Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Liberty and Government.

From Professor Robert Higg's Tocqueville Award Acceptance Speech:

I espouse individual liberty in this “extreme” fashion for two reasons, which in my mind complement one another. The first is that freedom is the optimal condition for each individual’s engagement in society. To be driven, bullied, abused, disregarded, treated with contempt and dishonor―these are bad things in themselves, not only for me, but for every human being. We ought to recoil from them, regardless of whether the perpetrator is a local cop or the government in Washington. Yet all too many of us become accustomed to such official cruelties and take them in stride without much conscious thought that they are wrongs and ought to be stopped, regardless of their source.

To many of us have come to accept from government the kind of behavior we would never tolerate coming from an individual simply because it is the government.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Another Case for Prosecutorial Misconduct:

 Reason Magazine has the story of Parents who have sued a Wisconsin D.A. for charging their 6-year-old son with a felony after he played doctor with a 5-Year-Old Girl.  Might there be some political overtones:

According to the complaint (PDF), the girl is "the daughter of a well-known political figure in Grant County," and her brother, who is the same age, also was involved in playing doctor but was not charged. In addition to Riniker, the lawsuit names as defendants retired Grant County Sheriff's Sgt. James Kopp and Jan Moravits, an investigator with Grant County Social Services "whose regional supervisor...is the political figure's wife's sister-in-law"—i.e., the aunt of the alleged victim. 
Although the boy, now 7, is too young to be prosecuted or named in a juvenile delinquency petitition, Madison.com reports, county officials are using the felony charge to force his parents into accepting "protection or services" for him. The lawsuit says that once he turns 18, he will be listed as a sex offender.

Seriously, I am sorry, but this kind of crap is just plain stupid.  Back in my childhood at age 6 or 7, if I had played doctor with a 5 year old neighbor, my parents would have gotten a call, I would have gotten a talking to and that would have been the end of that.

But what is criminally tragic is that this boy, for doing something that is relatively innocent and completely normal, could be branded a sex offender for LIFE for doing something when he was 6.

Surely there is something more important for this D.A.(Grant County, Wisconsin, District Attorney Lisa Riniker) to be doing.  No community is so devoid of even marginally criminal activity or DUI's that a case of "playing doctor" has to be ratcheted up into a criminal case.

I don't practice criminal law, but I do vaguely recall from my criminal law course  that part of a criminal case is that there has to be an intent to commit a crime (the mens rea), the intent to do wrong.  That is something I am pretty confident in saying that this boy didn't have.

Why the Court has not tossed the criminal case out on it ear is shocking to me.

Oh, by the way, the D.A. was able to get a gag order that prevents the parents (but thankfully not their lawyers) from talking about the case.
The station (WISC-TV) spoke instead with their lawyers, who are not covered by the order:
"That behavior by a prosecutor is outrageous," said Christopher Cooper, an attorney for the boy's parents.... 
"She [Riniker] bypassed the parents and sent a 6-year-old boy a summons, on which is a threat that the 6-year-old will go to jail for failure to appear," Cooper said. 
The attorneys said they have sought the opinion of many experts who said that children "playing doctor" is not a sex crime. 
"[The experts say] a 6-year-old child is unable to intellectually and emotionally associate sexual gratification with the act that D has been accused of committing," Cooper said.... 
Repeated calls to Riniker and an attorney for [her] and two co-defendants have gone unanswered since Friday, WISC-TV reported.

Is this a case for prosecutorial misconduct?  Maybe, but what is more interesting is the political link.  I am sure almost all of this case activity is going to be conducted under seal given the fact that kids are involved, but D.A. Riniker's lame excuse "that that legislature didn't put an age limit on sexual assault" is no excuse for not using a healthy dose of common sense.  If she was pressured by other politicians, there is going to be some really interesting things coming out of this case.

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President Obama and the Budget: What We Have Here is a Failure to Lead?

Lead, follow or get out of the way....at this point, I would be happy with the latter.

Betsy's Page: When a president fails to lead: With this president, it was clear that we were never going to have some grand deal to reduce the federal debt. He is just not interested. ...

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The Path to Freedom and Success Cannot Run Through the Government

Thomas Sowell and Frances Fox Piven AND Milton Freidman talking about equality of opportunity vs. equality of results and the government's role in either.

