Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Pennsylvania legislators eye ending union exception to stalker laws

Pennsylvania legislators eye ending union exception to stalker laws

Beltway Confidential,Opinion,Sean Higgins,Labor unions,Labor,Pennsylvania,Philadelphia
Legislation that would end an unusual loophole in Pennsylvania's anti-stalking laws that exempts union-related activity is slowing making its way through the Republican-led statehouse. It has a good chance of getting enacted, aides say.
The Keystone State defines stalking as "following the person without proper authority, under circumstances which demonstrate either an intent to place such other person in reasonable fear of bodily injury or to cause substantial emotional distress to such other person." Repeated, unwanted communications count as stalking, too.
But the law also states: "This section shall not apply to conduct by a party to a labor dispute."
State Rep. Ron Miller, R-York, says it is time to scrap the exception. His bill to amend the stalking exception passed out of committee in the statehouse's lower chamber on March 13 and is awaiting action in the upper chamber. “We are now a step closer to removing a carve-out that should never have existed,” Miller said.

The Keystone State is one of four that have carved out exceptions for labor organizers and activists. Illinois, Nevada and California are the others.
The original idea behind the exemptions was to prevent the anti-stalking laws, which are primarily intended to protect victims of abusive relationships, from being used to shut down traditional union activities. Many, like picketing, would fall under free speech protections.
The broad nature of the exceptions though has created its own problems, though.
In November, a Philadelphia judge threw out charges of stalking, harassment and even terroristic threats by members of Ironworkers Local 401. The union was allegedly trying to intimidate businesswoman Sarina Rose for using nonunion labor. The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that the union created "siege-like conditions" by following Rose, verbally assaulting her, photographing her children without consent and miming shooting her.
Municipal Judge Charles Hayden said nothing the union did was illegal under state law and said Rose would just have to put up with it. "When you walk in, as a vice president of a company, to a restaurant full of union workers, you're going to hear some things that you should have expected to hear," Hayden said, according to the Inquirer.
Ten officials from the same union were charged by federal prosecutors last month with extortion, arson and assault for activities like the ones Rose alleged. "The defendants relied on a reputation for violence and sabotage, which had been built up in the community over many years, in order to force contractors to hire union members," an indictment states.
For more on these stalking legal loopholes, see my August 2012 column, "No stalking allowed -- unless you're with the union."

Harry Reid: A McCarthy for Our Time

Harry Reid: A McCarthy for Our Time
The senator is a throwback to a type of American politics better left forgotten.


Victor Davis Hanson
We should ask Senate majority leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.) the same question once posed to Senator Joseph McCarthy by U.S. Army head-counsel Robert N. Welch: “Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?”
Reid is back in the news for denigrating the peaceful supporters of Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy, a popular critic of the Bureau of Land Management policy, as “domestic terrorists.”

McCarthy in the 1950s became infamous for smearing his opponents with lurid allegations that he could not prove, while questioning their patriotism. Reid has brought back to the Senate that exact same McCarthy style of six decades ago — and trumped it.
During the 2012 presidential campaign, Reid slandered candidate Mitt Romney with the unsubstantiated and later-refuted charge that Romney was a tax cheat. “The word’s out that he [Romney] hasn’t paid any taxes for ten years,” Reid said.
Later, when asked for proof, Reid offered a pathetic rejoinder: “I have had a number of people tell me that.” One wonders how many names were on Reid’s McCarthyite “tell” list — were there, as McCarthy used to bluster, 205 names, or perhaps just 57?
When asked again to document the slur, Reid echoed McCarthy perfectly: “The burden should be on him. He’s the one I’ve alleged has not paid any taxes.”
When the Koch brothers donated money that was used for political ads — just as liberal political donors George Soros and the Steyer brothers have done — Reid rushed to the Senate floor to question their patriotism: “These two brothers . . . are about as un-American as anyone that I can imagine.” The charge of being “un-American” is also vintage McCarthyite slander.
Reid also has a bad habit of racial bigotry. He once praised fellow senator Barack Obama because he was, in Reid’s words, a “light-skinned” African American “with no Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one.”
When Reid was worried that he would not get enough Hispanic voters to the polls, he condescendingly lectured the Latino community: “I don’t know how anyone of Hispanic heritage could be a Republican, okay. Do I need to say more?”
Reid once singled out for damnation just one Supreme Court justice — Clarence Thomas: “I think that he has been an embarrassment to the Supreme Court.”
Reid has also brought back McCarthy’s custom of vicious and sometimes profane insults.
During the 2008 presidential campaign, Reid announced: “I can’t stand John McCain.” Of then-president George W. Bush, Reid said: “President Bush is a liar.” Reid claimed that fellow Mormon Mitt Romney had “sullied” his religion.
When General David Petraeus brought proof to Congress that the surge in Iraq was beginning to work by late 2007, Reid declared, “No, I don’t believe him, because it’s not happening.”
He elaborated on that charge by labeling Petraeus — at the time the senior ground commander of U.S. forces fighting in Iraq — a veritable liar. Reid alleged that Petraeus “has made a number of statements over the years that have not proven to be factual.”
When an African American and Democratic appointee to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, William Magwood, opposed Reid on the Yucca Mountain nuclear-waste-disposal-site controversy, Reid called him a “first-class rat,” a “treacherous, miserable liar,” a “s*** stirrer,” and “one of the most unethical, prevaricating, incompetent people I’ve ever dealt with.”
Like a pre-reform-era politician, Reid entered public service relatively poor and will leave it as a multimillionaire. He has granted lucrative favors to casinos and rich investors who hired his son’s legal firm. While in office, he made considerable profits on private business and real-estate deals. Some of those who donated to his campaigns got favorable government treatment.
Reid recently paid his granddaughter thousands of dollars from his campaign war chest to make jewelry gifts for his donors and friends. Only after a storm of criticism did he reimburse his campaign fund.
So how does Reid’s reckless career continue with the Senate leader avoiding the sort of congressional censure that finally did in McCarthy? Why is there is no progressive muckraker to take on Reid the way that Edward R. Murrow once exposed McCarthy?
For the Left, Reid’s utility as an attack dog (like McCarthy’s utility to Republicans) outweighs the downside of his crude bombast.
His lurid, unsubstantiated charges against Romney were helpful in demonizing Romney as a rich grandee. His untruths about Petraeus helped shore up Democrats’ anti-war credentials during the 2008 campaign. Environmentalists did not object to his character assassination of nuclear-power advocate Magwood.
Reid’s viciousness also serves as a deterrent. Why tangle with the anything-goes Reid when it means endlessly replying to a litany of smears?
Part Tammany Hall–style fixer, part pre–civil rights Democrat, and part demagogic Joe McCarthy, Harry Reid is a throwback to a type of American politics better left forgotten.
— Victor Davis Hanson is a classicist and historian at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, and the author, most recently, of The Savior Generals. You can reach him by e-mailing . © 2014 Tribune Media Services, Inc.!

