Category Archives: News

jury-box

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.

 

 

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Some Protesters Couldn’t Care Less About Mike Brown

If you think the mall protests are about the police, Ferguson, Mike Brown, or Darren Wilson, you could be wrong.

For some, Mike Brown is a pawn. The protests are mere opportunities to exploit.

Travis Martin, a protester who was at the bowling alley and the Justice Center, said he didn’t think that activist leaders had done enough planning and promotion for an event at the Galleria.

“I think the main organizers weren’t so focused on anti-capitalism. They are more focused on justice for Mike Brown,” said Martin, 27, a student at the Washington University School of Law. (source: stltoday.com)

Got that? The protesters were too worried about justice. Travis Martin seems all about destroying free market capitalism.

I admit that I admire people who take to the streets to express and promote their point of view, even if I don’t agree with them. Demonstration, protest, and even civil disobedience are political tools. Used well for just causes, these tools build great communities.

When people honestly and openly use these tools, democracy works. It’s okay for people to disagree, but the partisans must be forthright. When protests drive an honest debate, the community or society can choose a course. Protests can initiate debates that matter. But only when the protests are transparent.

When people hide in the shadows of a larger protest, hoping to hijack emotions to destroy the greatest engine for equality, wealth, and advancement in human history, they do not advance democracy; they advance a lie.

Now that Travis Martin has exposed the hidden anti-market ends of the Mike Brown protests, the organizers must purge their ranks of the agitators. If the organizers permit the anti-market agitators to stay, then we are free to call the movement a fraud.

The Worst of Humanity and the Absence of Leadership in Ferguson

I should be in bed. But I can’t take my eyes off the images of Ferguson burning to the ground.

A liberal friend on Twitter admonished me not to be political. Maybe he’s right.

But I’m pretty sure Dellena’s 911 Beauty Salon burned in Ferguson tonight. It seems everything else has, too. The airport is closed. St. Louis’s image may be taking a fatal blow. The region might go the way of Gary, Indiana.

And the governor is absent. The National Guard is nowhere to be seen.

Mandy Murphy on KTVI Fox 2 has reported numerous times the governor promised Ferguson officials and businesses that the National Guard would be there to protect their lives and property.

At least eight buldings are burning to the ground. Bakeries. Restaurants. Parts stores. I shopped in most of them this summer and fall during BUYcotts.

People are watching their humble livelihoods burn.

The fire departments are standing by. They want to fight the fires, but they can’t. They can’t because the police presence is insufficient to suppress sniper fire from the human feces that use tragedy to unleash evil on good people.

Meanwhile, the governor is absent. He’s chasing that buck that he refused to stop in a disastrous interview that exposed his feebleness.

And, doesn’t the Attorney General have a role in all this? I haven’t heard his name.

I don’t know how we remove a governor in Missouri, but it’s damn time to get that ball rolling.

God bless the people of Ferguson. And may God unleash swift and fearful justice to the bastards responsible for this.

UPDATE: The Governor is not taking calls from Ferguson Mayor as he pleads for National Guard support. He cannot get through to any of our Congressional delegation.  Care to explain Claire McCaskill? Roy Blunt? Ann Wagner? Lacy Clay? This is the time that leaders lead.

UPDATE:  After hours of pleading and tweeting, Govenor Nixon claims he’s ordered more National Guard for Ferguson. At this point, one Guardsman would be more. (1:11 am)

light-bulbs

Big ISPs Will Back Net Neutrality Someday

I don’t want Barack Obama regulating the internet.

At the same time, conservatives who believe big corporations are always right better pop their heads out of their Chambers of Commerce.

Greens Didn’t Kill the Incandescent Light Bulb—Corporatists Did

The way big businesses got big and stayed big has nothing to do with business and everything to do with politics. Big corporations use their money and influence to bribe government to kill competition.

The best example of this is the incandescent light bulb.

