Morning Ed: Government {2016.04.20.W}

In response to a previously linkied piece by Eli Lake on the French police state, Todd Seavey argues that domestic and foreign force cannot be so easily separated.

USA Today’s editorial board is not exactly a friend to gun people, but they very astutely recognize the problems with the Sandy Hook lawsuit.

Turns out, maybe the revolving door because government in finance is actually assisted and accelerated by strict rules.

According to Mary Nugent and Mona Lena Krook, binders full of women is good policy with minimal downside.

It appears attempts to hook ruralia up with broadband were evidently a spectacular failure.

The little cabinet department that could, and did, and almost never found reason to stop doing anything.

Humans are intellectually ill-equipped for democracy, says science.


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83 thoughts on “Morning Ed: Government {2016.04.20.W}

  1. That Bloomberg piece on regulation is quite good. In general, the only people so concerned about their post-government career prospects that they sell out the public interest are the folks in the legislature or the political appointees in the executive branch. They exist in an ecosystem where they owe their livelihoods to who they know and who owes them favors.

    The civil service just doesn’t work like that. At least, I’ve never witnessed it at the federal level. Can’t say what’s happening at state and local government. There is something called Miles’ Law, which says that you “stand where you sit.” Mostly, I saw this invoked in regards to the State Department, where it is not uncommon to have different offices within the building pushing in different directions on an issue. It’s applicable across the government and into the private sector as well. When someone’s job is to regulate, they tend to act like regulators. And when someone’s job is to run compliance at a bank, they tend to act like compliance officers. That’s how you get ahead in your career.

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    • ” the only people so concerned about their post-government career prospects that they sell out the public interest are the folks in the legislature or the political appointees in the executive branch”

      Not true. The military has a big problem with higher ranking folks revolving in and out. Federal prosecutors bail out after prosecuting cases and work for the other side. I think there’s a lot more revolving door than just what you’ve captured.

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      • The military people move out and cash in, but they never move back in. Once you’re retired, you’re retired. (All the big scandals now, like Fat Leonard, are people that cashed in *before* they moved out)

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          • Petraeus had to retire before becoming head of the CIA. (Hayden though, was still on the books when he was in charge of NSA (edit – and CIA, I forgot he was there before becoming the overall intel grand poobah). Still, an SES/govt appointment job making 200 something K is not the same thing as a ‘revolving door’.

            There is the scam of an O-5/O-6 or an E-7/E-8 separating from the service and being rehired as a contractor doing the exact same job for 3 to 4 times the pay. (And I don’t begrudge the E-8 for this, because he or she is underpaid as an E-8, but it’s slimy as hell for the O-5/O-6).

            Yeah, there’s a potential conflict of interest if say, Greenert would come back into the Pentagon as a political appointee muckity muck after being on the board of BAE. On the other hand that’s the paradox of finding experienced management for government high government jobs. A well rounded candidate for a high level muckity muck *should* have experience in the defense contracting side of things, as well as policy think tank and some uniformed experience themselves. A candidate that’s unsullied by prior connections may not have as good of a grasp how everything works. (which, btw, is the excuse that Obama’s apologists i.e. Jeff Goldberg, use to explain why anything in his administration went sideways on the diplo-military policy front).

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      • Are prosecutors who become private defense attorneys using their contacts and influence or just their experience, though? And does their plan to do so in the future affect their faithful execution of their jobs while they’re in office? Neither one of those seems like a major concern–at least not nearly in the same class as legislative staffers working with lobbyists who later hire them for their own firms.

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          • It feels like, after a couple of iterations of the game, there would be all kinds of unspoken rules (well, when one is not at the bar after work, anyway) that deal with such things as “oh, the smart guy who does what he’s told and demonstrates that he knows how to play ball is always someone our corporation will have room for” and “the wiseguy who leans rather heavily on ‘the process’ will find himself stuck in our process for weeding out the ones who wouldn’t make a good fit… we’re sure he’ll understand.”

            And we’ve had a lot more than a couple of iterations of the game.