NSA spying undermines separation of powers

NSA spying undermines separation of powers: Column

The program makes it easy for the president to spy on and blackmail his enemies.

Most of the worry about the National Security Agency's bulk interception of telephone calls, e-mail and the like has centered around threats to privacy. And, in fact, the evidence suggests that if you've got a particularly steamy phone- or Skype-sex session going on, it just might wind up being shared by voyeuristic NSA analysts.
But most Americans figure, probably rightly, that the NSA isn't likely to be interested in their stuff. (Anyone who hacks my e-mail is automatically punished, by having to read it.) There is, however, a class of people who can't take that disinterest for granted: members of Congress and the judiciary. What they have to say is likely to be pretty interesting to anyone with a political ax to grind. And the ability of the executive branch to snoop on the phone calls of people in the other branches isn't just a threat to privacy, but a threat to the separation of powers and the Constitution.
As the Framers conceived it, our system of government is divided into three branches -- the executive, legislative and judicial -- each of which is designed to serve as a check on the others. If the president gets out of control, Congress can defund his efforts, or impeach him, and the judiciary can declare his acts unconstitutional. If Congress passes unconstitutional laws, the president can veto them, or refuse to enforce them, and the judiciary, again, can declare them invalid. If the judiciary gets carried away, the president can appoint new judges, and Congress can change the laws, or even impeach.
But if the federal government has broad domestic-spying powers, and if those are controlled by the executive branch without significant oversight, then the president has the power to snoop on political enemies, getting an advantage in countering their plans, and gathering material that can be used to blackmail or destroy them. With such power in the executive, the traditional role of the other branches as checks would be seriously undermined, and our system of government would veer toward what James Madison in The Federalist No. 47 called "the very definition of tyranny," that is, "the accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive, and judiciary, in the same hands."
That such widespread spying power exists, of course, doesn't prove that it has actually been abused. But the temptation to make use of such a power for self-serving political ends is likely to be very great. And, given the secrecy surrounding such programs, outsiders might never know. In fact, given the compartmentalization that goes on in the intelligence world, almost everyone at the NSA might be acting properly, completely unaware that one small section is devoted to gather political intelligence. We can hope, of course, that such abuses would leak out, but they might not.
Rather than counting on leakers to protect us, we need strong structural controls that don't depend on people being heroically honest or unusually immune to political temptation, two characteristics not in oversupply among our political class. That means that the government shouldn't be able to spy on Americans without a warrant — a warrant that comes from a different branch of government, and requires probable cause. The government should also have to keep a clear record of who was spied on, and why, and of exactly who had access to the information once it was gathered. We need the kind of extensive audit trails for access to information that, as the Edward Snowden experience clearly illustrates, don't currently exist.
In addition, we need civil damages — with, perhaps, a waiver of governmental immunities — for abuse of power here. Perhaps we should have bounties for whistleblowers, too, to help encourage wrongdoing to be aired.
Is this strong medicine? Yes. But widespread spying on Americans is a threat to constitutional government. That is a serious disease, one that demands the strongest of medicines.
Glenn Harlan Reynolds is professor of law at the University of Tennessee and the author of The New School: How the Information Age Will Save American Education from Itself. He blogs at

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Global Warming Enhances Output and Health, Helps Poor

Study: Global Warming Enhances Output and Health, Helps Poor

By Matthew Vadum
The modest increase in temperatures observed across the globe over the last century has helped to raise the standard of living of people around the world, according to a report from the National Center for Policy Analysis.

