Thursday, April 18, 2019

Interest on National Debt Projected to Approach $1 Trillion in a Decade

'As long as mankind continue to pay "national debts," so-called -- that is, so long as they are such dupes and cowards as to pay for being cheated, plundered, enslaved, and murdered -- so long there will be enough to lend the money for those purposes; and with that money a plenty of tools, called soldiers, can be hired to keep them in subjection. But when they refuse any longer to pay for being thus cheated, plundered, enslaved, and murdered, they will cease to have cheats, and usurpers, and robbers, and murderers and blood-money loan-mongers for masters.'
-Lysander Spooner, No Treason: The Constitution of No Authority VII

Although the federal government cannot technically become insolvent; there are other undesirable consequences to exceeding its constitutional duties. While the national debt is not exactly like a household debt, since the federal government is technically a “sovereign currency issuer”, it still has to be paid with interest like a household debt and that interest payment is growing rapidly. In fact, according to CBO net interest on the national debt is the fastest growing portion of the congressional budget. CBO estimates that net interest on the national debt will grow by 248% over the next decade, much faster than GDP growth over the same time period (55%) or any category of congressional spending including healthcare spending (96%).

In the current fiscal year, congress spent nearly $400 billion paying the net interest on the national debt, about 9% of the total congressional budget (both discretionary and non-discretionary). This exceeds the amount spent on programs like SNAP, SSI and unemployment benefits. By 2028, the net interest on the national debt will climb to at least $914 billion or as high as $992 billion, constitute 3% of GDP, and exceed all categories of discretionary spending including defense spending. The U.S. is expected to pay approximately $7 trillion in interest on the national debt for the next decade.

It should be remembered that discretionary spending, currently about $1.3 trillion, is only a fraction of the annual congressional budget; in fact, it is less than half the budget. Most of the budget is non-discretionary or mandatory spending that congress does not get to approve on an annual basis. Any attempt to “balance the budget” through spending cuts or tax hikes would be futile.

Monday, April 15, 2019

Molested By The State: Warrantlesss Strip Searches of Children

Source: Home School Legal Defense Association

This case pertains to a four year old child, identified pseudonymously as I.B. in the amicus brief, who was strip searched against her will and photographed by a CPS caseworker at preschool. The strip search was conducted as part of a child welfare investigation without probable cause that the little girl had been physically abused or neglected.

‘When the child’s mother, who is listed as Jane Doe, picked I.B. up from preschool one day her daughter asked, “Mommy, do you remember when the woman with white hair came to my school? I hope she doesn’t come again, because I don’t like it when she takes all my clothes off.”
The little girl’s horrified mother immediately contacted the preschool, but the teachers assured her that nothing had happened. Unsatisfied, Jane continued to press the school on the issue.
Weeks later, the school finally revealed that, during a child abuse investigation, a caseworker, Ms. Woodard, had strip-searched I.B.
Eventually, the investigator admitted that she had not only taken I.B’s clothes off against her will, but she had also taken color photographs of the child’s naked body. After finding that no abuse had occurred, Woodard had simply closed the investigation.’

While this was conducted at a formal preschool, the case has far reaching implications for home schooled children as well who have been subjected to the same warrantless searches in previous years. In the 1999 case of Calabretta v. Floyd, a CPS investigator entered a home without a warrant and strip searched a three year old child. The Ninth circuit court held this to be a violation of the family’s 4th and 14th amendment rights against unreasonable searches and seizures. A similar case occurred in Roe v. Texas Dept of Protective and Regulatory Services, wherein a 6 year old child was not only strip searched but also subjected to a ‘genital examination.’

