Audio Clips

31 July 2012

Victims Receive Reparations, But No Cops Fired

This seems to be the modus operandi of law enforcement abuse.  Abuse by cops is discovered, the findings are upheld, the taxpayers have to pay large sums of money to those who were abused, and yet none of those who were responsible for the problems lose their jobs.  If I did something illegal at work that cost my company $840,000 I can guarantee you I would not have a job the next morning.  But police unions have such a stranglehold on our elected officials that it is practically impossible to get rogue cops fired.  Sometimes you can't even fire a cop when they're the worst kind of human being you've ever heard of.


Victims of Metro Gang Strike Force awarded $840,000

  • Article by: RANDY FURST
  • Star Tribune
  • July 23, 2012 - 11:21 PM
More than $840,000 was awarded Monday to 96 victims of illegal searches, seizures and use of excessive force by the now-defunct Metro Gang Strike Force, including a dozen juveniles who were targeted by a Brooklyn Park police officer.
The scandal-ridden gang unit, shut down by the Department of Public Safety three years ago this month, broke through people's doors without justification, seized property without authorization and injured people who were not suspects, according to reports by Mark Gehan, a St. Paul attorney appointed as special master in the case.
The awards, ranging from $300 to $75,000, conclude the main phase in the 2010 settlement of a $3 million class-action lawsuit that allowed victims of the Strike Force's misdeeds to apply for compensation, but only if they had had property taken.
The remaining money, expected to approach $2 million after appeals are heard and Gehan is paid, will be used statewide for training of law enforcement officers on issues ranging from racial sensitivity to the seizure of property.
Gehan sifted through 216 claims and rejected 120 of them; 56 individuals have indicated they will appeal the denials to U.S. District Judge Joan Ericksen, who presided over the case.
The Strike Force, a multi-jurisdictional police unit, collapsed in July 2009 after a series of allegations, including misplaced evidence, mishandled funds and raids on people's homes where property was improperly seized.
At least 12 of Gehan's awards, totaling $138,000, went to targets of a special Strike Force "gang surge" operation from May 15 to July 30, 2008. All involved were juveniles at the time, so their names were not released.
Referring to the surge, Gehan wrote that Strike Force officers, "and particularly Greg Burstad, conducted an intensive intelligence gathering operation in the cities of north Minneapolis, Brooklyn Park, Crystal and Robbinsdale."
"Many of the claimants state they were handcuffed and assaulted," Gehan continued. "Some state they were taken to jail and then released without charges. They all complained that they were searched or that the automobiles they were in were searched and that personal property was inspected and often taken."
Gehan said he was satisfied that in almost every claim connected to the surge, at least one person was a member of a gang, either directly or tangentially.
But, he added, the complaints "in the aggregate" were so similar, "they present a compelling basis" to believe them.
"The conduct described by claimants goes well beyond an investigative 'stop and frisk,'" he wrote.
Gehan awarded $25,000 to a person who was a juvenile at the time, saying Burstad "used excessive force in the actual physical arrest of claimant." He said medical records documented the case, one of seven instances in which the youth was harassed.
In another case, in which Gehan also awarded $25,000, he said Burstad and others repeatedly harassed a youth, confiscating cellphones, kicking one youth, choking another and forcing their way into the claimant's parents home at midnight.
Burstad, a Brooklyn Park officer, is now a sergeant.
In a statement released late Monday, the Brooklyn Park police defended Burstad and praised his record with the department, noting that the allegations against him have never been substantiated in court.
"In fact, the settlement agreement specifically includes no admission of guilt or liability by any of the parties associated with [the Strike Force], including Brooklyn Park," the statement said. "To this date not one complaint or allegation related to Sgt. Burstad has ever been filed with our department by parties of the lawsuit."
The largest award, $75,000, went to a Minneapolis woman who was targeted in a police raid on Aug. 1, 2006.
"Claimant says that many officers rushed into the house and that she was put to the floor and repeatedly kicked in the face," Gehan's report said. A Strike Force attorney said that if there were any injuries, they were caused by a Minneapolis SWAT team that entered first.
The claimant submitted statements from three people who saw her badly bruised face right after the warrant was executed, along with a report from Fairview Southdale Hospital, where she went on Sept. 1. She said the officers apparently went to the wrong address.
Gehan, former president of the Minnesota State Bar Association, was also special master in the state's 1998 lawsuit against the tobacco industry. Strike Force attorneys cannot appeal Gehan's findings, according to the settlement terms.
Joe Flynn, an attorney for the Strike Force and the cities and counties whose officers served on it, said Gehan's findings "demonstrate the limited nature of the wrongdoing." He said that many of the awards "were simply for failure to return property which would have been otherwise subject to the forfeiture process."
Jason Johnston, an attorney with Zimmerman Reed, which filed the suit, said, "There was a select group of officers who abused their position.
"I think the process has been successful," he said.
But Phil Fishman, an independent attorney representing victims in the class-action suit, said he was dismayed that the Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman did not call a grand jury in the case.
"The tragedy of the Strike Force," he said, "is you have police who ... were common thugs and they were never brought to justice."
Freeman said in 2010 that he would not prosecute Strike Force members. He said major obstacles included the group's substandard handling of records and evidence and the refusal of 29 former officers and employees to talk to investigators.

