Thursday, January 26, 2017

Economic Insights from John Cochrane

Here is a link to John Cochrane's interview at the Hoover Institution.  JC provides valuable insight into what is right and wrong with the economy - and destroys a lot of myths along the way.

The Armed Citizen

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

John Lott provides perspective about the Jeff Sessions confirmation hearings

Here is John Lott's column.


The headline on the front page of the Washington Post sure sounded impressive: “More than 1,100 law school professors nationwide oppose Sessions’s nomination as attorney general.” Since then, the total has increased to 1,424 faculty members from 180 law schools in 49 different states.

With Senate Judiciary committee getting ready to vote on Senator Jeff Sessions’ confirmation today, the letter is being used as Exhibit A for many liberals arguing that experts view Sessions as unqualified and outside the mainstream.

But with 17,080 faculty members nationwide, perhaps the real question is why there were so few signers. Only 8.3 percent of faculty members signed the letter.

Given that 82 percent of law professors identified themselves as Democrats in 2010, one can infer that only about 10 percent of Democrat professors signed the letter.

From 1991 to 2002, over 23 percent of law professors at the top 20 law schools contributed at least $200 exclusively or mostly to Democrats. By contrast, just 4 percent of law professors were active Republican donors. Assuming that over 23 percent figure has held true today (and given the inordinate hatred for Trump, this might be an underestimate), just a third of active donors to Democrats signed the letter.

The letter itself is written vaguely to maximize signatures. There is a regurgitation of charges made in 1986 that Sessions was “prejudice[d] against African Americans.” It continues: “Some of us have concerns about … his consistent promotion of the myth of voter-impersonation fraud ... his support for building a wall along our country’s southern border … his robust support for regressive drug policies that have fueled mass incarceration … his repeated opposition to legislative efforts to promote the rights of women and the members of the LGBTQ community.”

The faculty members could disagree with all of these points and still be able to sign the letter. Indeed, it is hard to find any other letter signed by academics (and there are a lot of them) that offers so many escape clauses for signers. But the goal was to get signatures, not to provide a coherent argument against Sessions.

The charges themselves are absurd.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Jonathan Turley gets it right on the election.

Here is Jonathan Turley's column in USA Today.

Jonathan Turley is the Shapiro Professor of Public Interest Law at George Washington University
Trump is our president: Jonathan Turley

In the end, the protests are not about legitimacy.

It is inaugural week and Washington is again the rallying point for hundreds of thousands of people. Indeed, my house in McLean, Virginia is hosting roughly a dozen people from Illinois and Florida. They are not, however, coming to celebrate but to protest. My brother Chris, his family, and various friends will be joining thousands protesting the inauguration and then will join the “Women’s March.” I will not be joining them. While I fully support their exercise of free speech and share some of their concerns, I believe that this week is about celebrating the 71st time that a democratically elected president has taken the oath of office (and our 58th formal inauguration). I was highly critical of both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton during the campaign. However, there is a time to protest and there is a time to come together, even if only for an inaugural ceremony.

Over 50 Democratic members of Congress have publicly announced that they will not attend the inauguration, including some like Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., who has insisted that Trump is not the legitimate president. (Lewis and other members also boycotted George W. Bush’s inauguration in 2001 because they insisted that he was not the true elected president.) Ironically, many of these members were the same people joining Hillary Clinton in denouncing the “horrifying” notion that Trump or his supporters might not accept the results of the election. Clinton decried how Trump, by not stating that he would accept the results of losing, he was “denigrating — he is talking down our democracy.” That was when Clinton was viewed as a shoe-in. Then came election night.

After the election, Clinton joined others in challenging results in key states and Democrats began to question the legitimacy of the election — first due to the fact that Trump lost the popular vote and later based on Russian hacking of Democratic emails.

New York Times Fake News

Here is John Lott's post

The New York Times yet again as a Fake News Site: Citing false information from the Violence Policy Center
Once again the New York Times is citing bogus data from the Violence Policy Center (VPC) (January 12, 2017).

