Wednesday, December 31, 2014

A libertarian call to end the corporate income tax

Here’s a column that will not please the Left, “Top 10 reasons to abolish corporate income tax”, by John Steele Gordon, on p. A11 of the Wall Street Journal, Tuesday Dec. 31, link here  (paywall). 
Gordon argues that the corporate income tax leads to double-taxation, and “crony capitalism”, and confuses markets, which should be more concerned about actual raw earnings and profits rather than tax gimmicks.  He argues more foreign investment will return to the US if the tax is eliminated. 
 Presumably, though, individual income taxes might go up.  Vox points out that corporations now pay only about 10% of income taxes, when it used to be about one third, story by Danielle Kurzlebe, July5, 2014, here.   Vox also points out, in another recent piece, that “soaking the rich” doesn’t support the safety net was well as broad based taxes common in Europe.
I can remember that, back in 1972, the People’s Party of New Jersey was advocating a “single tax”, which would be a personal income tax.  It sounded like conventional Marxism to me.  The “single tax” sounds like a term from a high school history test.  

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Half of all kids may have some form of autism by 2025; states claim "sovereign immunity" after possible police misconduct

Ashton Kutcher has tweeted a story from “Aplus” (is this his own site), link here  that by 2025, half of all children (and well over 50% of boys) will be autistic, in a story by K.S. Anthony.  Implicated is the exposure to a herbicide, glyphosphate, also called Roundup. 

However, many of the cases might be the mildest form, “Aspergers”, which in artistically or intellectually gifted individuals may not be much of a disability at all in 2ast Century society, but which could tend to make people less cohesive. 

In another important story, the family of a toddler badly injured in a police “no knock” search is in serious debt since the state of Georgia is claiming “sovereign immunity” and not responsible for bystander injuries in drug busts resulting from suspicion of a related person.  The ABC News story by Alison Lynn and Matt Gutman is here. The family may well litigate.  But it seems wrong when people are asked to support “gofundme” operations resulting from the negligence of others when not properly compensated in the first place.   

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Protesters will challenge Washington Redskins team name near stadium today

Protesters will gather at the Jericho City of Praise near Fed-Ex Field Sunday regarding the name of he Washington Redskins football team, according to a Washington Post Metro story (Sunday Dec. 28) by John Woodrow Cox. (Newest story not yet online, Dec. 16 story here ).    While I grew up with the name and don’t have a particular feeling about it (despite having driven through native American lands while living in Minnesota), I think the team is distracted by it, and will do better after a change.  

One of my physicians, with ties to another surgeon who treats the Redskins, suggests “Washington Warriors”.  Name them after our troops. 
I think the team’s strategy has been to invest too much in just one quarterback.  Does a Clark Kent really exist?  And remember Malcolm Gladwell's moral objection to football, period. 

First picture: Oops, wrong team.  Or maybe the right one.  

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Chess-related twitter account keeps calling for downfall of capitalism

A twitter account called Chess Quotes has been tweeting a huge number of messages against “imperialism” and encouraging worldwide socialism, and complaining that the rentier class is a bunch of moochers on workers.  It’s interesting, though, how na├»ve the tone of the tweets is, that “the people” collectively can solve all the problems without individual initiative, bonding, and sometimes sacrifice. 
I hate to see chess politicized (as it was during the Cold War, where the Soviets were more active with the Queen Pawn openings, while Bobby Fischer stuck to 1 e-4 for decades, but not forever.  Think of how Russia tried to politicize the Sochi Olympics. 

I’m reminded of that cold drafty rowhouse in Newark, NJ, where the People’s Party had a meeting in 1972, and complained about why we have to have capitalism.

Cathie Jo Martin and Alexander Hertel-Fernandez have a nice prospective on how progressive taxes don’t necessarily reduce inequality as much as carefully conceived programs based on a broad tax base that actually raise more revenue, as in Vox in October 2014, here

Friday, December 26, 2014

Muslims and Jews run a small food bank (working together) on Christmas Day in Washington DC

The Washington Post has a story today by Michelle Boorstein, Metro section, about a group of Muslims and Jews who meet to serve food to the homeless on Christmas Day in Washington DC, link here  “Interfaith charity takes unexpected turn”.   This doesn’t happen in the Middle East.
Today, there was a huge turnout in the Fellowship Hall of Trinity Presbyterian Church in Arlington VA to make holiday sandwiches and food baskets for needy families at one particular elementary school in Arlington.  Peanut butter and jelly may not be the most nutritious, but many clients have religious restrictions.  Everything got done in 90 minutes. 
I did get a mailer from the Arlington Food Bank recently.  I did notice in the literature an effort to counter diabetes in low income communities.  I did go to an unloading event in September, and the amount of spaghetti sauce, cereal boxes, and Wesson cooking oil was unbelievable. 

