Archives for: April 2014

The Bill Comes Due

Remember all that talk about how Obamacare was going to save us all this money? Evil uncaring heretics like me pointed out that this was impossible. You can not insure more people and you can not outlaw cheap insurance without increasing healthcare costs. Romneycare saw costs soar after implementation because … funny story … when people have insurance they see the doctor more often. Even the dreaded ER visits went up.

But no, we just didn’t understand. We were letting our hatred of poor people cloud our vision. Why the cost curve bent down in 2009-2013, which was proof that Obamacare was keeping costs down even before it was implemented!

Um … oops:

As I reported earlier this month, there were already signs of growing health care spending in the fourth quarter of 2013, when it jumped 5.6 percent, which had been the fastest clip since 2004.

But the 9.9 percent jump (on an annualized basis) came in the quarter from January through March, which was the first three months in which individuals who gaining coverage through the law were able to use it. That was the fastest rate recorded since health care spending grew at a 10 percent rate in the third quarter of 1980.

The data released on Wednesday, as part of the government’s report on gross domestic product, is preliminary and subject to revision in the coming months.

Note that first quarter GDP growth came in at 0.1%, so the non-healthcare section of the economy shrank by 1% last quarter.

So … are the Obamacare supporters admitting that they were wrong? Uh, not exactly:

But let’s be very clear about what’s happening here: an improving economy is allowing Americans to now spend more on health care, while people who have previously been uninsured are finally getting insurance and are using their care. In the meantime, health care prices are still continuing to grow at low rates, reducing Americans’ health costs.

ThinkRegress goes on to say that, in the long run, healthcare costs will come down because the IPAB will force changes in healthcare reimbursement. Therefore we should be celebrating because the first half of the CBO’s prediction — healthcare costs will rise — has come true!

There are many many problems with this. The biggest is history. IPAB is not the first effort by the government to reign in healthcare spending. There is a whole alphabet soup of programs — RBRVS, GRH, SGR, etc. — that have completely failed in this regard. And that leads to the bigger point. Those of you who have followed the budget debates for the last twenty years know how this plays out: we get spending increases today with the promise of spending cuts tomorrow to balance them out. And those spending cuts never happen. Because tomorrow we are told that spending needs to go up because of the economy, the uninsured, the homeless or Venus being in Taurus.

So what will the Democrats and their apologists say when health care costs continue to rise? Well, besides blaming Republicans, I expect they will claim that this “proves” how much we need single-payer. To prepare for that, read McArdle today. Over the last twenty years, uber-controlled monopsony single-payer healthcare systems have restrained their spending growth to … about what we’ve had in the United States. The big growth in US healthcare spending occurred forty years ago and is now baked into the system. So … no, Virginia, socialized medicine will not cure what ails us.

Buckle your seat belts, friends. The ride’s only going to get bumpier.

Want to see what propaganda looks like?

Then take a look at how “The Hill” reports the likely defeat of an idiotic democrat scheme to help union bosses make more money and lard democrat campaign coffers at the expense of economic growth, in the democrat controlled senate of all places, is happening because of republican resistance! As if you needed more proof that this is just political jockeying by the democrats, I show you this:

The Democrats’ minimum wage bill is set to die on the Senate floor Wednesday. Despite an intense push by President Obama and Democratic leaders on Capitol Hill, Senate Republicans haven’t budged and will reject the measure that would increase the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour. The procedural roll call to advance the bill is expected to fail on a party-line vote, short of the 60 votes needed.

The legislation is coming up for a vote after weeks of delay, but a multipronged pressure campaign against Republicans has failed to fracture the GOP — in sharp contrast to prior election years. Democrats could bring the bill back to the floor many times between now and the midterm elections, but the small window for a bipartisan compromise or a GOP capitulation has all but shut. The GOP-led House, meanwhile, is adamantly opposed to the Senate measure.