You probably think that environmentalist wackos drove federal legislation to ban Edison’s invention. But you’re wrong. Totally wrong. Environmentalists, for the most part, recognize that fluorescent bulbs pose a much bigger threat to the planet than incandescent bulbs. In a study by University of California-Davis:

> [W]hen the team took into account the longer usage of those devices, CFLs have three to 26 and and LEDs two to three times higher potential harmful effects on the environment than incandescent light bulbs because of the heavy metal toxicity issues. As such, the team suggests that research efforts and technology drivers must now focus not only on enhancing energy efficiency but also on reducing the use of hazardous and rare metals.Incandescent bulbs are cheap and relatively easy to make. The cost of entering the market is low. Despite marketing terms like “cool white” and “natural amber,” there’s little difference from one bulb to another.

Three huge corporations dominated the incandescent bulb market for decades—General Electric, Phillips, and Sylvania. Timothy Carney describes the situation in the Washington Examiner:

Competitive markets with low costs of entry have a characteristic that consumers love and businesses lament: very low profit margins. GE, Philips and Sylvania dominated the U.S. market in incandescents, but they couldn’t convert that dominance into price hikes. Because of light bulb’s low material and manufacturing costs, any big climb in prices would have invited new competitors to undercut the giants — and that new competitor would probably have won a distribution deal with Wal-Mart.

Compact fluorescent technology, however, is more difficult for low cost manufacturers and start-ups. So the big three leaned on members of Congress to pass a law banning incandescent bulbs. And Congress did, with early help from Republicans. (Republicans appreciate GE’s campaign donations just as much as Democrats do.)

This is exactly how big business operates. When the free market rejects their innovations, they use government to force us to buy. Says Timothy Carney:

[T]he threat of competition kept profit margins low on the traditional light bulb — that’s the magic of capitalism. GE and Sylvania searched for higher profits by improving the bulb — think of the GE Soft White bulb. These companies, with their giant research budgets, made advances with halogen, LED and fluorescent technologies, and even high-efficiency incandescents. They sold these bulbs at a much higher prices — but they couldn’t get many customers to buy them for those high prices. That’s the hard part about capitalism — consumers, not manufacturers, get to demand what something is worth.

Capitalism ruining their party, the bulb-makers turned to government. Philips teamed up with NRDC. GE leaned on its huge lobbying army — the largest in the nation — and soon they were able to ban the low-profit-margin bulbs.

The ISPs Lobby, Too

As I pointed out, some big internet companies spend big dollars lobbying.

Statistic: Total lobbying expenses in the United States in 2014, by sector (in million U.S. dollars) | Statista
Find more statistics at Statista

The big ISPs—Comcast, AT&T, Charter, etc.—sit in the fourth biggest lobbying sector. They will find a way to use net neutrality to their advantage.

When they do, some big net neutrality bill will sail through Congress with bipartisan support. And the co-sponsors will have served their master.

Lesson Learned

  1. The last thing I want is for Barack Obama to turn the internet into a public utility. He will regulate what you can and cannot say online.
  2. But don’t blindly support whatever some huge corporation tells you to support. Corporations use unprincipled, self-serving politicians like Rep. Ann Wagner, Senator Roy Blunt, and Senator Claire McCaskill to dictate terms to the free market.

  3. Ideology isn’t easy. Comments on this blog sometimes surprise me. The writers seem to want an easy boolean answer to complex problems. Republican is good and Democrat is bad. Conservative is good and liberal is bad. Private enterprise is good and government is bad. But it’s not that easy. Self-governance requires critical thinking, not knee-jerk reaction to labels.

  4. Don’t avoid the real question. The real question is not “what would Reagan do?” The question is “will it liberate?” Net neutrality, like many other ideas, can liberty or bind depending on how it’s implemented. For more, see the two links below.

Learn more about net neutrality from the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

Learn even more about leftist attempts to hijack to net neutrality at the Cato Institute.

mad-scientist-rex

Failed Consultant Seeks Funding for GOP Establishment

mad-scientist-rex
Rex Sinquefield’s Mad Scientist Blimp Piloting X-Ray Glasses

People tell me Republican consultant John Hancock is a really nice guy.

I think they’re right. And, as Hancock’s clients have learned repeatedly, nice guys finish last.

The clearest example of Hancock’s failure was John Brunner’s campaign for US Senate in 2012.

Brunner is an exceptional businessman with a remarkably clear and accurate political philosophy. Had Brunner succeeded in winning the GOP nomination for Senate, Claire McCaskill would be retired, the GOP would have a Senate majority already, and Rand Paul would have a philosophical friend in the upper chamber.

