Do the Speed-Trap Mayors Want You To Drive Dangerously?

I had the rare honor of testifying before the Missouri Senate committee on Economic Development. The hearing’s subject was Senator Eric Schmitt’s Senate Bill 5 to reign in traffic court abuses in Missouri.

Here’s some perspective:

  • St. Louis County accounts for 22 percent of Missouri’s population and over 50 percent of traffic tickets
  • St. Ann’s traffic court revenue exploded from about $500,000 in 2009 to over $3.5 million last year
  • Traffic court generates 90 percent of the total revenue for one Missouri city
  • Ferguson, Missouri, has three outstanding traffic ticket warrants for every citizen
  • The mayor of Edmundson in North St. Louis County wrote a memo to his police chief admonishing him to write more tickets or face wage and job cuts

I testified immediately following a representative from the ACLU. While this isn’t the first time St. Louis Tea Party Coalition and the ACLU have worked together on an issue, the fact we both see the same problem should tell you the problem is real.

The opposition to the bill came mostly from small town mayors who don’t want to lose revenue. They’ve become addicted to the fees from tickets and failure-to-appear warrants (typically $600). The other opposition came from my State Senator, Bill Schatz who questioned whether SB 5 would give drivers a green light to tool around like maniacs.

We Need the Money

First, let’s look at the revenue argument put forth by the mayors with support from the Municipal League, sort of a union of small town mayors and city managers. These mayors argue that without ticket revenue, they may have to disband their police departments.

Clearly, these mayors are not interested in safety. If safety, rather than revenue, were the concern, engineers could devise roads to force people to drive slower. Several European cities have designed streets that force slow, attentive driving and eliminated speed limits and stop signs. The result is slower speed, fewer accidents, and faster throughput.  In other words, you get where you’re going in less time.

If cities like St. Ann, Edmundon, and Bel Ridge followed the safe streets example, their ticket revenue would dry up faster than pony keg at an Irish wake. And, if safety were their concern, they’d do it. But safety is not their concern. Money is.

We know, for instance, that municipalities that install red-light cameras soon shave time off the yellow lights to generate more revenue. These cities don’t care about safety. They care about money and they’re willing to endanger drivers and passengers to get more money.

CD Baby’s founder Derek Sivers described the problem. If your company is in business to solve a problem instead of just treating the symptoms, the money will dry up. So companies–and cities–have an incentive to keep the problem around so they can fix it for a fee.

Senate Bill 5 seeks to lower the cap on traffic revenue to 10 percent of a city’s revenue from 30 percent. Cities would still be able to write all the tickets they wanted. They just wouldn’t profit from the practice. The tickets would promote safety. Excess revenue would go to fund Missouri’s schools. (I would rather the money went into the highway fund, but that’s for a later blog.)

So mayors don’t want drivers to slow down or to stop at red lights. They want drivers to break the law so their cities can generate revenue. They want to keep the problem around so their police and courts can keep profiting from it. And that’s just wrong.

We Need the Deterrent

Now, to Senator Schatz’s point that speed traps and heavy fines deter bad driving. They don’t.

Senator Schatz’s asked the ACLU Director of Advocacy and Policy, Sarah Rossi, what she would recommend as an effective deterrent to speeding if not fines.

I have to respond to Senator Schatz with a question: if St. Ann’s ticket revenue went from $500,000 to $3.5 million in six years, what makes you think fines do a damn bit of good at all?

They don’t. And the idea of “taxation by citation,” as Senator Schmitt calls it, should enrage citizens. The practice of maintaining a police department primarily to ticket to citizens is appalling. And it supports a level of government that’s inappropriately large.

In the city of Greendale in North St. Louis County, for instance, government is the town’s only industry at $3.5 million a year for 1,800 citizens. Vinita Park, Missouri, whose mayor McGee testified, is a town less than two square miles, but on any given day Vinita Park has over 200 people on a traffic ticket payment plan. By definition, people who need a loan to pay a speeding ticket are not wealthy, so McGee’s government is living off the backs of the poor.

Support Senate Bill 5

If you oppose taxation by citation, please write your state representative and senator, asking him or her to support Eric Schmitt’s SB5. The last thing we should expect from local government is to condition people to cow to government overlords.

And slow down. Without speeders and stop-runners, the small towns would have to muster up the courage to ask citizens for a tax increase or muster up the humility to reduce the size of government.

Now, check out Senator Schmitt’s interview with McGraw Milhaven on KTRS.

How to Define Tom Schweich With One Word

Work screwed up my plans.

