The Baltimore Mess

As you may have read, the final charges were dismissed in the Freddie Gray case a few weeks ago, after the first four trials ended in acquittal. What strikes me about the Freddie Gray case is the staggering incompetence of the prosecutor, Marilyn Mosby. In Freddie Gray, we had a man who had not committed a crime, was bound up and tossed in the back of the van and emerged with his neck fatally broken. You would think you could at least get something out of that. But through a series of blunders — concealing exculpatory evidence, overcharging (murder instead of negligent homicide or manslaughter) and other incompetent idiocies, Mosby got nothing. Well, she got her face on TV, which seems to be what mattered most to her.

Mosby is running around insisting that if she’d only had a jury trial, she would have won (ignoring that the first jury deadlocked). She’s wrong:

A prosecutor who evaluates cases based on evidence and appropriately applied laws is actually charged with seeking convictions over justice, not the other way around. Mosby admitted to the nation she was not looking for convictions. The only other explanation was that she was looking to appease the angry citizens of Baltimore.

That would seem noble, except it’s not. Prosecutors have a serious job that comes with serious power. And the way they wield that power is extremely important. Politics and criminal law don’t mix well. That’s been on full display as Mosby’s prosecutors keep spinning wilder legal theories and, not surprisingly, keep getting handed acquittals.

The larger pity of this is that the acquittal overshadows some very serious problems in the Baltimore PD. The Justice Department recently issued the results of its investigation in the BPD. Balko, who calls the DOJ report “the worst I’ve ever seen” goes through it point-by-point. BPD has been told to make large numbers of stops and arrests, regardless of whether someone is committing a crime or not. Unsurprisingly, these arrests are concentrated in a handful of poor black neighborhoods. People are frequently detained, questioned and searched without probable cause (95% of them turn out to have no contraband or outstanding warrants). People have been strip-searched in public without probable cause, arrested without probable cause, made to “justify” their presence in public areas. Of thousands of complaint of excessive force, only a tiny number were investigated and only one resulted in discipline. BPD officers are routinely instructed to use excessive force, including being told to point their guns at people in non-violent situations to exert control.

This passage in particular is just jaw-dropping.

During a ride-along with Justice Department officials, a BPD sergeant instructed a patrol officer to stop a group of young African-American males on a street corner, question them, and order them to disperse. When the patrol officer protested that he had no valid reason to stop the group, the sergeant replied “Then make something up.”

Just so we’re clear, the sergeant not only instructed a subordinate to violate the men’s constitutional rights by concocting a lie, he did so while knowingly in the presence of DOJ monitors. That’s some serious cultural and institutional rot. In another incident, the report describes how several officers detained a man whose only offense was to be in a “high-crime area” with his hands in his pockets. (The DOJ report notes that it happened to be a cold January morning.) After repeated questioning, the officers found a (perfectly legal) kitchen knife in his possession. They then illegally arrested him. When he resisted, they beat and Tased him to the point that he needed medical care. He was never charged with a crime. In his report, the supervising sergeant praised the officers for their “great restraint and professionalism.”

Notorious police-state bootlicker Heather MacDonald posted a response that basically ignored everything in the report. It amounts to, “well, most crimes are committed by black people.” That’s true, but it does not justify routinely detaining, searching, arresting and harassing black people. It does not make standing on a corner being black probable cause. It does not justify ignoring almost all complaints of police brutality and misconduct. This is not either-or. It is perfectly reasonable to note that black people commit an astonishingly high proportion of crimes and that the BPD is engaging in astonishing unconstitutional practices that are tinged with racial bias.

One of the things we have seen is that when riots erupt, there is often a history. That does not justify the riots, obviously, since the riots only do more damage to the community and discredit the cause. But the Rodney King riots erupted after years of complaints about Darryl Gates’ LAPD. The Ferguson riots erupted after years of the city sustaining its unsustainable budget by fining and ticketing the shit out of its black citizenry. This report shows that the Baltimore riots erupted in a city engaging in incredibly aggressive policing that makes its citizens feel under siege.