Aside from concerns about the constitutional rights of parents and the psychological harm that strip searches and ‘genital examinations’ may inflict on children, this also brings the privacy rights of children to the forefront. Children have the same human rights, and ,to a certain extent, the same constitutional rights (delineated in the bill of rights), as adults. Sure children cannot vote, hold public office, enter into contracts, consent to participate in scientific studies, drive or consume alcohol but this is due to diminished autonomy rather than an absence of rights. The same restrictions often apply to adults with mental and physical disabilities, yet they are not stripped of their constitutional and human rights and relegated to an inferior legal status like convicted criminals. Likewise, a person who becomes unconscious doesn’t suddenly lose their rights and then regain them upon regaining consciousness. In relation to actions taken by the state or any public authority, children have the same rights as adults, which includes the right to privacy and the right to refuse unreasonable searches and seizures; these rights do not suddenly kick in at a certain age. Although a special exception could be made for infants and other children who are non-verbal, and we would have to defer to the mother or caretaker, we should recognize that just as children are not subject to the arbitrary and capricious will of their parents or guardians (i.e. restrictions on child abuse) they also should not be subject arbitrary and capricious actions of the state or public authorities (e.g. privacy rights). The fact that children are usually unaware of their rights makes this even more critical.

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Social Media Censorship is a Violation of The First Amendment

There is a lot of ignorance on this topic. People who favor of social media censorship of certain political persuasions claim that the first amendment only prohibits congress from abridging freedom of speech and that it does not apply to private companies like Twitter or Facebook or YouTube. Aside from the fact that the 14th amendment makes first amendment protections applicable to all levels of government, it also makes it applicable to corporations who allow the general public to use their property and who serve a public function. This is not just my personal opinion; although I wholeheartedly agree with the sentiment, it is the U.S. Supreme court ruling handed down in Marsh v. Alabama 326 U.S. 501

Many people in the United States live in company-owned towns. [n5] These people, just as residents of municipalities, are free citizens of their State and country. Just as all other citizens, they must make decisions which affect the welfare of community and nation. To act as good citizens, they must be informed. In order to enable them to be properly informed, their information must be uncensored. There is no more reason for depriving these people of the liberties guaranteed by the First and Fourteenth [p509] Amendments than there is for curtailing these freedoms with respect to any other citizen

In this case a Jehovah's Witness was convicted of trespassing for distributing religious literature in the town of Chickasaw, Alabama, which was privately owned by the Gulf Shipbuilding Corporation. Company policy prohibited solicitation of any kind, including the distribution of literature, on the privately owned streets and sidewalks. The Jehovah's witness was told she would not receive permission to proselytize and was asked to leave Chickasaw altogether. The Jehovah's witness protested this decision on first amendment grounds and was promptly arrested by a sheriff's deputy for criminal trespassing. The Supreme court eventually concurred in the Jehovah's witness's favor overturning the conviction and noting that the relevant distinction between where the first and fourteenth amendments are applicable and where the are not is not whether a place is owned by a government or private entity, but the function it is commonly used for.

The State (of Alabama) urges, in effect, that [p506] the corporation's right to control the inhabitants of Chickasaw is coextensive with the right of a homeowner to regulate the conduct of his guests. We cannot accept that contention. Ownership does not always mean absolute dominion. The more an owner, for his advantage, opens up his property for use by the public in general, the more do his rights become circumscribed by the statutory and constitutional rights of those who use it. Cf. Republic Aviation Corp. v. Labor Board, 324 U.S. 793, 798, 802, n. 8. Thus, the owners of privately held bridges, ferries, turnpikes and railroads may not operate them as freely as a farmer does his farm. Since these facilities are built and operated primarily to benefit the public, and since their operation is essentially a public function, it is subject to state regulation.

This aptly describes social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube. They are open for use by the general public, without charge, and function as forums for spreading ideas (both religious and secular), engaging in political discourse, and even advertising business the same way we used open public spaces such as side walks, parks and town squares in 1945. All of these large social media platforms are, in fact, public forums subject to first amendment protections. The fact that they are owned by 'private companies', a description which is a misnomer itself, is irrelevant. The entire argument that 'private companies' can do what they want rests on the mistaken belief that there is a single set of property rights protected by the non-existent legal doctrine of absolute property rights, which is found nowhere in the laws of any country, much less our own. Calling social media platforms 'private companies' is also a disingenuous red herring; they are public corporations charted by the states, in which they operate, for the purpose of providing a benefit to the public under their articles of incorporation. They are categorically different from proprietors, colloquially referred to as 'mom and pop shops' or simple fee owners of real property; comparing the two not only makes you a moron, but a belligerent moron to boot.


