Saturday, October 1, 2016

Jason Brennan, Against Democracy

I know this is an interesting book, perhaps even vital, when the Jacobin foams at the mouth in denouncing it. See, "Bleeding Heart Bullshit."

And from the blurb at Amazon:
Most people believe democracy is a uniquely just form of government. They believe people have the right to an equal share of political power. And they believe that political participation is good for us--it empowers us, helps us get what we want, and tends to make us smarter, more virtuous, and more caring for one another. These are some of our most cherished ideas about democracy. But, Jason Brennan says, they are all wrong.

In this trenchant book, Brennan argues that democracy should be judged by its results--and the results are not good enough. Just as defendants have a right to a fair trial, citizens have a right to competent government. But democracy is the rule of the ignorant and the irrational, and it all too often falls short. Furthermore, no one has a fundamental right to any share of political power, and exercising political power does most of us little good. On the contrary, a wide range of social science research shows that political participation and democratic deliberation actually tend to make people worse--more irrational, biased, and mean. Given this grim picture, Brennan argues that a new system of government--epistocracy, the rule of the knowledgeable--may be better than democracy, and that it's time to experiment and find out.

A challenging critique of democracy and the first sustained defense of the rule of the knowledgeable, Against Democracy is essential reading for scholars and students of politics across the disciplines.
Brennan is supposedly some hip new libertarian dude, although I'm not familiar with him, and I'm not that big on libertarianism (since it ineluctably devolves to leftism and anti-Semitism, frankly, at least in its current manifestations amid the culture wars).

But if the guy in fact harks back to a more Milton Friedman-esque style of libertarianism, I could throw some weight behind it.

In any case, here's another review, at Free Beacon, "Free People at the Polls — Review: Jason Brennan, 'Against Democracy'."

Amid Violent Protests, Authorities Release Video of Black Man Killed in El Cajon Police Shooting

If we were still in the middle of the summer, I'd be tempted to go down to San Diego for some original blog reporting. I haven't done anything like that in a while.

In any case, following-up from the other day, "El Cajon Police Officer Shoots and Kills Black Man (VIDEO)."

At the San Diego Union-Tribune, "El Cajon protests continue after release of police shooting video":

Three days after an El Cajon police officer fatally shot an unarmed black man, authorities released video of the incident his family and protesters have demanded to see.

A protest far more peaceful than Thursday night followed the release of the footage.

The two videos, lasting less than 90 seconds total, show the moments on Tuesday before and when an officer fired his gun and a second officer fired a Taser at Alfred Olango, 38.

On the video with sound, four gun shots are heard, followed by a woman’s screams.

The recordings last only a few seconds after the shooting. One recording was surveillance video from a nearby business, the other was taken on cellphone by a witness.

El Cajon Police Chief Jeff Davis, backed by Mayor Bill Wells, District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis and others, held a news conference on Friday to distribute copies of the video to reporters.

Davis identified Officer Richard Gonsalves as the officer who shot Olango and Officer Josh McDaniel as the officer who fired a Taser. Both have been on the department for 21 years.

The chief said he sat in on a conference call Friday morning with Wells, Dumanis, Sheriff Bill Gore, San Diego Police Chief Shelley Zimmerman and Escondido police Chief Craig Carter. All agreed to release of the video in the interest of public safety, he said.

He added that misinformation was spreading through the community “with the potential to create unrest” in the city.

“We didn’t want to waste time,” he said. “At the end of the day, it was important to put this out to the community.”

Davis said nights of “escalating aggression” and the effects of protests in the city, including closed stores and schools, led to the decision to allow the public to see the videos.

Dumanis said she agreed with the release of the footage, adding that the video is only one piece of evidence her office will review in deciding whether the shooting was legally justified.

She said the FBI has been involved in the investigation into the shooting.

Dr. Andre Branch, president of the NAACP San Diego, also at the conference, agreed that the video needed to be shown.

“I applaud and commend Chief Jeff Davis and the city of El Cajon for releasing the video of the police-involved shooting. NAACP believes this is the action that should follow any and all police shootings.”