Informal volunteering, outside of established bureaucracy (Food and Friends is wonderful but big and "bureaucratic") gives a chance to network and soft-sell content, like books and music. By the way, the "F+F" apple pie for Thanksgiving ($25) was delicious.  

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Another police shooting near St. Louis, but this one is "different"; bust of airport gun smuggling raises more questions about TSA policy

There has been another incident involving police, this time in Berkeley, MO, in St. Louis County.  A police officer shot and killed a suspect who actually pointed a gun at him.  CNN has the video story here
The suspect apparently was wanted for shoplifting. 
The policeman did not have his bodycam working yet, according to some reports. I'm not sure the race of the police officer was actually reported. 

But the (black) police chief says that, unlike Ferguson, most of this police department is black, and this time the suspect was armed;  and the suspect clearly provoked the police officer (which many people think happened in Ferguson).   
ABC News has security camera video of police approaching the car with the suspect right before the shooting, here. Apparently the video shows the suspect brandishing a weapon right at the very end, but it is hard to see. 

Here’s the NBC video on the bust of the Atlanta-New York gun smuggling by plane operation, link.    The story seems ironic in that the bust happens just days after rumors that the TSA had considered banning all carryon luggage and even carryon electronics (which you aren’t supposed to check now), at least during the Christmas holidays.  The violation happened because an inside employee in Atlanta did not have to go through security.  Will that change?  

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Demonstrators in NYC demand end to Giuilian's "broken windows" police policy which has indeed made city much safer

Protesters have resumed demonstrations in New York City tonight, despite pleas from the mayor that they wait until two slain police officers (from Saturday) are laid to rest.  Demonstrators apparently are blocking traffic on upper Lexington Ave, and want to see an end to the “Broken Windows” policy of the NYPD, which had started under mayor Rudy Giuliani, which tends to lead police to stop and frisk a larger portion of blacks and perhaps Latinos than whites and Asians. CNN’s story link is here
The policy has tended to make many parts of New York City safer than it was when I lived there in the mid and late 1970s.  It seems safer than much of Washington.  But the safest sections are the midtown and lower Manhattan areas popular with tourists and corporations, and higher income people.  Many neighborhoods in Brooklyn (like “BedStuy”) are being “gentrified” however by new real estate, driving lower income residents out as rent controls expire.  Likewise, in Washington DC, areas around Shaw, U-Street, and the Navy Yard-Nationals Park have become “gentrified”, and northeast is next for major condo and office development.  Tensions increase as the poorer people are driven out.  I still think personally this is more about income and wealth than race itself.  But I see many white college students wearing hoodies now, almost out of “solidarity”.
One of Ismaaiyl Brimsley's posts "You ain't been through what I been through" (borrowed from rap lyrics easily found on Google) sounds pretty significant (Heavy News link). .  

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Cleveland police case: officer not vetted well; in North Carolina, another "American Lynching" might fit the unfinished Gode Davis film

On the issue of police treatment of minorities, a subsidiary story is that police officers need to be well vetted when they are hired.  The shooting of a kid (Tamar Rice) in a WalMart just with a b-b gun in Cleveland by white officer Timothy Loehmann apparently illustrates the problem. The Washington Post has a perspective here.

Cleveland catches my eye;  I spent my summers (at least July) as a boy near Oberlin, west of Cleveland, so became very familiar with the area as a second “hometown”.

And the family of Lennon Lacy in North Carolina is saying that his death was a lynching (connected to interracial dating), not a “suicide”, Huffington story here.  This case could go into the unfinished film “American Lynching” which the late Gode Davis left for others to complete editing  some day.  The family is saying that the white police department doesn’t want to do an autopsy (on CNN, Don Lemon, Thursday Dec. 18).  It's reported that Lennon's grave was desecrated. 

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

When young adults choose careers on Wall Street, are the rest of us worse off?

The Washington Post is continuing a series on income inequality, by Jim Tankersley, “A black hole for our best and brightest: Wall Street is expanding, and the economy is worse off for it”, link here.    I’ve always thought that young adults with the “right backgrounds” and good job skills were very well off in today’s world, and would also benefit from the experience of public service for a while.  The article explains how, in many years, many of the most “talented” went to work on Wall Street; less so since 2008, but the trend is returning.  The end result is to depress opportunities (and income) for everyone else.

