Friday, May 27, 2016

For many, including these authors, it appears that American democracy is not working

From the Kirkus Review:

Why Elections Do Not Produce Responsive Government

“Conventional thinking about democracy,” write Achen (Social Sciences and Politics/Princeton Univ.; co-author: The Statistical Analysis of Quasi-Experiments, 1987, etc.) and Bartels (Chair, Public Policy and Social Science/Vanderbilt Univ.; Unequal Democracy: The Political Economy of the New Gilded Age, 2008, etc.), “has collapsed in the face of modern social-scientific research.” The authors argue that rising inequality is a byproduct of this breakdown in the way democracy functions, and we desperately need reforms. Unfortunately, the demanded improvements are often unattainable, functioning merely as empty sloganeering. Inequality and insider power have increased over the years, and the politicians who benefit continue to expand their gains. Reformers often substitute increased emotional intensity of their demands for effective political strategies. Neither politicians nor citizens fully understand why this is so or how it can be addressed. As the authors note, campaign finance reform, reductions in income inequality, and the strengthening of equal protections would all be beneficial. Unfortunately, politicians are often not influenced by the people's will. Achen and Bartels combine a long-standing tradition of political criticism with intensive research into population behavior and beliefs. They show that results are not based on individual choices and deliberations but on notions of group identities. Citizens lack the time, inclination, and means to seriously consider issues that should be important but are usually ignored, and partisan loyalties shape—and are shaped by—racial, ethnic, religious, and familial identities. “We believe,” write the authors, “that abandoning the folk theory of democracy is a prerequisite to both greater intellectual clarity and real political change. Too many democratic reformers have squandered their energy on misguided or quixotic ideas.”
A comprehensive analysis that lays the foundation for a discussion of necessary reforms and how they can be achieved."

I like research-based works, but the research sometimes is not that good.

See this link for what looks like a free download of this book.

Monday, May 23, 2016


 Political polarization often means that constitutional laws that are needed are not passed, or we get extremist, counterproductive versions that are.  Of course, there are times that no law on the topic is the best course.  There are lots of solutions in search of problems out there.

We are all familiar with the 'echo chamber' effect.  Here's a great article on the topic.  If you are into Facebook, or get all your info. off the internet think again.  Ever heard of a 'newspaper' or 'news magazine'?  Try not to limit yourself to just one of each. You can read them free at your public or educational library, and please read this article.  No, it's not about the alleged liberal bias of Facebook, its about our lack of critical thinking and own, internal, automatic, anti-intellectual, ignorance-feeding, tendencies.  We also need to remember that as we reach senior status, it seems our open-mindedness seems to take a hit.

See this free article on propaganda and persuasion.
See this article from Wikipedia.
I strongly recommend R. Paul and L. Elder's very short and inexpensive book "Critical Thinking:  Concepts and Tools."

Saturday, May 21, 2016


A couple of incidents highlight a serious problem with police use of force.

“NYPD officers approached Garner on suspicion of selling "loosies" (single cigarettes) from packs without tax stamps. After Garner told the police that he was tired of being harassed and that he was not selling cigarettes, the officers went to arrest Garner. When officer Daniel Pantaleo took Garner's wrist behind his back, Garner swatted his arms away. Pantaleo then put his arm around Garner's neck and pulled him backwards and down onto the ground. After Pantaleo removed his arm from Garner's neck, he pushed Garner's face into the ground while four officers moved to restrain Garner, who repeated "I can't breathe" eleven times while lying facedown on the sidewalk. After Garner lost consciousness, officers turned him onto his side to ease his breathing. Garner remained lying on the sidewalk for seven minutes while the officers waited for an ambulance to arrive. The officers and EMTs did not perform CPR on Garner at the scene; according to a spokesman for the PBA, this was because they believed that Garner was breathing and that it would be improper to perform CPR on someone who was still breathing. He was pronounced dead at the hospital approximately one hour later.”

The medical examiner concluded that Garner was killed by "compression of neck (choke hold), compression of chest and prone positioning during physical restraint by police.”

When Garner said “I can’t breathe” a second time, police should have backed off immediately and re-evaluated the situation.

