Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Police and the Mentally Ill

The police shooting and death of a mentally ill homeless man in Albuquerque has again raised the issue of police interaction with the mentally ill.  Many agencies have expanded and updated their training.  This is one of the most difficult aspects of police work as no one expects police to subject themselves to unreasonable dangers. After the fact, it is always easy to say that the police should have done this or that. See this excellent article from the NYT on the topic.

GM & NHTSA scandal shows need for new remedies.

The current controversy over GM's and the NHTSA's apparent lack of concern for human life and safety makes it clear that the current wimpy system of protecting consumers is not working.  New criminal and civil sanctions need to be enacted.  Treble damages should be allowed against the manufacturers.  Perhaps every company selling cars in the U.S. should have a federally appointed and paid "Inspector General" on its staff.  This officer would review all safety-related communications and reports from within the company, and would have broad investigatory power to dig deeper if necessary.  The officer would also have power to stop sales of defective vehicles pending a federal court ruling on a temporary injunction.  Of course, this officer must NOT be a person with a prior significant connection to the company  they are monitoring.  They must not be a auto manufacturer crony.  We have seen too many supposedly regulatory agencies protecting the industry and not the consumer. 

Some of you may recall the Ford Pinto scandal decades ago.  This new scandal suggests that nothing was learned from the Ford Pinto deaths A state criminal prosecution failed.  It's time to get tough in the interest of saving auto consumer lives.

Obama's DOJ soft on political corruption?

According to the New York Times:

"When Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr., two months into his tenure, dismissed all corruption charges against former Senator Ted Stevens of Alaska, it was an embarrassing nadir for the Justice Department section responsible for prosecuting politicians accused of misconduct.
The Public Integrity Section, long accustomed to exposing the official misdeeds of others, became the focus of two investigations of misconduct leading up to Mr. Stevens’s conviction. The head of the unit left under a cloud of suspicion. A promising young prosecutor committed suicide.
Since then, the unit known for headline-grabbing cases — from Abscam to Jack Abramoff — has kept a much lower profile. An elite team formed in the wake of Watergate, it has sought less publicized cases, often at the state level. Its prosecutors have taken routine gun and drug cases for the trial experience. Congress, kickbacks and dirty Washington politics seemed to take a back seat." (emphasis supplied)
Now, according to the NYT, 6 years into Obama's term, the DOJ's Public Integrity Section seems to be making a comeback. Six years wasted.  Could it have any connection with the fact that Illinois and Chicago are among the most corrupt jurisdictions in the country? Could it have any relation to the fact Obama is now a lame duck and does not have anything to fear in terms of political blowback?   

Another First Amendment & campaign contribution decision.

In a 5-4 decision, McCutcheon v. F.E.C.,  applying the rationale of the controversial Citizen's United decision, the Court voided all maximum limits on  campaign contributions.  As in the Citizens United decision, the  liberals voted in favor of the legislation and against the First Amendment.  The conservatives and Kennedy voted in favor of the Amendment and against the legislation.  IMHO, this is a good decision consistent with the goals of the First Amendment.  Expect the liberals and Obama to howl long and loud.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Desperate Dems try new campaign tactic

As usual, the NY Times (unofficial newspaper for the Left) has picked up on the relatively new liberal democratic desperation tactic of going after rich conservative campaign contributors.  Part of the desperation comes from fear of losing control of the Senate and the Obamacare disaster and unpopularity.  The ads speak of why the donors are contributing so much and their alleged motives.  The donor activity is protected by the First Amendment and is largely irrelevant. It's like the old ad hominen argument and guilt by association.  It borders on propaganda.  Funny that they haven't mentioned George Soros who has donated billions over the years to Leftist causes.  Does the Left ignore him on this issue because he has a French conviction for insider trading? Could it be that the Left likes his ideology?  Let's hope the Republicans don't start playing tit-for-tat.

Another finger-gun suspenstion

Another young public school student suspended for pointing his finger like a gun.  What kind of insanity is this?  Anti-gun hysteria is rampant many places. Don't expect these folks to support your Second Amendment rights.  Where to the schools find these people?  Perhaps they need to concentrate of real threats like armed intruders.

Gun-mounted tactical flashlights and accidental shootings

Many modern handguns have rails and other features that allow attachment of accessories such  as small flashlights.  Police frequently use gun mounted tactical flashlights.   Case have been reported where the officer alleged that the accidentally hit the trigger instead of the on-switch for the light.  There is no reliable data on how often this occurs,  It has, however,  become an issue in many cities, including Denver.

Voting for unethical, corrupt candidates and politicians

Why do people continue to vote for obviously corrupt and unethical political candidates?  One explanation is that they rationalize (excuse, minimize) it.  Why? Because it will put more $ in their pockets (vote buying)?  Because they are emotionally attached in some fashion to the perpetrator (charismatic, cult of personality, great speaker, handsome, etc)? Because they emotionally attached to the ideology of the politician?  Of course, only politicians with these "links" to the voter get the benefit.  The linked website provides numerous example and also suggests that voters in some areas have accepted the 'culture of corruption."   Arguably another example is Alcee Hastings. "Ethics Alarms" is a great website. Check it out. 

