Monthly Archives: June 2009

Oklahoma State Trooper Will Not be Charged for Assaulting EMT

I dare say that any individual sans badge would be charged for putting his or her hands on the throat of an EMT. Click here to read the rest of the story.

UPDATE I:

Once I figure out how to insert a pdf without hotlinking, I’ll have the official statements from both the EMT and the Ambulance driver. Until then, here is the link to the pdfs where I found them. (See Update II)

I realize that this only represents one side of the story (I’ll see if I can find the OK Highway Patrol statements as well) but what I found there was quite revealing. The EMT explained to the trooper that they were committing a felony for assaulting a Paramedic in the line of duty. The EMT was resisting arrest because he was doing his damn job attending to his patient! (remember the patient?)

It seems to me that the police could have handled this better. If the EMT and driver were really out of line, they could have waited to make their arrests once the patient was safely transported to the ER and under the care of the ER physicians.

UPDATE II:

I found the original news article that contains the statements from the EMT and the driver. According to another article from the same website, DA Max Cook has requested the trooper’s dash board cam video be released to the public (even though he has officially closed the investigation and opted not to file charges). The dashboard cam video should answer the question of who hit who first as well as other questions; I’ll post the video either here or in a separate post if or when it becomes available.

UPDATE III

Oklahoma State Trooper vs. EMT Follow-up

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US still likes the Constitution…sort of

Ramussen has a poll on the public’s perception of the Constitution:

Eighty-three percent (83%) of voters nationwide rate the U.S. Constitution as good or excellent, and there is little public support for changing the document.

However, the latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey found that 44% believe the Constitution doesn’t place enough restrictions on the government. Only 10% hold the opposite view and say the nation’s governing charter places too many restrictions on government. Thirty-eight percent (38%) say the balance is about right.
[…]
Despite the desire for more restrictions on government, 93% of Americans say they would vote for the Constitution if it was on the ballot today.

Sixty-six percent (66%) say that no changes are needed in the document while 27% see a need for minor changes. Four percent (4%) believe major changes are required, and one percent (1%) want to scrap the document and start over again.

Too bad the meaning of the Constitution is often changed, misinterpreted or ignored by the judicial branch, which sidesteps the Article V process for amending the document.

Do Americans like the Constitution and it is written and can be easily understood or do they like the Constitution as they’ve learned it in government schools? That’s a question I’d like answered. You can sort of get your answer to that by this part of the poll:

Thirty-nine percent (39%) now believe that the legal system is too worried about individual rights over national security. Just 24% hold the opposite concern.

I don’t need to remind you what Ben Franklin said about trading liberty for securing.

Senator Feingold wants your input on health care

Senator Feingold is half of the team which brought us McCain-Feingold. His “Citizen Brief on Health Care” wants your input. It asks:

  1. How does the state of our current system affect you and your family?
  2. What reforms do you think are necessary to fix our health care crisis?
  3. Do you support the creation of a public plan option?

and then for some contact information.

Here’s the link.

Quote of the Day: Sotomayor’s “Pro-State Bias” Edition

This article in The Boston Globe about Sonia Sotomayor ought to delight “tough on crime” conservatives and cause great concern for civil libertarians of all stripes. Prosecutors and law enforcement organizations give her high marks for her “aggressiveness” both as a prosecutor and as a judge.

One quote from the article stood out and seems to support what I wrote about her in a post I wrote last week:

“[Sotomayor] certainly doesn’t seem to have a pro-criminal bias and, if anything, because of her history, may have a pro-state bias.” – Law Professor and Sentencing Expert Doug Berman

I take exception to the “pro-criminal” part of the quote because in our system (at least in theory), individuals are innocent until proven guilty. Beyond this, I am troubled that a nominee for the Supreme Court would show a detectable bias toward either toward the prosecution or the defense. The only bias a judge should have should be toward the Constitution (the Bill of Rights in-particular).

This is one bias Judge Sotomayor appears not to have.

Open Thread — Chrysler Storm A-Brewin’

This news just came through the tubes —

A U.S. Supreme Court justice on Monday granted a request to put on hold the sale of bankrupt automaker Chrysler LLC to a group led by Italian carmaker Fiat SpA.

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, in a one-sentence order, said the orders of the bankruptcy judge allowing the sale “are stayed pending further order of the undersigned or of the court.”

This, of course, was prompted by some of the senior creditors — Indiana state worker pension funds — complaining about the raw deal they were getting in favor of the UAW, the government, and Fiat. I spoke on that here.

