Category: Civil Liberties

BLM Proposes

Last week, I agreed with Hillary Clinton that if Black Lives Matter wanted to make a difference, they needed to propose actual laws and policies, not just “raise awareness”. This week, they’ve come out with a list of proposals and … it’s actually pretty reasonable. They propose things like better police training, an end to asset forfeiture and broken windows policing, independent investigation of police shootings, body cameras. There are a few things I would disagree with but, overall, this is pretty mainstream and in line with what many conservatives have been talking about, especially asset forfeiture reform and demilitarization.

Radley Balko notes that while these proposals are reasonable, they are likely to portrayed as radical by police unions who are used to having the media and politicians mindlessly parrot their spokesmen. But:

There is at least some reason to be more optimistic this time around. The main reason is that the problems in policing are starting to affect people who have the status and power to do something about them. One reason we’re starting to see conservative opposition to police militarization, for example, is that police militarization is starting to affect conservatives. We’re seeing regulatory agencies with armed police forces, some even with tactical teams. We’re seeing SWAT-like tactics used to enforce zoning laws and low-level crimes. We’re seeing heavy-handed force used to collect cigarette taxes or to enforce regulatory law.

Similarly, while how and when police use lethal force has a disproportionate effect on communities of color, there has been no shortage of stories about unarmed white people killed by police. There are problems in policing that are directly related to race, such as profiling, bias and an irrational fear of black criminality. But there are also problems in policing that affect people of all races, such as the use of lethal force, unnecessary escalation and the prioritizing of officer safety over all else. (Even these problems disproportionately affect black and brown people.)

Do we dare say that … all lives matter? A government that can launch an armed SWAT raid against Okra plants is a danger to everyone, black white or Dolezal.

In my original post, I said that the best way to address the problems in law enforcement is for government to “make itself less powerful, less intrusive, more accountable and more respectful of our basic civil liberties.” Black Lives Matter’s proposals do exactly that. Ultimately, we will have to address the massive size and scope of government. The less the law is involved in our lives, the less chance there is for that involvement to go wrong. But shaping reform around BLM’s proposals would be a great first step toward addressing the problems and building a better relationship between police and their communities.

My electricity bill is again going to go up due to stupidity

On the last day of June, the SCOTUS struck down the ludicrous mercury regulations the EPA put together and did so because the whole think stunk and provided no information about the cost. Obama, to show them he is the emperor, issued more ridiculously stupid and horribly costly renewable energy fantasy promises. This fucking guy lives in his own stupid reality. At a time where technical people like
Bill Gates explain why everything points to current renewable energy not being viable, Obama doubles down on the stupid. And Gates is not alone to make that argument: Google, a lefty company if ever anything, agreed with him that current renewable energy technology doesn’t cut it. I have made this point myself. Solar, which was too costly and simply too unreliable and inefficient when Jimmy Carter promised to make us use only that in the late 70s has not come much further in the 4 decades since. Wind is an even bigger joke. The cost vs. return for these technologies not only make them prohibitive, but they are ludicrous and stand in the way of viable technologies (like nuclear).

My electrical bill has all but doubled since Obama took office. My consumption has almost been halved. I am almost paying four times as much as I used to per kWh since Obama put his idiotic ideas into motion, and the only people to make like bandits are those connected to the Obama administration that not only receive massive tax payer subsidized funding and breaks, but benefit from stupid shit like this promise by Obama that forces people being squeezed dry but without the knowledge to know they are being hoodwinked, into giving them even more of their money.

Heck, I now even have some new tax that cock gobbler Maloy socked on those of us not sucking at the government’s teat that takes more of my money to help those unable to pay their bill do so. I bet you none of these people I am now “helping” are trying to either reduce their consumption or dependency on this abusive industry that has so enriched collectivists that pretend they are fighting a noble fight against world destroying evil brown energy. Worse yet, unless I do what one of the government approved scams that line the pocket of supporters of these ludicrous and inefficient technologies peddle, I must not only remain on their grid, but accept the ass fucking they send my way every month, and thank them for it too. At this point I am sure I can come up with alternatives that don’t enrich these evil fucks and cost me less. But they will throw my ass in jail for daring to fight their monopoly.

