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Better hope for good trigger discipline

July 29, 2015

Here’s an interesting editorial in The Washington Post about a guy who got swatted for, basically, leaving his apartment door ajar. But he was lucky.

In Iraq, I raided insurgents. In Virginia, the police raided me

[…] I didn’t wake up until three police officers barged into my apartment, barking their presence at my door. They sped down the hallway to my bedroom, their service pistols drawn and leveled at me.

It was just past 9 a.m., and I was still under the covers. The only visible target was my head.

In the shouting and commotion, I felt an instant familiarity. I’d been here before. This was a raid.

I had done this a few dozen times myself, 6,000 miles away from my Alexandria, Va., apartment. As an Army infantryman in Iraq, I’d always been on the trigger side of the weapon. Now that I was on the barrel side, I recalled basic training’s most important firearm rule: Aim only at something you intend to kill. […]

My situation was terrifying. Lying facedown in bed, I knew that any move I made could be viewed as a threat. Instinct told me to get up and protect myself. Training told me that if I did, these officers would shoot me dead.


From Reason’s blog a story (with video) about someone who wasn’t so lucky. My emphasis here.

University of Cincinnati Cop Ray Tensing Indicted in Murder of Samuel Dubose

Ray Tensing, the University of Cincinnati police officer who shot and killed Samuel Dubose as the man drove away during a traffic stop over a missing front license plate, was indicted for murder today. The county prosecutor, Joe Deters said Tensing “purposely killed” Dubose in an “asinine” and “senseless” manner. Authorities say Tensing shot Dubose in the head as Dubose tried to drive away, with the county prosecutor saying it took “maybe a second” for Tensing to pull his gun and shoot. He played the body cam footage at the press conference announcing the indictment.


From the Post again, Radley Balko links to an encouraging article in the Alaska Dispatch News about how Alaska trains police.

Alaska’s police, troopers do best as guardians, not warriors

[…]There are many within policing who have questioned the warrior mindset since well before Ferguson ignited the recent national debate. To these officers, a warrior class of police is antithetical to a democracy and our Constitution. Lt. Chad Goeden, Commander of the Alaska Department of Public Safety Training Academy, is one of these. The academy trains every Alaska State Trooper recruit and many municipal and borough police recruits before they can become certified sworn law enforcement officers.

During Lt. Goeden’s nearly 20-year tenure with the Alaska State Troopers he’s worked all over the state. When he became the academy commander he hung a sign over his office door:

“The ability of the police to perform their duties is dependent upon public approval of police actions.” – Sir Robert Peel, founder of modern policing

Lt. Goeden chose that quote because he’d observed some officers had lost a sense of connection to the community. He explained, “I thought it was important to remind myself, my staff and the recruits why it is we do what we do, who we serve, and who it is we are beholden to.”

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TANSTAAFL (still)

July 28, 2015

Here’s a David Brooks column in The New York Times.

The Minimum-Wage Muddle

Once upon a time there was a near consensus among economists that raising the minimum wage was a bad idea. The market is really good at setting prices on things, whether it is apples or labor. If you raise the price on a worker, employers will hire fewer and you’ll end up hurting the people you meant to help.

Then in 1993 the economists David Card and Alan Krueger looked at fast-food restaurants in New Jersey and Pennsylvania and found that raising the minimum wage gave people more income without hurting employment. A series of studies in Britain buttressed these findings. […]

Some of my Democratic friends are arguing that forcing businesses to raise their minimum wage will not only help low-wage workers; it will actually boost profits, because companies will better retain workers. Some economists have reported that there is no longer any evidence that raising wages will cost jobs.

Unfortunately, that last claim is inaccurate. There are in fact many studies on each side of the issue. David Neumark of the University of California, Irvine and William Wascher of the Federal Reserve have done their own studies and point to dozens of others showing significant job losses.

Recently, Michael Wither and Jeffrey Clemens of the University of California, San Diego looked at data from the 2007 federal minimum-wage hike and found that it reduced the national employment-to-population ratio by 0.7 percentage points (which is actually a lot), and led to a six percentage point decrease in the likelihood that a low-wage worker would have a job.

Because low-wage workers get less work experience under a higher minimum-wage regime, they are less likely to transition to higher-wage jobs down the road. Wither and Clemens found that two years later, workers’ chances of making $1,500 a month was reduced by five percentage points.

I wonder if Governor Cuomo reads the Times — or Forbes.

Via Coyoteblog

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How would you kill the tax code?

July 25, 2015

Another dramatic campaign ad from Rand Paul.

Reviews of his tax plan tend to be mixed.

Personally, I think 14.5% is too low. And there are still exemptions and other problems. I wish Rand had gone to back to First Principles (excises & tarriffs) or that he’d backed the Fair Tax plan.

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Constitutional malware

July 24, 2015

Paul sends a link to an interesting paper by Jonathan Mayer which appears at Social Science Research Network.