Yeah sure. The problem this thing can’t pass in a democrat controlled senate, where Harry Reid and the democrats have held the nation hostage for going on 6 years now, is the republicans. And democrats thinks this minimum wage hike bill is such an important thing to have – for economic growth I bet – that they are going to keep bringing it back, many times, the article quotes, before the midterm elections. Seriously, do we need to rehash how idiotic this all looks and plays out to be? The idea is idiotic and will cause economic harm, and the democrats know it, but it plays well with the envious idiots that think families actually exist out there where the main bread winner is only getting paid a minimum wage.

Jackals, I tell you. The fucking class warriors do not care who they screw over and how much lying they have to do to help them steal elections. They would rather burn the house down than concede their ideas abject are failures with real and detrimental economic consequences. You want to really tell me that the scorched earth machine Reis has been running with an iron fist can’t find a few east coast RINOS to vote along with them to pass this thing? Ask yourself why that would be the case.

I usually don’t hold a very high opinion of the young and mushy headed, but I am surprised that so many amongst them get it. The sad thing is that this distrust should be prevalent amongst all of us. Just look at the track record of these credentialed elite. Look at their bank accounts before and after they got elected too. That will give you a clear picture of what is going on and why things are broken beyond anything they had ever been before.

This is what that “hope and fundamental change” Obama promised you idiots that voted for him, not once, but twice, looks like. Instead of doing things to help the average person, they grandstand and want things that will cause even more economic ruination. And then simply because it helps enrich them. Fucking parasites.

The Death of the Judiciary

So this was happening:

A member of the Oklahoma House drafted a resolution Wednesday seeking the impeachment of state Supreme Court justices who granted a delay of execution to two death row inmates.

Republican state Rep. Mike Christian told The Associated Press that the five justices engaged in a “willful neglect of duty” when they granted stays of execution Monday to Clayton Lockett and Charles Warner, both of whom were scheduled to be executed this month.

Lockett and Warner, who aren’t challenging their convictions, have filed a civil lawsuit seeking the source of the drugs used to execute them. Pending the resolution of that lawsuit, they asked for a stay of execution.

The Court of Criminal Appeals has said it couldn’t weigh in on the delay of execution because it didn’t have the power or the authority, so the high court said a “rule of necessity” led to its decision Monday. Under the state constitution, the Supreme Court handles civil cases while the Court of Criminal Appeals takes those involving inmates.

The Court later dissolved the stay.

At issue here is that the State of Oklahoma is refusing to reveal the drugs they use to execute people. Ostensibly, this is to protect companies that manufacture those drugs from being harassed by anti-death-penalty activists.

I’ll get into the merits of the case in a moment. But what I want to focus on is what I see as a looming threat to an independent judiciary. Over the last couple of decades, we have seen a slow push to gradually eviscerate the independence of the judicial branch. Politicians rail against “activist judges”, each political side screams blue murder when SCOTUS rules against them and now we finally have impeachment proceedings because of a disagreement with a court. And this isn’t confined to conservatives. Every time SCOTUS rules against liberals, there are cries to impeach the justices or at least limit their terms (conveniently to just after the last Republican President left office).

While these cries might be satisfying to those who rail against “activist” judges and are still fuming from either the Obamacare or the Citizens United decision, I see this as fundamentally dangerous to liberty. Because the protection of our liberty and our Constitutional rights requires an active independent judiciary. Both sides should understand this. Conservatives have won key victories in cases like Heller because the bench decided to act against the “will of the people” as expressed through their legislature. And some of our most bitter defeats — Kelo and Obamacare, in particular — have come about because the judiciary wasn’t activist enough and wouldn’t overturn a law. Liberals have also won key victories — like last year’s gay marriage decision — when the judiciary has over-ruled the “will of the people”.

In the end, this boils down less to any real philosophy about the role of the judicial branch than to whining whenever that branch doesn’t do what we want. Objecting to bad court decisions is fine. In fact, I think it’s required in a healthy Republic. But the tone of the last few years had turned away from criticism to active attacks and calls to limit the independence of the judiciary.

