The seventh court of appeals has passed down a ruling that, if upheld, would wipe out what little remains of our 4th amendment right against warrantless searches of our homes. Acting on the information provided by one informant, Indianapolis DEA agents set up a sting operation and raided the home of suspected meth dealer Paul Huskisson before applying for a warrant. Huskisson was unknown to the DEA before this information was divulged. The conviction was appealed on grounds that law enforcement had unlawfully searched his home and that the evidence obtained was thus inadmissible in court (i.e. fruit of the poisonous tree). While the 7th circuit recognized that the search was unlawful, they nevertheless held that the evidence obtained from the unlawful search was admissible because DEA agents had other evidence, provided by the informant, that met the standard for probable cause and could have obtained a search warrant in hindsight. In an age where privacy and property rights have all but vanished, an atrocious ruling like this may be the final nail in the coffin of our 4th amendment rights. Under such a ruling anyone could be searched and have their property seized on mere hearsay of one witness. Such a ruling would, for instance, provide legal justification for so called ‘red flag’ laws that allow police to stripe legal gun owners of their 2nd amendment right solely on the accusations and court petition of another person.
Thursday, June 27, 2019
In Chicago, food trucks are not allowed within 200 feet of a food establishment, which includes not only restaurants and grocery stores, but convenience stores as well. To add insult to injury, the city also requires food truck vendors to install GPS tracking devices on their vehicles that transmits location data to a third party API every five minutes and are required to keep at least 6 months of location data. The state supreme court held that forcing businesses to install GPS tracking devices on their vehicles does not constitute a 4th amendment search because the GPS tracking device is a requirement to obtain an occupational license and food establishment permit and because the data is transmitted to a publicly accessible third party application rather than directly to city bureaucrats. However, the implications of this case go well beyond food trucks. About 20% of the labor force of Illinois needs a license to work. This would set a precedent for forcing other types of businesses to track their location in the future, some of whom may use personal vehicles to conduct business, which would directly conflict with the U.S. v. Jones ruling. Furthermore, the state supreme court contradicted themselves by simultaneously holding that forcing food trucks to operate with a GPS tracking device does not constitute a 4th amendment search and that if it did constitute a search, it would be a reasonable search because business owners have a reduced expectation of privacy and the city may have a substantial interest in enforcing the food truck ordinance. The latter confirms that the court would uphold this ordinance even if the city installed the GPS tracking devices themselves, even without the owner’s knowledge, and directly monitored their location. Remember this impacts more than just food trucks. The city could directly track vehicles used to conduct business, including personal vehicles in cases where a proprietor does not have a separate commercial vehicle, and this would be “reasonable.” For instance, if someone ran a home catering business, and used their own car to make deliveries, the government could install a GPS tracking device on their car, directly monitor their location and according to the Illinois Supreme Court this would be a perfectly “reasonable” search even though it would directly conflict with Jones and Carpenter, two U.S. Supreme court cases that established location tracking, one through cell site location data and another through GPS tracking, as a 4th amendment search.
Yesterday, Jack Strain, a former sheriff who presided over my parish for twenty years, was arrested on charges of aggravated rape and incest and booked in a St. Tammany Parish Jail. For those fortunate enough to be unfamiliar with Louisiana politics, Strain has been under a federal investigation, since November of last year, for using a federal work release program to provide kickbacks to a couple of his close former deputies, both of whom are now in prison for that criminal scheme. This new development is completely unexpected. Like most people, I was expecting Strain to be indicted for orchestrating the work release bribery, but allegations of rape and sexual assault came out of left field. Strain has been indicted for raping four individuals. Two victims were under the age of twelve and the incidents occurred before he became Sheriff and two victims were teenagers and the incidents occurred during his tenure as Abita Springs Police Chief and as St. Tammany Parish sheriff.
Reuters: Dozens of Indigenous women forcibly sterilized file a class-action lawsuit against the Canadian government, Petition: Stop sterilizing Indigenous women without consent
In the present Convention, genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group, as such:
- Killing members of the group;
- Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
- Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
- Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
- Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.
