Saturday, December 27, 2014

Outrageous "affluenza" defense sentencing!

The Ethan Couch case is a serious case of injustice benefitting a defendant.  The 16-year old got a slap on the wrist sentence after he killed 4 people while DWI.  The 'affluenza" defense is not a recognized defense, but it worked at sentencing.  Thanks God for Lucas MConnell and others who refused to accept a generous financial settlement and will try to get justice on the civil side.

Interesting article on self-defense under state and natural law theories

Law Review article by Eugene Volkh.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Open Carry advocate nominated for "Texas of the Year" award.

C.J. Grisham is on a mission to reform Texas laws which ban open-carry of handguns.  He founded "Open Carry Texas" (OCT).  I bet many you don't live in Texas, are surprised this ban exists as TX is usually strongly pro-gun rights.  He has been nominated by the usually anti-gun rights Dallas Morning News. Most states allow open carry of rifles and shotguns.  It appears that even majority of states allow open civilian carry of hanguns in some form.  Keep up the good work C.J.!

OT: The Christmas Day Truce, 1914

I can't let Christmas day and the closing of 2014, the centennial of the beginning of  "the war to end all wars," to pass without some comments.  On Christmas Day 1914, a spontaneous, temporary, truce broke out on the Western Front.  A triumph of the human spirit over the blood lust and horror of war.  Of course, it was only a one-day triumph.  The brass and politicians on both sides were livid.  Of course, they weren't the ones being used as cannon fodder.  To paraphrase a quote I vaguely recall, wars are started by old men while young men make the sacrifices

P.S.  Merry Christmas & Happy Holidays.

The "Gay Wedding Cake Wars," Equality v. Freeom and Religious Freedom.

Don't let anyone kid you, no system can maximize both the values of both equality and freedom.  Personally, I believe freedom should trump equality.  Freedom will disappear under the push for equality.  The "Gay Wedding Cake wars" (small bakery owner refuses to make wedding cakes for gay couples, state civil rights commission threatens to punish owner) are an example of  both culture wars and legal wars.   I am having trouble deciding this one.  If the decision is purely a personal one, e.g. who to have a child with, freedom must triumph even if racism is behind the decision.  Fortunately, we still believe in this country, that not everything is within the power of the government.  However, when one starts a business, new dimensions enter.  On the other hand, if one's faith "informs" their business, and it is not a publicly traded business, but a personal or family business, this is both a personal and business decision.  This is a close case.  I would have to with freedom of the business person here.   As stated above an obsession with equality destroys freedom. Without a healthy dose of freedom the idea of a representative democracy/republic becomes meaningless.

Monday, December 22, 2014

2 NYPD officers murdered

In apparent retaliation for police killings of unarmed blacks, two NYPD officers were shot while sitting in their vehicle.  This is outrageous and unacceptable, no matter what the grievances.  Ironically, the two officers killed were minorities.  RIP Ramos and Liu.  Protest leaders and families of the black victims have spoken out against revenge.  However this has not stopped some people from putting spin on tragedies for partisan advantage. (I am reminded of the calls for gun controls, which will not work, after every tragic gun killing.)  Here is one of the worst:

"In the raw hours following the killing of the officers, police union officials and politicians accused those who have protested the deaths of Garner and Brown of fanning anti-police fervor. Patrick Lynch, president of the Patrolman's Benevolent Association in New York, said there was "blood on the hands" of demonstrators and elected officials who have criticized police tactics."

Protesters worry that these murders of police will distract the public and derail reform movements.  Let's hope this doesn't happen.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Traffic Stops and mistakes of law, comment on; Heien v N.C.

We can't expect officers to know every detail of every relevant criminal and related statutes.  However, where and how to draw to draw the line between acceptable/excusable mistakes, on the one hand, an inexcusable or feigned ignorance on the other, is a slippery task. See this article for background and additional points.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Celebrate Bill of Rights Day

Dec. 15 is Bill of Rights Day!  This part of the U.S. Constitution is one of the reasons we live in the freest society on the face of the earth.  Support ALL these rights, even if they seem "politically incorrect" or don't affect you directly.  Remember the famous  words of German pastor Martin Niemoller:

When the Nazis came for the communists,
I remained silent;
I was not a communist.

When they locked up the social democrats,
I remained silent;
I was not a social democrat.

When they came for the trade unionists,
I did not speak out;
I was not a trade unionist.

When they came for the Jews,
I remained silent;
I wasn't a Jew.

When they came for me,
there was no one left to speak out.

Open Carry of Handguns Coming up for Texas?

