Assorted Links 4/30/10


Policing for Profit: The Abuse of Civil Asset Forfeiture

  • Media Relations for Public Affairs Professionals, May 4, 2010
  • Advanced Media Relations, May 5, 2010
  • Public Affairs and the Internet: Advanced Techniques and Strategies, May 6, 2010
  • Crisis Communications Training, May 7, 2010
  • Understanding Congressional Budgeting and Appropriations, May 13, 2010
  • Strategies for Working with Congress: Effective Communication and Advocacy on Capitol Hill, May 21, 2010
  • Congress in a Nutshell: Understanding Congress, June 3, 2010
  • Congressional Dynamics and the Legislative Process, June 4, 2010
  • Capitol Hill Workshop, June 9-11, 2010
  • Wi-Fi Classroom – How to Find, Track, and Monitor Congressional Documents: Going Beyond Thomas, June 24, 2010
  • Wi-Fi Classroom – How to Research and Compile Legislative Histories: Searching for Legislative Intent, June 25, 2010
  • Persuading Congress: Candid Advice for Executives – “Persuading Congress, by Joseph Gibson, is a very practical book, packed with wisdom and experience in a deceptively short and simple package.

    This book will help you understand Congress. Written from the perspective of one who has helped put a lot of bills on the president’s desk and helped stop a lot more, this book explains in everyday terms why Congress behaves as it does. Then it shows you how you can best deploy whatever resources you have to move Congress in your direction.”

  • The Forfeiture Racket: Police and prosecutors won’t give up their license to steal. – ” Over the past three decades, it has become routine in the United States for state, local, and federal governments to seize the property of people who were never even charged with, much less convicted of, a crime. Nearly every year, according to Justice Department statistics, the federal government sets new records for asset forfeiture. And under many state laws, the situation is even worse: State officials can seize property without a warrant and need only show ‘probable cause’ that the booty was connected to a drug crime in order to keep it, as opposed to the criminal standard of proof ‘beyond a reasonable doubt.’ Instead of being innocent until proven guilty, owners of seized property all too often have a heavier burden of proof than the government officials who stole their stuff.

    Municipalities have come to rely on confiscated property for revenue. Police and prosecutors use forfeiture proceeds to fund not only general operations but junkets, parties, and swank office equipment. A cottage industry has sprung up to offer law enforcement agencies instruction on how to take and keep property more efficiently. And in Indiana, where Anthony Smelley is still fighting to get his money back, forfeiture proceeds are enriching attorneys who don’t even hold public office, a practice that violates the U.S. Constitution.”

  • How Dependent Are Police On “Asset Forfeiture” To Pay Police Salaries? – “Americans should be alert to a problematic increase in “police property seizures” as the economy worsens: Police departments having a budget crisis, faced with having to layoff police officers, may increasingly look to civil asset forfeiture of Citizens’ property to pay their salaries and operating costs.

    Police corruption abounds [in] U.S. Cities: Citizens are illegally shot, falsely arrested, prosecuted and imprisoned. Every American is at risk of being falsely imprisoned despite the conviction standard ‘evidence beyond a reasonable doubt.’ Frequently reported, Police falsify evidence and or purchase testimony from paid informants to convict Citizens. Imagine how easy it would be for corrupt police to forge evidence to cause ‘civil asset forfeiture’ of a person’s property like their home. Civil Asset Forfeiture requires a lower standard of evidence than criminal evidence, ‘only a Preponderance of Civil Evidence’ to seize property: government can use as civil evidence to forfeit someone’s real property, the fact the owner reported to police that a tenant was dealing drugs to show that the owner–had prior knowledge of the activity. ”

  • Myths About Capitalism: Confronting the biggest lies about American business – “Remember the last time you went into Starbucks, and then remember the last time you went into the DMV to get your license,’ Medved said. ‘Where did you get better treated? And it’s not because the barista is some kind of idealist or humanitarian. She wants a tip. She wants you to come back to the Starbucks … .'”

    Why do so many people apparently want their government to be as warm and cuddly as a barista at Starbux? Maybe some people prefer a state that shows contempt for and disinterest in its citizens.

