Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Horndogs in Government, Part II

And another great example, from Vladimir at RedState.

William "Freezer" Jefferson, the former Congressman(D-LA) is alleged by the FBI to have taken $100,000 in cash from an informant; $90,000 was later found in his freezer. Informant Lori Mody wore a wire during meetings with the Congressman, and the resulting tapes were essential to the prosecution's case. Vladimir's comments:

Now comes news that Mody’s FBI “handler” (double entendre intended) left the Bureau last December rather than answer questions about his relationship with Mody. The Bureau kept the relationship quiet, rather than telling the judge about it, and has thereby handed Jefferson one more issue to pursue on appeal.

Great job, FBI.

The original news article can be found here.

Horndogs in Government, Part I

From the Washington Times, reassuring news that the National Science Foundation is completely focused on their core mission and rigorous in screening out fraud among their grant recipients. Or not...(bolding is mine)
Employee misconduct investigations, often involving workers accessing pornography from their government computers, grew sixfold last year inside the taxpayer-funded foundation that doles out billions of dollars of scientific research grants, according to budget documents and other records obtained by The Washington Times.

The problems at the National Science Foundation (NSF) were so pervasive they swamped the agency's inspector general and forced the internal watchdog to cut back on its primary mission of investigating grant fraud and recovering misspent tax dollars.

The records lay it bare. And what a wonderful defense this guy offers!
The budget request doesn't state the nature or number of the misconduct cases, but records obtained by The Times through the Freedom of Information Act laid bare the extent of the well-publicized porn problem inside the government-backed foundation.

For instance, one senior executive spent at least 331 days looking at pornography on his government computer and chatting online with nude or partially clad women without being detected, the records show.

When finally caught, the NSF official retired. He even offered, among other explanations, a humanitarian defense, suggesting that he frequented the porn sites to provide a living to the poor overseas women. Investigators put the cost to taxpayers of the senior official's porn surfing at between $13,800 and about $58,000.

"He explained that these young women are from poor countries and need to make money to help their parents and this site helps them do that," investigators wrote in a memo.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

G20 Summit and Protests

As of right now, I'm planning on going to observe some of the protests tomorrow and Friday - but no definite plans on a location just yet. At the very least I'll be Tweeting extensively - follow me!

With more luck, I'll get a bunch of good photos/video to share, and possibly some interviews. This ought to be an interesting couple of days to say the least.

Friday, September 11, 2009

In remembrance of Gayle R. Greene (d. September 11,2001)

Gayle R. Greene was 51 years old, a vice-president at financial services company Marsh & McLennan, an enthusiastic Christmas decorator, and a young-at-heart woman who enjoyed spending time with her close-knit circle of friends.

Though she was heartily committed to her work, almost always having her laptop at hand, Gayle was also widely traveled, and took her expeditions seriously. She loved Alaska, having stood on a glacier there, and Hawaii - her ashes were scattered off of the Na Pali coast on Kaua'i several months after her death, as she had asked for.

Her brother-in-law Don Welch writes this on the Legacy guestbook in her memory:
Gayle will be greatly missed, not only by Eileen, Donna and Janel, but many others who's lives she touched. Gayle was very special and caring for others. This is evidenced by the life long impact that she has made on these 3 women's lives. We will miss you Gayle, but never forget you.

On September 11, 2001 Gayle Greene had planned on finishing her work in advance of another trip with her friend and roommate Eileen Carey. Sadly, she would never get the chance to make that journey; her office was on the 100th floor of 1 World Trade Center, which was shortly to be struck by American Airlines Flight 11.

Let's celebrate the life of Gayle Greene, and the lives of the other 2,996 which were cut short 8 years ago, and remember the evil men and those behind them who perpetrated this crime. Let's remember, and have the resolve to keep this from happening again.

Gayle Greene, you are loved and missed, and I hope honored by this as well.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Constructive criticism and free markets

This post is inspired by a draft blog post that I've read, by Jason Robb. He designs user interfaces - and in the interest of not horribly misportraying his skill by elaborating on a subject which I have no expertise in, I'll say that it primarily involves web sites - and please check his site out.