The NCPA report stands in stark contrast to the most recent report from the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which consistently advocates giving the U.N. authority to tax and regulate fossil fuels, along with the power to subsidize and compel the use of alternative energy.

IPCC document, known as the Working Group II Contribution to the Fifth Assessment Report, was released earlier this month. The paper predicts severe consequences for the planet if the global warming trend continues unabated.

The IPCC report claims there is a "risk of severe harm for large urban populations due to inland flooding" along with "risk of death, injury, and disrupted livelihoods in low-lying coastal zones and small island developing states, due to sea-level rise, coastal flooding, and storm surges."

Global warming also presents the "risk of food insecurity linked to warming, drought, and precipitation variability, particularly for poorer populations," and will have an adverse impact on "rural livelihoods and income due to insufficient access to drinking and irrigation water and reduced agricultural productivity, particularly for farmers and pastoralists with minimal capital in semi-arid regions."

But this simply isn't true, according to the NCPA.

The Earth's climate has shifted many times through history and prehistory, from tropical to frigid and back again. Over the preceding century and a half, average temperatures have gone up slightly, though the ongoing warming trend has apparently been on pause for the last 16-year period.

"Contrary to popular belief, climate change thus far has had positive effects, and the net benefits of warming are likely to be positive for the foreseeable future," according to the report by NCPA senior fellow H. Sterling Burnett.

The 0.8 degree Celsius (1.4 degree Fahrenheit) increase in the Earth's temperature since 1880 has boosted global economic output by 1.4 percent, he asserts. It accomplished this by increasing agricultural production, cutting heating costs, and generating many other economic benefits.

Decreasing worldwide temperatures, on the other hand, portends upheaval and death, as they have for millions of years.

"Cooling kills, and that is what is to fear," climate expert Christopher C. Horner of the Competitive Enterprise Institute told Newsmax.

"Warming periods throughout history — which the [global warming] alarmists airbrushed out of history — have always been called 'climate optima,' for very good reasons," said Horner, the author of two best-selling books on the climate debate.

Defying the supposedly conventional wisdom that global warming will inevitably lead to disaster, Burnett says that the current warming trend will lead to even more economic growth.

Because the Earth is warming, the 1.4 percent economic growth figure is expected to rise to 1.5 percent of global gross domestic product (GDP) by 2025.

Atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide, a principal greenhouse gas, have risen to 380 parts per million, up from 280 parts per million 150 years ago, Burnett acknowledged.

But the higher concentrations of carbon dioxide have made farmers more productive, which in turn has added 0.8 percent to global GDP. Warmer temperatures also allow thermostats to be turned down, which has added 0.4 percent to global GDP.

"An additional 1.5 percent of global output is the difference between survival and starvation for many people," Burnett said. "Because wealth rates among the most significant factors in health, increasing wealth will help future people better adapt to whatever warming (or cooling) occurs."

Increased carbon dioxide levels help to fertilize plants, many of which evolved long ago when the naturally occurring carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere were higher. Higher carbon dioxide levels in the air also allow plants to use water more efficiently, and with the increased temperatures there are fewer growth-inhibiting frosts and growing seasons last longer.

Agronomist and geographer Craig Idso has expressed the benefits that can be attributed to enhanced carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere in monetary terms.

A boost of 300 parts per million increases plant biomass to 55 percent from 25 percent, said Idso, who is chairman of the board of the Arizona-based Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change.

The world's poor, especially residents of Africa, will disproportionately reap the benefits of rising carbon dioxide concentrations.

"Despite ongoing strife and political instability, Africa is growing faster than any other continent, with one-third of African countries topping annual growth rates of 6 percent," Burnett noted.

Increases in carbon dioxide levels have contributed to the "re-greening" of much of Africa, Burnett said.

"African farmers are rediscovering traditional crops better suited to warm, dry conditions than those introduced by colonial governments, and they are reclaiming desert and arid brushy areas. Satellite photographs now reveal verdant blocks of green where once there were only brown and gray."

According to the World Bank, the agricultural GDP increase in sub-Saharan Africa jumped from 2.3 percent annually in the 1980s to 3.8 percent annually from 2000 to 2005, which constitutes a dramatic 65 percent increase.

"Contrary to what the media and charities report, fewer Africans face famine now than at any time since the world began counting," Burnett said.

In Uganda and 15 countries in West Africa, "food production now outpaces population growth," he added. "In Ghana, for instance, farm output has jumped 5 percent every year for the past 20 years, while the poverty rate has fallen in half. Even Malawi and Ethiopia, infamous for food insecurity in recent years, now grow record amounts of crops, exporting surpluses."

Decreased morbidity and mortality are additional benefits to global warming, according to Burnett. One of the great benefits of a warming world is fewer premature deaths related to the cold.

During the last significant warming period, Viking explorers created settlements in then-temperate Greenland and human lifespans grew. When the climate cooled, ice sheets expanded again, the Vikings left Greenland, crops failed, and lifespans grew shorter.

People everywhere in the world generally live longer when summers are warmer. In both the UK and warmer Greece, mortality rates jump 18 percent every winter. Deaths from the flu, other health problems, and cardiac failure all spike in winter.