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    • One of the arguments I’ve heard (and found interesting) is that the depression and WWII changed American Government fundamentally insofar as government jobs were pretty much the best jobs that the best and brightest could reliably try out for and reliably got and, once everything had played out, we were sitting at 1950 and business was kicking in and doing its thing and the best and brightest were not, at that point, inclined to quit en masse and get private sector jobs (some did… most didn’t).

      And so we had one of the smartest, best, and brightest governments in the world for a few decades there.

      Which started it’s long regression to the mean right around the time that the great depression/WWII generation started retiring.

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      • Megan McArdle offered that thesis. Production per capita, per capita personal income, and per capita private consumption had all returned to the trendline by 1941 and the labor market had cleared by 1943. At the same time, the bulk of the male population born during the years running from 1910 to 1925 had to trudge through the military. Some in the civil service would have had occupational deferments, to be sure. The cohorts to which McArdle’s surmise would have applied would have been born from about 1900 to 1910, or perhaps 1900 to 1918. Your posited regression to the mean would have been over 30 odd years ago.

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  2. The entire point of democracy is to produce mediocre or average officials and policies. Spectacularly good politicians and policies depending on how you define them might be rare but also are spectacularly bad politicians and policies. Democracy is supposed to produce an average level of competence rather than a spectacular one.

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  3. USA Today: Jeebus. We’ve been talking about guns and gun control for decades and reporters STILL cannot understand / use the correct terminology…or don’t due to an agenda. “It seeks to criminalize the sale of a legal product — the military-style AR-15 assault rifle” An assault rifle is “An assault rifle is a fully automatic selective-fire rifle that uses an intermediate cartridge and a detachable magazine” and is a generic term for any weapon so described. The AR-15 is a Colt product that is “semi automatic rifle“.

    Women Binders: Sure, unless that’s the only binder that you look at. Then that’s something called discrimination.

    Broadband: “Shovel ready”. Sure.

    “The little cabinet department that could, and did, and almost never found reason to stop doing anything.” That’s the definition of a bureaucracy existing for it’s own sake, but I repeat myself.

    Democracy: “The democratic process relies on the assumption that citizens (the majority of them, at least) can recognize the best political candidate, or best policy idea, when they see it.” I don’t understand where the authors came up with that idea. Far as I recall, democracy was viewed as better than being ruled by a king and that people would have the opportunity to determine the laws they would be governed.

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    • I too have noticed that a lot of reporters seem to misunderstand gun jargon. I don’t credit this to a conscious political agenda so much as to a cocktail of disinterest and intellectual laziness.

      Not all reporters are disinterested in weapons. But it seems the case that a large number are. There may be some selective memory here: those familiar with the nomenclature will quickly move through reporting that uses terminology correctly, but seeing it used poorly sticks out in the mind the way one’s hand feels a zit on the face. Your face is not covered with zits, but you remember feeling one in the shower this morning so it lodges in your mind and it doesn’t take much recollection before your memory tells you that reporters always get it wrong when it comes to guns.

      Some reporters take the time to dig down into the subject matter areas of their stories, and turn those stories into beats. But these well-intentioned reporters with both good work ethics and substantial editorial resources backing them up may nevertheless have an epistemology framing how they do that work that doesn’t set up acquiring this knowledge with the kind of detailed accuracy you’re hoping for. Stories that address issues of potential restrictions or registrations of firearms are typically categorized as “political,” and given to reporters on “political” beats. So the background information a thorough reporter will want to accumulate is political in nature. The action is in the political conflict between Democrat and Republican, between NRA and Brady Foundation, between private gun owner and crime victim. The distinction between an automatic and a semi-automatic weapon is categorized as “technical,” and is thus tangential to the story. Getting a “technical” detail wrong is not optimal, even so, but also not so bad that the paper won’t run the story.

      This assumes a reporter who is going to do the intellectual work of gathering and processing a significant amount of background information in the first place. Many reporters care more about meeting deadlines with articles of the assigned length, and many editors assign reporters stories along a wide variety of subject matters, and many papers don’t have enough reporters with enough strings out there at any given time to fill the blank space between the advertisements, so they just need to pump out product, now, quality of reporting being only one and probably not the most important factor. Acquiring subject matter expertise in a new field full of both unfamiliar jargon and generally distrustful people using that jargon while under time and deadline pressure while you also have to get at least 800 words about the pearl-clutchers who want to ban the Harry Potter books from school libraries because witchcraft, and another 800 words on the Congressional aide who teaches a hang-gliding-for-the-homeless class on weekends, all before the 6:00 p.m. deadline, is a stressful challenge. Granted, I expect that AP and USA Today have more resources and so don’t need to stretch their reporters out like that, but that’s an expectation that might not necessarily meet reality.