The post of Jason's in question is basically a suggestion on how a specific incident of criticism, well known to his readers, could have been better handled had the person doing the criticizing been "constructive" and not antagonistic towards the subject of his complaint. Now it's not as though I'd never heard of constructive criticism before; it's one of those things that everyone's mother told him or her to practice. For some reason today the aspiring economist in me thought about this bit of common sense and the following bold conclusion emerged:

Constructive criticism in a work environment is much more common when the work is part of a free market.

At first glance, this seems like a complete non sequitur. But think this through...

First, let's take a hypothetical situation. Alan has some kind of work interaction with Bobby(this could be direct supervision/subordination, contractor, vendor/client, etc.), and is dissatisfied with some nontrivial aspect of Bobby's work. Alan at this point has several choices:

  • Not mention the dissatisfaction.
  • Politely complain about the problem(i.e., constructively criticize).
  • Rudely complain about the problem,
  • Tell himself and others that "it's not a bug, it's a feature", so to speak.
The next question we have to ask is "Which choice is Alan likely to make?"

Here's where the economics come in. Possibly the most basic principle in economics is "People respond to incentives." So what incentives does Alan face here? Possibly Bobby is a good friend or family member of Alan's, which will significantly affect their work interaction. More likely, though, their work relationship is dominant*, and the set of incentives facing them is determined by this.

What are the incentives for Alan and Bobby? This is where the bolded hypothesis above is significant. The set of incentives in a free market work environment are very different from those in a government workplace, or a regulated monopoly(e.g. a local utility company), or some other organization such as an educational institution which is not subject to market pressures.

When Alan and Bobby operate in a free market, Alan has an incentive to maximize the value of his work output whenever he's able to do so. By proving his ability to add value, he can increase the demand for his labor and thus get a higher income or a broader customer base. And of the 4 choices listed above, the one which will add the most value to Alan's work is constructive criticism of Bobby. Leaving the problem alone or claiming that it's not a problem won't work for long, and being rude to Bobby is less likely to solve the mutual problem than courtesy would. Giving constructive criticism to solve a problem is thus the most beneficial solution in a free market.

Now if Alan was working for a government, or at a non-profit institution, or in a regulated industry, he no longer necessarily has an incentive to demonstrably add value to his work's "customers", for several reasons. First, he probably won't be rewarded monetarily for doing so - salaries in these workplaces are determined generally by a fixed schedule based on Alan's rank (or specific position) and time of service, or by credentials amassed. Second, he won't pay any price for failing to add value to the customers unless he does so in such a flagrant manner as to embarrass the organization. Third, it's simply hard to define a measure of "value" in these workplaces, whereas the free market organization has profits or losses which are quite a clear indicator of how much its services have been valued.

So how will Alan deal with Bobby in this case? It's anybody's guess. His personal pride in his work might motivate an effort to effect a change in Bobby - but suppose they both work in a government bureau, and Bobby's on the verge of retiring and couldn't care less what Alan asks him nicely to do. In this case Alan's logical decision might be to annoy Bobby continually until Bobby agrees to change something.

Suppose Bobby is Alan's superior, and can exert significant influence on Alan's career prospects. Is Alan more likely to criticize, and receive a negative evaluation if he's seen as insufficiently polite? Or will he swallow his pride and tolerate the inefficiency?

What if Alan is an admissions officer at a university, and Bobby is touring the campus with his teenage daughter? Alan knows that the school's football program loses money on the whole, and distracts many students from their academic work. When Bobby and his daughter mention the team, is he likely to discuss these facts that he knows quite well or will he emphasize the team's Bowl game appearances?

In a non-market workplace, "constructive" criticism may indeed exist - but only because of the courtesy and professionalism of the individual, not the inherent behavioral incentive in the organization.

That is all.

*U.S. Census statistics show that in 2006 approximately 82% of employees were in workplaces of 2o people or larger. I'm not aware of any figure on how many close friends or family members the average person has, but for purposes of this post I've assumed that the number is sufficiently small as to not affect the general conclusions about workplace incentives.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Who the hell are the U.S. Justice Foundation?

I've gotten a bunch of fundraising e-mails from them lately, and they're about the looniest things I've ever seen - even by the standard of Things Forwarded By WorldNetDaily And Other Birthers. Here's probably the best example, in all its "glory":
Obama's Biggest Con ... A Constitutional Convention‏
From: WorldNetDaily (alerts@newsalerts.worldnetdaily.com)
Sent: Mon 8/31/09 9:34 AM
To: Christopher Renner (krazychris81@hotmail.com)
Dear Christopher:

People are always asking me what they can do to further the eligibility issue. The answer? Support the groundbreaking and relentless work of the United States Justice Foundation, a public interest law firm with high principles.