Open carry of handguns is allowed in the great majority of states.  Texas, surprisingly to many who view it as the worst example of the gun crazy wild-west, doesn't allow it.  However, it is likely to authorize it next legislative session. Texans have been very active lobbying for the change.  Perhaps the leading organization is "Open Carry Texas." Check out their website.  It's not only "gun nuts" who are supporting it.  Many libertarians, even those who don't own a gun are supporters.   There is no credible evidence at increases in open or concealed carry result in more gun crime.  In fact, both gun crime and violent crime rates have been going down for years. Yet, authoritarians on the Left often get squeamish when they see people exercising politically incorrect constitutional or statutory rights. For more on open carry see Wikipedia.

Dire predictions following U.S. S.Ct's Citizens United decision not borne out

Every time the U.S. Supreme Court expands constitutional rights someone in the country is unhappy.  The Far Right is still fuming over Roe v. Wade.  The Left is still fuming over the Second Amendent decisions.  No matter who is moaning and groaning, they always predict dire consequences flowing form the expansion of rights.  Citizens United elicited much moaning, groaning and gnashing of teeth.  There were hysterical predictions of more corruption in politics (as if that were possible) and the wealthy and corporations buying elections.  However, we know that the biggest spender does not always win, and corporations don't always get their man.  This article from the Left-leaning New York Times also suggests that the dire consequences have not and probably will not emerge. It states, in part,

“Dire warnings rang out that the decision [Citizens United] would herald a new era in politics,” wrote Adam Bonica, a Stanford University political scientist, in a 2013 paper about the effects of Citizens United. “Three years on, there is little evidence that these predictions have come to pass.” Over the past year, Americans spent more on almonds than on selecting their representatives in Congress." 

OT: Heart wrenching story of 4 year old African orphan

I don't often post links to this kind of story, but this one is a heart-wrencher.  However, there may at least be something positive on the horizon for this 4-year old African orphan girl.  Be sure to read the whole article.  Keeps your fingers crossed for her and others like her.

Obama pulls a "Biden'

VP Joe Biden has a been a long-term gaffe machine.  For instance, a few years back he talked about how FDR got on TV to reassure the American people.  Obama pulls on by quoting a non-existent Bible verse.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Houston DA to provide $2 million for body cameras for cops

Harris County (Houston) DA to spend nearly $2 million to buy body cameras for area cops.  It's easy to find the negatives in the criminal justice system, it's nice to have something positive to report for a change.  Hope spring eternal!

Friday, December 12, 2014

Two more relatively unknown heroes of the American Revolution, Burgin and Higday

The "Secret Six" book reviewed below briefly mentions Elizabeth Burgin and George Higday.  Two more heroes of the American Revolution who deserve a book about their contributions to the war effort  (if there isn't one already).
Elizabeth Burgin, may have been the female spy of the "Secret Six."
George Higday, another spy, who also assisted Burgin in helping free British captives from British prison ships in NY harbor.

Recommended Read: "George Washington's Secret Six: The Spy Ring that Saved the Secret Six"

Other than Nathan Hale, most American's know little or nothing about how a small group of spies helped win the Revolutionary War.  This is a short book that everyone interested in the American Revolution should read. One of the six was a woman.

Recommended Read: Negroes and the Gun: The Black Traditon of Arms

If you are interested in an excellent historical study and a look into the 2 black perspectives on guns (the traditional self-defense model and the pro-control approach taken by much of the liberal black leadership) this is your book.  Excellent material  about gun control politics and blacks and the problems with gun control.

Highly recommended read.

"Leap into Darkness:  Seven Years on the Run in Wartime Europe" by Leo Bertholz, is the touching and harrowing story of a Jewish man from Vienna who is trying to escape the Holocaust.  If you love liberty you will love this one and it will bring tears to your eyes.  If you liked "The Diary of Ann Frank," you may like this one even more. It is relatively short and hard to put down. I'm surprised this hasn't been made into a movie yet as was "The Defiant," a somewhat similar topic, and a great movie.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

"Shoot to Wound?"

Many people wonder why officers don't "shoot to wound."  I've never seen or heard of police being trained onthis strategy.  In a stressful, fast-moving situation, it is argued, and perhaps rightly so, that it is not really feasible and may put the officer's life in danger.  It takes an extremely serious gunshot wound to immediately incapacitate a suspect.  Even a shot in the heart will not immediately incapacitate.  See this article on the topic.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Protests over police killing of unarmed black males spreads: "Movement or Moment?"