"For the last decade, Brits have been dying from the cold at the average rate of 29,000 excess deaths each winter,"
British science journalist Matt Ridley wrote in the Spectator.

"Compare this to the heat wave 10 years ago, which claimed 15,000 lives in France and just 2,000 in Britain. In the 10 years since, there has been no summer death spike at all. Excess winter deaths hit the poor harder than the rich for the obvious reason: They cannot afford heating."

Don's Tuesday Column

THE WAY I SEE IT   by Don Polson   Red Bluff Daily News   4/29/2014

Meet candidates; more about the BLM’s actions

Emphasizing their civic-minded service to the general public, the Tea Party Patriots are staging get-to-know-candidates events this election season. Tonight at their weekly meeting you will have a chance to hear from District Attorney candidate Larry Olsen. That’s at 6 PM at the Westside Grange, with Mr. Olsen appearing after a short business and update period. Then, mark May 6 on your calendars for a Tea Party Patriots-sponsored “all candidates” night at the Community/Senior Center, Jackson and Kimball, set to begin at 5 PM, with KBLF’s Cal Hunter moderating.

Readers may recall, regarding the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), that not so long ago Tehama and Shasta Counties were asked to give approval to the Bend Recreation Area (BRA) by the BLM, under plans formulated primarily by Democratic Senator Diane Feinstein; Republican (then-) Representative Wally Herger found the language, written by Feinstein, to be insufficiently protective of the sovereignty and rights of local governments and citizens. Many residents at the time raised objections based on personal accounts of the high-handed and arbitrary manner that the BLM treated private landowners and holders of grazing rights on federal lands.

It was widely believed that the BLM has often been a bad actor and neighbor to have to deal with on several accounts. Advocates and fans of the federal agency dismissed those of us who pointed out that there was more-than-justifiable cause to suspect that, with the BLM in charge of the BRA, the rights of existing users of those lands would always risk being vetoed by “evolving” BLM priorities and values.

Yes, the prospect of an “advisory” board, mostly locally appointed, was touted as a firewall against unreasonableness by the BLM, but it never entirely refuted the suspicion that BLM’s attitude was “What’s ours is ours and what’s yours is negotiable.” The events and confrontation in Nevada between the BLM and rancher Cliven Bundy can serve to illustrate and confirm what local BLM critics were saying.

Absent the armed standoff aspect, the media’s attention will seek other distractions from the epic failure of the Obama economic “recovery” and Obamacare; the “teaching moment” will pass. There is much to learn and it deserves more attention from this writer. Much has surfaced on the duplicitous and hypocritical history of federal land ownership; how agencies morph from simple, straightforward missions and purposes to agendas completely at odds with their own founding priorities; and how crony capitalism rears its corrupt and ugly head over “green energy” boondoggles requiring the manipulation of law, regulations and rules to facilitate solar and wind projects. I’ll get to more of that next week.

First, some quotes bear mentioning: A debate in Utah between a conservative state lawmaker, Rep. Ken Ivory, and a liberal former director of the BLM, Pat Shea, provided glaring proof of the personal and institutional arrogance of that agency. “Ivory argues the federal government used to own much of the land in states like Florida, Illinois and Nebraska and has since turned it over to private owners or the state. He believes it’s time for Western states to demand equal treatment in this matter and if Congress won’t comply, it may be time to launch a major court case. He said the land would be better managed and the profits from mining would help fund the state’s education system. Shea was dismissive of such an idea. ‘I don’t think states are capable of the complexity of managing these lands,’ he said accusing Ivory of inflaming local officials to challenge federal land managers when the chances of the state’s gaining control of these lands are remote at best.” (Matt Canham, The Salt Lake Tribune, 4/24)

Does it grate on you like it does me to read such condescension over the administration and management of public lands? He talks as if only the delivered wisdom of Washington, D.C. is capable of informing the intricacies and nuances of it all. “What’s ours is ours …” We yay-hoos in flyover wastelands, not so much.

In “Arizona Official: Cliven Bundy’s Acts Are Legal,” Joe Battaglia, writing for Newsmax, quotes Barry Weller, vice chairman of the Apache County Board of Supervisors, saying that he thinks Bundy was right in standing up to the Bureau of Land management. “The case is similar to another in Nevada, in which Wayne Hage won a protracted battle with the federal government by successfully arguing that he had the right to graze his cows within two miles of water sources he developed.

“The Bundys and Hages are standing on their water and grazing rights which, Weller said, ‘were pre-existing in territorial times, long before the government took over and these states became states and these rights are mentioned, and any federal law or policy act that comes thereafter is always stated, ‘subject to pre-existing rights.’

“The only solution to this problem, Weller said, is for the government to follow through on the transfer of public land that was promised to all newly created states at statehood but honored only to the states east of Colorado. The people who take the best care of anything are the people who own it.”

Obama Sends Pro-Abortion Delegation to Vatican

White House Special Advisor John Podesta, the chairman of a progressive pro-abortion group, is leading the U.S. delegation for the dual papal canonizations in the Vatican.

The three-person American delegates to the Holy See for the sainthood mass of Pope John XXIII and Pope John Paul II on Sunday also includes staunchly pro-abortion Democratic Rep. Xavier Becerra, and White House aide Katie Beirne Fallon, who has led the fight to force employers to include contraceptive coverage in their healthcare packages.

