Daniel J. Mitchell
I’ve repeatedly explained that Keynesian economics doesn’t work because any money the government spends must first be diverted from the productive sector of the economy, which means either higher taxes or more red ink. So unless one actually thinks that politicians spend money with high levels of effectiveness and efficiency, this certainly suggests that growth will be stronger when the burden of government spending is modest (and if spending is concentrated on “public goods,” which can have a positive “rate of return” for the economy).
I’ve also complained (to the point of being a nuisance!) that there are too many government bureaucrats and they cost too much.
But I never would have thought that there were people at the IMF who would be publicly willing to express the same beliefs. Yet that’s exactly what two economists found in a new study. Here are some key passages from the abstract:
We quantify the extent to which public-sector employment crowds out private-sector employment using specially assembled datasets for a large cross-section of developing and advanced countries… Regressions of either private-sector employment rates or unemployment rates on two measures of public-sector employment point to full crowding out. This means that high rates of public employment, which incur substantial fiscal costs, have a large negative impact on private employment rates and do not reduce overall unemployment rates.
So even an international bureaucracy now acknowledges that bureaucrats “incur substantial fiscal costs” and “have a large negative impact on private employment.”
Next thing you know, one of these bureaucracies will tell us that government spending, in general, undermines prosperity. Hold on, the European Central Bank and World Bank already have produced such research. And the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development has even explained how welfare spending hurts growth by reducing work incentives.
To be sure, these are the results of research by staff economists, whom the political appointees at these bureaucracies routinely ignore. Nonetheless, it’s good to know that there’s powerful evidence for smaller government, just in case we ever find some politicians who actually want to do the right thing.
View full post on Cato @ Liberty
Men are disappearing from the workforce
By Tami Luhby | CNNMoney.com –
Men have been steadily disappearing from the workforce for more than half a century.
In the 1950s, nearly every man in his prime working years was in the labor force, a category that includes both those who are employed and those actively applying for jobs. The "participation rate" for men ages 25 to 54 stood at 97.7% in early 1956, but drifted downward to a post-war record low of 88.4% at the end of 2012. (It ticked up very slightly at the start of this year to 88.6%.)
So where have all the men workers gone?
Some went into prison. Others are on disability. And still others can’t find jobs and have simply given up looking.
The trend is particularly pronounced among the less educated. As the job market shifted away from blue-collar positions that required only a high-school degree to more skilled labor, many men were left behind, labor analysts say. It’s harder these days to find well-paying jobs in manufacturing, production and other fields traditionally dominated by men without college diplomas.
But college men are leaving, too. The participation rate of those older than 25 and holding at least bachelor’s degree fell to 80.2% in May, down from 87.2% in May 1992.
"The proportion of guys doing nothing has risen," said Gary Burtless, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.
The cycles of national economic prosperity since World War II have done little to stem this downward slide. In fact, even when the unemployment rate hit a 30-year low in the early 2000s, the share of men in the workforce continued its steady decline.
The Great Recession accelerated the trend, pushing the participation rate for men in their prime working years below 90% for the first time. It has yet to recover, even as the general economy improves.
Here’s a closer look at the reasons why men are dropping out of the labor force.
Incarceration: A growing number of men have spent time in prison, which makes it much harder to find a job once they complete their sentences.
Looking at those born just after World War II, some 1.2% of white men and 9% of black men had been to prison by 2004, according to Bruce Western, a Harvard sociology professor. But looking at those born 30 years later, some 3.3% of white men and 20.7% of black men had been to prison.
Disability: More men have been pouring into the federal disability system, especially in recent years, when the Great Recession and its aftermath pushed up the national unemployment rate. Men who might have found a job in a better labor market were instead turning to this safety net system, according to David Autor, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology economics professor and co-author of Wayward Sons, which looks at the growing gender gap in education and the workforce.
In 1982, around 1.9% of working-age men were receiving disability benefits. By 2012, that number had climbed to 3.1%, according to data crunched by the National Academy of Social Insurance.
Once on the disability rolls, few people get off. Only 2.2% left the program in the first quarter of 2013.
Lack of education: A few decades ago, men could graduate high school and make a decent living on a factory floor or at a construction job. As the labor market becomes more skilled, those guys are being left behind.
In the 1960s, more men than women were enrolling in and completing college. "That’s completely reversed itself," Burtless said. "Women’s persistence and enrollment rates have given them a real edge over men."
Women born in 1975 were roughly 17% more likely than their male counterparts to attend college and nearly 23% more likely to complete a four-year degree, according to data in Wayward Sons.
"A lot of non-college men have chosen not to work rather than participate in jobs that don’t pay that well and are not very satisfying," Autor said.
Related: College degrees with the best bang for your buck
The decline of men in the labor force has broad implications for families, taxpayers and the economy. Fewer employed men means more people on the dole and fewer taxpayers to contribute to the nation’s economic growth.
Also, fewer of these men are in stable family relationships, contributing to growth of single-parent households. That fuels the widening income inequality gap and stunts the upward economic mobility of the next generation.