The protests over the Ferguson MO and NYPD Garner killings are continuing in Ferguson and New York and other places, and spreading to more cities, even conservative Salt Lake City Utah. More whites and older people are getting involved.  Many of the protesters are novices.  Every city has its questionable uses of force by police, many of them relatively recent (e.g. Cleveland, Albuquerque).  The crucial question is will the protests become a movement and result in real change?  "Is this a movement or just a moment?" said Marshall Ganz who participated in the 1964 civil rights movement in Mississippi.  One of the things that led to victories for the Civil Rights movement in the 1960's was increased involvement by whites and celebrities.  Whites viewing abuse by police in Selam AL and elsewhere  helped get more support.  The video from the Garner killing has caused widespread outrage, even among conservatives. Let's hope the similarities to the 1960's successes result in successes now.  Let's also hope it doesn't take widespread rioting, fires etc. as occurred in the 1960's for Americans to start asking questions.  Let's hope it becomes a real movement that results in real change. 

After the "Rodney King" riots, there were a lot of reform efforts and studies.  After awhile, things returned to the same old unsatisfactory status quo.  We need REAL reform and commitment from the various levels of government.

A movement needs a name for media, group and personal purposes.  A number of names have emerged. Among them are "Black Lives Matter" and "Hands up, Don't Shoot."  Hopefully, a common, unifying name will emerge.  Personally  I like BLM.

I don't know how we can insure the movement continues and has fruitful results. Perhaps, the feds need to start a national dialogue with a National or Presidential commission on the problem. The closest example is probably Pres. Johnson's National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders, established in 1967.  It pointed out the problem of excessive use of force by police. The entire problem and possible solutions can be aired and reports made. However, this cannot be just an attempt to buy time. An alternative is a full scale Congressional investigation and report.  Any suggestions?
 We cannot afford to waste this opportunity!

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Don't forget about DNA exonerees

Another issue we must never lose sight of is making sure that the truly innocent are exonerated, released and compensated.  See the latest data here.  There may be a few truly guilty people who for a variety of reasons are exonerated by DNA evidence.  However, there is no data on this.  I suspect the number of cases in this category is miniscule. This is the Innocence Project website.  This is a very valuable resource on this issue.

NRA Guide to Interstate Transportation of Firearms

Good resource for travelling gun owners.

How many people are lawfully killed by cops in the U.S."

Data on felons  lawfully killed by law enforcement officers by year.


Of course, this data does not show how many are killed who are not felons and  /or who were killed unlawfully by officers.  Arguably Garner was not a felon.   I cannot easily find the data on race of persons lawfully killed.  However, as it is for homicides in general, black males are greatly overrepresented. (Anyone have this data?  Please put it  or a link in a Comments)  Caveat:  Law enforcement agency practices sometimes result in under-reporting.  I suspect the “real” figures are higher.  But who knows?There does not appear to be any reliable national data on these 2 categories.  Even wonder why certain types of data are not collected or published. (see posts directly above for more on these issues)

Source: FBI

Hundreds of police killings missed by federal (FBI) stats

Federal statistics on many topics are not reliable.  See this article from the WSJ.

How dangerous are routine traffic stops?

While this research is far from definitive, it does provide something to go on.  Thanks to Prof. Joseph Olson for the link.

How dangerous is policing? More cops die in traffic accidents, Felonious killings down

We all understand that policing is dangerous and that officers must be given limited authority to use deadly force to protect themselves and others.  However, what are the casualty numbers for peace officers in the U.S.?

"According to statistics collected by the FBI, 76 law enforcement officers were killed in line-of-duty incidents in 2013. Of these, 27 law enforcement officers died as a result of felonious acts, and 49 officers died in accidents. In addition, 49,851 officers were victims of line-of-duty assaults. Comprehensive data tables about these incidents and brief narratives describing the fatal attacks and selected assaults resulting in injury are included in the 2013 edition of Law Enforcement Officers Killed and Assaulted, released today.
Felonious Deaths
The 27 felonious deaths occurred in 16 states. The number of officers killed as a result of criminal acts in 2013 decreased by 22 when compared with the 49 officers who were feloniously killed in 2012. The five- and 10-year comparisons show a decrease of 21 felonious deaths compared with the 2009 figure (48 officers) and a decrease of 30 deaths compared with 2004 data (57 officers)."

Stephen Halbrook on gun control and self-defense

One of the nation's leading scholars and attorneys on the Second Amendment and gun control weighs in.