I’m pretty busy today, so I’ll leave this one to the commenters… This is a pretty good time for an open thread too, as a “one-sentence order” doesn’t give a lot of evidence for serious analysis… What does this mean, and what will the fall-out be? Are we headed to a Supreme Court rebuke of the Administration?

Quote Of The Day

Hey Newt… As one of the limited-government pro-individual-rights potential voters who has stopped voting Republican in disgust at the actions of the party over the last 8 years, I think you and I both agree that the Republicans need a concerted effort to woo folks like me back. But as an atheist, this sure isn’t the way to do it:

We are in a period where we are surrounded by paganism, and paganism is on offense.

Now, I’m going to split hairs and assume you misused the word paganism, and would clearly include an unbelieving heathen like myself on the list of folks being criticized. Either way, Newt Gingrich just alienated one potential voter who had been pretty excited about the concept of him running back in 2008. He’s moved to the center or left on policy and to the right on social issues, and that’s the wrong way on both.

A boot stamping on a human face…

…forever.  But, if San Francisco’s most famous street vendor has anything to say about it, that boot will be well-shined:

He sleeps under a bridge, washes in a public bathroom and was panhandling for booze money 11 months ago, but now Larry Moore is the best-dressed shoeshine man in the city. When he gets up from his cardboard mattress, he puts on a coat and tie. It’s a reminder of how he has turned things around.

In fact, until last week it looked like Moore was going to have saved enough money to rent a room and get off the street for the first time in six years. But then, in a breathtakingly clueless move, an official for the Department of Public Works told Moore that he has to fork over the money he saved for his first month’s rent to purchase a $491 sidewalk vendor permit.

“I had $573 ready to go,” Moore said, who needs $600 for the rent. “This tore that up. But I’ve been homeless for six years. Another six weeks isn’t going to kill me.”

The bureaucrat told Moore that she found out about his business after reading about his success in this paper.

Most amazingly, Moore was not even indignant and sought to play by the rules, only to have more barriers thrown in his path:

Moore is nothing if not dutiful. He attempted to work his way through the byzantine city government channels, although he didn’t get much help.

“I guess my gripe is that when the city came by and told him to get his papers in order but couldn’t tell him how to do it,” said Travis See, who manages the Custom Shop Clothiers on the corner of Market and New Montgomery. “This lady couldn’t even tell him which building to go to so he could stand in line and waste all day.”

When Moore found the permit application, he got a money order and headed down to the appropriate department to pay. But because he didn’t have a valid ID card, they wouldn’t take his money.

Through all this, Moore maintains a positive attitude and wants to be an upstanding citizen:

The only one who isn’t furious about this is Moore. He insists that city functionaries are giving him a break because they are letting him continue to shine shoes while he waits for a copy of his birth certificate to be sent from Kansas. Once it arrives they will allow him to get an ID card and then hand over almost every cent he has.

I feel compelled to say that Moore is a better man than I. He’s faced the tyranny of the petty bureaucrat with incredible composure, and he deserves every shred of respect and help he’s gotten for this. Fortunately for Mr. Moore, the situation seems to be working out for him:

Reiskin told him his department would help set up the permit, the Homeless Outreach Team van pulled up to see if he wanted to talk about supportive housing, and homeless coordinator Dariush Kayhan sat down in the chair as soon as Reiskin’s shoes were shined.

Moore said he was honored to see them but still charged them his usual fee, $7. (It’s $5 if you are unemployed.)

Moore has set aside the $491 for the permit, which he’ll get as soon as his birth certificate arrives from Kansas and he can get a municipal ID card.

In retrospect, it’s easy to see how this mess started. Usually when a city worker tells a street vendor to get a permit, the response is excuses and vague promises. They didn’t expect Moore to take them seriously.

But Moore is a man on a mission.

“I want to be on this corner,” he said. “But you know what? You need me on this corner. You got people in this city getting a free room and free medical but they aren’t doing nothing with their lives. I want people to see me and say, ‘There’s a guy working hard.’ ”

If you’d like to see that, stop by his stand on Market. He starts at 9:30 in the morning, although he might sleep in a little today.

“I am going to go get a room tonight for the whole week,” he said. “I deserve that. At least I think I do.”

I’m very glad Larry Moore will end up sleeping in a bed tonight, and that in the end the generosity of the people of San Francisco has made sure he will be able to pay both his rent and the city.