The grim truth is that concealed-carry permit holders are rarely involved in stopping crime. But people with permits have been responsible for more than 900 deaths that did not involve self-defense over the last decade, according to the Violence Policy Center. Among these were more than 29 mass shootings, bringing carnage and tragedy like that which Fort Lauderdale witnessed last week. . . .

Doesn’t the New York Times ever get tired repeating these false claims ever few months? (See December 1, 2016 (Letter we submitted); October 26, 2015 (Our Letter and article we wrote when the letter wasn’t accepted); February 11, 2015 (Our article and another letter)). Here is the Letter to the Editor that the CPRC sent to the New York Times:

Dear Editor:

The Times erroneously asserts that over nine years and eight months there were over 900 non-self-defense gun deaths nationwide by concealed handgun permit holders (“The Shootout Myth at the Airport,” 1/12).

Suppose for the sake of argument that the Violence Policy Center has accurately identified the cases you refer to, with over 14.5 million permit holders at the beginning of last year, the 19 pending homicide charges in 2016 implies an annual rate of 0.14 homicides per 100,000 permit holders. And the vast majority of these will be found to be in self-defense.

Yet, the 900 number is wildly inaccurate. Take Michigan, with supposedly 72 homicides and 286 suicides. For homicides, many non-cases are tripled or quadrupled counted. “Pending” and “conviction” numbers from the Michigan State Police reports are counted separately, though cases can be listed as pending for years before going to court and most never result in a conviction. News stories of these same events are also counted separately. The correct number of homicides is actually 14 over almost 10 years.

For suicides, Michigan doesn’t collect information on how suicides were committed — just that permit holders committed suicide. Yet, permit holders committed suicide at just 38% the rate of the adult Michigan population.


John R. Lott, Jr., Ph.D.
Crime Prevention Research Center

Data sources are available here:
Data from the Michigan State Police reports is available here:,4643,7-123-1878_1591_3503_4654-77621–,00.html
Information on the number of permits is available here:
Information on the suicide rate for Michigan state adults is available here:
A copy of the Violence Policy Center report is available here: Total People Killed by Concealed Carry Killers May 2007 to Jan 15 2016

Thomas Sowell gets it right

Thomas Sowell (from his book "The Quest For Cosmic Justice"):

The only way to have "equal respect" is to have respect divorced from behavior and performance which is to say, to have the word "respect" lose its meaning."

Friday, January 13, 2017

John Cochrane's insightful blog entry

Here is John Cochrane's blog entry "Bruni on Rule of Law in Regulation".

JC is on target.


I found Frank Bruni's opinion piece in the Sunday New York Times noteworthy on the whole question of rule of law in regulation:

Hillary Clinton as New York City mayor?

Imagine the fun: City building inspectors start to show up daily at Trump Tower, where they find a wobbly beam here, a missing smoke detector there, outdated wiring all over the place. City health inspectors fan out through Trump’s hotels, writing citations for clogged drains in the kitchens and expired milk in the minibars.
The potholes near his properties go unfilled. Those neighborhoods are the last to be plowed. There’s a problem with the flow of water to his Bronx golf course, whose greens are suddenly brown. And the Russian Consulate keeps experiencing power failures. It’s the darnedest thing. Clinton vows to look into it, just as soon as she returns from the Hamptons.

..His [Trump's] hometown is her fief. She’s the boss of him whenever he’s in the Big Apple, and he’s in the Big Apple a whole lot.

...I’m fantasizing, yes, but with a glimmer of encouragement....there are so many scores she could settle, so many ways she could meddle. ...above all there’d be the torturing of Trump...The city’s Mexican Day Parade would be rerouted, from Madison Avenue over to Fifth, right past Trump Tower. A new city zoning experiment would locate detention centers in the strangest places. And in the city’s libraries, “The Art of the Deal” would be impossible to find, while upfront, on vivid display, there’d be copies galore of “It Takes a Village” and “Hard Choices.”

