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1. Another Week, Another Couple of Drug War Deaths: Body Count Up to 15 for 2015.
2. Killed by Police: At least 281 people have been killed by U.S. police since January 1, 2015, that’s more than three every day.
3. Another Day, Another Cop Shoots Another Family Dog. Source.
4. The US’s ‘War on Drugs’ Has Spiraled Dangerously Out of Control, by Rebecca Gordon writing in The Nation:
They behead people by the hundreds. They heap headless, handless bodies along roadsides as warnings to those who would resist their power. They have penetrated the local, state, and national governments and control entire sections of the country. They provide employment and services to an impoverished public, which distrusts their actual government with its bitter record of corruption, repression, and torture. They seduce young people from several countries, including the United States, into their murderous activities.
Is this a description of the heinous practices of the Islamic State (IS) in Iraq and Syria? It could be, but as a matter of fact it’s not. These particular thugs exist a lot closer to home. They are part of the multi-billion-dollar industry known as the drug cartels of Mexico. Like the Islamic State, the cartels’ power has increased as the result of disastrous policies born in the USA.
5. The War on Drugs Has Failed in West Africa and Around the World, by Kofi Annan:
Drug users need help, not punishment. That is why we recommended to treat drug use primarily as a public health issue and to focus on punitive actions towards big-time traffickers and their accomplices, who have mostly remained untouched. Education, treatment, and decriminalization will serve our societies much more than the continued refusal to see the harmful impact drugs have on the health and well-being of our people.
6. Corrupt Law Enforcement’s Role in the Racist War on Drugs (source):
Former New York City narcotics detective, Stephen Anderson, testified in court that the NYPD routinely plants drugs on innocent people. He described this as a “common practice,” a “quick and easy” way for officers to reach arrest quotas. The NYPD arrested over 50,000 people last year for low-level marijuana offenses — 86% of them are African American and Latino.
7. Iowa Civil Forfeiture, A System of Legal Thievery, via The Des Moines Register:
A Des Moines Register investigation into the use of state and federal civil forfeiture laws in Iowa reveals that thousands of people have surrendered their cash or property since 2009. The system is stacked against property owners while raising millions of dollars annually for law enforcement agencies across the state, something critics contend encourages policing for profit over promoting public safety.
Iowa police departments and other law enforcement agencies have seized nearly $43 million over the past six years — money divided among agencies involved in each forfeiture case. Under law, the money is supposed to be used to “enhance” their crime-fighting capabilities. Most of the money is used to buy equipment, train officers and fund multiagency task forces. But it also has been spent on tropical fish, scented candles, mulch and other items that appear to have little or no direct link to law enforcement activities.
8. Methods That Police Use on the Mentally Ill Are Madness. Why do so many American cops believe that shooting a schizophrenic man dead for failing to drop a screwdriver is an acceptable outcome? In the disturbing and graphic video below, watch Dallas police officers use excessive deadly force to shoot and kill Jason Harrison, a black man with schizophrenia and bi-polar disorder, who was holding a small screwdriver. His mother has called the police for assistance getting her son Jason to the hospital because he was off his meds. Maybe they could have used a stun gun or pepper spray?
9. Welcome to America and Our Violent Police State. On February 6th, an Alabama police slammed an Indian grandfather face first to the pavement, showing the world what happens if you visit America without understanding the violent nature of a police state. What his “crime”? He was walking innocently around the neighborhood in the middle of the day near his son’s home. The 57-year-old Sureshbhai Patel was hospitalized and partially paralyzed from the vicious and unprovoked police attack. A disturbing and graphic video of the initial incident appears below, see news reports here and here.
10. Finally, some good news….maybe. The editorial board of the Santa Fe New Mexican calls for end to civil forfeiture, aka “policing for profit in New Mexico,” which could become a reality if the governor signs a bill that passed the state legislature.
So much bad happened during the recent 60-day legislative session that there has been little time to comment on what good did result. Chief among wins is a bill that would pretty much wipe out the practice of civil asset forfeiture by police — meaning that citizens would actually have to be convicted of crimes before their property could be seized by government. This is an important win for the Fifth Amendment and would curb overreaching police powers.