Everything old is new again.

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Questioning Authority

My daughters love the Disney Channel Movie "Lemonade Mouth" and one of the messages of the movie (and I am assuming the book of the same name) is to question the motives of authority, to challenge the status quo. I kind of like that notion.

In the adult/political world, we don't see enough of that. In the modern (and by modern I mean in the last three years), debate about the "rich" paying their "fair share" of the tax burden and the rise of the "patriotic millionaire" who asks to be assessed higher taxes (but doesn't voluntarily part with his/her money to the government), the class warfare has gotten pretty nasty but few people have taken the time to explain why the so called "conservative" rich people don't want to pay more in taxes. Well, Victor Davis Hanson has done that in Why Not Pay Higher Taxes?

I think a few disclaimers are in order:

1. I am not part of the $200,000 plus crowd and while 10 years ago I might have wanted to be, I am happy with my life as it is now. But while I am not inclined right now to seek inclusion in that "1%" and I don't harbor any resentment of those are in that category, either by hard work or by luck or by talent, or more likely the combination of the three.

2. While I am technically part of the so-called 99%, I certainly don't identify with the economic message of the Occupy Wall Street crowd, i.e. tax the 1% so they are paying their "fair share." I begrudge no one the money they earn so long as they earn it or don't steal it out of my bank account or off my labor.

3. I am NOT opposed to a social safety net, so don't think me callous. But I believe that the social safety net, i.e. welfare, food stamps, unemployment assistance, free medical care through Medicaid, etc. are a hand up when you fall or are pushed down. But they should not and cannot be a hand out.

4. I am NOT opposed to paying taxes. However, I am a believer in a limited government, which means my tax dollars should be spent ONLY on those functions which government MUST do, i.e. those things and powers that are granted to the government because it is part of the social compact.

So with those disclaimers in mind, I think that Hanson has nailed a few items on the head. While Hanson lists it third, I think it is the most important:
3) Wise Spending?

Then there is the manner in which the collected money is spent. It is not true to say Great Society programs have not helped millions, but it is legitimate to ask “at what cost?” came the expansion from a safety net to a sort of guaranteed livelihood. The spread of food stamps to almost 50 million recipients, the increase in unemployment to 99 weeks, the plethora of housing, health, and education supplements — all that creates not just necessary charity, but a mechanism for millions to find an alternative lifestyle, where subsidies, occasional cash, off-the-books work, and “other” activities can supplant work. Mindless “Black Friday” splurging is not just done by the well-off. Once legitimate questions have simply became taboo: “Do you make enough to support that additional child? Do you really think you needed to buy that flat-screen TV? Do you avoid alcohol and drugs?” To inquire like that is to earn liberal invective, but not to is intellectually dishonest.
When some states, such a Florida, proposed requiring drug testing as a requirement for receiving state welfare payments, the liberal crowd got all exercised. But the fact of the matter is, asking that question is not only legitimate since it relevant to the question of what welfare monies will be spent on, but it probably moral since the money that is being given to recipients is not the state's money. In fact since Florida doesn't have an income tax, it is more likely my money--at least in part-- a result of when I visit Florida and pay sales, hotel and other "tourist" taxes.

However, while the Occupy Wall Street crowd, and the liberal elite, question why the rich don't want to pay more taxes, the same folks never ask the question of whether we are spending the money in a wise manner. We never ask the analogy to the "Do you have the money for that big screen TV?" which is "Do we as a nation/government/state have a need to spend money on that social program or weapons system or governmental agency?" That question is not routinely asked at ANY level of government or by either party (yes GOP, I am looking at you). When the question is finally asked, it is always asked in the context of recession or fiscal emergency. Such a question is never, ever asked in times of plenty, despite that obvious and visible evidence that an economic down turn will occur as surely as the sun rises in the east.

Furthermore, what the 1% are implicitly asking when they object to paying more in taxes is why are we as a society asking the tough question of our political leaders; is that really a wise or necessary use of our tax dollars? What the 1% are saying is, why aren't the 99% questioning authority?