A recent incident is not quite as bad, but illustrates the same principle.  [See the video at the linked website.] The suspect was obviously mentally disturbed and struggled with an officer over a taser while still inside the vehicle. 
"Mr. Sherman was stunned again, and then he appeared to wrestle away control of the Taser despite still being handcuffed.
“Moments later, an emergency medical technician who had arrived at the scene tried to help subdue Mr. Sherman. “O.K. I’m dead, I’m dead,” Mr. Sherman said as he was shoved to the floor and wedged between the front and back seats. “I quit, I quit,” he could be heard saying."
The medical technician pushed down on Mr. Sherman’s body. “I got all the weight of the world on him now,” he could be heard saying before Mr. Sherman was shocked again.
But suddenly realizing that Mr. Sherman was not breathing, the deputy sheriffs and the medical technician pulled him out of the car and began performing cardiopulmonary resuscitation while his parents and Ms. Galloway watched.”

It appears that officers had regained control of the taser before Sherman was shoved to the floor.  When he said "I quit," the officers should have backed off and re-evaluated the situation. 

Why don’t police back off?  The adrenaline is flowing and they may feel a need to ‘punish’ the suspect for fighting and not following orders.  Perhaps they want to try to send a message that they will not tolerate disobedience and resistance.  Perhaps it’s too much macho.  Perhaps they weren’t trained to do this.  We also see a lot of this at the end of a high speed pursuit when police rip the suspect out of the car without providing any opportunity for the suspect to give up. At any rate, police tactics need to change.



In contrast to prior years, police chiefs in major cities with suspect killing scandals are now being fired or forced to resign.  The prolifieration of inculpatory videos, media coverage, public outrage, including the BLM movement, have radically altered the environment.

"Mayor Ed Lee of San Francisco defended his police chief, Gregory P. Suhr, for months — in fact, he kept saying good things about him even as he forced him out of the job. “The progress we have made has been meaningful,” Mr. Lee said when he announced that at his request, Mr. Suhr had resigned.
Mr. Lee would get some vehement disagreement from protesters who have demanded Mr. Suhr’s ouster over a string of fatal, racially charged police shootings. But what happened in San Francisco mirrored recent events in Chicago and Baltimore, where in the furor over killings by the police, mayors got rid of their police chiefs — even as they and other civic leaders insisted that the chiefs had been moving things in the right direction."
It all starts at the top and cannot be fixed if there isn't good leadership.  However, this is just a first step.  Police culture needs to be changed, discipline needs to be tightened, body and car cams need to become mandatory nationwide, recruits and transfers need to be seriously screened.  And those a just for starters.


 Trump's endorsement by the NRA and Hillary Clinton's harping about the need for gun control suggest it will be an issue in the November elections.
However, Mrs. Clinton's support for gun control varies depending on the audience.
"Mrs. Clinton’s appearances in black churches, where she cited the grim statistics of gun violence and surrounded herself with families of victims, helped her win crucial African-American voters. She relentlessly criticized Mr. Sanders for his votes against gun control in the Senate.
On the other hand, Mrs. Clinton avoided speaking about gun control in rural white regions of Ohio, Pennsylvania and Kentucky, whose blue-collar voters will be desperately fought for by any Democratic nominee against Mr. Trump. A disparaging comment by Mr. Obama in 2008, who said that these voters cling to guns and religion, did much damage. [see "bittergate" below]
As Mrs. Clinton turns to the general election, she plans to highlight the issue in swing districts like Northern Virginia and the Philadelphia suburbs, a campaign official said, where changing demographics are tipping support for gun control, especially among women."
 Perhaps even more crucial will be the new President's power to appoint a new Supreme Court Justice.  The Heller and McDonald decisions were 5-4 and now one of the 5, Scalia, is gone.  This may be where the real threat to gun rights lies.  Hopefully, Republicans, for better or worse will control the Senate and be able to block any left-wing authoritarians Hillary nominates.
I think we can add hypocrisy and double-talk to the list of concerns of voters to go along with her ethically-challenged behavior and probable toady of Wall Street.  Don't get me wrong.  I am not a one-issue voter although some issues are more important than others. Trump is the ultimate Washington outsider and that appears to be what many people want.  However, he also appears to be the loosest cannon I have ever seen,poised to become the Republican nominee.  I suspect in the end I will got the polls and not vote for either.

Finally, I hope you remember Obama's "bittergate."  I wonder if Hillary is from the same mold.

Friday, May 20, 2016


"After Brandon Betterman pleaded guilty to bail jumping, he spent over 14 months in jail, simply waiting to be sentenced. Betterman eventually appealed, arguing that the year-long delay violated his right to a speedy trial. But, unfortunately for Betterman and the many other individuals who can wait months before being sentenced, the Sixth Amendment's speedy trial guarantee does not include a right to a speedy sentencing, the Supreme Court ruled in a unanimous opinion released this morning. - See more at:

Wednesday, May 18, 2016


Many were hoping that the U.S. Supreme Court would provide guidance on religious freedom v. the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare).  Unfortunately, the Court dodged the issue and failed to provide guidance.  It appears that we will have to wait for a new case and a ninth Justice.