Our annual St. Louis Tea Party / Heritage Action Christmas Party started at 6:00 in the evening on December 17. I knew Auditor Tom Schweich planned to attend, and I looked forward to seeing him.

About 3:00 the problems started. People scurrying to wrap up projects before the Christmas break led to errors, questions, and never-ending email threads.

I finally made it out of the office about 7:30 and arrived at Scarecrow in Chesterfield a little after 8:00.

“You missed Tom Schweich,” someone said as walked into the room. “He was great.”

Later, someone who long questioned my favorable view of Tom said, “I have to re-think everything I’ve said about Schweich. He impressed me. And a lot of people, I think.”

I experienced the same surprise when I met Tom Schweich the first time. We met for lunch on a hot day in 2010. I expected a typical GOP establishment hack: smooth, overly friendly, defensive, and forgettable. I expected the man others told me to expect. But I met someone very different.

Rock n Roll Lunch

How different? That lunch ended listening to his band’s recording of their original rock song. We were sitting in Tom’s car in the parking lot at Lamp and Lantern Village. The car was suffocating, but the music was great.

“Reminds me of the Rolling Stones,” I said.

“I love the Rolling Stones,” Tom shot back. Beamed back. “They’re a big influence.”

Of all the many politicians I met in 2009 and 2010, none stood as distinctly as Tom Schweich. Most of my friends adamantly opposed him, of course, preferring his competitor Allen Icet. While Icet garnered the full support of the tea party movement in Missouri, Schweich’s support–financial support in particular–came from Sam Fox, John Danforth, and others in the intellectual Republican world.

Schweich addressed his donors head-on and before I asked. “I am one-hundred percent completely pro-life,” he told me. “I disagree with my donors on many issues, including pro-life, and they don’t expect me to change my position. Because I won’t.”

Lincoln Days

I kept in touch with Auditor Schweich after he became auditor. We meet occasionally for lunch. Our conversations usually touch on politics, but only briefly. Literature, business, and music consume most of our talks.

I hadn’t seen Tom for a few months before Lincoln Days in St. Louis in 2013. On opening night, Auditor Schweich gave a speech that several of my friends found disturbing. Schweich urge all center-right people to look for common ground we could take together. He asked the Republicans assembled to give their fellow conservatives the benefit of the doubt and a little slack.

Again, work kept me from the Friday night opening events, but arrived early on Saturday. I made a point to say “hello” to the Auditor, but he saw me before I saw him. He was on me in a second.

“Listen, Bill, I might have some things last night that you might not like. I wanted to tell you about it myself.”

Different. Other politicians who’ve said things I might not like simply dodged me. Not Tom. As with the Danforth thing, he addressed this issue head on and directly with me. If his words had disappointed me, his courage and straight talk immediately won me back. I’d rather deal with a politician who honestly and openly disagrees with me than with a politician who says one thing and does another.

The Run for Governor

January 2015 is way to early to get too deep into 2016 races, but it’s not too early say this: in a race between Catherine Hanaway and Tom Schweich, my decision is already made. I like Schweich.

You probably know that Rex Sinquefield gave Catherine Hanaway a million dollars last year. While I agree with much of Rex’s philosophy, I question his methods. For all his millions spent to influence issues and elect obedient politicians, his record sucks.

Plus, something about single-source candidates feels unsavory.

Finally, Catherine Hanaway strikes me as a squish. A squish being someone who worries more about being a Republican than about doing the right thing. For example, Hanaway notoriously opposed concealed carry when she was Speaker of the Missouri House. She changed her position only when its unpopularity became impossible to deny.

Tom Schweich has flaws, of course. So do I. And so do you. But “for sale” isn’t one of Tom’s weaknesses. A politician for sale doesn’t address disagreements head-on the way Tom does. And politicians who sell out to the highest bidder don’t waste time scrounging up support from lowly voters like me. They just court a few massive donors and spread the wealth around.

In the race for Missouri Governor, I honestly believe that integrity is an indispensable quality for the Republican candidate. “Integrity” is the first word I think of when trying to describe Tom Schweich.

Boehner’s Purge

You might have noticed that my report on the Speaker election process lacked enthusiasm.

Now you know why.

Boehner is moving quickly to purge conservatives from all committees of meaning. He has vowed to cooperate with the White House and Democrats. He has vowed never to shut down government again, no matter how evil, onerous, or destructive of liberty government becomes.

Boehner has gone full native.