However, that resolution is a case of the exceptional, while the bureaucracy remains the way of life in San Francisco.  As this case shows, it’s a way of life that deserves to be questioned.  Are the people of San Francisco better off because Larry Moore had to waste time and money having a birth certificate sent 1,500 miles so the city could verify his identity? Are the people better off with $491 of this man’s money going to the city rather than a landlord?  Will Larry Moore suddenly provide service any better because he now has the benediction of the Department of Public Works?

These questions raise the most important one… Just who are these permits supposed to serve?

California Department Of Real Estate Trust Fund Nearing Deficit!

The California Department Of Real Estate oversees and administers the state’s real estate agent and broker licensing program. During the big housing boom, the fees generated by the high level of real estate activity (and the agents/brokers who were licensed to enable that activity) has caused them to build up some a nice Trust Fund. But activity is down, and there may be trouble ahead:

DRE, as the department is called, gets all its money for its 344-person department from license fees, license exam fees and subdivision fees (which are going up, too). But all those things are down because fewer people are taking the license test or getting licenses. And development fees? Well, homebuilding has been all but mothballed.

All these things have taken a $13.7 million bite out of the department’s $44 million budget.

For example, license exams have dropped from around 22,000 in March 2005 to just under 2,900 this past March. And the number of licensees dropped in March for a 14th straight month.

But don’t worry! They’ve got a trust fund! They’ve lent their reserves to the state of California, so all is well!

To make matters worse, the state Legislature and the Govenator have borrowed about $10.9 million from DRE reserves. If the state doesn’t repay that loan, and if the fees don’t go up, DRE projects its reserves will dry up and it’ll run out of money next year. In just over four years, DRE would be almost $88 million in the hole.

Wait… How could that make matters “worse”? How can they just suggest that the state might not pay back that loan — or worse, the implicit notion that they might do so out of higher taxes on the rest of Californians? If they’ve loaned the money to the state of CA, what could possibly go wrong? After all, the State of CA and the California DRE have two different revenue streams, so loaning from one pocket to the other is not in any way a fiscal end-around!

If it’s such a bad thing for the state of CA to borrow money from the CA DRE reserves, why is it a good thing that the US Federal Government is borrowing the surplus generated by Social Security payroll taxes?

Wasn’t the “stimulus” bill supposed to keep unemployment down?

Could opponents of the stimulus bill actually have been right? Take a look at the numbers of what the Obama Administration said unemployment would look like with and without the “stimulus” compared to what it is today.


Don’t forget that the ridiculous claim by Obama Administration that 150,000 jobs have been created (total job losses since the beginning of the year are more that 2.8 million) by the “stimulus” bill after spending $112 billion. For those of you keeping score at home, that’s $746k per job “created.”

H/T: QandO

Comment of the Day: A Welcome Voice from Liberty Papers Past

Re: Mancow gets waterboarded

It’s always a treat to hear from Eric, the founder of The Liberty Papers. Its comments like this one which make me miss his “grumbles.” This comment was in response to a discussion sparked by Stephen Gordon’s post concerning waterboarding:

Interesting discussion. Chris has a very valid point about altering the meaning of the language. He also points out that waterboarding is a form of coercion and that coercion should not be used on prisoners. But, in the heated and traumatic rejection of his assertions about what torture is, the more important point he makes is lost.

The point is, coercive interrogation is wrong to do to someone who we hold prisoner. Chris said that loud and clear, but folks are so incensed that he might not agree that something is torture that they miss the fundamentally more important point. Another fundamentally important issue, if you believe in The Rule of Law, is that we don’t have clear laws on what to do with terrorist combatants and that poses a problem. One of the keys to solving the problems of piracy in the 17th and 18th centuries was to promulgate clear, consistent, logically and legally sound laws and regulations for dealing with pirates.

We don’t have that for terrorists today, and that’s a problem.

P.S. adding to the point about use of language. We used to know that torture meant causing permanent injury to someone. When we talked about the police giving someone the “third degree”, it meant physically injuring someone to coerce them to do something. The reason we said “third degree” is that there were three levels of Inquisition used during the Catholic Inquisition.

1st Degree – Discussing the crimes someone is accused of and informing them that stronger methods of inquisition can be used if they don’t cooperate

2nd Degree – Showing the accused person the methods that can be used, like racks, knives, flails and other implements of torture

3rd Degree – Actually using those implements on the accused person, i.e. the Third Degree of Inquisition.

