Friday, September 26, 2014

Most illegal immigrants released in U.S. skip hearings

Surprise, surprise.  This has been going on for years. Immigrant-rights leaders say it's a "communication problem."  The feds refuse to release the figures.  No wonder so many people are fed up with the way we handle illegal immigration. Another example of the "let's pretend" game.

FBI criticizes Google and Apple for phone encryption

The moves by Google and Apple to protect the communications of their users have been widely criticized by law enforcement.   I say good for Apple and Google!

Colleges abandon academic rigor for amenities to bring in students.

Some excerpts from the full article are below:

“No film more deftly portrays college-age ennui than Mike Nichols’s classic 1967 movie, “The Graduate.”

“What are you doing?” Benjamin Braddock’s father demands of his son, who’s been spending his time since school lying on an air mattress in the backyard pool. “Well,” Benjamin replies, “I would say that I’m just drifting, here in the pool.” “Why?” Dad insists. “Well,” says Ben, “it’s very comfortable — just to drift

And so it is. Since 1967, all that’s changed about drifting endlessly in a pool is that now you can do it on campus while you’re still a student.”
"It’s all part of the trend toward competing for enrollment based on student “amenities,” whether lazy rivers or elaborate dining facilities. As of late 2012, 92 schools had embarked on 157 recreational capital projects, at a total cost of $1.7 billion, according to Simon Bravo, a spokesman for NIRSA: Leaders in Collegiate Recreation (formerly the National Intramural-Recreational Sports Association).
Just one question: Is this the best use of scarce resources, given that these facilities are ultimately underwritten by tuition and by federal and state taxpayer funding — and that colleges are supposed to be, you know, educational institutions?"

"What Arum and Roksa did not find  [in their research titled "Academically adrift"] was a lot of learning. Their first results, published in 2011, showed that students improved hardly at all in critical thinking, complex reasoning and writing during their first two years of college. This was not surprising, given that 36 percent of students spent just five hours a week on solo study yet received a B-plus average for this modest effort."

Wall Street top execs remain legally untouchable

Anyone who thought that the de facto immunity from criminal prosecution for fraud, and other white collar violations of Wall Street big-wigs would disappear with the Obama administration has to be sorely disappointed.  With Holder stepping down, his record on this needs to be re-examined.  One would have thought the revelations that came out of the recent economic disaster might have spurred action. 

Friday, September 19, 2014

More left-wing mania from Venzuela: "Our Chavez who art in heaven"

Perhaps the next step is a Crusade to stamp out capitalism.  Who are these people?  Neither the left nor right needs to get this far into la-la land.

Cato Institute's 2013-14 Supreme Court Review

The Cato Institute's writers takes on the recent U.S. Supreme Court's term is here.  As many of you know, the Cato Institute is an American libertarian think tank.  Check out their website and materials if you haven't already done so.

Berkeley CA provides free pot for the poor

Although marijuana is not an opiate, Berekeley makes Marx's  "opiate of the masses" theory come true in a physical sense.  Why not do something new that's more constructive for these folks?    Ever wonder what this country would be like if the leftists who control city government in Berkeley, Boulder and other la-la land cities ran the country?

Second Amendment victory in Hawaii

Applying Hawaiian  law, a lawfully admitted permanent resident was not allowed to apply for a firearm permit because he was not yet a citizen.  Using  strict scrutiny, the  federal district court invalidated this practice, finding an unlawful classification based on alienage under the Equal Protection Clause and the Second Amendment.