Yet, Wall Street effectively funds an important concert for a friend of mind, high over Central Park, in 2010. 

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

CATO holds book forum on "Religious Liberties for Corporations?"

The Cato Institute held a book forum today in Washington DC for the new brief treatise from Palgrace-Pivot: “Religious Liberties for Corporations: Hobby Lobby, the Affordable Care Act, and the Constitution”.  I purchased a copy of the book and will review it soon on the books blog.
The book concerns, in large part, the case Burwell v. Hobby Looby, decided by the Surpeme Court June 30, 2014 (wiki article ) discussed here June 3, 2014.
The forum was conducted as a debate.

Ilya Shapiro referred heavily to the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 (wiki here). Shapiro says that the individuals owning a corporation or working for it are individuals, and the government cannot intrude on their ability to express their religious beliefs but not being force to pay for something they  found religious objectionable.  That would be not simply paying for health insurance for contraception, but specifically forms of contraception that facilitate “abortion”. Shaprio also argues that Hobby Lobby had not interfered with employees using contraception, just for their having to pay for certain forms of it. 

On the other side, David H. Gans emphasized that corporations are not fully protected as people in other ways, for example, they don’t enjoy 5th Amendment immunity from self-incrimination.  The Bill of Rights, as such, doesn’t apply to corporations.

Professor Randy Barnett from Georgetown University Law School (link ) framed the issue in terms of the powers of Congress, and said that Congress had exceeded its enumerated powers in setting up the Affordable Care Act, of Obamacare.  Likewise, that implied that Congress would overstep when it tried to regulate employer denial of coverage of contraception. 
The forum made the point that, because Congress generally overreaches its explicit powers, individuals must rely on the courts to secure due process rights, and even equal protection. 

As an aside, Shapiro stuck to libertarian lines and said that government shouldn’t regulate marriage at all. 
There was also mention of the practice of religion as an “original right” or “sovereign right” for an individual.  However, Barnett noted that the original colonies, as states, had set up state religions, and that the Constitution had regulated only what a federal government ca do. 

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Paid parental leave is still an issue of "logic"

Check the New York Times Sunday Business today December 14, 2014, “The Flexibility Gap”, article by Claire Cain Miller and Liz Alderman, link here.  Once again, the writers take up the relative lack of “family friendly policies” in the United States as opposed to western Europe (most of all, France and Sweden). 
In the US, there is a “free market” idea:  if you have children, you’re responsible for your own choice.  It isn’t hard to see how this does effect women’s competitiveness in the job market, until fathers do more at home (which has been covered here before).  In fact, in some high competitive areas, if affects all parents, unless companies do something about it on their own (which Silicon Valley employers like Facebook and Google find it very much in their best business interest to do on their own – the whole libertarian point). 
Still, there is a logical trap.  People could decide it isn’t in their “selfish best interest” to have children at all, unless they have religious motives, love children, believe that children provide vicarious immortality, or have some other reason.  Having kids costs something.  When there are paid parental benefits, the equation changes.  People can effectively be penalized (indirectly) for not having children.  This migrates all the way to the gay marriage and gay parenting debate.  

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Vigorous protests against "police violence" and racial profiling in Washington DC today

Today I did indeed attend the National March Against Police Violence in Washington DC, arriving on Pennsylvania Ave about 1:00 PM. Organizers want to see a "Week of Outrage" in major cities. 

I heard Joe Brown (radio talk show host) speak, praising young people, followed by a long pastoral prayer.  We were asked to join hands.  I was actually packed into the crowd by a portion of the march that had grown dense on the south side of Penn. Ave.  There was no choice but to join in.  There was actually a scroll to sign on the street, rather like an AIDS quilt. 

This time, the crowd was much more African-American, compared to the march on Nov. 25. 
Earlier, I had gone to the train exhibit at the U.S. Botanic Garden.  People there, many of them “liberal” white families with children, said they intended to take their kids to watch the march, from distance. But there would be a line drawn at participation.

There is a site for the march from some black pastors in DC, here.