That’s a predictable outcome of a failed coup. The conspirators get whacked. Heads are rolling already: From Politco:

The removal of Florida Reps. Daniel Webster and Rich Nugent from Rules was meant as a clear demonstration that what Boehner and other party leaders accepted during the last Congress is no longer acceptable, not with the House’s biggest GOP majority in decades.

Read more: http://www.politico.com/story/2015/01/boehner-allies-out-for-revenge-114007.html#ixzz3O6aDbCUJ

That’s right. With a majority this big, let’s give Obama everything he wants.

Here’s my favorite line from Politico:

Boehner’s allies have thirsted for this kind of action from the speaker, who say he’s let people walk all over him for too long and is too nice to people who are eager to stab him in the back.

Yeah. Like the President.

While we wait for the great GOP majority to destroy itself, half the Capitol, and the economy, let’s prepare for 2016.

Here’s How a Mere Mortal Becomes Speaker of the House

The geniuses at Heritage Action put together a fantastic brief explaining everything you need to know about the Speaker election process.

Check this out: Speaker Election Procedural Facts

For the record, I’d love to see the election go to a second, third, fourth, or ninety-fifth ballot. But I don’t expect Boehner to lose. And if Boehner should lose, Gohmert might not win. The winner will need a LOT of Republican votes, and Boehner supporters won’t vote for the guy who inserted himself into the race. (If you kill a don, you can’t be a don.)

So if Boehner fails to get 50% by a third or fourth ballot, expect him to drop and push another Establishment hack (Paul Ryan) who conservatives will jump to (Paul Ryan) even though he’s every bit the Establishment hack that Boehner is (Paul Ryan).

To sum up, yes, I love a good Congressional street brawl–ever since my C-SPAN marathon-watching days in the 80s. (“will the gentleman yield?”)  But I don’t think dumping Boehner will give conservatives anything to cheer about. We’ll pound our chests and dare the world to marvel at our awesome tether ball skills, but we’ll end up right back where we began.

No, my friends, the Speaker’s gavel is not the promised land; it’s a flippin’ gavel.


    

Download the PDF file .

Ted Cruz Just Gave the Perfect Response to Establishment Critics VIDEO

The 9 percent who belong to the oligarchical political class hate the rest of us—except when they’re eating from our tables like rabid Vietnamese Potbelly Pigs.

The establishment’s latest target: Texas Senator Ted Cruz.

Fox’s Bret Baier asked Senator Cruz about critics like George Will and Charles Krauthammer who say Cruz doesn’t understand Washington’s rules: Congressional politics is a team sport

I am not trying to play the rules of Washington, because I think Washington is profoundly broken.

The taxi commissions have done everything they can to kill Uber and Lyft,

What we’re trying to do in the political world is very much the same thing [as Uber and Lyft], which is change the means of decision making,take it out of the smoke-filled rooms where decision making is done in Washington between career politicians and lobbyists, and instead empower the people. In my view, the only way we can turn this country around is if the American people rise up and hold every one of us accountable. So I’m not trying to play by the Washington rules.

The Establishment is upset that Ted Cruz had the audacity to question the Constitutionality of Obama’s unconstitutional amnesty order.

Do Police Officers Like Writing Tickets?

What do police officer think about traffic ticket quotas? Here’s one officer’s thoughts:

In my agency, those of us in patrol had to keep a “Daily.” This would be a formal document that showed the times, addresses where we went, written in code, of what we had done.

On the back were boxes for how many traffic citations, criminal citations, parking citations and felony and misdemeanor arrests we had made on that day.

I frequently commented that the form didn’t represent how many people we stopped from committing suicide. Or how many domestic disputes we settled or how many missing children we found. So that “daily” never really adequately represented what my day really involved and often, by the numbers, could look as though I did nothing at all.

Read Quote of India L. J. Mitchell’s answer to Do police officers have monthly ticket quotas? on Quora

My dad was a city police officers in the 1950s and 1960s.

We were talking about cities that use the police force as a taxing agency last week. I gathered that my dad’s captain thought he was a little lax in issuing citations.

“My captain’d say, ‘why aren’t you writing more tickets, Hennessy?'” Dad told me. “And I’d say, ‘I didn’t see anybody do anything wrong.'”

One time his sergeant rode with him. The sergeant wanted to show him how to spot a moving violation. “Follow anybody for 5 minutes, and they’ll commit a violation,” the sergeant told him.

The sergeant spotted a car with a burned-out headlight. “Get him,” he told my dad.

“He’s got his family in the car, Sergeant.”

“I don’t care, Hennessy. It’s a violation. Pull him over.”

So my dad did.

“I’m sorry to do this to you with your family in the car, but my sergeant’s with me,” my dad told the driver.