The Tea Party has had a major impact on politics in the U.S., esp. the Republican Party.  This book, Poison Tea, is a critical look at that movement.  It suggests that it is basically a front for corporate interests and the wealthy. 
For more see this article.


Over the last seven years, most states have banned texting by drivers, and public service campaigns have tried an array of tactics — “It can wait,” among them — to persuade people to put down their phones when they are behind the wheel.
Yet the problem, by just about any measure, appears to be getting worse. Americans confess in surveys that they are still texting while driving, as well as using Facebook and Snapchat and taking selfies. Road fatalities, which had fallen for years, are now rising sharply, up roughly 8 percent in 2015 over the previous year, according to preliminary estimates.
That is partly because people are driving more, but Mark Rosekind, the chief of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, said distracted driving was “only increasing, unfortunately.”
“Radical change requires radical ideas,” he said in a speech last month, referring broadly to the need to improve road safety.
So to try to change a distinctly modern behavior, legislators and public health experts are reaching back to an old strategy: They want to treat distracted driving like drunken driving."
The textalyzer is similar in many respects to the "breathalyzer," hence the similarity.  As long as the content of the messages is not scrutinized, this might be worth a try.
For more on this topic, see the source.


"From locker rooms and sex education classes to dress codes and overnight field trips, many U.S. public schools already are balancing the civil rights of transgender students with any concerns that classmates, parents and community members might have.
The U.S. Department of Education is drawing on those practices to guide other schools as they work to comply with the Obama administration's directive that transitioning children be treated consistent with their gender identity.
That has been the policy since 2013 of the Arcadia Unified School District in Southern California. As part of a settlement with the federal departments of Justice and Education that became the foundation for the national mandate issued Friday, students may use the bathroom, locker room or wilderness cabin that corresponds with their recognized gender outside school, Superintendent David Vannasdall said."
"This is absolutely not about a student on a day-to-day basis saying, 'Today I'm a boy, tomorrow I'm a girl.' That has never happened," Vannasdall said. "By the time these students are at a point where they are asking for our help, they are presenting in all areas of their life as that gender."

For more on this, see the source.
Can we move on to more pressing issues?

Saturday, May 14, 2016


I always strongly suggest that people actually look at laws and documents before commenting on them.  The focus on bathrooms has perhaps obscured other and larger issues.  Let's look at the controversial act.  The lack of any penalties of enforcement provision for the bathroom provisions should one violate it, suggest this is just a symbolic protest against the LGBT movement.  However, this is not the most important part of the bill.

 Here's a very readable article from Wikipedia.

(Scroll down to "External Links" for the text of the act.)

Charlotte Ordinance 7056[edit]

On February 22, 2016, the Charlotte City Council passed, by a 7-4 vote, Ordinance 7056, a non-discrimination ordinance prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity in public accommodations, passenger vehicle for hire, and city contractors. It was to take effect on April 1, 2016.[16][17]

North Carolina House Bill 2[edit]

On March 23, 2016, North Carolina House of Representatives held a special session and passed House Bill 2, with 82 in favor and 26 against and 11 excused absences.[18] About three hours later, the North Carolina Senate also passed the bill, with 32 in favor, 6 excused absences, and all 11 Democrats walking out in protest and not voting.[18] That evening, it was signed by North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory,[11] taking a total of 11 hours and 10 minutes to become a law.[19]
Supporters of House Bill 2 said the Charlotte ordinance was sloppily written and overreaching, and that in their view its wording essentially did away with single-sex bathrooms.[20] Representative Dan Bishop cited this as grounds for the state to override local ordinances.[20]

"One contentious element of the law eliminates anti-discrimination protections for gay, transgender, genderqueer, and intersex people, and legislates that in government buildings, individuals may only use restrooms that correspond to the sex on their birth certificates.[8][9] This has been criticized because it prevents transgender people who do not or cannot alter their birth certificates from using the restroom consistent with their gender identity:[8] in North Carolina, only people who undergo sex reassignment surgery can change the sex on their birth certificates, and outside jurisdictions have different rules, some more restrictive.[10] The legislation changes the definition of sex in the state's anti-discrimination law to "the physical condition of being male or female, which is stated on a person's birth certificate."[11][12][13]

[Perhaps most importantly ]The act also prohibits municipalities in North Carolina from enacting anti-discrimination policies,[14] setting a local minimum wage, regulating child labor, or making certain regulations for city workers. The legislation also removes the statutory and common law private right of action to enforce state anti-discrimination statutes in state courts.[15]">. . .