Monday, December 08, 2014

Time for action on unjustified police homicides is NOW

Like many of you, I was willing to give the officer in the Ferguson case the benefit of the doubt.  It is more difficult to give it to officers in the NYPD Garner case.  The failure to indict the officers in the Garner case is highly questionable and has only fueled the fires and increased the need for action.  When an overweight suspect in a cigarette tax case who refuses to cooperate and says he “can’t breathe” it’s time to ease up.  I'm not presuming the officers committed a crime.  Obviously, it was not a murder, the more appropriate charge would be a reckless or criminally negligent homicide.  I don't know what other evidence the grand jury heard, maybe they are right.  However the effect on the public was devastating for police and the criminal justice system.  Legitimacy is crucial in democracies.  The government needs to take action, NOW.  Unfortunately, about the only time things get done by politicians is when, rightly or wrongly, there is massive public doubt and disruption.  Right now is a chance for meaningful reform.  The media, politicians and public have short attention spans.  We are talking about human life, public attitudes toward the police and system and, as mentioned above, the legitimacy so crucial to successful democracies. 
For an excellent short article on the Ferguson and Garner cases see Chavez.  She writes:

“The two cases are worlds apart in terms of the actions of the men who died and the officers who caused their deaths. Unfortunately, on both sides of the argument, proponents seem all too ready to adopt a narrative that fits their politics rather than examining the facts.

In Ferguson, the race hustlers and their enablers, from Al Sharpton to Eric Holder, turned an unfortunate confrontation that ended in the death of a black man into a cause celebre. Racism did not cause Brown’s death. Nor was he the victim of a police execution, as thousands of protesters try to convince us with their “hands up, don’t shoot” mantra.

What happened on the streets of Staten Island between Eric Garner and a group of police officers looks nothing like what happened in Ferguson. Moreover, we know what happened far more clearly because a bystander filmed much of the confrontation. Those images make the grand jury’s decision far less understandable. For all of the criticism of St. Louis County Prosecutor Robert McCulloch’s decision to release the transcripts and evidence from the grand jury, at least we have some idea of what led to the decision not to indict. In the New York case, we don’t have a clue.

What the video shows is a large black man arguing with police officers who are about to arrest him for the alleged resale of individual cigarettes. He is frustrated, angry even.

He accuses the officers of harassing him — he was arrested in an earlier incident on the same charge, the pettiest of offenses, a crime with no victims. But Garner is not a threat, although he resists arrest when a group of officers surround him, telling them not to touch him as he moves backward, not toward the police.

The video clearly shows Officer Daniel Pantaleo grabbing Garner from behind, with the officer’s forearm pressed against Garner’s neck, and wrestling him to the ground, the forearm against Garner’s throat the whole time. I doubt that Pantaleo intended to kill Eric Garner, but that does not mean Pantaleo was blameless. The audio also demonstrates that Garner pleaded with what were by then several officers who held him on the ground, including one who pressed Garner’s skull into the sidewalk. “I can’t breathe,” the asthmatic Garner begs over and over as a bevy of officers hold him down.

Police have difficult, dangerous jobs in which split-second decisions can have deadly consequences. But Eric Garner was no Michael Brown, and the officers who held down Garner — including, but not limited to, Daniel Pantaleo — had no reason to fear for their lives as Darren Wilson did.

To pretend that police never overreact or use excessive force is as wrong as to claim racism is usually to blame when a police officer kills a black or Latino suspect. Neither serves the public good."

 Massive protests, occasional violence, media coverage and public frustration are creating an atmosphere where momentum is building for change.  It is long overdue. Pres. Obama has called for millions of new federal dollars for local police training, increased use of police-community relations, body cameras, etc.  This is long overdue as the feds have been giving military vehicles and weaponry to local police departments for free.  Much of this equipment seems more appropriate for Iraq and Afghanistan than for America.  The influx of this equipment may have only exacerbated pre-existing problems which foster excessive use of force.  Body cameras are not a magic bullet, and increased “training” is the traditional, standard government response to questionable use of force by police.  I applaud these efforts, but it’s going to take much more than just federal dollars for these “fixes,” to have an appreciable effect.  I have taught in police academies, talked with officers, taught graduate and undergraduate courses of police corruption and “use of force.” The basic, underlying problems are deeper and more complex.  In many police agencies, there is a pervasive subculture that encourages and tolerates corruption and excessive uses of force.  Civil service rules, the “code of silence” and police unions make it extremely difficult to discipline and discharge bad cops.  Police internal discipline is often law and inconsistent.  Mayor, politicians and police executives wring their hands every time a questionable incident arises, but it’s usually only for show.  We need leaders who are willing to take the political risks of fixing a system that is clearly broken. There are very few criminal prosecutions of cops.  Prosecutors rely on the police and except in extreme cases, police cover-up for bad cops.  Juries may be too sympathetic to police.  Don’t get me wrong, policing can be extremely difficult and numerous officers die in the line of duty.  The U.S. Supreme Court has, in my opinion, too generous in establishing legal doctrines make it too difficult to obtain money damages against officer (e.g., qualified immunity) and governments/agencies.  There is little in the way of effective deterrence.  Unfortunately, there are too many Americans who tolerate police use of excessive force.  Many feel a need to come down hard on the “dangerous classes.”  There are additional problems and I don’t have an answers for all of these, but if we are going to get serious, we have to go beyond what Obama is calling for.   I am not calling for derogation of the constitutional rights of police officers of police unions. 

