PM/AM: What Turned On the Lights? – Popular Mechanics

But science can answer everything, right?

As one participating scientist points out, to miss the mark by so much means what we understand about the universe is fundamentally wrong. The universe continues to be exciting, a little scary, but mostly—a mystery.

via PM/AM: What Turned On the Lights? – Popular Mechanics.

Peggy Noonan: The Crisis on the Border – WSJ

Meanwhile some in the conservative press call the president incapable, unable to handle the situation. But he is not so stupid he doesn’t know this is a crisis. He knows his poll numbers are going to go even lower next month because of it. He scrambled Wednesday to hold a news conference to control a little of the damage, but said nothing new.

There is every sign he let the crisis on the border build to put heat on Republicans and make them pass his idea of good immigration reform. It would be “comprehensive,” meaning huge, impenetrable and probably full of mischief. His base wants it. It would no doubt benefit the Democratic Party in the long term.

The little children in great danger, holding hands, staring blankly ahead, are pawns in a larger game. That game is run by adults. How cold do you have to be to use children in this way?

via Peggy Noonan: The Crisis on the Border – WSJ.

After Hobby Lobby by Dennis Saffran, City Journal 8 July 2014

The ACA contraceptive mandate requires that the 20 covered birth-control methods be provided without “any cost sharing requirements.” This means they must be covered at 100 percent of expense, with no copay or deductible. Cancer drugs, on the other hand, are subject to copay and deductible requirements under Obamacare. This discrepancy epitomizes the deterioration of American liberalism from Hubert Humphrey to Sandra Fluke—from a focus on life-and-death struggles of ordinary working people to a preoccupation with sex. From the time Humphrey and Harry Truman first proposed some form of national health-care system, Democrats have spoken movingly, and with some justification, about the plight of those hit with the catastrophic costs of a serious illness or injury—middle-class Americans sitting up nights, worrying about how to pay their medical bills. But no one is worrying about how to pay for birth control pills—not when a month’s supply costs $9 at Walmart.

via After Hobby Lobby by Dennis Saffran, City Journal 8 July 2014.

Orem bows out of Macquarie UTOPIA proposal | Deseret News

Well, I have a few comments. First, I think the main reason this got voted down is the same reason Obama was re-elected; people made opinions without a solid understanding of the facts. This decision is foolish and short-sighted. The Macquarie deal is likely the best offer we could have expected. I believe that from this point the network will go dark, wasted. Where there is no vision, the people perish.

The principal objections seemed to be as follows:

Objection – Internet infrastructure isn’t the proper role of government.

Response – Infrastructure is EXACTLY the role of local governments and has been time out of mind. Sewers, streets, power lines, etc. are provided by municipalities, paid for by taxes in almost every case. There may be public-private partnerships, such as trash collection or power generation over the city’s wires, but the infrastructure is the role of local government. I think this misunderstanding comes from a very simplistic application of national politics at the local level.

Objection – Internet technology gets obsolete so quickly. This network will be obsolete before the commitment expires.

Response – While technology changes rapidly, the infrastructure does not. The copper wires we get our internet on right now are very old technology. We have the internet speeds we have now because technology advanced to take the most advantage of coax and telephone lines. The top end for copper is close, though. Fiber has much higher throughput and we can expect similar long-term usefulness of a fiber backbone as technology improves.

Objection – We can do this with wireless technologies.

Response – While there have been advances in bandwidth over the air, the very fastest wireless technologies are 1/20th the speed of the slowest fiber connections. Wireless is inefficient and notoriously bad at handling both high throughput and high traffic (multiple users connecting to the same access point). Fiber is a better solution in the long term.

Objection – Internet access is not a basic service.

Response – This is 2014. Access to the Internet is a gateway to education, enterprise, and community like we’ve never seen in this world. A fiber backbone can handle phone and television as well as data, for less cost than over copper. I challenge anyone who thinks that our poor don’t need internet access to go to the Orem Library and watch who is using the computers there. This is a basic service and only a Luddite would deny it to the poor in our city.

Here’s the quote and link from the Deseret News:

Members of the Orem City Council voted 6-1 to reject an offer by Australia-based Macquarie Capital Group, which would see the firm assume management of the embattled UTOPIA fiber optic network for 30 years in exchange for a monthly fee of initially $18 to $20 levied against all residents.

via Orem bows out of Macquarie UTOPIA proposal | Deseret News.

Problems with collective action: Glenn Reynolds Column

Government, we are sometimes told, is just another word for things we choose to do together.

Like a lot of things politicians say, this sounds good. And, also like a lot of things politicians say, it isn’t the least bit true.

Many of the things government does, we don’t choose. Many of the things we choose, government doesn’t do. And whatever gets done, we’re not the ones doing it. And those who are doing it often interpret their mandates selfishly.

Take, for example, the Veterans Administration. The American people — most of us, anyway — did “choose” to provide first-class medical care for our veterans. But we didn’t do it. We set up the Veterans Administration to do it. And the Veterans Administration — or, more accurately, some of the people who work for and run the Veterans Administration — had a stronger interest in other things. Things like fat bonuses, and low workloads in comfy offices.