This trend worries me. I have expressed this concern before, but it’s worth repeating. I fear that we are slowly moving toward a regime where there is basically no one protecting our Constitutional rights. Congress and the President rarely, if ever, consider the Constitutionality of their laws. They say that’s for the Courts (in fact, Bush said exactly this when signing the blatantly unconstitutional McCain-Feingold Law). Everyone seems to agree that Presidents are just supposed to enforce the law, never bother with whether those laws violate our basic freedoms (with the exception of the occasional veto). And with the railing against courts for “ignoring the will of the people/legislature”, we’re moving away from judicial review as well. So given these facts, who the hell is defending our Constitutional rights? Jon Stewart?

This is the complete opposite of how things should be. When the government acts, the branches of our government should be like the officers in a nuclear missile silo — nothing happens unless all three turn their keys. All three have to agree that it is within the power of government; all three have to agree that it does not violate our Constitutional rights. Congress must not pass laws that violate the Constitution; the President must veto ones that do and refuse to use unconstitutional powers that the legislature gives him*; the Courts must bounce any law that violates the Constitution.

(*To be clear, this doesn’t mean the President should act on his own or rewrite laws or ignore laws. This power, which would be used very rarely, would only be used in the negative sense of the President refusing to utilize powers that he deems unconstitutional, such as if Congress suspended habeas.)

Now as to this particular case: some commentators are avoiding talking about what the criminals did. I won’t. One shotgunned a teenager and buried her alive. The other raped and murdered a child. While I am neutral on the death penalty, these would probably be the guys you would want to apply it to.

But the issue here is not the horrible crimes that these vermin committed. The issues it that Oklahoma is using a secret recipe for lethal injection — a formula that tonight resulted in the botched execution of one of the two men in this case. When the methods of execution are secret, there is literally no way to decide if it constitutes cruel and unusual punishment.

Now maybe you think with what these guys did, they deserve to suffer. But we have laws and a Constitution for a reason and that reason is to protect everyone from the excesses of government. And when you chip away at anyone’s Constitutional rights, you chip away at everyone’s. The destruction of our Constitutional liberties always starts with people who everyone agrees are despicable, before proceeding to the rest of us. Free speech killers don’t start with Sesame Street; they start with the Klan and the Nazis. Surveillance fetishists don’t start with your backyard; they start with terrorists. And attacks on the protections in our criminal justice system don’t start with some kid smoking pot; they start with murderers and child molesters. There is good reason to believe that at least one innocent man has been executed and a new study claims that one in 25 death row inmates, and perhaps more, are innocent. Do they deserve to suffer?

We can not yield on Constitutional rights, not even with these pieces of human debris. Because once the freedom destroyers gain an inch, they will ask a mile.

But … even if we posit that the Court was wrong to delay these executions, a call for impeachment is ridiculous overkill. The Court did not set them free, commute their sentences or bake them cookies. They simply delayed their executions (as it turned out, for a few days). If the Courts are in danger of impeachment every time they make an unpopular decision, we might as well just do away with the Courts. Try people on Oprah and execute them on Springer. Who cares if innocent people are killed cruelly? It’s what the people want, isn’t it? That’s what baby rapists and child killers deserve, isn’t it?

An independent judiciary is going to make some mistakes and some bad decisions. But a non-independent judiciary that is subject to the whims of the mob is going to make bad decisions constantly. We already have two of our branches constantly doing the wrong thing. Do we really need the third to join in the fun?

Can I now say I told you so?

How many of those accusations of scandalous behavior tied to this WH have to be proven true before enough people catch on that the WH is currently held by a crime syndicate? I know that Fast & Furious has been swept under the rug, and that the LSM and WH are hard at work trying to hide the fact the democratic party, under direction from the WH and the DOJ, profited from sicking the IRS on their political enemies. Obamacare is a travesty and will destroy millions of people’s lives. The pain and tragedy has just begun there. And with Billary eying the 2016 election, Benghazi and what this WH were doing has also been given the short shrift. But despite all the obfuscation and attempts to deceive, coerce, intimidate, and lie their way out of these and many other abuses of power and criminal acts, the truth will come out./ I wonder if this WH isn’t letting this stuff come out now to distract from something else, though.