We don't need more racial polarization in this country. Please call or write your federal, state and local political leaders and demand that they get moving in a serious fashion on this nationwide curse that never seems to be addressed seriously.  Under the 14trh Amendment, Congress has power to legislate pursuant to the Amendment.  14th Amendment due process includes the Fourth Amendment which bans excessive use of force by police in arrest, stop and related situations.  This problem needs effective federal (nationwide) action.  The states and cities don't seem to really case.  Let’s take advantage of the momentum.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Important U.S. Supreme Court case on violent threats over the internet

The U.S. Supreme Court will shortly hear a very important case about threats over the internet.  After making numerous violent threats over the internet directed at his estranged wife.
“A jury convicted Elonis, and he spent more than three years in prison. On December 1, the Supreme Court will hear Elonis’s First Amendment challenge to his conviction — the first time the justices have considered limits for speech on social media. For decades, the court has essentially said that ‘'true threats'’ are an exception to the rule against criminalizing speech. These threats do not have to be carried out — or even be intended to be carried out — to be considered harmful. Bans against threats may be enacted, Justice Sandra Day O’Connor wrote in 2003, to protect people ‘'from the fear of violence'’ and ‘'from the disruption that fear engenders.'’ Current legal thinking is that threats do damage on their own.
Elonis, however, claims that he didn’t make a true threat, because he didn’t mean it. ‘'I would never hurt my wife,'’ he told the jury. ‘'I never intended to threaten anyone. This is for me. This is therapeutic.'’ Talking about the loss of his wife, he continued, ‘'helps me to deal with the pain.'’ He had copied the Whitest Kids U’ Know, along with the rapper Eminem, to try his hand at art and parody. Tara said she knew her husband had borrowed some of his words, but they still scared her. ‘'I felt like I was being stalked,” she said in court. ‘'I felt extremely afraid for mine and my children’s and my family’s lives.'’
The central question for the Supreme Court will be whose point of view — the speaker’s, or the listener’s — matters. The jury was instructed to convict Anthony Elonis if it was reasonable for him to see that Tara would interpret his posts as a serious expression of intent to harm her. The court could uphold the standard, or it could require that jurors be asked to convict only if they believe the speaker truly intended to threaten harm. In essence, the court will have to decide what matters more: one person’s freedom to express violent rage, or another person’s freedom to live without the burden of fear?
The legal issue is connected to a larger question: how to deal with the frequent claim that online speech is a special form of playacting, in which a threat is as unreal as an attack on an avatar in World of Warcraft. Gilberto Valle — known as the Cannibal Cop for fetish chat-room messages in which he talked of capturing, cooking and eating specific women — persuaded a judge to overturn his conviction by saying he was just expressing a dark fantasy. In the ongoing ‘'GamerGate'’ campaign, a faction of video-game enthusiasts tweeted death threats to women who had criticized misogyny in video-game culture. When a few of the women felt scared and left their homes, some gamers scoffed, dismissing the threats as ephemeral.”
For a change, I’m siding with the government on this one.  The recipient's right to be free of threats that look credible to him or her, should trump the poster’s right to “express violent rage” in a fashion that could cause the recipient to live in fear.  The internet is already out of control.  The Court needs to help impose some controls on speech that is not constitutionally protected.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

CA gun stores challenge state law banning handgun ads.

IMHO, this law violates the First Amendment.  Political correctness of any strip is a danger to First Amendment freedoms.

Another Second Amendment victory

Although the original pro-second decision was handed down in March (see post below), the procedural wait seems to be over.  There is no one left on the losers side to appeal. Hopefully the trend of overruling licensing laws which require the applicant to show a specific need will continue.  I wholeheartedly endorse this decision.
Thanks to John Hughes for the link.

Who "started" the Civil War? The debates continue.

Rather than post comments on comments by readers, I will be posting  my side of the debate on Lincoln, state's rights, role of slavery, northern aggression, etc. re the civil war. I hope the chronology below make sense. I welcome comments. The following is from Wikipedia:

"South Carolina did more to advance nullification and secession than any other Southern state. South Carolina adopted the "Declaration of the Immediate Causes Which Induce and Justify the Secession of South Carolina from the Federal Union" on December 24, 1860. It argued for states' rights for slave owners in the South, but contained a complaint about states' rights in the North in the form of opposition to the Fugitive Slave Act, claiming that Northern states were not fulfilling their federal obligations under the Constitution.