Thus we find that, even though veterans were dying, and books were being cooked, every single VA senior executive received an evaluation of “fully successful” or better over a 4-year period. That’s right. Every single one. Over four years. At least 65% of them received bonuses (“performance awards”). All while veterans around the country were suffering and dying because of delayed care. The executives got these bonuses, in part, because they cooked the books, because the bonuses were more important to them than the veterans’ care.

via Problems with collective action: Column.

Roger’s Rules » Deunionize the IRS

The union in question is The National Treasury Employees Union. According to the web site of the NTEU, the mission of the union is “To organize federal employees to work together to ensure that every federal employee is treated with dignity and respect.” That’s a tall order, in part because there are so very many federal employees. The NTEU’s web site includes a nifty interactive graphic that shows you just how many there are in each state: 279,622 in Texas, for example, 350,544 in California, 165,943 in New York, etc., etc. There are, in short, millions of them.And what political party do you suppose they support? In the 2012 election cycle, 94% its PAC contributions went to Democrats, 4% to Republicans. That’s only one year, of course. How about 2010? That year 98% of its contributions went to Democrats, 2% went to Republicans. 2008 was a bit more balanced: that year only 96% went to Democrats. As Andrew Stiles pointed out at National Review, the NTEU is a “powerful, deeply partisan union whose boss has publicly disparaged the Tea Party and criticized the Republican party for having ties to it.”

via Roger’s Rules » Deunionize the IRS.

President Rand Paul: What would happen if the Tea Party controlled American government.

Deep divisions notwithstanding, there are a number of principles that unite the movement. The most important of them is a devotion to subsidiarity, which holds that power should rest as close to ordinary people as possible. In practice, this leads Tea Party conservatives to favor voluntary cooperation among free individuals over local government, local government over state government, and state government over the federal government. Teatopia would in some respects look much like our own America, only the contrasts would be heightened. California and New York, with their dense populations and liberal electorates, would have even bigger state governments that provide universal pre-K, a public option for health insurance, and generous funding for mass transit. They might even have their own immigration policies, which would be more welcoming toward immigrants than the policies the country as a whole would accept.

More conservative states, meanwhile, would compete to go furthest and fastest in abandoning industrial-era government. Traditional urban school districts would become charter districts, in which district officials would provide limited oversight while autonomous networks of charter schools would make the decisions about how schools are run day-to-day. Parents would be given K–12 spending accounts, which could be spent on the services provided by local public schools and on a range of other educational services, from online tutoring to apprenticeships designed to provide young people with marketable skills.

via President Rand Paul: What would happen if the Tea Party controlled American government..

North Korean Refugee Stories: Meet Kyung Min | Liberty in North Korea

Kyung Min and her family struggled in North Korea. They rarely had enough to eat and often foraged for food. When they tried to make a living at the markets, they could never turn a profit. Eventually, Kyung Min escaped to find work in China, but things didn’t go the way she planned.Kyung Min was sold to a man who regularly threatened to turn her over to police. She lived in fear for 10 years. Though it had been hard to survive in North Korea, life in China wasn’t much better. Her only solace came from the Chinese church she attended. It was there that she found her chance for a new life. She met a pastor who told her she could live a free life in South Korea and helped her find a way. Unfortunately, she had to leave her son behind, but she plans to have him join her soon.Kyung Min is very proud of her Christian faith and believes it helped her get safely to freedom. She is looking forward to studying Chinese and learning more about the Bible in South Korea. She knows that life will not be easy, but she is determined to make the most of the opportunities she finds there.

via North Korean Refugee Stories: Meet Kyung Min | Liberty in North Korea.

James Taranto: ‘Suck It Up and Salute’ – WSJ

Taranto on Obama’s competence:

Obama was eager to free the quintet despite (let’s be kind) the threat they pose to America. In order to accomplish that end, he managed to overcome considerable resistance within the federal bureaucracy–precisely what he was unable to do or uninterested in doing when it came to assuring the veterans have access to health care, or for that matter, that the ObamaCare exchanges would function.

The Bergdahl deal, then, was a rare example of competent execution by this administration–albeit of a policy that was the product of atrocious judgment.

via Best of the Web Today: ‘Suck It Up and Salute’ – WSJ.

Twenty-Five Years After Tiananmen: China’s Fight for Human Rights | Public Discourse

Today, on this twenty-fifth anniversary of the June Fourth Incident, I speak to the people and government of the United States. I speak to all freedom-loving countries throughout the world. I hope you will look beyond China’s economic success. I urge you to support the ordinary Chinese. Help them end Internet censorship. Help them break down the Great Firewall of China. Stop receiving the June Fourth Incident criminals as your honored guests. Don’t let those who crush human rights enter your free, democratic countries. Deny them the warmth of your handshake, the warmth of your smile. Evildoers won’t stop until they are held responsible. Dishonoring evildoers is not dishonorable. But honoring them honors their crimes.

via Twenty-Five Years After Tiananmen: China’s Fight for Human Rights | Public Discourse.