All across the United States, agencies have been seizing property of people who have not been convicted of crimes, with 42 states allowing law enforcement to keep all the cash, cars, homes or other property seized during investigations. To some agencies, the dollars seized are like a piggy bank to fund other investigations. They depend on those dollars and don’t want to give them up. (On the federal level, Sen. Rand Paul and Rep. Tim Walberg are trying to stop the practice, reintroducing the Fifth Amendment Integrity Restoration Act.) States already are acting, though, as in the case of New Mexico.
What makes New Mexico legislation powerful is its supporters — backed by both the American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexican and the conservative Rio Grande Foundation. The legislation received unanimous support in both the House and the Senate. It just goes to show that civil liberties can be supported by both the left and the right. All it needs to make New Mexico the leader in Fifth Amendment protection is Gov. Susana Martinez’s signature.
By signing, though, Martinez would put New Mexico first in the nation in protecting the civil liberties of citizens from government overreach.
Who-d a-thunk it? Bureaucrat objects to bumpersticker: ‘US Gov’t. Philosophy — If It Ain’t Broke, Fix It ’Til It Is’?
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Proud of her federal agency’s role in eliminating due process at US colleges and engaging in lots of other forms of bureaucratic mischief, Department of Education bureaucrat Jane writes in the Washington Post that she wants to put an end to insensitive bumper stickers that are micro-aggressions, if not worse, against federal bureaucrats:
On warm nights, my husband and I like to take walks with our three girls. Often these walks take us past a home that is always decorated for the season. Three Adirondack chairs, painted red, white and blue, sit on the wide front lawn. A minivan sits in the driveway, and a pickup truck is parked out front. That pickup always jostles me out of the happy mood these walks bring. Specifically, it’s a bumper sticker on the truck that reads: U.S. Government Philosophy: If It Ain’t Broke, Fix It ’Til It Is.
Our neighborhood is home to many federal, state and county workers. In my house alone there are two: I am at the Education Department, and my husband is at Veterans Affairs. In our social circle are employees of the Food and Drug Administration, the Securities and Exchange Commission, the National Institutes of Health, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the U.S. armed forces.
The owners of this pickup may have friends and acquaintances who work for the government. Perhaps they’ve never made the connection between the sentiment on the bumper sticker and the people they know. They should.
An abundance of good work is done by federal employees. I could remind drivers that the roads are created and maintained by government workers. Our food is safe because of federal workers, many of whom — because the FDA building is just down the road — live in my neighborhood.
We are not incompetent, lazy or getting rich off taxpayers. We are hard-working, conscientious people who care about our jobs and our wider community.
Whether you’re a big- or limited-government person, it seems self-defeating to be a snarling, attacking voice. If that chorus grows loud enough to dissuade our best and brightest from going to work for Uncle Sam, then the false sentiment that bumper sticker espouses will be true. And then we’ll be truly broke.
MP: No, we’ll all do just fine, and in fact we’ll all be much better off on net, and we’ll all be much freer overall, if federal agencies like the Department of Education and the Food and Drug Administration that are funded by forcibly extracting taxes from US citizens, were dissolved, and those armies of highly-paid bureaucrats that include Jane were forced to find work in the private sector….
Probably a good opportunity to invoke the wisdom of H.L. Mencke who might respond to Jane as follow:
1. The most dangerous man to any government is the man who is able to think things out for himself, without regard to the prevailing superstitions and taboos. Almost inevitably he comes to the conclusion that the government he lives under is dishonest, insane and intolerable, and so, if he is romantic, he tries to change it. And even if he is not romantic personally he is very apt to spread discontent among those who are.
2. The urge to save humanity is almost always only a false-face for the urge to rule it.
3. ….the whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, most of them imaginary.