So, the very tortured definitions of torture that folks are trying to come up are actually changing the meanings of the language in ways that support the individual’s position. This is something that Orwell argued strenuously against and that most “libertarians” argue against, as well. Except, it seems, when being for it supports their personal beliefs.

Causing PTSD does not automatically make something torture. PTSD can be caused by a car accident, by seeing your sibling die, by participating in violent combat and many other things. None of which are “torture”. I suggest that we should return to the traditional definition that doing things which would be considered “the third degree” is torture. Let’s use the language right. AND we can still agree that things which are not torture, but are inhumane or coercive, or both, are wrong for US interrogators to do to our prisoners.

Comment by Eric — June 5, 2009 @ 8:24 am

And Republicans still can’t figure out why they keep losing battles in the War of the Tubes

Shortly after I graduated high school in 1980 (yep, I’m an old man, just ask my kids), I responded to two computer programming job ads.  One company wanted a detailed resume of my education and work experience.  The other company was trying to get people to come in and take a test. The test was tough, but the thought process behind it was both simple and germane: We had to write a complex program in RPG to handle a hypothetical business need for this local company.  The programs submitted were the primary basis for the company’s hiring decision. The last time I checked (I ended up taking a job with a third company, EDS), the former business went under while the latter business is still around today.

Not too long ago, the Republican National Committee sent out a widely criticized Request-for-Proposal to move their Internets into the 21st century.

“Friends, either the RNC has no freakin’ clue what the hell it is doing or else all the rumors about certain consultants having an inside track at RNC contracts is true,” wrote Red State’s Erick Erickson. “Why? Because there is no way any competent person would put together an RFP like this. It’s crap. It is not legitimate. It is unprofessional. It is illusory.”

Let’s contrast the RNC to Howard Dean’s Internet guru.  Here’s Joe Trippi’s latest tweet:

I’m looking to hire the next social media whiz kid. Sound like you? Apply here: http://tr.im/nyLU Pls RT

When one follows Trippi’s link, he or she will read the following:

We’re looking for the next Associate to join our team. We posted the job description below on a number of job boards and sent it around to everyone we could think of. But, as we started the interview process, we realized the normal method of just reviewing resumes wasn’t going to work for us.

We need to know the person we hire. We want to see your skills in action and know you have the drive to succeed here…in short, we need to know you “get it”. And resumes and interviews aren’t enough.

So, we’re not going to judge you on your years of experience or your GPA. We are going to judge you on how well you can help us build online movements. We’re looking for the next social media whiz…someone who understands social media, online advocacy, and grassroots organizing and is passionate about using that knowledge to help non-profits and campaigns. That’s it.

If that sounds like you, we encourage you to apply by completing our online assessment. The link is below, but don’t click on it until you’re ready because, once you start, you only have 2 hours to complete it. Unfortunately, you won’t be able to log in again or start over. (You may finish before the 2 hours are up, but don’t take more time than that. The survey tool includes a timer, so we’ll be able to tell if you miss the deadline.)

The survey was fairly simple, but germane.  They asked for basic contact information, to describe three influential blogs, then got to the nitty-gritty.  Among other things, they described a hypothetical setting and asked the applicant to create an e-mail for a list of 100,000 people, as well as a blog entry, to promote their hypothetical agenda.

As one local example of how pathetic Republicans are on the Internet, ‘Lil Ol’ Me has almost twice as many Twitter followers as the Alabama Republican governor and each of the GOP gubernatorial candidates combined.

Not that I like the left’s agenda any more than I like the right’s agenda, but it’s obvious that one side “gets it” while the other doesn’t. One might think that the Republican Party would wake up and smell the Tubes.  Instead, they’ve still got their heads buried in the sand.  Or somewhere, at least.

Liberty Rock Friday: Another Brick in the Wall, Part II by Pink Floyd

This is one of my all-time favorites. To truly appreciate the message, one needs to see the video (below).

Pink Floyd
Another Brick in the Wall, Part II
The Wall (1979)

By Roger Waters

We don’t need no education
We dont need no thought control
No dark sarcasm in the classroom
Teachers leave them kids alone
Hey! Teachers! Leave them kids alone!
All in all it’s just another brick in the wall.
All in all you’re just another brick in the wall.