John Brunner is too decent a man to blame John Hancock’s ineptness for Brunner’s primary loss to Todd Akin. But everybody knows what happened.

Hancock turned the bold and libertarian Brunner into an establishment-sounding amateur. Hancock put Brunner in a straight-jacket, making the most pro-liberty candidate in a field of three sound like Hancock’s idol, Ann Wagner. Brunner, being a first-time candidate and a businessman familiar with delegation to experts, trusted Hancock. And Brunner got burned.

Some cynics I know say that Ann Wagner’s cabal enlisted Hancock to keep Brunner in check. These highly skeptical people think that Brunner’s libertarianism would attract lots of young voters, squeezing out the GOP establishment. I’m not that cynical, though, because Hancock’s campaigns fail the establishment, too.

Before straight-jacketing Brunner, Hancock’s campaign prowess gave us Secretary of State Catherine Hanaway and Governor Ken Hulshof. Or, no, wait. Those two went down in flames, too. In fact, I can’t find a single statewide election Hancock won. Hancock is to campaigns what I am to golf.

Now, Hancock wants to run the Missouri GOP as Chairman of the Missouri Republican Party. He promises to raise lots of money for the state party, and it’s likely to come from Rex Sinquefield, the weird billionaire political pimp with a great big blimp.

Look for Hancock to get a big check from Rex in the coming weeks. Hanaway and Wagner will throw their support behind him. Then Hancock will wow the right with Fair Taxes and education reform ideas.But real end game is Sinquefield’s total, personal ownership of Missouri government.

Don’t say I didn’t warn you. Nice guys finish last.

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Government Is For Sale. Here’s Who’s Buying

Updated: the original title said “Congress is for sale.” My mistake. I meant Government.

Once upon a time in America, people built companies by filling society’s unmet needs. To survive, a company relied on innovation, quality, and, of course, good advertising. The best advertisement being word of mouth.

That’s all changed now.

The way to grow a successful company is to get government to protect your market, dampen competition, and require people to buy what you sell.

Here’s who’s paying for the privilege of thwarting competition.

Infographic: Google Is Among the Biggest Lobbying Spenders in the U.S. | Statista

You will find more statistics at Statista

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce bought the Export Import Bank. And amnesty.

The insurance companies, along with the hospital corporation, helped write Obamacare.

Why does Google know more about you than your spouse? Because Google pays government to let them.

This is government. Want to change it?

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Thank You, Heritage Foundation

I’m sitting at Reagan National Airport waiting for my flight home. I just spent 24 hours meeting the people who keep HA_Sent_Logo_Final_Blue_webAmerica free. Well, besides the people in uniform. It’s the Heritage Foundation’s donors and leaders. It’s Heritage Action and its Sentinels.

It’s decidedly NOT the ruling class, the two big parties.

I had the high privilege of sharing a panel with 14 people who work a lot harder than I do. People like Jim Duncan of North Carolina and Kevin Kookogey of Tennessee. These are people who abandoned the safety and comfort of anonymous recline to work on the front lines of our war for America’s future.

Heritage Sentinels–over 9,000 strong–make life on Capitol Hill a little less comfortable for members of Congress. Al French told a story of one Congressman who told a Sentinel, “I’ll have to look up that bill. I don’t know much about it.” The Sentinel said, “What? You voted FOR the bill two days ago!”

The Sentinel program, and Heritage Foundation’s great research and communications, couldn’t happen without donors. Heritage turns down big dollar offers from corporations and chambers who hope to influence Heritage toward the established ruling class. While principles make for great headlines, they also force Heritage to rely on generous private donors. Like my new friend Sylvio.

Sylvio made my trip a blast. He’s a fellow Catholic, originally from Detroit. He worked in the auto industry and retired to Mississippi.  One of the most pleasant humans I’ve ever met, and a man who deserve our thanks.

Mostly, I want to thank my Heritage Action leaders: Ben Evans, Jessica Anderson, Russ Vought, and Michael Needham. They all could make a lot more money and live more comfortable, quiet lives outside of the political nightmare of Washington. But they put America’s future before their immediate comfort. The enable and empower the largest grassroots community organizing force in American politics, and future generations should know their names.