HT: Ronald Henry
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In 2009, Canadian economist Ross McKitrick was asked by a journalist for his thoughts on the importance of the annual one-hour event in energy self-flagellation and green nitwitery known as Earth Hour, which takes place today, March 28, at 8:30 p.m. Here is his excellent response (my emphasis):
I abhor Earth Hour. Abundant, cheap electricity has been the greatest source of human liberation in the 20th century. Every material social advance in the 20th century depended on the proliferation of inexpensive and reliable electricity.
Giving women the freedom to work outside the home depended on the availability of electrical appliances that free up time from domestic chores. Getting children out of menial labour and into schools depended on the same thing, as well as the ability to provide safe indoor lighting for reading.
Development and provision of modern health care without electricity is absolutely impossible. The expansion of our food supply, and the promotion of hygiene and nutrition, depended on being able to irrigate fields, cook and refrigerate foods, and have a steady indoor supply of hot water.
Many of the world’s poor suffer brutal environmental conditions in their own homes because of the necessity of cooking over indoor fires that burn twigs and dung. This causes local deforestation and the proliferation of smoke- and parasite-related lung diseases. Anyone who wants to see local conditions improve in the third world should realize the importance of access to cheap electricity from fossil-fuel based power generating stations. After all, that’s how the west developed.
The whole mentality around Earth Hour demonizes electricity. I cannot do that, instead I celebrate it and all that it has provided for humanity. Earth Hour celebrates ignorance, poverty and backwardness. By repudiating the greatest engine of liberation it becomes an hour devoted to anti-humanism. It encourages the sanctimonious gesture of turning off trivial appliances for a trivial amount of time, in deference to some ill-defined abstraction called “the Earth,” all the while hypocritically retaining the real benefits of continuous, reliable electricity.
People who see virtue in doing without electricity should shut off their fridge, stove, microwave, computer, water heater, lights, TV and all other appliances for a month, not an hour. And pop down to the cardiac unit at the hospital and shut the power off there too.
I don’t want to go back to nature. Travel to a zone hit by earthquakes, floods and hurricanes to see what it’s like to go back to nature. For humans, living in “nature” meant a short life span marked by violence, disease and ignorance. People who work for the end of poverty and relief from disease are fighting against nature. I hope they leave their lights on.
Here in Ontario, through the use of pollution control technology and advanced engineering, our air quality has dramatically improved since the 1960s, despite the expansion of industry and the power supply.
If, after all this, we are going to take the view that the remaining air emissions outweigh all the benefits of electricity, and that we ought to be shamed into sitting in darkness for an hour, like naughty children who have been caught doing something bad, then we are setting up unspoiled nature as an absolute, transcendent ideal that obliterates all other ethical and humane obligations.
No thanks. I like visiting nature but I don’t want to live there, and I refuse to accept the idea that civilization with all its tradeoffs is something to be ashamed of.
MP: The winner for Earth Hour every year since 2003 has been North Korea (see photo below of the Korean peninsula at night). Odds favor them to be the winner again this year.
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NC1-TV in Rapid City, SD is reporting in the video above that:
Changes are coming for workers at South Dakota’s six public universities. The schools are reigning in hiring and cutting back hours and services as a result of the new $8.50 minimum wage that voters approved in November. The Regents predicted the wage hike would increase costs by about $970,000 over a full year. Some universities have reduced the availability of services such as building hours.
MP: What? A government-mandated minimum wage leads to: a) reducing hiring, b) reduced hours for workers, and c) reduced hours of service? As an economist, I’m shocked!
HT: Michael Saltsman
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The top chart above shows the annual brewery count in the US from 1874 to 2014, based on data from the Brewer’s Association here, and the bottom chart shows the annual change in the number of US breweries. The growth in America’s breweries over the last decade, especially the exponential growth in craft breweries, microbreweries, and brew pubs, has to be one of the most remarkable small business success stories in recent years, maybe in a generation or more. Except maybe for the recent exponential growth in shale oil production in Texas and North Dakota and the growth in natural gas production in the Marcellus region, I don’t think there are very many other examples of a rise in output or number of producers than can compare to the surge in American beer makers over the last decade. Here are some beer facts to consider:
1. The number of US breweries last year reached a 140-year high of 3,464, the greatest number of American beer makers since 1874, when there were 3,631 domestic breweries (see top chart above).