Choking the Porn Money Chicken

Hmmm:

Despite being in good financial standing, adult film performers and others in the porn industry have had bank accounts abruptly terminated—and the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) may have had something to do with it.

Under “Operation Choke Point,” the DOJ and its allies are going after legal but subjectively undesirable business ventures by pressuring banks to terminate their bank accounts or refuse their business. The very premise is clearly chilling—the DOJ is coercing private businesses in an attempt to centrally engineer the American marketplace based on it’s own politically biased moral judgements. Targeted business categories so far have included payday lenders, ammunition sales, dating services, purveyors of drug paraphernalia, and online gambling sites.

Here are the details on Operation Choke Point:

The “chokepoint” in this operation is the nation’s payments infrastructure, the means by which merchants process nearly $5 trillion in consumer purchases in the U.S. each year. Federal law enforcers are targeting merchant categories like payday lenders, ammunition and tobacco sales, and telemarketers – but not merely by pursuing those merchants directly. Rather, Operation Chokepoint is flooding payments companies that provide processing service to those industries with subpoenas, civil investigative demands, and other burdensome and costly legal demands.

The theory behind this enforcement program has superficial logic: increase the legal and compliance costs of serving certain disfavored merchant categories, and payments companies will simply stop providing service to such merchants. And it’s working – payments companies across the country are cutting off service to categories of merchants that – although providing a legal service – are creating the potential for significant financial and reputational harm as law enforcement publicizes its activities. Thus far, payday lenders have been the most frequent target. Whatever the merits of payday lending – and there are valid arguments on both sides –it is legal in 36 states. And if payday lenders are today’s target– what category will be next and who makes that decision?

To anyone familiar with the way our thuggish government does business, this is not a surprise. When they can not get something outlawed — like payday lending or medical marijuana — they use the tools at their disposal to harass them to death. They threaten banks and financial services into not doing business with them. They pass onerous regulations. They launch inspections and raids to insure “compliance” with whatever regulations they’ve imposed. And they come down like a ton of bricks on anyone who has broken the rules to even a minor extent.

In this case, it appears that someone at the DoJ may have abused that power to go after an industry that is popular and legal. But … that’s what fucking happens when you give the government this kind of power. We shouldn’t be at all surprised that this power is being abused. We should be shocked if it isn’t abused every damned day. Think about it: through a campaign of subpoenas and legal demands, the DOJ can effectively impose massive fines on industries that have broken no laws. All that needs to happen is for someone in Washington to get a bug up their ass about an industry and they will be targeted for potentially millions in compliance costs.

Operation Choke Point needs to be ended immediately. It may turn out that this has nothing to do with Operation Choke Point. But the existence of a program like his is antithetical to the notion of rule of law. If the Obama Administration doesn’t like pay day lenders or porn sites, they can try to outlaw them through legislation (good luck with that). Allowing this kind of lawless harassment is simply wrong, no matter who is being targeted.

Update: To clarify something: the connection of this incident to Operation Choke Point is speculation at this point. It’s possible Chase is just engaging in some good old-fashioned slut shaming (in which case, fuck you, Chase). It’s also possible that the porn industry inadvertently triggered Operation Choke Point protocols since they are targeted at businesses that have high charge rejection rates and it’s likely a lot of porn users experience buyer’s remorse and try to reverse the charges (or that porn sites are a favored test bed for stolen credit cards).

Nevertheless, my criticisms stand. We have been here before. The reality that many drug dealers have lots of cash has been used to assume that anyone with lots of cash is a criminal and the cash can be taken without trial. The reality that some criminals structure bank deposits has been used to make structuring itself a crime, even when the money involved is legitimate.

The government is pressuring banks into shutting down accounts because they meet a profile of fraudulent business dealing. How is this anything more than an extension of the already abusive structuring laws?

Obama’s new America

Can you imagine the treatment from the media and the left if a republican administration had their State Department state that Prosecutions of journalists who refuse to disclose their sources for national security-related stories do not qualify as harassment? Well, Obama’s State Department just made that case, and the LSM is mum.

