China Abandons One-Child Policy

Today, China abandoned its 35 year-old one-child policy. 

Based on the now debunked threat of overpopulation that was popularized by Stanford University scholar Paul Ehrlich, the communist government subjected the Chinese people to forced sterilizations and abortions. Many new-born babies were either killed or left to die. 

Today, the Chinese population suffers from a dangerous gender imbalance that favors boys over girls at a ratio of 117:100, and a demographic implosion that threatens future economic growth and prosperity. 

The one-child policy is a reminder of what happens when governments are allowed to interfere in deeply personal decisions of individual citizens and their families.

A year ago, even most American history professors probably had never heard of Hercules Mulligan, the American patriot whose name sounds like a punchline.

Thanks to the musical blockbuster Hamilton, Mulligan finally is famous, 190 years after his death. Of course, the real Mulligan was not quite what Lin Manuel Miranda’s casting director sought: “Ethnically Ambiguous / Mixed Race, African Descent… able to sing and rap well … the life of the party, dripping with swagger, streetwise and hilarious…. Joins the revolution to get out of being a tailor’s apprentice.”

Hercules Mulligan was a discrete but silver-tongued Irish immigrant in New York City, who prospered as a haberdasher, tailoring garments for colonial aristocrats and British officers. He was also a member of the Sons of Liberty, and his passion helped recruit Alexander Hamilton to the Revolutionary cause. His work also happened to make him a great, meaning oft-overlooked, spy.  


In 1779, some sources claim, a British officer insisted late one night he needed a warm “watch coat.” When Mulligan casually asked why the rush, the officer described his important mission, exulting, “before another day, we’ll have the rebel general in our hands.” Mulligan immediately mobilized his slave Cato, who was known to many of the well-outfitted British officers surrounding the city. Cato passed the information to Hamilton, who had become Washington’s aide de camp. Washington avoided the British ambush. Thus Hamilton’s hip hop Mulligan can rap: “A tailor spyin’ on the British government! I take their measurements, information, and then I smuggle it.”

Mulligan and Cato were already reliable sources for Washington regarding troop movements—working despite at least two interrogations by wary British officers. Mulligan occasionally collaborated with the New York-based Culper Ring and with the famous Jewish patriot Haym Solomon, whose German fluency made him a popular translator for the Hessian troops—and thus a great source of intelligence regarding troop movements.

Me applying for a job
  • Interviewer:Okay, thank you very much, is there something else you want to say?
  • Me:...
  • Me:Ceterum censeo Carthaginem esse delendam
  • Interviewer:what
  • Me:what
  • Cato the Elder:nice

An important part of the first Hunger Games film concerns the Careers: kids from richer districts who willingly participate in Hunger Games kill-a-thons after years of training. Now, in the book, the Careers are just straight-up, unredeemable villains, but the movie finale actually tweaks their characterization to make the lives of The Hunger Games’ rich and privileged look less like Party Town, Panem, and more like Jonestown, Guyana.

Near the end of the movie, the last remaining Career kid, Cato, takes Peeta hostage and starts telling Katniss just to kill him. Cato is suddenly asking for death, saying that he finally realizes he was always doomed to die in the Hunger Games, before adding: “I didn’t know that until now." 

Just stop to think about that line for a second.

The rules of the Hunger Games are simple: A bunch of kids enter, murder ensues, and one kid survives. It’s a statistically messed-up deal and yet the Careers freely volunteer for it. Or do they? Cato’s little breakdown seems to suggest that the Careers don’t really understand the full ramifications of what they’re getting into. All they are told is that they will be bringing pride to their District, and it is continually beaten into their heads until the prospect of signing up for a reverse Russian roulette starts to sound … fuck, appealing.

As Den of Geek put it, the scene with Cato is brilliant because it makes the depressingly dystopian world of The Hunger Games look even more horrifying than it already is, all with just a few seconds of footage.