The driver said, “I understand, officer. And I don’t mean to be disrespectful, but did you know you have a headlight out too?”

My dad looked back at the cruiser. Sure enough, a headlight was out.

“Gimme that ticket back,” he told the driver.

When Dad got back in the cruiser, he told his sergeant, “we have a burned out headlight, too, so I tore up the ticket.”

The sergeant, embarrassed, said, “just take me back to station. And get this car fixed.”

Police have a duty to enforce the law. Dangerous stretches of road require additional policing and strict enforcement of codes. I would never argue otherwise.

But there real value of police officers is their service. Like the officer quoted at the top  of this post said. Cities that use their police and courts to raise revenue don’t count lives saved or disasters averted when rating officers.

My dad liked being a presence in the community. He preferred walking the beat on foot patrol to riding in a car. “You never know what’s going on in a car,” he told me. “And nobody knew who you were.”

Ordinances are intended to increase safety and minimize danger to citizens. They’re not revenue streams. At least they shouldn’t be. The fine associated with safety tickets is a deterrent to the violator, not a tax for the government.

But too many St. Louis County cities use police and courts as a hidden tax on residents, visitors, and transients. Then people lose faith in police, in courts, and in the “system.” As Arch City Defenders found:

Many residents feel that municipal courts exist to collect fine revenue, not to dispense justice. “Absolutely they don’t want nothing but your money,” one defendant said, but “you get people out here who don’t make a whole lot of money.”38 He then described the startlingly common experience of being arrested, jailed, and instructed to call everybody he could think of who might have money to pay his fine—with the promise of three or four days in jail if he could not cobble together the sum.

That’s called a shakedown. How do shakedowns promote safety or dispense justice?

They don’t. They just piss people off and destroy communities.

I’m not excusing or condoning the terrorism that went on in Ferguson  I’m saying some St. Louis County municipalities abuse their police and courts, making residents despise and distrust the law. And when the people distrust the law, the lawless have an open door to wreck havoc on the community.

And, to some degree, that’s what happened. That’s what Tom Schweich, Eric Schmitt, and others are trying to fix.

What No One Tells You About Ferguson

There’s something happening here
But what it is ain’t exactly clear
There’s a man with a gun over there
Telling me I got to beware
–“For What It’s Worth” by The Buffalo Springfield

“This isn’t about Michael Brown.”

Those words popped out of my mouth as I watched the Sunday evening news with my dad. It was August 10.

Full-scale rioting hadn’t erupted, but the battle lines were drawn: police on one side, people, mostly young people, on the other.

There’s battle lines being drawn
Nobody’s right if everybody’s wrong
Young people speaking’ their minds
Getting so much resistance from behind

St. Louis County has 91 municipalities. On the other side of the state, Jackson County, similar in area and population to St. Louis County, has 14.

Those 91 municipalities compete with their neighbors for business and residents. And revenue. To compete, these cities promise services and systems to current and potential residents.

Services and systems cost money.

For decades, especially the decades after World War II, cities like Ferguson relied on burgeoning populations and suburban migration to fund municipal services. To attract housing developers, shopping mall developers, and manufacturers, cities built skating rinks, water parks, and recreation centers from the late 1940s to late 1990s–the post-war.

Demographics

I couldn’t believe what I was reading. I re-read the paragraph three or four times to make sure I got it right. Then, I put the book down to ponder its meaning.

Thomas Barnett, a Harvard and Pentagon Russian scholar, wrote a book in 2003 about the post-Cold War era. The book is fantastic, but one idea stood out:

World human population would reach its peak around 2050.

Why did that knock me on keester?

For all of human history, human population only grew. Sure, some catastrophes temporarily knocked the people count back a bit: the black plague, the Spanish Flu, WWII. But those were rare, mass disasters. What Barnett predicted is not a disaster, but a part of human evolution: Peak Humanity.

The consequences of falling population are huge, and only a few scholars even to think about what it might mean.  Some consequences:

  • Aging population
  • Rising healthcare costs as a percentage of total spending
  • Housing gluts
  • Falling aggregate demand for goods and services
  • Abandoned cities
  • Shortage of physical laborers
  • Reduced wealth
  • Government defaults
  • Empty pension accounts

To some degree, civilization is a Ponzi scheme. As long as the next generation is bigger than the last, everything’s cool.