We don’t need no education
We dont need no thought control
No dark sarcasm in the classroom
Teachers leave them kids alone
Hey! Teachers! Leave them kids alone!
All in all it’s just another brick in the wall.
All in all you’re just another brick in the wall.

“Wrong, Do it again!”
“If you don’t eat yer meat, you can’t have any pudding. How can you
have any pudding if you don’t eat yer meat?”
“You! Yes, you behind the bikesheds, stand still laddy!”

Is The “Public Plan” True Market Competition?

I’m not sure if this is a case of drinking too early in the day or willful dishonesty, but I can’t quite understand why Ezra Klein would misrepresent his opposition this badly:

I’ve been trying to figure out how to make this sound like more than a cute argument, because I think it’s actually a point my conservative friends should seriously consider.

In general, there are two ways for firms to adopt an idea. The government solution — the socialist solution — is to impose it on them by legislative fiat. An example would be Congress passing a law that makes selling New Coke illegal. The other path is through market competition. Plummeting revenue and rising market share for Pepsi convince the Coca Cola company that selling New Coke is a bad plan and they should cut it out.

It is perhaps evidence of the triumph of market-based ideas that the public plan falls pretty decisively on the right edge of that spectrum. The idea here is that the public plan will adopt effective reforms that will then lower its costs and improve its quality. In response, the private market will follow suit.

The conservative argument against a public plan is NOT that the plan will be too effective, too efficient, and too low cost for private insurers to compete.

The argument is that government will unfairly stack the deck against private insurers through outright subsidies or disparate regulatory regimes, while artificially presenting a lower end-user cost to the insured. Essentially we think they’ll keep premiums low by subsidizing the program on the back end through tax dollars.

The government has proven time and time again that it doesn’t like to compete on fair terms. When you can tax your competitors and take revenues out of their profits to subsidize your costs, you don’t have to compete on fair terms.

Republican Senators busted trying to water down the “Audit the Fed” bill

The Senate version of The Federal Reserve Transparency Act (HR1207) is being watered down.  Not by Democrats, but by two ranking Republicans. The Huffington Post reports:

Thanks to an overlooked document posted on the website of Sen. Charles Grassley of Iowa, the top ranking Republican on the Finance Committee, voters can virtually watch the water being dumped into the brew that Grassley had hoped to force the Fed to drink. (See the document at the bottom of this story.)

On page five of Grassley’s amendment, he intends to give the Comptroller General of the Government Accountability Office power to audit “any action taken by the Board under…the third undesignated paragraph of section 13 of the Federal Reserve Act” — which would be almost everything that it has done on an emergency basis to address the financial crisis, encompassing its massive expansion of opaque buying and lending.

Handwritten into the margins, however, is the amendment that watered it down: “with respect to a single and specific partnership or corporation.” With that qualification, the Senate severely limited the scope of the oversight.

On the Senate floor, Grassley named the top Republican on the banking committee, Richard Shelby of Alabama, as the man pouring the water.

“Although I would have preferred to include all of the Fed’s emergency actions under 13(3), in consultation with Senator Shelby I agreed to limit my amendment to actions aimed at specific companies,” said Grassley.

The Federal Reserve has a considerable amount of influence over our fiscal status, but there is no tranparency of their actions.  It’s so vital that a full audit be conducted that 186 House members have co-sponsored the bill already. The way I see it, “partial audit” makes about as much sense as a “partial virgin”.

Please contact Senator Shelby and Senator Grassley and let them know we demand a full audit of the Federal Reserve.

Senator Grassley
(202) 224-3744
E-mail

Senator Shelby
(202) 224-5744
E-mail

The Liberty Papers hits list of top 100 poliblogs

ABC News has noted Wikio.com’s ranking of political blogs.  The Liberty Papers made the top 100 poliblogs, coming in at number 87.

The rankings are compiled based on links from other blogs — with extra weight given to blogs that rank higher via Wikio’s formulas, and based on how recently an item is published. Blog rolls aren’t taken into account, so only fresh postings impact the rankings.

One of the intriguing aspects of this list is that it puts everyone in the same pot. The list has mainstream media blogs — from ABC News, CNN, The New York Times, and others — alongside well-known partisan bloggers — Michelle Malkin, FireDogLake — and even government-run bloggers, like WhiteHouse.gov’s.

I’d like to thank each of you who stops by from time to time to see what’s going on in LibertyLand.  Double thanks go to those who link our posts.  Triple thanks go to the entire crew here for coming up with fresh postings which are interesting and insightful.

