Thursday, August 21, 2014

U.S. District Court rules that AR-15's not protected by Second Amendment

Another bad 2nd Amend. decision   This is another aspect of the Second Amendment that needs to be clarified ASAP by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

How long is too long for a traffic stop?

When does a legitimate traffic stop become an unlawful detention/arrest?  Great article from Findlaw.

TX Gov Rick Perry Indicted; case is legally and factually unsupportable--a politcal move

I am not a fan of Texas governor Rick Perry.  It is hard to imagine any scenario where I would vote for him for President.  However, the indictment handed down against him by a grand jury in one of Texas' few liberal-dominated cities, Austin, is a travesty, and symptomatic of a serious lack of integrity.
The theory behind the indictment is as follows:

"A Travis County grand jury on Friday charged Perry with two felony counts, abuse of official capacity and coercion of a public servant, after he vetoed funding for a county office that investigates public corruption

"The case stems from Perry's erasing [line-item vetoing] $7.5 million in state funding last year for the Travis County Public Integrity Unit. He did so after District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg, a Democrat, [who heads the unit] rejected his calls to resign after her drunken driving conviction. . ..

The dispute between Perry and Lehmberg is at the center of the grand jury investigation. In April 2013, Lehmberg was arrested on a charge of drunken driving and the videotape of her belligerent conduct while being booked into the jail was made public.
Tests showed her blood-alcohol level was nearly three times the legal limit. A blood-alcohol content that is twice the legal limit — 0.15 or above — is a Class A misdemeanor, subject to a maximum sentence of a year in jail and a $4,000 fine.
Perry made it clear in public statements and through emissaries that he didn’t believe the state should fund an office headed by someone who had lost the public’s trust.
At the time, the Public Integrity Unit, which investigates and prosecutes public corruption and malfeasance, was examining one of Perry’s signature projects — the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas.
If she had resigned, Perry would have appointed her replacement.
By the time of the veto, Lehmberg had pleaded guilty to DWI, fulfilled her 45-day sentence and completed a treatment program. She refused to quit but said she would retire after she completed her term.
Perry’s office continued to negotiate with her after the veto, pledging to restore money to the unit if she stepped down.
The allegations of criminal wrongdoing were first filed by Craig McDonald, director of the nonprofit campaign watchdog group Texans for Public Justice.
McDonald has maintained that using veto threats to try to make another elected official leave was gross abuse of office.
“The grand jury decided that Perry’s bullying crossed the line into lawbreaking,” he said Friday. “Any governor under felony indictment ought to consider stepping aside.”

The governor has authority under the Texas Constitution to use such a veto.  His motives do not appear to be laudable. Arguably he was attempting to squelch an investigation of possible corruption.  On the other hand, shouldn't Lehmberg have resigned?  I think so. 
Many would say that this appears to be  Texas hard-ball politics as usual.  However, ethically questionable moves and hardball politics are not crimes when the "perp" has authority under the state constitution to do what he did.   If they were, most politicians would be in jail. Perry did everything in the open.  Nothing was hidden. No money changed hands. 
 But if we were looking at motives, what were the grand jury's and prosecutor's motives?  As stated by one supporter of the indictment, the governor should step aside. Texas is in the midst of a hardball campaign for governor.  Perry is not running again, but this indictment helps smear the Texas Republican Party.  This indictment is a serious problem if Perry decides to run for President again.  I do not approve of Perry's tactics, but I also do not approve of this sham prosecution.

Did the corruption investigation end? No,  Travis county's Democratic-dominated came up with $ 1.8 million to continue the investigation.

Two wrongs (Perry's and the grand jury's) do not make a right.  The legal basis for this indictment is untenable.  The Dallas  Morning News naively opined that the indictment must be good because a group of citizens approved it.  People familiar with how the system really works know that prosecutors control the grand jury and can get just about anything they want out of the grand jury they essentially control.  Too many grand jurors just want to get home ASAP and rubber-stamp whatever the prosecutor wants. 

The Travis County corruption unit has gone after two prominent Republicans before.  Former  Republican Senator Kay Bailey Hutchinson was acquitted. Former Republican former Congressman Tom DeLay was indicted and convicted but his case is still on appeal. Don't get me wrong, we need more indictments of politicians.  Republican domination at all levels of state government in Texas  is not a healthy situation. Corruption is rampant as it is in most states.  However, we need winnable prosecutions, not political grandstanding.   Political polarization is corrupting American politics and legal proceedings  to ever greater depths.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

No leniency for white collar offenders!