We borrowed money in the 1950s and 1960s to build huge high schools. Then, the high school population peaked in 1982, the year I graduated. (Coincidentally, drug use and teen drinking also peaked that year.) Because of that, my alma mater, Bishop DuBourg High School, has a completely unused 4th floor and lots of repurposed classroom space on the other floors. Built in the 1950s to house 3,000 students, the building now hosts fewer than 600–about the size of my graduating class.

The Millennials will be the largest generation in American history. And the first wave of Millennials are in their 30s.

What’s become clear to me since reading Barnett’s book in 2004 is that Peak Humanity is unevenly distributed.

Japan reached its zenith in the 1980s–and its economy stagnated. Europe peaked in the 1990s–and its economy stagnated. The United States, ex-immigration, sits at its peak right now.

Why does it matter? As geopolitical strategist George Friedman points out in his book Then Next 100 Years:

Traditionally, declining population has meant declining power. For Europe, this will indeed be the case. But for other countries, like the United States, maintaining population levels, or finding technological ways to augment a declining population, will be essential if political power is be retained in the next hundred years.

While Friedman and Barnett concerned themselves with national and global issues of population decline, we can scale down the effects of shrinking populations to the municipal or even township level.

Detroit, for example, was the wealthiest city in the world for half of the twentieth century. Not New York or London, but Detroit. The automobile, geography, and prohibition contributed to Detroit’s economic power, but population growth was both a cause and an effect.

Where is Detroit today? Since the 1950s, Detroit has lost more than 60 percent of its population. At first, people moved to the suburbs. More recently, people have fled the region entirely. Detroit is bankrupt, and its political leaders are looking for ways to dismantle much of the city’s buildings and infrastructure.

St. Louis City has lost almost two-thirds of its population over the same period. Like Detroit, the exodus to the suburbs, like Ferguson, kept the region strong. But St. Louis County has been losing population since the late 1990s, and that trend is likely to continue. If St. Louis County re-absorbs St. Louis City in the future, that population decline will accelerate.

What’s more important than the macro-migration pattern is the micro-migration pattern. The middle class moves the farthest and the fastest. The wealthy follow. The poor stay. As the city declines, rich liberals push government to provide more and more services to the remaining poor. Businesses push government to provide more attractions and distractions to pull in revenue from visitors. But the tax base shrinks.

As the wealthy finally abandon the decaying cities, power shifts to community representatives of the poor–representatives whose only skill is pushing government for more poverty programs, services, and hand-outs. But they demand these services of governments facing shrinking tax bases.

What happens next? At this point, cities turn their police departments into tax collectors. Contemporary Sheriffs of Nottingham who take from the poor and give to the government. “To protect and serve,” comes to mean “to protect the government’s revenue and to serve warrants upon the indigent.”

Growing up in South St. Louis with a father who served on the St. Louis Police Department for a decade, we learned to respect police officers. The Officer Friendly program brought city police into schools to talk to kids about their jobs.

By the time we got our driver’s licenses, we were experts at navigating around St. Louis’s infamous speed traps. Marlborough, a tiny village just outside the city limits along Watson Road and home of the Coral Courts Motel, was the most notorious.

Marlborough rose along Route 66 and prospered during America’s westward migration. Post-war travellers to the Grand Canyon and magical California breathed economic life into towns Marlborough. By 1970, I-70, the nation’s first interstate highway, conspired with air travel to starve Marlborough of its primary source of revenue: transient vacationers.

Wanting to hold onto its power despite its transient population decline, Marlborough’s leaders ironically turned upon the very instrument of its growth: the car and driver. With fewer visitors to its hotels, restaurants, and shops, Marlborough set up multiple speed traps and confusing traffic ordinances to extract money from drivers, resident or not.

As young drivers, often hauling a cooler of Micholob Light in the trunk, we avoided Marlborough like the plague.

Since the early 80s, more speed traps have emerged in St. Louis County. Ballwin, Bel-Ridge, Breckenridge Hills, St. Ann, Bridgeton, Beverly Hills, Glendale, and many more.

The city police still have a reputation for using the traffic ticket for safety. But the city police are dying breed. If St. Louis County is increasingly a modern day Nottinghamshire where police officers use the power of their office to tax residents through tickets for petty  ordinance violations.

On top of the onerous ticketing policies, municipal courts serve as backup revenue generators. Florissant recently held traffic court in a school gymnasium because of so many defendants. The courts assess contempt fines for bizarre violations, like clothing, chewing gum, and even talking quietly to a neighbor. A fifty-dollar ticket can quickly turn in to a $800 fine with contempt and failure to appear charges.