Secession winter

Before Lincoln took office, seven states had declared their secession from the Union. They established a Southern government, the Confederate States of America on February 4, 1861.[98] They took control of federal forts and other properties within their boundaries with little resistance from outgoing President James Buchanan, whose term ended on March 4, 186



:May 6 1861: The  Congress  of the secessionist Confederate States of America recognizes that a state of war exists between the CSA  and the United States of America. However, the "war" had already begun, at least as early as Jan. 1861 with numerous unauthorized acts by Secessionist.

Also from Wikipedia:
May 1861 in detail

May 1st: Confederate troops were sent to seize Harpers Ferry.


May 3rd: Lincoln called for 42,000 men to volunteer for three years service in the Federal Army. He called for 18,000 men to volunteer for the Federal Navy for three years. The head of the Federal Army, General Winfield Scott, announced his ‘Anaconda Plan’. This was a plan to attack down the length of the River Mississippi to cut in two the Confederacy. Scott envisaged two main theatres of war – the Eastern and the Western. He believed that the Union had the industrial strength to overpower the Confederacy. Scott believed that the success of the naval blockade was vital in cutting off any form of foreign help to the Confederacy. On the same day, the government in Washington DC protested about an “unofficial” meeting held between the British Foreign Minister and Southern commissioners who were attempting to get international recognition for the Confederacy.


May 6th: Jefferson Davis approved a bill from the Confederate Congress that confirmed that a state of war existed between the Confederacy and the Union. Arkansas announced that it had voted to secede from the Union. Only one out of seventy men in the state legislature voted to remain in the Union.


May 7th: Tennessee formed an alliance with the Confederacy. While this was not an official secession from the Union, it was viewed as such by both sides.


May 9th: The Union gunboat ‘Yankee’ exchanged shots with Confederate guns on Gloucester Point, Virginia. The Federal Naval Academy was moved north from Annapolis, due to the uncertain nature of Maryland’s allegiance.


May 10th: The Confederacy announced its intention to buy Ironclads from Great Britain.

Fort Sumter is viewed by many historians as the beginning of the war.  Who fired the first shots there?  Guess Who?


Was Lincoln supposed to follow Clayton Williams advice on rape: "Just lay back and enjoy it"?May 1861

Why the indictement against Rick Perry legally must be dismissed

 I am not a fan of  Texas governor Rick Perry, but as I posted a few weeks ago, the indictments should be dismissed.  For more detail see this brief filed by a group of constitutional and criminal law scholars,  (including one of my favorites, left-leaning Alan Deshowitz), most of whom are not from Texas.  As the brief states,

"Amici are an ideologically diverse coalition of experts in the fields of constitutional and criminal law—including former judges, solicitors general, prosecutors, criminal defense lawyers, constitutional litigators, and professors on both sides of the aisle. They represent virtually the entire political spectrum and have no personal or political stake in this case. They submit this brief for one simple reason: They are committed to the rule of law, and do not wish to see the law tarnished or distorted for purely partisan political purposes."   For a little less legalese, see also this piece by a well-respect California law professor.


 Also see this by a well-respected law professor from California.

Feds expand undercover operations

In recent years, a variety of federal agencies have expanded the use of undercover agents.  It's not just limited to anti-terrorism cases.  Use of such agents is nothing new and are certainly justified in many cases, but these operations always pose risks to corruption, civil rights violations, etc.  Sucn operations also often involve paid and unpaid informants who pose similar risks.  Effective supervision is one of the keys to preventing abuses.

Non-virgin females need not apply

Female police recruits  in Indonesia are physically tested to assure that they meet the requirement of virginity.  Outrageous!

Monday, November 17, 2014

We need better Inspectors Generals, Monitors, etc. to fight ripoffs of federal programs

The history of federal programs is one of unending, rip offs of huge amounts to dollars.  Here's a recent example.  I guess you could say this disgusting particular example is one  of a "rags-to-riches, "America is the land of opportunity" stories
Certainly, Congress must know that million-dollar ripoffs are SOP.  Why can't the write legislation or do something to deal with this problem.  Of course many agencies have "inspector generals."  Why can't they stop it.  First, many are political hacks who don' care.  Second, some  IG's are part of the problem.  See this example.  Although cleared of some of the charges, it's obvious his focus was not on his job.  Looks like he was too busy, among other things, of using agency resources to help he and his wife obtain graduate degrees. 