Why are we letting these people run the show, huh? Greece is showing us where this always ends. And China is going to one up them and really fuck up things. There is not enough “Other people’s money” to let the leftists do what they want. No, not make things better, but fleece the productive while throwing scraps to the unproductive for their envious support. The left loves to pretend that the robber barons are in the party they oppose, but reality doesn’t bear that out. I can’t wait for Iran to get the bomb and start WWIII already. Nothing will end the stupidity of liberalism short of a global cataclysm that finally forces mankind to abandon socialism and the other beliefs the left holds dear. We need a mega dose of harsh reality to cure humanity of this mental disorder.

Gay Marriage Debate Ends

A lot going on today, but the big news is that the Court has upheld gay marriage by a 5-4 vote. With that, the debate over the subject is effectively over. And, as someone who has supported the GOP in the past, I couldn’t be happier. The issue can go away and we can focus on more substantive issues.

More to come.

You should read the opinions. It includes vintage Scalia. But it also includes a very good dissent from Roberts who argues that the problem is not gay marriage; the problem is the way the Court has interpreted the Constitution. It’s quite good and conciliatory. Roberts can drive me nuts sometimes, but I still think he’s one of the best things to come out of the Bush 43 Administration.

The Best of Lee: Kelo Anniversary

Ten years ago today, the Supreme Court issued out of the worst ruling in their history: Kelo v. City of New London, in which justices Kennedy, Souter, Ginsberg, Breyer and Stevens decided that it was “public use” for a government to force a citizen to sell his property to a rich developer. Because taxes.

Here’s some choice quotes from the wonderful dissents of Clarence Thomas and Sandra Day O’Connor. Thomas first:

This deferential shift in phraseology enables the Court to hold, against all common sense, that a costly urban-renewal project whose stated purpose is a vague promise of new jobs and increased tax revenue, but which is also suspiciously agreeable to the Pfizer Corporation, is for a “public use.”

I cannot agree. If such “economic development” takings are for a “public use,” any taking is, and the Court has erased the Public Use Clause from our Constitution, as Justice O’Connor powerfully argues in dissent.

The consequences of today’s decision are not difficult to predict, and promise to be harmful. So-called “urban renewal” programs provide some compensation for the properties they take, but no compensation is possible for the subjective value of these lands to the individuals displaced and the indignity inflicted by uprooting them from their homes. Allowing the government to take property solely for public purposes is bad enough, but extending the concept of public purpose to encompass any economically beneficial goal guarantees that these losses will fall disproportionately on poor communities. Those communities are not only systematically less likely to put their lands to the highest and best social use, but are also the least politically powerful.

O’Connor:

Under the banner of economic development, all private property is now vulnerable to being taken and transferred to another private owner, so long as it might be upgraded–i.e., given to an owner who will use it in a way that the legislature deems more beneficial to the public–in the process. To reason, as the Court does, that the incidental public benefits resulting from the subsequent ordinary use of private property render economic development takings “for public use” is to wash out any distinction between private and public use of property–and thereby effectively to delete the words “for public use” from the Takings Clause of the Fifth Amendment.

Any property may now be taken for the benefit of another private party, but the fallout from this decision will not be random. The beneficiaries are likely to be those citizens with disproportionate influence and power in the political process, including large corporations and development firms. As for the victims, the government now has license to transfer property from those with fewer resources to those with more. The Founders cannot have intended this perverse result.

The irony is that the deal with Pfizer fell through and Kelo’s former home is still an empty lot.

Lee’s comment was short and brutal:

Personally, I would love to see one of the homes of these justices earmarked for demolition because some douchebag on a city council somewhere has decided that the revenue from a new Wal-Mart Supercenter is more important to the community than the property tax being paid on the land that has been in your family for six generations. Simply disgusting. When the highest court in the land wipes its ass on a concept as fundamental to human liberty and dignity as the right of property there is something seriously wrong with our government.