 

bureaucrats

Bureaucratizing Street Gangs

Did you ever wonder why do-gooders and social planners never pay for their crimes?

Yesterday, I wrote about Jesse Jackson dressing down at the hands of activists in a McDonald’s parking lot in Ferguson. I pointed out that Martin Luther King and Dick Gregory were similarly dismissed by rioters in the 1960s. Some things never change.

One thing that has changed is the economic gap between whites and blacks. That’s gotten worse despite trillions in federal poverty programs that went mostly to “community organizing.” Those failed efforts of do-gooders and social planners have made black poverty worse, not better, while contributing to the destruction of the black family.

income gap over time

Notice that Hispanics were doing a lot better before the government started paying attention to them, too!

And the do-gooders of the 1960s actually wanted this effect. Again, I turn to Tom Wolfe’s Radical Chic and Mau-Mauing the Flak Catchers:

The police would argue that in giving all that money to gangs like the Blackstone Rangers the poverty bureaucrats were financing criminal elements and helping to destroy the community . The poverty bureaucrats would argue that they were doing just the opposite. They were bringing the gangs into the system. Back in 1911 Robert Michels, a German sociologist, wrote that the bureaucracy provides the state with a great technique for self-preservation. The bureaucracy has the instinct to expand in any direction. The bureaucracy has the instinct to get all the discontented elements of the society involved and entangled in the bureaucracy itself. In the late 1960’ s it looked like he might be right. By the end of 1968 there were no more gangs in San Francisco in the old sense of the “fighting gangs.” Everybody was into black power, brown power, yellow power, and the poverty program in one way or another. This didn’t mean that crime decreased or that a man discontinued his particular hustles . But it did mean he had a different feeling about himself. He wasn’t a hustler or a hood. He was a fighter for the people, a ghetto warrior. In the long run it may turn out that the greatest impact of the poverty program, like some of the WPA projects of the Depression, was not on poverty but on morale, on the status system on the streets. Some day the government may look back and wish it had given the Flak Catchers Distinguished Service medals, like the astronauts.

Wolfe, Tom (2010-04-01). Radical Chic & Mau-Mauing the Flak Catchers (pp. 122-123). Farrar, Straus and Giroux. Kindle Edition.

Maybe not on those Distinguished Service medals, Tom.

The poverty program did change the status system on the streets, but it didn’t solve poverty. Violent crime is down, but not because people have good jobs and solid families. To the contrary, we’ve simply gotten better about locking up criminals and leaving them locked up. Somewhere along the way from Nixon’s first term to Obama’s second, we’ve given up on gang leaders as civic leaders.

The poverty bureaucrats seem to have given up on blacks in general. Bureaucracy’s self-preservation instinct has evolved, perhaps because it has finally and fatally entangled the black community in its suffocating network of economic despair. Few academics even bother to highlight the African-American climber who rose from a broken home and squalid schools to become chief of surgery at Massachusetts General—if indeed that ever happened. Instead, the social academics and government bureaucrats simply dump enough buckets  of government subsidies into the broken homes and squalid schools to keep the fires of anarchy dampened.

People are capable of almost anything depending on their own personal experience, the way they construe a situation, and the situation itself. Bureaucrats have a duty to design experiences and situations that maximize the possibility of positive actions. But our bureaucrats and academics do the opposite. For fifty years, America’s social engineers have set up African Americans for failure. Massive failure. Multi-generational failure.

When you look at the economic progress of blacks since the Great Society’s launch, you can conclude only that its engineers intended to keep blacks at the bottom of America’s social and economic ladder.

The War on Poverty has intentionally taught blacks (and other minorities) that self-reliance is shameful and helpless dependency is good.

The War on Drugs has provided ambitious poor with a deadly means of escape from that dependency: drug dealing.

The Department of Education has replaced education with self-esteem lectures and tolerance classes even though every psychologist since Viktor Frankl teaches that self-esteem is a product of personal achievement, not an antecedent.

The courts and municipal police forces have emotionally and financially tortured the poor, particularly poor blacks, with obnoxious rules and ordinances that keep the poor in a constant state of violation of petty and useless laws. (I’ll have much more to say about this over the coming days, weeks, and months.)