Prof. John McWhorter has an interesting piece in the Dec. 15, 2014 issue of Time, p. 26, “Ferguson is the wrong tragedy; the facts are 6oo muddy to rally Americans, but the underlying problem is crystal clear.”  Like Tom Cruise’s line in “A Few Good Men”.  McWhorter asks, “what is the situation that makes two young black men comfortable dismissing a police officer’s request to step aside?”  Later, “the Ferguson episode… to serve as a rallying point --- requires a degree of elision .. turning away from Brown’s criminal act just before the incident and his conduct toward a police officer a few moment’s later, based on the tricky proposition that these things must have no bearing whatsoever on how we evaluate the succeeding sequence of events.”  Then “people don’t like to be told to ignore facts; even fewer find ambiguity a spark for indignation.” I would add that white people get caught in politically motivated police and prosecutorial abuse, too, but just with respect to different problems, often involving weapons.  Look at the Cato forum I attended Thursday. 

I do resist calls for my own emotional solidarity (hand holding when "trapped" in the mob, etc).  It isn't "my problem" tactically right now.  But I only have to look back a few decades.  Remember the police abuse of gay bars in Dallas in 1980?  Look at prosecutorial abuse in Internet cases, as well as 2nd Amendment cases.   Still, solidarity can demand personal sacrifice, and sometimes there is no immediate choice. 

Update: Dec 14

CNN has a major story about witness credibility with the grand jury in Missouri, here, by Josh Levs and Danny Cevalos.  

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Cato Institute holds forum on New Jersey's gratuitous weapons prosecution of Brian Aitken

Today, the Cato Institute held a book forum for author Brian D. Aitken, for “The Blue Tent Sky: How the Left’s War on Guns Cost Me My Son and My Freedom”, Beard Face Books, 2014.  I purchased a copy of the book and will review it later. The event was held in the renovated lower level space, which has electrical outlets and writing space. 

Walter Olson and Tim Lynch from Cato also spoke at the event.
Reason has an article by Radley Balko summarizing the case, here
The article explains how it is nearly impossible to transport a gun legally, for an ordinary person, in New Jersey, unless you fall under one of the “exceptions”.  The judge refused to allow instruction to the jury about the “exceptions”, despite the fact that the jury has asked three times.   I recall that in 1982, I was foreman of a jury in Dallas on a weapons case, and we did convict the person, although we had several questions of the judge and almost hung.  But I don’t recall any evasion by prosecution and judge like this.
Eventually, Gov. Christie commuted the sentence to time served (after two months), and appeals courts overturned all but one of the convictions.  Yet that conviction, regarding transport of a particular kind of ammunition, still makes him a convicted felon, unable to rent an apartment.

The only explanation for the behavior of police, judge and prosecutors seems to be political pressure, and the belief they will be blamed if a major rampage (like Va Tech) happens in New Jersey, although this case was prosecuted well before Newtown, on an incident that started in early 2009, just before Obama’s inauguration.  In the very beginning of the episode, police were extremely concerned that he could be “mentally ill”.
Aitken’s move from Colorado had been motivated by a desire to see his son, after a difficult divorce.
DailyCaller has a story about Aitken’s litigation against New Jersey, here
The event was followed by lunch, with Washington snow flurries outside. 

Below I captured some of Walter Olson's remarks.  

Richard Emory has an op-ed "Who's Policing the Prosecutors" in the New York Times, on civil asset forfeiture, here. 

The book seems ironic now, given all the recent attention to police profiling by race.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Lame duck Congress, in keeping government open, goes both directions at the same time on marijuana

In a “lame duck” agreement intended to avoid a government shutdown, Congress has apparently held Washington DC “home rule” hostage and included a rider overruling a Nov. 4 referendum result by District of Columbia residents to decriminalize some use of marijuana, as detailed in many media sources, such as this story in the Huffington Post today (Wednesday, December 10, 2014) by Matt Ferner, link here.  Some have argued that there may be a loophole that would allow the DC law to stand. Local television stations today made a lot of this. There may be some demonstrations in DC tonight over the issue. Other accounts say that the issue has to do with federal funds needed to implement the more lenient DC law!

On the other hand, as Ferner reports, Congress has ironically proposed blocking the use of DOJ funds to interfere with hemp (which can be industrial) and marijuana cultivation in states where it is legal.  Why has Congress treated the District differently? It’s true that DOJ funding is part of budget appropriation, but not local DC misdemeanor law.  The New York Times has an editorial on this issue (Dec, 11) here.  
It’s scary to see Congress putting local riders on national bills.  Conceivably other non-budget issues with social implications could come up in the future (like gay marriage in DC) if this is permissible.  On the other hand some social issues (like Social Security benefits for spouses) really do have budget impacts.    