The government’s assault on property rights has only gotten worse. Yesterday, SCOTUS pushed back a little. But it will not really begin until the Court repudiates Kelo.

Raisins in the Sun

This morning saw the Supreme Court hand down four more decisions. All were important to some degree but the most significant was one I blogged about earlier: Horne v. Department of Agriculture. The Court decided, correctly, that the government taking part of someone’s raisin crop to ostensibly raise the price of raisins was indeed a “taking” under the Constitution and they are entitled to compensation.

Somin:

The Court ruled in favor of the property owners by an 8-1 margin on the most significant issue at stake: whether the government’s appropriation of the raisins is a taking. Only Justice Sonia Sotomayor dissented.

This is an extremely important result, because it rejects the government’s dangerous argument that the Takings Clause offers less protection for personal property than for real property (the legal term for property in land), which had been embraced by the Ninth Circuit lower court decision. For reasons elaborated in detail in an amicus brief I joined along with other constitutional law and property scholars, the government’s position on this issue was deeply at odds with the history and original meaning of the Takings Clause. Indeed, as the Court notes, the Clause was adopted in part as a reaction to abusive British confiscation of personal property during the colonial era and the Revolutionary War.

The government argued that it wasn’t really a taking because if they later sold the raisins, the Hornes would get some of the proceeds. This was clearly nonsense. If I steal your car and later give you a cut of what I got from the chop shop, that doesn’t mean I didn’t steal it in the first place. The justices were a little more divided on how to compensate the Hornes.

This is a big case, though. Somin again:

The ruling also calls into question a number of other similar agricultural cartel schemes run by the federal government. In addition to property owners, consumers of agricultural products are likely to benefit from the decision, if these cartel schemes can no longer operate. Freer competition between producers in these agricultural markets will increase the amount of goods sold, and thereby lower prices. Lowered food prices are of particular benefit to poor and lower-middle class consumers, who generally spend a higher proportion of their income on food than the affluent do.

A few years ago, Robert Levy published a fine book called The Dirty Dozen, detailing some of the worst Supreme Court decisions of the last century. One of them was Wickard v. Filburn, in which a unanimous Court decided that a man growing wheat on his own farm for his own use was intrinsically “interstate commerce”. Wickard is the basis not only of our idiotic farm policy, but the basis of the Court’s expansive view of the commerce clause, including the vile Raich decision.

This doesn’t attack Wickard but it’s the first pushback on agricultural policy in a long time, at least recognizing some limits to the power of the Department of Agriculture. Hopefully, it’s the first in a series of decisions.

More from Mataconis and from McArdle, who cautions against optimism:

However, don’t get too excited, because it doesn’t do too much to limit eminent domain where compensation is offered, or “regulatory takings” in which government rules make your property practically worthless, but not quite so worthless that it has to pay you for the lost potential uses.

Indeed. Our federal government has a tremendous amount of power that has goen well beyond its Constitutional limits. Today, a little bit got pushed back. That’s a good day.

Friday Roundup: Guns, Money and Gag Orders

A few stories to close out your week:

  • Following on Alex’s post on the attempt to squash free speech at Reason, the Best Magazine on the Planet has gotten the gag order lifted and broken their silence. What they relate is appalling. Not only did the USA try to get personal information on Reason’s commenters, they got a gag order to try to prevent Reason from notifying those commenters that the government was seeking their information (Reason had already notified them by the time the order came). It’s a must-read on a government that is determined to shred any semblance of privacy.
  • Earlier this week, Treasury announced that the new $10 bill will have a woman on it, although it’s not clear who that will be or how she will “share” the bill with Alexander Hamilton. As someone who favors a radical overhaul of which faces are on our currency, I’m moderately in favor of this. But I much prefer the idea of putting a woman on the $20 for reasons articulated by Jillian Keenan (namely that Jackson was a racist slaveholding genocidal shredder of the Constitution). Still, there are lots of women we could honor: Harriet Tubman, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Eleanor Roosevelt, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, Sally Ride, Clara Barton. I would take all of these over Jackson. And I wouldn’t mind if we took all the politicians off our currency.
  • How bad was the security at OPM that led to the huge data breach? Really really bad. And they won’t fix it. Change we can believe in!
  • If you’re having trouble finding delicious barbecue, blame government. They are literally outlawing the kind of slow-cooking methods that make for such deliciousness. And it’s not really clear why other than “because they can”.
  • It will come as no surprise to readers of this blog that Paul Krugman and the Keynesians are full of it again. They are citing Iceland an example of how expansionary fiscal policy can save an economy. The problem? In this thing called reality, Iceland endorsed a severe austerity, with significant spending cuts and tax hikes.
  • The blamestorming for Charleston has already begun. Here is a quick refresher about the media’s desperation to blame horrific acts of violence on the Right Wing.
  • And finally, Reason has a feature on a college student who was busted with pot, turned informant and was murdered. No one is accountable, as usual. I’ll spare you my usual War on Drugs rant, in favor of my other favorite one: when dealing with cops and prosecutors, always get a lawyer. Never negotiate on your own.

Obama Ignores Courts, Constitution, Decency … Again

Good Lord. Can you imagine the outcry if a Republican did this:

The Obama administration has asked a secret surveillance court to ignore a federal court that found bulk surveillance illegal and to once again grant the National Security Agency the power to collect the phone records of millions of Americans for six months.

The legal request, filed nearly four hours after Barack Obama vowed to sign a new law banning precisely the bulk collection he asks the secret court to approve, also suggests that the administration may not necessarily comply with any potential court order demanding that the collection stop.

US officials confirmed last week that they would ask the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance court – better known as the Fisa court, a panel that meets in secret as a step in the surveillance process and thus far has only ever had the government argue before it – to turn the domestic bulk collection spigot back on.

Justice Department national security chief John A Carlin cited a six-month transition period provided in the USA Freedom Act – passed by the Senate last week to ban the bulk collection – as a reason to permit an “orderly transition” of the NSA’s domestic dragnet. Carlin did not address whether the transition clause of the Freedom Act still applies now that a congressional deadlock meant the program shut down on 31 May.

So let’s walk through this. The Second Circuit concluded that the Patriot Act did not allow bulk collection of phone records. Congress then passed a law restricting bulk data collection, allowing a six-month transition period. But they did not actually restore Section 215 yet, so it’s a bit in limbo. Obama is now asking the secret FISA court to ignore the Second Circuit and ignore Congress and reauthorize bulk data collection anyway, using the sunset provision in the USA Freedom Act as cover.

I guess we should just trust Obama when he ignores the courts.

If you still doubt that they target their enemies

Then check this story out. Full disclosure. I frequent Reason’s Hit & Run frequently. The fundamental underlying philosophy there – and it is a dead accurate one- is that big government is tyrannical and that the US has right now one of the more tyrannical and corrupt governments to ever hold power in its two hundred year plus history. I am familiar with the post that has now resulted in this attack by the Obama Department of Progressive Taught Enforcement Bureau on the posters, but in particular against the sentiment on the left against this blogs and others like it that have aired this despicable administrations dirty laundry.

The site’s authors and the posters are primarily small government libertarians. It seems the left in this country has decided that the libertarian movement is far more dangerous to it than anything else. Likely because the libertarians have given up on playing nice and take every opportunity to call this despicable administration on its downright criminal behavior instead of trying to place nice with it or their lackeys in the MSM. Libertarians have no problem calling the collectivists on their theft of other people’s money and using that money to buy votes. Libertarians rub the faces of the excuse makers that defend the force used by government under the pretense of doing good in the shit sandwich they so desperately want to force everyone to pretend is a gourmet meal. Libertarians have no problem pointing out that the left’s ludicrous claim that the answer to the plethora of problems caused by an out of control, unaccountable, bloated, ineffective and inefficient, and drunk with power government is to give even more power to that government is downright stupid. And Libertarians and their beliefs, more importantly, are not vulnerable to the usual social issues that have allowed the left to frighten the low information voters and the takers that usually form their base. And the fact of the matter is that more and more republicans see the beliefs of libertarianism as a great thing. In fact, the republican party is now shifting in that direction. And the left wants none of that. Hence the campaign to eradicate this enemy before it gets too big by the bureaucratic machine that serves the left.

