Audio Clips

21 February 2011

Criminalizing Kids Through Zero-Tolerance Policies

Nat Hentoff has written a great op-ed for the Cato Institute talking about a few ridiculous cases of kids going through school discipline and sometimes legal discipline for ridiculous things that we used to do without even thinking about, like shooting spitwads. Really?! Criminal charges? And my doctor wonders why I have high blood pressure. Take a minute to read it. It's short and worthwhile. Then tell your friends to read it.

Obama: Lumberjack-In-Chief

Hat tip: Why Homeschool

Failure of Projections

Beware of any government projections. They should always be suspect. Reason Magazine posted this:

Via Avik Roy's new blog at Forbes:

In 1965, government experts projected that in 1990, on an inflation-adjusted basis, Medicare would cost $12 billion. In reality, Medicare in 1990 cost $107 billion. Oops.

Does Anyone NOT Hate Zero-Tolerance Policies Other Than Bureaucrats?

Reason Magazine had the following report:

The Colorado Independent reports that the Harrison School District has barred a student from attending classes if he has taken medicine to control his seizures. The boy, who isn't named in the report, missed most of the last school year because of the seizures. He was prescribed a lozenge containing TCH, the active ingredient in marijuana, to control the seizures. But the school said he couldn't bring the pills to school because it would violate its zero tolerance policy on drugs. The family asked if the boy could walk home to take his medicine, but school officials said that consuming the pills would also violate their policy.

Can we all just agree that these kind of school administrators are too incompetent to form common-sense decisions and they should be fired?

Make Your Own Altoids

Have you ever wanted to make your own curiously-strong mints? Yeah, me too! Find out how to do it here. You can even personalize them with different flavor-additions (think bacon!) or your initials. Cool gift idea, right?

Hat tip: Lifehacker

Government Growth

Quick quiz for you: Since 1954, how many years has the government NOT grown?

Think about it for a second.

What is your answer?

If your answer was zero, give yourself a pat on the back and then grab your pitchforks and axe handles.

Some Benefits of Private Ownership

09 February 2011

Paying the Price for Bad Cops

Radley Balko, of Reason Magazine, writes today about several detestable incidents with bad cops and the cruel irony that the taxpayer has to pay many times over for these cops' despicable behavior.

Paying for Bad Cops

Walter Olson points to a case in Colorado, where a police officer kneed a handcuffed woman in the face, breaking her eye socket. He also didn't bother to report her injuries. The Aurora police chief sensibly fired the officer, and the city paid the victim an $85,000 settlement. But then . . .

That was not good enough for the civil service panel considering the officer's firing, which said excessive force had not been proved to its satisfaction. It did find that the officer had violated a number of department policies — he should have reported the woman's injuries, for example — but said termination was too severe a penalty; instead, it said, he should be docked 160 hours of pay and made to undergo training. The docking of pay seems to be of a somewhat notional variety, however, given that the commission ordered him awarded back pay for the salary he would have earned had he not been dismissed in June 2010 (the underlying incident took place in February 2009).

As Olson points out, the citizens of Aurora get screwed in a number of ways, here. They have to pay for the settlement. They pay for the city's case against the cop, and they pay for the cop's defense. And now, they get to pay the cop's back pay. And what do they get for all of that? They get to know that there's a cop now back on the force who is capable of kneeing a handcuffed woman in the face, fracturing her orbital bone, and not paying the blood coming out of her head enough mind to bother reporting her injuries.

On a similar note, a police pension board in Chicago has voted to uphold the $3,000/month pension of disgraced Sgt. Jon Burge. Burge oversaw a team of cops who for more than a decade routinely tortured murder suspects during questioning. Several of the people Burge and his men tortured into false confessions were sentenced to death, then exonerated years later. Because Chicago public officials and U.S. attorneys never bothered to investigate the torture allegations when they happened, the statute of limitations expired before Burge and his men could be charged. Instead, Burge was convicted on perjury charges for lying in a federal lawsuit brought by his victims. The citizens of Chicago paid for the defense of Burge and his men in that case, and will also pay out a $16.5 million settlement to as many as 500,000 victims.

And now, unless Attorney General Lisa Madigan wins a court challenge, they'll also be paying for Burge's pension.

Finally, a reader sends this story from Elkhart, Indiana, where two police officers face termination, one for forging a check in his ex-wife's name, and the other for coercing a woman into sex while on duty. Even though they may be terminated, both officers may also still be eligible for a disability pension, "because they believe they suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder."

It's unfortunate when the "sacrifice of public service" is borne by the people allegedly being served.