There is no indication that Bruni is kidding, that any of this would be both monstrously illegal, unethical, and a disaster for New York, and no disclaimer from his editors.

As far as I can tell, Bruni is a middle of the road Democrat, and a fan of large-government regulation. (Like the rest of the Times, Bruni seems currently in full-tilt Trump Derangement Syndrome, with 11 out of his 14 columns since the election criticizing Trump, rather than policy, so if he's really a free-market deregulator, let me know.)

So how fascinating that Bruni -- and his Times editors -- seem to think it so natural that regulation and public services they admire -- building inspectors, municipal water and power, zoning, even the public library -- should naturally be bent, far beyond legal limits, to partisan political service. Building inspections are used to punish political enemies, but we're supposed to trust that the IRS, Obamacare, EPA, FDA, NLRB, and Dodd-Frank are not? Or is it just that illegal abuse of power is just fine and normal in the hands of their friends?

And how deeply naive. Really?

Imagine Mrs. Clinton becomes mayor of New York, and fulfills' Brnui's fantasy. President Trump just sits back and takes it? If the regulatory state is a political free for all, is it not possible that Mr. Trump -- who, after all, during the campaign said he would send the department of justice after Mrs. Clinton, whose slogan was "lock her up," and who threatened to send the IRS after political enemies -- might play back in kind? And is it not possible that with the awesome power of the federal regulatory state behind him, he might not crush Mrs. Clinton -- and the city of New York -- in the process?

The Fox News fantasy is as easy to construct. Mrs. Clinton becomes mayor and tries any of the above. Suddenly, the IRS is all over the Clinton Foundation, the DoJ reopens its investigation -- 30,000 missing emails looks a lot like obstruction of Justice -- the Russians release the 30,000 missing emails to wiki leaks -- you surely don't think they let us know everything they were holding against her in case she won? -- DoJ and NLRB open wide ranging investigations of NYC hiring practices -- using statistical discrimination programs, just for fun -- the EPA wants careful review of everything under the sun -- say, how garbage is collected - Gov. Bridgegate Christie is put in charge of a department of transportation "study" of traffic in and out of New York, Federal funding for NY mass transit suddenly needs a comprehensive review, FBI starts a huge corruption probe of New York city officials -- remember, you don't have to find anything, there mere act of investigation consumes everyone's time. Oh, and I haven't started on the remaining rule of law constraints on just the sort of actions Mr. Bruni dreams of -- Congressional and FBI investigation at a minimum.

Should that happen, I wonder if Mr. Bruni and the Times will be running similarly lighthearted articles, well ha ha, that's all just how politics works isn't it?

The revealing fact is that this does not cross Mr. Bruni's mind. It's part and parcel of the bubble attitude that we are so right, and our enemies so evil, that of course they will wilt at the shining light of our rightness--A presumption proved wrong over and over again in both domestic and foreign policy.

There is a serious issue. After 8 years and more of egregiously politicized legal administration and regulation, will Republicans, now in charge, wring their hands and say "Thanks for the new tools and precedents. Now we do unto you like you did unto us? Pass that phone and pen." Or do they say "No, we put the genie back in the bottle, we reconstruct rule of law and limited government, for us as well as you?" We are all breathlessly waiting for the outcome. Even commenters such as Larry Summers and Paul Krugman are coming around, shocked, inspector-Renault style, to find that regulation and law might be misused for political advantage and worried about rule of law. Well, late is better than never.

Sunday, January 08, 2017

John Lott: Chicago's Bloody Mess

Here is John Lott's column about Chicago's murder rate.

JL is on target.

Once again, Government causes problems instead of solving them.


Chicago is a bloody mess. Last year, Chicago had 762 homicides — more than New York and Los Angeles combined. This represents an astounding 57 percent increase from the 2015 murder rate.