30 July 2012

Generational Warfare

Nick Gillespie and Veronique de Rugy recently wrote a fantastic article on one of the largest transfers of wealth in world history.  It is being taken from the young and given to the baby boomers in the form of Social Security and Medicare and it is getting larger and larger every year.  I would encourage you to read the whole thing, but here are some highlights:

Flash forward half a century, and the boomers who once sang along with Dylan have become the reactionary elders, clinging to their power and perks at the literal expense of everyone younger. There’s a new generation gap opening up, one that threatens to tear apart the country every bit as much as past confrontations over war, free love, drugs, and sitar music. This fight is about old-age entitlements and whether the Me Generation will do what’s right for the country and stop sucking up more and more money from their children and grandchildren. 

In a 1999 address to the National Education Association’s Women’s Equality Summit, then-First Lady Hillary Clinton was even more explicit in celebrating her own generation’s freedom from the burdens of traditional caretaking responsibilities. “Were it not for Social Security, many of us would be supporting our parents,” intoned the author of It Takes a Village. “We would take them in; we would do what we needed to do to try to provide the resources they required to stay above poverty, to live as comfortably as we could afford. And that would cause a lot of difficult decisions in our lives, wouldn’t it?”
This rhetoric about entitlements freeing the young ignores the fact that they are hit with the cost of supporting their elders in every paycheck. Furthermore, when repurposing lines first uttered a half-century ago, today’s politicians are also ignoring some very good news: The oldest among us are in remarkably good shape compared to graybeards of previous generations. 

Seniors have more stuff and more wealth. According to 2010 combined data from 15 federal agencies on population trends, economics, and health issues, seniors’ average net worth as of 2007 had increased almost 80 percent during the previous 20 years. The same sort of improvement has not spread to all age groups. In fact, the data show that younger Americans are losing ground. 
In 1984, reports the Pew Research Center, households headed by people 65 or older had 10 times the wealth of households headed by people under 35. By 2005—before the Great Recession hit—the gap had increased to 22 times, and by 2009 it was 47 times. In 2010, 11 percent of households headed by people 65 or older were officially under the poverty line. For households headed by someone under 35 years of age, the figure was 22 percent....That older households are wealthier than younger ones is not surprising, and it is no cause for concern in itself. Elderly Americans have had a lifetime to amass savings and assets and to earn money from interest and investments. By the time they reach 65, most Americans also have lower living expenses. The kids are out of the house, and the house is more likely to be paid off (or to cost less due to inflation). In their new book The Clash of Generations, economists Lawrence Kotlikoff and Scott Burns show the cost of living for households of different sizes and ages varies dramatically. The cost of living for a married couple with children ages 6 to 17 is at least twice the cost for a retired couple. And these numbers underestimate the gap between retirees and married parents since they don’t include expenses such as saving for college, orthodontic treatment, and vacation time.
This is not to say that some seniors aren’t seriously struggling. But to assert that younger Americans benefit from having the government take money from their current wages and give it to their parents obfuscates obvious points about where that largess comes from—and whether it will exist when today’s 50-, 40-, or 30-year-olds retire.

Social Security’s various trust funds, according to its own trustees, will be depleted of all reserves by 2033 and won’t be able to take in anywhere near enough cash to pay its obligations. Medicare’s major trust fund, which covers hospital benefits, is scheduled to run dry in 2024. In addition, both programs already contribute to the deficit due to massive borrowing that will only get bigger and more expensive. Contrary to common belief, the various trust funds for Social Security and Medicare aren’t filled with gold coins or even the money collected from taxpayers over the years. Instead, they are filled with IOUs or promises by the government to pay back whatever has been taken. 