“Individuals are required to testify in court cases all the time,” Jen Psaki said during Monday’s press briefing. “There is an enormous difference between when we’re talking about an individual revealing classified information and what we’re seeing happening around the world.”

The exchange was a follow-up from Friday, when Psaki celebrated World Press Freedom Day. “We will highlight emblematic cases of imperiled reporters and media outlets that have been targeted, oppressed, imprisoned or otherwise harassed because of their professional work,” she said of the coming State Department initiative.

When Psaki was asked about the case of New York Times reporter James Risen “who was ordered in July to testify in the trial of a former Central Intelligence Agency official accused of leaking information to him,” Psaki replied Risen was not charged “for simply exercising [his] ability to tell a story.”

The part that is frightening is that the Obama administration has repeatedly singled out and harassed reporters that pissed them off, often just because said reporters inferred or talked about all the abuses and illegal shit the various entities in the Obama administration are doing, by having the Obama administration’s prosecutorial arm claim national security violations require them to find out who divulged their misbehavior, and then all so they could exact vengeance on any and all whistle blowers.

No administration has been more hostile to freedom of information and abusive to the press, resorting to an incredible level of secrecy to hid their massive abuses and illegal activity, ironically after they promised to be the most transparent administration ever after the left lied about the secrecy surrounding the previous administration, as this administration. Nixon was forced to resign for merely asking the IRS to provide him information on his enemies. Amongst the plethora of abuses and crimes of this administration is the no longer deniable use of the IRS, which actually went far beyond Nixon’s wildest dreams, to help the democratic party coordinate actions and attacks against their political enemies, nut just before the 2010 elections, but which is seemingly still ongoing considering the DOJ keeps turning a blind eye to it.

Tyranny: it’s what’s Obama’s changed America is like.

They wish it wasn’t so

Racism is alive and well, and while the left would like to pretend the rich owner of the L.A. Clippers that got caught showing his true feelings about color is a republican, I have to point out that the NAACP isn’t ever going to have to pull lifteime achievement awards from a conservative, because they don’t like them. My bet is that the media will soon be ignoring this story, as their agenda to pretend they were dealing with a rich republican falls apart as the facts come out about Sterling’s real political leanings.

I have said it before, and I will repeat it again: the biggest racists I have met have all been left leaning scumbags that pretend they are all caring and such. Sterling fits the modl perfectly. I would not be surprised to find out the NAACP was honoring him for adovating for liberal policies that are destructive to minorities, but are percieved by the race huxters as good things. Watch who is trying to run away from this guy the fastest, demonizing this racist, cause I bet you they are very likely to be people that are worried they will be found out too. Also look for the disappointment in the LSM and the left as they remain unable to pretend this guy belongs to the other side. Doesn’t fit the narrative.

Progressing Toward the Victorian Era

If you ever thought that the Nanny Staters were going to stop with cigarettes and alcohol, Baylen Linnekin is here to remind you that the progressive Nanny State knows no bounds:

Earlier this year I warned in a column that food freedom – the right to grow, raise, produce, buy, sell, share, cook, eat and drink the foods you want – would be “under attack” in 2014. But even I couldn’t have predicted the crushing regulatory assault that’s hit American consumers and food producers in just the first quarter of this year.

In fact, 2014 may go down as the worst year for food freedom since the New Deal era, when Congress, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and the Supreme Court conspired to strip Americans of many basic food rights. Just how ludicrous was that period? In 1942, the Supreme Court actually upheld a New Deal law that prohibited farmers from using wheat they grew on their own farms to bake bread to feed their own families.

While we haven’t matched that historic low yet, there are still nine months left in the year. Here are just nine examples:

I’ll leave you to click through for the examples, which includes everything from the FDA trying to ban trans fats to a government advisory committee thinking the government should text “encouraging messages” to fat people. That’s all we need: more texting spam.