With all of these failures of the academic and government poverty experts, why in God’s name does anyone still listen to them? Why haven’t blacks marched on the welfare offices and the schools and demanded an end to the government-created cycle of poverty? Why aren’t people holding citizens’ hearings on the abusive and illegal municipal court systems?

Why? Because the “black leaders” would go broke if black income and opportunity rose to equal whites’. Because politicians in both parties profit from the cycle and the courts and the wars on everything that war can’t fix.

In short, the income gap and opportunity gap in America results from a total leadership vacuum.

Look, I’ve been observing the decline of opportunity for blacks since I was a kid. I’ve lived through the Great Society and the War on Poverty. And, like a social work professor at Wash U, I’ve done nothing about it.

But I’m done sitting on my hands while the “experts” unravel the American Dream, first for blacks, then for Latinos, and now for everyone else. I’ve had it with the nonsense that you need a PhD and a government job to drive change.

Starting with the Ferguson BUYcott, I intend to help restore the American Dream in the hearts and minds of those who’ve been denied that dream the longest. My Tea Party friends understand the dream. They don’t need my help. I need theirs–yours. As Rush Limbaugh pointed out today when talking about the Ferguson Buycott, we won’t get help from “drive-by media.” But we will eventually get their attention. Said Rush today:

No, this is not an AP story.  Sorry.  No, no, no.  No, no.  It’s not UPI.  Nope.  Nope.  Nope.  It’s not CNN.  No, no, no, no, not New York Times.  No, no, no, no, no, not Washington Post.  Ah, ah, not USA Today.  Nope, CNN hasn’t covered it.  ABC, CBS, NBC, no.

This is a Heritage Foundation story.  The Drive-Bys haven’t covered this, but the Tea Party is leading a buycott in Ferguson, and they’ve been doing this since Thursday. They’re going back next weekend.  You won’t find it in the Drive-By Media.

Besides, Rush has a bigger audience than the Drive-Bys.

The American Dream, as Lee Presser says, was never about owning your own home. The American Dream is to own your own life.

When blacks, Latinos, and a lot of others feel the freedom and power of life ownership, woe betide those academics and bureaucrats who denied them their freedom the past five decades.

 

Tea Party

What If We Stopped Shouting?

I shout a lot.

Not with my lungs. With my pen. Well, not a pen, actually. With a wireless Bluetooth keyboard.

A few years ago, I shouted with my lungs at Tea Party events. I realized pretty quickly that shouting wasn’t doing any good. It worked at first. Shouting carried my voice to people who thought “no one believes what I believe.” Some people heard me yelling at the Arch and came out to see what the hell was going on.

“What’s that guy yelling about,” they asked the crowd.

“TARP,” someone answered.

“What about TARP?” the newcomer asked.

“He’s against it.”

“Well, I must be in right place.”

Pretty soon, though, everybody who was against TARP was out of the house and in the street. Then we started yelling about Obamacare. This brought out a few more people. At some point, a full 21 percent of American adults were yelling with us.

Then, I got tired of yelling. For one thing, my throat hurt. For another, I noticed our yelling wasn’t attracting any new faces. Everyone had heard what we had to say, and the ones who believed what we believed had come out to yell with us. Like wolves baying at a full moon.

We could find new things to yell about which might attract a few new people. This might also drive away some of the TARP people, though. Todd Akin tried this. And worked. A lot of people who don’t normally vote showed up to vote against him. And a lot of people who normally vote Republican either undervoted the Senate race or voted for McCaskill. (At least, that’s what they told me when their wives were around.)

No,  I think it’s safer to stick with a few things that we really, really believe. The things we first yelled about. Things like bailing out billionaire banksters, nationalizing private companies that make cars that kill people, and borrowing trillions of dollars to distract the kids from the trillions in debt we’ve already asked them to pay off. (Something tells me the kids wouldn’t have enjoyed the trip to Disneyland if they’d known we used their credit cards to finance it.)

I just looked at my Twitter timeline and realized I’m still shouting. But I don’t know why.

I shouted at Erick Erickson the other day. I feel better, but I’m not sure I accomplished anything.

Then, I opened up my Kindle version of P.J. O’Rourke’s fabulous work Don’t Vote It Just Encourages the Bastards. Here’s what I read:

I don’t think drugs are bad. I used to be a hippie. I think drugs are fun. Now I’m a conservative. I think fun is bad.