One woman told me her grandmother was cited for leaving three trash cans at the curb after 3:00 pm on trash day. The fine was $150 per can, or $450. The woman couldn’t afford to pay and she doesn’t go out after dark, so she missed her court date. A warrant and a $600 fine for failure to appear.

Whatever that woman was taught to think of police officers as a little girl in 1950s, imagine her opinion of the profession today. Imagine her “respect” for the court system? For the rule of law?

I think it’s time we stop
Children, what’s that sound?
Everybody look – what’s going down?

“This isn’t about Michael Brown.”

And it never was. The riots of August were about big government. They were about governments that gorged themselves on growing populations, bribed residents with services and distractions that governments should never offer, and politicians who bought loyalty with high-paying, taxpayer-funded jobs. Now, those governments feed off the poor to maintain the government’s bloated lifestyle.

Michael Brown was only a spark. Tax-collection through police was the kindling. Abusive municipal courts were the gasoline.

Now, Ferguson plans to pay for clean-up efforts with . . . you guessed . . . increased fines.

I couldn’t believe the opening paragraph of this story from Bloomberg:

Ferguson, Missouri, which is recovering from riots following the August shooting death of an unarmed black teenager by a white policeman, plans to close a budget gap by boosting revenue from public-safety fines and tapping reserves.

(h/t ZeroHedge)

The stupidity of government knows no bounds. It’s time we stop.

And now for my favorite song from the 60s

Here’s What’s Happening on the Muni Courts Front

He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance.

— The Declaration of Independence

Back in August, I asked for your help in pushing for municipal court reform.

Cities that abuse their police and courts destroy liberty:

Together, these offenses against liberty and decency rise to the level offenses against which we rebelled in the 18th century.

Auditor Schweich’s Municipal Courts Project

In November, State Auditor Tom Schweich announced the Municipal Courts Project. The Auditor will audit 10 municipalities suspected of violating state limits on fines from traffic tickets. Missouri law requires cities to forfeit to the state revenues from traffic tickets that exceed 30 percent of total revenue.

The law does not prevent cities from enforcing traffic laws for safety. The intends to limit financial incentives for cities to write lots of tickets. I had the honor to stand with Republicans–Auditor Schweich and St. Charles County Executive Steve Ehlmann–and Democrats–State Senator Maria Chappelle-Nadal and State Rep Scott Sifton–as Auditor Schweich announced the project.

Senator Schmitt Steps Up

Today, I had the pleasure to meet with State Senator Eric Schmitt to learn about his efforts to further crack down on the courts. Eric SchmittSenator Schmitt has pre-filed legislation for the next general assembly that would reduce the traffic revenue limit to 10 percent from 30 percent. Senator Schmitt and I discussed further legislation, such as:

  • additional penalties for city official who knowingly fail to forfeit excess funds
  • requiring that municipal courts be open to the public
  • prohibiting cities from barring families and children from municipal courts
  • prohibiting cities form locking out defendants before their case is called
  • forcing cities to include all fines, fees, and warrants to the ticket revenue
  • limiting cities’ power to jail people over non-criminal traffic violations (with exceptions for flagrant violations of the court system)

I also recommended as witnesses several people who contacted me about their experiences with municipal courts. And I learned that friend of liberty, State Rep. Paul Curtman, will handle the bill in the House.

Action

Please write your State Representative and State Senator to let them know you support Senator Schmitt’s municipal courts reform. He expects strong opposition from the Municipal League–sort of union for city managers and consultants. This being a bipartisan issue with a strong liberty theme, opponents risk marginalizing themselves.

And say “Thanks” to Tom Schweich ([email protected]) and Eric Schmitt([email protected]) for stepping up on behalf of people who need a voice in government.

 

 

How to Shame House Republican Leadership On Immigration *ACTION*

[scroll to updates]

And, yes, “House Republican Leadership” is a code word for Ann Wagner.

Every victorious Republican ran on a promise to aggressively check Obama’s illegal executive actions.

They weren’t all lying. Only the “leaders” lied.

House leadership is trying to weasel out of its commitment to voters to block Obama’s illegal activities.

The House can easily attach a rider to the upcoming spending bill prohibiting any money from going toward Obama’s 10 illegal illegal alien memoranda. Such a rider is basically a reverse earmark. Instead of dictating who money must be spent, it dictates how money must not be spent.

The Hyde Amendment is a glorious examples of reverse earmarks in action. The Hyde Amendment prohibits taxpayer funding of abortions. It has worked for 40 years.

While most House Republican candidates campaigned on just such an action to thwart Obama’s illegal illegal alien orders, the House Leadership now wants to substitute real legislative leadership with candy-ass symbolism.