Something about this story has been bothering me though and it took me a while to figure out what it was. It finally came together when I remembered that the vast majority of the Nannies are self-styled “progressives” (including Uber-Nanny Michael Bloomberg, who has now moved on to flogging gun control with truly repulsive anti-gun ads). This theme came up a couple of weeks ago in a great article by Matt Welch:

When I first started hearing people on the political left describe themselves with some frequency as progressive back in the 1990s, the term did not seem tethered to the epoch-defining, early-20th-century spasm of moral crusading and government centralization that helped give us everything from trust busting to Prohibition to the Federal Reserve. As articulated by champions like Ralph Nader and Molly Ivins, the progressive label was both a way to get out from under the generation-old baggage of liberal-a term Ronald Reagan and others had turned into an epithet-and to differentiate lefties from seemingly apologetic triangulators like Bill Clinton and that now-vanished tribe known as the New Democrats.

If you could put a date on when modern-day progressives fully re-inhabited the moral rigidity of their Progressive Era forebears, it might be September 24, 2012. That’s when Village Voice Media, the country’s biggest chain of alternative newsweeklies, split off its online classifieds site Backpage.com after a years-long, progressive-led campaign to shutter the site over claims that it facilitates “sex trafficking.”

In addition to their campaign against all sex work — not just trafficking — the progressives are campaigning against e-cigarettes. Their “fact-based” campaign includes bogus stories that e-cigs are just as dangerous as cigarettes (they aren’t). Campaigns against alcohol sales, free markets, free trade, fatty foods, regular cigarettes, sugar, guns and a host of other “evils” are proceeding apace.

It’s not just the Nanny State; puritanical attitudes infect almost all “progressive” policy. Tax policy is oriented toward attacking conspicuous consumption and “greed”. Global warming policy is oriented less around scientific approaches to the problem than around ending Western consumption. Healthcare policy is devoted to the notion that we are using too much healthcare and that has to stop. Almost every economic policy from the -so-called progressives hinges on the notion that some people simply have more wealth than is good for them.

(Needless to say, it’s always the plebs that need to sacrifice for the greater good. The elites will always still enjoy their good doctors, their private jets and their mountains of income.)

The funny thing is that puritanical attitudes are something we are always told are right wing. It is always those troglodyte conservatives who are seething with rage over the immorality of society. Surely the left wing, with their enthusiasm for abortion and gay rights, could not be described in those terms?

But it can be and it should be. Because, as I have often said, politics isn’t a spectrum, it’s a circle. If you move far enough to the left, you’ll find yourself in bed with those who are too far to the right. You might claim different motives; but in the end, you will embrace the same policies.

Think about how puritanical the progressive movement is getting. You could easily squeeze the entire progressive agenda into a campaign against five of the seven deadly sins:

  • Gluttony: Progressives support a slew of laws designed to force Americans to eat less, including mandatory calorie labeling, restrictions on sugar, making sugar a controlled substance and taxing high-calorie foods.
  • Greed: Progressives support high income tax rates, luxury taxes on expensive items and have lately been talking about how the real problem in America is wealth inequality. This is an addition to their distaste for the “greed” of free markets and their support of controlled markets.
  • Sloth: Many progressives favor mandatory “volunteerism” (as do many neo-conservatives; the Right Wing equivalent of progressives).
  • Lust: Most progressive want to keep prostitution illegal. Many would like to outlaw porn. This is a a view they share with much of the Religious Right.
  • Wrath: Our courts can give out mandatory anger management classes. And opposition to the progressive agenda is frequently written off as the rage of “angry white males”.
  • Pride and Envy don’t fit well into that but that’s probably because these are the principle sins of progressivism itself, which is consumed with envy for anyone who has “too much” and take great pride in being so enlightened compared to the antediluvian masses.

    This isn’t the first time I’ve noticed this. Back in the 90’s, the campus feminists wanted to ban porn. When I pointed out that this put them on the same page as religious zealots, they would reply that the Jerry Falwells were worried about smut; they were worried about exploitation. But I don’t see that motive matters in this scenario. Sure, you want to have a good through process when it comes to policy: a smart way of thinking about issues will lead you astray less often than a dumb one. But, practically, when your ultra-enlightened mega-sensitive thinking leads you to the same conclusions as the Playboy burners, what difference does it make? Why is banning porn because it makes Baby Jesus cry worse than banning it because it makes Gloria Steinem cringe?