Wait, not that. I mean, yeah, I read that. And highlighted it, because it’s hillarious. But that’s not the part that triggered this blog. It was this:

My laugh was followed by an uneasy thought. Who was Rush Limbaugh shouting at? Was he shouting at Wesley Clark? I doubted that Clark listened to AM talk radio the way I listened to NPR, to get his blood pressure up. Besides, Howard Dean was already doing that for Clark. Was Rush Limbaugh shouting at uncommitted voters, hoping to scare them into the George W. Bush camp? Shouting “Hillary Clinton!” “Howard Dean!” “John Kerry!” over and over might have done it. But what uncommitted voter cared a spit about Wesley Clark? The person hearing the shout had to know enough about Democratic politics to know who Wesley Clark was and enough about Wesley Clark to know that he was a small pumpkin and a false alarm. Was Rush Limbaugh shouting at Hillary Clinton supporters to hearten them? At Dean supporters to energize them? At Kerry supporters to alert them? These people didn’t tend to be ditto heads. No, I realized, Rush Limbaugh was shouting at me.

That paragraph hit me. When I shout on Twitter, I’m shouting you. But you knew that. So I’ll let O’Rourke explain it, since he went to Harvard and I went to Fontbonne:

Me. I am to the right of . . . Why is the Attila benchmark always used? Fifth-century Hunnish depredations upon the Roman empire were the work of an overpowerful centralization of authority with little respect for property rights, pursuing a policy of economic redistribution in an atmosphere of permissive social mores.

I am a little to the right of Rush Limbaugh. I’m so conservative that I could talk Ellen DeGeneres out of supporting gay marriage. Gays wed, they buy a house, they have children, they encounter our public school system. Then gays vote Republican.

After I’d realized, in 2003, who Rush Limbaugh was shouting at, I performed an experiment. I listened to some more talk radio, watched some conservative television programming, and read some of the conservative books that were popular at the time. I listened to Michael Savage and Mark Levin. I watched Bill O’Reilly’s No Spin Zone and the Sean Hannity part of Hannity and Colmes. They did a lot of shouting. But they didn’t seem to be shouting at the potentially repentant sinner who had guiltily slipped in at the back of the congregation after emptying his bottle of malt liquor. Nor did they seem to be shouting at the abashed political wire puller in the middle pews, his conscience botherd by the electoral blood on his hands. No, Limbaugh, Savage, Levin, O’Reilly, Hannity, et al. were shouting at the pious women in the big hats standing blamelessly in the choir. That is, they were shouting at—with a change of gender and headgear—me.

I know I’m no Rush Limbaugh, but I recognized myself in O’Rouke’s words. I also recognized the left-to-right political migration of Irish and Jews—O’Rourke, Hannity, O’Reilly, Hennessy, Savage, Levin. When I was a kid, Irish and Jews all liberals, weren’t we? All the conservatives were English. Or Austrian. Except for Buckley, but he went to school in England, which is probably where the conversion happened.

If you were hoping for something profound, I think it’s time to warn you that I began writing immediately after reading the paragraphs I just copied from Don’t Vote. I realize now that I should have thought more, but here I am. Let’s make the best of it as we take this journey together. A journey that might end anywhere. Strap on your headgear and get ready to march.

Shouting: Who’s It Good For?

Except for alerting others who already believe what we believe, what good does shouting do? Many of us have stories of converting friends or family to our way of thinking, but did we shout them into compliance? If so, how long will their conversion hold?

And we probably didn’t conservatism into them by strapping them to a chair and reading The Federalist Papers. Or Common Sense. Or The Wealth of Nations or The 5000 Year Leap or Democracy in America or The Road to Serfdom or any of the other books that we form support groups to discuss.

Yes, our converts might read those books. Eventually. But the reading of our sacred texts is a symptom of conversion, not a cause. Maybe a symptom of doubt in their prior beliefs. If Al Franken were to take a year off to read the abridged version of The Road Serfdom, he wouldn’t become a conservative. He’d write “bullshit” in the margins 348 times. And he’d scribble down little snippets of the work out of context that he’d repeat endlessly to show the world that Hayek was a narrow, stupid, racist elitist who liked cutting the fins off fish and throw them back into the pond. “The semi-colon is racist,” I can hear Franken shouting, “and Hayek used seven of them one page alone!”

