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Where there’s a will, there’s a way

August 10, 2014

Here’s some interesting news from Bath (in southwest England).

Rolling in money: Man makes toll road to get around roadworks

A grandfather sick of roadworks near his home defied his council and built his own toll road allowing people to circumvent the disrupted section.

Opened on Friday, it’s the first private toll road built since cars became a familiar sight on British roads 100 years ago. Motorists pay £2 [$3.30 USD] to travel each way and bypass the 14 miles diversion.

Mike Watts, 62, hired a crew of workmen and ploughed £150,000 [~$250,000 USD] of his own cash into building a 365m [0.23 mi.] long bypass road in a field next to the closed A431. He reckons it will cost another £150,000 in upkeep costs and to pay for two 24 hour a day toll booth operators.

Speaking from the road in Kelston, Somerset, Mike said: “Too many people are displaced by the road closure, their daily lives have been so disrupted by this.”

The A431 between Bristol and Bath was closed in February after a landslip caused huge cracks to appear in the road.

Quickly businesses in the area began to suffer – including the cafe and party supplies shop Mike runs with wife Wendy Rice, 52, in Bath.

Naturally, the local bureaucracy wasn’t pleased.

But a spokesman for the council said it was not happy about the bold build.

“It is not just the planning, it’s the legal aspect of drivers using the road, and also safety – the area around the road where the landslip occurred has only just stopped moving, which is why work has only just been able to begin.”

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What happens when your tax rate is too high?

August 8, 2014

For one thing, you get nonsense-on-stilts like this:

The United States Needs Corporate ‘Loyalty Oaths’

Big corporations are fleeing for lower tax rates abroad. With reform legislation going nowhere, it’s time to think creatively and institute newfangled ‘non-desertion agreements.’

Do none of these people ever think…

- about the incentives companies are reacting to?

- that corporations are just groups of people; like school boards or the local Lions Club (except with better financial savvy)?

- that the idea of taxing corporations is sort of nonsense to begin with?

Corporate taxes are paid by customers (people), or by reduced earnings to shareholders (people), or by reduced salaries and benefits to employees (people), or by reduced reinvestment — causing job and opportunity losses (to people).

economic-patriotism

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Help a sister out

July 29, 2014

Shaneen Allen has a funding campaign for her legal defense.

About This Campaign

Despite the fact that Shaneen Allen possesses a License to Carry Firearms issued by the City of Philadelphia…

Despite the fact that Allen has been trained in firearm safety and passed an NRA handgun safety course…

Despite the fact that Allen voluntarily presented her carry license to the police in conjunction with a routine traffic stop, as per her training…

New Jersey is doing its best to turn Shaneen Allen into a convicted felon facing a State Prison term of a minimum-mandatory 3-5 years with no chance of parole.

What heinous offense did Shaneen Allen — a hard-working single mother of two, with no prior criminal record — do to deserve such a fate? Last October, she travelled with her Pennsylvania licensed handgun loaded with lawfully purchased, low penetration self defense ammunition, into New Jersey.

That is all.

From what I’ve read, she sounds like the victim of an overzealous (or maybe just thoughtless) prosecutor.

Radley Balko wrote about Ms Allen last week:

Shaneen Allen, race and gun control

Last October, Shaneen Allen, 27, was pulled over in Atlantic County, N.J. The officer who pulled her over says she made an unsafe lane change. During the stop, Allen informed the officer that she was a resident of Pennsylvania and had a conceal carry permit in her home state. She also had a handgun in her car. Had she been in Pennsylvania, having the gun in the car would have been perfectly legal. But Allen was pulled over in New Jersey, home to some of the strictest gun control laws in the United States.

Allen is a black single mother. She has two kids. She has no prior criminal record. Before her arrest, she worked as a phlebobotomist. After she was robbed two times in the span of about a year, she purchased the gun to protect herself and her family. There is zero evidence that Allen intended to use the gun for any other purpose. Yet Allen was arrested. She spent 40 days in jail before she was released on bail. She’s now facing a felony charge that, if convicted, would bring a three-year mandatory minimum prison term. [...]

And this part comes from a recent National Review editorial (with my emphasis):

A single mother of two young children, Allen works more than one job and as a result leaves her home at odd times of the day. After two robberies made her aware of her vulnerability, she became convinced that she should be prepared to defend herself and her family, and resolved to do something about it. Which is to say that Allen bought her firearm, and obtained her concealed-carry permit, not to commit crimes but to prevent them. This has failed to move the prosecutor, Jim McClain, an overzealous man who has routinely declined to use the considerable latitude with which he has been entrusted by the state.