We don't ask the question enough, that is we never put our political leaders' feet to the fire and question their authority, to question their motives in what they are doing, in essence, we don't challenge the status quo. So when the demand for the rich to pay more (whether it is fair or not) is met with a question of why should they pay more, the response from the liberal thinker is "because you are rich." It is never, what you do you mean." The response is "you are greedy." The response is not to question authority or the status quo, but to challenge the very people who are questioning authority or motives.

Much like the kids in Lemonade Mouth, the 1% are challenging the status quo and they are right to do so. In the end, the kids in Lemonade Mouth are called geniuses and revolutionaries. Maybe the lower end of that 1% will be seen as such as well.

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Oh My Gosh....

I am a big fan of Outside the Beltway and James Joyner as a writer. I don't know him personally at all, but I feel for him now.  His wife passed away at age 41 in her sleep of causes currently unknown.  Mr. Joyner has two young children and now faces a terrible challenge.

Shocking to say the least that his wife would pass away at such an age--my age--in her sleep. How does one handle that, I have no idea.

My thoughts and prayers for Mr. Joyner and his family.

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Teen tweeter won't apologize to Sam Brownback

From the AP via POLITICO.com:
 A Kansas teenager who wrote a disparaging tweet about Gov. Sam Brownback said Sunday that she is rejecting her high school principal’s demand for a written apology.
Emma Sullivan, 18, of the Kansas City suburb of Fairway, said she isn’t sorry and doesn’t think such a letter would be sincere.

The basis for the demand that she apologize is that she was at a school sponsored event. I don't think she should have to apologize either, even if she is at a school sponsored event.

First, I don't have a problem with the Governor's office monitoring social media--in fact I think they should. But the fact that they contacted this girl's school over the text just smacks of Big Brother. Unless the teenager threatened harm to the Governor, she exercised a right that the rest of us have as a matter of course. It should not have matter one whit if she was on a school trip or there on her own.

Second, just because she is on a school trip does not, in and of itself, give the school the right to require an apology. Again, absent a threat, she did nothing that is legally wrong. She might not have said something nice, which might break the Golden Rule, but it didn't break any law--again short of a threat on Brownback's life or family...what has she done wrong? She wasn't respectful? Big deal. First of all she is a teenager, second, she didn't like what Brownback did with the arts budget and she voiced her opinion. Big deal.

Really, if we are going to teach our children about free speech and being involved in the political discussion, things like this are not likely to encourage that behavior. Of course, that may be the goal of the political elites anyway.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Now About Eric Holder

Donald Berwick is on his way out after the U.S. Senate refused to confirm his recess appointment.

Berwick's politics aside, he was relatively harmless.

Now about Eric Holder......not so harmless.

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On "the 99%"
"[S]top talking about “solidarity” when all they mean is “those who want to work will be taxed so we can give it to those who do not (want to) work.'"

"Every single loser in America that carries a sign reading “Tax the rich” is an individual who wants the benefits of wealth and the power of wealth but steadfastly refuses to invest the work or develop the mental acuity required to earn and create the big pile of money. "

On Energy Policy:
"[D]eliberately importing these sources of energy [foreign oil] in order to export the environmental degradation that comes with extracting them doesn’t sit well with my version of decent Christian ethics either."

On the size and complexity of government:
"Nobody in their right minds should feel safe or liberated while they live under a government that is too complex to adequately monitor or understand."

Some food for thought in the larger piece.

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DEA Overreach? A Regulatory Takings Case

An 88 year old man, a retired metallurgist who runs a small business with his 85 year old girl friend is being forced out of business because he makes iodine crystals to purify water. The Drug Enforcement Agency is requiring Bob Wallace implement expensive security measures for his business (run out of his garage) because the product he makes has shown up in some meth labs. Reason Magazine cites the DEA: Methamphetamine is an insidious drug that causes enormous collateral damage," wrote Barbara Carreno, a DEA spokeswoman. "If Mr. Wallace is no longer in business he has perhaps become part of that collateral damage, for it was not a result of DEA regulations, but rather the selfish actions of criminal opportunists. Individuals that readily sacrifice human lives for money.
OK, but is Mr. Wallace one of those criminal opportunists who sacrifice human lives for money? Nope, he makes and sells a product that has non-criminal uses.