Podesta, who served as White House chief of staff from 1998-2001, is the founder and current chairman of the liberal Center for American Progress (CAP), a liberal pro-choice think tank.

The organization has opposed the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act, and
on its website CAP staff have highlighted their views against anti-abortion reported in December that a panel discussion sponsored by CAP concluded that Christian conservatives use religion as a justification for discriminatory behavior, particularly when it comes to abortion rights and same-sex marriage.

Sally Steenland, director of CAP’s Faith and Progressive Policy Initiative, said, "It sets up a false equation of 'my religious liberty versus same-sex marriage, reproductive rights' — as if those two are inherently opposed and you’ve got to choose one versus the other. And we know that’s not the case."

Podesta, who started his White House job in January, has turned CAP into the Democrat Party's policy and politics center.

Over the centuries, including the tenures of Pope John XXIII and Pope John Paul II, the Vatican has never changed its strong stance against abortion, artificial conception and same-sex marriage.

voting record shows that he’s a pro-abortion advocate and voted against a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage in 2004.

The California Democrat, who is chairman of the House Democratic Caucus was given a top rating by the pro-abortion organization NARAL, and he was rated 100 percent by the Human Rights Campaign, an LBGT agenda organization.

According to
a Vogue profile, Fallon has been leading the push to get support for the mandate in Obamacare that directs most employers to provide free contraception, sterilization, and abortion-inducing drugs to their employees through health insurance plans.

For years, the Obama administration has been accused of being anti-Catholic policies for its positions on abortion and same-sex marriage.

The White House was also recently criticized for its plan to move the U.S. embassy to the Vatican into the Italian embassy in Rome. Five former ambassadors to the Holy See called the move "
a slap in the face" to Catholics.

And former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush
has suggested that Obama's shutdown of the embassy may be "retribution" on Catholics who oppose his signature healthcare law.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Leland Yee, the Kochs, and the Press

Leland Yee, the Kochs, and the Press
There’s no journalistic skepticism about the motives of those on the left.


Leland Yee, a Democratic state senator and candidate for secretary of state in California, has been a longtime champion of gun control. This week he was arrested on numerous charges, including conspiracy to deal firearms without a license and conspiracy to illegally transport firearms. Yee, a prominent foe of assault weapons, allegedly took bribes to set up a meeting between an undercover agent and an international arms dealer to broker the sale of automatic weapons and shoulder-fired missiles. A lengthy FBI affidavit also describes Yee’s ties to a Chinese triad and his desire to help out Islamist militants.
In short, the story makes for what journalists call “good copy.”

And yet, so far no reporter has raised the possibility that Yee supported tighter restrictions on guns in order to keep gun prices high and his own services in demand. Economist Bruce Yandle popularized the idea of the “Bootleggers and Baptists” coalition. The apocryphal Baptists want to ban alcohol. Bootleggers don’t make much money when liquor can be bought legally at a grocery store or bar. So the bootleggers bankroll the Baptists’ effort to ban booze.
Now I sincerely doubt that Yee was that clever. The more likely explanation is that he believes in gun control and he’s a greedy hypocrite (and maybe not too bright either). The fact that gun-control policies are to his advantage is just a happy coincidence.
What’s interesting — and vexing — to me is that this sort of analysis is all the rage when it comes to conservatives and Republicans, and utterly incomprehensible to most journalists when it comes to liberals and Democrats.
Consider the Koch brothers, the billionaire businessmen and philanthropists. The Democratic party raises vast sums off demonizing the Koch brothers. (Slate’s David Weigel reports that fundraising e-mails mentioning the Kochs raised roughly three times as much as those that didn’t mention them.) This explains why Senate majority leader Harry Reid calls the Kochs “un-American” and liars every chance he gets.
Meanwhile, many media outlets are all too willing to take their cues from Democratic talking points. For instance, the Washington Post recently ran a shockingly shabby story insinuating that the Kochs have a lot to gain from the Keystone pipeline. The story was utterly debunked by John Hinderaker of the website Powerline. (The Kochs have no stake in the pipeline, and even if they did, so what?) But the Post’s piece was typical of the media’s fascination with the idea that the Kochs’ political activities are simply cover for their desire to maximize profits.
Here’s the problem. The profit motives of the Koch brothers are by far the least interesting thing about them. Charles and David Koch are worth about $40 billion — apiece! Could they make even more money in a more libertarian America? Who knows? But let’s say yes. The idea that they are going to all of this bother just to be worth $50 billion instead of $40 billion is pretty silly when you think about it.
Profit maximization hardly explains why they’ve given hundreds of millions of dollars to cancer research, hospitals, and the arts. And profit lust probably has little to do with why Charles Koch co-founded the nonprofit libertarian think tank, the Cato Institute, either. It certainly doesn’t explain why Charles Koch wrote a book on “market-based management.” (Koch’s time is more valuable seeking something other than book royalties, of which I’m sure there were few, if any.) Maybe there’s a profit motive lurking somewhere in the millions that the Kochs have spent helping GOP politicians, but there are far cheaper and smarter ways for billionaires to buy laws and regulations to their liking.
I have no problem with journalistic skepticism or the search for ulterior motives. I just object to the idea that only Republicans might have them.
Al Gore reportedly left government with a net worth of less than $2 million; he’s now worth more than $200 million, in part by profiting from climate policies he lobbies for. Gore surely believes in those policies, but why does he get the benefit of the doubt? GE spent millions on politics in exchange for “green energy” policies that generate billions in profits that wouldn’t exist in a free market. Matthew Continetti of the Washington Free Beacon recently chronicled how George Soros and new liberal golden-boy fat cat Tom Steyer have financial interests at stake in their own preferred public policies. And yet they get glowing treatment from the press as idealists sacrificing profit for principles.
The irony is that it’d be in the media’s business interest to report on the seedy underbelly of liberal politics, too. But they don’t, because they actually do put their liberal principles before profits.
— Jonah Goldberg is the author of The Tyranny of ClichĂ©s, now on sale in paperback. You can write to him by e-mail at , or via Twitter @JonahNRO. © 2014 Tribune Media Services, Inc.!