Olango’s family were not present at the conference.

The videos were shown live over local news stations. About a dozen people collected outside police headquarters during the news conference watched the videos on their cellphones and reacted with anger as they heard the shots ring out...

Also at LAT, "The battle for footage after the El Cajon shooting: 'The country is begging for a video'."

Van Morrison's New Album, 'Keep Me Singing', is Now Available

Just released yesterday, at Amazon, Keep Me Singing.

PREVIOUSLY: "Van Morrison, 'Too Late' (VIDEO)."

Supreme Court Justices Return to Face Volatile Docket

I was just thinking about the Court's new term this week, since I'm doing civil liberties in my classes and I thought I might show my students an article or two or the coming term, which starts (each year) at the beginning of October.

So, what do you know?

See the New York Times, "Supreme Court Faces Volatile, Even if Not Blockbuster, Docket":
WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court, awaiting the outcome of a presidential election that will determine its future, returns to the bench this week to face a volatile docket studded with timely cases on race, religion and immigration.

The justices have been shorthanded since Justice Antonin Scalia died in February, and say they are determined to avoid deadlocks. That will require resolve and creativity.

“This term promises to be the most unpredictable one in many, many years,” said Neal K. Katyal, a former acting United States solicitor general in the Obama administration now with Hogan Lovells.

There is no case yet on the docket that rivals the blockbusters of recent terms addressing health care, abortion or same-sex marriage. But such cases are rare, whether there are eight justices or nine.

“This term’s cases are not snoozers,” said Elizabeth B. Wydra, the president of the Constitutional Accountability Center, a liberal group. “This term features important cases about racial bias in the criminal justice system, voting rights and redistricting, immigration and detention, and accountability for big banks that engaged in racially discriminatory mortgage lending practices.”

There are, moreover, major cases on the horizon, including ones on whether a transgender boy may use the boys’ restroom in a Virginia high school and on whether a Colorado baker may refuse to serve a same-sex couple.

“If either of these cases is taken, it will almost immediately become the highest profile case on the court’s docket,” said Steven Shapiro, the legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union.

There is also the possibility that a dispute over the outcome of the presidential election could end up at the Supreme Court, as it did in 2000 in Bush v. Gore.

“That is the doomsday scenario in some respects of having an eight-member court,” said Carter G. Phillips, a lawyer with Sidley Austin. A deadlocked Supreme Court would leave in place the lower court ruling and oust the justices from their role as the final arbiters of federal law.

Race figures in many of the new term’s most important cases, including two to be heard in October, and that seems to be part of a new trend. “The court hasn’t had a lot of cases recently dealing with race in the criminal justice system,” said Jeffrey L. Fisher, a law professor at Stanford.

In June, a dissent from Justice Sonia Sotomayor brought a new perspective to the issue. Citing James Baldwin’s “The Fire Next Time” and Ta-Nehisi Coates’s “Between the World and Me,” she insisted that the brutal history and contemporary reality of racism in the United States must play a role in the court’s analysis.

That dissent may prove influential, said Justin Driver, a law professor at the University of Chicago. “One item to keep an eye on this term,” he said, “is the extent to which the Black Lives Matters movement makes its presence felt on the court’s docket.”

On Wednesday, the court will hear arguments in Buck v. Davis, No. 15-8049. It arose from an extraordinary assertion by an expert witness in the death penalty trial of Duane Buck, who was convicted of the 1995 murders of a former girlfriend and one of her friends while her young children watched. The expert, presented by the defense, said that black men are more likely to present a risk of future danger.

The justices will decide whether Mr. Buck, who is black, may challenge his death sentence based on the ineffectiveness of the trial lawyer who presented that testimony.

“The Buck case raises questions that could not be more relevant to ongoing conversations sparked by police shootings about implicit bias and stereotyping of African-American men as violent and dangerous,” Ms. Wydra said. “The Roberts court, and particularly the chief justice himself, has often been reluctant to acknowledge the reality of systemic racism in this country, but the egregious facts of the Buck case make it impossible to avoid.”