Call Ann Wagner’s office, (636) 779-5449 and tell her anything short of a rider to the next spending bill that prohibits funding of Obama’s immigration actions will be intolerable. (And use the word “intolerable,” because it conjures up The Intolerable Acts. And it sounds more grown-up than “unacceptable.”)

Her office will mumble some candy-ass nonsense about government shutdowns. You can reply, “No one’s talking about a shutdown. But the last time Republicans got blamed for shutting down the government, voters gave them their biggest House majority since Hoover.”

Her office might say, “Yeah, but why not wait til we have a majority in the Senate in January.”

Your reply, “If you don’t have the courage to act now, why would I believe you’ll grow the courage in a month? And more importantly, if you don’t block the spending now, the White House will use other funds to pre-load the immigration costs.”

You can also stop by Wagner’s St. Louis office:

Here’s the address and map.

301 Sovereign Court
Suite 201
Ballwin, MO 63011

hours: M-F 9-5:00pm

One word of caution, though. You might not want to mention Heritage Foundation. Ann Wagner believes Heritage is a dangerous, radical organization bent on overthrowing Superman and apple pie, or something.
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**ACTION**

Tweetfest: #DefundObamasAmnesty this Wednesday 12/3 from 3-5 PM CST. Focus on your Rep: @RepAnnWagner. (Leutkemeyer still thinks Twitter the last name of a C&W singer).

CALL: (636) 779-5449

VISIT: 301 Sovereign Court, Suite 201, Ballwin, MO 63011 (hours: M-F 9 am to 5 pm)

Need more ammo? Here’s a whole mess of links thanks to Heritage Action for America:

Congress CAN Defund Amnesty Notwithstanding the Way USCIS Is Funded
Rescission Is the Wrong Way To Go
Congress Must Defund NOW & Must NOT Pass Long-Term Funding or an Omnibus
Some Additional Background

Why the Evidence Never Mattered

The danger of jumping to conclusions isn’t that you might be wrong. It’s that your brain will be unable to recognize its error.

We’ve all heard of the psychological (or just logical) fallacy of confirmation bias. It’s worth looking at three aspects of confirmation bias from Science Daily:

  1. In psychology and cognitive science, confirmation bias (or confirmatory bias) is a tendency to search for or interpret information in a way that confirms one’s preconceptions, leading to statistical errors.
  2. Confirmation bias is a type of cognitive bias and represents an error of inductive inference toward confirmation of the hypothesis under study.
  3. Confirmation bias is a phenomenon wherein decision makers have been shown to actively seek out and assign more weight to evidence that confirms their hypothesis, and ignore or under weigh evidence that could disconfirm their hypothesis.

In short, confirmation bias leads to error. And confirmation bias in large numbers leads to disaster.

When the CEO of a company jumps to a conclusion (“People want a sweeter, simpler Coke formula,”) their company (and stockholders and employees and customers) feel the pain, but the rest of the world goes on. Lucky for Coke, its leaders abandoned their bias quickly. It helps to have strong data analysts and angry stockholders pointing out your errors.

When large numbers of people jump to a conclusion, things can get much worse. In Salem, Massachusetts, in 1692, most of the town jumped to the conclusion that a group of women were witches who helped the Devil possess a group of young girls in exchange for supernatural power. One doctor’s diagnosis of “bewitchment” sent the town (and the whole colony) into a frenzy. Eighteen women were hanged that summer. Dozens of others were accused and tried.

What began as convulsions and odd behavior in two young girls became a real-life horror story. Once a person came under suspicion of witchery, their every utterance and action seemed to confirm the accuser’s hypothesis.

It’s okay to form hypotheses. Without hypotheses, we cannot explore and challenge understandings of the world. Hypotheses are the first step in experimentation. Hypothesis formation makes us human.

But forming a hypothesis is just the start. First grade science teaches us to apply the scientific method: observe, form a hypothesis, design and experiment to disprove the hypothesis, record data, publish the results so others can replicate.

Too often, though, people fail to keep open the possibility that their first hunch was wrong. And very few people have the mental discipline to formally test their hypotheses.

On August 9, 2014, a new Salem Witch Hunt began. Only this time, it began in Ferguson, Missouri. This time, two different factions jumped to two mutually exclusive hypotheses.

On the one hand were people fed up with municipalities that have, for decades, treated citizens as suckers in twisted con game. These cities use police and courts to ticket and fine people into poverty and submission. This faction declared a police officer guilty of witchery. And murder.

On the other hand were people fed up with those who perpetually blame others. This faction declared a dead man a thug and criminal who got precisely what he deserved.