Thursday, March 28, 2019

Declining Fertility Rate Hysteria Is A Misrepresentation of Statistics

One thing I have begun to notice more of late is fear mongering about declining birth rates, especially by white nationalists and conservatives, but occasionally the centre-left will partake in it. An article in Pacific Standard magazine summarizes this very well. The article cites a total national fertility rate, for the U.S., as 1.765.5 births per 1,000 women of child bearing age, which is about 1.76 births per woman of child bearing age. Since this is below the benchmark replacement level of 2,100 births per 1,000 women of child bearing age, or 2.1 births per woman of child bearing age, the author concludes that we will have a smaller work force in the future, assuming the downward trend continues, and consequently fewer people will be paying into social security (Wheeling, 2019). However, the CDC study cited in the article does not support this conclusion; in fact, the conclusion is based on a bad misinterpretation of total fertility rate. Total fertility rates are estimations of how many births a hypothetical group of 1,000 women would have if the age specific birth rates in a given year remained constant over their reproductive years; total fertility rate is calculated by adding all 5 year age-specific birth rates and multiplying the sum by 5 (Mathews & Hamilton, 2019). Since this statistic assumes that women's current age specific birth rates will remain constant over their reproductive years it is only an estimate of possible final fertility at the end of their reproductive years (Mathews & Hamilton, 2019). Final fertility is contingent on women's actual age-specific birth rates, rather than a hypothetical continuation of current age specific birth rates, during their reproductive years (Mathews & Hamilton, 2019). It is not conclusive that all women will end their reproductive years with an average of 1.76 births. It is also important to consider that the total fertility rate is calculated for all women of reproductive age, which includes all females between 15 and 44 years of age. Within such a large cohort there's inevitably going to be a lot of zeros that will pull down the mean, especially for females between 15 and 24 years of age who are usually still in school. The article also notes that the average age for first marriage has risen to 27 years of age, but fails to see the obvious implication for declining total fertility rates: that a there may be, as a result of delayed marriage, a lot more women with 0 births before age 27 than after age 27. Therefore, the mean may not be the best indicator of how many children women will have, just as it would not be a good indicator of the income of bar patrons if Bill Gates walked into that bar.

References

Mathews, T., & Hamilton, B. E. (2019). Total fertility rates by state and race and hispanic origin: United States, 2017. National Vital Statistics Reports, 68(1), 2-5.
Wheeling, K. (2019, January 11). The U.S. Birth Rate Is Still Falling. Retrieved March 26, 2019, from https://psmag.com/news/the-us-birth-rate-is-still-falling

A Case Study in Police Transparency: How A Lying Off-duty Cop Ruined A Man's Life


Source: Asbury Park Press

Michael Ryan is like any other law abiding citizen. He's a family man with two kids and was a supervisor for the school district in Hammonton, NJ where he had worked for 29 years, but that all changed one day when an off duty cop from another county reported him for a crime he didn't commit at a location he had never been to. Eastampton Patrolman Michael Musser accused Ryan of committing a lewd act in the parking lot of a South Jersey laundromat in September 2015; however, Musser did not report the crime to Hammonton Police until a week after he had supposedly witnessed it. At the time that the crime was supposedly committed, Musser did not record the suspect's license plate number or record a physical description, yet one week later Musser was able to recognize Ryan in a ShopRite parking lot and have him charged on mere hearsay. Even if Musser was not being intentionally dishonest, anyone who has a basic understanding of psychology knows how inaccurate the human memory is and that it becomes less accurate over time. The memory is not a recording of the past, such as a video, but a set of impressions that change as new information and biases are added; this is why eyewitness testimony is often unreliable and people convicted on that basis, especially capital offenses, are often exonerated later on. Of course, there is good reason to believe Musser was lying; he was known as a pathological liar in his own precinct and was fired by his own police department for lying in an internal affairs investigation a year after Ryan had been charged and convicted of lewdness. By that time the damage was already done; Ryan had been fired from his six figure job, sentenced to one year of probation, forced to pay over $40,000 in court fines and legal fees appealing his conviction, and had his name dragged through the mud, which he will probably never recover from. Fortunately, Ryan's attorney was able to uncover Musser's record of dishonesty, after Musser challenged his firing in a superior court a year later, and convince the judge to exonerate him. However, without Musser's lawsuit against his former employer, Ryan may have never been vindicated. Even though police departments in New Jersey are required to disclose to prosecutors information that may call into question arresting officers' credibility, Ryan's case was one of the few exceptions; the rule does not apply to officers who charge people with crimes outside of their county.
This case may set a new precedent for informing defendants about new evidence that may help their case.