I know why we shout. It feels good. I don’t know what we expect shouting to accomplish. If you have some strategy for shouting, please share it in the comments. But also share some empirical evidence that shouting works.

Instead of shouting, what if we found a way to show people what life is like at the end of the road to serfdom? How would we show that? How could we help people feel that? How might they experience serfdom? What if we began with them?

Sure, there are some people, like Al Franken, who won’t be converted. But there’s a big group of people who vote wrong because they don’t know any better. They’re not hardcore leftists, especially Millennials, as Reason Magainze discovered in a recent survey.

Twenty-five percent of millennials identify as liberal, compared to only 14% of Americans over 30. However, most millennials are basing their choices onsocial issues, which they prioritize over economics when making political judgments. When we investigate liberal millennials, the report shows that only about a third of respondents describe their own liberalism in both social and economic terms.

One-third of one-quarter is . . . a relatively small number (0.0825). So ignore that eight percent. They’re Franken material. There’s hope for the other 92 percent.

Reason found even more contradictions in their poll:

This pattern plays out in policy stances too. Millennials tend to favor a larger, more active government with more guarantees, and are more sympathetic to socialism than older generations. But this isn’t absolute. When millennials are educated about the concrete trade-offs these policies entail, their support drops dramatically, even closing commonracial gaps in the process.

So how do we reach them, if not with hard, cold, boring, difficult to memorize facts?

George Orwell did it with 1984 and even Animal Farm. But nobody reads those books anymore. Or they’re guided in their reading by teachers who explain that Big Brother is actually Apple or IBM or George Bush and that the Department of Justice is Your Friend protecting your from abuses by these corporations.

Facts convince no one of anything, as science has shown again and again. But stories do. Because stories let us feel and experience. Great stories turn off our thinking caps and suspend our disbelief and let us feel what it would be like to be the character looking up at the etchings on the Ministry of Truth. Later, after we’ve felt something, the facts justify our new “beliefs.”

Back to my original question: what if we stopped shouting?

jury-box

We Might Be Doing Criminal Trials Backwards

Is it possible that we do criminal trials backwards?

In the United States, criminal trials have two parts:

  1. Determination of guilt or innocence
  2. Determination of penalty

Does that make sense?

What if we did it the other way around? What if, first, the prosecutor and defense attorney had to convince the judge or jury of the appropriate punishment for the crime in question. In this phase, the state would present the facts of the case. The defense could challenge the facts just as they do now. But there’d be no attempt to prove that any particular suspect perpetrated the crime.

At the end of this phase, the judge or jury would be bound by the penalty determined appropriate. If the jury decides, only a majority vote is required.

Next comes the guilt phase. This part works exactly like it does now. The jury has to determine whether this particular suspect committed the crime.

Yesterday, I wrote about my ambivalence over the death penalty. That blog generated some interesting emails and comments. But I didn’t offer a solution. So I’ll give that a shot here.

Let’s look at this new system for two crimes: possession of a small amount of marijuana and first degree murder.

Marijuana Possession

An adult male was pulled over for having a burned out headlight. When the driver opened the center console in his car to find his insurance card, the police officer saw a zip-lock bag containing some sort of plant material. The officer asked the driver to step out of the car, and the driver complied. The officer retrieved the baggie, opened it, and recognized the smell. The officer asked the driver if the baggie contained marijuana. The driver said, “I won’t answer any questions without a lawyer.” The driver was true to his word and refused to answer any questions. The police maintained chain of custody through the lab process, and the baggie contained about a quarter ounce of pot. The driver had never been convicted of marijuana possession before. On these points, the defense counsel concurs.

The jury may impose a sentence of up to 1 year in prison and up to a $1,000 fine. The prosecutor recommends the maximum penalty. The defense counsel recommends no penalty.

At this point, the jury has not met the defendant. One juror, a donor to Show-Me Cannabis, demands the defense counsel’s request. He tells his fellow jurors, “this is ridiculous. They guy had a quarter ounce of a plant that grows in the wild. The police have better things to do. There was no evidenced he was driving stoned.”

Another juror argues for the max. “Pot’s ruining this country. Break the law, pay the price. I vote for one year and one thousand dollars.”

