Employment Data and the Invisible Thumb

As one who spends a lot of time looking at policy-related data and analyzing arguments of political theory, I’ll say it sucks when you come across something that starts the conspiracy bells ringing. I’ve touched on the reason before: We’ve gone from believing that the crazy guy might have some insight, if we could just translate his lunacy, to believing that lunacy is conditioned but produces no insight.

Put in plain terms, though, a “conspiracy” is just people doing something they don’t want anybody to know about, and “they wouldn’t do that” isn’t a defense that stands without evidence.

The instance that I have in mind is the post from March in which I charted the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ revisions to employment numbers, producing a strange curve leading up to the 2012 presidential election. Basically, if we consider the revised numbers to be better, then the drop in unemployment right before the election was largely a function of the number of employed Americans’ going from dramatically under-counted to more accurate.

I posted the chart in the spirit of, “huh, that’s interesting.” Via Instapundit, though, comes an article by John Crudele in the New York Post that says:

The decline — from 8.1 percent in August to 7.8 percent in September — might not have been all it seemed. The numbers, according to a reliable source, were manipulated.

We’re reviewing anonymous sources, here, so more evidence would be prudent to collect, but the initial question is this: Would an administration and bureaucracy that let guns walk to drug cartels, targeted Tea Party groups via the IRS, shared confidential tax information across departments, lied about the circumstances of Benghazi, lied about ObamaCare, spied on journalists, and collects countless digital transmissions do something like this?

Actually, in that context, putting a thumb on the employment statistics scale seems rather mild.

Big government and QE serve the big wigs.

Note former Federal Reserve official Andrew Huszar’s apology for his role in inflicting quantitative easing (QE) on the country:

The central bank continues to spin QE as a tool for helping Main Street. But I’ve come to recognize the program for what it really is: the greatest backdoor Wall Street bailout of all time.

As I was saying… QE and Obama’s massive deficits, requiring money to be injected into government from the economy of the future, through debt, have had little economic effect except to inflate the stock market, not the least because they combine with an increase in regulations, making it difficult to turn cash into productive action. My previous operating theory was that the objective was to inflate the holdings of the investment class to where they were headed during the housing bubble, so as to socialize the bust, but I missed the blank spot where the brakes should have been.

After all, Huszar points out that the stock market stumbles at the mere mention of easing up on the new-money injection. The folks pulling the levers in government have never had an exit plan, and the folks whose portfolios are expanding relative to the shared economy aren’t likely to want the party to end.

Big government and powerful money (both intoxicated from the open taxpayer bar) are in a dance that’s clearing everybody else off the floor and destroying the band’s instruments. This is such an obvious and predictable display from these two lushes that one marvels that a democracy invited them in.

Here’s a pair of straightforward, complementary truisms from those of us who believe the club should be BYOB: You can’t reduce the leverage of the powerful by giving them more power; you can’t empower the people by taking their freedom away.

Timely Thoughts on Veteran’s Day

Even after 150 years, the Gettysburg Address refocuses our attention away from a president and toward those who’ve sacrificed for the cause of a government of the people, by the people, and for the people.

Where We Do and Don’t Have Rights

It’s beyond dispute that progressive activists don’t really believe in a right to free speech, in the sense of the American founding, and where that will take the country ought to be of desperate concern of Americans who value freedom.

Districts for the Indoctrination of Children

Linking to yet another story of a parent’s facing surprising behavior from people within a public school district, Glenn Reynolds repeats his common refrain, “I’m beginning to think that putting your kids in public schools is parental malpractice.”

In this instance, a Jewish man from Pennsylvania objected to the political slant that he perceived in his child’s homework, related to the government shutdown, and his complaints appear to have inspired the local teacher union president to make at least one call to a third party in the community suggesting that he is a neo-Nazi.

Another recent story concerns a Georgia mother who has allegedly received a criminal trespass warning banning her from her disabled daughter’s school because she posted on Facebook about having been issued a concealed carry permit.

On the list of Rhode Island stories on which I have information, but for which the involved people are disinclined to come forward for fear of repercussions against them and their children, is one about a student assigned to do a project on one of the amendments in the Bill of Rights who told that he had to pick again when he chose the second amendment.

Add into the mix a worksheet “aligned with the controversial national educational standards” called Common Core that uses subversive sentences as examples for grammar assignments — un-American notions like, “the commands of government officials must be obeyed by all.”