Sunday, March 24, 2019

Fremont Police Destroy Misconduct Records Before Transparency Law is Enacted

Sources: KQED News, SB 1421
The liberties of a people never were, nor ever will be, secure, when the transactions of their rulers may be concealed from them. The most iniquitous plots may be carried on against their liberty and happiness.

- Patrick Henry

Between June and December of 2018, the Fremont Police Department quietly destroyed four decades of internal affairs files, citizen complaints, and disciplinary files while the state legislature contemplated passing a bill to require public disclosure of these previously confidential records. The police department destroyed records dated between 1971 and 2016. They also reduced the amount of time they retain internal affairs records on officer involved shootings from 25 years to 10 years. The California legislature passed the transparency law, SB 1421, in August 2018, requiring police departments across the state to publicly disclose misconduct records, especially those concerning use of force resulting in bodily injury, sexual assault, and dishonesty. The city council of Fremont also loosed record retention rules by allowing their police department to destroy files for internal affairs investigations after only two years, if Fremont Police started the investigation on themselves, reducing the amount of time the city retains records about police pursuits and accidents from five to three years and eliminating the requirement to indefinitely retain records about discrimination and sexual harassment. Too be even more opaque, the city of Fremont destroyed eleven boxes of training review board files containing information about officer involved shootings and other use of force incidents that occurred between 2003 and 2015. Other cities, such as Inglewood and Long Beach, have pursued similar polices of destroying police misconduct records and loosening record retention rules in the wake of SB 1421.

So what are they trying to hide? As civilians, we're always told, in support of dragnet surveillance, that if we're not doing anything wrong we shouldn't have anything to hide. Of course, government officials, especially those of the executive branch, are never held to the same standard. Here we have a law that brought us a step closer towards law enforcement accountability and it was vehemently contested by Police Unions across California who lobbied against its passage and tried to sue the state to stop the law from being enforced. Fortunately, the city of Fremont does at least one thing right by requiring a certificate of destruction for every city record destroyed allowing the public a glimpse into what they tried to conceal. Some of the most recent files destroyed contained information about officers investigated for dereliction of duty, officers arrested by other law enforcement agencies for misusing their equipment, and officers disciplined for misconducted, including some who had been terminated multiple times (i.e. multiple rehiring and firings). Some of the files destroyed were more innocuous. One file from 1986 contained information about an officer surreptitiously recording other employees.

Even with a statute requiring the disclosure of officers' personnel records and internal affairs investigation files, there is still no guarantee that police departments will be transparent about misconduct and abuse of power. As I noted in Who's Watching the Watchers, Police agencies can always find a work around by either ignoring requests, outright denying requests without explanation, heavily redacting the records they release or by putting the records behind a pay wall, demanding, in some instances, thousands of dollars in fees to release the files.

In the second wave of CCJA requests, researchers requested sixty-one specific internal affairs files from the law enforcement agencies that responded to the first wave of requests. Six of the sixty-one specific internal affairs files concerned police misconduct that garnered significant media coverage, resulted in ‘unfounded’ allegations, but nonetheless lead to a large settlement with the alleged victim. The results were even more dismal than the first wave of requests. Seven agencies failed to respond even after multiple attempts were made to follow up with them (Dupey et al., 2018). Another seven agencies denied the requests outright without providing a sufficient explanation (Dupey et al., 2018). One agency sent a duplicate summary of internal affairs files and two agencies demanded thousands of dollars in fees to fulfill the requests (Dupey et al., 2018). Not one complete internal affairs file was obtained in the process (Dupey et al., 2018).

Unfortunately, transparency will never be achieved as long as police are allowed to investigate themselves through internal affairs. Oversight of police conduct must come from the outside, ideally from an independent elected body with the power to conduct their own investigations and subpoena the police department; most established civilian review boards, such as the one in Chicago, fail to live up to this standard.

