Red Flag Laws and Predictive Policing

Red flag laws allow law enforcement personnel or family members to petition a judge to issue a restraining order to restrict a person’s access to firearms without that person being present. They require a full hearing to be scheduled quickly, to allow the gun owner to respond. A longer order can be issued during the full hearing if there is enough evidence that the person is dangerous.

Six states have red flag laws, and they are being considered in another 22 states. There is bipartisan support in Congress for federal red flag laws. Regardless of how one feels about the Second Amendment giving citizens the right to bear arms, red flag laws set a dangerous precedent. They allow government to take away people’s rights even when no one has violated any laws.

After shootings have occurred, investigators have been able to look back and discover actions the shooter undertook and words the shooter said that sound like red flags, indicating that person could be a danger to others. The idea behind red flag laws is that if people see those red flags and act to take firearms away from potentially dangerous individuals, shootings could be prevented.

Take Pity on the Economist

I tell you, amigos, it’s not easy being an economist. So many economists are always giving the discipline a bad name.

I used to cringe when people referred to me as a historian. After all, I never took a single course in a history department. But, then, I thought about it and realized that at least this incorrect description saved me from the disgrace of being called an economist.

Now that the history profession has gone more or less to hell, however, I think it’s better that I refer to myself as a member of the mainly disgraceful profession for which I was trained.

I should note, however, that even now both economics and history have some honest, competent, and decent practitioners. Not all has been lost. A remnant remains, toiling amidst the ruins.

I would be remiss, moreover, if I failed to mention that the writings of many such competent economists and historians, along with those of many other upstanding scholarly specialists, can be found in the publications—books, blogs, and the scholarly journal The Independent Review—of the Independent Institute.

Sidestepping Congress to Build the Wall

Could President Trump order the construction of his proposed border wall without having Congress specifically authorize the funds to pay for it?

Authorizing funds to pay for the proposed border wall is the central focus in this year’s episode of federal government shutdown theater. The U.S. House of Representatives has approved a total of $5 billion (0.1%) of the U.S. government’s projected $4.4 trillion spending budget for 2019 toward border security improvements that includes money to construct the wall, while the U.S. Senate has countered with a spending proposal of $1.3 billion that includes no wall construction funds. The lack of a compromise in setting the amount of this spending authorization that President Trump would approve is why the federal government is now partially shut down, as Washington D.C. politicians put on their nearly annual political performance.

But former House Oversight Committee chairman Jason Chaffetz argues that President Trump could sidestep Congressional approval for the improved border barricade and use funds that haven’t been authorized to pay for it. Now a Fox News contributor, Chaffetz explains how that might happen in a recent op-ed:

Crowdfunding the Government

After a bipartisan majority of Washington D.C. politicians seemed to reach the “kick the can” phase of their 2018 performance of Federal Government Shutdown Theater, President Trump abruptly signaled that he would veto the compromise to delay any partial shutdown of the federal government through February 8, 2019.

The sticking point is President Trump’s insistence that any spending deal the Congress passes to include funding authorization to build new physical infrastructure to improve border security in order to prevent unauthorized incursions along the nation’s southern border with Mexico. More simply, he wants Congress to provide money to “build the wall” he actively campaigned for while running for office in 2016. On the opposite side are politicians who made their opposition to President Trump the active campaigning point in the 2018 mid-term elections.

So the U.S. government is, once again, at risk of having about 15-20% of its operations shut down for up to a few weeks during the holiday season because a large number of Washington D.C. politicians, many motivated by their desire to raise money to fund their next election campaigns so they can stay in their seats of power, would rather engage in political posturing exercises. We know that’s the case because year after year, we keep having these new episodes of federal government shutdown theater where the main issue keeps changing, but the players orchestrating the performance stay the same.

California Chief Justice Weak on Presumption of Innocence, but Strong on “Social Justice”

Back in 2010, California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger selected fellow Republican Tani Cantil-Sakauye as Chief Justice of the state Supreme Court, the second woman to hold the office. Governor Jerry Brown picked the first, Rose Bird, but in 1986 California voters ousted Bird, along with Brown Supreme Court picks Joseph Grodin and Cruz Reynoso.

Chief Justice Cantil-Sakauye recently announced that she is giving up her Republican Party registration in favor of “no party.” The move itself carries little if any significance, but Cantil-Sakauye’s reason for the switch might be of interest to judges, attorneys and the public at large.

In the confirmation hearing for President Trump’s U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, professor Christine Blasey Ford claimed that Kavanaugh had sexually assaulted her during the 1980s when they were both in high school. Tani Cantil-Sakauye wondered why Republicans would bring in a female prosecutor to question Blasey Ford. This was to determine whether Blasey Ford’s accusations against Kavanaugh were true or false. The most casual observer might wonder why the Chief Justice of California’s Supreme Court would have a problem with questions of truth or falsehood. As any judge should know, accusation does not equal guilt and testimony that runs contrary to facts must be rejected.