On Sunday night, CBS’s 60 Minutes rightfully expressed concern about the fall in stops and arrests by police over the last year. Criminals have seemingly become emboldened as a result of the decrease in arrests. The 60 Minutes piece quotes Garry McCarthy — Chicago’s Police Superintendent up until a year ago — as saying that “officers are under attack, that is how they feel.”

This isn’t a new trend. The quality of Chicago’s policing has been deteriorating for decades. Back in 1991, 67 percent of murderers were arrested. When Mayor Richard M. Daley left office twenty years later, in 2011, the arrest rate was down to 30 percent. This troubling drop only continued after Rahm Emanuel became mayor, hitting a new low of 20 percent in 2016. (See graph below.) Unfortunately, the true number is even worse, because Chicago has been intentionally misclassifying murders, instead labeling them as subject to non-criminal “death investigations.”

Nationally, police solve 61.5 percent of murders — almost two out of every three. And, unlike Chicago’s arrest rate, the national rate has been fairly constant over the decades.

Donald Trump’s tweeted hope to Chicago on Monday: “If Mayor can’t do it he must ask for Federal help!” But for politicians who can’t help making decisions based on politics, what really matters is what they can’t do, not what they won’t do.

Chicago’s problem is the result of bad political decisions. For example, after his election, Emanuel did three unfortunate things that hampered the Chicago police force. The mayor: closed down detective bureaus in Chicago's highest crime districts, relocating them to often distant locations; disbanded many gang task forces; and, in cooperation with the ACLU, instituted new, voluminous forms that have to be filled out by police each time they stop someone to investigate a crime. All this time filling out forms is time that can’t be spent policing neighborhoods. When you don’t catch criminals, the obvious result is more crime.

The detective bureau relocations have been disastrous. Detectives who had worked for years in high-crime neighborhoods suddenly found themselves working in other areas of the city, their hard-earned, neighborhood-specific knowledge of likely culprits and informants now rendered irrelevant. As one detective told Chicago Magazine, “All the expertise you once had is useless when you’re working on the other side of town. You might as well put me in a new city.”

Moving detectives from crime hotspots also meant long travel times. These delays were not only a waste of time; they made detectives less effective at doing their jobs by tracking down witnesses and keeping track of evidence. The result was more unsolved crimes.

If budget cuts necessitated closures, detective bureaus in low-crime areas ought to have been considered first. But that would have met with tougher political resistance because of the affluent and well-connected people who live there. So much for politicians’ promises to look out for poor minorities.

Chicago’s Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson blames gangs. Regarding the spate of murders over Christmas, Johnson was blunt about the source of the violence: “These were deliberate and planned shootings by one gang against another…This was followed by several acts of retaliation.” But Emanuel’s decision early in his administration to gut gang task forces — a move that undid hard work which allowed police to infiltrate gangs — is not something that can easily be reversed.

Arrest rates for gang murders are typically very low because witnesses are loath to get on a gang’s bad side. But in Chicago it has gotten worse because witnesses don’t believe that gang members will ever be put away.

As arrest rates have fallen and murder rates have risen over the years, Daley and Emanuel have kept pushing responsibility on to others. After all, they claim, it isn’t their fault that state legislatures and the U.S. Congress haven’t passed sufficiently strict gun control laws. Back in 2010, Daley claimed that the increased crime rate was “all about guns, and that’s why the crusade is on.” Emanuel has made similar claims. Meanwhile, the long-term drop in the rate that crimes are solved seems to have gone unnoticed.

Democrats have learned nothing from Chicago’s failed experiment in banning guns, which began in late 1982. After the ban, the city’s murder rates stopped falling and started soaring — in both absolute terms and relative to adjacent counties and other large cities. The lesson for Democrats should have been that gun control does nothing but disarm law-abiding citizens.

Chicago’s crime problems run much deeper than anything that has occurred over the last year. Politicians need to stop putting the blame elsewhere and look to their own failed policies.

Thursday, January 05, 2017

Mouse model points to potential new treatment for Alzheimer's disease

From Science Daily.