However, the court limited its ruling to legal aliens, and not illegal aliens:


Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Dems control U.S. Courts of Appeals

Everyone is rightly concerned about the ideologies of those on the U.S. Supreme Court.  However, often forgotten is that only a very small fraction of court decisions are ever reviewed by that court.  For most federal court decisions the final stop are the U.S. Courts of Appeals (Circuit Courts of Appeals).  Every President tries to get ideological allies appointed to the federal courts.  Now, Democratic appointees outnumber Republican appointees on the U.S. Courts of Appeals.  Not all these judges will follow the line of the President or party that got them the essentially life-time job.  Most however, will.  Research shows that Democrat-appointed and Republican-appointed judges generally vote in different directions in the hot-button issue cases.  We can expect the Courts of Appeals to swing markedly left.  In some cases this may be a good thing, (e.g. rights of criminal defendants, privacy, First Amendment rights of individuals) but it does not bode well for Second Amendment cases where the Supreme Court has, thus far, refused to clarify many important points about the Amendment.  Stay tuned.

"The Way to Beat Poverty"

Inequality in human societies in many respects is inevitable and perhaps beneficial in some respects.  Also, I'm not sure of the extent to which the income inequality argument is really about poverty. For the Far Left, of course, the real issue is eliminating income inequality overall.  Robbing Peter to help Paul.  I am not unalterably opposed to all government interventions to prevent poverty.  This article suggests a potentially fruitful approach.

The assault weapon myth

Article from the NYT  casts doubt on the efficacy of an "assault weapon ban."  What is needed is an article that casts doubt on the idea that gun control which effects the rights of law-abiding, competent adults will work to reduce gun violence.  When guns are banned, only criminals (and police and the military) will have guns. 

Friday, September 12, 2014

Statements on license plates: Supreme Court asked to hear two cases.

Statements on license plates raise interesting First Amendment issues.  The U.S. Supreme Court is being asked to hear two cases on these issues.  I think Wooley v. Maynard was correctly decided, but there are still a lot of unanswered issues. Stay tuned.

Book Review: "Rise of the Warrior Cop"

The police shooting of an unarmed black man in Ferguson and the resulting violence have re-fueled the debate that the police are becoming too militaristic.  The President recently ordered a re-evaluation of the flow of military hardware to the police. This book deals with the issue.

Oscar Pistorius gets away with murder?

At least he was found guilty of a culpable homicide.  Sentencing later.  Prosecutor may appeal.

Second Amendment and college campuses

Reflecting the political polarization nationally, some states are reacting in a fashion consistent with the Second Amendment (with regard to college campuses) while others are moving to or remaining in an inconsistent position.  The latter is not surprising given the most college and university faculties and administrators lean left.

Sunday, September 07, 2014

Pres. Plays politics and delays executive action on immigration problems

Hopefully, many people who voted for Obama has now come to the realization that real "change" in the way President's and their administrations do business is not going to happen  and that the compassionate President they sought often just doesn't deliver. Politics seems to get in the way, as it always did.  Politics here means mid-term elections.  Dems have basically conceded that Republicans will keep control of the House and the real battle is for the Senate.  Democratic control of the Senate is more important than working toward real solutions to serious problems. (see article on teen tobacco pickers below). 

According to the NYT:

"President Obama will delay taking executive action on immigration until after the midterm elections, bowing to pressure from fellow Democrats who feared that acting now could doom his party’s chances this fall, White House officials said on Saturday.
The decision is a reversal of Mr. Obama’s vow to issue broad directives to overhaul the immigration system soon after summer’s end, and sparked swift anger from immigration advocates. The president made the promise on June 30, in the Rose Garden, where he angrily denounced Republican obstruction and said he would use the power of his office to protect immigrant families from the threat of deportation." . . .
The combustible nature of the immigration debate was demonstrated over the summer when the border crossings of unaccompanied children from Central America quickly became a highly charged partisan issue. Democrats on Capitol Hill warned the White House to deal with that issue before announcing broader immigration changes." . . .
Cristina Jimenez, the managing director for United We Dream, an immigration advocacy group, accused Mr. Obama of “playing politics” with the lives of immigrant families and said, “The president’s latest broken promise is another slap to the face of the Latino and immigrant community.”
. . .
"As Election Day drew closer, nervous Democratic senators in Alaska, Arkansas, Louisiana and North Carolina told White House officials that Mr. Obama’s actions could cost them victory. Those conversations culminated in the decision to delay immigration action."