RNC Calls Harry Reid Hypocritical, Habitual Liar

Majority Leader Harry Reid has been accused by the Republican National Committee in a no-holds-barred memo of being a repetitive bold-faced liar.

The memo, written by RNC press secretary Kirsten Kukowski and titled "Nothing’s Too Unethical for Harry Reid," starts by saying that that the Nevada Democrat is having "a bad month," according to
The Weekly Standard.

Kukowski continued, "He was caught funneling campaign money to his relatives. His Senate Majority PAC was caught lying to voters. And he was caught hypocritically accepting money tied to people he calls 'un-American.'

"As he desperately clings to power, is there anything Harry Reid won’t do to promote his own self-interests?"

The Standard’s conservative commentator Daniel Halper said that Reid’s untruths have become such much a major part of his culture that his mantra is, "If at first you don’t succeed, lie, lie again."

The first reference in the Kukowski memo refers to a Federal Election Commission report that Reid’s campaign paid $31,268 to his granddaughter
Ryan Elisabeth Reid’s jewelry company for the purchase of holiday gift items.

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Although the FEC allows "nominal" gifts of fair market value, with Ryan’s line costing $70 on average, it would be the equivalent of buying 450 "nominal gifts" over two years.

"Either he clearly violated that standard … or he’s just using campaign dollars to prop up his granddaughter’s business," Halper wrote.

He also noted that that Reid has a long history of nepotism, citing a report that the senator had lobbied the mayor of Henderson, Nev., and a councilwoman to help his son Josh Reid become the city's attorney.

His blog also pointed out that Reid has faced allegations that he used his connections in 2012 to help his son Rory's legal firm receive legal fees from a Chinese company building a solar plant in Nevada.

Halper said that when it comes to Reid’s Senate Majority PAC telling the truth in attack ads against the GOP, it’s a case of, "Liar, liar, PAC on fire."
The Washington Post’s fact checker Glenn Kessler gave four Pinocchios to the political action committee for ads running in Louisiana and Arkansas targeting GOP candidates.

"Television stations in Louisiana should be ashamed of falling for such an obvious gambit," Kessler said in his regular column, "The Fact Checker: The Truth Behind the Rhetoric."

About the Arkansas ads, Kessler added, "None of the allegations made about [Republican Rep. Tom] Cotton or his policies are factually correct."

"These ads reveal two things," Halper wrote. "First, Harry Reid and his allies have no respect for the truth and are perfectly content to lie to Americans. Second, Harry Reid is so desperate to cling to power that he’ll resort to whatever means necessary to keep his perch as majority leader."

Reid caused a firestorm earlier this year when he slammed the conservative Koch brothers, Charles and David, saying they were "un-American," accusing them of attempting "to buy" the elections for the GOP.

But the Standard reported that records show Reid’s campaign had received a $500 donation in 2003 from former Koch Industries lobbyist Robert Hall, while the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee has also accepted tens of thousands of dollars from their Koch Industries PAC.

"Once again, the truth doesn’t matter to Harry Reid. For a senator who tells outright lies and funnels campaign money to his family, hypocrisy probably seems like no big deal," Halper said.