2. Except during the “War on Beer” period from 1920-1932 (aka Prohibition), the number of US breweries reached an historic low of only 89 mostly “macrobreweries” in 1978, before rebounding to more than 3,400 mostly craft beer makers last year.
3. The net increase in the number of new US breweries last year – at 547 (more than one per day) – was the largest annual brewery increase in US history (see bottom chart).
4. In just the last seven years, the number of US breweries more than doubled from 1,511 in 2007 to more than 3,400 last year, which is an average annual increase of 279 breweries, or more than one new US brewery every business day of the year for the last seven years.
5. By category, the biggest growth sector last year was by far the microbreweries, which increased in number by 27.8% from 1,464 in 2013 to 1,871 in 2014 and represented more than half of the total US brewery count last year for the first time ever. More than 400 new microbreweries opened for business last year, at an amazing rate of more than one new US microbrewery opening every day of the year on average. Sixteen new regional craft breweries opened last year, bringing the total number from 119 in 2013 to 135 in 2014. More than 2.5 new brewpubs opened every day last year, bringing the total at year-end to 1,412, an increase of 10.3% and 132 new establishments in 2014.
MP: Thanks to the thousands of American “fermentrapreneurs” who have revitalized America’s now-booming craft beer industry, we have gone from a long period of limited choice among extremely low-quality, domestic macro-beer “swill” options to unlimited choices today for extremely high-quality domestic craft beer, which is the envy of the world. Especially for those who love IPA-style beers, I don’t think you’ll find better beer of that variety anywhere in the world, compared to what you can get today in America at almost any liquor store. To paraphrase Gregory Zuckerman’s description of the US shale revolution: For all of the criticism the US has fielded for losing its edge in innovation, surging American craft beer production is a reminder of the deep pools of ingenuity, risk taking, Yankee ingenuity, and “fermentrapreneurship” that remain in this country – the new United States of Beer.
There’s never been a better time to be a beer drinker in America than today, given the awesome selection of craft beers from more than 3,400 domestic breweries in every part of the country. Welcome to the Golden Age of Beer - there’s certainly no “great stagnation” for this part of the US economy! Carpe Fermentum
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Last month the American Association of University Women (AAUW), the nation’s leading voice promoting equity and education for women and girls, released its annual report on the gender pay gap — “The Simple Truth about the Gender Pay Gap.” I take the liberty below of editing some of that report to focus on the persistent gender pay gap at the White House, and I call upon the AAUW to join me in asking President Obama (the “Discriminator-in-Chief”) to address the significant glass ceiling and gender pay gap for his White House staff.
Did you know that in 2013 2014, women working full time at the White House in the United States typically were paid just 78 82 percent of what men were paid, a gap of 22 18 percent (see chart above)?
If you take one simple truth from this guide, I hope it’s this: The $14,300 gender pay gap at the White House is real. This guide backs up this assertion with the latest evidence and present ideas for what we can do about it.
The pay gap at the White House is the difference in men’s and women’s median earnings, usually reported as either the earnings ratio between men and women or as an actual pay gap, as defined below. The median value is the middle value, with equal numbers of full-time workers earning more and earning less. The American Association of University Women (AAUW) has been on the front lines of the fight for pay equity since 1913. AAUW members were in the Oval Office when President John F. Kennedy signed the Equal Pay Act of 1963 into law, and more than 50 years later, we continue to lead the push for policies and legislation to encourage and enforce fair pay in the workplace. That is why we want to bring attention to the $14,300 (and 18%) gender pay gap at the White House.
Pay equity is a priority for AAUW, and it will continue to be until women in the White House everywhere earn a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work. In January 2009, President Barack Obama signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act into law, thanks to the hard work and leadership of AAUW, our members, and our coalition partners. Since then, AAUW has worked for the passage of the Paycheck Fairness Act, which would give women at the White House additional and much-needed equal pay protections. The legislation failed in procedural votes in the House and Senate in the 113th Congress, but the Senate did vote to fully debate the bill for the first time ever in September 2014. We haven’t gotten our up-or down vote yet, but we are moving ever closer, and hope to have gender pay equity at the White House before President Obama leaves office.