Treatment with an inhibitor of 12/15-lipoxygenase, an enzyme elevated in patients with Alzheimer's disease (AD), reverses cognitive decline and neuropathology in an AD mouse model, reports a new study in Biological Psychiatry. The effects were observed after the AD-like phenotype was already established in the mice, which is promising for its potential therapeutic use, as neuropathology tends to develop many years before the appearance of AD symptoms in patients.

The study, by senior author Domenico Praticὸ and colleagues at Temple University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, offers some hope for a new treatment for patients with AD, who currently have no effective therapy options. Past research has focused on prevention of the disease by reducing the levels of proteins that cause brain plaques and tangles and kill nerve cells.

"In this exciting new study, the authors provide support for a new experimental treatment approach that works by helping nerve cells digest toxic proteins that might otherwise cause cell death," said John Krystal, Editor of Biological Psychiatry.

First author Antonio Di Meco and colleagues used a triple transgenic (3xTg) mouse model that displays an AD-like phenotype, including cognitive decline, and Aβ and tau neuropathology characteristic of the disease in humans. They had already shown that early administration of the 12/15-lipoxygenase inhibitor PD146176 could prevent the onset of these features in mice. To achieve a more real-world scenario in this study, they waited until the transgenic mice were a year old, when both cognitive impairments and neuropathology were established, before administering the drug.

"We show for the first time that selective pharmacologic inhibition of the 12/15-lipoxygenase enzyme rescues the entire AD-like phenotype," Praticò said.

Untreated 3xTg mice displayed impaired learning and memory as expected, but 3xTg mice that were administered PD146176 for 3 months were indistinguishable from normal mice in a memory test. In the same mice, the researchers found that PD146176 treatment significantly reduced the levels of Aβ and insoluble tau proteins.

Inhibition of 12/15-lipoxygenase activated autophagy, the body's natural kill system for cells. The activation was associated with decreased levels of tau, suggesting that the inhibitor works by re-activating the neuronal autophagy machinery to clear cellular buildup of tau.

The results indicate that pharmacological inhibition of 12/15-lipoxygenase reverses learning and memory impairments and reduces Aβ and tau neuropathology, even after their onset in aged mice.

"Our findings have important translational value since they establish this protein enzyme as a novel and viable therapeutic target with real disease-modifying potential for AD," Praticò said.

Journal Reference:
Antonio Di Meco, Jian-Guo Li, Benjamin E. Blass, Magid Abou-Gharbia, Elisabetta Lauretti, Domenico Pratic�. 12/15-Lipoxygenase Inhibition Reverses Cognitive Impairment, Brain Amyloidosis, and Tau Pathology by Stimulating Autophagy in Aged Triple Transgenic Mice. Biological Psychiatry, 2017; 81 (2): 92 DOI: 10.1016/j.biopsych.2016.05.023

Promising new drug stops spread of melanoma by 90 percent

From Science Daily

Michigan State University researchers have discovered that a chemical compound, and potential new drug, reduces the spread of melanoma cells by up to 90 percent.

The human-made, small-molecule drug compound goes after a gene's ability to produce RNA molecules and certain proteins in melanoma tumors. This gene activity, or transcription process, causes the disease to spread but the compound can shut it down. Up until now, few other compounds of this kind have been able to accomplish this.

"It's been a challenge developing small-molecule drugs that can block this gene activity that works as a signaling mechanism known to be important in melanoma progression," said Richard Neubig, a pharmacology professor and co-author of the study. "Our chemical compound is actually the same one that we've been working on to potentially treat the disease scleroderma, which now we've found works effectively on this type of cancer."

Scleroderma is a rare and often fatal autoimmune disease that causes the hardening of skin tissue, as well as organs such as the lungs, heart and kidneys. The same mechanisms that produce fibrosis, or skin thickening, in scleroderma also contribute to the spread of cancer.