Sonia Sotomayor: Endorsed by The Badge Worshippers and Law Enforcement Bootlickers of America

Those who are of the badge worshipping and law enforcement bootlicking persuasion might assume that Judge Sonia Sotomayor may not have much to offer them as a Supreme Court Justice until they take a look at her record on the 2nd Circuit. As it turns out, Sotomayor has quite an authoritarian streak. It seems that when the powers that be are challenged by an ordinary individual, Sotomayor’s empathy seems to be with those who are employed by the government (and the facts of the circumstance be damned!).

Emily Bazelon writing for Slate warns those who are inclined to support Obama’s nominee: “Liberals, be careful what you wish for.”

The case which concerns Bazelon following her warning in Jocks v. Tavernier illustrates Sotomayor’s badge worshipping tendencies.

The story leading up to Jocks v. Tavernier begins in 1994 with truck driver Thomas Jocks’ truck breaking down on the Long Island Expressway. When the truck came to a stop, the end of his trailer was about 4 feet into the right lane. Trying to be a safe, responsible, and law abiding citizen, Jocks places safety flares as required to warn other drivers and walks nearly a mile to a gas station to find a pay phone* to call 911 about the unsafe situation. Upon arriving at the gas station, Jocks encounters Augusto Tavernier using the pay phone from inside his car.

Bazelon writes [emphasis mine]:

Jocks gave the following account of what happened next: He ran up and told Tavernier there was an emergency because his truck was jutting out onto the expressway. Tavernier told him to find another phone. Jocks repeated the emergency part of his story. Tavernier swore at him. Jocks knocked on his windshield and kept urging him to give him the phone. Finally, Jocks went into the phone stand and hung up on Tavernier’s call. At that point, Jocks said, Tavernier threw the receiver at him, tried to get out of his car, couldn’t because the phone stand was blocking his door, and drove forward. Jocks dialed 911. Tavernier charged him, yelling. Jocks yelled back. Tavernier said, “Why don’t I blow your fucking brains out?” and drew his gun. He pressed the gun into the back of Jocks’ head, and said, “Freeze, police”; and then an off-duty Nassau County police officer arrived, got the situation under control, and arrested Jocks.

Tavernier, too, proved to be an off-duty cop. After his arrest, Jocks was held for 24 hours and ended up having to make 28 court appearances before he was found not guilty of felony assault. He spent $20,000 on legal fees, lost his truck driving job, and had to give up full custody of his daughter, who went to live with her mother, his ex-wife. That dire, black moment on the LIE truly cost him.

Though Jocks was found not guilty of felony assault, much damage had been done. He still was out $20,000, his job, and custody of his daughter. Understandably, he wanted to be compensated for these very real damages. Jocks sued Tavernier and the detective who booked him for false arrest and malicious prosecution. The jury agreed and ordered Tavernier and the detective to pay damages of $600,000; the parties at fault successfully appealed to the 2nd Circuit.

Enter Judge Sotomayor – Bazelon continues:

The judges on the panel for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit were Sotomayor; Pierre Leval, a Clinton appointee; and John Walker Jr., appointed by President George Herbert Walker Bush […]

Walker wrote an opinion affirming the jury verdict, 2-1. But the drafting took a long time, and when a draft was finally circulated, Sotomayor responded to it by arguing that the grounds for a reasonable arrest are broad. As an off-duty cop who’d been hit in the face with a phone after an altercation, she argued, Tavernier was justified in making the arrest as a matter of law. That meant throwing out the jury verdict. Walker could not get her to change her mind. Instead, Leval decided he was persuaded by Sotomayor’s argument about how broad the grounds for making an arrest can be and switched sides. Finally, Walker gave up and switched, too. His written opinion throws one bone to Jocks by leaving open the possibility of a new trial based on one narrow argument (that he acted in self-defense when he threw the phone). But throwing out the $600,000-plus jury award was a huge blow to the plaintiff. The case was retried in 2007, and Jocks lost, based on the more constraining jury instructions that the trial judge gave because of the 2nd Circuit ruling.

Hold the damn phone** for a minute! In Sotomayor’s world view, even off duty police officers are given more standing, more benefit of the doubt***, and yes, more empathy than the rest of us? Whatever happened to “equal justice under law,” the very words engraved on the very U.S. Supreme Court building she intends work in?

If we want Judges and Justices to decide matters of law with empathy rather than the law and the facts, this is exactly the kind of “justice” we should come to expect.