During his famous 1964 nominating speech for Goldwater, Reagan asked, “Can’t we introduce voluntary features that would permit a citizen to do better on his own?…We are against forcing all citizens, regardless of need, into a compulsory government program.” 
Yet by the 1980s, President Reagan called preserving “the integrity of the Social Security system” the “highest priority of my administration.” In an era of bitter partisanship and division, “one point that has won universal agreement,” Reagan declared, was that the entitlement “must be preserved.”

When Social Security first started cutting checks, America was still in the throes of the Great Depression. Retirement was a rare and wonderful thing, as most people worked pretty much until the day they died (the average life expectancy at birth was 47.3 years in 1900; 68.2 years in 1950s; and 78.5 years in 2009). When Medicare was created, seniors were more likely than the average American to be poor. Although neither of those things is true anymore, spending as a percentage of federal outlays on both programs continues to grow and shows no signs of slowing down.

In 1940 there were 159 workers for each beneficiary. Today there are fewer than three. Last fall Mitt Romney, whom the Obama administration accuses of wanting to “dismantle” old-age entitlements, attacked Texas Gov. Rick Perry during a Republican presidential debate for calling Social Security “a Ponzi scheme,” a scam in which current investors are paid profits from new investors, not out of actual returns. “The term Ponzi scheme is over the top, unnecessary, and frightening to many people,” Romney said. That may all be true, but it doesn’t change the reality that current workers are indeed paying for current retirees, not for their future selves, which means that as the number of contributors falls, payouts cannot continue at the same rate. The only options are to reduce benefits, increase contributions, or some combination of both.

Current law holds that when the trust funds are depleted, benefits must be cut to the level of payroll tax revenue. As it stands, that would amount to a 25 percent haircut or, in current dollars, $307 off the average retirement check of $1,229.

Last year C. Eugene Steuerle and Stephanie Rennae, researchers at the liberal Urban Institute, calculated what Americans at various levels of income (high, average, and low) and in various types of households (single or married) can expect to pay into and receive from Social Security and Medicare over the course of their lifetimes. For Social Security, the calculations assumed that individuals retire at the age when full benefits kick in (originally 65 but rising past 67 under current law) and that Medicare payments start at 65. The main findings are both highly informative and deeply dispiriting.
Consider the Social Security numbers first. A single man earning the average wage ($43,500 in 2011) who retired in 1980 would have paid a total of $96,000 in Social Security taxes and received lifetime benefits of $203,000, or about 211 percent of contributions. A single man earning the average wage but retiring in 2010 faces a vastly different situation: He would have paid $294,000 in taxes to receive benefits of just $265,000, or about 90 percent of contributions. For the same person retiring in 2030, taxes of $398,000 yield $336,000 in benefits, or just 84 percent of contributions. 

We must reform the current system, starting now. The most obvious, effective, and just approach is to end Social Security and Medicare and replace them with a true safety net that would help poor Americans regardless of age. To the extent that seniors qualify for income supplements, food stamps, and other transfer programs, they should be added to those rolls. They can also be added to Medicaid rolls (currently about 9 million seniors are so-called double-dippers, receiving benefits from both Medicaid and Medicare). There is no reason to have separate programs for the elderly and the poor when the real distinction should be not age but ability to pay. Payroll taxes, the most regressive taxes on income, should be scrapped, freeing up huge amounts of money for Americans of all ages to spend and save as they see fit. As Americans start to think seriously about saving for their retirements, long-term investment will boom, and so will insurance planning; generations will be forced to recognize that they are connected not via impersonal and punitive payroll taxes but through shared assets and household expenses. 
The popular counter-argument—that current and future beneficiaries have paid into these systems and are thus “entitled” to Social Security and Medicare— holds no legal or moral water. In the 1960 caseFlemming v. Nestor, the Supreme Court ruled that, contrary to the rhetoric surrounding Social Security, the program is not an actual retirement system in which participants maintain legal claims to the contributions they’ve made or the assets they’ve accrued. While it is terrifying for all of us to consider losing the money we’ve paid into Social Security, the fact is that we already have. 