Of course, as with random shootings, it’s easy to get the impression of epidemics when there’s a nation’s worth of bleeds-it-leads local news coverage flying across the Internet. That said, Americans should realize that there are no inherent protections in government when it takes over a public activity like education and a growing degree of opportunity to use its assumed authority to restrict and to indoctrinate.

The Anarchist (at Best) Paradise of the Mob and the Liberal Elite

Once society accepts that fundamental rights can be limited by self-appointed groups who declare that their causes take priority over the natural rights of others (as long as they are non-governmental groups, of course), then the rational response for every individual is to join a strong group that will protect their basic rights. With different groups sharing the same space, each defending the “rights” of their members, but not recognizing those of outsiders, the result will be an anarchy more brutal than anything any libertarian would be comfortable with.

This is where the inane defense of the shout-down of Ray Kelly at Brown University on the grounds that there’s no right to free speech on a private university campus will take us.

Go figure: aid down, cost increases slow.

I was just telling my eldest daughter (still some years away from high school, let alone college) that everybody should study economics for a mandatory year when I came across a blurb that made me chuckle. It’s the text summary of a data inlay to an article about moderating tuition hikes at public colleges and universities:

College costs rose again this academic year, but not as steeply as they have in past years. However, federal aid, which eases the burden for most students, has declined over the past two years.

The punchline is that “however.” Imagine that: When the federal government pours less money into higher education, colleges slow down their tuition increases! It’s almost as if federal aid doesn’t help students so much as inflate the cost of education.

PolitiFacting in the Service of Extremism Is a Vice

The journalists at PolitiFact RI appear to be okay with military presumptions against Americans provided it’s in opposition to the Tea Party.

Lies Behind Closed Public-Sector Doors

Of the six locations at which home child-care providers voted to pay dues to the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), volunteers for the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity managed to get close enough for actual observations at only one, having arrived before the armed policeman was at the door.

Among the more curious notes from that polling place was one about a woman waiting in line to vote, who said that somebody she knows used to work at “the Center” and didn’t meet the director until she’d been there for five years. Given my organization’s involvement in the issue, I don’t think it’s a stretch to infer that she meant our Center and that the intended message was that we’re a shadowy organization with suspicious motives.

The thing is, the Center hasn’t been around for five years. More than that, it’s not so big that employees can avoid each other and the boss. And more than that, CEO Mike Stenhouse is the one primarily tasked with interacting with everybody in and associated with the organization.

It’s a small thing, I know, but even as cynical as I am, I still find it surprising when people simply make things up for political ends. Which naturally feeds back into my cynicism. If unionizers will make stuff up about an organization that questions their promises and their methods, would a bureaucracy put a small thumb on the scale to help a favored president win reelection? What are the people who make decisions, including voters, actually being told is true?

Anyway, back to trying to figure out how to get accurate, consistent transparency data from RI government agencies.

Oh, by the way: As the observer in question left the location, the policeman outside said she’d be arrested if she went to any other polling places. She didn’t.

Wouldn’t we all like to pick our titles?

Via law professor and uber-blogger Glenn Reynolds comes this gem, which is the legal response that a Tennessee defense attorney filed when the prosecutors for the State of Tennessee filed a motion seeking to bar him or his client from referring to them as “the government.” After arguing that the government’s request should not be approved on the basis of the law, the aptly named attorney, Drew Justice, writes:

Should this Court disagree, and feel inclined to let the parties basically pick their own designations and ban words, then the defense has a few additional suggestions for amending the speech code. First, the Defendant no longer wants to be called “the Defendant.” This rather archaic term of art, obviously has a fairly negative connotation. It unfairly demeans, and dehumanizes Mr. Donald Powell. The word “defendant” should be banned. At trial, Mr. Powell hereby demands be addressed only by his full name, preceded by the title “Mister.” Alternatively, he may be called simply “the Citizen Accused.” This latter title sounds more respectable than the criminal “Defendant.” The designation “That innocent man” would also be acceptable.

It’s worth reading the whole thing to see how Justice progresses from there to his conclusion, which begins: “WHEREFORE, Captain Justice, Guardian of the Realm and Leader of the Resistance, primarily asks that the Court deny the State’s motion, as lacking legal basis.”

The Open and Free GOP…but Open-Minded?