Under New Jersey’s rules, McClain could have declined to press any charges against Allen, recognizing that she was guilty of little more than an innocent mistake. He could have treated it as merely a misdemeanor and sent her to municipal court. He could have permitted her to enroll in one of the diversionary programs that New Jersey has established for peaceful first-time offenders, thereby sparing her both the prison time that will take her away from her children and the felony conviction that will almost certainly destroy her career in medical work. Instead, he has sought punishment to the fullest extent of the law: in this instance, a three-year mandatory minimum jail sentence for illegal possession of a firearm, and an extra year or more for possession of illegal ammunition. This is a travesty of justice.


Update:

Radley Balko has another column about Ms Allen’s case.

Prosecution of Shaneen Allen moves forward

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about Shaneen Allen, a single mother from Philadelphia who was arrested for driving through New Jersey with a handgun. Allen had a permit for her gun in Pennsylvania, but New Jersey doesn’t recognize Pennsylvania gun permits. [...]

Now, New Jersey Judge Michael Donio has denied Allen’s request to have the charge dismissed.

The words common sense were mentioned quite a bit during Shaneen Allen’s hearing yesterday in Atlantic County Superior Court.

Allen, 27, cried for a moment in the hallway with her son Naiare and his father after a judge denied her motion to dismiss weapons charges filed against her in October and refused to overturn a prosecutor’s decision to deny her entry into a first-time-offender diversion program.

So Allen walked back into court, turned down a plea deal that would have given her a 3 1/2-year sentence and decided to go to trial in October, hoping a jury would use some common sense and not send a working mother of two to prison for not knowing New Jersey’s gun laws.

Let’s hope Ms Allen gets a jury that uses its common sense.

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Rand Paul’s FAIR Act

July 26, 2014

It’s legislation like this that impresses me with Rand Paul. As Matt Welch (with Reason) once said, "You have to remind yourself that Senator Paul’s a Republican."

What a guy. Go get ‘em, Tiger.

Sen. Paul Introduces the FAIR Act
Jul 24, 2014

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Sen. Rand Paul yesterday introduced S. 2644, the FAIR (Fifth Amendment Integrity Restoration) Act, which would protect the rights of citizens and restore the Fifth Amendment’s role in seizing property without due process of law. Under current law, law enforcement agencies may take property suspected of involvement in crime without ever charging, let alone convicting, the property owner. In addition, state agencies routinely use federal asset forfeiture laws; ignoring state regulations to confiscate and receive financial proceeds from forfeited property.
 
The FAIR Act would change federal law and protect the rights of property owners by requiring that the government prove its case with clear and convincing evidence before forfeiting seized property. State law enforcement agencies will have to abide by state law when forfeiting seized property. Finally, the legislation would remove the profit incentive for forfeiture by redirecting forfeitures assets from the Attorney General’s Asset Forfeiture Fund to the Treasury’s General Fund.
 
“The federal government has made it far too easy for government agencies to take and profit from the property of those who have not been convicted of a crime. The FAIR Act will ensure that government agencies no longer profit from taking the property of U.S. citizens without due process, while maintaining the ability of courts to order the surrender of proceeds of crime,” Sen. Paul said
 
Click HERE for the FAIR Act legislation text.

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Let’s show them how that would work

June 28, 2014

Radley Balko points out something interesting in an ACLU report:

Massachusetts SWAT teams claim they’re private corporations, immune from open records laws

As part of the American Civil Liberties Union’s recent report on police militarization, the Massachusetts chapter of the organization sent open records requests to SWAT teams across that state. It received an interesting response.

As it turns out, a number of SWAT teams in the Bay State are operated by what are called law enforcement councils, or LECs. These LECs are funded by several police agencies in a given geographic area and overseen by an executive board, which is usually made up of police chiefs from member police departments. In 2012, for example, the Tewksbury Police Department paid about $4,600 in annual membership dues to the North Eastern Massachusetts Law Enforcement Council, or NEMLEC. (See page 36 of linked PDF.) That LEC has about 50 member agencies. In addition to operating a regional SWAT team, the LECs also facilitate technology and information sharing and oversee other specialized units, such as crime scene investigators and computer crime specialists.

Some of these LECs have also apparently incorporated as 501(c)(3) organizations. And it’s here that we run into problems. According to the ACLU, the LECs are claiming that the 501(c)(3) status means that they’re private corporations, not government agencies. And therefore, they say they’re immune from open records requests. Let’s be clear. These agencies oversee police activities. They employ cops who carry guns, wear badges, collect paychecks provided by taxpayers and have the power to detain, arrest, injure and kill. They operate SWAT teams, which conduct raids on private residences. And yet they say that because they’ve incorporated, they’re immune to Massachusetts open records laws. The state’s residents aren’t permitted to know how often the SWAT teams are used, what they’re used for, what sort of training they get or who they’re primarily used against.

How clever of them, eh? I think we should let their claim stand and then start working out the consequences of that claim. Here’s a start:

1. SWAT companies give up all public funding and have to sell their "services" in an open market. No more police payroll and pensions. As my friend Paul said, we could hire the Keystone SWAT company.