A number of people are calling for more lenient sentences for white-collar offenders after penalties for non-violent drug-offenders were eased.  Irrespective of the merits of that move, white-collar offenders are currently under-prosecuted and under-punished.  Unlike most drug offenders,   they often have the best defense attorneys money can buy and resources for investigation.  They can use this to squeeze sweet-heat deals out of many prosecutors. There is nothing wrong with defendants doing this, but we need more deterrence of white-collar, banking and Wall Street crime, not less.  Finally most white-collar offenders serve their time in "country-club" and minimum security prisons.  Most drug offenders are not given that advantage.  That policy makes sense in some cases, but weakens the deterrent effect on white-collar offenders.

Federal judge arrested, loses docket


According to the NYT:
"A federal judge who was arrested after he was accused on Saturday of assaulting his wife will not be assigned any new cases for now. The United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, in a statement posted on its website on Wednesday, also said that cases already on the docket of the judge, Mark E. Fuller, would be moved before other judges. Judge Fuller, of the Federal District Court for the Middle District of Alabama, was charged with battery after the police were called to a luxury hotel in Atlanta." As you might imagine/hope arrests of federal judges are extremely rare.

Dumbing down higher ed


Dumbing down American higher education from expensive, elite schools, to those on the bottom of the scale fosters educational fraud and limits human potential and growth.  Excerpts from  a great article by Catherine Campbell about why grade inflation abounds.

"The most convincing theory comes from Stuart Rojstaczer, a retired Duke geophysicist who has collected oodles of grading data. He blames the “emergence of a consumer-based culture in higher education.” As students are forced to pay more and more for a degree, they feel more entitled to high grades. They then pressure professors to weaken standards. Supporting this thesis is the fact that GPAs tend to be more inflated at private schools, where tuition is higher, even after controlling for selectivity.
Sites such as ratemyprofessors.com may also play a role, as easier grading tends to encourage better student feedback. Adjuncts in particular need favorable student evaluations to get rehired.
Plus, academic departments have learned that lenient grading can attract more majors, and thereby earn them more faculty hiring slots.
In other words, A’s have become a more valuable currency in higher ed, even as, paradoxically, their value on a transcript has been inflated away."

Gridlock or democracy and separation of powers?

Americans who are used to the feds creating a program to solve every problem and put extra cash in their pockets complain about gridlock. Some gridlock can be harmful, wasteful and insensitive to humanitarian values.  Others argue that it's sometimes the inevitable result of our constitutional structure.   Law Professor Eric Posner's dangerous drivel is symptomatic of the lack of concern for our constitutional system.

Great quote about rioting and looting; Mo. guv declares state of emergency in Ferguson

"National NAACP President Cornell William Brooks implored residents to “turn your anger into action” while condemning the violent response to Brown’s death.
“To sneak around under the cover of darkness, to steal, to loot, to burn down your neighborhood — this does not require courage,” he said. “Courage is when you strive for justice.”
“Martin Luther King did not live and die so that we may steal and lie in the middle of the night,” he added."

Meanwhile, Missouri's governor declared a state of emergency in Ferguson and ordered a curfew. 

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

More violent protests over police killing of unarmed black youth

Things have still not cooled down in Ferguson MO where protests over the police slaying of an unarmed black youth have turned violent.  The FBI is investigating the death.  Let's hope this isn't a spark that will ignite more massive and widespread violence. 

Monday, August 11, 2014

Kelling defends "broken windows" policing

Along with the late James Q. Wilson, George L. Kelling is one of the authors of the broken windows theory of crime and policing.  Kelling defends the theory in this article (excerpts below).

"Today, controversy over their metaphorical “broken windows” theory is reverberating again after Eric Garner, a Staten Island man, died of a chokehold last month while being taken into custody for illegally selling cigarettes.
Critics denounce the theory as neoconservative pablum resulting in overpolicing and mass incarceration for relatively minor offenses that disproportionately target poor, black and Hispanic people. Moreover, they say it was not derived from scientific evidence and its connection to the city’s drastic decline in major crime remains unproven."
 
Part of Kelling's response:
 
"While he was aware of how loitering laws were used to contain and exploit blacks in the South, he said it was only logical that with black and Hispanic New Yorkers suffering the highest rates of victimization and fear of crime, targeting high-crime areas would produce a disproportionate share of black and Hispanic arrests.
“It’s not the police’s fault,” he said. “It’s not whites that are terrorizing those neighborhoods; it’s African Americans.”
And broken-windows policing produces another benefit beyond reducing crime, Professor Kelling added: “In an urbanized society, in a world of strangers, civility and orderliness is an end in itself.”