IG's cannot work unless we stop giving out these jobs are patronage for political hacks.  I don't know what the answer is, but perhaps some independent commission, composed of the high quality, knowledgeable people are of the highest quality make sure they appoint IG's with similar qualifications.

College students turning to ADHD Drugs

Unless you are from Mars, you are probably aware of the dismal state of education in the country--from pre-K through grad schools.  The latest scourge is desperate college students turning to ADHD drugs to help then get ready for tests.  Unlike this author, I blame both the students and the educational system.

Ferguson MO grand jury being very thorough.

As you might expect, the state grand jury hearing the allegations against a white officer, Darrren Wilson, who shot and killed an unarmed 18 year old African American (Michael Brown), is being nothing but thorough.  Among a couple of the main points from the NYT:
"Routinely, grand juries are virtual rubber stamps for prosecutors, approving the proposed indictments after hearing from a few witnesses and getting the bare outlines of the incriminating evidence. . .
In another highly unusual step, Officer Wilson himself testified before the grand jury in September, for four hours and, per court rules, without a defense lawyer present."   They should be announcing their decision shortly.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

TIH: Nov. 13

According to the Dallas Morning  News [blogger's comments in parens]
Supreme Court Justice Louis D. Brandeis was born in Louisville, Ky.
The Supreme Court struck down laws calling for racial segregation on public buses.
President Bill Clinton agreed to pay Paula Jones $850,000 to settle a sexual harassment lawsuit.  [some morons still view this guy as a great Pres.]
Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore was thrown off the bench by a judicial ethics panel after refusing to remove a granite Ten Commandments monument from the state courthouse.
Attorney General Eric Holder announced plans to try professed 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four others in civilian court in New York City. (The Obama administration later backed off the plan.)


Monday, November 10, 2014

Arizona voters approve anit-Fed proposition

Reflecting disapproval of federal border and immigration control and other unpopular legislation, voters in Arizona approved a state constitutional amendment that would allow the state to withhold money and staffing in carrying out any program the legislature or voters deem unconstitutional.  I understand the frustration, but ultimately, the  federal courts will decided what is unconstitutional or not.  Of course, this legislation provides the basis for litigation in each case.  It raises interesting issues of state sovereignty, nullification, federalism, etc.  See the article for more detail, background and history of similar proposals.  Obama's departure in 2016 and Republicans now taking over both Houses of Congress may eventually (and for the short term at least)  lessen use of this  state constitutional amendment.

Saturday, November 08, 2014

Washington voters expand firearms background checks.

Washington state voters approved an initiative broadly expanding background checks for firearms transfers.  My  biggest concern is that it covers transfers between private individuals, including gifts.  As usual, the law abiding, who are not the problem, will comply.  Those who are the problem will not.  Too much of the gun-control movement is emotional knee-jerking. A more pro-gun owner amendment was defeated.   Most states and cities have expanded gun rights.   It looks like our national schizophrenia about the Second Amendment and gun ownership is alive and well.

Latest from Ferguson, Mo. Police on high alert

Thus far, the feds have indicated that there is not enough evidence to bring federal charges against the officer involved.  Protests continue and law enforcement is preparing for the possibility of new riots if the officer is not indicted. 

"Dark Side" of the Web raided

Until a few months ago, I did  not know the "Dark Side,"( where illegal goods and services are sold on sites that hide  their IP address)  existed.  Read the full story of the international law enforcement effort from the NYT.

Supreme Court to hear new challenge to Obamacare

The Supreme Court accepted a case on "Obamacare" for it's new term which just began last month.  This is not a constitutional case, but one of statutory interpretation.  However, if the government loses there will need to be a quick amendment in the law to fix the problem.  With Repubs dominating both houses of Congress that may or may not happen.  I opposed Obamacare on constitutional grounds.  I can live with it on policy grounds now that it is underway and billions have been spent and citizens have started to rely on it.  I only wish the states had formed compacts or their own programs.  The case is a close one, but I think the proper legal result on statutory interpretation grounds is a victory for the government.  Traditionally, the Supreme Court has felt free to take more liberties with interpreting statutes than lower courts might.  According to the NYT (see link)

"The central question in the case, King v. Burwell, No. 14-114, is what to make of a provision in the law limiting subsidies to “an exchange established by the state.” (If states do not establish their own exchanges, the health care law requires the federal government to run them instead.)
The challengers say the provision means that only people in states with their own exchanges can get subsidies. Congress made the distinction, they say, to encourage states to participate.
But the Internal Revenue Service has issued a regulation saying subsidies are allowed whether the exchange is run by a state or by the federal government. The challengers say that regulation is at odds with the law.
In response, Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli Jr. told the justices that the I.R.S. interpretation was correct, while the one offered by the challengers was “contrary to the act’s text and structure and would render the act unrecognizable to the Congress that passed it.”