      None of this would be praiseworthy were it true. But to the point, none of it is politically agendized against gun ownership rights, either.

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      • I find that any time they report on a field I know well, reporters generally get important details and concepts wrong unless they’re specialists (and even then, quite often). I try to remember this whenever I read an article about a field I don’t know very well.

        Some of it is also to be expected when people try to report on stuff that just isn’t their regular field. This particular problem has to be laziness, though. Rather than checking with experts or quality source material, non-experts simply “look up” a fact or term in their own heads and share it with the public. I’m far from being a gun expert, and there’s a ton of cringeworthy reporting out there that even I notice. Ken White’s attack dog analogy rings very true to me here.

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        • It’s Gell Mann amneasea:

          In any case, you read with exasperation or amusement the multiple errors in a story-and then turn the page to national or international affairs, and read with renewed interest as if the rest of the newspaper was somehow more accurate about far-off Palestine than it was about the story you just read. You turn the page, and forget what you know.

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      • I disagree. Words like “assault rifle” are politically agendized against gun ownership rights because they are purposely used to make the weapons seem dangerous, scary, unnecessary and illegitimate. In any argument the first thing you have to win is the language victory, by defining terms favorablably to your side you make it easier to win the overall argument. This is why many 2nd amendment folks refuse to use the term “assault rifle” b/c it is the other side’s term.

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        • The Bushmaster rifle was designed and marketed specifically to be menacing and scary. It had no real value for anything else. It was and is a prop, a status and signaling symbol for men to feel powerful.

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          • The Bushmaster rifle was designed and marketed specifically to be menacing and scary.

            Assumes facts not in evidence. The Bushmaster rifle was designed to outwardly look exactly like the Army’s M16 or new M4 carbine, no more no less. It is no more menacing or scary than either or those weapons.

            It had no real value for anything else.

            Your opinion and not supported by facts.

            It was and is a prop, a status and signaling symbol for men to feel powerful.

            Your opinion and not supported by facts.

            Surely you can come up with something better?

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          • Interesting how you give us “nomenclature can be specifically selected to induce a particular emotional response in the recipient” and present it like that refutes notme’s statement about how “assault rifle” and “military-style weapon” are specifically chosen for effect.

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          • Granted, I haven’t spent much time around the militia/prepper crowd, but I have spent time around guns and people who shoot and hunt. And the only group of people I know of who amass loads of scary-looking gear with the intention to intimidating people is the police.

            Even in the army, too much tacticool is looked down upon. Or at least it was ten years ago.

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            • There are plenty of citizens who like the tactical look. You don’t bring an AK to starbucks or walk down the street with your AR in a tactical sling because Tacticool is cool ( for some).

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            • In the suit being pressed against Bushmaster Firearms, their own marketing copy is being used as evidence against them. They didn’t market this to hunters, target shooters, police or SWAT teams, to the military, or even for the foreign paramilitary groups.

              It was marketed openly and specifically to establish (their words) a “Man Card”.

              Which is why the pedantic no-such-thing-as-an-assault-rifle argument is so absurd. People vehemently insist that a Bushmaster is a reasonable tool for personal protection by sober reasonable people…then the rest of us look at a hundred Travis Bickles posing on Facebook with their Bushmasters, wearing camo and their best Rambo scowls, with matching blood curdling “come and take it” copy.
              We look at that and understand perfectly well what the purpose of the rifle is.

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                  • Just wait, soon we’ll see car makers sued because their advertising makes use of themes that show fast and (arguably) reckless driving alongside suggestions regarding personal worth, and somebody drove fast on the I-5.

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                      • Not in the least. So clearly Corvettes are merely vehicles meant to go fast and compensate for something. Obviously we should make them illegal, lest someone drive one too fast and kill a family in a minivan.