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Hate Speech Laws are Dumb and Unjust

Source: Telegraph Uk

I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it

A French Animals rights lunatic (but I repeat myself) and apparently famous actress, Brigitte Bardot, is in hot water for making bigoted comments about the indigenous people of RĂ©union island, a French colony in the Indian ocean. She called the natives degenerate savages for practicing the Hindu custom of sacrificing some of their livestock, which is technically their property, during certain religious festivals. If you want to destroy your own property to placate gods that are probably imaginary, you should be free to do so. And if you want to criticize people who do that under the misguided assumption that livestock are equal to humans, you should also be free to do so. Usually this would be a non-story, but Brigitte Bardot may face prosecution just for making these comments. In fact, she has been criminally charged and prosecuted on five previous occasions for, I kid you not, Islamophobia which is kind of like arachnophobia or Ophidiophobia, because there's an element of truth and rationality to it. Now I understand that neither France nor any other European country has the first amendment like we do in the states, but they could at least refrain from making every snide comment subject to a criminal investigation. I also find it odd that a country that is still very much invested in maintaining its old colonial power structure, although through the indirect means via IMF and World Bank policies, is simultaneously concerned about racism and bigotry to the point of making it a criminal offense just for thinking about it. There is also, of course, the fact that no one has the right to not be offended, for any number of things could offend any number of people, and we would all go mute trying to never offend anyone. Rabid Leftoids here in the states have sufficiently demonstrated this last point by making every conceivable thing a white person could say to a non-white person, or person of color racist. They consider even the most innocuous questions such as 'where are you from?' to be a racist micro-aggression, which is apparently a crime white people don't even know they're committing. This country already experienced a similar type of repression under the Sedition Act. Twenty-six Republican journalists and editors were imprisoned for criticizing John Adam's federalist administration before we came to our senses and realized that outlawing criticism and divisive speech is a sure path to tyranny.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Cottage Food Industry Thrives in Absence of Regulatory Burdens

Sources: Forbes, Food Freedom Act, Consumption and Homemade Food Act

In the past four years, 3 states, including Wyoming, North Dakota, and Utah, have passed legislation allowing farmers, ranchers, and cottage food producers to sell homemade foods directly to consumers without the usual licensing, permitting, and inspection requirements associated with the food industry. While this legislation excludes foods containing meats such as pork or beef, it allows farmers, ranchers, and chefs working in their home kitchen to sell any other dish imaginable directly from farms, ranches, homes, farmer's markets, and roadside stands to informed end consumer, meaning the product only changes hands once and the purchaser understands that they are in a buyer beware market. The Wyoming Food Freedom Act even exempts poultry, for farmers with less than a thousand birds, rabbit meat, farm raised fish, except catfish, and raw milk from the typical state regulations. In the absence of these burdens, cottage food vendors and farmer's markets have grown tremendously. The number of farmer's markets in Wyoming has grown by 70% since the Food Freedom Act of was passed in 2015. The North Dakota Farmers Market and Growers Association estimate that there are now about 600 farmer's market vendors, statewide, since the state passed their own Food Freedom Act in 2017. Utah now has almost 300 cottage food businesses since they passed their own version of the Food Freedom Act, the Consumption and Homemade Food Act, last May. The liberal laws have not resulted in any reports of food borne illnesses or contamination according to all three state health departments. Contrary to conventional wisdom, government regulations are not the only kind of regulations imposed on businesses. Without a supply chain, the producers' reputations are directly on the line; any report of food poisoning or illness could break them, especially in small communities. Just like restaurants, I am sure there are online reviews of different vendors and a rating system to inform potential customers about the quality of their products. In fact, the internet has made it much easier for consumers to regulate the products and services they buy; the information we need to make these decisions is now literally at our finger tips. In addition, private certification could arise for different artisan foods such as dairy products and ethnic dishes (e.g. Kosher certification). In the absence of state regulations, the collaboration among consumers will keep cottage food producers cautious and honest.

