Wednesday, January 02, 2013

Three to Read

Three items that I suggest people read:

Victor Davis Hanson

These are the most foreboding times in my 59 years. The reelection of Barack Obama has released a surge of rare honesty among the Left about its intentions, coupled with a sense of triumphalism that the country is now on board for still greater redistributionist change. 
There is no historical appreciation among the new progressive technocracy that central state planning, whether the toxic communist brand or supposedly benevolent socialism, has only left millions of corpses in its wake, or abject poverty and misery. Add up the Soviet Union and Mao’s China and the sum is 80 million murdered or starved to death. Add up North Korea, Cuba, and the former Eastern Europe, and the tally is egalitarian poverty and hopelessness. The EU sacrificed democratic institutions for coerced utopianism and still failed, leaving its Mediterranean shore bankrupt and despondent. 
Nor is there much philosophical worry that giving people massive subsidies destroys individualism, the work ethic, and the personal sense of accomplishment. There is rarely worry expressed that a profligate nation that borrows from others abroad and those not born has no moral compass. There is scant political appreciation that the materialist Marxist argument — that justice is found only through making sure that everyone has the same slice of stuff from the zero-sum pie — was supposed to end up on the ash heap of history.

Read the whole thing.  Seriously, take 15 minutes and read the whole thing.

Commercial Space Flight
Private Space Flight Companies are looking toward a big year in 2013 and that is good news.
Private companies building new spaceships to soar through orbital and suborbital space are looking forward to an action-packed year in 2013, with new flight tests, launches, wind tunnel tests and rocket technology trials all planned during the new year.
Companies like SpaceX, Boeing and Sierra Nevada Corp are among the companies competing for a commercial crew contract from NASA to ferry crew up to the International Space Station, which contract is expected to be awarded in 2014.

Civil Asset Forfeiture
Civil Asset Forfeiture is on the rise.  In one case out of Philadelphia, one woman was able to beat a system that seems decidedly stacked against innocent people who get caught up in the government's taking of private property without conviction of a crime, or in the case of Tammy McClurg, not even being charged of a crime.

Should you lose your business if a handful of your customers break the law without your knowledge or consent? The Philadelphia District Attorney says yes. In 2008, the DA filed a civil asset forfeiture action against Danny Boy’s II, a corner bar in the Holmesburg neighborhood of northeast Philly suspected of being a “nexus” for drug activity. 
Civil forfeiture, a practice recently labeled “state-sanctioned theft” by a Pennsylvania judge, allows the government to seize assets—cars, cash, homes—without first, or ever, proving that the property’s owner committed a crime. Danny Boy’s II owner Tammy McClurg was never even charged with one. 
But the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania ordered her to shut down for nearly two years while she fought the taking. In addition to paying legal fees, McClurg, a single mother of three, had to keep up on mortgage payments, utility bills, and taxes for the bar, her sole source of income.


According to a recent Philadelphia City Paper investigation, the DA brings hundreds of forfeiture cases against real estate each year, and it splits the proceeds with the Philadelphia Police Department. Combined with seizures of cash and other property, the DA and police rake in around $6 million annually from forfeitures. Few cases ever reach a neutral arbiter—owners must attend multiple rounds of hearings run by assistant district attorneys before they see a judge—and even when they do the deck is stacked against them. 
From the City Paper:
…Having one’s day in court is no guarantee of success, either: The burden of “preponderance of evidence,” unlike that of proof beyond a reasonable doubt, means that the DA doesn’t have to present an airtight case—just one that strikes a judge (or, in rare cases, a jury) as even slightly more believable than that of the respondent. 
The government’s case against Danny Boy’s II was apparently not convincing. Last year, a trial judge found that McClurg had proven she was an innocent owner, ending what she called a “nightmare.” That outcome is vanishingly rare. According to the City Paper, a judge rejected forfeiture in only 48 of the 8,000 cases filed in 2010—0.6 percent.

Note that McClurg "had proven she was an innocent owner."  The problem with civil asset forfeiture is that it allows the state to trump up pretty much any charge it wants, and then does not have to actually prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the property should be forfeited.  Reason has done a fantastic job of covering civil asset forfeiture abuse.
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