Below, please find an important update from their Executive Director, Gary Kreep.

Joseph Farah
Joseph Farah
Editor and Chief Executive Officer


Dear Friend,

Barack Obama and his allies are trying to change the U.S. Constitution WITHOUT FOLLOWING THE AMENDMENT PROCESS -- in fact, they're trying to rewrite the ENTIRE CONSTITUTION -- and they're close to succeesing!

What would you think if an amendment to the U.S. Constitution was introduced by liberal Democrat Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, which repealed the First Amendment in the Bill of Rights -- taking away our right to Free Speech?

What would you think if an amendment to the U.S. Constitution was introduced by liberal Democrat Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, which repealed the Second Amendment in the Bill of Rights -- taking away our right to Keep and Bear Arms? (A right that the U.S. Supreme Court recently upheld!)

"That could never happen," you say. "No one would allow it!" Right? Well...

Did you know that there are TWO ways that our Constitution can be changed? And did you know that Pelosi, Reid and Barack Obama are using the less well-known way, without having to actually introduce amendments?

IT'S TRUE -- and WE have to stop it NOW!

One way to change the Constitution is to go through the amendment process -- a long and tedious process requiring two-thirds of both houses of Congress to pass an amendment, and then three-fourths of the states to ratify it.

That means a "super-majority" of our representatives at the National and State levels would have to be in favor of the amendment -- which safeguards us from the possibility of really "bad" amendments.

BUT... there is one other way that our Constitution can be changed... and it DOES NOT require all of those elected representatives to be in favor of it. It's called a Constitutional Convention, and all that it requires is 34 states to ask Congress to call one.

In fact, right now, all that is needed is for two more states to ask for a Constitutional Convention... and the basic law of the land could be changed forever by Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi, and Harry Reid!


Most people don't realize that Article V of the Constitution requires Congress to call a new Constitutional Convention (a "Con Con") if two-thirds (or 34) of the states request it. We've only had one other "Con Con" in our history: the one where the original Constitution was written in 1787!

The language of Article V is mandatory: it says that Congress "shall call a Convention for proposing Amendments" whenever requests are received from two-thirds of the states. Note that the word "amendments" is used in the plural. These are the only instructions we have about a Constitutional Convention. There are no other rules or guidelines.

We don't know how a Constitutional Convention would be apportioned, or how the delegates would be elected. We don't know what rules the Convention would operate under. We don't know whether changes to the Constitution could be proposed by a simple majority, or would require a super majority, of those attending. We don't know if the agenda could be limited or would be wide open to any proposal.

We don't know ANYTHING about how a Con Con would work -- which means that it will come down to Congress setting the rules!

And Congress is controlled by the most radically liberal Democrats in American history! Is that who we want to be in charge of a new Constitutional Convention?

Do we want BARACK OBAMA, NANCY PELOSI, and HARRY REID to completely rewrite our most basic document of law?


The fact is, under the vague language of Article V, a Constitutional Convention cannot be limited. It would be wide open, and able to consider ANY change in the Constitution that was proposed!

Former U. S. Supreme Court Chief Justice Warren Burger once said, "There is no effective way to limit or muzzle the actions of a Constitutional Convention. The convention could make its own rules and set its own agenda."

The Stanford Law School Professor whose case-book is used in the majority of U.S. law schools, Gerald Gunther, said that, even if Congress tried to limit the Convention to one subject, the delegates could decide for themselves that the Convention "is entitled to set its own agenda."

This means that, even if supporters of a "Con Con" claim that the convention would only cover one issue -- whether it's a balanced budget amendment or removing the requirement that to be eligible to serve as President, one must be a "natural born citizen," or anything else -- there is NO WAY to stop the Convention from changing EVERYTHING that we hold dear in America!

Barack Obama and his far-left supporters would be able to get THEIR people appointed as delegates to the Convention, so that THEIR agendas would be the Convention's agenda, and THEIR plans for socialism in America would come to pass.

Say BYE-BYE to the First Amendment's freedom of speech -- Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity could be taken off the air.

Say BYE-BYE to the Second Amendment's right to bear arms -- a total gun ban could be the law of the land!