House Bill 2 does not contain any guidance on how it is supposed to be enforced.[21] It is unclear if bathroom patrons are required to carry birth certificates, or if police departments are obliged to post officers to check them.[21] Police departments in Raleigh, Greensboro, Wilmington, and Asheville have expressed a lack of clarity on how the law should be enforced and an unwillingness to devote police resources to monitor bathrooms.[21] A number of departments indicated a willingness to respond to complaints of violations, but said none had been received.[22]
Republican State Representative Dan Bishop, a co-sponsor of the law, acknowledged that "there are no enforcement provisions or penalties in HB2."[23] Democratic State Representative Rodney Moore was more emphatic, saying: "There is absolutely no way to enforce this law, as it relates to the enforcement of the bathroom provisions. It is an utterly ridiculous law."[21]

North Carolina Attorney General and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Roy Cooper said that House Bill 2 was unconstitutional[138] and that he would not defend it in court,[139][140] but would defend state agencies against it.

On April 19, 2016, a three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit issued a ruling in favor of transgender high school student Gavin Grimm, upholding the Department of Education's interpretation that Title IX's prohibition on discrimination on the basis of sex should be read broadly to include discrimination on the basis of gender identity (G.G. v. Gloucester County School Board).[147] Although House Bill 2 was not at issue in Grimm's lawsuit, which arose in Virginia, the ruling has controlling status in North Carolina, which is part of the Fourth Circuit.[147] If the Fourth Circuit decision is not overturned via rehearing en banc or on appeal to the Supreme Court of the United States, it would set precedent in the Fourth Circuit that the bill violates Title IX in the educational context."


"OVER the past year, everyone from the conservative Right on Crime project to the Black Lives Matter movement has pushed criminal justice reform to the forefront of political debates. Yet politicians at every level of government remain almost completely silent about one of the biggest crises facing criminal justice: the utter collapse of indigent defense."

For more, see this NYT op-ed


In Texas, public colleges and universities have been given authority to limit the licensed carry of handguns.  Liberals dominate most of these institutions and are formulating strict polices.  Perhaps the most draconian proposals are for the UT-system. One proposed policy includes not allowing a cartridge in the chamber of a semi-automatic.  Some want to give faculty the say on their own offices.  Will faculty be given a say on what students may say in the office?  May faculty ban "hate speech" in their offices?

A related issue is from Tennessee.
"A bill allowing staff and faculty at Tennessee's public colleges and universities to be armed on campus became law Monday without the Republican governor's signature.
Gov. Bill Haslam, who declined to veto the bill, said in a statement that he disagreed with the bill for not allowing institutions "to make their own decisions regarding security issues on campus."

Decisions regarding fundamental constitutional rights should not be make by bureaucrats, faculty, staff or students.  They should be made by politically responsible public officials.  Many colleges and universities have created policies which violate First Amendment freedoms.  They should not be allowed to create policies which violate Second Amendment freedoms.


"Experts cannot agree on what to call a recent rise in homicides, much less its cause, but new data on Friday that showed a sharp spike in homicide rates in more than 20 cities rekindled debate over hether it was time for alarm.
The data showed particularly significant increases in homicides in six cities in the first three months of the year compared with the same period last year — Chicago, Dallas, Jacksonville, Fla., Las Vegas, Los Angeles and Memphis. But almost as many cities reported a notable decline in recent months." 
One potentially dysfunctional explanation has been provides by the Director of the FBI.
"The heroin epidemic, a resurgence in gang violence and economic factors in some cities were all offered as explanations, but the most contentious theory came from an agency that usually does not worry much about local crime: the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

The agency’s director, James Comey, has linked rising crime to less aggressive policing — the “viral video effect,” he called it this week, rejecting the more racially charged “Ferguson effect.” His theory, however, found little support from the White House, law enforcement groups, criminologists or even the group that gave him the new data on Friday.
Continue reading the main story

Mr. Comey said that a string of videos that went viral on the Internet had led some officers to become reluctant to confront suspects. He conceded that he was operating off anecdotal evidence, but such reluctance, he said, could be contributing to the increase in homicides in some cities — an increase that he said left him deeply worried.
“Something is happening,” he said on Wednesday.
But the White House pushed back again on Friday. The White House spokesman, Josh Earnest, said that the increase in homicides in some cities was a concern and that the administration had already taken steps to address it, including a roundup by the Marshals Service last year of some 8,000 fugitives.