The “Rich” Are Everywhere

The “Rich” Are Everywhere

by John Hinderaker in Income inequality
When Scott and I wrote “The Truth About Income Inequality,” one of the highlights of our pre-internet career, we emphasized the remarkable degree of income mobility that has long characterized the American economy. The rich man and the poor man, we argued, are largely the same man in different stages of life. In recent years, some have tried to show that income mobility has lessened, but longitudinal studies don’t support that claim. Greg Mankiw, chairman of Harvard’s Department of Economics, links to an article in–surprisingly–the New York Times that contains some stunning data:
Thomas A. Hirschl of Cornell and I [Mark Rank of Wash U] looked at 44 years of longitudinal data regarding individuals from ages 25 to 60 to see what percentage of the American population would experience these different levels of affluence during their lives. The results were striking.
It turns out that 12 percent of the population will find themselves in the top 1 percent of the income distribution for at least one year. What’s more, 39 percent of Americans will spend a year in the top 5 percent of the income distribution, 56 percent will find themselves in the top 10 percent, and a whopping 73 percent will spend a year in the top 20 percent of the income distribution….
It is clear that the image of a static 1 and 99 percent is largely incorrect. The majority of Americans will experience at least one year of affluence at some point during their working careers. (This is just as true at the bottom of the income distribution scale, where 54 percent of Americans will experience poverty or near poverty at least once between the ages of 25 and 60)….
So a majority of Americans will be in the top 10% of income at some time during their working lives. That makes a mockery of the Left’s portrayal of a rigid caste system that–somehow!–must be combated by ever-higher taxes and more government spending.
The Democrats’ current campaign against income inequality is puzzling, if you think about it. Income inequality is a wonderful thing. In fact, a society without income inequality would scarcely be worth living in. No income inequality means no promotions; no advancement; no reward for training, education, hard work or experience; no benefit to being talented, creative or innovative. Imagine if you graduated from high school (or dropped out, for that matter) knowing that no matter what you did, you could never exceed the income you earned as a first-year novice in the labor market. Income inequality is just another word for opportunity.
Once you concede that income inequality in itself is a good thing, the only real question is whether a hard-working person with reasonable abilities has a good shot at success. Academic studies yield the same answer as our own common observation: yes, the hard-working and talented (even modestly talented) can still get ahead in America.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Our criminal justice system has become a crime

Our criminal justice system has become a crime: Column

Prosecutors too often abuse unrestrained powers.

Here's how it's supposed to work: Upon evidence that a crime has been committed — Professor Plum, found dead in the conservatory with a lead pipe on the floor next to him, say — the police commence an investigation. When they have probable cause to believe that someone is guilty, the case is taken to a prosecutor, who (in the federal system, and many states) puts it before a grand jury. If the grand jury agrees that there's probable cause, it indicts. The case goes to trial, where a jury of 12 ordinary citizens hears the evidence. If they judge the accused guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, they convict. If they think the accused not guilty — or even simply believe that a conviction would be unjust — they acquit.
Here's how things all-too-often work today: Law enforcement decides that a person is suspicious (or, possibly, just a political enemy). Upon investigation into every aspect of his/her life, they find possible violations of the law, often involving obscure, technical statutes that no one really knows. They then file a "kitchen-sink" indictment involving dozens, or even hundreds of charges, which the grand jury rubber stamps. The accused then must choose between a plea bargain, or the risk of a trial in which a jury might convict on one or two felony counts simply on a "where there's smoke there must be fire" theory even if the evidence seems less than compelling.
This is why, in our current system, the vast majority of cases never go to trial, but end in plea bargains. And if being charged with a crime ultimately leads to a plea bargain, then it follows that the real action in the criminal justice system doesn't happen at trial, as it does in most legal TV shows, but way before, at the time when prosecutors decide to bring charges. Because usually, once charges are brought, the defendant will wind up doing time for something.
The problem is that, although there's lots of due process at trial — right to cross-examine, right to counsel, rules of evidence, and, of course, the jury itself, which the Framers of our Constitution thought the most important protection in criminal cases — there's basically no due process at the stage when prosecutors decide to bring charges. Prosecutors who are out to "get" people have a free hand; prosecutors who want to give favored groups or individuals a pass have a free hand, too.
When juries decide not to convict because doing so would be unjust, it's called "jury nullification," and although everyone admits that it's a power juries have, many disapprove of it. But when prosecutors decide not to bring charges, it's called "prosecutorial discretion," and it's subject to far less criticism, if it's even noticed. As for prosecutorial targeting of disfavored groups or individuals, the general attitude is "if you can't do the time, don't do the crime."
The problem with that attitude is that, with today's broad and vague criminal statutes at both the state and federal level, everyone is guilty of some sort of crime, a point that Harvey Silverglate underscores with the title of his recent book, Three Felonies A Day: How The Feds Target The Innocent, that being the number of felonies that the average American, usually unknowingly, commits.
Such crimes can be manufactured from violations of obscure federal regulations that can turn pocketing a feather or taking home a rusted bit of metal from a wilderness area into a crime. In other cases, issues almost always dealt with in civil court, disagreements over taxes for instance, can be turned into a criminal case.
The combination of vague and pervasive criminal laws — the federal government literally doesn't know how many federal criminal laws there are — and prosecutorial discretion, plus easy overcharging and coercive plea-bargaining, means that where criminal law is concerned we don't really have a judicial system as most people imagine it. Instead, we have a criminal justice bureaucracy that assesses guilt and imposes penalties with only modest supervision from the judiciary, and with very little actual accountability. (When a South Carolina judge suggested earlier this year that prosecutors should follow the law, prosecutors revolted.)
In a recent Columbia Law Review essay, I suggest some remedies to this problem: First, prosecutors should have "skin in the game" — if someone's charged with 100 crimes but convicted of only one, the state should have to pay 99% of his legal fees. This would discourage overcharging. (So would judicial oversight, but we've seen little enough of that.) Second, plea-bargain offers should be disclosed at trial, so that judges and juries can understand just how serious the state really thinks the offense is. Empowering juries and grand juries (a standard joke is that any competent prosecutor can get a grand jury to indict a ham sandwich) would also provide more supervision. And finally, I think that prosecutors should be stripped of their absolute immunity to suit — an immunity created by judicial activism, not by statute — and should be subject to civil damages for misconduct such as withholding evidence.
If our criminal justice system is to be a true justice system, then due process must attach at all stages. Right now, prosecutors run riot. That needs to change.
Glenn Harlan Reynolds, a University of Tennessee law professor, is the author of The New School: How the Information Age Will Save American Education from Itself.

