Category: Politics

Sessions Embraces Thievery

Of all the appointments that Trump has made, the appointment of Jeff Sessions as Attorney General was the one I most opposed. The AG has a lot of power and Sessions’ ideas on crime are … archaic might be a generous word. He has ordered reviews of the consent decrees on troubled police departments. He wants to restore mandatory minimum drug sentences. He wants to revive DARE, one of the biggest wastes of money in the history of the Drug War. The Democrats focused on his past racism. But while I was concerned about that, I was way more concerned with his approach to law and order, one defined by more prisons, more cops, more laws, less freedom. You should read Radley Balko taking apart one of Sessions’ speeches on the Drug War, showing over and over again that Sessions is poorly informed and out of touch with what’s been going on in criminal justice reform for the last decade or so.

Yesterday, he dropped a bombshell:

Attorney General Jeff Sessions just made it easier for police to seize cash and property from people suspected ─ but not necessarily charged with or convicted ─ of crimes.

He did it by eliminating an Obama administration directive that prevented local law enforcement from circumventing state restrictions on forfeiture of civil assets. The technique was embraced in the early years of the war on drugs, but it has since been linked to civil rights abuses: people losing cash, cars and homes without any proven link to illegal activity; police taking cash in exchange for not locking suspects up; a legal system that makes it hard for victims to get their possessions back.

Two dozen states have made it harder for authorities to take property from suspects without first securing criminal convictions. Three have outlawed it entirely, according to the Institute for Justice, a nonprofit that advocates for reform.

Multiple states — conservative states — have been reigning in asset forfeiture as abusive and unconstitutional. Police departments have been trying to bypass these rules through “adoption” — getting the federal government to nominally participate in the case so they can just take the money regardless of state law. It is a perversion of the law and abuse of state’s rights. Eric Holder put a stop to that, requiring the Feds to respect state law in the matter, one of the few things he did right. Sessions now wants to reverse that. There are a few little protections left in place — review of seizures and scrutiny of smaller amounts. But this amount to open season.

Words can not express my disgust at this. Civil asset forfeiture — in which the property is charged with a crime and its owners must prove their innocence to get it back — is a violation of our most basic constitutional rights. The IJ calls it “policing for profit” and some police departments — notably that of Tenaha Texas — have become notorious for abusing the process. It shows the duplicity of supposed federalists like Sessions that they are all about “state’s rights” when it comes to discrimination but suddenly all against them the second a state wants to shore up the basic civil liberties of its citizens.

National Review:

This is almost certainly unconstitutional, something that conservatives ought to understand instinctively. Like the Democrats’ crackpot plan to revoke the Second Amendment rights of U.S. citizens who have been neither charged with nor convicted of a crime simply for having been fingered as suspicious persons by some anonymous operative in Washington, seizing an American’s property because a police officer merely suspects that he might be a drug dealer or another species of miscreant does gross violence to the basic principle of due process. No doubt many of the men and women on the terrorism watch list are genuine bad guys, and no doubt many of those who have lost their property to asset forfeiture are peddling dope. But we are a nation of laws, which means a nation of procedural justice. If the DEA or the LAPD wants to punish a drug trafficker, then let them build a case, file charges, and see the affair through to a conviction. We have no objection to seizing the property of those convicted of drug smuggling — or of crimes related to terrorism, or many other kinds of offenses. We object, as all Americans should object, to handing out these punishments in the absence of a criminal conviction.

Conor Friedersdorf:

This was highway robbery perpetrated against American citizens by their own government. The official euphemism for the practice: “Civil-asset forfeiture.” And egregious abuses have happened in every region of the country. Over the last fifteen years, I have heard these abuses criticized by people from almost every part of the political right. The issue united conservatives at National Review and the Claremont Institute with Cato Institute libertarians and right-wing populists at Breitbart.

Conor also quote from Clarence Thomas’s scathing rejection of civil asset forfeiture, a must-read.

Ciaramella:

Lee was referring to conservative Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas’ notable dissent in an asset forfeiture case this June. Thomas wrote that forfeiture operations “frequently target the poor and other groups least able to defend their interests in forfeiture proceedings.”

Data on asset forfeiture backs up what Thomas says. A Reason investigation of more than 23,000 police seizures in Cook County, Illinois over the last five years showed that Chicago’s poor neighborhoods were hit hardest by asset forfeiture. A similar investigation of Mississippi court records showed that law enforcement recorded many big hauls of cash, but the records were also littered with petty and abusive seizures.

A 2014 Washington Post investigative series found that warrantless police seizures of cash through the equitable sharing program have boomed since 9/11, hauling in $2.5 billion. Also in 2014, for the first time ever, the U.S. government seized more property from Americans than burglars did.