07 February 2011

An Inconvenient Philosophy

Roger Pilon at the Cato Institute makes a great point about the global warming crowd and their dogma.

Today POLITICO Arena asks:

Ex-VP Al Gore says the snowstorms that paralyzed much of the U.S. this week are more evidence of manmade global warming. “The scientific community has been addressing this particular question for some time now and they say that increased heavy snowfalls are completely consistent with what they have been predicting as a consequence of man-made global warming.” Do you agree?

My response:

A scientific hypothesis that's essentially unfalsifiable -- cold corroborates "global warming," heat corroborates it, nothing really falsifies it -- is worse than useless. It's a scientific poseur, properly classified as a belief system, like religion. And the implication that there's an optimal earth temperature, or range of temperatures, or that global warming is destructive, not possibly beneficial, is just further evidence that there's more going on here than pure science.

Throw in beliefs about the human contributions to "global warming" and the policy recommendations that follow -- massive shifts toward wildly expensive command-and-control energy systems, the effect on the world's poor notwithstanding -- and the politics of the matter come into view. Let's remember that Al Gore, who never missed an opportunity to expand government, was once an ethanol evangelist, a posture he's recently admitted was connected mainly with presidential politics in Iowa -- now that ethanol has been shown to have negative environmental consequences. Frankly, I'll stick with Punxsutawney Phil.

Read the Fine Print Before You Approve Those Contracts

The Indianapolis Star exposes a $1,000,000 retirement package for a school superintendent.

Thompson, 64, who retired in December after 15 years with the district, already has received more than $800,000 of his retirement deal, which included a year's base pay at more than $225,000, as well as contract provisions that kicked in hundreds of thousands more.

But that's not all.

The contract also created the position of superintendent emeritus -- a position that has been paying Thompson $1,352 a day since his retirement to advise his successor, among other duties. That amount, over the 150 days laid out in the contract, would pay him more than $200,000 -- bringing the total to more than $1 million.

Remember this story and the thousands like it the next time a politician tells you they need more tax money. How 'bout you cut the ridiculous costs you're incurring before you come to me and my family and demand more money?

Hat tip: Reason Magazine

02 February 2011

Protectionism: Trade Group Style

I've been reading Timothy Sandefur's book The Right to Earn a Living and it is really good. I highly recommend it. On page 22 he is talking about the protectionism that trade groups enact to restrict competition and allow the existing members to have higher incomes than they otherwise would.

Trade groups...often colluded to make it difficult for newcomers to enter a profession. Restricting entry into a profession kept up the rates that practitioners could charge clients. These practitioners often devised burdensome apprenticeship rules that made it harder for the new and unskilled to practice a trade. At a time when the economy of England was organized on mercantilist principles, the guild system prevailed as a sort of early labor union, controlling particular industries and setting the terms on which newcomers could enter a given trade. These guilds used their licensing power to create artificial scarcity in the market, thereby increasing the prices that they could charge. Following their earlier rulings against limiting competition, courts often declared these "bylaws" illegal as well. In one case, Lord Coke struck down a guild rule that required extensive training for any person seeking to go into the upholstery trade. The upholsterers argued that the training was required to protect the public from incompetent practitioners, but Coke rejected this proposition: "no skill there is in this, for he may well learn this in seven hours." He concluded with a lucid explanation of the common law's balance between consumer protection and economic freedom:

[B]y the very common law, it was lawful for any man to use any trade thereby to maintain himself and his family; this was both lawful, and also very commendable, but yet by the common law, if a man will take upon him to use any trade in which he hath no skill; the law provides a punishment for such offenders, and such persons were to be punished in the court leet [i.e., by tort lawsuits].

Coke cited the example of a blacksmith who injured a horse because he was not skilled in his trade - proper legal redress, he explained, was already available in the form of a suit for damages. "Unskilfulness [sic] is a sufficient punishment for him." But the possibility that a practitioner might do a bad job was not a good excuse for restricting economic freedom, raising costs to consumers, and depriving entrepreneurs of economic opportunity. (italics added)
This reminds me of stories that John Stossel has shared about florist groups getting their legislatures to require florist testing and licensing. For crying out loud people! You're working with flowers, for the love of Pete. Why should someone have to get any kind of licensing? Easy answer, it keeps people from competing with the existing florists and thus keeps those florists earning a wage that they otherwise wouldn't earn. In other words, they're cowardly despots who, having found their way to earn a living, seek to make sure that no one else can have the same success. It's despicable and wherever that spirit of monopoly exists it should be shut down.