People need to wake up. The attempt to silence any and all speech that the masters in power don’t like is on the march in America. It is rampant in colleges. It is all over the news where anyone but a leftist gets harangued and attacked for saying anything the least bit controversial or that the left doesn’t like, while leftists not only get away with lying, cheating, abuses of power, criminal behavior across the board, and much more, but get defended. The various agencies of government are all being used to target political and other enemies of the left and those in power. From the IRS to the EPA, these powerful entities are all targeting the “Enemies of the state” (the state being the left). Most of the low information voters on the left right now loves this because they are stupid enough to believe these tactics helps them and their cause, but sooner than later most leftists will also find themselves on the opposite side of this machine, and then they will realize nobody is left to help them.

Dark times are ahead, and we are all willingly letting these evil people do it to us. Wake up.

The IRS Lies, Steals, Extorts

Why do we need to outlaw asset forfeiture without trial? Why do we need to abolish structuring laws? Why do we need to burn the IRS down and salt the Earth?

This is why:

Last October, in response to the outrage provoked by “structuring” cases in which the government took people’s money because their bank deposits were too small, the IRS said it would no longer do that unless there was evidence that the money came from an illegal source. In March the Justice Department announced a similar policy for seizures based on structuring, which entails making deposits of less than $10,000 with the intent of evading bank reporting requirements. Yet both the IRS and the DOJ are continuing to pursue the forfeiture of $107,000 that belongs to Lyndon McLellan, the owner of a convenience store in rural North Carolina, based on nothing but suspicion of structuring.

As in other structuring cases, McLellan lost his money because of well-intentioned but bad advice from a bank teller. The teller told McLellan’s niece, who usually handled L&M Convenience Mart’s deposits, she could save the bank burdensome paperwork by keeping the deposits below $10,000, the reporting threshold. Based on the resulting pattern of deposits, the IRS cleaned out McLellan’s bank account a year ago, even though there was no evidence that the money came from anything other than his perfectly legal business, which combines a store with a gas station and restaurant. The Institute for Justice, which is suing the IRS and the DOJ on McLellan’s behalf, notes that “the government filed its forfeiture complaint in December 2014, two months after the IRS announced it would not forfeit money in cases like this one.”

Reminder: when Elliot Spitzer, who had prosecuted people for structuring, structured payments to his madam to avoid detection, he wasn’t punished at all. This law is frequently applied to people who can’t afford to fight it or make a ruckus. The only reason McLellan can fight this is because the IJ — one of the more singularly awesome organizations in the country — is fighting on his behalf.

It gets worse. North Carolina congressman George Holding grilled the IRS commissioner about this case. This pissed off the federal prosecutor. You see, the warrant is under seal by the court. Ostensibly, this is to “protect” the defendant but in reality it protects the government from having their scumbag behavior exposed (see here for where these seals have been used to silence Scott Walker supporters when they have been subjected to midnight raids and fishing expeditions to try to find some evidence … any evidence … of wrong-doing). Similar gag orders were used to try to silence the late Siobhan Reynolds when she opposed government efforts to crack down on pain-killer use.

Of course, when sealed records are leaked by prosecutors — such as when Barry Bond’s sealed testimony in the BALCO case was leaked — no one cares.

Anyway, the prosecutor’s response has to be read to be believed:

I’m a bit concerned. At your request, I provided you a copy of the application for seizure warrant, which remains under seal with the Court, and now it appears it has been made available to a congressional committee? I do not know who did that, and I am accusing no one, but it was not from our office and could only have come from your clients. That was certainly not my intent in making this available. My intent was for you and your clients to be able to actually know the facts so you could review them and have an intelligent discussion with me. Whoever made it public may serve their own interest but will not help this particular case.