  • The Financial Crisis: Are We All Responsible? – “The overwhelming majority of people are hard working, honest in their dealings, more concerned with raising families than ruling others, if anything distracted by their day to day problems. Long suffering, patient to a fault, too willing to the give the Wall Street bankers the benefit of the doubt for the very reason of their own good natures. They could not imagine themselves doing the things of which these men stand accused, so they cannot believe that others would so willingly lie and deceive, cheat and steal, attack the very heart of the nation, while wrapping themselves in a flag of hypocrisy, for a few more dollars that they can hardly need or even personally spend. And why? Because it feeds their sickened hearts, their pathological egos, and the need to make others suffer loss for their own gains. It makes them feel superior, as gods.”
  • The anti-market narrative of the crisis – “Those poor impulsive bankers. They can’t seem to stop themselves and that’s how we know that markets aren’t self-correcting. Ignore the weird (and common) conflating of the efficient market hypothesis and market stability. Let’s just look at market stability and the idea of leaving bankers to their own devices. That’s supposed to mean ‘unregulated.’ Ignore the fact that financial markets are regulated in all kinds of ways.

    Just focus on that phrase ‘can’t seem to stop themselves.’ They just keep driving the financial vehicles off the cliff using all that borrowed money. Does the fact that the government often reimburses the lenders in the name of preserving financial stablity have something to do with bankers’ inability to stop themselves?

    Does the quest for complete stability have something to do with the failure to achieve stability?”

    See Crony Capitalism

  • Greece: Dead Man Walking? – “I’m mystified as to the cheerleading in some circles on Greece. It is not clear that its €45 billion EU-IMF band-aid will be deployed (among other things, it faces a legal challenge in Germany) and even if it is, it falls well short of Greece’s anticipated needs beyond one year. More important, a successful deal does not mean the rescue will prevent default. The austerity program for Greece (in terms of reduction of fiscal deficit) has no successful precedents, and street protests indicate that the populace is not on board. And Ed Harrison sees eerie parallels to the rescue of CreditAnstalt, which kicked off more bank runs, ultimately precipitating the second leg down of the Great Depression.

    While stock markets are perking up in Asia, credit default swap spread for the other Club Med countries rose on Friday, signaling that investors are worried about the risk of contagion. And in the UK, several savvy investors told me they expect a 20% pound depreciation once the election is over. Europe is clearly on a deflationary path.”

  • This is What a Greek Debt Crisis Looks Like – “[This chart] shows how much additional yield the market is demanding to hold Greek versus German bonds, in other words, ‘the collapse of Greece’s perceived creditworthiness.'”
  • Gangster Government becomes a long-running series – “Almost a year ago, in a Washington Examiner column on the Chrysler bailout, I reflected on the Obama administration’s decision to force bondholders to accept 33 cents on the dollar on secured debts while giving United Auto Worker retirees 50 cents on the dollar on unsecured debts.

    This was a clear violation of the ordinary bankruptcy rule that secured creditors are fully paid off before unsecured creditors get anything. The politically connected UAW folks got preference over politically unconnected bondholders. ‘We have just seen an episode of Gangster Government,’ I wrote. ‘It is likely to be a continuing series.'”

  • The money is gone – “Education funding isn’t going to rebound, writes Mike Petrilli, who’s taking flak for TV interviews in which he said, ‘The money is gone and it’s not coming back anytime soon.'”
  • Ghana Think Talk: the world majority solves the first world’s problems – “By applying a typical process of community development against the grain, traditional power-roles are inverted, places are exchanged, and stereotypes clash with reality as disconnected cultures work together in detached but physical ways.

    This project is an attempt to transpose parts of one culture into another, exploring the friction caused by solutions that are generated in one context and applied elsewhere, and revealing the hidden assumptions that govern cross-cultural interactions.”

  • Obama for Entrepreneurs, but Not American Ones – “The Obama administration and today’s Democrats are driven by regulatory zeal, lust for higher revenues, and apparent ignorance of the workings of the market economy. I don’t think they planned it this way, but their anti-market actions are accumulating cut by cut, threatening major long-term damage to America’s standard of living.”
  • Small business and big government don’t mix – “My job is basically to report the facts that undermine The Big Myth — the fable that Big Business loves free markets, and that the effect of Big Government is to curb Big Business. In fact, Big Business often lobbies for and profits from Big Government.
    . . .
    As government gets bigger, more businesses are forced to turn to government as a customer — which gives more of an advantage to big business.

    If you want to help small businesses, shrink the government.”