Legal protection needed for teen tobacco pickers.

The Obama administration has disappointed many on the political left with.  Leaders on the political left are big on pretending to care about the less fortunate.  However, for some reason they never get around to doing something about many of  the problems.  They can't fix everything, but when an opportunity to help comes up, the steps should be taken.   "Politics" seems to get in the way. Anyone who believed Obama's promises that the way things were done would changed was terribly na├»ve.  No one in their right mind could have believed that a politician from Chicago would really be committed to change.

According to the NYT:
"For years, public health experts and federal labor officials have sought to bar teenagers under 16 from the tobacco fields, citing the grueling hours and the harmful exposure to nicotine and other chemicals, but their efforts have been blocked. Three years ago, Hilda Solis, then the labor secretary, proposed declaring work in tobacco fields and with tractors hazardous — making that type of work illegal for those under 16. Opponents of child labor note that Brazil, India and some other tobacco-producing nations already prohibit anyone under 18 from working on tobacco farms.
The Obama administration withdrew Ms. Solis’s proposed rule after encountering intense opposition from farm groups and Republican lawmakers. Agricultural organizations said the move would hurt family farms and make it harder for young people to learn farming skills.
The administration killed the proposal in April 2012, when the president was running for re-election, saying it would not pursue these regulations for “the duration of the Obama administration.” But some proponents still hope to revive the tobacco part of the proposal once this year’s midterm elections are over.
In the meantime, public health experts say hundreds of children under 16 like Saray continue to work in America’s tobacco fields. Dr. Thomas A. Arcury, an expert on tobacco and migrant workers and a professor at the Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, said tobacco work was particularly harmful to children, pointing to nicotine poisoning, pesticides and dehydration."

Saturday, September 06, 2014

Mother fights state over Do not Resuscitate Order for her infant

According toAP/NYT (see link below):
"A teenage mother is fighting a do-not-resuscitate order imposed on her brain-damaged daughter, saying she should be responsible for medical decisions. Child welfare officials who intervened after the baby was severely injured say life-saving measures in the event she stops breathing would only prolong her suffering.
The mother, Virginia Trask, originally agreed to the do-not-resuscitate order. At one point, the infant was removed from life support and placed in her arms to die, then opened her eyes and began breathing. . . .
"The case is unusual. Art Caplan, of the division of medical ethics at NYU Langone Medical Center, said he had never heard of another case of a do-not-resuscitate order imposed against a mother’s wishes.
‘‘It could set some precedent for setting parental rights in some pretty horrible circumstances,’’ he said. ‘‘It could set some precedent with regards to medical authority.’’

I agree with Mr. Caplan.

Another ethically challenged politician: system encourages ethics violations

Elected public officials have lives outside their government roles ("dual roles").  This leads to many conflict of interest issues. An example below.

"Her campaign is using similar logic to explain another dual role: Ms. Van de Putte’s advocacy for minority-owned investment banking firms in the Legislature while serving on the advisory board of one of the companies, which later paid her $2,000 a month to consult for it.
There is no evidence that Ms. Van de Putte broke any rules, and her campaign says her dealings never posed a conflict of interest."
“This is a conflict of interest problem, clearly,” said Craig Holman, a government ethics expert at the liberal watchdog group Public Citizen, based in Washington. “But the structure of state government in Texas nurtures it.”
Texas' legislators get paid $ 7,200 per year and there are lax disclosure and ethics laws.  Raising the salaries may do little, but the lax laws need to be tightened up. However, what are the chances the fox will agree to new rules to protect the henhouse? 

Sentence reduction raises issues of justice.

Sentence reduction in Bernie Tiede case raises troubling issues. Let's talk about that very important, but very ambiguous term, "justice."  Does the following make sense to  you?

