Archive for July, 2015

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Another example that value is subjective

July 31, 2015

I didn’t know a movie was being made about Kelo v City of New London.

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More spoilers

July 30, 2015

This reminds me of a recent post. Thank goodness my neighbors don’t practice this kind of passive-aggressive assholery.

H.T. Paul

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Corporate water is soulless

July 30, 2015

A bit of humor for a change.

H.T. Jeff G

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Better hope for good trigger discipline

July 29, 2015

Here’s an interesting editorial in The Washington Post about a guy who got swatted for, basically, leaving his apartment door ajar. But he was lucky.

In Iraq, I raided insurgents. In Virginia, the police raided me

[…] I didn’t wake up until three police officers barged into my apartment, barking their presence at my door. They sped down the hallway to my bedroom, their service pistols drawn and leveled at me.

It was just past 9 a.m., and I was still under the covers. The only visible target was my head.

In the shouting and commotion, I felt an instant familiarity. I’d been here before. This was a raid.

I had done this a few dozen times myself, 6,000 miles away from my Alexandria, Va., apartment. As an Army infantryman in Iraq, I’d always been on the trigger side of the weapon. Now that I was on the barrel side, I recalled basic training’s most important firearm rule: Aim only at something you intend to kill. […]

My situation was terrifying. Lying facedown in bed, I knew that any move I made could be viewed as a threat. Instinct told me to get up and protect myself. Training told me that if I did, these officers would shoot me dead.


From Reason’s blog a story (with video) about someone who wasn’t so lucky. My emphasis here.

University of Cincinnati Cop Ray Tensing Indicted in Murder of Samuel Dubose

Ray Tensing, the University of Cincinnati police officer who shot and killed Samuel Dubose as the man drove away during a traffic stop over a missing front license plate, was indicted for murder today. The county prosecutor, Joe Deters said Tensing “purposely killed” Dubose in an “asinine” and “senseless” manner. Authorities say Tensing shot Dubose in the head as Dubose tried to drive away, with the county prosecutor saying it took “maybe a second” for Tensing to pull his gun and shoot. He played the body cam footage at the press conference announcing the indictment.


From the Post again, Radley Balko links to an encouraging article in the Alaska Dispatch News about how Alaska trains police.

Alaska’s police, troopers do best as guardians, not warriors

[…]There are many within policing who have questioned the warrior mindset since well before Ferguson ignited the recent national debate. To these officers, a warrior class of police is antithetical to a democracy and our Constitution. Lt. Chad Goeden, Commander of the Alaska Department of Public Safety Training Academy, is one of these. The academy trains every Alaska State Trooper recruit and many municipal and borough police recruits before they can become certified sworn law enforcement officers.

During Lt. Goeden’s nearly 20-year tenure with the Alaska State Troopers he’s worked all over the state. When he became the academy commander he hung a sign over his office door:

“The ability of the police to perform their duties is dependent upon public approval of police actions.” – Sir Robert Peel, founder of modern policing

Lt. Goeden chose that quote because he’d observed some officers had lost a sense of connection to the community. He explained, “I thought it was important to remind myself, my staff and the recruits why it is we do what we do, who we serve, and who it is we are beholden to.”

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TANSTAAFL (still)

July 28, 2015

Here’s a David Brooks column in The New York Times.

The Minimum-Wage Muddle

Once upon a time there was a near consensus among economists that raising the minimum wage was a bad idea. The market is really good at setting prices on things, whether it is apples or labor. If you raise the price on a worker, employers will hire fewer and you’ll end up hurting the people you meant to help.

Then in 1993 the economists David Card and Alan Krueger looked at fast-food restaurants in New Jersey and Pennsylvania and found that raising the minimum wage gave people more income without hurting employment. A series of studies in Britain buttressed these findings. […]

Some of my Democratic friends are arguing that forcing businesses to raise their minimum wage will not only help low-wage workers; it will actually boost profits, because companies will better retain workers. Some economists have reported that there is no longer any evidence that raising wages will cost jobs.

Unfortunately, that last claim is inaccurate. There are in fact many studies on each side of the issue. David Neumark of the University of California, Irvine and William Wascher of the Federal Reserve have done their own studies and point to dozens of others showing significant job losses.

Recently, Michael Wither and Jeffrey Clemens of the University of California, San Diego looked at data from the 2007 federal minimum-wage hike and found that it reduced the national employment-to-population ratio by 0.7 percentage points (which is actually a lot), and led to a six percentage point decrease in the likelihood that a low-wage worker would have a job.