What's wrong with the Director's theory? The Ferguson effect and BLM, etc. are nationwide phenomena.  Yet homicide is down some places.  There is no significant empirical evidence to back up the Director's theory.  Finally, the theory plays into the hands of those who believe that aggressive policing and a excessive force are necessary to keep the poor and uppity minorities in check.  White supremacists view the police as a tool to keep blacks under control.  In this view  excessive force is an effective crime-control strategy. However, there is not evidence to support that assertion.         

Related Coverage







""But he said that “this is not a widespread phenomenon, at least based on what we know now.”

Regarding Mr. Comey’s theory, Mr. Earnest said: “This administration makes policy decisions that are rooted in evidence, that are rooted in science. We can’t make broad, sweeping policy decisions, or draw conclusions based on anecdotal evidence. That’s irresponsible and ultimately counterproductive.”



Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick demanded the resignation of Fort Worth's superintendent of schools for the system's  pro-transgender restroom rules.  He promised the Texas legislature would visit the issue when it comes back into session.  Should the Obama administration's administrative pro-transgender restroom rule be upheld in the courts, how many states will fight back at the cost of millions of dollars in federal aid to public schools?  Everyone screams about big government yet they take the money and go with the flow.  State and local officials have been bought off and have no one to blame but themselves.  Although the tea party has made a lot of gains, people keep electing Senators and Representatives who keep the cash flow coming from Washington.  "There's no such thing as a free lunch," and "he who pays the piper calls the tune."  It times to end the hypocrisy of complaining and then doing nothing.  As Pogo said "We have met the enemy and he is us."
  For the latest on this new battle in America's culture wars see this detailed article.


More cluelessness in Texas (see below).  The current bathroom-wars controversy has added new fuel to a long-standing issue in Texas.
"Dallas (CNN)Texas isn't going anywhere. At least, not yet.
At the Texas Republican Convention here, state delegates met and struck a resolution from being added to the party's platform that endorses the idea of a referendum for Texans to vote to secede from the United States.
Just the fact that it got this far is pretty surprising for the Lone Star State, and shows this once grassroots movement is becoming mainstream.
The Texas Nationalist Movement has been leading the effort for 10 years to get the referendum on a ballot, and the president of the group said he won't give up.
. "This idea that people have the right of self-determination and places like Texas can assert their right of self-determination and become independent nation states is not that odd at all."
Miller compared the idea of a Texas secession to Scotland's independence referendum in 2014 — which didn't pass after voters decided that Scotland shouldn't be an independent country from the United Kingdom.
During the last four Texas legislative sessions, Miller said he's pursued the legislature to file a bill to give Texas voters the opportunity to vote on independence."
Although sanity and reality prevailed on that issue, that was not the case with all issues. The did manage to pass a resolution calling for a total ban on abortions.  Another reason to secede apparently because the U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly affirmed the existence of a woman's limited constitutional right to an abortion and a majority of Americans support this limited right.


TX Sen. Ted Cruz's wife Heidi Cruz commenting on the temporary derailment of her husband's presidential aspirations:
"Think that slavery — it took 25 years to defeat slavery. That is a lot longer than four years."

At least she got the math right, 25 is more than 4.  This woman served in the Bush White House and is an investment advisor for Goldman Sachs.  I never cease to be amazed.

Friday, May 13, 2016


According to the New York Times:
"Texas has quietly reached a milestone: More than a million residents now have handgun licenses, one of the biggest citizenries in the country authorized to carry concealed and unconcealed firearms."    Some are surprised that the streets are not flowing with blood.  Only Florida has more licensees.

"In January, a law took effect giving those with concealed-weapon permits the option of openly carrying their firearm in a shoulder or hip holster. But in the months since, few have embraced so-called open carry."
Again, there was much moaning, groaning and gnashing of teeth.  Here in Dallas I have not seen a single person openly carrying.  In the gun shop I visited, only the clerks were seen carrying openly.  I've seen only two businesses with no open carry signs. A used book store and a gym.

"The one million are made up of 268,200 women and 749,418 men, according to the Department of Public Safety. . . .The Texas Legislature passed the concealed-handgun law in 1995, and it took effect the next year. Gun-rights advocates like to point out that the Legislature at the time was not majority Republican, as it is now, but majority Democrat. In December 1996, there were 113,640 people with active licenses. Over the span of nearly 20 years, roughly 904,000 would be added to the gun-license rolls."

Tuesday, May 03, 2016


Thanks goodness the Texas legislature is not in session or it could have embarrassed the state just like North Carolina did with its law on bathroom use only by gender indicated on birth certificates. (See "Tempest in the Toilets" below)

However, some of the folks in Rockwall Texas (near Dallas) felt compelled to try to save the state's reputation as a wacko state by  introducing their own ordinance.