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Finally coming to grips with the rip-offs of college athletes

Big time college sports is a billion dollar money maker for universities.  Head coaches get ridiculously high multi-million dollar yearly salaries.  Athletes were forced to sign away their right to use of their images.  Although they helped generate millions of dollars, the schools and NCAA made them settle for scholarships. The were exploited shamelessly. They were entitled to scholarships and a lot more. In an all-too-familiar sceniario, The courts  have had to step in to start righting this wrong.  In addition to a ruling that they were entitled to be paid for their images and another that athletes at Northwestern must be allowed to unionize, the NCAA has changed some of its rules. Appeals are likely to delay the process and, as usual, justice delayed is justice denied.

Rethinking abortion rights?

As a cautions libertarian I have supported a broad right to abortion.  However, there are libertarians who on both sides of the issue. Ayn Rand declared fetuses have no rights.  Ron Paul declared that the movements bedrock "nonaggression" principle applies to fetuses.  The theory is that fetuses are human beings and have natural law and human rights.  They are, after all, humans who have not yet been born.  They deserve to be protected.  The Supreme Court has said that are not "people" or "persons" for the purpose of constitutional rights. Fetuses seem to meet this definition.  However, because abortion was not an issue for the Founding Fathers and those who ratified the Constitution and Bill of Rights, we cannot be sure what they would have said on the issue.  I'm still not sure where I come out on this issue.  I have always been favorably disposed to the under-dog and the powerless. Fetuses seem to meet this definition. What do you think?

Libertarian politics and philosophy

Great article on libertarian philosophy and politics.  I doubt that libertarians will ever be able to form a unified, cohesive effective political party.  Many Unitarians are, by nature, distrustful of authority (including that of political parties), and are too divided amongst themselves on hot button issues (e.g. abortion rights, legalizing drugs, etc.).  Like the Tea Party, they are  a thorn in the side of Republicans.

Obama admits he blew it with Libya; We neeed to interene against ISIS?

Accprding to the NYT:
"Mr. Obama offered his justifications for his latest use of military force in Iraq while lamenting the outcome of a similar decision he made to intervene militarily in Libya in 2011. He defended the desire to help oust the Libyan dictator, Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi, with American air power, but he acknowledged that he had “underestimated” the chaos that would follow after American forces left."

Presidents have made bad choices over the years. Intervening on false premises, not anticipating the likely negative outcomes, and being slow to react when there was real justification.  A good case can be make for more massive U.S. intervention against ISIS.  This is a bloody-thirsty genocidal group that anyone with a humanitarian lean knows has to be stopped.  Don't these massive, unjustified human rights violations need to be stopped?

Murder charges against Hinckley after death of Jim Brady?

As you may recall, Reagan's Press Secretary Jim Brady was the most seriously wounded victim of Hinckley's attempt to assassinate Pres. Reagan. Shot in the head, he never rcovered and was seriously disabled. Afther his recent death a coroner ruled  his death a homicide.  Some speculate that the government may now go afer Joohn Hinckleky with murder charges.  There are a number of serious legal and factual issues that will probably gett in the way of the pproseuction.  Stay tuned.

Friday, August 08, 2014

Fed up with corporate, Wall Street, and special interest coddling by government (edited/corrected version)

It's time to take some shots at a lot of people on the Right, conservatives, Republicans,  etc. Many people in this country, including yours truly, are getting sick and tired of coddling corporate America (e.g., G.M ignition lock travesty, ,lowering tax bills by by moving their legal address overseas,  sweetheart/crony massive cost-overrun contracts, tolerating consumer ripoffs, etc.), Wall Street (too many slaps on the wrist, not enough serious sanctions) and special interests in general.  I'm not opposed to corporations having certain constitutional rights, but, when the rights and strong legitimate interests of others are trampled, it is a travesty.  Consumers need to be protected from dangerous and addictive products and activities.  The "big tobacco scandal" of hiding the known addictive effects of tobacco, GM's ignition lock outrage,  and the Bhopal incident are examples.
.Both parties are guilty but the Republicans seem to be the most flagrant and unapologetic.  I do applaud some of the efforts that Obama has made or tried to make in this direction.
With regard to the economic inequality issue, lines need to be drawn  Some economic inequality is justifiable.  However, when government discriminates it's time to take a closer look.  One of the most obvious examples is the agricultural worker exclusion from overtime pay.  This is unjust and an obvious violation of equal protection.  However, the courts have upheld this as the Supreme Court uses minimal (pseudo) scrutiny for economic regulations when challenged under equal protection.  This is an injustice, among many  that should not be tolerated.

Ever heard of "National Day of Johns Arrests?"

Cracking down on the sex trade.

