Archive for April, 2015

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Hear, hear! (3)

April 26, 2015

Daniel Hannan (member of the European Parliament) writes:

It’s time to introduce a voluntary fame tax

I’ve just come across an utterly brilliant idea for tax reform, one that would elevate and improve our public discourse. It comes from my friend James Hannam, who is standing for election as a councillor in Kent, and for whom I went canvassing over the weekend in the gorgeous village of Sissinghurst. […]

James’s suggestion is as follows. The sorts of people who get recruited by political causes as celebrity supporters – television personalities, comedians and the like – should have to pay a special “fame levy” of around 20 per cent of their income. This tax would reflect the fact that they get paid to do really cool things, and are at the same time asked to opine about politics without the bother of getting themselves elected to anything.

It would, however, be voluntary. All the celebrities would need to do, to avoid the toll, is sign a public declaration to the effect that they wanted to opt out.

They’d be free to sign or not to sign. Either way, the rest of us would know whether or not to take them seriously when they assured us that they “wouldn’t mind paying a bit more tax” in order to “make society fairer”.

H.T. Jeff G

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Economics humor

April 26, 2015

I know… sounds like an oxymoron, doesn’t it?

Via CoyoteBlog

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The battle over unions in Wisconsin

April 26, 2015

Here’s a recent article in National Review about an on-going political battle in Wisconsin.

Wisconsin’s Shame: ‘I Thought It Was a Home Invasion’

Cindy Archer, one of the lead architects of Wisconsin’s Act 10 — also called the “Wisconsin Budget Repair Bill,” it limited public-employee benefits and altered collective-bargaining rules for public-employee unions — was jolted awake by yelling, loud pounding at the door, and her dogs’ frantic barking. The entire house — the windows and walls — was shaking.

She looked outside to see up to a dozen police officers, yelling to open the door. They were carrying a battering ram.

She wasn’t dressed, but she started to run toward the door, her body in full view of the police. Some yelled at her to grab some clothes, others yelled for her to open the door.

“I was so afraid,” she says. “I did not know what to do.” She grabbed some clothes, opened the door, and dressed right in front of the police. The dogs were still frantic.

“I begged and begged, ‘Please don’t shoot my dogs, please don’t shoot my dogs, just don’t shoot my dogs.’ I couldn’t get them to stop barking, and I couldn’t get them outside quick enough. I saw a gun and barking dogs. I was scared and knew this was a bad mix.”

She got the dogs safely out of the house, just as multiple armed agents rushed inside. Some even barged into the bathroom, where her partner was in the shower. The officer or agent in charge demanded that Cindy sit on the couch, but she wanted to get up and get a cup of coffee.

“I told him this was my house and I could do what I wanted.” Wrong thing to say. “This made the agent in charge furious. He towered over me with his finger in my face and yelled like a drill sergeant that I either do it his way or he would handcuff me.”

They wouldn’t let her speak to a lawyer. She looked outside and saw a person who appeared to be a reporter. Someone had tipped him off. […]

Most Americans have never heard of these raids, or of the lengthy criminal investigations of Wisconsin conservatives. For good reason. Bound by comprehensive secrecy orders, conservatives were left to suffer in silence as leaks ruined their reputations, as neighbors, looking through windows and dismayed at the massive police presence, the lights shining down on targets’ homes, wondered, no doubt, What on earth did that family do? […]

Largely hidden from the public eye, this traumatic process, however, is now heading toward a legal climax, with two key rulings expected in the late spring or early summer. The first ruling, from the Wisconsin supreme court, could halt the investigations for good, in part by declaring that the “misconduct” being investigated isn’t misconduct at all but the simple exercise of First Amendment rights.

The second ruling, from the United States Supreme Court, could grant review on a federal lawsuit brought by Wisconsin political activist Eric O’Keefe and the Wisconsin Club for Growth, the first conservatives to challenge the investigations head-on. If the Court grants review, it could not only halt the investigations but also begin the process of holding accountable those public officials who have so abused their powers.

But no matter the outcome of these court hearings, the damage has been done. In the words of Mr. O’Keefe, “The process is the punishment.”

I’ve read a couple of accounts of this affair over the last few years and my impressions are:

First, that those in favor of strong public sector unions in Wisconsin are using their official powers to try to silence those who would limit the power of public sector unions (teachers, police and the like). Since I agree that the power of public sector unions often needs to be curbed, I’ve supported Governor Walker.

Because there’s something wrong with a system where legally-required union dues can be used by union leadership to support politicians who, in turn, are the people the unions negotiate their contracts with. Just look at one example of what’s happened in California when a situation like that is written into law.

My second impression, though, is that the worm has turned. The rise of unions was no walk in the park and the story of how unions came to be is filled with examples of those who opposed them using the force of the State against them. (Of course, most of those early struggles weren’t on behalf of public sector workers.)

All of which brings me back to my usual position: if we don’t want events like these to happen, we need to limit the State’s power so that those who would abuse that power can’t. It sounds as though Wisconsin needs to work on its law for John Doe investigations.

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Bad forensics

April 25, 2015

Here’s an article from the Washington Post about problems with forensic hair analysis. Many folks have been pointing out the pseudo-scientific nature of hair analysis, bite-mark analysis, and the like. for some time now. It’s good to see it getting more attention.

FBI admits flaws in hair analysis over decades

The Justice Department and FBI have formally acknowledged that nearly every examiner in an elite FBI forensic unit gave flawed testimony in almost all trials in which they offered evidence against criminal defendants over more than a two-decade period before 2000.

Of 28 examiners with the FBI Laboratory’s microscopic hair comparison unit, 26 overstated forensic matches in ways that favored prosecutors in more than 95 percent of the 268 trials reviewed so far, according to the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL) and the Innocence Project, which are assisting the government with the country’s largest post-conviction review of questioned forensic evidence.

The cases include those of 32 defendants sentenced to death. Of those, 14 have been executed or died in prison, the groups said under an agreement with the government to release results after the review of the first 200 convictions. […]

The State is not always or necessarily your protector.

H.T. Paul

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