You can also watch John Oliver’s takedown of the practice.

If there’s a silver lining here, it’s that maybe Congress or the Court will wake up from their Constitutional stupor and put hard restraints on this abusive practice. But I prefer not to depend on that. Opposition to Sesssions’ directive should be immediate, sharp and relentless. We should not take one step back when it comes to civil asset forfeiture.

McCain’s Brain

I’ve had many disagreements with John McCain over the years but I’ve always respected his service the country. I’ll wish him a recovery from an aggressive brain tumor that was discovered during surgery today. McCain seemed confused and disoriented during the Comey hearing a few weeks back. I don’t know if it had anything to do with this.

Environmentalists Mad About Things Environmentalists Say

A few months ago, NYT columnist Bret Stephens was lambasted for saying this:

A guy I know just had a baby and he’s a big global warming, climate change activist. If he thinks in 20 years we’ll be heading toward unsustainable climates and there will be tens of millions of people being displaced, presumably including himself, at the most apocalyptic level, then presumably he wouldn’t be having children.

It contradicts the belief that we are heading ineluctably for an apocalyptic environmental future.

The entire environmentalist blogosphere erupted. But … the thing is that what Stephens said has been environmentalist gospel for years. There is about half a century of the left side of the environmental movement embracing and even demanding population control. From Ehrlich to Holdren to Bill Nye, we’ve had constant calls for population control. The most recent iteration appeared in the Guardian, which talked about a paper that said the most effective way to reduce your carbon footprint is to have fewer children.

Carbon emissions must fall to two tonnes of CO2 per person by 2050 to avoid severe global warming, but in the US and Australia emissions are currently 16 tonnes per person and in the UK seven tonnes. “That’s obviously a really big change and we wanted to show that individuals have an opportunity to be a part of that,” said Kimberly Nicholas, at Lund University in Sweden and one of the research team.

The new study, published in Environmental Research Letters, sets out the impact of different actions on a comparable basis. By far the biggest ultimate impact is having one fewer child, which the researchers calculated equated to a reduction of 58 tonnes of CO2 for each year of a parent’s life.

Put aside the fancy calculations. What this amounts to is saying that there would be no carbon emissions if there were no people. And that’s true enough, I guess. But this paper has been run with by many environmentalists, including those who criticized Stephens, as sound advice for a healthier planet. You would think the ugly history of population control, such as China’s brutal one-child policy, would give them pause. But no, they’re running out there with another round of, “Stop having babies, everyone!”

Well, they’re wrong against just as they’ve always been wrong on this particular subject. As it happens, the world is not facing an overpopulation crisis. Population is projected to peak mid-century. In fact, many countries are now worried about an underpopulation crisis. Countries like Japan and almost all of Western Europe are worried that their societies will not be able to sustain themselves.

What’s more, global warming is not a problem that we have a solution to. Alternative energy and efficiency are great but they are only delaying actions. The real breakthroughs — on nuclear power, energy storage or climate mitigation — have yet to be made. We need future generations of engineers, scientists and business people if we’re going to make those breakthroughs. That means having children. That especially means educated people have educated children. By encouraging such people to not have children, the greens are delaying future environmental progress, not advancing it.

Post Scriptum: I noted earlier that I was in Israel this week. I’ll write a full report at some point. But one thing I’ve noticed about Israel — especially in contrast to Europe — is the number of children. There are children everywhere in Tel Aviv. This is as opposed to Rome or London, which are almost childless. It’s not unusual to see a family with four or five children. Part of this is religious of course. But it’s not like Israel is a totally oppressive patriarchy. Women serve in the military. The WEF ranks Israel 49th in gender equality, even by their somewhat odd methodology (which ranks Rwanda 5th). If you look at maps of countries by gender equality, Israel is an island of gender equity in sea of oppression.

One theme you run into in Israel is past-present-future, the idea that this is a country which has a rich history but is looking forward to the future. They have one because they’re having children. Europe … doesn’t have a future. And if we listen to the environmentalists and stop having children, neither will we.

The Acceptable Prejudice

So this happened:

Occurring a day ahead of Chicago’s enormous Pride Parade, the Dyke March has always billed itself as a social justice-driven gathering that seeks to build alliances across race, religion, class, gender identity and immigration status.

At its core, organizers say, the march is designed to celebrate inclusiveness.

At this year’s march, however, some participants accused organizers of excluding them for expressing their Jewish pride. Laurie Grauer, 35, told The Washington Post that she was one of three marchers who were asked to leave the event because they were carrying Jewish Pride flags — a symbol that some in the crowd viewed as a symbol of Palestinian oppression.