"Tiede was given a life sentence in 1999 for shooting the 81-year-old Nugent four times before hiding her body in her freezer in the East Texas town of Carthage. Interest in the case surged after the 2011 release of the movie “Bernie,” in which Jack Black portrays Tiede as a quirky mortician’s assistant beloved by the town. Nugent is depicted by Shirley MacLaine as a grumpy, unpopular cheapskate. . . .
"A judge in May ruled Tiede had been sentenced too harshly because jurors did not know he had felt abused by Nugent and that he had been sexually abused as a child. But while Judge Diane DeVasto let Tiede go free on bond, the Court of Criminal Appeals must decide whether to formally accept the sentence reduction".

OK, so the jury didn't know these 2 things.  Sorry he was sexually abused as a child, but what does this have to do with a grown man murdering an 81 year-old woman?  He "felt abused" by an 81 year-old woman?   I guess that somehow makes this murder less culpable.  Where did they find this judge?  This sentence reduction is morally and legally wrong.  Maybe there's something crucial the source did not report that makes sense of this mess.  If not, this reduction should be overturned on appeal.

Thursday, September 04, 2014

Chicago's Ethically Challenged Mayor

"Chicago" and "Ethically Challenged Mayor" may seem redundant like "striped tiger," but former Obama aide and current Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel was pressured into paying back $14,000 in travel expenses after the Chicago Tribune analyzed the records.  Of course, this will not deter largely mindless voters from voting for his re-election.  He also has a $ 1.l million campaign chest whose donors will be rewarded with contracts, appointments and "looking the other way."  The mayor and City Council have blamed a lack of gun controls for the city's high violent crime rate and spent much time, money and energy dodging federal court Second Amendent decisions. However, look for him to be re-elected.  The culture of corruption in Chicago is safe.

Clarificaton of post on Justice for Student-Athletes

In a prior post, I commented on the court victories of current and former college-student athletes and their quest for “justice.”  A few people have missed the main point I was trying (but failed) to make.  Some  misinterpreted my comments as a call for “social justice” and/or reducing “income inequality.”  The ”justice” I am talking about is justice under law.  Workers of all types have rights under state and federal law, and First Amendment rights of association.  “Employers” of all types naturally attempt to keep labor costs as low as possible.  In some cases this offends our natural sense of "justice" or "fairness," but that was not the main point I was trying to make.  Further, it is not the function of courts to be roving commissions striking down social and  economic “injustices.”  It is their function to enforce the law.  If  the person legally qualifies as an “employee,” they cannot be denied their rights just because the employer calls them “student-athletes.”  Everyone, employee, student-athlete or whatever, has First Amendment rights.  I believe the decisions discussed are the proper legal results.

Hard to charge and convict cops accused of police brutality.

As noted in a prior post, broad legal interpretations of  legal immunities almost always shield police officers and their supervisors and agencies from civil liability when officers kill apparently unarmed suspects.  Little deterrent effect there.  Criminal prosecutions and convictions are even rarer.   According to a NYT article which uses Florida as an example:

[S]tate attorneys are elected, making them vulnerable to political pressure, lawyers said. Police unions wield considerable power in elections.
“They are in bed together, which is why police shootings should be investigated independently,” said Mr. Weiner, the criminal defense lawyer in Miami.

In the end, even if they are charged or indicted, most officers are acquitted by juries. The people who are shot are not always sympathetic in the eyes of jurors; in many cases, they were committing crimes when they were killed. Witnesses can sometimes suffer credibility problems.
By contrast, police officers are often held in high esteem, depending on the jury, and are traditionally viewed as guardians of the community."
Federal actions are more frequent and  likely to get results, but even these are rare. The Danziger Bridge case from New Orleans was discussed in prior posts.  The  officers convicted were awarded new trials because of federal prosecutorial misconduct.