But never mind that. The important thing is that we have a Supreme Court Justice who is a woman, Latina, and has “life experiences” that the rest of us couldn’t possibly understand!

» Read more

Valor Pleases You, Crom… So Grant Me One Request. Grant Me Revenge!*

The Governator is back. And this time, he takes no prisoners:

Declaring that “California’s day of reckoning is here,” Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said today the state should turn its dire budget straits into an opportunity to make government more efficient.

Speaking to a rare mid-year joint session of the Legislature and other constitutional officers, Schwarzenegger acknowledged the billions of dollars in spending cuts he has proposed to close a $24.3 billion hole in the budget will be devastating to millions of Californians.

“People come up to me all the time, pleading ‘governor, please don’t cut my program,'” he said. “They tell me how the cuts will affect them and their loved ones. I see the pain in their eyes and hear the fear in their voice, the lamentations of their women**. It’s an awful feeling. But we have no choice.

“Our wallet is empty. Our bank is closed. Our credit is dried up.”

I come to slash spending.  Yaargh!

I come to slash spending. Yaargh!


Governor Schwarzenegger was elected in a pretty rare phenomenon, the recall. His predecessor, Gray Davis, had worked long and hard to make a mess of Sacramento’s business, and was generally a smarmy and unlikable guy. When Davis attempted to hike a very public tax, the vehicle license fee, voters who were already upset with Sacramento pushed him out of office.

Schwarzenegger was elected to be a reformer. He was (fairly) seen as outside the political process, and carrying the force of popularity that would allow him to shake things up. He appealed to a lot of voters who professed small-l libertarian leanings***, as he billed himself more as a fiscal conservative and social moderate/liberal. He was seen as having the political capital and bipartisan likability to actually go in and clean up the mess.

He tried to enact reforms, and was rebuffed by the entrenched power structure. Given California’s ballot proposition, he decided to pull an end-run around the legislature and “take the agenda directly to the people.” He called a special election, putting propositions including redistricting, spending restraints, and others directly up for the people of California to enact. And he was rebuffed spectacularly in that election.

Ever since then, he’s been a lame-duck governor, unable to really do anything but show up on TV at every wildfire explaining how much he cares. He’s been ineffective and the legislature has run roughshod, failing to restrain spending at every turn.

I think, though, that Schwarzenegger may be feeling ready for a resurgence. He was rebuffed for trying to rein in the legislature, and the legislature predictably went on to make a mess of things. I’m not sure he’ll necessarily come out with an explicit “I told ya so”, but you can be sure that will be a part of his sell. California didn’t listen when he tried to hit the brakes back in the boom years around 2005, but perhaps they’ll understand that folly now that the state is in shambles.

California is a mess. It wasn’t politically possible to clean it up during the boom. I’m not sure what incentive it will require to get Schwarzenegger to try to gain back his political capital and start slashing and burning through the legislature, but if revenge motivates him, I’ll take it.

Hat Tip: SoCal Real Estate Bubble Blog
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The 31-Year Old “In Charge Of” Automakers? I’m More Qualified Than This Guy!

So what happens when you go from your PoliSci undergrad degree, float through various political and think tank jobs, begin a law degree, and have no formal training in either economics or business?

You get the job of running GM!

It is not every 31-year-old who, in a first government job, finds himself dismantling General Motors and rewriting the rules of American capitalism.

But that, in short, is the job description for Brian Deese, a not-quite graduate of Yale Law School who had never set foot in an automotive assembly plant until he took on his nearly unseen role in remaking the American automotive industry.

But now, according to those who joined him in the middle of his crash course about the automakers’ downward spiral, he has emerged as one of the most influential voices in what may become President Obama’s biggest experiment yet in federal economic intervention.

While far more prominent members of the administration are making the big decisions about Detroit, it is Mr. Deese who is often narrowing their options.

Now, I don’t want to say anything personally negative about Mr. Deese here. As a bit of a follow-on to my last post, it sounds to me like he’s at no deficit of intelligence. I’m not going to focus on his age as a negative here, because he sounds like he’s quick on his feet and able to learn on the job. I’ve got some understanding for such a person, because my typical way of doing most things is to jump in headfirst and only afterward to learn how to breathe in the new environment. “Sink or swim” is a hell of a lot more exhilarating than treading along carefully.