Most of the jurors grumble about the extreme choices. “He broke the law,” one says, “and it sets a bad precedence to just let him walk. But a year is too much. Any prison is too much for this.”

After hours of arguing, the majority sides with the Show-Me Cannabis guy. They vote for no penalty.

At this point, there’s no need for the guilt phase. The defendant is off the hook. The jury never knows if the defendant was an 18-year-old black man or 42-year-old dentist and father of three.

Murder in the First

During an armed robbery, a young male shot a convenience store clerk and two customers. He seized just over $200 cash, over $1,000 worth of lottery scratch-offs, and $300 in liquor. No one in the store was armed besides the suspect. Security video showed that all three victims complied with the suspect’s instructions, though there was no audio to determine exactly what was said. All three victims died. Two were shot multiple times. The suspect was arrested the next day at nearby grocery store when I tried to cash in five winning scratch-off tickets he’d stolen.

The judge must choose between three options: death, life in prison without parole, or nothing.

The judge realizes that information revealed in the guilt phase could color the jurors’ minds. If he were to choose the death penalty and the jurors felt some compassion for the suspect, they would probably find him not guilty. So the judge chooses life.

In the penalty phase, it turns out the crime was as cold-blooded and pointless as it appeared. The defendant admitted to the hold-up but told police everyone was alive when he left the store.

The jury found him guilty. The sentence was, of course, predetermined.

Suppose, however that the prosecutor asked for the death penalty. Would the defense counsel, also, ask for death on the suspicion that the jury would be more likely to acquit?

Or, if the judge were limited to the prosecutor’s recommendation or nothing, how rare do you think it would be for a prosecutor to that gamble?

My Take

I realize there are things to work out. I implied that the jury in the pot case must choose between the prosecutor’s recommendation and the defense counsel’s. Of course, the system could allow the jury to pick anything in between. Or not.

The the second case, I implied that some other system determined the possible choices. Then I offered a few other scenarios.

I suspect that if the penalty phase came first and was limited to the circumstances of the crime, prosecutors would rarely ask for the death penalty. They’d know that the jury would be more likely acquit a suspect they believed guilty if any believed the death penalty was unjustified.

The other thing I like about penalty-first trials is they might reduce racial or other biases. Sure, jurors might suspect that the race or background of the suspect, but they wouldn’t know. Same for victims if the crime involved victims.

I don’t know that his reform would make our legal system more fair and more just, but I’d love to see an experiment that put it to the test. The first state to try it would look brilliant if it worked.

I got this idea from a great book on game theory and strategy, Thinking Strategically: The Competitive Edge in Business, Politics, and Everyday Life (Norton Paperback).

Also, I received an email letting me know I’m not alone. There’s an organization called Conservatives Concerned (about the death penalty) that’s been gaining a fair amount of traction recently.
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What do you think?

radio-ad

The Number One Reason People Hate Elections

I wrote previously that I hate elections.

I have many reasons for hating elections. One reason, though, seems pretty common: horrible, insulting radio ads.radio-ad

Two ads really stick out:

  1. The negative ad that mentions the sponsoring candidate’s opponent(s) five times as often as it mentions the candidate you’re supposed to remember at the poll.
  2. The couple having a stilted, phony conversation about the sponsoring candidate using words and interruptions that no human being ever uttered or ever will.

I realize that Missouri’s political consultants create and run these ads, often over objections from their client. The consultants know better. Except theses makes people HATE politics. In fact, some friends of mine sponsored some of the worst ads I’ve ever heard—ads so horrible it took all my strength not to drive my car into a brick building at 90 miles an hour. Ads that made me want rip the radio out of my dashboard and stick my tongue on the arcing, sparking loose wires.

So I’m adopting a new policy: I will not vote for a candidate who airs are crappy ad. And will publish the names of candidates I won’t vote for because of their ads.

Will my little act of rebellion improve political ad quality? I doubt it. But it will make me feel better and save me time voting. I can skip a lot of races.

Am I being childish? Maybe. I don’t care, really. I have too much respect for great copy writing and excellent advertising. I am no longer willing to endorse shitty ads with my vote.

P.S. Check back Sunday evening for new content. I’m giving my keyboard a rest. And thank you for reading.