Because low-wage workers get less work experience under a higher minimum-wage regime, they are less likely to transition to higher-wage jobs down the road. Wither and Clemens found that two years later, workers’ chances of making $1,500 a month was reduced by five percentage points.

I wonder if Governor Cuomo reads the Times — or Forbes.

Via Coyoteblog

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How would you kill the tax code?

July 25, 2015

Another dramatic campaign ad from Rand Paul.

Reviews of his tax plan tend to be mixed.

Personally, I think 14.5% is too low. And there are still exemptions and other problems. I wish Rand had gone to back to First Principles (excises & tarriffs) or that he’d backed the Fair Tax plan.

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Constitutional malware

July 24, 2015

Paul sends a link to an interesting paper by Jonathan Mayer which appears at Social Science Research Network.

Abstract:
The United States government hacks computer systems, for law enforcement purposes. According to public disclosures, both the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Drug Enforcement Administration are increasingly resorting to computer intrusions as an investigative technique. This article provides the first comprehensive examination of how the Constitution should regulate government malware.

When applied to computer systems, the Fourth Amendment safeguards two independent values: the integrity of a device as against government breach, and the privacy properties of data contained in a device. Courts have not yet conceptualized how these theories of privacy should be reconciled.

Government malware forces a constitutional privacy reckoning. Investigators can algorithmically constrain the information that they retrieve from a hacked device, ensuring they receive only data that is — in isolation — constitutionally unprotected. According to declassified documents, FBI officials have theorized that the Fourth Amendment does not apply in this scenario. A substantially better view of the law, I conclude, is that the Fourth Amendment’s dual protections are cumulative, not mutually exclusive.

Applying this two-stage framework, I find that the Fourth Amendment imposes a warrant requirement on almost all law enforcement malware. The warrant must be valid throughout the duration of the malware’s operation, and must provide reasonable ex post notice to a computer’s owner. In certain technical configurations, the Constitution goes even further, requiring law enforcement to satisfy an exacting “super-warrant” standard. Reviewing public disclosures, I find that the government has a spotty record of compliance with these foundational privacy safeguards.

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We can do without the knee-jerk outrage

July 24, 2015

From all the politicians reacting to Donald Trump’s idiotic remarks about immigrants. (May Trump emigrate to some place looking for a Fearless Leader. Please.)

Here’s an interesting article at FEE about a study of crime rates among immigrants by the National Criminal Justice Reference Service.

By the Numbers: Does Immigration Cause Crime?
The preponderance of research shows no effect

The alleged murder of Kate Steinle in San Francisco by illegal immigrant Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez has reignited the debate over the link between immigration and crime. Such debates often call for change in policy regarding the deportation or apprehension of illegal immigrants.

However, if policies should change, it should not be in reaction to a single tragic murder. It should be in response to careful research on whether immigrants actually boost the US crime rates.

With few exceptions, immigrants are less crime prone than natives or have no effect on crime rates. As described below, the research is fairly one-sided.

(Via Coyoteblog)

The Wall Street Journal has an editorial in a similar vein. I don’t know whether it cites the same study as the FEE article snce I’m not a subscriber.

Regular readers will recall that I think our immigration laws are too restrictive, not too lax. And in that vein, here’s a little visual snark:

Ancestors-n-immigrants

I can just imagine some 19th century Donald-Trump-like-idiot going on about my Irish great-great-grandfather.

(And for that matter, where the hell did Trump’s forebears immigrate from?)

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Still not convinced asset forfeiture is a racket?

July 23, 2015

Noice! For the highwaymen getting the loot, that is.

From Reason’s Hit & Run:

Oklahoma Official Used Asset Forfeiture to Pay Back His Student Loans
Another lived rent-free in a confiscated house.

An assistant district attorney in the state of Oklahoma lived rent-free in a house confiscated by local law enforcement under the practice of asset forfeiture. His office paid the utility bills. He remained there for five years, despite a court order to sell the house at auction.

Another district attorney used $5,000 worth of confiscated funds to pay back his student loans.

These are just a few of the gems unearthed during a recent hearing on Oklahoma authorities’ liberal use of asset forfeiture to take property from suspected criminals and spend it on personal enrichment. […]

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Slum dog millionaires

July 23, 2015

Here’s the opening of an interesting article at Cato at Liberty. RTWT.