The Dyke March has defended their decision, as have several other Leftist organizations. They claim that Israel’s oppression of Palestine justified kicking these people out. They further claim that Israel’s record on LGBT rights — which is the best in the entire continent of Asia — is simply “pinkwashing” their crimes against Palestinians. Because clearly Israel, with millions of conservative Jews, decided to embrace LGBT rights so no one would notice Gaza.

Now pair that reaction to this incident in Toronto in which Antifa activists tried to stop LGBT Muslims from demonstrating in the gay pride parade and calling out homophobia in Islamic countries. Their reason, they said, was that this would provide fuel to Islamophobes. This is not an isolated incident: there has been a curious silence from many on the Left about the oppression of LGBT folk in Muslim countries. This is the exact reason they give every time: they don’t want to promote hatred of Muslims. I understand that instinct. Oppression of LGBT people in majority-Mulim countries is sometimes used as a club to bash Muslims by people who don’t care about LGBT rights to begin with. But is pretending that gays don’t get murdered by Islamic radicals helping anyone? Why is it OK to call out Israel for Palestine but not to call out, say, Saudi Arabia, over gays?

Ask yourself: if you were an LGBT Muslim, which country would you rather live in? Israel, which grant full rights to Muslims and has the most gay-friendly legal regime on the continent? Or literally any other country in the Middle East? Tel Aviv is known as one of the most gay-friendly cities in the world. They don’t just have an annual gay pride parade; they have a gay pride week. There is literally no other country in that region where a gay pride parade would not be met with violence and oppression.

This is just one more piece of evidence that this “intersectionality” stuff is mostly garbage.

Intersectionality is the big idea of today’s progressive left. In theory, it’s the benign notion that every form of social oppression is linked to every other social oppression. This observation — coined in 1989 by Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw — sounds like just another way of rephrasing a slogan from a poster I had in college: My liberation is bound up with yours. That is, the fight for women’s rights is tied up with the fight for gay rights and civil rights and so forth. Who would dissent from the seductive notion of a global sisterhood?

Well, in practice, intersectionality functions as kind of caste system, in which people are judged according to how much their particular caste has suffered throughout history. Victimhood, in the intersectional way of seeing the world, is akin to sainthood; power and privilege are profane.

By that hierarchy, you might imagine that the Jewish people — enduring yet another wave of anti-Semitism here and abroad — should be registered as victims. Not quite.

Why? Largely because of Israel, the Jewish state, which today’s progressives see only as a vehicle for oppression of the Palestinians — no matter that Israel has repeatedly sought to meet Palestinian claims with peaceful compromise, and no matter that progressives hold no other country to the same standard. China may brutalize Buddhists in Tibet and Muslims in Xinjiang, while denying basic rights to the rest of its 1.3 billion citizens, but “woke” activists pushing intersectionality keep mum on all that.

The Left feels free to throw “intersectionality” out the window whenever it comes into conflict with their agenda — be it anti-Israel sentiment or anti-Islamophobia. To be fair: balancing various political interests is always a delicate dance. Just witness the mess going on in the Republican Congress as they try to balance Trumpers, establishment conservatives, mainstream conservatives, Tea Partiers and the needs of the country. But to be really fair, the Left has a long history of doing that dance by throwing anyone under the bus who they think is doing the wrong steps.

Electoral Reform Hits A Rock

Well, this was entirely predictable:

A Trump administration letter requesting data from all 50 state’s voting rolls has put some states and voting rights advocates on edge after many were already wary of the aims of the President’s commission on voting.

The Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity’s vice chairman, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, sent a letter to each state Wednesday asking a series of questions soliciting feedback about election administration, voter fraud and the integrity of the process. CNN obtained a copy of the letter sent to Maine’s secretary of state.

Kobach also requested that each state provide “publicly available voter roll data” as allowed under each state’s laws, which could include full names of registered voters, dates of birth, party registration, last four digits of Social Security numbers and voting history.

Multiple states, Republican and Democrat, have told the commission to go jump in an ocean. No, I mean that literally. Mississippi’s Secretary of State said, “They can go jump in the Gulf of Mexico, and Mississippi is a great state to launch from. Mississippi residents should celebrate Independence Day and our state’s right to protect the privacy of our citizens by conducting our own electoral processes.”

This is not surprising. Truly eliminating voter fraud, multiple registration and purging expired registration would require a national voter database. And the states zealously guard their ability to run their own elections, especially from someone like Kobach, who has long advocated a more aggressive approach to purging voter roles. I think they are absolutely in the right to refuse to provide this information and would almost certainly win a court battle over this. I’m surprised to see many liberal siding with the states here since a national voter database would be necessary if one wanted to abolish the Electoral College. But … their partisanship happens to line up with what’s right.

