Archive for June, 2012


You lose some, you win some (2)

June 29, 2012

Here’s an interesting article about jury nullification, prompted by a new law in New Hampshire, the Live Free or Die state. (Is that the best state motto or what?)

Jury nullification, like many things, is a two-edged sword. My guess is that O.J. Simpson’s acquittal for the murder of his wife was a case of jury empathy — the flip side of white juries in the Deep South which refused to convict those who assaulted or murdered blacks.

But on the whole, I think it’s good for juries to keep their options in mind. They can judge the law and its application as well as the case against the accused people.

Jury Nullification Law Signed by New Hampshire Governor

June 27, 2012 @ 4:27 PM by Tim Lynch

With all the buzz and anticipation surrounding the final rulings by the U.S. Supreme Court the past week, there has been little attention to an interesting legal development in New Hampshire: On June 18, Governor John Lynch (no relation) signed HB 146 into law and it becomes effective on January 1, 2013. HB 146 concerns “the right of a jury to judge the application of the law in relationship to the facts in controversy.” It’s popularly known as “the jury nullification bill.” In this post, I will try to explain what impact this new law may have in the New Hampshire courts.

By way of background, Cato co-published the most comprehensive book on this subject back in 1998, Jury Nullification: The Evolution of a Doctrine by Clay Conrad. So pick that up if you’re interested in the full legal and historical treatment. If you’re not ready for the book, do check out this book review by University of Tennessee law professor Glenn Reynolds.

For purposes of this post, I am going to sidestep the question of whether or not jury nullification is a good idea. My purpose is not to “make the case for HB 146.” Rather, my purpose is to briefly explain what jury nullification is, provide a very brief history of the law on that subject, and, finally, explain how the recently enacted statute in New Hampshire may alter existing law and practices there.



June 24, 2012

The Obama Event Registry idea is so sketchy that it has its own Snopes page.

Via Instapundit

Further chuckles: Nick Gillespie has 5 Great Gifts to Send Obama in Lieu of Cash Contributions


You can’t make this stuff up

June 23, 2012

In a theoretical sense, this recent decision by the European Court of Justice strikes me as propagating an injustice because it spreads some peoples’ misfortunes to everyone else. Whatever happened to being responsible for your own problems, the Stiff Upper Lip, and similar attitudes?

But in more practical terms, just think of all those who’ll be gaming the system. File a sick claim during a vacation and cop another month or so of time off. I’m sure there are plenty of doctors who’ll be willing to document the severity of your illness – with a little of the old quid pro quo.

Then think of how little surplus European countries have left in their economies to pay for this type of regulatory nonsense. Here’s an article from the New York Times describing the court’s decision (which manages to ignore the fact that people respond to incentives).

On Vacation and Sick? A Court Says Take Another

BRUSSELS — For most Europeans, almost nothing is more prized than their four to six weeks of guaranteed annual vacation leave. But it was not clear just how sacrosanct that time off was until Thursday, when Europe’s highest court ruled that workers who happened to get sick on vacation were legally entitled to take another vacation.

“The purpose of entitlement to paid annual leave is to enable the worker to rest and enjoy a period of relaxation and leisure,” the Court of Justice of the European Union, based in Luxembourg, ruled in a case involving department store workers in Spain. “The purpose of entitlement to sick leave is different, since it enables a worker to recover from an illness that has caused him to be unfit for work.”

With much of Europe mired in recession, governments struggling to reduce budget deficits and officials trying to combat high unemployment, the ruling is a reminder of just how hard it is to shake up long-established and legally protected labor practices that make it hard to put more people to work and revive sinking economies.

Update: Via Samizdata, I ran across an article in The Telegraph about this decision. It’s titled It’s cruel European judges who are destroying jobs and contains some interesting paragraphs in it. Here are a couple:

[…] Of itself, this will not add much to the unemployment totals. Our government estimates that it could cost British employers around £100 million ($156 million – jhc) a year. Spread throughout the economy, that is an irritation, not a catastrophe. But it is an unnecessary irritation. It sends all the wrong messages. A violation of common-sense, it adds to the job-stroke which is having such serious consequences in most of the EU. It reinforces the impression which many employers have formed over the past few decades: that hiring workers is risky and should be avoided wherever possible.

[…]Since the 1950s, employers’ options have opened up. They can replace men with machines. They can dispense with highly paid and truculent first-world workers and relocate manufacturing to countries where the locals are cheaper, docile and grateful. This creates difficulties. Although the right to work is economic nonsense, any advanced society will wish to run its economy as near as possible to full employment. A few years ago, the US had achieved that, by making it easy for employers to hire and fire. As a result, American workers had far fewer rights than their European equivalents, but anyone who wanted a job could have two of them.

Update: My brother the postmaster writes, "This idea of being able to use sick leave if sick supposedly while on annual leave is not so remote after all, since it’s already in place in the U.S.P.S. union contracts, and is used by a few […] So, I assume it’s also in place for other U.S. government workers."