How Capitalism Is Undermining the Indian Caste System

Karl Marx was wrong about many things but right about one thing: the revolutionary way capitalism attacks and destroys feudalism. As I explain in a new study, in India, the rise of capitalism since the economic reforms of 1991 has also attacked and eroded casteism, a social hierarchy that placed four castes on top with a fifth caste—dalits—like dirt beneath the feet of others. Dalits, once called untouchables, were traditionally denied any livelihood save virtual serfdom to landowners and the filthiest, most disease-ridden tasks, such as cleaning toilets and handling dead humans and animals. Remarkably, the opening up of the Indian economy has enabled dalits to break out of their traditional low occupations and start businesses. The Dalit Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (DICCI) now boasts over 3,000 millionaire members. This revolution is still in its early stages, but is now unstoppable.

As an aside, my brother-in-law’s wife was born in Kolkata (Calcutta). She told us a story once about her parents’ household and mentioned in passing that the family’s servants washed their car by hauling water in buckets.

It made my back ache to think of it. I’m hoping those servants have better things to do these days than schlepping water to wash cars.

But getting back to castes and feudalism, I’ve always been fond of this rhetorical question: When Adam delved and Eve span, who was then the gentleman?

That applies as well to Eve’s children in India as it does to her children everywhere else.

Anyone claiming privileges because of "breeding" or "family line" deserves a poke in the nose, IMO. When you think about those claims, they’re just another form of racism — or maybe "sub-racism", which is a concept that’s even more ridiculous.

Now that I think of it, claims like those make a very good reductio ad absurdum argument against racism.


Update: (8/18/15)

I just came across this trailer for a documentary that will appear on public television soon.

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Take my rights. Please.

July 18, 2015

I don’t think this quite reaches the level of civil disobedience but it would certainly be good for civil annoyance. (And maybe give TSA folks a clue that they should find productive work.)

In any case, I think I’ll buy a few because I like the idea.

TSA “Bill of Rights” Card

Mr Jillette and a friend of his got the idea to make playing card size copies of the Bill of Rights printed on metal. It sets off the metal detectors and you get to hear the security person say, “I’m going to have to take away your Bill of Rights.” Well, it’s not going to actually work like that very often, but the idea is there. They’re light and go right into a breast pocket. Purchase 1 or 100 and hand em out to your friends.

H.T. Jeff G

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Let’s hope he’s wrong

July 18, 2015

This is not the first time I’ve heard Mr. Schiff talk about this topic, so his prediction of inflation isn’t news. But it always leaves me wondering how the U.S. debt will be handled. (I’m not talking about the deficit, but rather the total debt of roughly $18 trillion.)

This is a particular concern to those of us who are retired or close to retirement. In the last several years it’s been very difficult to find an investment with low risk and a decent return — where ‘decent’ means a couple of percentage points above the inflation rate.

I suppose we could all buy junk bonds, keep our fingers crossed, and hope for the best.

If the inflation rate jumps up into the 10-15% range, as it did in the 1980s*, there’re going to be a lot of unhappy oldsters. And maybe a lot of unhappy youngsters, too, as the older folks figure out they need to keep working or return to work.

*When I bought my first house in 1984, the mortgage rate was 13.5%. And that was an adjustable rate note with a 17.5% cap; it was the best deal we could find at the time.

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Thank God for the Fifth Amendment

July 12, 2015

This video has been around for a while (7 years on YouTube) but it’s chock full of good practical advice, from both Professor Duane and Officer Bruch, so that I think it’s worth posting here.

If you haven’t seen it, it’s worth the 50 minutes it takes to watch it.

Avoiding talking to the police without counsel is a recurring topic at Popehat.com: in this post for example. That one’s worth your time too.

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Faster, please

July 9, 2015

What happened when Portugal decriminalised drugs?

Joint-rolling class. Heh.

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Criminal Law 2.0

July 8, 2015

Here’s a post at MarginalRevolution about an article by Judge Alex Kozinski (PDF) which appears at GeorgetownLawJournal.org.

The judge’s article is a bit lengthy but I still recommend you RTWT.

Kozinski Indicts the US Justice System

Federal Judge Alex Kozinski (9th circuit) has written a scathing indictment of the US justice system. Kozinski starts out discussing a number of myths such as that eyewitness testimony or forensic evidence is highly reliable. Business Insider gives a quick rundown of this part of the paper but they clearly didn’t read very far because the incendiary material comes later.

Kozinski, writing in part based on his personal experience as a judge, says that prosecutors are too often running roughshod over justice:

…there are disturbing indications that a non-trivial number of prosecutors—and sometimes entire prosecutorial offices— engage in misconduct that seriously undermines the fairness of criminal trials. The misconduct ranges from misleading the jury, to outright lying in court and tacitly acquiescing or actively participating in the presentation of false evidence by police.

[…]

Via Coyoteblog

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There’s usually a lot of that going around

July 7, 2015

From The Washington Post, a sensible opinion about the tempest-in-a-teapot over the Confederate flag.