Balko:

I can’t imagine what it must be like to get stopped by the police 20 or more times every year — to be arrested and jailed for nothing at all, to be stripped nude and searched in public for a traffic offense, or to be told it’s basically illegal for me to merely exist in public. I can’t imagine trying to have a life under those conditions, to raise kids, to just function as a human being — much less rise above my surroundings. I suppose defenders of these tactics will say that black neighborhoods are disproportionately targeted because that’s where most of the crime takes place. I don’t doubt that may be true. But your constitutional rights aren’t determined by the behavior of people who look like you, or by the behavior of the people who live in your neighborhood. Neither should the dignity and humanity afforded to you by the people who are supposed to be protecting you.

This, of course, only makes the riots all the more tragic. Peaceful demonstrations would have done a better job of highlighting these problems without alienating everyone*. But the violence doesn’t change the reality that BPD has a serious problem in its policing.

(*Possibly. The might also, as we’ve seen in several cities, provoked a militarized response anyway.)

That was the plan from the start

For those that don’t get it, the people that foisted the Obamacare monstrosity on us see this as a feature, not a problem:

When Aetna Inc. announced that it would withdraw from three-quarters of the states where it offers Affordable Care Act exchange plans, the move wasn’t entirely unexpected: The company had signaled its woes early this month.

But the decision by one of the nation’s largest health insurers AET, -0.20% to withdraw from 11 of 15 state exchanges follows similar moves by UnitedHealth Group Inc. UNH, -0.38%, the largest U.S. health insurer, and Humana Inc. HUM, +0.00% , another large health insurer.

The string of bad news marks a tidal shift for the ACA. Where insurers, including Aetna, had once planned on exchange expansions next year, many are instead curtailing their coverage.

Aetna’s pared-down 2017 exchange participation “raises further questions about the long-term viability of the ACA marketplaces,” said Susquehanna analyst Chris Rigg.

Aetna explained the decision as a way to “limit our financial exposure moving forward,” after pretax losses of $200 million in the second quarter and losses totaling $430 million on individual products since January 2014. The company did not specify what portion of the losses was attributable to individual public plan offerings.

The company criticized the ACA’s “inadequate” risk-adjustment mechanism, which is meant to limit insurers’ losses as they start covering sicker individuals. It’s a common criticism from health insurers, which have long said that the risk-pool program isn’t working the way it’s supposed to, though others say big insurance companies should instead change their model to keep costs down.

You know what? Even though I have investments in Aetna funds, I can’t say I feel sorry for them. They were stupid enough to buy the lies the crooked democrats told them, and this is on them. There is no way to make a system that allows people to not join and pay until they have a serious condition – and the penalty never comes to the level of pain one faces buying this shit because of the over regulation of this product – work financially. Why the fuck would someone young not opt for the penalty and only sign up whenever the shit hits the fan later in life, huh? And Aetna should have remembered this, but they bought the nonsense and figured they would somehow make it work. Idiot the lot of them.

Anyway, the fact of the matter is that all this hand wringing, now that Obamacare is doing exactly what those of us had pointed out it was designed to do when we saw it being put together, is bullshit. Obamacare was designed from the start to destroy the American healthcare system. All that talk about cost reduction or containment, helping people out, and especially making things better while allowing those of us that were happy to keep what we had, was just that: talk. The plan the left has been running with is single payer healthcare controlled by an all powerful government from the start, and this monstrosity was put together to facilitate that while fucking over the people that would otherwise never accept the single payer idea until the system had fallen apart.

Clinton Cash from College

Wow:

Bill Clinton netted $1.6 million last year from a pair of for-profit education companies that caused controversy for the future president during Hillary Clinton’s time as secretary of state.

Laureate Education paid Bill Clinton nearly $1.1 million in 2015, according to tax returns released by his wife’s campaign Friday. GEMS Education, a Dubai-based firm, paid him more than $560,000.

Both companies are major donors to the Clinton Foundation.

Bill Clinton’s lucrative consulting contracts with the corporations have raised questions about how closely his personal fortune is linked to his philanthropic activities.

Not only are both companies donors to the Clinton Foundation, the CEO heads a company that got millions in State Department grants. Over the years, Bill was paid over $15 million to be the honorary chancellor of Laureate.

