Recently in General Category

Banning the Box

| 1 Comment
A lot of people today have Sixties Envy.  The Great Civil Rights Battle was won in the mid-1960s.  That is, of course, a wonderful thing, but if you aspire to be St. George the extinction of dragons is a problem.  So people are going further and further away from what the real civil rights battle was about to proclaim new things as "civil rights" causes, fight for them, and denounce anyone who gets in the way as a bigot.

One such cause is "banning the box," an effort to prohibit employers from asking whether applicants have a criminal record and using that information in the hiring decision.  James Jacobs has this guest post at the Volokh Conspiracy:

Hawaii, New York, and Wisconsin make employment discrimination against ex-offenders (CBED) unlawful, unless an employer can show that successful performance of the job would be jeopardized by a person with a propensity for the kind of crime for which the job seeker had previously been convicted.
*                                            *                                       *
The New York statute and similar anti-CBED laws and proposals are simplistic. It is a mistake to assume that an employer always or usually hires someone only to fill a narrowly prescribed job. Employers routinely want to hire individuals who can fill various positions as needed and who have a chance of advancing through the firm. In addition, an employer wants employees who are honest, rule-compliant, reliable, and self-disciplined, employees who come to work every day and on time, get along well with fellow employees and clients, and contribute to a harmonious working environment.

To Kill An Ending

| No Comments
Alexandra Petri at the WaPo is dreading the Harper Lee sequel.

Grand Theft Vino

| No Comments
Kerana Todorov reports for the Napa Valley Register:

Investigators have recovered the bulk of the premium wine bottles stolen from The French Laundry on Christmas Day, according to the Napa County Sheriff's Office. No arrests have been made.
*                                          *                                   *
The wine, with an estimated retail value of about $300,000, was reported missing Dec. 26 after an employee discovered someone had broken into the famed Yountville Michelin-starred restaurant. The suspect - or suspects - broke into the building sometime after 2 p.m. on Christmas Day, Pike said. The alarm system had not been set.
How big a truck do you need to steal 300 grand worth of wine?

NY Speaker Arrested for Corruption

| No Comments
Reid Wilson reports for the WaPo:

Federal agents on Thursday arrested powerful New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D) on federal corruption charges, stemming from payments he received from two New York City law firms.
Jennifer Queliz, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney's office in the Southern District of New York, confirmed Silver was in custody Thursday morning. U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara will hold a press conference Thursday afternoon to announce the charges.
There is an interesting federalism question on the constitutional basis for federal prosecution of corrupt state officials.  It generally hinges on some tenuous connection with mail or interstate commerce.  In my view, a corrupt official denies the honest people of the state equal protection of the laws.  The bribe-payor gets special treatment that the honest people do not.  That is, of course, why he pays the bribe.  I haven't gotten any takers for my view yet.

Whatever the basis, prosecuting corrupt state officials is one of the most important functions of federal law enforcement.  Some valiant prosecutors do go after crooks who hold their purse strings, but we cannot expect that as a matter of course.

A Letter to AG Holder

| No Comments
Snopes confirms that a much discussed, scathing open letter by retired FBI Agent K. Dee McCown to Attorney General Holder is genuine.

Equating Prudence with Cowardice

| No Comments
The title of this post is the latest article from the always wise Theodore Dalrymple in the City Journal regarding the media's predictable reaction to yesterday's massacre in France.  As the doctor puts it:

How long would it take for a Western journalist to blame the Charlie Hebdo murders on French colonialism and journalistic insensitivity to the feelings of Muslims? Not nearly as long, I suspected, as it would take a journalist in the Muslim world to blame them on the legacy of Mohammed and Islam.

And I was right. It took less than four hours for an associate editor of the Financial Times, Tony Barber, to post a piece on the website of his august publication blaming the journalists and cartoonists of the satirical French magazine (and the two policemen as well?) for their own deaths. Here is what he originally wrote and posted, though he later edited out the final clause:

[Charlie Hebdo] has a long record of mocking, baiting and needling French Muslims . . . [This] is merely to say that some common sense would be useful at publications such as Charlie Hebdo . . . which purport to strike a blow for freedom when they provoke Muslims, but are actually just being stupid.

According to this perverted logic, if the relatives of the 12 murdered men were now to storm into the offices of the Financial Times and shoot 12 staff members because of the considerable provocation offered by Tony Barber, it will prove only that Barber had just been stupid.

One wonders whether Mr. Barber is also a zealous advocate for the general defense of provocation in its traditional sense of reducing the crime of men who find their wives in bed with a paramour. 

That aside, there seems to be an epidemic of hand-wringing taking place rooted in the innate desire to understand what compels people to commit such horrific acts of violence.  Such a desire is, what modernity calls, natural and perhaps inexplicable: We know that reasonable people do not wish to commit such atrocious crimes.  But that, of course, assumes that the radical terrorist mind is reasonable.   

"Reverend" Al

| No Comments
Al Sharpton has come up a number of times in discussions on this blog lately.  Dennis Saffran has this article in City Journal to remind us who Al Sharpton really is.  One thing he is not is a minister.
Gallup does an annual survey asking, "Please tell me how you would rate the honesty and ethical standards of people in these different fields -- very high, high, average, or very low?"