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Welfare for the Wealthy must go!

As I have pointed out before, whenever Congress deals with the "farm bill," everyone gets to arguing about the food stamp program.  No one ever seems to get around to dealing with the millions that go to farmers.  Neither the Left nor Right seems to want to take on this special interest. Cowards all!  We obviously need to get serious about fiscal responsibility of government in this country.  I applaud the Tea Party for pushing this issue.  However, in my opinion, rather than arguing about food stamps and programs for the "poor," we first need to go after "welfare," tax breaks, etc. that benefit the wealthy.  They don't need government assistance.  These programs are even more wasteful than welfare programs.  It too bad the President and Congress lack the courage to deal with these issues. I agree with both the Tea Party and the Left on this one.

Police corruption scandal in Ireland

Police corruption is a world-wide phenomena.  Current hot-spot is Ireland.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Friday, March 21, 2014

CA: next Second Amendment Battleground

Court challenges to California's restrictions on licensed concealed carry could be the next issue to get to the U.S. Supreme Court.  Let's hope so as the Court needs to make it clear that the word "bear" in the Second Amendment means "carry."  I am not an absolutist on any constitutional right. Not everyone  (e.g., convicted felons, inmates, mentally ill, juveniles, etc) are entitled to full Second Amendment rights. (see post below on related story)

Right-wingers attack First Amendment in SC

Most of my critiques are of the Left as they generally dominate higher education, the White House and the Senate.  Here the legislature is poised to move against universities that include LGBT materials in their readings. Yes, there is left-wing ideological indoctrination going on in many classrooms, but this is not the solution. It is disgraceful that legislators would even consider this bill.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Judge who texted suggestions to prosecutors resigns

A female Texas District Court judge resigned after it was revealed that she was texting suggestions to prosecutors to help them get convictions.  Some judges are pro-defense, but the great majority are pro-prosecution, esp. in states where judges are elected.  There are some making a real effort to be neutral, but they are a minority.  I had the pleasure of clerking for a judge whom I felt was relatively neutral, so I know they exist ( his name was John E. "Jeb" Backenstoe, Lehigh County Pa.) Anyone who tells you that most judges are not pro-prosecution is not paying attention to reality.  Due process and our sense of justice is violated by such judges,  no matter which side they favor.

New website on U.S. Supreme Court oral arguments

This new website will focus on "interesting" (embarrassing, controversial, novel, etc.) moments during oral argument before the U.S. Supreme Court.  Lots of interesting stuff.

Supreme Court to rule on cell-phone 4th Amend protection

The Supreme Court will be deciding in the coming weeks on two cases involving the Fourth Amendment and cell-phone privacy. In both cases, the person was lawfully arrested and the police, without a warrant, searched the content of the phone found on the arrestee.  Under long-established precedent, this is arguably a lawful warrantless search incident to a lawful arrest.  Most lower courts have found no Fourth Amendment violation.  It could be argued that cell phones often contain so much personal information that the invasion of privacy is much greater than in the usual search incident to a lawful arrest.  Thus, the balance is shifted in favor of the individual and warrants are required.  On the other hand the cellphone contents could be a gold-mine of leads and evidence for the police (e.g. drug dealer's clients and suppliers).  I suspect the arrestees will lose.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

OT: Thought-provoking article

Although there is much I do not like about the NYT (obvious consistent bias, use of propaganda techniques, etc)., I am now a subscriber. More importantly for me,  their Sunday edition is full of intellectually stimulating and often balanced articles.  This one on millenials offers no answers, but I appreciate the recounting of the insight offered in his book "The Quest for Community."  The Times writes  ("Sunday Review" p. 12,  col. 4 Sun 3/16/14) about the apparent increase on emphasis in individualism and loss of traditional forms of "community"":
"This was the point raised in 1953 by Robert Nisbet’s “Quest for Community,” arguably the 20th century’s most important work of conservative sociology. (I wrote the introduction when it was reissued.) Trying to explain modern totalitarianism’s dark allure, Nisbet argued that it was precisely the emancipation of the individual in modernity — from clan, church and guild — that had enabled the rise of fascism and Communism."  
 Query: what ideologies and political movements serve this function today?
To see where this thought-provoking article, click the link.

Criminal Justice Reform: NY Times style

The editorial spells out the New York Times thoughts on criminal justice reform.  It highlights two bipartisan bills that could result in major changes at the federal criminal justice system. The editorial presents typical liberal approaches, but worth considering.  Isn't it interesting how it sometimes takes budget crises to get criminal justice reforms, especially in conservative states.  Sentencing reform decades ago came about because both the Left and Right supported reforms for different reasons.  That may be happening again today.  Stay tuned

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Former S.Ct. Justice Stevens still fighting against Second Amendment

Former Supreme Court Justice J. P. Stevens dissented in both the landmark Second Amendment cases, Heller and McDonald. In  a new book, Stevens argues for a constitutional amendment to limit the right to those in the militia.  Left-wing authoritarianism on display again.  "Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty."