The moniker “for-profit” colleges is a bit misleading. The problem with “for-profit” colleges is not the profit. All colleges and universities are multi-million or multi-billion dollar operations that pay six figure salaries to their administrators. The President of “non-profit” Harvard, for example, pulled in a cool $900,000 last year. No, the problem is that some of these colleges bring in working and middle-class students, get them to take out massive amounts of federally-backed student loan debt and then give them a poor education. In their way, they are far worse and more insidious than Trump University. John Oliver talks about it here.

In fairness, none of the college singled out by Oliver are part of Laureate. But four of their six US campuses are being monitored by the Department of Education and one of their Chilean campus lost accreditation. Walden University is being sued by a group of people hoping to eventually make a class action. You can read more about the Laureate Scandal here

Don’t let Trump’s awfulness let us forget that the Clintons are pretty awful too. Even if we assume that everything Laureate is doing is peachy, this would still be a scandal for any Republican.

An Observation from PA

I live in Pennsylvania. It is traditionally a battleground state. Although it has gone blue in recent Presidential elections by comfortable margins, it has also elected GOP Congressman, Senators, state legislators and governors (we would still have a GOP governor if Corbett hadn’t been such a jackass).

All week, I’ve been watching the Olympics. The Olympics draws large audiences and traditionally draws lots of political ads. I have seen plenty of ads for Pat Toomey, the incumbent GOP senator who is facing an uphill battle for re-election. I have seen plenty of ads for Hillary Clinton (which, ironically, make me glad I’m not voting for her since they taut her tax and spend “economic” plans). So how many ads have I seen for Trump?

One.

And that wasn’t really a Trump ad. It was from an anti-Clinton PAC.

Donald Trump is now running around saying that if he loses Pennsylvania it will be because the election was “rigged”. I’m sure, at some point, he’ll claim it was sarcastic. Whatever. All the commentary has focused on the notion that Trump is undermining faith in the system and indulging in conspiracy theories. And sure, there’s that aspect to it. There’s a certain faction of the Right Wing that pores through district-by-district voting data to claim … something.

But I don’t think that’s what’s going on here. I don’t think Trump gives two shits about whether he undermines faith in the system. He’s simply laying the groundwork in case he loses. His pattern in business is to blame his failures on everyone but himself. We’ve seen in this election that Trump can’t be bothered to do the hard work of actually, you know, running a campaign. He has far fewer staffers, has raised far less money and has far less of a ground game than Clinton. Read this report about how how Trump is just now throwing together a slapdash operation a critical swing county in Ohio.

He’s not trying. If he were trying, I’d be seeing ads. I’d be seeing signs, volunteers and bumper stickers. I would know exactly where to go if I wanted campaign materials. I’ve heard similar things from friend and acquaintances from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh: Trump isn’t trying.

Maybe he has an idea that he can get by without these things and just coast on celebrity and speeches. But I am extremely dubious. Winning an election is about more than speeches and issues. It’s about getting people to the damned polls. This stuff matters. This is how the sausage is made. This is why you hire professionals who know the districts down to the house level and will work tirelessly to wring every single vote out of a district. At this point, with less than three months to go, I’m not seeing a lot of effort in that direction. It’s not over by any means; but it’s getting awfully late.

So no Trump isn’t “destroying Democracy”. He’s simply crying that the other team cheated to cover up his own failings.

Regarding the site

Hey all. So, things are a little more desperate financially than I thought even last month, so I need to move on this ASAP.

I need anyone who is willing to fund this place in the short term to email me – stark23x at the gmail. Put RTFTLC Finances in the subject, if you could. If I could float a month or three without having to shut down the current server, that would give us breathing room.

Secondly, I need someone who knows WordPress and is willing to take on admin/back end duties to get in touch. Same email. My secondary problem is, I just don’t have the time right now to devote to moving/recreating this place elsewhere, so I’m looking for a technical volunteer.

I just found out yesterday that I may not ever be able to actually have my syrup business in this state. They are trying to pass some new regulations that forbid me from selling online. Ever.  Connecticut is just the frigging worst. This puts me in an even bigger hole than I expected and I don’t see any way out at the moment.