Small-molecule drugs make up over 90 percent of the drugs on the market today and Neubig's co-author Kate Appleton, a postdoctoral student, said the findings are an early discovery that could be highly effective in battling the deadly skin cancer. It's estimated about 10,000 people die each year from the disease.

Their findings are published in the January issue of Molecular Cancer Therapeutics.

"Melanoma is the most dangerous form of skin cancer with around 76,000 new cases a year in the United States," Appleton said. "One reason the disease is so fatal is that it can spread throughout the body very quickly and attack distant organs such as the brain and lungs."

Through their research, Neubig and Appleton, along with their collaborators, found that the compounds were able to stop proteins, known as Myocardin-related transcription factors, or MRTFs, from initiating the gene transcription process in melanoma cells. These triggering proteins are initially turned on by another protein called RhoC, or Ras homology C, which is found in a signaling pathway that can cause the disease to aggressively spread in the body.

The compound reduced the migration of melanoma cells by 85 to 90 percent. The team also discovered that the potential drug greatly reduced tumors specifically in the lungs of mice that had been injected with human melanoma cells.

"We used intact melanoma cells to screen for our chemical inhibitors," Neubig said. "This allowed us to find compounds that could block anywhere along this RhoC pathway."

Being able to block along this entire path allowed the researchers to find the MRTF signaling protein as a new target.

Appleton said figuring out which patients have this pathway turned on is an important next step in the development of their compound because it would help them determine which patients would benefit the most.

"The effect of our compounds on turning off this melanoma cell growth and progression is much stronger when the pathway is activated," she said. "We could look for the activation of the MRTF proteins as a biomarker to determine risk, especially for those in early-stage melanoma."

According to Neubig, if the disease is caught early, chance of death is only 2 percent. If caught late, that figure rises to 84 percent.

"The majority of people die from melanoma because of the disease spreading," he said. "Our compounds can block cancer migration and potentially increase patient survival."

Journal Reference:
A. J. Haak, K. M. Appleton, E. M. Lisabeth, S. Misek, Y. Ji, S. M. Wade, J. L. Bell, C. E. Rockwell, M. Airik, M. A. Krook, S. D. Larsen, M. E. Verhaegen, E. R. Lawlor, R. R. Neubig. Pharmacological inhibition of Myocardin-related transcription factor pathway blocks lung metastases of RhoC overexpressing melanoma. Molecular Cancer Therapeutics, 2016; DOI: 10.1158/1535-7163.MCT-16-0482

Wednesday, January 04, 2017

Free Country? No Way!

Here is George Will's column in the Washington Post.

In my view, GW chose a bad title.  The issue goes far beyond Jeff Sessions.  It should have been something like "How the US Lost Its Way".

This is another example of trade-offs being ignored.  Laws that ostensibly are put in place to improve matters are used to make things worse.  Beware the Do-Gooders, including you.


The very bad reason Jeff Sessions is ‘very unhappy’

For Christos and Markela Sourovelis, for whom the worst thing was losing their home, “Room 101” was Courtroom 478 in City Hall. This “courtroom’s” name is Orwellian: There was neither judge nor jury in it. There the city government enriched itself — more than $64 million in a recent 11-year span — by disregarding due process requirements in order to seize and sell the property of people who have not been accused, never mind convicted, of a crime.

The Sourovelises’ son, who lived at home, was arrested for selling a small amount of drugs away from home. Soon there was a knock on their door by police who said, “We’re here to take your house” and “You’re going to be living on the street” and “We do this every day.” The Sourovelises’ doors were locked with screws, and their utilities were cut off. They had paid off the mortgage on their $350,000 home, making it a tempting target for policing for profit.

Nationwide, proceeds from sales of seized property (homes, cars, etc.) go to the seizers. And under a federal program, state and local law enforcement can partner with federal authorities in forfeiture and reap up to 80 percent of the proceeds. This is called — more Orwellian newspeak — “equitable sharing.”