                        Or we could sue GM, for advertising them as such and making machines with way more horsepower than any untrained person should be allowed to control.

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                        • If Corvettes were designed to go 200 miles per hour like a Formula 1, they would in fact be illegal.

                          At the moment, a Corvette isn’t a danger, and the trivial and silly purpose for their existence doesn’t harm anyone.

                          But if we experienced a rash of people driving their Corvettes at absurdly high speed and killing large numbers of innocents, it would be perfectly reasonable to decide that they don’t belong on the streets.

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                          • “If Corvettes were designed to go 200 miles per hour like a Formula 1, they would in fact be illegal.”

                            Why? What law would they be in violation of? As it is there are vehicles that are designed to go close to that, legal in all 50 states. For something to be illeagal, it has to have some aspect that is against the law. Looking scary, having advertising that some consider offensive, etc. do not meet that catagory. In fact they are perfect examples of the first amendment.

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                            • I’m using the Constitution-is-not-a-suicide pact argument.

                              Whatever moral logic underpins the right to own something, has to be balanced against the right to public safety.

                              That’s why the 2nd Amendment covers semi auto, but not full auto, why the First does not cover incitement to riot, and so on.

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                              • Constitution-is/is-not is just a bunch of bull. What the Firearms Control Act of 1934 (FCA) did was create a tax stamp and law enforcement approval request system for Full-Auto, Short Barrels, and Silencers. This was due to gang activity. It did not outlaw anything (though that was its purpose DeFacto) And in the meantime states such as Montana have allowed its citizens to have some of these items, as long as they don’t cross state lines, which is what the FCA really was regulating. That is completely within the scope of federal power.

                                And you can own Full-Auto weapons even in CA, you just need a tax stamp, and state approval. The movie business has specific exemptions for this. It simply requires a CADOJ descretionary permit. In other words, be connected.

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                                • Constitution-is/is-not is just a bunch of bull.

                                  I’m not sure what you mean here, but it gets me thinking….

                                  The idea that the constitution is NOT just a bunch of bull**** is best expressed (perhaps, in my view!) by one of two ideas: 1) that the principles upon which the constistooshun is founded are so obviously – or nearly obviously – true that they need do justificatory argument, or 2) that even if wrong, those principles constitute an essential, necessary cornerstone in the foundational structure upon which our Republic is built to the extent that undermining them entails a real and significant cost.

                                  Personally, I think each view requires argument. But that makes sense since I’m the kind of guy who thinks that reality isn’t really all that simple. :)

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                                  • While I appreciate your argument that African-Americans in the South are being systematically disenfranchised by these new voting laws, the Constitution is not a suicide pact.

                                    Fascinating.

                                    It’s got a lot of similarities with the “it’s (the current year)!” “argument”.

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                                    • While I appreciate your argument that African-Americans in the South are being systematically disenfranchised by these new voting laws, the Constitution is not a suicide pact.

                                      WTF?

                                      Edit: I take it your rejection of libertarianism hasn’t compelled you to take off the Liberal Decoder Ring, eh?

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                                        • What argument were you mocking, Jaybird? It’s opaque to me. And I was the person you responded to.

                                          I mean, if you wanna have a private conversation with other Others out there, that’s fine. Otherwise I think some clarification of the argument you think you’re making is in order, since I have no ******* idea what the **** you’re talking about, and I’m the person you’re ******* responding to.

                                          :)

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                                            • For me!? Aww, you shouldn’t have!

                                              As I said below, it’s an Appeal To Emotion, a very bad one absent some very real threat to the republic. And yeah, I can totally see it applied to voting rights.

                                              Voter fraud is a big deal, the CINASP! We need very strict voter registration and ID to combat it.

                                              Whenever an “argument” works so well across so many topics, it’s validity is suspect.

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                              • Oh I love the Constitution is not a suicide pact argument! What a delicious bit of rhetoric to justify any and all manner of abuse!

                                Torture violates the 8th amendment? Well the Constitution is not a suicide pact! We need that information from the terrorist!

                                That police search violates the 4th Amendment? Well the Constitution is not a suicide pact! We need that evidence to put the bad guy away!