5 Brilliant Moments You Probably Missed in Famous Movies

The United States of Freedom

Freedom in the 50 States, published by the Cato Institute, finds New Hampshire is the freest state, while New York ranks by far the least free in the nation.

Which state is the freest? Which state is the least? Which one has the most lightly taxed and regulated economy? Which states protect personal freedoms the best? The worst? How free is your state?

The newly published 2016 edition of Freedom in the 50 States is one of the most comprehensive and definitive sources on how public polices in each American state impact an individual’s economic, social, and personal freedoms. Study authors William P. Ruger and Jason Sorens have gathered data on more than 230 variables to measure freedom now and in the past.

“While the federal government has become more intrusive and inefficient over the last two decades, individual states are providing Americans with a little-recognized renaissance of policy innovation,” argue Ruger and Sorens. “If we want to save our freedom and restore good government, it is to the states that we must look and not to the federal government.”

Freedom in the 50 States examines state and local government intervention across a wide range of policy categories—from taxation to debt, from eminent domain laws to occupational licensing, and from drug policy to educational choice.

Between 2006 and year-end 2014, the latest available data, Ruger and Sorens find the average state has seen dramatic increases in economic freedom, after the effects of the federally mandated Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act are parsed out. This has largely been the result of states cutting spending during the financial crisis, with some states going even further and cutting taxes simultaneously.

Conservative states tend to do better on economic freedom overall, although not always by a huge margin. On personal freedom, the results are less clear cut. Progressive states have done better on marriage freedom, cannabis laws, and incarceration. But conservative states gain points on personal freedom too when it comes to gun rights, educational freedom, and smoking on private property.

States that have lower freedom rankings tend to be less economically prosperous. They tend to have higher rates of corruption and more lobbyists seeking government rents. Lower labor-market and regulatory freedom typically discourages business investment and raises the cost of living, which then can scare off Americans from other states looking to relocate for work.

There is strong evidence that states with more freedom attract more residents. The authors find a solid relationship between a lighter fiscal impact of government and net immigration, though evidence also suggests that regulatory and personal freedom play a role in attracting residents. For example, New York, the least free state, suffered the second-worst net out-migration of any state, 7.5 percent of its 2001 population. Conversely, Texas, Florida, and North Carolina, who rank among the top 20 in overall fiscal policy, have drawn nearly four million residents from the rest of the country from 2001-2014.

The study grades all fifty U.S. states on three dimensions—fiscal policy, regulatory policy, and personal freedom.

The fiscal policy dimension consists of five variables: (a) state tax revenues, (b) local tax revenues, © government employment, (d) government subsidies, and (e) government debt, each of which earns a significant weight because of its importance. The tax and debt variables are measured for each fiscal year, whereas the employment and subsidies variables come from different sources and are available for the calendar year. The authors separate state and local taxation and assign different weights to each.

The regulatory policy dimension includes categories for land-use freedom and environmental policy, health insurance freedom, labor-market freedom, occupational freedom, lawsuit freedom, cable and telecommunications freedom, and miscellaneous regulations that do not fit under another category. 

The personal freedom versus paternalism dimension consists of the following categories: (a) incarceration and arrests for victimless crimes, (b) marriage freedom, © educational freedom, (d) gun rights, (e) alcohol freedom, (f) cannabis freedom, (g) gaming freedom, (h) asset forfeiture, (i) tobacco freedom, (j) travel freedom, (k) campaign finance freedom, and (l) other mala prohibita and miscellaneous civil liberties. Weighting these categories was a challenge because the observable financial impacts of these policies do not often include the full harms to victims.

In addition to the study being available as a free download, over 230 policy variables and their sources are available on a specially designed companion website that enables policymakers, concerned citizens, scholars, and others, to create customized indices of freedom, or download data for their own individual analyses.

Freedom in the 50 States is an essential work for anyone interested in state policy and in advancing a better understanding of a free society.

How free is your state? Dig into the data, then tweet what you find with #FreeStates.

The Government Wants to Hack You: What You Need to Know About #ApplevsFBI.....