Today in “What A Surprise!”

I know, I know. You’re all shocked:

This paper evaluates the wage, employment, and hours effects of the first and second phase-in of the Seattle Minimum Wage Ordinance, which raised the minimum wage from $9.47 to $11 per hour in 2015 and to $13 per hour in 2016. Using a variety of methods to analyze employment in all sectors paying below a specified real hourly rate, we conclude that the second wage increase to $13 reduced hours worked in low-wage jobs by around 9 percent, while hourly wages in such jobs increased by around 3 percent. Consequently, total payroll fell for such jobs, implying that the minimum wage ordinance lowered low-wage employees’ earnings by an average of $125 per month in 2016. Evidence attributes more modest effects to the first wage increase. We estimate an effect of zero when analyzing employment in the restaurant industry at all wage levels, comparable to many prior studies.

Now, the study does come with some legitimate concerns about methodology. Among other things, it excluded workers who work with chains (which is about 40% of low-wage jobs) because that data is provided on a state, not a city, level. But the latest of multiple studies show that the Law of Supply and Demand does, in fact, apply to low-wage labor. And this does come from the very group the city commissioned to study the effect.

The thing I keep saying about the minimum wage is that it is literally gambling the lives of people on crackpot economic theory. To quote myself:

Here’s the thing: the Democrats are claiming, based on a grand total of one study that doesn’t say what they think it says, that we can raise the minimum wage without increasing unemployment. Let’s pretend that this point is up for debate and that we are, in effect, engaging in a massive gamble on the laws of economics. What is the downside risk if they’re wrong?

As I noted in my last post, long-term unemployment is one of the most damaging things that can happen to someone. It can repress earnings for a lifetime, it can affect health and happiness and, as we’ve seen in Europe, masses of unemployed young men can become a hotbed of crime and extremism. That’s the risk if they’re wrong.

The Democrats are gambling the futures of millions of people on this will-o-the-wisp idea that the Law of Supply and Demand is magically suspend for labor because … well, because the unions want it to be. If they’ve gambled wrong, they won’t be paying the price. Millions of poor people and minorities will. If the $15 wage causes mass unemployment, the effects will last for generations. It may not be reparable in our lifetime.

I’m glad the Democrats have a few pet economists who will tell them this is a low-risk bet. But it’s yet another illustration of how the Democrats “help” people by holding their heads underwater. I have no doubt that they think they are being compassionate. But gambling someone’s life on crackpot economic ideas is not compassion.

The last time we gambled our country on Left-Wing economic theory was when we deliberately inflated our currency in the 1960’s and 1970’s based on the idea that the Phillips Curve predicted it would end unemployment. We then ended up with both high inflation and high unemployment, which the Keynesians has assured us was mathematically impossible. It never ceases to amaze me how the Left will gamble so much on economic theory.

The Holdout Soldiers

Speaking of tribalism …

Daou has become a reliable holdout soldier for Clinton, constantly insisting that she’s really awesome, trying to tie every story back to her and demanding that the world embrace her. But this tweet (and the sentiment behind it) is illustrative of something deeply stupid in American politics and in the Democratic Party in particular.

I was recently chatting with a British friend about the snap election. He predicted that Theresa May would be out of power by Christmas at the latest, July at the earliest. The reason, he said, is that the Conservatives tend to be fairly ruthless about leadership. When a politician leads them to disaster — as May has — that politician does not tend to last very long.

I agree with the prediction but I wouldn’t use the word “ruthless”. I would use the word “smart”. Parties have limited political capital. When a politician starts becoming a liability, the party should not expend one ounce of that capital propping that wounded duck up. Dump them and invest that energy in someone new. It doesn’t matter if the damage to the politician is “fair” or not. What matters is that you are wasting time and energy complaining to the refs instead of trying to move the ball downfield.

Maybe the criticism of Clinton and Pelosi is unfair (I happen to think it’s very fair). But that doesn’t matter a wit. Neither of them is a young once-in-a-generation political talent. Or a political talent at all. Defending them isn’t about fairness or political wisdom. It’s about tribalism. It’s about defending “their side” from the awful awful Republicans. It’s about not letting the Republicans “win” by not letting them dictate who runs your party.

