. al., recognize the already great advantage they have in their domination of the House and would not want to trade that for more influence in the Senate, albeit as six smaller states (in California's case).

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Paul Whelan might not be a spy. But his story is very weird.

Paul Whelan might not be a spy. But his story is very weird. | Moral Panics, Rent-Seeking Behavior & Fake News | Scoop.it
It’s far from clear that Paul Whelan, the U.S. citizen arrested in Russia last week and charged with espionage, is actually a spy. But there’s definitely something fishy about his background and activities.

Whelan, 48, a former U.S. Marine and current head of security for BorgWarner, an auto parts manufacturer, traveled to Russia multiple times since 2006, though both his current and former employers say he was not traveling on business. When he was arrested, according to his family, he was attending a friend’s wedding in Moscow. He apparently had an interest in Russian culture and had studied the language and liked traveling the country by train. Unusually for a foreigner, he had an account on Vkontakte, the Russian version of Facebook. Even more unusually, most of his contacts on the site were what the New York Times describes as “men with some sort of connection to academies run by the Russian Navy, the Defense Ministry or the Civil Aviation Authority.”


Whelan’s background is murky as well. He was court-martialed in 2006 and dishonorably discharged from the Marines in 2008 for what the Washington Post reports was an attempt “to steal more than $10,000 worth of currency from the U.S. government while deployed to Iraq in 2006 and bouncing nearly $6,000 worth of checks around the same time,” as well as several other types of fraud.

In addition to the U.S., Whelan had passports from Britain, Canada, and Ireland. Apparently, he had an ongoing competition with his sister to see who could collect the most.

Whelan has a background in law enforcement, though he has exaggerated the extent of it. In a 2013 court deposition, “he said that he had been a sheriff’s deputy in Wash­tenaw County and a police officer for the city of Chelsea” though Washtenaw County has no record of him, and in Chelsea he was actually a “part-time police officer, as well as a dispatcher, a crossing guard, and a parking officer.”
Rob Duke's insight:

Hard to believe a guy like this could be a James Bond.....

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The global slump in press freedom - Open Future

The global slump in press freedom - Open Future | Moral Panics, Rent-Seeking Behavior & Fake News | Scoop.it
The case for a free press rests not only on classical liberal principles but also on hard data. Cross-country studies show strong and consistent associations between unfettered media, vibrant democracies and limited corruption. China, which has a tightly controlled media and perhaps the world’s most sophisticated censorship scheme, thinks it has proven that prosperity can be achieved without a free press. In less extreme fashion, Singapore shares similar authoritarian attitudes. Politicians everywhere do not much like to be criticised. To a worrying number of them, this Singapore model—or Beijing model, depending on preference—can prove more attractive than the Western approach of putting up with a pesky press. In normal times, America would denounce the jailing of journalists and muzzling of newspapers. But given Mr Trump’s predilections, the position of global free-press champion is vacant.
Rob Duke's insight:

The promise of the internet was that we'd get so many more choices for radio, music, and news.  Contrary to those expectations: on the one hand, we seem to be getting fewer choices, as media conglomerates gobble each other up (now Disney is set to merge 20th Century Fox into its portfolio); and, on the other hand, we get lots of garbage/noise of questionable quality (e.g. podcasts, quasi-news sites, and outright fabrication factories).  This means that we're hearing 2 or 3 polished voices (Disney/ABC, MSNBC, and CNN) with a plethora of questionable sources.  Frankly, I don't know who to believe anymore, and even old trustworthy sources, seem to be circling the wagons around the same themes...don't place any restrictions on corporations...government is the bad guy....don't trust the police.

As I've said elsewhere, I'm looking for a new version of Cronkite or Walters, but would settle for some standards set by the industry that would "self-certify" if you have an independent news bureau that is decoupled from the editorial/business/advertising side of the house, then I'd be willing to say that's probably not completely "fake news", though I do recognize (and accept) the Chomsky criticism that culture and government have an impact on the prism through which our news will pass.  As long as I have access to all the other "free" places' version of the news, so that I can compare "prisms", then I'm o.k. with those limitations.  We should also accept that there will be some costs associated with some anti-trust regulation that keeps enough of our media in independent hands...for instance, when is the last time you didn't consume your radio with "canned" disc jockeys and completely syndicated content that you can't differentiate from when you're in Anchorage, Fairbanks, Los Angeles, Sacramento, Phoenix, etc. despite these being dramatically different locations and markets (Rock stations all have Bob, Ted, names...country all have KFROG or similar brands).  Remember when you could get distinct radio station "flavors" in each market with unique radio personalities hosting the shows "live"?  Let's get back to something like that--even if it costs a bit more....

<end of rant>

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The U.S. Finally Made Lynching a Federal Crime | Smart News

The U.S. Finally Made Lynching a Federal Crime | Smart News | Moral Panics, Rent-Seeking Behavior & Fake News | Scoop.it

The Justice for Victims of Lynching Act was unanimously approved in the Senate
Rob Duke's insight:

Is this political theatre or was this a law that was needed?

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Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s health and the case for Supreme Court term limits

Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s health and the case for Supreme Court term limits | Moral Panics, Rent-Seeking Behavior & Fake News | Scoop.it
The Supreme Court should reflect the Constitution and the country, not the quirks of longevity. Holding justices to a single, nonrenewable term would lower the stakes of any individual Supreme Court nomination as well as make the timing of fights more predictable.

An idea like this could have bipartisan support — Gov. Rick Perry proposed 18-year terms in the 2012 campaign, making an argument that I think sounds even more persuasive today:

Doing this would move the court closer to the people by ensuring that every President would have the opportunity to replace two Justices per term, and that no court could stretch its ideology over multiple generations. Further, this reform would maintain judicial independence, but instill regularity to the nominations process, discourage Justices from choosing a retirement date based on politics, and will stop the ever-increasing tenure of Justices.
Rob Duke's insight:

The court is only one source of our current political malaise, but it's a good place to start.  It will take more than term limits to restore balance, but also an interesting idea.

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NASA engineer admits thieves' reactions in his epic revenge package viral video were FAKED | Daily

NASA engineer admits thieves' reactions in his epic revenge package viral video were FAKED | Daily | Moral Panics, Rent-Seeking Behavior & Fake News | Scoop.it
Mark Rober's video went viral and now has 44million views, however he admitted that some of the thieves reactions were faked. Rober took to Twitter to apologize and explain the situation.
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