No crime had been committed in the Sourovelises’ house, but the title of the case against them was Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. 12011 Ferndale St. Somehow, a crime had been committed by the house. In civil forfeiture, it suffices that property is suspected of having been involved in a crime. Once seized, the property’s owners bear the burden of proving their property’s innocence. “Sentence first — verdict afterwards,” says the queen in “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.”

In Courtroom 478, the prosecutors usually assured people seeking to reclaim their property that they would not need lawyers. The prosecutors practiced semi-extortion, suggesting how people could regain limited control of their property: They could sell it and give half the proceeds to the city. The “hearings” in Courtroom 478 were often protracted over months, and missing even one hearing could result in instant forfeiture.

The Sourovelises were allowed to return to their house only after waiving their rights to statutory or constitutional defenses in a future forfeiture action. Such action was forestalled when their case came to the attention of the Institute for Justice (IJ), public-interest litigators who never received the “You can’t fight city hall” memo. It disentangled the Sourovelises from the forfeiture machine, shut down Courtroom 478 and now is seeking a court ruling to tether this machine to constitutional standards.

There might somewhere be a second prominent American who endorses today’s civil forfeiture practices, but one such person is “very unhappy” with criticisms of it. At a 2015 Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on forfeiture abuses, one senator said “taking and seizing and forfeiting, through a government judicial process, illegal gains from criminal enterprises is not wrong,” and neither is law enforcement enriching itself from this. In the manner of the man for whom he soon will work, this senator asserted an unverifiable number: “95 percent” of forfeitures involve people who have “done nothing in their lives but sell dope.” This senator said it should not be more difficult for “government to take money from a drug dealer than it is for a businessperson to defend themselves in a lawsuit.” In seizing property suspected of involvement in a crime, government “should not have a burden of proof higher than in a normal civil case.”

IJ’s Robert Everett Johnson notes that this senator missed a few salient points: In civil forfeiture there usually is no proper “judicial process.” There is no way of knowing how many forfeitures involve criminals because the government takes property without even charging anyone with a crime. The government’s vast prosecutorial resources are one reason it properly bears the burden of proving criminal culpability “beyond a reasonable doubt.” A sued businessperson does not have assets taken until he or she has lost in a trial, whereas civil forfeiture takes property without a trial and the property owner must wage a protracted, complex and expensive fight to get it returned. The Senate Judiciary Committee might want to discuss all this when considering the nominee to be the next attorney general, Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions.

Sunday, January 01, 2017

Jonathan Turley: 10 Reasons The U.S. Is No Longer The Land Of The Free

Here is JT's column in the Washington Post.

JT is on target.


Every year, the State Department issues reports on individual rights in other countries, monitoring the passage of restrictive laws and regulations around the world. Iran, for example, has been criticized for denying fair public trials and limiting privacy, while Russia has been taken to task for undermining due process. Other countries have been condemned for the use of secret evidence and torture.

Even as we pass judgment on countries we consider unfree, Americans remain confident that any definition of a free nation must include their own — the land of free. Yet, the laws and practices of the land should shake that confidence. In the decade since Sept. 11, 2001, this country has comprehensively reduced civil liberties in the name of an expanded security state. The most recent example of this was the National Defense Authorization Act, signed Dec. 31, which allows for the indefinite detention of citizens. At what point does the reduction of individual rights in our country change how we define ourselves?

While each new national security power Washington has embraced was controversial when enacted, they are often discussed in isolation. But they don’t operate in isolation. They form a mosaic of powers under which our country could be considered, at least in part, authoritarian. Americans often proclaim our nation as a symbol of freedom to the world while dismissing nations such as Cuba and China as categorically unfree. Yet, objectively, we may be only half right. Those countries do lack basic individual rights such as due process, placing them outside any reasonable definition of “free,” but the United States now has much more in common with such regimes than anyone may like to admit.

These countries also have constitutions that purport to guarantee freedoms and rights. But their governments have broad discretion in denying those rights and few real avenues for challenges by citizens — precisely the problem with the new laws in this country.