Say BYE-BYE to the Constitution's requirement that to serve as President a man or a woman must be a "natural born citizen"!

You KNOW that's what they'll do if given the chance -- and we're only TWO STATES AWAY from seeing a Constitutional Convention convened!

You see, Article V says that it takes a request from two-thirds of the states to force a "Con Con" -- but it doesn't say there's any time limit on getting to that total!

Thirty-two states have already issued a call for a "Con Con" over the last few decades, including Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, and Wyoming.

It only takes 34 states to REQUIRE a Constitutional Convention be convened!

Some states, like Georgia, Virginia, and others, have since voted to "rescind" their call for a "Con Con" -- BUT no one is sure whether those "rescission" votes are actually Constitutional...so the danger is REAL!


The United States Justice Foundation is launching a major campaign to STOP a "Con Con" from taking place -- WE MUST CREATE a tremendous outpouring of publicity and public scrutiny to be given to this danger, so that Barack Obama and his radical liberal allies can't "sneak this past us" without anyone noticing, until it's too late. Right now, our staff is conducting legal and historical research, and preparing legal opinions, to submit to every state legislature, if necessary, and we'll be offering to represent any state, or state legislator, in fighting the Con-Con based on those documents.

We're also going to be leading a grassroots effort to attack this issue at both the state and federal levels: At the state level, leading the charge in every state to either NOT VOTE for a "Con Con" (if they haven't voted yet) or to RESCIND their past vote in favor (if they have). And, at the federal level, we'll be mobilizing citizens across the country to contact their Representatives and Senators to DEMAND that they come out, NOW, and announce their support for a state's right to rescind, and that they won't support a call for a "Con-Con." In addition, we'll be calling on the Attorney General of the United States, and the Attorney General of each and every State that has passed a "Con-Con" resolution, to issue an official Opinion on the legality of rescission.

THIS DANGER IS REAL. The Constitutional Convention of 1787 was called for the exclusive purpose of amending the Articles of Confederation. Once the Founding Fathers assembled in Philadelphia, however, they threw out the Articles of Confederation and wrote an entirely new Constitution, and even changed the ratification procedure so they could get it adopted more easily. The 1787 Convention is the only precedent we have for a national Constitutional Convention.

There's no guarantee that all of the changes to our Constitution passed at a Constitutional Convention would need to be ratified by 34 states this time -- if a "Con Con" can change our structure of government as defined in Articles I, II, and III, of the Constitution, then it can also change the Article V requirement that three-fourths of the states are needed to ratify any changes. The Convention of 1787 reduced the number of states required to ratify a change from 100% of the states to 75%, and a Convention today could "follow their example" and reduce it further, to 66%, or 60%, or even 51%!


There's very little time to ramp this project up to FULL SPEED -- we need to raise at least $100,000 to prepare and distribute legal opinions, lobby state legislators and begin our grassroots activism campaign this coming month. Please, CLICK HERE NOW to make your best possible donation, and let's STOP Obama, Pelosi and Reid from ripping our Constitution to shreds, and re-writing it to their own socialist goals!


Gary Kreep, Executive Director
United States Justice Foundation

P.S. President Barack Obama has already expressed his belief that the U.S. Constitution needs to be interpreted in the context of current affairs and events. Can you imagine what he and his supporters would DO to that document if given the chance to re-write it completely? Our Bill of Rights could disappear overnight!

In fact, all the way back in 2006, Obama already had his lawyers researching how someone could get around the eligibility requirements to serve as U.S. President -- these people simply don't CARE about whether we preserve the supreme law of the land!

Remember -- when the last Constitutional Convention met in 1787, the original goal was to amend the Articles of Confederation. Instead, delegates simply threw them out and wrote a whole new Constitution.

That's EXACTLY what Obama, Pelosi and Reid would do this time -- but this time, the result would destroy our freedoms. Please, CLICK HERE NOW to help us STOP them. Thank you!


To donate by check, make payable to:
United States Justice Foundation
932 D Street Suite 1
Ramona, CA 92065

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Seriously...would anyone actually give money to these people? The far left is planning a new Constitutional Convention, and 32 states have at some point requested this!...Righhhhhht. Well I hope Obama at least has the decency to get GWB's advice - this will go over a lot better if the people who pulled off 9/11 are involved.

Jon Henke's also got a great idea in regards to WorldNetDaily.