*edited to add Evenshrugged suggested a GoFundMe, so I set it up. gofund.me/rtftlc is the link. Obviously I’d be incredibly grateful for whatever help I could get. Life has sneaked up behind me and punched me square in the wallet lately.

Trump Stomps On Another Bad Clinton News Cycle

So the big political news story yesterday was supposed to be the Orlando shooter’s father turning up at a Clinton rally. I don’t generally care for the “guilt by association” game, especially when it’s guilt-by-association-by-association. But I did think it was odd to have him so appear so prominently at a rally. Any reasonable political organization would have realized the bad optics and prevented it (it’s not like Mateen is an unknown).

What’s really fun about this, however, is watching sites like LGF, which have played the guilt-by-association game for years, scramble to explain why this guilt by association means nothing. The online Left will go through lists of Trump followers on Twitter to find racist shitbags and claim that their following of Trump means … something. Had the Charleston shooter’s parents, grandparents, neighbors or college roommates turned up a Trump rally, they’d be going absolutely batshit. But when it’s Clinton, suddenly that game is no longer valid.

Uh-huh.

But as he usually does, Trump couldn’t let Clinton self-immolate.

Donald Trump suggested at a rally Tuesday afternoon that the “Second Amendment people” could do something about Hillary Clinton choosing judges if she is elected president, a comment some took to mean he was implying violence against the Democratic nominee.

“If she gets to pick her judges, nothing you can do, folks,” he said at a rally in Wilmington, N.C., to boos from the crowd. “Although the Second Amendment people … maybe there is, I don’t know.”

The comments came as Trump was discussing Clinton’s position on gun control measures, with Trump repeating his frequent claim that Clinton would “essentially abolish the Second Amendment.”

Trump senior communications advisor Jason Miller said in a statement that Trump was referring to the political power of Second Amendment supporters at the ballot box, not to any sort of violence.

Now the outrage over this is a bit overblown. Trump was making a bad joke. He was not literally calling for Clinton to be shot. It wasn’t a criminal act. And it’s the sort of thing Sarah Palin has said on several occasions. Still … it’s not something a Presidential candidate should be saying. We have a Secret Service for a reason and Trump has a bad history of winking at violence from his supporters. But no, it was not a literal call for assassination.

However … Trump keeps making these gaffes. He is constantly drawing the attention of the media from whatever Clinton is doing: lying about her e-mail investigation, failing to defend the Libya intervention, calling for massive tax hikes. A President unable to stay on message, a President who can’t get through a speech without causing a furor is a problem. Yeah, liberal media, etc. They have often been unfair. But Reagan didn’t feed the liberal media this kind of crap (well, except for that one time, which was an off-camera joke). Nor did Bush. Nor did Romney. Nor did McCain. They understood that Republicans play on an unfair field. And the only way to win the game is to Stay. On. Message. We should be talking about Clinton’s terrible track record, Clinton’s terrible plans, Clinton’s petty vindictiveness. Instead, we’re talking about Trump riling up the media again. That might be fun for people who hate the media, but it doesn’t win elections.

Presidents do need to extemporize at times (one of Bush II’s best moments was both spontaneous and deeply moving). But Trump’s improvisation is doing nothing but enabling Hillary. It’s continually distracting from her numerous faults so we can debate whether what Trump said was a joke or whether it was serious or what it means. Sorry, the carny act is getting tiresome. We have three months left. Is he ever going to campaign like he wants to win?

Don’t Tread on My Safe Space

Huh? The EEOC has officially ruled that wearing a hat with the Gadsden flag could constitute racial harassment:

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, among its other functions, decides “hostile work environment” harassment claims brought against federal agencies. In doing so, it applies the same legal rules that courts apply to private employers, and that the EEOC follows in deciding whether to sue private employers. The EEOC has already ruled that coworkers’ wearing Confederate flag T-shirts can be punishable harassment (a decision that I think is incorrect); and, unsurprisingly, this is extending to other political speech as well.

From the decision:

Complainant stated that he found the cap to be racially offensive to African Americans because the flag was designed by Christopher Gadsden, a “slave trader & owner of slaves.”