That being said, I tend to take leaps where I have a working knowledge of swimming and the currents are minimal. Deese just jumped into the ocean, and he’s going to be battling a riptide (the economy) and sharks (the unions, management, debtholders, shareholders) the whole way through. And while he’s apparently [informally] studied some economics, as I have, he has no experience in business.

I can see this ending very badly. Experience is not the end-all be-all of success, but it certainly helps. I’d be less concerned if Deese had some experience in business in general, because while there are certainly peculiarities of one industry to another, general good business sense is widely applicable. But he doesn’t have any business experience. He has academia and “public service” in his past, and that’s about it. What’s scarier? Most of the people he’s advising have the same background, so they may not be able to discern his good recommendations from his bad ones.

General Motors and Chrysler, filled to the brim with experience, couldn’t manage to run their businesses profitably. It’s pure hubris to assume that the Obama administration, staffed with people who have little to no experience, could fare better. And the idea that you trust some bang-up whiz kid who’s the baby of the bunch with this much responsibility? This is either going to be a spectacular moment of greatness in Brian Deese’s life, or one of the most spectacular failures of government meddling we’ve ever witnessed.

I can tell you which way I’d bet.

Working Harder Or Working Smarter?

Is workplace compensation associated with intelligence? Tangentially, yes. But it’s by no means a clear link. Compensation is based on one critical factor which Ezra Klein leaves out of the below analysis (and for which intelligence plays an important, but not necessary, role):

And that, I’d submit, is the real reason that people assume the physical trades stupid. We associate compensation with intelligence. Indeed, I’d go a step further: It’s important to us to associate compensation with intelligence. Our society wants to believe the economy relatively just. People can accept that the hand is invisible, but they don’t want to believe it capricious. There should be a “reason” that bankers make more money than construction workers. Something more virtuous than the economy happens to prefer people who move money to people who move plywood. And there are generally two acceptable candidates: They work harder or they’re smarter. Hanging drywall isn’t an air conditioned endeavor, so relative toil doesn’t obviously favor the finance people. That leaves intelligence.

The economy is relatively just. Compensation is based on a pretty simple metric: supply and demand.

I’ll repeat that, because it’s important. Compensation is based on a pretty simple metric: supply and demand.

Intelligence has something to do with it, but not everything. Some skills, whether brainpower-based or not, are in more demand than others. Think, for example, of a garbage collector. Garbage collectors can earn a pretty decent living, but I don’t think many would suggest that their earnings are based on their intelligence. Then think, for example, of the guy with the BA in English Literature — sorry, the technical term is barista — who served you your coffee at Starbucks this morning. To get a university degree in literature takes at least a respectable amount of brainpower, but English Lit majors are roughly unemployable in their degree area.

My own career, engineering, is a happy mix between the two. The math and science curricula that must be completed tends to self-select people who are inclined to such pursuits*. But the relative high pay of an engineering grad coming out of school isn’t based necessarily on their brainpower, but on the relative scarcity of people entering the profession. In college, I majored in Electrical Engineering and minored in Philosophy. The employability of each degree was a critical factor in choosing AGAINST philosophy as a major, even though I did (and do) enjoy it.

Why do NBA players get paid so much money, while elementary school teachers get paid far less — even though it’s pretty clear that the latter are far more “important” to our society? Because the demand for NBA players is very high but the supply is very small. The demand for elementary school teachers is high, but the supply is also very high.

Perhaps this is one of Ezra Klein’s biases, but I personally don’t “assume the physical trades stupid”. I’ve worked on construction sites during summers back in college, and there was a pretty wide variance of intelligence between the group of people I worked with. It’s not as if their jobs were devoid of brainpower, though. If you can’t read a plan and you build it wrong, you need to build it again (and account for the materials and time you wasted in the process). While I’m sure many of those folks might have hit an IQ wall when it came to multivariate calculus, we could discuss politics, the economy, world events, and most of them were as clear or cogent as Ezra Klein or I on the subject — or had the aptitude to be so. And you know what? They were no-bullshit people and a hell of a lot more pleasurable to be around than many of the self-absorbed materialistic douchebags I knew making big bucks in the mortgage industry here in SoCal during the boom.

I’d suppose that this is a long post devoted to the idea that if Americans understood basic economics, we could dispense with the idea that making a lot of money proves that you’re smarter than people who make less. There are cases where that’s true, but it really comes down to a question of marketable skills, the demand for those skills, and the number of people willing and able to supply them. Intelligence is an enabler of certain marketable skills, but it is not the skill itself.
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