Dick Morris: Dems Attempting to 'Fix Presidential Elections'

Dick Morris: Dems Attempting to 'Fix Presidential Elections'

By Aaron Stern
Democrats are bypassing the Constitution as they try to replace the Electoral College with the popular vote as the means by which Americans elect presidents, says Dick Morris.

Supporters of the initiative says it levels the playing field by giving all voters the same amount of power, as opposed to grossly empowering voters in swing states, who enjoy the most attention of presidential candidates during the height of election season.

Morris says it's a bold-faced attempt to neuter the GOP.

"If this thing passes, Republicans will never again win a presidential race and that's why all the Democrats are lining up behind it," Morris told John Bachman and J.D. Hayworth on "America's Forum" on Newsmax TV.
The legislatures of 10 states and the District of Colombia have passed laws to pledge all of their electoral college representatives to select the winner of the national popular vote, and the measure has already passed one house in 10 other states. It takes 270 Electoral College votes to control the presidential selection. If the 10 states that have adopted the initiative in one house pass it into law, 242 electoral votes would be delegated to the winner of the national popular vote.

Morris, who
penned a column on the topic for Newsmax earlier this week, said that Democrats are subverting the Constitutional amendment process with their state-to-state tactics. Constitutional amendments must be ratified in 38 states.

Morris said that if presidents are decided by popular vote, urban areas in traditionally Democratic states would gain new power while the doors to voter fraud would be kicked open.

"First of all, it would [spur] the urban Democratic machines in places like Chicago and D.C. and New York that don't work too hard at getting out the vote because the states are blue anyway, but now if the popular vote matters, they'll work like demons in getting out the vote including committing voter fraud," he said.

"Secondly, right now, if things come down to one state like Florida in the Electoral College, you could look at voter fraud in Florida and probably stop it from ruining the election, but if the fraud could be committed in any precinct in the 50 states and it counts in the popular vote, it's too large a problem ever to be able to either track or to solve."

Morris was adamant that this empowerment of urban areas through the popular vote would unfairly benefit Democrats.

"So there's a reason that of the 20 states that have either adopted this or one House has adopted it, 18 of them are blue states… it's because this is a conspiracy by the Democratic party to fix presidential elections for the indefinite future," he said.

PA Democrats Took Bribes to Oppose Voter ID: Where Is Holder?

PA Democrats Took Bribes to Oppose Voter ID: Where Is Holder?

by J. Christian Adams

Pennsylvania Democrats were caught on surveillance tape reportedly accepting cash bribes in return for opposing voter ID in the Pennsylvania legislature. Gifts of Tiffany’s jewelry were also given to Democrat legislators from Philadelphia, reportedly in exchange for “NO” votes on a Pennsylvania voter ID bill that passed in 2012.

Despite this evidence, Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane has not charged any officials. Kane is a Democrat.

Kane’s excuse for her inaction? Racism: some of the legislators caught on tape accepting bribes were black Democrats from Philadelphia. From the Philadelphia Inquirer:

In a statement to The Inquirer on Friday, Kane called the investigation poorly conceived, badly managed, and tainted by racism, saying it had targeted African Americans.
Those who favored the sting believe Kane killed a solid investigation, led by experienced prosecutor Frank G. Fina, that had ensnared several public officials and had the potential to capture more. They said they were outraged at Kane’s allegation that race had played a role in the case.
Before Kane ended the investigation, sources familiar with the inquiry said, prosecutors amassed 400 hours of audio and videotape that documented at least four city Democrats taking payments in cash or money orders, and in one case a $2,000 Tiffany bracelet.
Fine — a Pennsylvania Democrat won’t do anything about other corrupt Pennsylvania Democrats. But what about Eric Holder? After all, Holder has shown a tough-as-nails willingness to go after elected officials who accept gifts in exchange for official actions.
Just ask Bob McDonnell, former governor of Virginia, who now faces multiple criminal charges for doing just that.
Justice Department prosecutors in the previous administration were perfectly willing to go after white Philadelphia politicians. Can the same be said of Eric Holder when black Democrats are caught on tape?

(L to R) Rep. Michelle Brownlee, Rep. Louise Bishop, Rep. Ronald G. Waters
(L to R) Rep. Michelle Brownlee, Rep. Louise Bishop, Rep. Ronald G. Waters
Federal criminal laws certainly seem to apply in the behavior of Philadelphia. Nothing is preventing U.S. Attorney Zane Memeger from pursuing those who accepted bribes, correct? Nobody seems to have bothered to ask the question.

Zane David Memeger
Zane David Memeger
The revealation also says a great deal about opponents of voter ID, and raises the question of how much corrupt cash flowed elsewhere to oppose election integrity laws.
Did the same sort of sugar sweeten the opposition to voter ID in Texas, North Carolina, Wisconsin, and Mississippi?