Perhaps an analogy would make this stupidity a little clearer. A lawn and garden center sells fertilizers of varying sorts, all for legal purposes, such as making tomato plants grow better or make my lawn a little greener. But if some marijuana grower comes in to buy a couple bags of fertilizer to help grow his pot plants, that doesn't make the lawn and garden center culpable.

Of maybe something a little different. A licensed gun owning man comes into a gun shop and buys a box of ammunition for his hunting rifle. That is a legal purchase and the gun shop is make a legal sale. The licensed gun owning man then goes out a kills another human being by accident (in a hunting accident). The law does not hold the gun shop liable for selling ammunition.

So if some meth maker buys some of Wallaces crystals to make meth--how is Wallace responsible? What Wallace sells is legal and the state has not proven that Wallace is guilty of anything. But Wallace is "collateral damage" to the DEA.

No, what has happened is that the DEA's requirement that Wallace implement security measures that are prohibitive in cost in comparison to the size of Wallace's business has amounted to a regulatory taking of Wallace's business.

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Of Pepper Spray, Free Speech and Due Process

Photo from The Daily Caller

The pepper spray incident at University of California Davis is reprehensible, no matter what your politics are or you feeling about the Occupy Wall Street Movement.  As it has been reported, the officer involved and the campus police chief have been suspended and may possible be headed for the unemployment line and rightfully they should.

However, I think the incident and some of the fallout posits and interesting dichotomy.  Professor KC Johnson (of the Duke Rape Case fame) posits some interesting things that have come out of Durham with regard to the UC-Davis incident about student rights and how campus administrations should deal with students.

However, students are (usually) adults and the college campus has long been a place where protests of one sort or another take place.  That should be something that campus police forces should be aware of.

But what I find interesting is the outrage over the incident.  As  FIRE President Greg Lukianoff noted, the UC-Davis Pepper incident is not the first time in recent times that campus police have been so over zealous as to be violating the rights of students.  Yet, because this incident is about Occupy Wall Street protests and was particularly stupid and heinous, it has received a lot of press coverage.

The fact is that campus all across the country routinely trample the rights of students and faculty alike.  But we rarely hear about such incidents.  I believe the campus incidents are simply another means by which the government attempts to limit our ability to speak.  Young people have a courage that many older adults don't have or lost.  Perhaps that is a courage born of naivete or idealism, but when the notion of free speech is quashed in the one place where it should flourish, and quashed by means of an armed police force, then the decision to speak up the next time is harder to make.  Eventually, the concept of free and open speech dies on the vine.  

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Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Saudis face waning power in North America

If the Canadian oil development and pipeline makes the Middle East oil sultans worried and reports are the Saudis face waning power in North America, the the quicker we build the pipeline the better.

What ever happened to energy independence? I would much rather rely on Canada's good graces than on Saudi Arabia's.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Perry Wants a Debate---with Nancy Pelosi?

The Daily Caller reports:
Texas Gov. Rick Perry has challenged the women conservatives love to hate — House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi — to a public debate next week.

In a letter obtained by The Hill, Perry requested that the pair meet for a debate during Perry’s visit to Washington next week to compare the plan he rolled out this week to “Uproot and Overhaul Washington” with the current system.

Why? Cause Perry is struggling in the polls and thinks this is a good idea. I think if Perry is struggling, he needs to focus on his current problem--winning the nomination. Nancy Pelosi is not the debate opponent he needs to show that he can do the job. Republicans don't really want to hear what Pelosi has to say.

Plus this just elevates Pelosi again, for what purpose? There is a reason why Perry is plummeting in the polling--this is just one of the reasons.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Eric Holder: Calls For Resignation Grow

The Daily Caller.

Why doe Eric Holder still have a job? Does he have pictures of Obama playing golf with the Devil?

Monday, November 14, 2011

Deal-breaker election looms over supercommittee negotiations (Meghashyam Mali/The Hill)

Deal-breaker election looms over supercommittee negotiations (Meghashyam Mali/The Hill): Color me shocked--the "super committee" was designed from the get-go as a "get out of vote jail free" card for Congress. If you truly expected this Committee to do anything--raise your hand. Everyone with their hand raised is delusional and should have their head examined.