After a thorough review of the record, it is clear that the Gadsden Flag originated in the Revolutionary War in a non-racial context. Moreover, it is clear that the flag and its slogan have been used to express various non-racial sentiments, such as when it is used in the modern Tea Party political movement, guns rights activism, patriotic displays, and by the military.

However, whatever the historic origins and meaning of the symbol, it also has since been sometimes interpreted to convey racially-tinged messages in some contexts. For example, in June 2014, assailants with connections to white supremacist groups draped the bodies of two murdered police officers with the Gadsden flag during their Las Vegas, Nevada shooting spree … Additionally, in 2014, African-American New Haven firefighters complained about the presence of the Gadsden flag in the workplace on the basis that the symbol was racially insensitive.

Read Volokh’s post where he breaks down the legal implications and logic. Note that the EEOC didn’t find that the Gadsden flag is offensive, just that a complaint alleging so can proceed. But look at the twisted logic of their decision: it doesn’t matter what the flag actually represents; it matters what someone feels it represents. By that logic, if I decide that Barack Obama’s face is anti-semitic and can produce evidence of anti-semites walking around with picture of Obama, I could petition to have his likeness removed from my workplace. It’s called a “chilling effect” and it’s not a figment of our imagination.

Say someone wears “Trump/Pence 2016” gear in the workplace, or displays a bumper sticker on his car in the work parking lot, or displays such a sign on his cubicle wall, or just says on some occasions that he’s voting for Trump. He doesn’t say any racial or religious slurs about Hispanics or Muslims, and doesn’t even express any anti-Hispanic or anti-Muslim views (though even such views, I think, should be protected by the First Amendment against the threat of government-imposed liability).

But in “context,” a coworker complains, such speech conveys a message “tinged” with racial or religious hostility, or is racially or religiously “insensitive.” The coworker threatens to sue. Again, say you are an employer facing such a threat. Would you feel pressured by the risk of liability to restrict the pro-Trump speech?

We don’t have to imagine. As I documented a few months ago, universities around the country are already arguing that Trump signs are racially offensive and can be restricted or banned. The EEOC is opening the door to a slew of lawsuits and threatened lawsuits anytime someone is offended by something at work.

You want to know why Trump, despite being a giant horse’s ass, has as much support as he does? Shit like this is why. We are slowly establishing a Baby’s Veto over free speech, letting the most sensitive, paranoid and delusional people dictate what the rest of us can utter, lest we “offend” their delicate sensibilities. It’s insanity. And it will not end until we go through life in slate gray uniforms never expressing an opinion lest someone get “offended”.

Rio

For anyone watching the Olympics, you can put up your comments here

Having watched the Olympics since 1968 (probably the only one here that watched live the Tommy Smith/John Carlos black power salute during their medal ceremony),and attending several events live during the 1984 LA games, I was pretty apathetic about the Rio games. The blatant cheating by the Russian team (and those pussies at the IOC that did not ban the whole lot of them), the deplorable venue (what, Beirut or Aleppo was booked?) the out of control crime, the pollution, nonfunctional mass transit, housing not finished, I could smell a disaster in the making. I didn’t even watch the opening ceremonies. But it did not take long to get back into it.

Some things I wanted before the games started;

The Williams sisters to win big in tennis
The men’s and women’s basketball team to sweep, again
The women’s soccer team to repeat (is it pervy to fantacise about half the team in a shared hot tub?)
Michael Phelps to win one more gold
The USA swimming team clobbering the Aussies (their biggest rivals) just like London
Katie Lydecky breaking world records like they were nothing
Kerry Walsh winning another gold in beach volleyball
The Russians to fall flat on their face, in everything
The USA gymnastics team to not embarrass themselves
And for the USA to be the medal leader (what can I say, I’m a homer)

The security is massive, so hopefully (from my keyboard to God’s ears) no terrorists shenanigans.

Except for the men’s Brazilian soccer team getting shut out,twice, no big surprises so far. I always like the host nation to win some in the Olympics so anytime a Brazilian is competing against a non American, I will root for him.