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Police Brutality Cost Chicago $113 Million in 2018

Sources: Chicago Sun Times, Former DOJ Investigator: Widespread ‘Blue Code Of Silence’ Within Chicago Police Department

Last year, the city of Chicago paid a total of $85 million in settlements for police misconduct lawsuits and spent an additional $28 million in attorney's fees defending themselves in court against police misconduct allegations. The city averaged almost one lawsuit payout every two days with a median payout of $50,000 and a minimum of $500. Some of the settlement money was paid out for wrongful convictions. This included a settlement of $9.3 million to James Kluppelberg, who was wrongfully convicted of arson, after he was forced to confess through torture, and spent 25 years in prison. It also included a payout of $3.5 million to Patrick Hampton, who was wrongfully convicted of sexual assault and imprisoned for 20 years and a $4 million settlement for 2 men wrongfully convicted for a double murder in 1992. The largest settlement was a payout of $16 million to the Family of Betty Jones, who was shot and killed by now disgraced officer Robert Rialmo on December 26, 2015 when he fired at a suspect behind her. Other large settlements include a $15 million payout to the families of two men killed by former detective Joseph Frugoli in a 2009 drunk driving accident. Another $9.5 million was also paid to Jose Lopez who was paralyzed after being knocked to the ground by tasering which resulted in a brain injury. The city might have saved themselves these expenses if the internal affairs of their police department had done their job. These aren't isolated incidents, but are rather symptomatic of larger cultural problems in big city police departments; as Christy Lopez, a former investigator in the Civil Rights Division of the DOJ, points out, there is a 'Blue Code of Silence' within the Chicago Police Department which sweeps even the most egregious criminal misconduct under the rug:

Well, we had many officers in the department tell us that there was a code of silence. … We found that the department not only tolerates but incentivizes a code of silence. They make it difficult for [internal affairs] investigators to investigate whether officers concealed misconduct. They don’t take steps to make sure that things like body cams and car cameras are working.

The 2014 murder of Laquan McDonald and subsequent cover-up opened a goldmine of information on how police handle crimes committed by their own members and it affirmed what most police accountability activist already suspected; police investigate themselves and find themselves innocent of wrong doing. Oversight of the police department shouldn’t come from within the same police department. This would be akin to the president having his cabinet investigate him during an impeachment trial. Oversight of executive officials should come from an independent elected body that has the power conduct their own investigations and subpoena the police department, just as it does at the federal level. Allowing police to investigate themselves is not only bad governance, by failing to separate powers, but it is also contrary to another principle fundamental to our republic: equality before the law. In theory, our laws are supposed to apply equally to all citizens; in practice, a badge and the right political connections grants impunity for criminal behavior. This problem cannot be solved through the same thinking that created it.

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Victims of Warrant-less Drug Search Sue Police Department

Source: Atlanta Journal Constitution

These events transpired at a House party in Cartersville, GA on New Years Eve 2017

  • Someone called Cartersville PD to report Gun shots in the same area as the house party but the party itself was not reported
  • Police stumbled upon the part while canvassing the neighborhood
  • Police claimed to 'smell marijuana' and searched the house
  • Police found less than an ounce of marijuana, a small amount of cocaine, and three hand guns
  • Police detained all 70 party goers, ordered them outside, and patted down everyone without finding drugs on anyone
  • Police arrested all 70 party goers without evidence linking any one party goer to the small amount of marijuana and cocaine
  • Party goers were stripped searched at the jail; no drugs were found again.
  • Officers posted party goers mugshots on their website in violation of a Georgia statute

It should be obvious that searching a house without a warrant, detaining and arresting individuals without probable cause that they committed a crime is a violation of the 4th amendment:

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Due to a lack of evidence that any one of the 70 had possessed the small amount of marijuana and cocaine, and obvious constitutional rights violations, all charges were dropped on January 12th, 2018. However, the damage had already been done. The media coverage of this event cost many of the party goers their jobs, their reputations and legal fees for those who had retained a lawyer. In yet another demonstration of the law of unintended consequences, we see how the current war on drugs has allowed police to violate our constitutional rights with impunity, but perhaps we are at a turning point. With more and more states legalizing cannabis and recognizing the Opioid crisis as a mental health problem the whole war on drugs paradigm is being called into question. A victory for the party goers in this class action lawsuit could be another nail in the coffin.