The first thing to understand about Apple’s latest fight with the FBI—over a court order to help unlock the deceased San Bernardino shooter’s phone—is that it has very little to do with the San Bernardino shooter’s phone. 

It’s not even, really, the latest round of the Crypto Wars—the long running debate about how law enforcement and intelligence agencies can adapt to the growing ubiquity of uncrackable encryption tools. 

Cato scholar Julian Sanchez says, “It’s a fight over the future of high-tech surveillance, the trust infrastructure undergirding the global software ecosystem, and how far technology companies and software developers can be conscripted as unwilling suppliers of hacking tools for governments.”

It’s also the public face of a conflict that will undoubtedly be continued in secret—and is likely already well underway.

The Department of Justice is demanding that Apple, maker of the iPhone 5c used by one of the ISIS-inspired San Bernardino shooters, make new software that would allow the FBI to bypass the passcode lockout and data-erasure security measures on the phone so the FBI can see if there is any additional evidence relevant to the shooting on the device. Doing so would make every American more vulnerable to identity theft and cyber crime.

In a blistering letter, Apple CEO Tim Cook pledged to fight the demand, warning that the court order would set a “dangerous precedent” threatening the security of millions worldwide.

Can Apple be forced to hack its own iPhones? The answer may depend on an 18th-century law you’ve never heard of

To persuade a judge to compel Apple’s assistance, the feds turned to a 1789 law, the All-Writs Act — in essence, a catchall empowering courts to issue orders that are necessary to carry out other legal functions. A search warrant for an apartment, for instance, might come with an order compelling the landlord to produce the key.

Traditionally, the All-Writs Act has been used to force companies to cough up information they already have about their own customers, like a phone company ordered to turn over a criminal suspect’s billing records.

Here, Apple engineers are effectively being conscripted to build forensic software — a hacking app — for the FBI. That’s like ordering a locksmith to help crack a safe, or a linguist to make sense of a suspect’s diary, against their will, if necessary.

Instead of being asked to hand over its own information, Apple is being instructed to help hack into someone else’s — someone whose only connection to the company was owning a phone that Apple produced.

Four important pieces of context are necessary to see the trouble with the Apple order:

1. This offers the government a way to make tech companies help with investigations.  Law enforcement and intelligence agencies have for years wanted to require companies to build the government backdoors into secure devices and messaging apps. In the face of strong opposition from tech companies, security experts and civil liberties groups, Congress has thus far refused to do so. The government is seeking an entry point from the courts it hasn’t been able to obtain legislatively.

2. This public fight could affect private orders from the government. The precedent set in the public fight may help determine how ambitious the government can be in seeking secret orders that would require companies to produce hacking or surveillance tools meant to compromise their devices and applications.

3. The consequences of a precedent permitting this sort of coding conscription are likely to be enormous in scope. Once it has been established that Apple can be forced to build one skeleton key, the inevitable flood of similar requests—from governments at all levels, foreign and domestic—could effectively force Apple and its peers to develop internal departments dedicated to building spyware for governments.

4. The effects of a win for the FBI in this case almost certainly won’t be limited to smartphones. Armed with code blessed by the developer’s secret key, governments will be able to deliver spyware in the form of trusted updates to a host of sensor-enabled appliances. Don’t just think of the webcam and microphone on your laptop, but voice-control devices like Amazon’s Echo, smart televisions, network routers, wearable computing devices and even Hello Barbie.

Apple’s resistance to the FBI’s order is not just over whether the federal government can read one dead terrorism suspect’s phone, but whether technology companies can be conscripted to undermine global trust in our computing devices.

A court-mandated encryption “back door” ruling will harm the entire U.S. technology sector. It will not only cost jobs, but it will put the financial security of every American at risk by leading to online products and services that are more vulnerable to hackers and hostile intelligence services.

That’s a staggeringly high price to pay for any investigation.

Learn more about Apple’s fight and the ongoing Crypto Wars…..