Friday, November 07, 2014

Libertarian magazine, "Reason," lists 45 enemies of freedom.

Reason is a libertarian magazine, and lists its 45 worst enemies of freedom since 1968.  Note that both left- and right-wingers are included.

Pro-gun owner controls approved in Washington.

Washington state  is moving toward greater background check controls after voter's approve the initiative. My biggest concern  is that it covers private transfers between unlicensed individuals including gifts.  The article highlight liberal hypocrisy about the influence of big money on elections.  Their attitude is "Citizens United and other First Amendment limits on campaign funding are awful except when we win."  Watch for initiatives in other states as the controllers push this method of challenging Second Amendment rights.

"Progressives who get angry at the notion of big money manipulating the electorate will probably not be alarmed to note that, with the NRA choosing to toss in only around a half a million, that Washington's initiative had pro voices outspending anti enormously—Ballotpedia has pro forces spending over $10 million, and anti only around $600,000. Enemy of all freedoms Michael Bloomberg gave $50 million overall to one of the groups pushing this initiative, "Everytown for Gun Safety." (Big donors for 594 also included Bill and Melinda Gates to the tune of a million, and Paul Allen to the tune of a half million.)"

5 gun rights cases to watch

Lets hope at least one of these cases making their way up the court system reach the Supreme Court.

Will "Big Marijuana" become the next "Big Tobacco?"

Three more states have legalized recreational marijuana.  It will be on additional state ballots in the future.  As indicated in a post below, the health and market risks of these moves may be underappreciated.  The libertarian in me applauds the move.  My cautious libertarianism gives me doubt.  Although the analogy may not be appropriate, if you deplore what big tobacco did in this country, what will "big marijuana" do?

Same-sex marriage decision trend hits a roadblock.

After a long string of court victories voiding bans on same sex-marriage, opponents finally won a U.S. Court of Appeals victory involving  4 states.  The inconsistencies between different U.S. Courts of Appeals will probably trigger a Supreme Court review of the issue.

Unusual police killing.

A deputy allegedly intentionally shot another deputy after personal dispute.  I have never seen any statistic anywhere on this type of homicide. I would guess it's extremely rare.

Democracy works, voters make wise choice in Dallas DA contest

Although I would never abandon our basic system, the quality of people voters elected and re-elect causes frequent despair.  However, sometimes voters do make the right decision.

"Republican Susan Hawk defeated Dallas County District Attorney Craig Watkins on Tuesday, ending the historic eight-year tenure of the state’s first black district attorney.
Her win gives the GOP its first countywide victory in 10 years and derails one of the state’s most promising leaders, a man who rose to stardom but fell victim to his own miscalculations.
Hawk becomes the first woman elected district attorney in Dallas County."

Why is this a big deal?  In spite of wonderful efforts to exonerate the innocent, Watkins revealed himself to be seriously ethically challenged.  Voters ignored the Democratic party machine and straight ticket voting to oust a scandal-ridden D.A.
See this editorial from the Dallas Morning News.

Sunday, November 02, 2014

Concerns about legalizing recreational marijuana

As a cautious libertarian I was cautiously pleased and optimistic about Colorado and Washington legalizing recreational use of marijuana for adults.  These two excerpts from the NYT raise two big issues about the wisdom of those moves:  First, the black market:

"Zach spends hundreds of dollars on smoking devices. But he has a side income. This evening’s session was preceded by visits to three medical marijuana dispensaries, where, using his state-issued card, he bought pot products to sell to friends at a markup. “Runners” — campus argot, as in running around buying for others — are an open secret on campus."
"Zach takes a seat on his overstuffed sectional and tells how it happened: His first day living on campus, a sophomore had taken him to a dispensary for a pizza with marijuana baked in. He asked how he could get his own card, and friends coached him on telling a doctor about anxiety, nausea or back pain. “I just said I had a bike accident when I was younger, and that caused lower back pain, which caused nausea and that caused anxiety,” he recalls. “I was afraid it wouldn’t happen, so I just got all three knocked out.” He presented a bill mailed to his dorm as proof he was a state resident, which he wasn’t, and received a card allowing him to access medical marijuana immediately, two ounces at a time.
Some of Zach’s clients are under 21 and cannot buy recreational cannabis legally. But others are older students who simply don’t want to pay the hefty tax — three times that levied on medical marijuana. So despite the abundance of recreational cannabis products since the first retail shops opened in January, there is still a vibrant black market for medical marijuana, which has been legal in Colorado since 2001 with a doctor’s recommendation.