                                You want to evoke the Constitution is not a suicide pact, you need to actually formulate something having even a whiff of an existential threat to the nation AS A WHOLE before you start deciding to weaken rights & protections because it leads to some bad ends.

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                                  • In your argument, your balance is using the wrong set of weights.

                                    But back to my point. For Constitution is not a suicide pact to be a valid argument, the topic at issue needs to represent an actual threat to the republic, or it is nothing more than an empty Appeal To Emotion.

                                    It’s a bad argument.

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              • Argh…both sides of this argument bend towards the silly. Lots of gun advertising, especially the Man Card stuff, does make gun owners look like bad stereotypes. That in itself is meaningless. Most advertising makes everybody look like maroons. Dumb advertising doesn’t’ invalidate or validate, for that matter, anything.

                But obviously style and tude and stuff matters to gun owners. Some choose guns because they are cool or look mean or whatever. That is just the nature of any consumer good. Style and look matters.

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              • Which is why the pedantic no-such-thing-as-an-assault-rifle argument is so absurd.

                What are you talking about? There is absolutely such a thing as an assault rifle. And the Bushmaster AR-15 is not one.

                This is the second time in as many days that you’ve said that an empirically true statement is “absurd.”

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                • The argument I’m referring to is that the military styled weapons are only cosmetically different than hunting rifles so attacking them is wrong.

                  Its true, technically, but an absurd argument. The cosmetic military styling is precisely what attracts the mentally unstable to them.

                  They aren’t really meant to be military grade weapons, they are only meant to mimic military weapons, for people who are not in the military.

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                  • “The argument I’m referring to is that the military styled weapons are only cosmetically different than hunting rifles so attacking them is wrong.”

                    Sorta. 1) most “military style rifles” are in caliber .223, the same as the current military rifle. A .223 is not a great hunting caliber. Folks will of course quibble, but a .223 is good for small game and varmints. Yes, you CAN kill a deer with one. Better calibers for deer and for animals bigger-mule deer, elk, moose are 30-06, .308, etc. One of the reasons .223 is popular, other than being the same caliber as the military and thus getting the “taticool” stuff, is the ammo is considerably lighter, allowing you to carry more of it, and it’s a good “man size” caliber.

                    “The cosmetic military styling is precisely what attracts the mentally unstable to them.” Citation?

                    “They aren’t really meant to be military grade weapons, they are only meant to mimic military weapons,” I could be wrong here, but I expect that other than the selective fire option, and a few other particulars related to state/fed law, they are VERY similar to the current military grade weapons in terms of materials, accuracy, ruggedness, etc. Someone with more time with an AR-15 and an M-4 will have to speak more on that though.

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            • I’ve run across the tacticool folks with more firearms than sense (at least, I deduce their lack of sense from their behavior at the range or shooting pit). Drawing a line from them to massacres is more Hollywood than anything, even if I do think such people are an issue in their own right (i.e. if they are reckless with a firearm at the range, they are going to be reckless with it elsewhere).

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      • Burt,
        I was not equating the poor writing with some anti gun agenda, although given the political leanings of the majority of journalists, it can’t be rules out. However, I attribute it to lazy journalism. After all, it took me 15 seconds to confirm via google what the definition of AR-15 and assault rifle was. If you’re too lazy to get your facts correct and have it go though editing/publishing as well, then your whole reputation / body of work is suspect.

        Not that this is a gun specific issue. Anyone with specific industry knowledge or of a craft, can often read news reports and realize the reporter had no clue about what they were writing. I believe you even had some posts about that on this site. Or it was Razanda or Popehat.

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  4. IN an on-going video project, I decided I wanted more women in it.
    To enhance the audio, actually. Children’s voices would have done the same thing, but defeated credibility.
    There are a number of trade-offs, but not on all occasions.
    In fact, on most occasions, there isn’t any significant trade-off.
    That said, there was a functional core which was immutable.
    Outside of the core is where the additions, substitutions, and trade-offs occur.

    And it doesn’t surprise me that the effect is immeasurable.
    Those additions, substitutions, and trade-offs yield a different set of strengths to build off of.
    Also, playing up a strong point often involves downplaying a weak point; i.e., an adjustment of strategy is called for, with different target points.

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