Tuesday, August 05, 2014

Treat guns just like cars? A Rebuttal

Good response to another NYT anti gun-rights article arguing for treating gun ownership, like care ownership, etc.  The biggest point is that gun ownership is specifically, constitutionally protected (Second Amendment) and there is a natural law and statutory right to self-defense.  There are no such protections for car ownership, use, etc.  Of course the constitution is irrelevant to the NYT folks.

Article on banning firearms and homicide and suicide rates

This previously published  article by Kates and Mauser, concludes that banning firearms would have little effect on murder and suicide rates. Some of you may already be familiar with it, but it's a good piece of research and review. 

Friday, August 01, 2014

Government mortgaging the future. A bill to foster transparency.

Corruption, vote-buying and reckless spending create massive, unimaginable debt levels.  However, we are only mortgaging the future and upcoming generations will pay a terrible price.  A bill introduced in Congress will help provide more transparency.  Don't count on it passing.  The folks in Congress only care about the next election.

Character, another politically incorrect factor in the inequality debate


Going back to income inequality and human capital, character plays a large, but politically incorrect role in a person's human capital  Research shows that character is important.  Racism, sexism, discrimination,   oppression, corporate-domination, etc. are the Left's favorite theories.  Character is conveniently ignored.  The Right focuses on incentives, regulatory barriers, etc.  Character is not easy for government to influence. It can help parents work on the problem.  Perhaps the educational system can help. Dumbing everything down does not help.   Making sure every competitor gets an award does not help. 

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Latest on 2nd Amend. victory in D.C.

As covered in a post below, the Second Amendment triumphed over a set of draconian and unique law regarding carrying firearms in  a recent U.S. District Court decision.  As expected, the court gave the District 90 days to come up with a constitutional licensing scheme or appeal and get another stay.  The District has not yet announced its response.  I suspect there will be an appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District. Hopefully this will eventually get to the U.S. Supreme Court.  Based on precedent, I expect the District to lose if it appeals.  However, even if it loses, do not expect it to seriously attempt to comply with the rule of law.  As they did after the Supreme invalidated some of their prior laws, and as Chicago after the Supreme Court's decision against it in McDonald, officials will thumb their nose and create a sham system that does not meet constitutional minimums.  Further court battles will be necessary.  It reminds me of southern segregationist reactions to Brown v. Bd. of Education.  It's a sad situation when elected officials, who take an oath to support and defend the Constitution put their ideology above the supreme law of the land.  This is a problem that infect public officials on both the Left and Right.


Monday, July 28, 2014

Glocks win latest round in Docs v. Glocks case


The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit upheld Florida's law prohibiting doctors from asking patients about guns when they had no relevance to the patient's medical or safety concerns.  Docs won at the District Court level. I have mixed feelings on this.  It infringes on speech, but the medical profession, esp. pediatricians, is dominated by anti-gun ideologues.  Some docs had apparently gone overboard. According to the article:

"The act had been passed by the Florida legislature following a series of complaints from patients that medical personnel were asking unwelcome questions on firearms ownership during interviews. In one case mentioned in the complaint, a health care provider falsely told a patient that disclosing firearm ownership was a Medicaid requirement. In another, a mother was separated from her children while medical staff asked the children whether the mother owned firearms."

Shame on N.H. Republicans

Shame on N.H. Republicans for trying to enact a law to disarm welfare recipients.  Looks like some folks in the state really don't buy into "Live Free or Die."

New book on the constitution and limited federal powers

This book by  Richard Epstein argues that the constitution requires a federal government of limited powers.  Haven't read it, but it looks like a good read for anyone interested in these issues and constitutional interpretation.  I'm putting it on my list for the future.

Epstein is a widely published and respected Prof. of Law at the Univ. of Chicago.  If you follow the legal literature you know the liberal/progressive/socialist view dominates among that professorate.  It amazes  we how so many intelligent and insightful legal scholars blindly mouth the liberal line with no serious analysis and critique.  Very few seem to think for themselves.  Most law schools are like most universities, indoctrination in liberal jibberish takes precedence over education and creating critical thinkers.  Epstein, like Alan Dershowitz is a welcome relief from the typical drivel one gets from most of these folks.

Another Western foreign powers SNAFU emerging in Libya.

According to the New York Times:

"American officials said the evacuation [of the U.S. embassy, in Libya, under protective  American air-cover] was a temporary measure after fighting drew too close to the embassy. But, coming so soon after the withdrawal of other diplomatic missions, including the United Nations, the moment appeared to signal a defeat — for Libyans who had convinced themselves that the country would band together to save the revolution, and for the country’s Western allies, who sometimes acted as if Libya’s stability would take care of itself. ...
 