    In the end, this boils to simple prudery in all its manifold manifestations. Progressive puritanism, like all puritanism, was best described Mencken as the the fear that someone somewhere may be happy. It is not new or original or enlightened or forward-thinking. You can trace it back not just to 19th century Victorian prudery but to 20th century communism, which saw all things as serving a function to the state, eschewed pleasure (for the masses anyway) and saw drab colorless lives as ideal for the plebs.

    This prudery is the result of any political philosophy that sees government as a force with which to change human nature. Whether you want government to make people less gay or make people less anti-gay, you are paying homage to the same demon idol of government power. That your pews are different colors make no practical difference to the heretics being thrown into the fire.

    I’ve had it with blue-noses of every political stripe. If they want to live like monks, more power to them. But I see no reason why we should allow them to enshrine their priggish mores into law. Whether they are grabbing our porn, our cigarettes, our booze, our hookers, our drugs, our food, our money, our sugar or our gay lovers, they are all the enemies of real freedom. And it’s time to stop pretending that one side is better because they call themselves “progressives” rather than “prudish ninnies”.

    Mercy in the Drug War

    If the DOJ is to be believed, the President, who has so far granted the fewest Presidential pardons since John Adams, may grant clemency to hundreds, perhaps thousands of victims of the War on Drugs:

    The Obama administration’s new clemency efforts became official today, as the Department of Justice announced the start of their revamp of the petition process that could end up commuting thousands of sentences. Deputy Attorney General James Cole promised “an extensive screening system” to identify only those who have served significant time in federal prison for their offenses, have kept their noses clean (figuratively and literally), and whose convictions did not involve violence. The DoJ will offer pro bono legal services to those who qualify to navigate the clemency petition process as well.

    The criteria mentioned by Cole are published at DoJ as well:

  • They are currently serving a federal sentence in prison and, by operation of law, likely would have received a substantially lower sentence if convicted of the same offense(s) today;
  • They are non-violent, low-level offenders without significant ties to large scale criminal organizations, gangs or cartels;
  • They have served at least 10 years of their prison sentence;
  • They do not have a significant criminal history;
  • They have demonstrated good conduct in prison; and
  • They have no history of violence prior to or during their current term of imprisonment.
  • A few years ago, Congress reduced the huge discrepancy between cocaine and crack sentencing. The President appears to be mostly applying the Fair Sentencing Act to people who were swept up in the sentencing craze of the 90’s.

    This is part of a larger push, mostly at the state level, toward reducing mandatory sentencing and reducing non-violent prison populations. A lot of people are surprised that the push toward prison and sentencing reform is being largely driven by conservatives:

    In Texas, funneling money to special courts (like drug courts or prostitution courts), rehabilitation, and probation in an effort to make sure current offenders don’t reoffend, instead of continuing to make room for more prisoners, has resulted in billions saved and dramatically lower crime rates. In just the last three years, Texas has shut down three prisons.

    The conservative movement to reform prisons is not new. Republican governors in Georgia, Louisiana, Indiana, and Ohio have all made efforts in recent years to address growing incarceration rates. But it has largely remained on the periphery of the mainstream—the stuff of columns and local reports that do nothing to sway the general public.

    I, however, am not surprised. What conservative would oppose shrinking government, cutting spending and putting productive citizens to work? If someone is truly dangerous, they absolutely belong in prison. But there are thousands upon thousands of people in prison who are not dangerous. Hell, even some of those who committed violent crimes are not beyond redemption. Consider the case of Mike Anderson. Convicted of armed robbery, the State of Missouri mistakenly thought he was in prison for 13 years. The state suddenly realized their mistake and want to jail him. In the meantime, he’s become a carpenter, a business owner, a religious man and a law-abiding father of four. What’s the point in jailing him now? Does it make society safer? Prison is a means to an end; the end being a safer society. It is not an end in and of itself.