  • Sentences to ponder – “‘About a quarter of Indonesian boys aged 13 to 15 are already hooked on cigarettes that sell for about $1 a pack or as little as a few cents apiece, according to WHO. A video on YouTube last month prompted outrage when a 4-year-old Indonesian boy was shown blowing smoke rings and flicking a cigarette. His parents say he’s been smoking up to a pack a day since he was 2.’
    . . .
    How many of you will bite this bullet?”
  • Health Care Cost Control? Don’t Count On It. – “Remember all those cost controls that were supposed to be in the health care bill? The bill that just last month President Obama said was supposed to be about ‘bringing down the cost of health care for families and businesses and for the federal government?’

    Yeah, well, not so much.”

  • Mayor Daley and other Mayors: Seek “redress against the gun industry” in the World Court – “April 27 was the tenth annual ‘Richard J. Daley Global Cities Forum,’ held in Chicago. Over a hundred mayors and other local government leaders assembled to discuss global issues. As reported in the Chicago Sun-Times, ‘Daley convinced more than a dozen of his counterparts from around the world to approve a resolution urging ‘redress against the gun industry through the courts of the world’ in The Hague.’
    . . .
    from the comments: “I will take Daley’s anti-gun stance seriously when he gives up his 24 hour-seven-days-per-week-taxpayer-funded-armed security. Also when he moves to change the law allowing Chicago’s alderman to carry.”


No More Beer Summits: Tea Party ‘N-Word’ Incident Didn’t Happen, And the Congressional Black Caucus Owes America an Apology

  • “How Restaurants Get You Drunk” – “All that noise in restaurants I find increasingly annoying allegedly has a purpose: higher profits.

    ‘And a study completed in the summer of 2008 in France found that when music was played at 72 decibels, men consumed an average of 2.6 drinks at a rate of one drink per 14.51 minutes. When the sound level was cranked up to 88 decibels, the numbers spiked to an average of 3.4 drinks, with one consumed every 11.47 minutes.'”

  • Not Inherently Unsafe – Photo slide show of aircraft having done or doing interesting things
  • Ban Portable Electronics Before Bed for More Restful Sleep – “Three years ago we shared some research with you indicating that people who used electronic devices before bed reported feeling less rested the next morning.

    The subjects in the study weren’t just imagining that working late on their laptop in bed or spending time text messaging was make them more tired–they slept the same number of hours as the non-electronics users–they were actually experiencing the effects of exposure to bright and intense light late in the evening. The Los Angeles Times reports on the science behind it:”

  • Wheat Ridge High School Class of 1970 – “The reonion committee is working away planning the 40th reunion the weekend of August 13-15, 2010. Wheat Ridge, Colorado WRHS1970.com”
  • Common Market Food Co-op – “Common Market Food Co-op was a ‘new wave food co-op’ located at 1329 California Street in Denver, Colorado, from 1975 – 1980. It started as a buying club at the University of Denver in the early 1970s, and for a few years prior to moving to the old Safeway at 13th and California Streets, Common Market operated out of a small storefront on Champa Street.”
  • WMATA Rule Number 2: Go Before you Go – “On Tuesday evening, at around 8:30, I was at the Bethesda station and wanted to use the restroom before finishing my commute to Columbia Heights.

    I tapped on the booth window, and the attendant turned to me and grimaced, like WMATA employees always do upon realizing they will soon be asked to perform a task.

    I smiled and asked ‘can I use the restroom?’

    She huffed, turned her back to me and started typing on the computer again.

    I stood at the window waiting for some indication that a plan was being set into motion that would lead to the restroom door being opened.

    She glanced at me once again, closed some windows on the monitor and stood up. I moved back so she could open the door.

    When she stepped out and growled ‘why the hell you still standing there?’

    I was speechless.”

  • Let There Be Light. Weight – “When I was a kid copywriter on the Volkswagen account, grumpy but thorough VW engineers drummed one tenet of green into me: You don’t save gas with secret carburetors which the oil companies hide. You save by shedding weight. The less weight to push around, the less energy is needed to do the pushing. From the First Law of Thermodynamics to Einstein, all will agree. Like we agree on the need for a balanced diet. Then we go to the next Wendy’s, and order a triple Whopper. Despite the wisdom, cars tend to gain heft over the years like an erstwhile skinny Italian bella ragazza after the age of 30.
    . . .
    But they overlooked another immutable law in the auto business: People love to save the planet when asked by a researcher. People love to get the best bang for the buck when it comes to buying.”

Apollo 11 slow-motion launch

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