Three years ago, the United States and its NATO allies used air power to propel the Libyan rebels to a sweeping victory over Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi, bombing government troops so that rebels could advance on cities, and even the colonel himself, when he tried to flee.
But after the revolt, as Libya’s government struggled and violence spread, the Obama administration and its allies failed in their efforts to help Libyans achieve either democracy or security. Now, with diplomats escaping and neighborhoods becoming battlefields, Libyans have been left to wonder whether there is anyone left to broker the endless fights.
The country is coming undone."

Didn't anyone in the U.S. or NATO learn anything from Vietnam Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, ISIS, etc., etc. etc., that a Western power or powers cannot just intervene and then stable democracies will just somehow magically appear.  The promise of "Arab Spring" has largely disappeared and chaos and death haunt much of the Middle East.  I'm not saying that anyone can "fix" any of these national and regional problems, I'm just saying at least, let's try not to do things which make things worse.  Yes, Qadaffi was a brutal dictator who squelched any attempts at bureaucracy, but at least he kept the chaos at a minimum.  The same can be said for Assad in Syria and Hussein in Iraq. (Afghanistan has always been, and will always be, no matter who is in charge, a basket case).  Idealists and ideologues often live in a dream world.  Unfortunately, for two many leaders and Western nations, when you have a big hammer, every problem looks like a nail.  Who were the idiots who gave Obama the Nobel Peace Prize even before he took office?  Yes, Bush's invasion of Iraq was inexcusable, and Obama seems to suffer from the same "affliction of the powerful."  We need to adopt more of the libertarian skepticism about military intervention. Sometimes it is necessary, but someone has to make sure the situation doesn't become worse for the people the government says it is trying to help.  Although he still has two more years to go, right now, I give him an "F" on foreign policy (e.g. threatening to use missiles against Syria and then backing down).  Like I said, many of the problems are unfixable, but at least let's not make things worse.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

A productive approach to income inequality.

Developing and enhancing the human capital of America's less fortunate is the best way to deal with the problem of income inequality.  Some excerpts from this insightful article by Victoria Stilwell.
What is human capital? An individual’s labor power, skills, training and abilities."  Low income families and children have less access to the opportunities that develop human capital.  Differences in cognitive development begin emerging early in life. 
'Equalizing the distribution of human capital through improving literacy and developing math and cognitive skills offers a more immediate way to chip away at, though not solve, wealth inequality, Robert Solow, a 1987 Nobel laureate and a professor emeritus in economics at [MIT]. said in an interview.
“It would be a good thing, but a very difficult thing, to make the distribution of wealth and capital more equal,” Solow also said at a panel . . . in April that included Piketty. Conversely, smoothing the distribution of human capital is “a very valuable thing, and it is definitely worth doing. Thomas, God help him, doesn’t talk much about human capital. The book would not be carry-able if he did,” Solow said, referring to Piketty’s 700-page tome."

We do some of this already, but we need to do more.  The nation will become more prosperous and inequality will decline.  It will not be eliminated and never will be.

What is missing from the discussion is the politically incorrect analysis of effect of subcultural factors in various groups that interfere with the development of human capital.  Examples are, in general, illegitimacy,  single-parent families, and too many children.  One controversial theory about an alleged  problem in the black community involves  the pejorative "Acting White."

More on the late Hugo Chavez

For many, socialist Hugo Chavez was a saint.  More likely, he was an ideologue, authoritarian and a threat to his own nation's economy.  The Economist writes:
"IN 2003 Venezuela’s then president, Hugo Chávez, fired more than 18,000 employees, almost half the workforce, of the state-run oil corporation, Petróleos de Venezuela (PDVSA). Their offence was to have taken part in a strike (pictured) called in protest at the politicisation of the company. Their punishment was to be barred from jobs not only in PDVSA itself but also in any company doing business with the oil firm. The axe fell heavily on managers and technicians: around 80% of the staff at Intevep, PDVSA’s research arm, are thought to have joined the strike. At the stroke of a pen, Venezuela lost its oil intelligentsia.
It was a blow from which PDVSA has never recovered."  Don't let anyone tell you there is no such thing as a left-wing authoritarian.

Geat quote about communism and capitalism

Great quote from "The Economist."
“Under capitalism”, ran the old Soviet-era joke, “man exploits man. Under communism it is just the opposite.”

A social and economic utopia is a pipe dream.  The real question is how do we structure economic and political systems to minimize all kinds of exploitation?  Overall, the American system of regulated capitalism, constitutional government, and an independent judiciary to enforce the constitution,  and a certain amount of "welfare state" is the best way to go.  Yes, we have lots of faults, but for a large, populous country, I think we are the best model.