Today, RI Republican Chairman Mark Smiley has an OpEd in the Journal telling us what the RI Republican party is about. Its focus is on freedom. He went into detail about how it was the Republican party who worked to free the slaves. Abraham Lincoln was a Republican and it is widely believed that Lincoln […]

UPDATED: State Labor Relations Board Makes up New Election Rules

The legal arguments of the State Labor Relations Board, when it comes to child-care providers’ election to decide whether to unionize, are transparently thin and suggest that the fix might be in.

10 News Conference Wingmen, Episode 8 (Divesting Pension Fund of Guns)

Justin Katz and Bob Plain discuss divesting gun-related investments from the state pension fund, including whether that’s a Second Amendment violation or just an indication of the problem of progressive government.

Depriving the People of an Education and Happiness

Speeches at the 2013 National Summit on Education Reform by Theodore Olson and Arthur Brooks offer a lesson on civil rights and the pursuit of happiness.

10 News Conference Wingmen, Episode 7 (Shutdown, Pensions, and More)

Andrew Morse discusses the federal shutdown and Rhode Island politics with Bob Plain for a full half hour of News 10 Wingmen.

All Four Exeter Recall Petitions Verified

Tatiana Pina of the Projo reports that sufficient signatures for all four petitions calling for recall elections for members of the Exeter Town Council have been verified…

The Deal Expected to Pass

Fund the government until January 15…extend the debt ceiling until February 7…budget conference for fiscal negotiations later this year…keep sequestration intact (from National Review Online).

Balancing the conversation on affordable housing in Barrington

I’ve been invited to provide the contrarian view on affordable housing at a workshop hosted by the Barrington Town Council, next Tuesday (October 22) from 7:00 to 9:00 p.m., in the Barrington High School Auditorium.

The organizers are requesting that folks submit questions for us panelists beforehand. They’re due tomorrow (October 16). More information here.

Veterans rip down memorial barricades and carry them to the White House

It may be one of the hoarier clichés about the mainstream media, but it’s no less true, for that, to observe that an event like this would be major news if it happened under a Republican president (particularly one perceived as some variation of conservative):

As Twitchy reported, citizens attending the Million Vets March in Washington, D.C., Sunday tore down Barrycades at several memorials. The crowd then picked up the Barrycades and began transporting them to the White House.

Let’s state that objectively: U.S. military veterans are protesting the Obama administration’s decision to actively expend resources to close down and close off federal land in order to amplify Americans’ experience with the federal government shutdown by performing an act of civil disobedience and bringing the barricades to the White House.

This is the sort of thing that ought to wind up in Life magazine retrospectives and history books’ sidebars to give the sense of the decade. Time will tell whether it will, but given the media’s practice of pre-writing history to serve ideological ends, I’m not confident.

10 News Conference Wingmen, Episode 6 (Shutdown)

Justin Katz and Bob Plain talk government shutdown and extremists on 10 News Conference.

Sowing Cynicism to Lower Public Participation

I used to think it was too pat to be possible, but my skepticism is decreasing the more involved I get: If we listen, progressives will tell us exactly what they’re doing by accusing conservatives of doing the same. Here’s a data point from James Taranto, citing leading leftist Robert Reich:

“An old friend who has been active in politics for more than 30 years tells me he’s giving up,” claims Robert Reich in a Puffington Host post: ” ‘I can’t stomach what’s going on in Washington anymore,’ he says. ‘The hell with all of them. I have better things to do with my life.’ ”

… “My friend is falling exactly into the trap that the extreme right wants all of us to fall into–such disgust and cynicism that we all give up on politics.” The “Tea Bag Republicans,” as the homophobic Reich calls them, “want to sow even greater cynicism about the capacity of government to do much of anything.”

That statement should look very, very familiar to folks in the land of Rhode-apathy. The difference is that Reich says that the Tea Party wants people to believe that government can’t do anything (which, let’s be honest, is a message that government furthers pretty well on its own), while the establishment wants people to believe that they simply cannot ever roll government back.

Witness top national Democrats declaring that even slowing the rate of growth of the federal government would be “catastrophic.” Think of the resistance to any policy proposal that would help Rhode Islanders (like eliminating the sales tax) if it would make it at all harder for the state government to continue its proven-failure practices.