But here’s the thing … denying the Republicans a “win” on Pelosi and the Democratic leadership has given the Republicans win after win at the ballot box. The Democratic leadership is old and out of touch. The most popular Presidential candidates right now — Warren, Pelosi, Clinton, Biden, Sanders — are all on the wrong side of 70 and have big political liabilities. This leadership, which the base seems to love so much, has led the Democrats to one of the lowest political ebbs in history — Republicans in both houses, Trump in the White House, most state legislatures and governorships controlled by Republicans, a party confined almost entirely to big cities and the coasts. For Pete’s sake, why are you wasting energy defending these people? The batting coach of the Tampa Bay Rays is held more accountable than these jack-a-napes.

Granted, some of the young Democrats — Preening Preet Bharara, Fascist Kamela Harris, Dumbell Andrew Cuomo — aren’t exactly inspiring. But there have got to be young political talents out there who can rebuild the Democratic brand. Take Jon Ossoff. He was wet-behind-the-ears but he moderated a bit and could get elected (maybe in the district he lives in). In my own state, Tom Wolf just worked with Republicans to pass what was once unthinkable: a massive reform of state employee pensions that will cap our future liabilities and keep us from becoming Illinois with mountains. There are thousands of Democratic politicians out there and 60 million people who voted for them. There’s got to be someone better than these old farts.

If there were any accountability in the Democratic Party, Pelosi would have been forced out after 2010 and the entirety of the leadership would have been forced out after 2016’s disaster. But the Democrats don’t seem to want to face reality.

One of the reasons the Republican Party has been successful is that they’ve been better at holding their leadership accountable for what happens in the polls. Newt, for example, was forced out in 1998 after a poor mid-term performance. They’re not perfect — there’s far too many former whatevers running around Fox News. But they are better. And they have been way better at promoting the young wave of conservatives like Rubio, Haley, Martinez and Jindal.

Look, I’ve been following politics for a long time and I know how the Cult of Personality works. But the Cult of Personality afflicting the Democrats right now is deeply deranged. It’s one thing to have a Cult of Personality around successful politicians like Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton or Barack Obama. But building one around losers like Pelosi, Hillary and Schumer? What the hell is that even about?

Around the country, Democrats are lamenting their losses, wondering why they can’t win. They’ve resorted to blaming Republicans and voters for being awful people. They’ve been throwing up their hands and saying, “How can you appeal to racist sexist bigots?” That’s comforting, I guess. But the country isn’t really that awful. Your leadership is.

First Blue model state to Greece it..

Looks like I lose a bet with a buddy, because Illinois beat California to the punch. Well maybe Connecticut can go right after California, so I win that bet. From the letter of the comptroller of the now bankrupt state of Illinois:

See attached letter sent to elected officials from across the state this morning.

As Illinois’ Chief Fiscal and Accountability Officer, my Office is responsible for managing the state’s financial accounts as well as providing the public and the state’s elected leadership with objective and timely data concerning the state’s difficult fiscal condition. As you are quite aware, I have been very vocal regarding these issues and the budgetary impasse since assuming office six months ago; however we are now reaching a new phase of crisis.

Accordingly, I must communicate to you at this time the full extent of our dire fiscal straits and the potential disruptions that we face in addressing even our most critical core responsibilities going forward into the new fiscal year. My Office has very serious concerns that, in the coming weeks, the State of Illinois will no longer be able to guarantee timely and predictable payments in a number of areas that we have to date managed (albeit with extreme difficulty) despite an unpaid bill backlog in excess of $15 billion and growing rapidly.

We are effectively hemorrhaging money as the state’s spending obligations have exceeded receipts by an average of over $600 million per month over the past year.

My cause for alarm is rooted in the increasing deficit spending combined with new and ongoing cash management demands stemming from decisions from state and federal courts, the latest being the class action lawsuit filed by advocates representing the Medicaid service population served by the state’s Managed Care Organizations (MCOs). As of June 15, the MCOs, and their provider networks, are owed a total of more than $2.8 billion in overdue bills at the Comptroller’s Office. There is no question that these obligations should be paid in a more timely manner and that the payment delays caused by the state’s financial condition negatively impact the state’s healthcare infrastructure. We are currently in court directed discussions to reach a workable and responsive payment schedule going forward, but any acceleration of the timing of those payments under the current circumstances will almost certainly affect the scheduling of other payments, regardless of other competing court orders and Illinois statutory mandates.

Heh, they ran out of other people’s money! Now if Hillary was president, the productive tax payers would just be told to grab their ankles and bail out these yokels, but with Trump-Putin, that is unlikely to happen. No wonder so many blue staters are losing their fucking minds and hoping to reverse the election results. They had banked on their girl saving them from their own ineptness, and now they are stuck with that debt they ran up figuring someone else would end up paying it anyway

I eagerly await your response as to next steps for furthering this discussion.

How about cut your nanny state fucking spending?

Must be why Obama chose to not return home and stayed in D.C…..