Your client needs to resolve this or litigate it. But publicity about it doesn’t help. It just ratchets up feelings in the agency.

Not unreasonable. But … wait for it.

My offer is to return 50% of the money. The offer is good until March 30th COB.

In other words, “shut the hell up and we’ll give you back the half the money”. And remember, if it weren’t for the support he’s receiving from the IJ, this would likely be the best outcome for McClellan.

A few weeks ago, John Oliver — whose commentary I normally find funny and occasional insightful — defended the IRS. He pointed out, correctly, that they didn’t make the tax law so ridiculously byzantine and that they barely have the resources to deal with the ungodly mess Congress has handed to them. He pointed out that for every dollar we spend on the IRS, we get six back. I don’t find it particularly persuasive since that means more money extracted from our citizens (sometimes in error and frequently at the expense of people like McClellan, who can’t afford to fight).

But this illustrates perfectly why people hate the IRS and the prosecutorial machinery that surrounds them. This is an agency that once had “Seizure Fever — Catch It!” posters printed up. This is an agency that zealously uses the unconstitutional powers Congress gives them. This is an agency that has happily complied with Presidential requests for targeted political audits and harassment. And now it is an agency that lied about what they were doing, seized someone’s assets and threatened him when he went public with it.

So yeah, we need to burn the tax code down. Yes, we need to pass laws to stop asset forfeiture — it’s clear that we can’t rely on the agencies to do it on their own. But once we do that, we also need to tear down the IRS and replace it with something else. They are too used to using and abusing the power our Congress and our Courts have stupidly given them.

Don’t Silence Mumia

Last year, the State of Pennsylvania passed the Revictimization Relief Act, a bill designed to allow crime victims to sue if criminals engage in speech that causes them mental anguish. Perhaps the best way to illustrate what the law is about is to look at why it was passed: Mumia Abu-Jamal had given the commencement address at Goddard College. He gave this via videotape because Abu-Jamal is in prison for the murder of Daniel Faulkner. And Faulkner’s family is getting a little tired of seeing his murderer bruited about as some great public intellectual.

Let’s get one thing straight: I think Mumia is guilty as hell. Faulkner was shot by a gun consistent with Mumia’s revolver, which had fired five shots and was found next to him. Mumia was himself shot by Faulkner. Four witnesses placed him at the scene. To believe Mumia is innocent, you have to believe … actually, I’m not sure what you have to believe because the theories of his innocence make no sense and Mumia has not given a consistent account of what happened. Maybe a one-armed man ran in, grabbed Mumia’s gun, shot the cop and left.

The protestations of his innocence revolve around him being an intellectual and a supposedly peaceful man. That’s as maybe but anyone is capable of murder. We don’t convict people of murder because they’re the kind of people who would probably kill someone and we don’t acquit because it’s, like, totally not like them to gun down a cop. I tend to focus my attention on the evidence, which was and is damning.

I also have little time for Mumia’s supporters. It’s not just that they lavish praise and support on him (and, in some cases abuse on Faulkner’s widow and accusations of corruption against Faulkner). It’s that they do so while ignoring the hundreds of innocent people who have languished in prison and on death row for decades but aren’t celebrities.

That all having been said, the Pennsylvania law crosses me as blatantly unconstitutional. And it was struck down by a federal court this week. Volokh and Randazza have a breakdown of the decision. Bottom line:

First Amendment protection extends to convicted felons. The Act is in violation of the First Amendment as it is content based, overbroad, and vague in its coverage of “offenders” and speech “conduct.” Victims have other forms of redress and can use their own free speech to combat that of inmates.

Call Mumia a murderer. I’ll do that right now: he’s a murderer. Call the school that invited him to do their commencement idiots. I’ll do that, too: they’re idiots. But restraint of his speech and those who want to promote his speech is wrong and unconstitutional. As we like to say, it’s the speech you hate that needs the most protection.