Police officers took a bit of a hit this year, dropping six points on their "very high or high" rating, but they didn't change rank, still fourth of eleven.  It would tempting to attribute the drop to the highly publicized cases of late, but pharmacists had a drop nearly as large with no obvious cause.

The public seems a bit more cynical overall, with every occupation surveyed but one moving in the negative direction.  The one, believe it or not, is lawyers, with a small (and statistically insignificant) uptick of 1%.  Lawyers are still pretty low, though, seventh of eleven and only 21% "very high or high."  Frankly, given what some members of my profession do, I can't blame the people for that opinion.

Car salespeople and members of Congress bring up the rear.

And the most trusted of the professions ... ?

Terrorists Win, Freedom Loses

| 8 Comments
One thing we heard from people on the liberal side was that the country should be leery about becoming too security conscious in the wake of the 9-11 attacks.  The refrain became familiar:  Those who give up freedom for security will get neither.

I always thought that was an oversimplified and somewhat sloganeering approach to the dangers and complications of the post-9-11 world.  It has been given significant and ominous new meaning, however, by today's announcement by several large theater chains. As the WSJ puts it in a news release within the hour:

The largest theater chains in the U.S. have decided not to play Sony Pictures' controversial comedy "The Interview" on its planned Dec. 25 opening, said two people with knowledge of the matter.


Insider Trading

| No Comments
Is it a crime to trade stocks on inside information?  Sometimes.  Not as often as the U.S. Attorney for Manhattan has alleged.  Christopher Matthews has this article in the WSJ on yesterday's decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in United States v. Newman and Chiasson.

The appeals-court panel ruled that, in order to be found guilty of insider trading, a defendant must know a tip was illegally disclosed in exchange for a reward of "some consequence." The court also dismissed prosecutors' contention that career advice or friendship constituted a reward, saying that, under that logic, "practically anything would qualify."

The Accused Is Presumed Innocent...NOT

| 3 Comments
Remember when those tending to favor the defense in criminal cases were the first to lecture us (correctly, for once) about the presumption of innocence?

Then you must be as old as I am.

Welcome to the New Reality, as explained in this Washington Post op-ed:

Now the narrative [by "Jackie," the alleged University of Virginia rape victim] appears to be falling apart: Her rapist wasn't in the frat that she says he was a member of; the house held no party on the night of the assault; and other details are wobbly. Many people (not least U-Va. administrators) will be tempted to see this as a reminder that officials, reporters and the general public should hear both sides of the story and collect all the evidence before coming to a conclusion in rape cases. This is what we mean in America when we say someone is "innocent until proven guilty." After all, look what happened to the Duke lacrosse players.

In important ways, this is wrong. We should believe, as a matter of default, what an accuser says. Ultimately, the costs of wrongly disbelieving a survivor far outweigh the costs of calling someone a rapist. Even if Jackie fabricated her account, U-Va. should have taken her word for it during the period while they endeavored to prove or disprove the accusation.


The presumption of innocence is an anchor of liberty.  But liberty just ain't that important when Political Correctness is running the show.

Heather Wilhelm has this article at Real Clear Politics with the above title (minus the bracketed part).  She pokes some fun at several articles that suggest you really should debate politics, religion, and hot-button social issues on this holiday with relatives who disagree with you.

For those of us who prefer the "or not" option, including myself and Ms. Wilhelm, the answer is to do the opposite.  Tomorrow, let us forget politics, crime and punishment, and other heated issues and enjoy the day with our families.  Give thanks - with the "to whom" broad enough to accommodate everyone at your home - and have a joyous holiday.
Alexandra Petri's column in the WaPo is advertised as "a lighter take on the news and political in(s)anity of the day."  Today, though, she offers a serious and thoughtful look at an important question.

Magna Carta

| No Comments
(39) No free man shall be seized or imprisoned, or stripped of his rights or possessions, or outlawed or exiled, or deprived of his standing in any other way, nor will we proceed with force against him, or send others to do so, except by the lawful judgement of his equals or by the law of the land.
This great-grandfather of the Due Process Clause was signed by King John -- at swordpoint -- almost 800 years ago, along with many other promises.  Copies of the great charter were made and sent to the various counties of England, and one of those copies, from the Lincoln Cathedral, is presently on exhibit at the Library of Congress.

Update (11/13):  Justice Scalia's opening address at the Federalist Society Convention was on Magna Carta and its importance in the development of constitutional law. 

Update 2 (11/15):  Justice Scalia's address is now available online.
(39) No free man shall be seized or imprisoned, or stripped of his rights or possessions, or outlawed or exiled, or deprived of his standing in any other way, nor will we proceed with force against him, or send others to do so, except by the lawful judgement of his equals or by the law of the land. - See more at: http://www.bl.uk/magna-carta/articles/magna-carta-english-translation#sthash.QZ07c2XJ.dpuf

Veterans Day

| No Comments
VeteransDay2014.jpgThe two primary functions of government are to protect the people from foreign enemies and to protect them from domestic criminals.  Most of the time on this blog we discuss the latter, but today let us pause to thank all those who have served in the defense of our nation.

Monthly Archives