UN Convention 1021, Article II
While most Western Nations abandoned Eugenics after World War II and adopted the Geneva protocols, including standards for medical and research ethics, the United States and Canada continued their programs with impunity. Several states in the U.S. continued to forcible sterilize American Indian women until the mid 1970s and Canada apparently did so up until two years ago and may have never stopped. Last year, 90 First Nation women filed a class action lawsuit against the Healthcare authorities of the Saskatchewan province and several doctors for sterilizing them without their informed consent. The cases go as far back as 2001 and as recent as 2017. Most of the plaintiffs were pressured into getting a tubal ligation right after giving birth.The lead plaintiff in the suit says she had her tubes tied after giving birth to her second child in 2008. The women was incapacitated and had been administered opioids when doctors attempted to get her written consent for a tubal ligation. Another Plaintiff named Lisa had a tubal ligation performed without her prior knowledge in 2001. Others were separated from their infants until they signed for the tubal ligation.
Friday, June 21, 2019
Something you would only expect to find in corrupt developing countries like Brazil and Honduras is becoming an epidemic here in the good ole USA. There are about 1.4 million homeless school age children throughout the U.S, but homeless school children and homeless people in general are concentrated in a handful of large metropolitan cities. 51% of all homeless people are in one of the fifty largest U.S. cities and almost half of them are in New York City or Los Angeles: two cities that account for 24% of the nation’s homeless population. 51% of chronic homeless occurs in only three states: California, New York and Washington. Washington state identified more than 40,000 homeless students during the 2016-2017 school year, a 30% increase from four years prior. Another report found 15,000 homeless children in Tarrant County, TX alone, and this is just the tip of the iceberg. Homelessness is surging in almost every major metropolitan city. In Los Angeles County, homelessness has increased 12% despite increased spending on social services and supportive housing. In New York City, nearly 115,000 students, about 1 out of 10 students, were homeless during the 2017-2018 school year. The state of California alone had about 270,000 k-12 homeless students during the 2017-2018 school year, 72,000 of whom lived in Los Angeles County. The vast majority of them live with friends or relatives, but some 5,320 students in Los Angeles county are unsheltered. Almost half of the homeless population of San Francisco is also school age children; 3,200 of the 7,500 homeless people in San Francisco are children.
The False Diagnosis
Homelessness is not caused by mental illness or substance abuse; neither are universal among homeless populations. Only 35% of the homeless population, not even a majority, has a substance use disorder and as I explained in my previous post on the link between Chronic Homelessness and Mental Health, mental illness is just as much a symptom as it is a risk factor because the stress experienced during homelessness itself exacerbates vulnerabilities to developing mental disorders. People tend to equate homelessness with the people they see begging on street corners when most homeless people are in fact invisible to the public sleeping in city shelters, in their cars, or in other temporary arrangements. Incarceration will not only not solve homelessness it is also more expensive than supportive housing and other band aid policies that do not solve the underlying economic problem.
The Systemic Causes of Homelessness
Much of the cause of poverty and misery in these large cities have the same cause: unjust land tenure. As job markets expand and economic opportunities grow land values also soar and rents consequently consume wage growth. For instance, from 2011 to 2017, rent for a one bedroom apartment in Los Angeles County increased by 67% while median household income only grew by 23% over the same period. Land values along the California coast are the highest in the country. While residential land in the average U.S. metro is only worth $20,000 per acre in the average Coastal California metro it is worth $150,000 per acre, seven and a half times the national average, and in San Francisco, a city notorious for unaffordability, the average acre is valued at about $400,000, about twenty times greater than the national average. To put this in perspective the average American home, with one acre of land, is only valued at $180,000 which means the average acre of land along the coast of California is almost as much as the average American home, and the average acre of land in San Francisco, just the land itself, is more than twice as much as the average American home, Of course, space that expensive in population dense areas is sold by the front foot, for commercial use, or square foot, for residential use, instead of by the acre as it would in suburban and rural areas; but it puts the problem of rising rents into perspective. Land values are capitalized in the selling price of homes making California homes much more expensive than throughout the rest of the country.