It is hard to know which is more depressing: the punishing and sure-to-rise price that younger Americans are forced to pay for a system that steals from the relatively poor to give to the relatively rich, or the smugness with which champions of this patently unfair system insist on its righteousness. In his March speech in Florida, Vice President Biden told stories of building a new house that included living quarters for his parents, who refused to move in. Biden explained that his parents and other seniors value their “independence” and “dignity” more than anything. His mother, he said, was representative of seniors in that she wanted to be able to pay her own way at check ups with her doctor. “She didn’t want to ask her kids.” 
In Biden’s strange moral universe, his mom should be admired for wanting to get medical care on the dime of strangers rather than from her own family. The vice president was trying to defend old-age entitlements, but his example is the quintessence of what is wrong with the current system: It gives to those who already have much by taking from those who have little.

27 July 2012

Stossel on Oppressive Gun Laws

Mark Meckler is a great guy.  I've heard him on many occasions on the Armstrong and Getty Show.  Here he is discussing his arrest in New York for breaking a gun law.  You be the judge of whether the law is just or whether we are wasting resources and violating civil liberties.

26 July 2012

Using Tragedies: Follow Up

John Stewart of The Daily Show, who is just brilliant when it comes to skewering the media, had commentary on ABC's Brian Ross and the baseless, biased slandering of a person just for being a member of the Tea Party.  Enjoy!

24 July 2012

Using Tragedies To Further Personal Agendas

Rahm Emanuel famously said "You never want a serious crisis go to waste."  The adherents of that philosophy come out in full force every time a tragedy takes place.  The problem arises when knee-jerk reactions frame the perception of the tragedy.  In the rush to break news the media reports events wildly inaccurately.  In the rush to be seen as a problem solver politicians propose solutions that have unintended consequences.  You can see an example of that in this clip from Armstrong and Getty about the recent Colorado shooting during a movie.

To counter these tendencies ReasonTV has put together 5 rules for coping with tragedies.

Will the Government Fight the Fracking Future?

23 July 2012

A History of Money

I am fascinated by the idea of money as a means of exchanging my labor for someone else's.  James Surowiecki wrote a pretty interesting article about the origins of currency and the directions it may head.  Here are some excerpts:

Modern economists typically define it by the three roles it plays in an economy: 

It’s a store of value, meaning that money allows you to defer consumption until a later date. 

It’s a unit of account, meaning that it allows you to assign a value to different goods without having to compare them. So instead of saying that a Rolex watch is worth six cows, you can just say it (or the cows) cost $10 000.

And it’s a medium of exchange—an easy and efficient way for you and me and others to trade goods and services with one another.

But as money became more common, it encouraged the spread of markets. This, in fact, is one of the enduring lessons of history: Once even a small part of your economy is taken over by markets and money, they tend to colonize the rest of the economy, gradually forcing out barter, feudalism, and other economic arrangements. In part this is because money makes market transactions so much easier, and in part because using money seems to redefine what people value, pushing them to view things in economic, rather than social, terms. 

21 July 2012

Cop Shoots Unarmed Man, Gets Fired, Union Gets Him Rehired

Boy, don't try disciplining a cop in Portland.  They can do some pretty egregious things, get fired, and arbitrators will force the city to rehire them.  And public employee unions wonder why some many Americans find them despicable.  Here are some excerpts:

The result of repeated rulings overturning discipline has left those responsible for trying to command the largest municipal police force in Oregon feeling powerless. 
"It's frustrating. It's very hard to lead an organization like that," said Brian Martinek, a former Vancouver police chief who served as an assistant chief in Portland during the Chasse case and Frashour's shooting of Aaron Campbell. 
Once discipline comes down, union leaders frequently are in command staff's faces, he said, taunting that, "We're just going to kick your butt anyways, like we always have." 

Mark Iris, who served for 21 years as executive director of the Chicago Police Board and has written about arbitration rulings in Chicago and Houston, said he'd expect serious discipline -- which has gone through several layers of review, including grand jury, criminal and internal inquiries -- to be upheld once it got to arbitration in at least 75 to 80 percent of cases. But that's not happening nationally. 
Over time, he said, such reversals can have a "corrosive effect" on an agency's disciplinary process, "erode the deterrent value of discipline" and cause the public to lack confidence in the ability of an agency to control its people.

19 July 2012

The Value of Starter Jobs

My first job, like many people, was a newspaper delivery boy.  I'm not even sure that job exists anymore because we have made it unattractive for businesses to hire young people.  I also worked several summers packing pears and my main takeaway from that job (other than the paycheck for college costs) was that I DEFINITELY wanted to get a college education and do something different.  I think we are damaging an entire generation of young people by making it difficult to get these first jobs.  John Stossel recently wrote about this and I think it's important enough that I'm posting the entire thing here.

Why Are Politicians Killing Off "First Jobs"?