At the time these hypotheses were formed, no one except the police officer and one witness knew what actually happened in the Canfield Apartments that day. Yet, lacking any credible evidence or supporting facts, millions of people across America adopted one hypothesis or another. From that moment—about one hour after the incident—most of America searched for or interpreted information in a way that confirmed their own preconceptions. And the Ferguson Witch Hunt was on.

Those who jumped to the hypothesis that Michael Brown was murdered by a racist cop refused to consider any data that threatened their belief. They still do.

Those who jumped to the hypothesis that Officer Darren Wilson was nearly killed and valiantly fought off his savage attacker refused to consider any data that threatened their belief. They still do.

In the 90 days between the incident and the release of thousands of pages of physical evidence and autopsies and witness testimony, the two opposing hypotheses only galvanized in people’s minds.

On the one hand, some people believed facts that are physically impossible. One person I know believes that Darren Wilson never got out of his police SUV. Instead, the officer cruised around Canfield Apartments shooting at black people out the window of the vehicle. They believe this—and they will fight you if you challenge them—despite all evidence to the contrary.

On the other hand, friends of mine swore (and some still maintain) that Darren Wilson’s orbital socket was fractured by numerous blows to the head. They based this belief on one false blog post that used a stock photo of a medical x-ray to reinforce the lie. These people believe the fractured eye socket story despite contradictory testimony from the officer himself.

The evidence and testimony released last week mostly discredits those who burned down Ferguson. The evidence largely supports those who believe the police officer acted out of self-defense.

But the evidence is completely irrelevant. Had every shred of physical evidence and every witness testimony corroborated by video and audio taken from seven different angles shown unequivocally that Michael Brown died of wounds from arrows fired from a crossbow by a 91-year-old Abe Vigoda in drag, the two camps would still go to their graves believing what they came to believe within minutes after the incident in August, Abe Vigoda’s tearful, video confession notwithstanding.

What’s worse, I see the same religious zealotry in business, in politics, and in sports. Very few people I know are willing to hold any of their hypotheses up to formal, honest scrutiny. Our society values only those who stand by their opinions. We piss on people who show their weakness by subjecting their own ideas to tests.

As a race of people, we spend our lives trying to PROVE. WE’RE. RIGHT! We are all conspiracy theorists, pointing to every speck of bird crap on the windshield as incontrovertible proof that Elvis and Jim Morrison were the first same-sex couple married in Washington State, “so don’t even tell me the King is dead!”

Over two-thirds of Americans believe the country is on the wrong track. This American agrees. And I have an untested, loosely-held hypothesis that one reason we’re on the wrong track is our refusal to consider the possibility that we might be wrong about just one of our untested, loosely-held hypotheses.

Until we, as a society, learn to defend our hypotheses by subjecting them to every challenge imaginable, our cities will continue to burn, our trust in people and institutions will continue to decline, and our country will continue down the wrong tracks.

And the wrong tracks must end in complete destruction.

But, as Dennis Miller says at the end of his glorious rants, that’s just my opinion—I could be wrong.

How to Stop the Commies

It’s all a lie. 

It didn’t start that way. At first, the Mike Brown protesters were all about Mike Brown and people like him. But not anymore.

Even the New York Times admitted the protests in Mike Brown’s name are actually the Revolutionary Communist Party advancing Marxism. (The NYT pulled down the story on Sunday morning. I wouldn’t have linked it, anyway.)

I’m not a fan of stomping on someone else’s parade, even if I disagree with their cause. That’s why I’ve been quiet about the Mike Brown protests. Let them have their time.

But communists hijacked their time. I joined the US Navy’s submarine force for one purpose: destroy communism.

Now, communism is here in St. Louis County, and our wimpy politicians are afraid to act.

Here’s one solution you might like.

Let’s get 100 people to commit. Commit to doing your Christmas shopping ONLY at places targeted by the communists.

Commit to spending $100 at every mall, store, and shop where the phony “Mike Brown” protesters target.

Communists want to destroy free market capitalism. The best way to destroy their evil goals is to double down on what they hate: shopping.

They burned Ferguson and Dellwood. So shop Ferguson and Dellwood.

They disrupted West County mall and the Galleria. So shop there.

They shut down the Walmart in South County. So buy your groceries and hunting gear there. And your Christmas presents.

After you shop there, take a picture of your receipt and send it to [email protected]  I’ll get it it to the store manager, and I’ll add up the totals.

Screw the damn communists. This is America. We kicked their asses once, and we’ll do it again.