There’s no race war in America

Did you know that this newspaper is named for a slaveholder? It’s right there on our masthead, the name of a man who for 56 years held other human beings in bondage on his Virginia plantation — a man, according to the official Mount Vernon Web site, who “frequently utilized harsh punishment against the enslaved population, including whippings.” This dreaded symbol of oppression is delivered to the doorsteps and inboxes of hundreds of thousands of people each morning.

Sure, George Washington also emancipated his slaves in his will, won our independence and became the father of our country — but no matter. It is an outrage that this paper continues to bear the name of such a man.

It is time to rename The Washington Post!

Think that’s stupid? You’re right. But there’s a lot of stupid going around today. The latest example: The TV Land network has pulled the plug on reruns of one of America’s most beloved shows, “The Dukes of Hazzard,” because the car in the show, the General Lee, bears a Confederate flag. There is nothing racist about “The Dukes of Hazzard.” It is a show about moonshine, short shorts and fast cars. What is accomplished by banning “The Dukes of Hazzard”? Nothing. […]

This impulse to wipe away history is Stalinist. Just like Joseph Stalin once erased people from photographs, we’re now erasing people from our collective history.

These historical purges are not only wrong, they are also completely unnecessary. If you want to see where race relations are in the South, just look at how the people of Charleston, S.C., reacted to the shootings at Emanuel AME Church. There were no race riots. The city didn’t burn. People came together — black and white — to mourn and heal together. The white mayor of Charleston joined hands with the state’s black senator and its Indian American governor to pray. Thousands of people of all races, creeds and colors formed a “unity chain” that stretched two miles across the Ravenel Bridge to honor those who died.

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Some good news about civil asset forfeiture

July 7, 2015

This is refreshing news.

Civil Forfeiture Now Requires A Criminal Conviction In Montana And New Mexico

Just in time for the Fourth of July, states are declaring their independence from civil forfeiture.

Enabled by civil forfeiture laws, police can seize and keep property without the government ever filing criminal charges. Innocent Americans actually must prove their own innocence in court if they ever hope to regain their property. Local, state and federal law enforcement agencies routinely seize property and pad their budgets with forfeiture revenue. Outlets as diverse as The New Yorker and Last Week Tonight with John Oliver have detailed this travesty of justice.

But thankfully, civil forfeiture’s days may soon be numbered. Starting July 1, two major reforms from Montana and New Mexico will go into effect. […]

Via Radley Balko

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The Health Care Special (5)

July 7, 2015

We could have paid — and some of us were paying, I’d bet — for medical coverage for the uninsured without all the bureaucratic and corporate overhead imposed by Obamacare. We could (and some maybe were) helping those who were bankrupted by the costs of medical care for catastrophic cases.

But it’s much easier and so much more satisfying to pass another law, isn’t it? The President gets to preen, the Democratic party gets another notch in its gun belt, and those who supported this disaster-in-the-making get whatever satisfaction comes from that.

Health Insurance Companies Seek Big Rate Increases for 2016

WASHINGTON — Health insurance companies around the country are seeking rate increases of 20 percent to 40 percent or more, saying their new customers under the Affordable Care Act turned out to be sicker than expected. Federal officials say they are determined to see that the requests are scaled back.

Blue Cross and Blue Shield plans — market leaders in many states — are seeking rate increases that average 23 percent in Illinois, 25 percent in North Carolina, 31 percent in Oklahoma, 36 percent in Tennessee and 54 percent in Minnesota, according to documents posted online by the federal government and state insurance commissioners and interviews with insurance executives.

The Oregon insurance commissioner, Laura N. Cali, has just approved 2016 rate increases for companies that cover more than 220,000 people. Moda Health Plan, which has the largest enrollment in the state, received a 25 percent increase, and the second-largest plan, LifeWise, received a 33 percent increase.

Jesse Ellis O’Brien, a health advocate at the Oregon State Public Interest Research Group, said: “Rate increases will be bigger in 2016 than they have been for years and years and will have a profound effect on consumers here. Some may start wondering if insurance is affordable or if it’s worth the money.” […]

“Helping poor and suffering people is compassion. Voting for our government to use guns to give money to help poor and suffering people is immoral self-righteous bullying laziness” – Penn Jillette.

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Independence Day 2015

July 4, 2015

Love your country, not your government.

Using the trumpet for the anthem was a nice touch.

This is one of several clips of Challenger (the Free-Flying National Anthem Eagle) flying at public events.

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Here’s an interesting design approach

July 2, 2015

It’s a pity they don’t show it actually going 0 – 60.

Via engineeringtv

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