This guide is designed to empower our members and other advocates with the facts and resources they need to tell the simple truth about the pay gap at the White House. It’s real, it’s persistent, and it’s undermining the economic security of American women and their families. We hope you will join us in the fight against the gender pay gap at the White House.
MP: The AAUW can’t have it both ways; either: a) there are gender pay differences throughout the entire economy and in any organization including the White House, which can be explained by factors other than gender discrimination including age, years of continuous work experience, level of education, number of hours worked, marital status, number of children, workplace environment and workplace safety, industry differences, etc., or b) any gender pay gap in aggregate, unadjusted salaries automatically exposes gender discrimination – including the White House staff – and the AAUW needs to call on Obama to explain why he is “waging a war on his female White House staffers” by paying them 18% less on average than men (and two times greater than the 9% average gender pay gap for the Washington, D.C. area as reported by the AAUW).
So either: a) there is a glass ceiling for women working for Obama and the “Discriminator-in-Chief” himself is guilty of paying his female staffers significantly less than men by $14,000 per year on average, or b) the UUAW is guilty of statistical fraud and deception for continuing to spread misinformation about the alleged discrimination-based gender pay gap at the national level with constant claims of women being paid “77 cents on average for every dollar paid to men” using only aggregate, unadjusted raw data.
The effects of Oakland’s 36 percent minimum wage increase on March 2 provide a forecast of what Seattle can expect
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My recent CD post on Seattle’s pending 58% increase in its minimum wage from $9.47 per hour currently to $15 generated a lot of discussion (129 comments as of today) and controversy about whether and how much the minimum wage increase is contributing to restaurant closings and jobs losses in the Emerald City. Part of the reason there’s a controversy about the impact of Seattle’s minimum wage on restaurant closings is that the first increase, from $9.47 to $11 per hour (a 16% jump), won’t take effect until April 1. Further, the full 58% minimum wage increase to $15 per hour doesn’t take effect until 2018 for large businesses (more than 500 employees) and 2022 for small businesses (fewer than 500 employees). So we’ll need a few years before we can assess the full impact of Seattle’s (eventual) 58% increase in the city’s $15 per hour minimum wage on employment at the city’s restaurants and other small businesses.
(For background, see Washington Policy Center VP for Research Paul Guppy’s March 11 blog post (“Seattle’s $15 wage law a factor in restaurant closings“) that inspired my blog post and his follow-up post from a few days ago “How The Seattle Times got it wrong on our $15 minimum wage blog.”)
Even though it might take several years to assess the full impact of Seattle’s 58% increase in its minimum wage on restaurants and small businesses, we now have evidence of some pretty devastating effects on small businesses in Oakland, California following a recent 36% increase in the city’s minimum wage from $9 per hour to $12.25 (highest in the country), which took effect on March 2. Here’s a sample of some recent news reports.
1. NBC Bay Area:
Some businesses in Oakland’s Chinatown neighborhood are feeling the effects from the city’s new voter-approved minimum wage. The new $12.25 [per hour minimum wage], up from $9, went into effect on March 2 and was approved by 82 percent of voters.
“With this minimum wage kicking in, it’s the final nail to the coffin,” said Carl Chan, a board member for the Chinatown Chamber of Commerce. The new minimum wage forced owner of the Legendary Palace restaurant to close its doors on Feb. 26. Officials said four restaurants and six grocery stores have closed since January.
Many business owners are blaming the 36 percent wage hike, while some said the businesses were already in financial distress. “Business owners are angry,” said KC Lam, a business owner. “They can’t cope too much.” Lam said he will keep the New Gold Medal restaurant open by being creative — possibly opening an hour later and closing an hour earlier.
For 27 years, Sandy Vuong has supplied towering cakes and fluffy Vietnamese pastries to residents of Oakland Chinatown. Now she might shut her doors.