    For once, the Obama Administration is doing something that will reduce government power and result in an increase in freedom. I think that’s why the response I have seen in the conservative blogosphere has been, like Ed Morrissey above, cautiously supportive.

    One of the few dissenters is Andrew McCarthy, who claims the President is abusing his power. I find this argument dubious coming from a big-time supporter of the unitary executive who has argued that the President has the power to start wars and torture people. But I especially find it dubious because the pardon power is one of the few instances where the President has unlimited ability to check the power of the judiciary and legislative branches. Presidents have used this power extensively in the past — Ford and Carter for draft dodgers, for exmaple. The language is pretty straight-forward.

    The President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several States, when called into the actual Service of the United States; he may require the Opinion, in writing, of the principal Officer in each of the executive Departments, upon any subject relating to the Duties of their respective Offices, and he shall have Power to Grant Reprieves and Pardons for Offenses against the United States, except in Cases of Impeachment.

    This is constitutional and permitted. The pardon power can be abused, certainly. Bill Clinton’s final days in office come to mind. But the President isn’t abrogating a law. He is considering — on a case by case basis — the sentences of people who are serving harsher sentences than they would if they were convicted today.

    The more I look at this, the more it seems like a good idea. It’s a small step backward in the devastating War on Drugs our nation has been fighting for forty years. I don’t say this often but the President is doing the right thing.

    You look guilty to me…

    As the state becomes more authoritarian and the police more militaristic, revelations like this one from our overlords sure puts things into perspective:

    The backstory is this: a woman was walking down the street when a motorcycle cop approached her, asked her if she lived in the area and if she would talk to him. She says his approach made her feel uncomfortable, so she refused and continued on her way.

    “I thought that maybe he was flirting,” she said. “I just thought it was odd, I thought it was odd. I wasn’t really sure but I felt uncomfortable because there wasn’t anyone around.”

    She says she was worried he might not even a real cop, so she refused to stop and began jogging away from him.

    “He just crept along beside me on his motorcycle and he started saying, ‘Hey ma’am! I want to talk to you. Hey stop, ma’am! I want to talk to you.’ Then my anxiety rose even higher,” she said.

    This was followed shortly thereafter by the cop dismounting, chasing her down, tackling her and placing her under arrest. The police chief claims this arrest was for “walking on the wrong side of the road,” (as well as “evading arrest” and “resisting arrest”) despite the fact that the woman wasn’t ultimately charged with anything.

    Even if the preceding events could possibly be dismissed as hearsay, or something tainted by false impressions and emotions, there’s the police chief’s responses to questions about this interaction.

    Whitehouse Police Chief Craig Shelton says this:

    Shelton says by law you’re not required to stop and talk to an officer if there’s not a lawful reason for them to be stopping you.

    But then he says this:

    “Normally if a police officer pulls up, in my opinion, it’s awful odd for somebody just to take off and not want to speak to the police officer,” Shelton said.

    Yes, this may seem “odd” to a police officer, but it’s not all that odd for citizens, even those committing no real crime (Shelton justifies the stop with the “walking on the wrong side of the street” crap) to have no desire to talk to police officers. A huge imbalance of power makes conversation uncomfortable. Anyone who’s attempted small talk with their boss understands this. If someone doesn’t want to talk to a cop, it’s not odd, it’s normal.

    Get it? If you refuse, as Cartman from South Park would put it, to respect their AU-TOH-RAH-TAY, you must be up to no good. My personal experience is that agents of the state tend to have over inflated opinions of their worth and are practically always dismissful of the fact that they work for us tax paying citizens. Not the other way around. The trending I am seeing these days, where this field, too often dominated by ego maniacs, is arming up, thinks the law applies to us but not them, and quite often don’t even know the law, worries me. When you hear stories of police officers abusing citizens just because they record them, thinking that they should be immune form scruteny, it bodes nothing but ill, too.

    Look, don’t get me wrong. I am not advocating either anarchy or disrespect and active resistance to the law, but I think most of these public servants need to be reminded that they are there to serve us, not to treat us like criminals that just have not been caught in the act yet.