While brokering her change of registration, Cantil-Sakauye described herself as open-minded on “social justice” issues. She praised the judicial appointees of governor Jerry Brown, who she claims show a “people-centric” and “underdog-centric” philosophy. “It is about what are we going to do about homelessness,” she said, “what are we going to do about climate, what are we going to do about guns.” That sounds more like the political agenda of a legislator, not an impartial judge.

Californians might be troubled by a Chief Justice who thinks criminal justice and social justice are the same. Likewise, concern over “guns,” rather than criminals, raises questions about Cantil-Sakauye’s support for the Second Amendment. California has passed a batch of restrictive gun laws that will require background checks even for the purchase of ammunition. None of the laws appears to trouble “no party” Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye, whose term expires in 2023.

Nicaragua’s Ortega Assaults Remaining Champion of Free Speech

Since 1978, when Pedro Joaquín Chamorro, editor of the Nicaraguan daily La Prensa and symbol of the resistance against the Somoza dynasty, was assassinated by that regime, the Chamorro name has symbolized important things. Daniel Ortega, Nicaragua’s current dictator, has just reminded us why.

A few days ago, Ortega’s police assaulted, ransacked and occupied the newsroom of Confidencial, the media outlet directed by Carlos Fernando Chamorro, son of the martyr and of Violeta Barrios, the woman who put an end to the Sandinista regime in 1990 by defeating Daniel Ortega himself. The attack also targeted Chamorro’s TV show “Esta Semana.” Simultaneously, nine NGOs related to the defense of human rights were made illegal.

China—Americans’ Economic Bugaboo du Jour

I am old enough to remember when almost everyone believed that the Russians were, as Khrushchev put it, going to “bury” us. Even leading economists such as Paul Samuelson were taken in by such nonsense. Of course, no such burial occurred, because just producing vast quantities of concrete, steel, and H-bombs is no evidence that anything of genuine value is being produced. Later Japan became the Godzilla that was going to eat the U.S. and European economies with its bureucratic setup for picking and subsidizing “winners.” Before long that setup too collapsed in a heap and gave way to perpetual stagnation. Now almost everyone quakes in his boots while beholding the mighty Chinese economy. Again the hysteria has no firm foundation. An economy shaped and guided by government bureaucrats and Communist bigwigs by means of tariffs, subsidies, state-controlled credit, and state-owned industries cannot be a real growth miracle for long. This too shall pass.

And when it does Americans will learn nothing from their most recent mistake. If people really understood sound economics, they would not continue to make this same mistake again and again.

Interest Due on U.S. National Debt Starts to Explode

This past year is one that will be remembered for many things, but perhaps the one thing for which it may someday be best remembered is that it was the year in which the amount of interest that the U.S. government had to pay on its total public debt outstanding began to break all its previous records.

Visual evidence for that fact is shown in the following chart, which indicates the gross and net amounts of interest that the U.S. Treasury Department reports have been paid from 1997 through 2018 in each of its fiscal year-end Monthly Treasury Statements for these years.

Immigration-Policy Politics Is Local, Too

Tip O’Neill’s quip that all politics is local is often quoted. But is it really the case? If it is, why isn’t the leading issue in the immigration debate the anti-immigrationists’ assault on the rights of other native-born Americans and others lawfully living in the USA? These people, who apparently greatly outnumber the anti-immigrant zealots, have natural rights to hire immigrants, to rent them houses and apartments, to sell them goods and services, to welcome them into schools, churches, community organizations, and homes. With such overweening arrogance do the anti-immigrationists presume to deny others these rights.

This is a completely local matter, wholly apart from the harm caused to would-be immigrants when they are denied entry into the USA. Strange to say, the anti-immigrationists purport to occupy the high ground in the debate, constantly bemoaning the impositions on their rights that admission of the immigrants would allegedly entail. But they do not occupy the high ground merely by ignoring the manifold ways in which their policy preferences would trench on the rights of American citizens and other legal residents.

Demolished ACA was Demolition from the Start

Federal judge Reed O’Connor has ruled that the “individual mandate” of Obamacare is unconstitutional, and since that mandate is “essential to and inseverable from the remainder of the ACA,” that nixes the Act entirely. This comes six years after Chief Justice John Roberts cast the deciding vote to leave the ACA intact, but there’s a lot more going on here than O’Connor’s ruling and the appeals that will surely follow.

As we noted, health journalist Emily Bazar of the Center for Health Reporting tried her best to broker Covered California, the ACA’s biggest state subsidiary, for California consumers. They found a dysfunctional computer system, difficulties signing up and leaving the various plans, contradictions with the tax laws, pregnant women having their pre-natal checkups cancelled, and a lot more, including cronyism and massive waste. Bazar would up blaming the ACA for “widespread consumer misery,” hardly an endorsement of what was supposed to be a “signature” plan. For the namesake, the plan was doubtless more far reaching.

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