"Rockwall Mayor Jim Pruitt found no support for his policy to regulate bathroom use by birth sex Monday.
While Pruitt or any single member could bring the item to council, his motion needed a second supporter to go to a vote. Even after Pruitt suggested scaling the ordinance back to include only city property, nobody stood with him to force a vote." 

Not to be outdone, a Dallas County Community College District board candidate sent out a mailer/flier on the issue.  Where do they find these people?

Saturday, April 30, 2016


Anybody remember the high hopes we had 5 years ago for the "Arab Spring" revolts.  Four disasters and only one decent result (Tunisia).  Obama recklessly declared that Assad must go in Syria thus locking the U.S. into a position that has not worked out.  How much did the administration expend to support rebels in Syria and elsewhere? Another Obama foreign/military policy disaster.

"Mr. Worth’s book [A Rage for Order] is about the core of that tragic springtime story born five years ago: the “Arab republican states,” the five nations that in 2011 rose up against their longstanding regimes of secular nationalist strongmen.
Of these, Egypt ended up where it started, with its former head of military intelligence in charge of a moderately unhappy country that seems relieved to have escaped from brief, democratically legitimate rule by the Muslim Brotherhood. Syria remains in the middle of civil war. Libya is outright chaos. Yemen is in the grip of a full-blown Saudi-Iranian proxy war, with its government exiled, its capital in the hands of Shia rebels and much of the coast an emirate of the world’s strongest al Qaeda franchise.
Only Tunisia—the place where it all began, when a 26-year-old street vendor, humiliated by corrupt local officials, immolated himself in December 2010—is today relatively stable."

Friday, April 29, 2016


A former Oklahoma volunteer sheriff's deputy who said he mistook his handgun for his stun gun when he fatally shot an unarmed suspect last year was convicted of second-degree manslaughter on Wednesday.
Jurors handed down the verdict in the case of 74-year-old Robert Bates, a wealthy insurance executive accused of fatally shooting Eric Harris while working with Tulsa County sheriff's deputies last year during an illegal gun sales sting. Harris, who had run from deputies, was restrained and unarmed when he was shot.
The shooting -- which was caught on video -- sparked several investigations that, among other things, revealed an internal 2009 memo questioning Bates' qualifications as a volunteer deputy and showed that Bates, a close friend of the sheriff's, had donated thousands of dollars in cash, vehicles and equipment to the agency.
Bates faces up to four years in prison.
Bates' defense attorneys argued at trial that methamphetamine found in Harris' system, along with his cardiac health, caused his death. Defense attorneys called the killing an "excusable homicide."

A lot of things need to be done to deal with these type of problems.  Accountability is one of them and this conviction seems to be part of a trend to get serious.

Thursday, April 28, 2016


In conjunction with the post below, what is the purpose of Amercan government?  This general statement is from the Declaration of Independence.

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, . . .

As 44 reminded me in a comment on the post directly below, the Preamble to the Constitution states:
"We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America."

Government per se is not the problem.  The main problems are the quality of leadership,  shortage of accountability of employees and leaders, catering to special interests, violation of rights and the obsession of empire-building which infects many bureaucrats.  In addition, we need broad-based public support for all constitutional rights, not those that suit one's ideology.

The basic problem/paradox is that governments are created and run by human beings with all their faults.  The faults make government necessary to protect other people and their interests. Madison in Federalist # 51 put it eloquently:

"If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself. A dependence on the people is, no doubt, the primary control on the government; but experience has taught mankind the necessity of auxiliary precautions." [Thus the Constitution contains separation of powers, an independent judicial branch, limits on powers, etc.]

Thus, quality leadership and accountability of all government personnel is essential. Unfortunately, we seem to have a shortage of this at the federal level.  Most state governments are no better, and the problem at all levels, is not the existence of government but how it is run. Too many people want to throw 'the baby out with the bath water,' but that will just make things worse.  Anarchy is not an answer it is a whole new set of problems that will just make things worse.  Arguably, Congress has sometimes stretched its powers too far, but we have a Supreme Court that hopefully will remedy it.
If not, legislative repeal or constitutional amendment are the remedies.