Vuong’s Delicieuse Princesse Bakery isn’t the only business that’s foundering after a new law raised the hourly minimum wage in Oakland from $9 to $12.25 — pushing the bakery’s payroll costs up by 36 percent overnight. According to Carl Chan, a board member of Oakland Chinatown Chamber of Commerce, four restaurants and six grocery stores in and around Chinatown have already shuttered since January, at least partly for fear that the wage increase was going to put them over budget.
Chinatown restaurateurs are in a more perilous position than many of their counterparts in Oakland. Most of the establishments, with the exception of large banquet halls like Legendary Palace and Peony Seafood Restaurant, operate on high volume and low profit margins. Customers expect to pay very little per entree, and it’s very difficult for the owners to raise prices.
“I want to, but I can’t,” Vuong said, adding that her only big-ticket item is wedding cake, and she only sells that on weekends. “I’m dying,” she lamented to other small-business owners at a forum on Thursday, clutching her chest for emphasis… “You are putting people on the chopping block,” an import business owner named Taylor Chow told city officials….Chow…runs his business in East Oakland, said he felt as though his hands were tied. “The next thing, they ask for $100 an hour,” he griped. “And what can we do?”
Vuong, who lives in Hayward, faces the same predicament. If she doesn’t close the Delicieuse Princesse Bakery, she might cope by cutting her workforce in half: two immigrant employees might be enriched by the minimum wage hike, while two would lose their jobs.
Some shop owners in Oakland’s Chinatown say business is down, and they are struggling to stay afloat after the city’s minimum wage increased to over $12-an-hour, making it the highest in the country.
Chinatown restaurant Vien Huong owner Daniel Tran has been trying to look at the glass as half-full, but has had to raise his prices and slash hours for his workers. “As you can see I’m the only one working,” Huong told KPIX 5.
According to leaders at the Oakland Chamber of Commerce, nearly a dozen restaurants and grocery shops that were already closed won’t reopen because of the minimum wage hike that went into effect this month. “This is very saddened to the entire community,” Carl Chan of the Oakland Chinatown Chamber of Commerce.
See video below.
Workers who benefit from Oakland’s minimum wage hike might soon lose a service that enables them to work in the first place. It turns out the well-intentioned law is putting a financial squeeze on Oakland’s child care industry, leading some providers to panic.
“We’re scrambling to find ways to keep the doors open,” said Capt. Dan Williams, Alameda County coordinator of the Salvation Army. He says the added payroll costs of providing workers with a $12.25-an-hour wage have put his organization’s Booth Memorial Child Development Center and family shelter $146,000 over budget, which is “quite a bit for a facility that was barely making it as it was.” If the Salvation Army can’t scrounge up that money by writing grants and finding donors, it might have to cut some of its 63 child care slots. A number of other day care centers face the same predicament.
Child care centers operate on razor-thin margins — thinner, even, than those of the restaurant industry — and many are lucky to wind up in the black at the end of the year. A restaurant can raise prices to meet the new cost of doing business, but child care operations have limited flexibility.
Organizations like the Salvation Army depend on fixed subsidies from the state, which won’t adjust in response to changes in city law. Both the state-funded programs and their private counterparts are bound by strict state ratio requirements, which mandate that a certain number of employees be present with the children each day. For every four infants, for example, the law requires that centers provide one child care worker.
So traditional staff-cutting isn’t an option for day care centers.
“That’s one of the unintended consequences” of Oakland’s Measure FF, the November ballot measure that raised the city’s minimum wage from $9 an hour, said Richard Winefield, executive director of the nonprofit child care referral service Bananas. “A lot of (centers) are run on very narrow margins, and when they increase the hourly rate on their employees, they need to pass that on in tuition costs, so families need to fork over more money.”
But many families don’t have the wherewithal to pay more, Winefield said. And as a result, they’re getting priced out.
Bottom Line: To help understand what restaurants and small businesses in Seattle can expect following its pending 58% increase in the minimum wage, the devastating effects in Oakland following its recent 36% minimum wage hike provide a forecast of what small businesses in the Emerald City can expect going forward.