Land rent is so high that the cost of physically building homes only account for one-third of home prices along the coast of California, while in middle America or even inland California, where land is significantly cheaper, home prices are at or close to the physical cost of construction. However, land scarcity is not the only problem driving up rents and home prices in coastal regions. Combine natural land scarcity with the artificial scarcity created by slow construction permitting process, maximum density requirements (i.e. rules for minimum unit size) , exclusionary single-family zoning, and regressive taxes (e.g. sales and property taxes) and you have the perfect recipe for pricing people out of the housing market and creating homelessness. For instance, the average development fee for each single-family home in California is $22,000 while the national average is only $6,000, and the cost of physically building a single-family home in California is $50,000 to $75,000 higher than the national average. These rules and policies act as a catalyst for land scarcity and simply allow landlords and mortgage lenders to appropriate higher rents (or mortgage interest) at the expense of working class people. If the demand for new housing continues to far exceed the supply of new housing, due to natural and artificial barriers to new development, the cost of housing will grow faster and more people will fall through the cracks. In Los Angeles County, a 5% rent increase is estimated to create 2,000 more homeless people.
Not everyone feels the pinch, but more people will. California households in the bottom quartile of the income distribution already spend, on average, 67% of their total income on housing; in comparison, the average American household only spends 25% of their total income on housing costs. This has the devastating effect of eroding their savings and chances for social mobility. When you take other household necessities into consideration (e.g. food, healthcare, transportation, utilities), low income renters have very little left to save for a single-family home or spend on continued education, even with extreme budgeting, and will have nothing left in savings if rents continue to rise more than wages, creating a perpetual poverty trap. This may explain why California has a significantly lower rate of home ownership (54%) than the rest of the country (64%).
Of course, as many people are now realizing, coastal cities should build more housing and denser housing to accommodate population growth and offset high land values, but this only addresses half the problem. Market rate housing would continue to be unaffordable for a large portion of the population even if you scraped zoning entirely like Houston. The other half? Shift the local tax burden from new construction and redevelopment to land values, reducing the penalty on the former, by reducing both taxes and cost of land, and recapturing the value generated by public services and infrastructure for public services and infrastructure. In the meantime, coastal cities should adopt tenant protections, such as just cause eviction and 60 day notices, to level the power imbalance between landlords and tenants. As mentioned in Predicting and Preventing Chronic Homelessness, those most at risk are single male low wage workers, particularly African Americans; cities should provide immediate re-employment in the public sector, in lieu of the plethora of current social services, when low wage workers are laid off to prevent them from spiraling into chronic homelessness.
Friday, June 7, 2019
More news on why illegal immigration is not a victimless crime
Jose Armando Pavon Salazar, a citizen of Honduras, conspired with 52 other foreign nationals to sell the birth certificates and social security numbers of U.S. citizens residing in Puerto Rican to illegal aliens living in the mainland U.S. He was arrested in El Salvador in January of 2018, in connection with the crime, and extradited to Puerto Rico. The fraudulent scheme involved buying Puerto Rican birth certificates and social security cards from a supplier for $400, receiving them through the postal service, and then selling them to illegal aliens residing in the U.S. so they could assume the identities of Puerto Ricans and mostly apply for jobs and welfare benefits. Jose sold these documents with full knowledge that the corresponded to the identities of real U.S. citizens.
It seems that illegal aliens overwhelming steal the identities of Puerto Ricans, probably because they most likely have spanish last names. In fact, identity theft and fraud against Puerto Rican citizens is so rampant that the government there had to invalidate every birth certificate issued on the island before 2010 and reissue security enhanced birth certificates. And while the island only has a few million residents, about 40% of stolen birth certificates come from Puerto Rico.