Sunday, April 24, 2016


I would strongly recommend that everyone, esp. those who need to read something that they might not agree with it, e.g. anarcho-capitalists, libertarians and tea-partiers, read J.S. Hacker and P. Pierson's, American Amnesia.  According the the NYT review by M. Bishop:
"How America came to forget about the merits of good government, and the price now being paid, is the meat of “American Amnesia,” the third book by Jacob S. Hacker (Yale) and Paul Pierson (Berkeley), whom Bill Moyers calls the “Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson of political science.” According to these academic detectives, America’s amnesia is no accident. The country has been brainwashed by a powerful alliance of forces hostile to government: big business, especially Wall Street, spending unparalleled lobbying dollars to advance its narrow self-­interest; a new wealthy elite propagating wrongheaded Ayn Randian notions that free markets are always good and government always bad; and a Republican Party using a strategy of attacking and weakening government as a way to win more power for itself."

Although their subtitle and some of their assertions are a little over-the-top they make a lot of good points and back them up with citations and data.

Rather than re-invent the wheel, here's another review.


The Republican party is currently in a state or sharp division from which it may not recover. There is, however, an even more important fight brewing which could have even more long-term effect on the party.

Republicans have relied on two types of conservatives.  The first are the big-business, anti-regulation types, and their cronies/dupes, many libertarians and anarcho-capitalists.  For the former, the interests are monetary.  For the latter they are ideological.

The second type is the cultural conservative.  These are the right-wing cultural warriors, evangelicals, the religious right, etc.  They are anti- lots of things, such as abortion, same-sex marriage, homosexuality, etc.   Some are also white supremacists.

However, big business is taking the LGBT  and pro-abortion side in many controversies, incl. N.C.'s new bathroom law.  They appear to reject 'homophobia' and a lot of the cultural conservative stances.  Here's a list of companies, and as expected, left-leaning entertainers, who have announced boycotts against NC.  Other states face similar boycotts on related issues

Perhaps these two types will formally split and one will form a new party.  Perhaps one or both will learn to bite their tongue in the interest of party unity.  Perhaps the "Tea Party" will become a real party.  Stay tuned.

Also see the prior post on how capitalism weakens conservative culture.


N.C's restroom use law is creating lots of controversy.  See this piece from the NYT.

"The notion that we should prevent transgender people from using bathrooms that match their gender identity — and that allowing them to do so would imperil children — is a tempest in a toilet, one of the more ludicrous political causes to gain currency in a while.
It has gained currency nonetheless. The ESPN commentator Curt Schilling advanced it last week by sharing a Facebook post that showed a burly man in unpersuasive drag and said: “Let him in! to the restroom with your daughter or else you’re a narrow-minded, judgmental, unloving racist bigot who needs to die.” ESPN, which had previously cautioned Schilling about unrelated outbursts, fired him."
Republican Senator Ted Cruz's campaign joined in the lunacy. 
"The Cruz campaign released an ad with shadowy footage of bathroom stalls, sinister music and dire warnings, printed in large letters, about how vulnerable “your daughter” and “your wife” would be if Trump’s perspective held sway. “It’s not appropriate,” said words that flashed on the screen. “It’s not safe. It’s PC nonsense that’s destroying America.”
 I don't know who would be worse, him or Trump.  At least Trump reacted rationally, for a change,  to this particular hysteria.  Unfortunately, on the other side we have ethically challenged anti-Second Amendment Hillary Clinton and too-far-left-to-win, pie-in-the-sky, anti-Second Amendment Bernie Sanders.  Sanders has a number of good points, but he's too far left for most voters.  Oy Vey!
The NC bathroom law makes no sense.
"I’m guessing that Cruz hasn’t met or read much about transgender people. “Grown adult men” is precisely how many transgender men appear — with beards, muscles, pants — and exactly how they’d look to little girls in the women’s rooms that the North Carolina law would command them to use.
And such legislation tells someone who may well wear a dress to march into the men’s room if her birth certificate said male. That’s a greater invitation to potty pandemonium than letting people make their own calls when nature calls and turn in the direction consistent with the way they conduct the rest of their lives.
How would these potty prohibitions be enforced, anyway? What species of sentry or manner of inquisition would assess the external and internal anatomy of the bathroom-bound? Shall we divert government spending to this? We skimp on money to repair America’s infrastructure, but let’s find funds to patrol America’s lavatories.
Cruz, Schilling and many others are obsessed with — or cynically exploiting — the hallucinated scenario of male sexual predators suddenly feeling emboldened to stalk little girls in public bathrooms, presumably because they could, if caught, claim that they identify as women and belong there.
Here’s a news flash: They’d still be breaking laws. You know, the ones against lewdness and harassing and molesting kids. The ones that govern a male sexual predator whose targets are boys and who already has access to the same urinals that they do.
Besides which, child molesters aren’t famously expert at impulse control: I doubt that they’re raptly watching CNN and patiently awaiting some legislative green light to hunt for female victims by the toilets in public parks. They’re hunting already, and as everything from “Spotlight” to the Denny Hastert case has shown us, the grounds aren’t always the ones you expect, nor are the hunters.
If parents want to get worked up about threats to their children’s welfare and future, how about a more concerted and constructive look at the failings of schools? Or at the lures of sexting? Or at the injuries in contact sports? Or at the junk in children’s diets? Or at the lead in some cities’ water?"