From raising the minimum wage, to regulating internships, Washington doesn't allow young people to get experience.

What was your first job?
I stuck pieces of plastic and metal together at an Evanston, Ill., assembly line. We produced photocopiers for a company called American Photocopy.
I hated the work. It was hot and boring. But it was useful. It taught me to get good grades in school so I might have other choices.
Four years later, good grades got me a job as a researcher at a TV station.
To my surprise, that became a career. I never planned to be a TV reporter. I hadn’t even watched TV news. I never took a journalism course.
But by showing up and trying stuff, I found a career.
I write about this because I’m appalled watching politicians kill off “first” jobs. (They say it’s to protect us.)
First, they raise the minimum wage. Forcing employers to pay $7.25 an hour leaves them reluctant to give unskilled kids a chance—why pay more than a worker can produce? So they offer fewer “first” jobs.
On top of that, the Obama Labor Department has issued a fact sheet that says free internships are only legal if the employer derives “no immediate advantage” from the intern.
Are you kidding me? What's the point of that? I want interns who are helpful!
The bureaucrats say they will crack down on companies that don’t pay, but that’s a terrible thing to do.
Unpaid internships are great. They are win-win. They let young people experiment with careers, and figure out what they’d like and what they’re good at. They help employers produce better things and recruit new employees.
I’ve used interns all my career. They have done some of my best research. Some became journalists themselves. Many told me: “Thank you! I learned more working for you than I learned in college, and I didn’t have to pay tuition!
I could have paid them, but then I would have used fewer interns. When I worked at ABC, the network decided to pay them—$10 an hour—but it also cut the number of internships by half. Politicians don’t get it. Neither do most people. Polls show that Americans support raising the minimum wage. Most probably also support limits on unpaid internships, believing that they replace paid work.
But they don’t.
OK, sometimes they do. But the free exchange of labor creates so many good things that, in the long run, more jobs are created and many more people get paid work—and we get better work.
But American politicians think they “protect” workers by limiting employers’ (and workers’) choices and giving handouts to the unemployed.
Outside a welfare office near Fox News, I was told that because of high unemployment, there are no jobs: “There's nothing out there. Nothing.” I asked my team to check that out. They walked around for two hours, and within a few blocks of that welfare office they found lots of businesses that want to hire people. On the same block where I was told that there are no jobs, a store manager said he was desperate for applicants. “We need like two or three people all the time.”
Of the 79 businesses that we asked, 40 said they would hire. Twenty-four said they would take people with no experience. All wished more people would apply.
I told German Munoz, a recent high school graduate, about one of the jobs offered, at a soul food restaurant. He went there and was hired to wash dishes for minimum wage. Within a few days, he was promoted to busboy—then to waiter. Now, two weeks later, he makes twice the minimum wage. German doesn’t want a career as a waiter, but he says it’s great having a real first job.
“I meet successful people, and they give good advice and tips on how to become successful. I love it. I love going there every day and learning new stuff. It is like a stepping stone,” he said. Exactly.
Low-wage first jobs are indispensable for both personal advancement and social progress. Our best hope for prosperity is the free market. Government must get out of our way and allow consenting adults to create as many “first” jobs as possible.
John Stossel (read his Reason archive) is the host of Stossel, which airs Thursdays on the FOX Business Network at 9 pm ET and is rebroadcast on Saturdays and Sundays at 9pm & midnight ET. Go here for more info.

18 July 2012

Vocational Education is a Great Path

There is a myth that you have to have a college education in order to make it in this country and that is an ABSOLUTE fallacy.

13 July 2012

Rational Environmentalism

I have admired Bjorn Lomborg for a number of years now for speaking against the radical environmental orthodoxy.  His approach is not one of climate-change denial, but rather one of rational approaches to improving human lives.  For example, rather than trying to stop global warming because it will increase mosquito populations we would save hundreds of thousands more lives if we just got rid of malaria.  We have a means to stop malaria: DDT.  But irrational, anti-scientific, voodoo punditry has caused millions of deaths because Rachel Carson decided to write a book that has since been completely debunked.  This is a long video, but I found it enlightening.

11 July 2012

The Freedom to Peaceably Assemble

This should have been posted on Independence Day, but, as the old saying goes, better late than to have never loved at all.

03 July 2012

Interesting Appeal by Candidate Gary Johnson

If he can get enough votes in the general election the Libertarian Party could potentially create a legitimate 3rd party.  Wouldn't that be appealing?