Partial Win in NY State Gun Control case

 A federal District Court Judge upheld most of NY state's new gun laws, but struck down a provision limiting magazine capacity to 7.  (see related time below)

Indictments at big NY Law Firm

A number of lawyers at a global NY based law firm have been indicted.  It's good to see prosecutors going after white-collar crime.  We need to get serious in thus country about Wall Street and white collar crime.  This type of crime usually flies under the public radar, but the popular movie "Wolf of Wall Street," might stimulate more public conern which could result in more investigations and prosecutions.

Another Second Amendment Setback--at least temporarily

On Wed.,  Justice Kennedy denied  without explanation, a request to block enforcement of a Sunnyvale CA ordinance limiting the capacity of ammunition magazines (more than 10 rounds).

Next Big First Amendment/campaign contribution Decision.

The Court's Citizen's United  First Amendmentdecision infuriated the left and Obama.  Personally, I thought it was true to First Amendment values.  A new potential blockbuster decision could be released shortly.  The case is McCutcheon v. FEC.  The Left loves the First Amendment except when it may benefit their opponents. The ACLU's hypocorisy towards civil rights is exemplfieid by its failure to support the Amendment and the split in the organization over the  Citizen's United decision and the McCutcheon case.  The Right becomes solicitous when they see a potential advantage.  I personally find this self-righteous hypocrisy offensive.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

CBS Reporter resigns because of Employer's liberal bias

 CBS news reporter Sharyll Attkisson resigned because of the strong left-lean of her network.  This lean among all the major networks (except Fox which leans right) has been obvious for years.  When are these folks going to gain some integrity and start behaving in a more ethical fashion?  These folks are supposed to be news reporters, not propagandists.

Tuesday, March 04, 2014

Recommended Read: Tuschman's "Our Political Nature."

I can personally recommend this book, which is subtitled "The Evolutionary Origins of What Divides Us."  The author is an evolutionary anthropologist.  If you are interested in ideology, politics, political polarization, personality and political attitudes, evolution and attitudes/personality, etc.,  this is a book for you.  There are lots of current examples and the book helps make sense of them.  The author is not a biological determinist and also shows how other factors are influential.  However, the author misses some important points about authoritarianism and generally fails to deal with left-wing authoritarianism.  However, there's no need for me to reinvent the wheel, read this review from the Economist.

The exclusionary rule in danger

This author argues that the federal constitutional exclusionary rule has been badly weakened and even its existence may be in jeopardy.  Conservatives on the Court, often joined by Kennedy, have been slowly gutting it for years.  We badly need the rule.  I agree with the Court's liberals on this one.

Great aticle on "democracy."

“The Economist” is one of my favorite publications.  It’s relatively price, but well worth it if you want to get beyond the simple-mindedness of most of the media.  It’s generally ideologically balanced and usually doesn’t worry about political correctness.  The March 1, 2014 issue (pp. 47-53) on the problems of democracy world-wide is outstanding.  Some excerpts follow:

Democracy is going through a difficult time. Where autocrats have been driven out of office, their opponents have mostly failed to create viable democratic regimes. Even in established democracies, flaws in the system have become worryingly visible and disillusion with politics is rife.  . . .“Freedom House reckons that 2013 was the eighth consecutive year in which global freedom declined, and that its forward march peaked around the beginning of the century.”

 “All over the world, including the U.S., the “biggest challenge to democracy, however, comes neither from above nor below but from within—from the voters themselves.  . . .  Democratic governments got into the habit of running big structural deficits as a matter of course, borrowing to give voters what they wanted in the short term, while neglecting long-term investment. France and Italy have not balanced their budgets for more than 30 years. The financial crisis starkly exposed the unsustainability of such debt-financed democracy.”

 The “most striking thing about the founders of modern democracy such as James Madison and John Stuart Mill is how hard-headed they were. They regarded democracy as a powerful but imperfect mechanism: something that needed to be designed carefully, in order to harness human creativity but also to check human perversity, and then kept in good working order, constantly oiled, adjusted and worked upon.”

”The power of the state needs to be checked, for instance, and individual rights such as freedom of speech and freedom to organise must be guaranteed. The most successful new democracies have all worked in large part because they avoided the temptation of majoritarianism—the notion that winning an election entitles the majority to do whatever it pleases.”

“But reformers need to be much more ambitious. The best way to constrain the power of special interests is to limit the number of goodies that the state can hand out. And the best way to address popular disillusion towards politicians is to reduce the number of promises they can make. The key to a healthier democracy, in short, is a narrower state—an idea that dates back to the American revolution. “In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men”, Madison argued, “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.” The notion of limited government was also integral to the relaunch of democracy after the second world war.”

Sunday, March 02, 2014

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

New U.S. Supreme Court 4th Amend decision:

According to " Fernandez v. California, No. 12-7822
The rule of Georgia v. Randolph, 547 U. S. 103 (2006), that the consent of one occupant to a search is insufficient when another occupant is present and objects to the search, does not extend to the very different situation in this case, where consent was provided by an abused woman well after her partner, the defendant, had been removed from the apartment they shared."

I have mixed feelings on this one.  However, I disagree. I think the missing partner still has a reasonable expectation of privacy to the same extent as the occupant in Ga. v. Randolph.

Monday, February 24, 2014