NSA, Bulk Collection, and Security

For now, there is no bill extending in any form the NSA’s ability to bulk collect metadata about our telephone calls. The House-passed bill that would have kept those data in phone company possession and NSA-searchable under explicit court order failed in the Senate Friday, as did any effort to extend the existing capability, for any duration. At this point, the House and Senate are in Memorial Day recess and won’t return until the 31st. With the collection authority expiring on 1 June, that leaves the House and Senate only a few hours to figure something out or leave the thing expired.

Government Imperative to Regulate

This time in the commercial space industry. There is a bill slowly wending its way through the House that would limit—or not—regulation of the nascent commercial space industry. This is a bill that would

…extend and update federal protection for commercial launches from some potential liability involving property damage or personal injuries and fatalities on the ground. The legislation [also would bar] the Federal Aviation Administration from closely regulating fledgling space-tourism ventures for up to 10 more years….

There’s a hint about the wrong mindset there. The hint is clarified by the bill’s supporters’ attitude. They [emphasis added]

Another Judge Gets It Right on Guns

People in the nation’s capital no longer have to show a good reason to get a permit to carry concealed handguns outside their homes and businesses.

The District of Columbia’s police chief said Tuesday that she’s dropping this requirement, a centerpiece of the city’s handgun-control legislation, after a federal judge issued a preliminary injunction against it.

That’s entirely appropriate since government does not get to dictate the reasons for a man owning a gun.

The city’s law, one of the nation’s toughest, says a person must show a “good reason to fear injury to his or her person or property” or another “proper reason for carrying a pistol” to get a concealed-carry permit.

What’s in Your Food?

It’s not PC to ask or to know, according to the World Trade Organization.

The World Trade Organization (WTO) just ruled that America’s popular country-of-origin labeling law (COOL) enacted in 2008 violates global trade standards because it erects a trade barrier to US meat imports from countries like Canada and Mexico.

Japanese customers don’t get to know that the beef they’re thinking about buying came from the US. Nor do PRC diners. Nor do American customers get to know that their beef is coming from Canada.

Such knowledge constitutes a trade barrier, don’t you know.

Featherbedding?

To paraphrase a Democrat’s remark, never let a tragedy go to waste.

The union for Amtrak’s locomotive engineers urged the railroad on Tuesday to put a second crew member at the controls of trains on the busy Northeast Corridor, where a derailment killed eight people and injured more than 200 others.

Of course. Never mind that an existing technology, cheaper than adding an unneeded employee, should have been in place, and will be in place after this accident.

The featherbedding contained in this union urging is made manifest in the union’s own statement:

“How Much Should a Currency Be Worth?”

That’s the title of Ian Talley’s piece in a recent Wall Street Journal online edition. The question arises from the People’s Republic of China’s open manipulation of its currency through its control of the yuan’s exchange rate in the currency markets. The PRC executes this manipulation by limiting the range of values within which the yuan is permitted to trade in those markets.

The question gains currency (sorry) as Congress contemplates adding an anti-currency manipulation clause to the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade pact or to the fast track trade bull currently in progress of a sort. But that’s currency manipulation from the other side of the matter: instead of a country manipulating its own currency, this clause says the currency must be manipulated according to our imperatives:

Sloppiness

South Carolina Republican Senator [Lindsey Graham], speaking on “CBS This Morning,” said he’ll formally unveil his campaign plans in his hometown of Central, SC.

But he also repeatedly used the phrase “I’m running….”

Regardless of what we might think of Graham’s work in the Senate, in particular concerning immigration, foreign policy, and our handling of the Daesh, this is a level of indiscipline that we don’t need in the White House.

Market Disruption

…is what happens in a free market, and one result is wealth redistribution, not by inefficient, politically motivated government mandate, but morally and efficiently by voluntary exchange among market participants—folks like you and me. One example of this is the price of taxi medallions.

…leading cabbies and fleet owners throughout the USA worried that their industry will be decimated if local and state government doesn’t intervene.

In Chicago, which has the country’s second biggest fleet with roughly 7,000 taxis, the median sale price for a medallion hovered around $70,000 in 2007 before reaching a median sales peak of $357,000 in late 2013.

Those Are Some Bills, Bill

“I gotta pay our bills,” says Bill Clinton about his $500k per speech fees. That’s nice work, and I don’t begrudge him a penny of it or the easiness of his earning it.

But is it really just to pay some bills?

Hillary Clinton and former President Bill Clinton earned more than $25 million combined in speaking fees since January 2014, Fox News confirmed Friday.

Hillary, by the way, gets upwards of 200 large for her gigs.

Those are some bills.

Interest Rates and Economic Recovery

The Fed has been actively suppressing interest rates, keeping them near zero, for a long time. This is in addition to the Obama administration’s economic policies, and the two attitudes have combined to produce an economic recovery from the Panic of 2008 that is one in name only. See this graph, adapted from one in a recent Wall Street Journal to see just how bad the current “recovery” is. The numbers other than the two first quarter 2015 are average annualized rates of increase.EconomicRecovery_Cropped-Resized