One peek into how police accountability doesn't work in Chicago, and in many other cities was unveiled a few months ago.
"In November, the city released a video that showed Laquan McDonald, a black teenager, being shot 16 times by Jason Van Dyke, a white cop. The footage was gruesome. But the routine way in which the October 2014 killing was covered up for more than a year exposed a deeper culture of secrecy and impunity in Chicago that implicated the entire police force and much of the city’s government. . . "

Many blacks are outraged and have demanded Democratic Mayor Rahm Emanuel's resignation. "Yet the very communities most in need of public safety have come to see the criminal-justice system as another deadly threat. A scathing report issued on April 13 by a task force the mayor appointed confirmed that their distrust of the police was warranted — “C.P.D.’s own data gives validity to the widely held belief the police have no regard for the sanctity of life when it comes to people of color,” the task force found."

There was one victory, a prosecutor complicit in the scandals was voted out of office.  The "Cook County state’s attorney [was voted out of office].  Alvarez didn’t charge Van Dyke until a judge, nearly 400 days after the shooting, forced the city to make the McDonald video public. Alvarez had led in polls three weeks earlier, but demonstrators shut down her public talks, rallied at her fund-raisers and started a social-media campaign — #ByeAnita — that laid out how she had failed in her duties as a prosecutor. Alvarez lost by 30 percentage points to a political novice."

"Chicago had more fatal shootings by the police than any other American city from 2010 to 2014, according to an analysis by the Better Government Association. Yet members of the Chicago Police Department have faced hardly any punishment. Of the 409 shootings by police officers investigated since 2007 by the Independent Police Review Authority (IPRA), which is charged with looking into serious claims of misconduct, only two of the shootings were found to be unjustified."

Friday, April 22, 2016


Federal agents win another one. "A Cincinnati-based federal appeals court yesterday ruled federal agents can obtain cell phone records that reveal a caller’s location without a warrant. The decision from the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals follows an attempt from two Detroit men, sentenced to prison for multiple robberies, who argued the cell records linking them to the location of the robberies should be excluded under Fourth Amendment protection. Judge Raymond Kethledge said the government’s collection of the records did not constitute a search."

Two prior appeals courts ruled likewise. The U.S. Supreme Court needs to hear this case.


I haven't seen this much uproar over bathrooms since the 80's when it was argued that the proposed constitutional amendment guaranteeing equal rights for women was defeated, partly on the same  ludicrous arguments you hear today over transgender students.

"Weeks after a new North Carolina law put transgender bathroom access at the heart of the nation’s culture wars, a federal appeals court in Richmond, Va., ruled on Tuesday in favor of a transgender student who was born female and wishes to use the boys’ restroom at his rural Virginia high school.
Advocates for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people note that the ruling from the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit applies to North Carolina, where the controversial law approved last month limits transgender people to bathrooms in government buildings, including public schools, that correspond with the gender listed on their birth certificates.
As a result of the ruling, those advocates say, that portion of the North Carolina law that applies to public schools now clearly violates Title IX — the federal law that prohibits gender discrimination in schools."


 After their convictions were reversed on appeal, 5  "former police officers involved in the shooting deaths of unarmed people here in the days after Hurricane Katrina, a case that drew national outrage and intense scrutiny to the city’s police force, pleaded guilty in federal court on Wednesday and received significantly less prison time than they originally faced.
The guilty pleas, which drew prison terms from three to 12 years, were the latest development in a wrenching 10-year saga that began when officers responding to a distress call on the Danziger Bridge on Sept. 4, 2005, opened fire on unarmed residents, killing two and injuring four."

Wednesday, April 20, 2016


According to the NYT
"The State Police said on Friday that the trooper, Brian L. Hamilton, a 14-year veteran, was let go on Thursday for repeatedly proselytizing and for handing out a religious pamphlet during traffic stops.
The authorities said his termination was based on a complaint in January that said he had questioned a driver’s religious affiliations after pulling over the vehicle — the second time in about 18 months that the State Police were aware he had done so."
This was probably just the tip of the iceberg.  Most people probably didn't complain.