It’s ironic that today I had just watched the film “Neurons to Nirvana” on Netflix, unaware of what Congress was doing in the meantime (see Movies blog). 

Monday, December 08, 2014

CNN interviews NCCIC on the safety of the power grid from cyberattack

CNN’s Deborah Feverick interviews a spokeswoman for NCCIC, the National Cybersecurity and Command Integration Center, or US-Cert (in Pittsburgh, associated with Carnie Melon), about hether the power grid is “safe” from cyber attacks.

85% of the US critical infrastructure is in the hands of private companies.  The spokesperson said that the only way to be perfectly safe would be to take the entire infrastructure command system offline (sever it topologically from the Internet). 

Of course, other threats could be large coronal mass ejections from sunspot activity, or even deliberate electromagnetic pulse (EMP) attack, which could be localized and not necessarily require nuclear weapons.

During the interview, the panel for NASA glowed orange, suggesting a possible security problem at that moment. 

Sunday, December 07, 2014

Protests turn destructive in Berkeley, CA

News media report that some protests turned “violent” in Berkeley, CA Saturday night, in the wake of the New York grand jury decision not to indict police officer Daniel Pantaleo in the “chokehold” death of Eric Garner when trying to arrest the latter in Staten Island, NY, last July.  Some businesses had broken windows, and police officers were pelted with rocks and bottles.  Police used tear gas, in what looked like a scene from the Vietnam era.  The CNN story is here
On a vacation in 1971 with other ex-Army friends, I recall having a room in a "hotel" in Berkeley for $42 for a whole week.  And my own father was a Berkeley graduate (around 1925).  
The large numbers of protests in many cities, especially New York, Washington and Dallas, had ben peaceful, with people lying down on streets and getting arrested on minimal misdemeanor complaints. Protests in Ferguson and around St. Louis have calmed down and been peaceful more recently. 
NBC News has a big story Sunday morning, for Meet the Press, on a deep racial divide over law enforcement, link here. 

Yet, the most aggressive tweeting and media activism on the issue on various other police  incidents around the country (as in Utah, Arizona and Ohio) seem to come from young, relatively affluent and publicly popular  white  males.   

Friday, December 05, 2014

Do recent protests reinforce calls for national service?

I found a few more pointed pieces on the idea of national service.
Eric Navarro points out a paradox, that our hyperindividualism leaves us depending on others to do the dangerous things we don’t want to do, risking letting “them” have dominion over us, in “Task and Purpose” here. The writer wants to make social security and Medicare dependent on service for those who are able.

Samah Imran in the Huffingtom Post writes that citizenship is not a spectator sport, here.  Well, neither is chess.  The San Francisco Examiner has a similar piece.

There’s an obvious opportunity to use national service as a way of helping students work off debt.  But beyond the abstract ideas about citizenship and country, there are deeper ideas of looking at why “life isn’t fair”.  Seeing everyone “serve” and sometimes willing to put his own goals aside seems to send a message that no one gets a free ride, and that the values of work and legitimate wealth mean something.  But a lot of service is very bureaucratic and you wonder what real needs it is really meaning.  But, with a sprinkle of Maoism, it does suggest that everyone should have a chance, and then step back. 

An article by Clive Belfield, in the Summer 2014 issue of Democracy, explains the difference between "voluntererism" and actual organized service programs, "The Economics: Why National Service Is Worth It", here

Ron Paul, from Oct. 2014, has a very different view.

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Supreme Court hears case regarding accommodations for pregnancy in the workplace

Wednesday the Supreme Court heard the case of Peggy Young v. UPS, which would not give her lighter work when she was pregnant, and forced her to take unpaid leave.  NBC News has a detailed on the 2006 case story here
The oral argument brief PDF is here


There seems to be a question of whether pregnancy was treated differently than “disabilities”.  Again, there would be an issue that non-pregnant workers will “subsidize” the slack.  

Monday, December 01, 2014

Attorney General, speaking in Atlanta, offers plan to build more trust between communities and local police; case in Staten Island before grand jury

ABC News has released a preliminary AP story (by Kate Brumback) to the effect that Attorney General Eric Holder, speaking in Atlanta at the Ebenezer Baptist Church, has announced a plan to target racial profiling by police, story here

The White House Blog today talks about “building trust between communities and local police”, link here
One of the main measures would be to provide police bodycams everywhere.
Besides the Darien Hunt case in Utah, there is another serious case on Staten Island. New York, the chokehold killing of Eric Garner, before a grand jury now, link here