The funniest thing I’ve seen today

June 22, 2012

On second thought, make that "the funniest thing I’ve seen this week".

(If you don’t get the honey badger reference, see this clip.)


Exchange strategy

June 20, 2012

An interesting clip by Michael Cannon at Cato giving reasons why states should not establish Obamacare exchanges.


En la república bananera del norte

June 16, 2012

I’ve mentioned before that it seems obvious the Obama administration is paying off its union backers with political favors. So this article from the Wall Street Journal wasn’t much of a surprise, though it still shocks me that the Executive branch interceded in judicial proceedings in such a transparent and heavy-handed way. How in the world did it get away with that?

Sherk and Zywicki: Obama’s United Auto Workers Bailout
If the administration treated the UAW in the manner required by bankruptcy law, it could have saved U.S. taxpayers $26.5 billion.

President Obama touts the bailout of General Motors and Chrysler as one of the signature successes of his administration. He argues that the estimated $23 billion the taxpayers lost was worth paying to avoid massive job losses. However, our research finds that the president could have both kept the auto makers running and avoided losing money.

The preferential treatment given to the United Auto Workers accounts for the American taxpayers’ entire losses from the bailout. Had the UAW received normal treatment in standard bankruptcy proceedings, the Treasury would have recouped its entire investment. Three irregularities in the bankruptcy case resulted in a windfall to the UAW.

My father was a member of the UAW for several decades though he never worked for one of the Big Three auto companies. (He worked at Caterpillar, building engines for dozers and graders and the like.) So the UAW had some influence on my raising, though I’m not sure how much or what kind. But this deal still stinks, Mr. King.

Indiana State Treasurer Richard Mourdock had this to say about the lawlessness of the Chrysler bailout back in 2009.


Escape from Camp 14

June 10, 2012

A few months ago, I read Escape from Camp 14, the story of Shin Dong-hyuk that was written by Blaine Harden. Shin claims he was born and raised in a North Korean labor camp and later escaped from it.

Harden notes that not all of Shin’s story can be verified (naturally). All of the parts about Shin’s life in North Korea depend on his truthfulness. But the story jibes with news I’ve read about North Korea in recent years and so I took it at face value. It’s a damned ugly face.

To me, the most amazing thing about this book is that places like Camp 14 still exist and are still guarded by sadists. Where do all these monsters come from? Is sadism a trait that any of us will learn, when we’re in those circumstances?

If so, the obvious implications are (a) Choose your political system wisely and as a corollary (b) Avoid Communism at all costs.

But the worst of the sadism is what places like Camp 14 do to the children born in them, as Shin was. Part of the book describes Shin’s emotional maturation after he arrives in the U.S. and starts to learn that his first duties are not to The State, they’re to his family and his friends.

I find these thoughts fairly depressing. The barbarism just goes on and on, century after century.

Update July 21st. ’12: I came across an interesting piece of speculative fiction in Gardner Dozois’ 29th annual collection of science fiction stories. It’s a short story called "A Militant Peace", written by David Klecha and Tobias S. Buckell. You can read the entire thing here. (It won’t take long.)

The story describes the non-violent liberation of North Korea by UN troops, funded by a consortium of businesses. Curious, eh? It has a couple of interesting premises to support the plot.

I doubt they’d ever be feasible but it is a speculation, after all. Nonetheless, I liked the story and especially the idea of freeing North Korea.

I also ran across a post at Richard Fernandez’ Belmont Club blog titled The Story of Oh.

The BBC tells the melancholy story of Oh Kil-nam, a South Korean man who, convinced by his Marxist education that North Korea was a worker’s paradise, decided to defect there with his wife and two children in 1986. Oh, who had just completed his PhD in Germany in Marxist economics and who “had been active in left-wing groups” had no reason to doubt the beckoning invitation of North Korean officials who promised him free health care and a government job, like certain other people you may know.

He chose poorly.

Aged and broken, Oh now concludes that his “life was ruined by his decision to defect to North Korea. Seventy years old, he still does not know the fate of his wife and daughters – either dead or imprisoned in a labour camp.” His wife, who lacked the benefit of a European education, suspected something was amiss from the first. She was aghast when he told her of his plan to defect.

Update January 28th. ’13:


Canada did it

June 2, 2012

Here’s an interesting article by Chris Edwards at Cato that’s worth a read.

We Can Cut Government: Canada Did

Two decades ago Canada suffered a deep recession and teetered on the brink of a debt crisis caused by rising government spending. The Wall Street Journal said that growing debt was making Canada an “honorary member of the third world” with the “northern peso” as its currency. But Canada reversed course and cut spending, balanced its budget, and enacted various pro-market reforms. The economy boomed, unemployment plunged, and the formerly weak Canadian dollar soared to reach parity with the U.S. dollar.


America needs to get its fiscal house in order, and Canada has shown how to do it. Our northern neighbor still has a large welfare state, but there is a lot we can learn from its efforts to restrain the government and adopt market-oriented reforms to spur strong economic growth.

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