Finally, it is important to remember that the overwhelming majority of cops are not, as some would claim, "racist pigs."  However, we need better legal mechanisms to deal with the real offenders. 

First, and only, win for state bans on same-sex marriages

A U.S. District Court judge in New Orleans became the first and only judge to uphold a state same-sex marriage ban.  According to the NYT:

"Since the Supreme Court struck down part of the federal Defense of Marriage Act last year in the case of United States v. Windsor, there have been 21 consecutive federal court decisions finding that same-sex marriage bans were unconstitutional, according to the Human Rights Campaign, a gay rights group."

The decision is likely to be overturned by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit which has not yet decided on the issue.  Since Romer v. Evans ( 1996), a Supreme Court majority has been sending  signals that this  marriage ban will fall.  At the Supreme Court level it may be another 5-4 decision with the swing-voter, Kennedy giving the victory to the ban opponents.

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Politicizing Ferguson and "impeachment"- Upcoming U.S. Senate elections

According to the NYT:
"With their Senate majority imperiled, Democrats are trying to mobilize African-Americans outraged by the shooting in Ferguson, Mo., to help them retain control of at least one chamber of Congress for President Obama’s final two years in office.
In black churches and on black talk radio, African-American civic leaders have begun invoking the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, along with conservative calls to impeach Mr. Obama, as they urge black voters to channel their anger by voting Democratic in the midterm elections, in which minority turnout is typically lower."
As public confidence in Obama crumbles, the Dems have begun to focus on not losing the Senate in the upcoming mid-term elections.  A few "observations:"
These efforts are sadly typical of the propaganda tactics increasingly being used by both parties in a polarized atmosphere.  There has been no serious move to impeach Obama.  To my knowledge no one in the House has proposed articles of impeachment.   According to Wikipedia:
"No Congressional Representative has drawn up a list of articles of impeachment and proposed them to the Judiciary Committee, as happened in the efforts to impeach George W. Bush." A number of House Republicans and right-wing publications have accused him of impeachable offenses, but that's as far as it goes.  Every President since the 1930's has had to deal with such blowhards.  This is not a real issue.
There are wacko right-wing groups talking about it, and left-wing groups pretending it is a real threat, but it's not a real threat.
  I don't recall any House member specifically calling for discussion of articles of impeachment.  This is a red-herring, scare tactic.  Dems pretend to care about excessive use of force against minorities.  When the Dems had control of the White House and both houses of Congress they got Obamacare through but did not pass a single piece of legislation to try to deal with excessive force by police.  Don't tell me that during that period there wasn't a single killing of an unarmed black by a white cop, that could have been a springboard.  Now that they are fearful of losing the Senate the issue becomes "pressing." Does anyone seriously think that control of the U.S. Senate makes any difference to police behavior (good or bad)?  (See post below on Camden and police subculture).  The hypocrisy turn my stomach.  There are large segments of our population who need to realize that many on the left only care about them when it suits the leftist agenda. 

PD unsatisfactory? Get a new one--Camden NJ did

"Fixing" problems in many public (e.g., police) and private (e.g. corporation)  institutions is extremely difficult.  Part of this is because the status quo is supported by various vested interests (e.g. contractors, unions).  Another factor is the existence of dysfunctional cultures/subcultures within the institution.  These informal norms (e.g. code of silence, kickbacks) often take precedence over law and agency rules. This is sometimes referred to an an occupational subculture.  Perhaps the most-studied is the subculture of law enforcement agencies.  These subcultures are not identical, but have many common features.  One of the worst examples is NYPD which has had massive problems for years which persist despite investigations, commissions, "reforms" more training, convictions, millions of dollars in civil judgments,  new mayors and commissioners, etc., etc., etc.  Perhaps the only real solution is a whole new police force.  Sounds unrealistic, but Camden NJ did it, and things appear to have improved. Some PD's (e.g., NYPD, LAPD) may be too big and  be situated such that this cannot be done, but it may be the only real cure.