Step One Towards a Recall Election in Exeter

605 signatures calling for the recall of four town councilors have been submitted in Exeter. The motivating issue is the town council majority’s desire to end the process by which Exeter residents can obtain firearms permits from the town clerk.

When Labor’s Involved, the Board Asserts Its Own Lack of Authority

In dismissing a request from the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity, the State Labor Relations Board has put itself in the position of inappropriately limiting its own authority, without legal reasoning.

The Federal Government Shuts Down the Lively Experiment

Barricades blocking the Roger Williams National Memorial in Providence, Rhode Island, offer an early lesson of what can happen when we forget that the government and the people are not the same thing.

Caprio Running For Treasurer, Again?

According to an article in today’s Providence Journal, former RI State Treasurer and former candidate for Governor is going to run for Treasurer again. The immediate thought that I have is that he already was the state’s treasurer. Additionally, when he was running for Governor, he was questioned about the health of the state’s pension […]

Letting Government Make It “Our” Land Makes It Their Land

Proving the value of the arts under tyranny, Mark Steyn parodies the Obama Administration’s attempted shut down of all public land, including open-air monuments, road-side viewing areas, and even the open ocean:

This land is our land, it sure ain’t your land
From downtown DC to the Lake Mead shoreland
From the Arctic Refuge to the Gulf Stream waters
This land is closed to you and yours

It’s only four stanzas, so read the whole thing and follow all of the embedded links (especially if you normally get your news only from mainstream sources). Personally, the episode is leading me to reevaluate whether the government’s buying up land for public use is even as benign as I’d thought it was (and I was already skeptical).

Any land we allow the government to purchases or any program we allow it to undertake with the intention of making it available to “all of us” through the political process implicitly becomes wrapped up in politics. When elected officials make as much abusive use of their leverage as the current administration, “our” shared possessions can become their weapons to manipulate us.

Bill Maher on World War II Vets

“Nobody said they were the brightest generation.” Wow. I guess Bill Maher doesn’t realize that if not for these veterans, he’d be doing political stand-up comedy in German. (Warning: Maher uses the F word in the video) Nice job by one of the voices of the progressives. We’ve seen lately where some of our friends […]

Know the Media by the Fact That They Haven’t Turned Away from Obama

Readers will note that today’s Providence Journal had space to inform Rhode Islanders about a comment related to same-sex marriage made by Pennsylvania’s governor. (For those who don’t know, in most cases, Rhode Islanders would have to travel through three other states to go see a friend in Pennsylvania.)

Rhode Islanders who expand their reading lists beyond their “paper of record” will discover such stories as:

  • The IRS’s (surprise, surprise) auditing a black conservative who criticized Obama
  • Park rangers’ receiving the message “to make life as difficult for people as we can”
  • Military chaplains’ being ordered not to give Mass, even on a volunteer basis
  • The administration’s intending to close areas of open water

A media industry that truly saw itself as the guardian of the people would be all over these outrages. One that is not all over them seems more likely to see itself as the guardian of a particular political party and a particular president.

It Seems the President’s Number 1 Objective Is to Hurt the People #Barrycades

The Obama Administration is spending taxpayer funds to actively block off monuments and tourist attractions:

  • Including parking spaces to Mount Vernon, which it neither owns nor operates.
  • Including attractions for which it is merely a landlord for private organizations.
  • Including monuments that stayed open during prior shutdowns.

This indefensible activity is progressive community organizing, and it’s what government becomes when the people in power are statists who define the nation by its government.

Update: School Administration Backs Off the Keychain Bandit

After a TV news report on channel 10 and some time on Matt Allen’s 630 WPRO talk show, the story of the Coventry middle school student suspended for a gun-shaped key fob caught national attention on the Internet, by way of the Ocean State Current, picked up by Instapundit and other libertarian/conservative blogs, and then the Daily Beast, followed by the Huffington Post. Now, by way of the Matt Allen Show, we learn that administrators had had enough attention by Monday:

Keith Bonnano, the boy’s father, said both the superintendent of Coventry Public Schools and the principal of the Alan Shawn Feinstein Middle School called him Monday and assured him that his son would get help with any missed schoolwork. …

They’re also going to allow the boy to accompany his classmates on a field trip to Salem at the end of October, something Bonnano said his son was very much looking forward to.

Additionally, Bonnano will be able to appeal the suspension to have it removed from his son’s permanent record.

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