On Oct. 11, the court will consider another biased statement, this one ascribed to a juror during deliberations in a sexual assault trial. “I think he did it because he’s Mexican, and Mexican men take whatever they want,” the juror said of the defendant, according to a sworn statement from a second juror.

The question in the case, Peña Rodriguez v. Colorado, No. 15-606, is how to balance the interest in keeping jury deliberations secret against the importance of ridding the criminal justice system of racial and ethnic bias.

Race also figures in cases on redistricting, fair housing and malicious prosecution...
Well, that's a lot of stuff on race and criminal justice, but I can't wait to see the Court take up the transgender restroom issue, to say nothing of the homosexual wedding cakes. You gotta ask how far is the culture war going to succeed in rending our country into that which is totally unrecognizable.

But keep reading. We'll certainly know in due time.

Friday, September 30, 2016

Kopp-Etchells Effect: Michael Yon Named Sparkling Photographic Phenomenon to Honor Soldiers

I haven't kept up with Michael Yon since he left Afghanistan.

Instapundit has an update, "THE PHOTOGRAPHER IS MICHAEL YON, WHO MANY INSTAPUNDIT READERS WILL REMEMBER: How a Combat Photographer Named a Phenomenon to Honor Soldiers."

Supermodel Paulina Porizkova, 51, in Tiny Bikini on Beach in Hawaii

She's amazing.

Still looking fabulous.

And she's a rock-solid mom as well.

At London's Daily Mail, "'No makeup and no filters!': Paulina Porizkova, 51, proves she's still a supermodel as she poses in tiny bikini on beach in Hawaii."

FLASHBACK: "Rule 5 Saturday: Paulina Porizkova."

On Board the USS Eisenhower (VIDEO)

At London's Daily Mail, "EXCLUSIVE: 'We kill bad guys and blow up their stuff' - on board the USS Eisenhower as its Top Guns blast ISIS with bombing missions around the clock."

Also, via the Joint Forces Channel:

Hedge Funds Take Short Position Against Germany's Deutsche Bank

This is interesting.

Hedge funds are attacking Deutsche Bank AG, and profiting.

At WSJ, "Hedge Funds Profiting on Bets Against Deutsche Bank":
Hedge funds that have placed bets against Deutsche Bank AG are reaping the rewards.

Deutsche Bank shares are down nearly 50% since the start of the year on concerns about its capital position, leading to large profits for a number of hedge funds who have been running short positions on the German lender, betting its stock will fall further.

However, it has been a bumpy ride. Deutsche’s shares fell as much as 8% in morning trading Friday, reaching a record, following reports that clients, including several large hedge funds, have pulled billions of dollars from the bank. But they later recovered to close up 6.4% in afternoon trade in Frankfurt.

Greenwich, Conn.-based AQR Capital Management, which runs $159 billion in assets, revealed that it had a short position in Deutsche Bank on Wednesday, according to a filing made public by the German regulator on Thursday.

AQR was also among a number of funds that have recently taken steps to withdraw securities or cash from the bank, or dial back their trading activities, The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday.

Deutsche Chief Executive John Cryan said in a message to employees Friday that media speculation that a few hedge funds had reduced some activities with the bank was causing “unjustified concerns.”

He said the bank had “strong fundamentals” and pointed to the sale this week of British insurer Abbey Life for $1.2 billion and the bank’s plans to sell its stake in China’s Hua Xia Bank. “We fulfill all current capital requirements and our restructuring is well on track,” he said.

Other hedge funds to have bets against the bank include Marshall Wace LLP, Discovery Capital Management LLC and Highfields Capital Management LP, according to filings. Marshall Wace first declared a 0.5% short position in Deutsche Bank in February. By Tuesday, it had doubled its bet to 1.03%, although this was cut back Thursday to 0.9%.

Discovery first disclosed a position at the start of August and increased it late that month, while Highfields first disclosed a position in July, which it quickly increased.

Hedge funds’ bets against the troubled German lender have been cranked up in recent days, although they are still below levels hit earlier this summer...