2. SWAT companies give up their qualified immunity and become financially responsible for violating victims’ rights, destroying property and blowing holes in 2-year-olds.

In short, they’d have to provide commercial liability insurance to protect their clients (i.e., governments that hired them). Why not? Any other contracting company does.


Here’s a short video by the ACLU about using SWAT teams on drug raids.

Here’s the ACLU page on militarization: War Comes Home: The Excessive Militarization of American Policing.


Weren’t unreasonable searches and seizures part of the reason we rebelled against British rule? Just sayin’.

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The Post-Dispatch ain’t what it used to be

June 22, 2014

I can recall when I stopped reading George Will’s columns in the late 70s because he argued against the Carter administration’s plan to de-regulate U.S. airlines. I thought that was fairly clueless attitude but, that said, I think Mr. Will has written many good columns since then.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch, on the other hand, hasn’t done so well over the years. It’s always been a fairly liberal paper: someone once wrote a letter to the P-D editor in the 80s claiming that the paper wouldn’t endorse Jesus Christ for office if he ran as a Republican. I found that letter pretty amusing.

But the Post-Dispatch’s announcement on Thursday (6/19) that it was dropping Mr. Will’s column was done for the wrong reasons, I think, and marks a new low for the paper. (My emphasis below.)

Editor’s note: Michael Gerson replaces George Will

Dear Post-Dispatch readers,
Starting today, Washington Post columnist Michael Gerson replaces George Will on Thursdays and Sundays.

Mr. Gerson, who grew up in St. Louis and still has family here, is a former speechwriter and top aide to President George W. Bush. [...]

The change has been under consideration for several months, but a column published June 5, in which Mr. Will suggested that sexual assault victims on college campuses enjoy a privileged status, made the decision easier. The column was offensive and inaccurate; we apologize for publishing it.

Here’s Mr. Will’s column in The Washington Post: Colleges become the victims of progressivism. Read it for yourself and decide whether it’s offensive. It probably offends a few government bureaucrats and some university administrators (another type of bureaucrat) but I’d say that was about all the people who should be offended.

Not that there’s anything wrong with offending people occasionally, mind you. As Samuel Johnson said, "Every man has a right to utter what he thinks truth, and every other man has a right to knock him down for it."

There’s been some buzz about the P-D’s decision. David Bernstein has a piece about it (also in the Post): (Mis)reading George Will.

And here’s Mr. Will being interviewed by CSPAN about these events. Let him speak for himself. Then you can go knock him down, if you like.

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A difference of opinion

June 22, 2014

The critical word there being ‘opinion’.

Jeff sends a link to this article about a professor studying climate change who recently lost a fellowship post at the Institue for Policy Studies. This is not a Free Speech issue; Mr. Rossiter isn’t being persecuted by the government. It’s just an interesting illustration of group think and political correctness.

RTWT.

EXCLUSIVE: Prof Fired For Calling Global Warming ‘Unproved Science’ Stands Firm

American University statistician tells The Fix: Belief in climate catastrophe ‘simply not logical’

If one would have asked statistician Caleb Rossiter a decade ago about global warming, he says he would have given the same answer that President Barack Obama offered at a recent commencement address.

“He castigated people who don’t believe in climate catastrophe as some sort of major fools,” Rossiter says of the president’s speech, adding he would have agreed with the president – back then.

But Rossiter would give a different answer today.

“I am simply someone who became convinced that the claims of certainty about the cause of the warming and the effect of the warming were tremendously and irresponsibly overblown,” he said in an exclusive interview Tuesday with The College Fix. “I am not someone who says there wasn’t warming and it doesn’t have an effect, I just cannot figure out why so many people believe that it is a catastrophic threat to our society and to Africa.”

For this belief – based in a decade’s worth of statistical research and analysis on climate change data – Rossiter was recently terminated as an associate fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies, a progressive Washington D.C. think tank.

Rossiter wrote an op-ed for The Wall Street Journal titled “Sacrificing Africa for Climate Change,” in which he called notions of climate catastrophe “unproved science,” and shortly thereafter received word from the institute that his position was terminated. [...]

Over the years, he’s broken a few students’ hearts when they learn of this truth.

“I have had students who are very strongly pro-the global warming movement in my classes, of course, because most young people have heard this already,” he said. “And when I have them actually do the study, and take apart an IPCC [International Panel on Climate Change] claim, sometimes they break into tears, and they say ‘I can’t believe this is the only class I’ve ever been in in which anyone has ever told me there is even an issue.’”

“I always enjoy that but, I would enjoy it the other way, too,” he said. “I always really push them to evaluate, dig down and learn the arguments of the other side- that is part of education.” [...]

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