Abstract:
The United States government hacks computer systems, for law enforcement purposes. According to public disclosures, both the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Drug Enforcement Administration are increasingly resorting to computer intrusions as an investigative technique. This article provides the first comprehensive examination of how the Constitution should regulate government malware.

When applied to computer systems, the Fourth Amendment safeguards two independent values: the integrity of a device as against government breach, and the privacy properties of data contained in a device. Courts have not yet conceptualized how these theories of privacy should be reconciled.

Government malware forces a constitutional privacy reckoning. Investigators can algorithmically constrain the information that they retrieve from a hacked device, ensuring they receive only data that is — in isolation — constitutionally unprotected. According to declassified documents, FBI officials have theorized that the Fourth Amendment does not apply in this scenario. A substantially better view of the law, I conclude, is that the Fourth Amendment’s dual protections are cumulative, not mutually exclusive.

Applying this two-stage framework, I find that the Fourth Amendment imposes a warrant requirement on almost all law enforcement malware. The warrant must be valid throughout the duration of the malware’s operation, and must provide reasonable ex post notice to a computer’s owner. In certain technical configurations, the Constitution goes even further, requiring law enforcement to satisfy an exacting “super-warrant” standard. Reviewing public disclosures, I find that the government has a spotty record of compliance with these foundational privacy safeguards.

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We can do without the knee-jerk outrage

July 24, 2015

From all the politicians reacting to Donald Trump’s idiotic remarks about immigrants. (May Trump emigrate to some place looking for a Fearless Leader. Please.)

Here’s an interesting article at FEE about a study of crime rates among immigrants by the National Criminal Justice Reference Service.

By the Numbers: Does Immigration Cause Crime?
The preponderance of research shows no effect

The alleged murder of Kate Steinle in San Francisco by illegal immigrant Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez has reignited the debate over the link between immigration and crime. Such debates often call for change in policy regarding the deportation or apprehension of illegal immigrants.

However, if policies should change, it should not be in reaction to a single tragic murder. It should be in response to careful research on whether immigrants actually boost the US crime rates.

With few exceptions, immigrants are less crime prone than natives or have no effect on crime rates. As described below, the research is fairly one-sided.

(Via Coyoteblog)

The Wall Street Journal has an editorial in a similar vein. I don’t know whether it cites the same study as the FEE article snce I’m not a subscriber.

Regular readers will recall that I think our immigration laws are too restrictive, not too lax. And in that vein, here’s a little visual snark:

Ancestors-n-immigrants

I can just imagine some 19th century Donald-Trump-like-idiot going on about my Irish great-great-grandfather.

(And for that matter, where the hell did Trump’s forebears immigrate from?)

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Still not convinced asset forfeiture is a racket?

July 23, 2015

Noice! For the highwaymen getting the loot, that is.

From Reason’s Hit & Run:

Oklahoma Official Used Asset Forfeiture to Pay Back His Student Loans
Another lived rent-free in a confiscated house.

An assistant district attorney in the state of Oklahoma lived rent-free in a house confiscated by local law enforcement under the practice of asset forfeiture. His office paid the utility bills. He remained there for five years, despite a court order to sell the house at auction.

Another district attorney used $5,000 worth of confiscated funds to pay back his student loans.

These are just a few of the gems unearthed during a recent hearing on Oklahoma authorities’ liberal use of asset forfeiture to take property from suspected criminals and spend it on personal enrichment. […]

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Slum dog millionaires

July 23, 2015

Here’s the opening of an interesting article at Cato at Liberty. RTWT.

How Capitalism Is Undermining the Indian Caste System

Karl Marx was wrong about many things but right about one thing: the revolutionary way capitalism attacks and destroys feudalism. As I explain in a new study, in India, the rise of capitalism since the economic reforms of 1991 has also attacked and eroded casteism, a social hierarchy that placed four castes on top with a fifth caste—dalits—like dirt beneath the feet of others. Dalits, once called untouchables, were traditionally denied any livelihood save virtual serfdom to landowners and the filthiest, most disease-ridden tasks, such as cleaning toilets and handling dead humans and animals. Remarkably, the opening up of the Indian economy has enabled dalits to break out of their traditional low occupations and start businesses. The Dalit Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (DICCI) now boasts over 3,000 millionaire members. This revolution is still in its early stages, but is now unstoppable.

As an aside, my brother-in-law’s wife was born in Kolkata (Calcutta). She told us a story once about her parents’ household and mentioned in passing that the family’s servants washed their car by hauling water in buckets.

It made my back ache to think of it. I’m hoping those servants have better things to do these days than schlepping water to wash cars.

But getting back to castes and feudalism, I’ve always been fond of this rhetorical question: When Adam delved and Eve span, who was then the gentleman?

That applies as well to Eve’s children in India as it does to her children everywhere else.

Anyone claiming privileges because of "breeding" or "family line" deserves a poke in the nose, IMO. When you think about those claims, they’re just another form of racism — or maybe "sub-racism", which is a concept that’s even more ridiculous.

Now that I think of it, claims like those make a very good reductio ad absurdum argument against racism.

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