Statistics: Posted by yoda — Wed Jun 19, 2013 9:58 am
View full post on opinions.caduceusx.com
Crony Phones: Million dollar contracts for corporations to supply “Obama phones” paid for by taxpayers
James O’Keefe strikes again. He’s the fellow who brought down ACORN with his “pimp” video a few years back. This time he stings the a couple of wireless carriers who supply phones for the “Lifeline” program, often referred to as “Obama phone” program.
The program actually dates back to the Reagan era but has been greatly expanded in recent years.
Lifeline cost taxpayers $2.19 billion in 2012. That money went largely to a few large corporations such as TracFone, owned by Carlos Slim one of the wealthiest (and best connected) men in the world.
And according to O’Keefe at least some of that $2.19 billion made it into the hands of drug dealers.
View full post on AgainstCronyCapitalism.org
I meet this American government, or its representative, the State government, directly, and face to face, once a year — no more — in the person of its tax-gatherer; this is the only mode in which a man situated as I am necessarily meets it; and it then says distinctly, Recognize me; and the simplest, the most effectual, and, in the present posture of affairs, the indispensablest mode of treating with it on this head, of expressing your little satisfaction with and love for it, is to deny it then. My civil neighbor, the tax-gatherer, is the very man I have to deal with — for it is, after all, with men and not with parchment that I quarrel — and he has voluntarily chosen to be an agent of the government. How shall he ever know well what he is and does as an officer of the government, or as a man, until he is obliged to consider whether he shall treat me, his neighbor, for whom he has respect, as a neighbor and well-disposed man, or as a maniac and disturber of the peace, and see if he can get over this obstruction to his neighborliness without a ruder and more impetuous thought or speech corresponding with his action? I know this well, that if one thousand, if one hundred, if ten men whom I could name — if ten honest men only — ay, if one HONEST man, in this State of Massachusetts, ceasing to hold slaves, were actually to withdraw from this copartnership, and be locked up in the county jail therefor, it would be the abolition of slavery in America. For it matters not how small the beginning may seem to be: what is once well done is done forever. But we love better to talk about it: that we say is our mission. Reform keeps many scores of newspapers in its service, but not one man…
…Under a government which imprisons any unjustly, the true place for a just man is also a prison. The proper place to-day, the only place which Massachusetts has provided for her freer and less desponding spirits, is in her prisons, to be put out and locked out of the State by her own act, as they have already put themselves out by their principles. It is there that the fugitive slave, and the Mexican prisoner on parole, and the Indian come to plead the wrongs of his race, should find them; on that separate, but more free and honorable ground, where the State places those who are not with her, but against her — the only house in a slave State in which a free man can abide with honor. If any think that their influence would be lost there, and their voices no longer afflict the ear of the State, that they would not be as an enemy within its walls, they do not know by how much truth is stronger than error, nor how much more eloquently and effectively he can combat injustice who has experienced a little in his own person. Cast your whole vote, not a strip of paper merely, but your whole influence. A minority is powerless while it conforms to the majority; it is not even a minority then; but it is irresistible when it clogs by its whole weight. If the alternative is to keep all just men in prison, or give up war and slavery, the State will not hesitate which to choose. If a thousand men were not to pay their tax-bills this year, that would not be a violent and bloody measure, as it would be to pay them, and enable the State to commit violence and shed innocent blood. This is, in fact, the definition of a peaceable revolution, if any such is possible. If the tax-gatherer, or any other public officer, asks me, as one has done, “But what shall I do?” my answer is, “If you really wish to do anything, resign your office.” When the subject has refused allegiance, and the officer has resigned his office, then the revolution is accomplished. But even suppose blood should flow. Is there not a sort of blood shed when the conscience is wounded? Through this wound a man’s real manhood and immortality flow out, and he bleeds to an everlasting death. I see this blood flowing now…
…Some years ago, the State met me in behalf of the Church, and commanded me to pay a certain sum toward the support of a clergyman whose preaching my father attended, but never I myself. “Pay,” it said, “or be locked up in the jail.” I declined to pay. But, unfortunately, another man saw fit to pay it. I did not see why the schoolmaster should be taxed to support the priest, and not the priest the schoolmaster: for I was not the State’s schoolmaster, but I supported myself by voluntary subscription. I did not see why the lyceumshould not present its tax-bill, and have the State to back its demand, as well as the Church. However, at the request of the selectmen, I condescended to make some such statement as this in writing: — “Know all men by these presents, that I, Henry Thoreau, do not wish to be regarded as a member of any incorporated society which I have not joined.” This I gave to the town clerk; and he has it. The State, having thus learned that I did not wish to be regarded as a member of that church, has never made a like demand on me since; though it said that it must adhere to its original presumption that time. If I had known how to name them, I should then have signed off in detail from all the societies which I never signed on to; but I did not know where to find a complete list.
I have paid no poll-tax for six years. I was put into a jail once on this account, for one night; and, as I stood considering the walls of solid stone, two or three feet thick, the door of wood and iron, a foot thick, and the iron grating which strained the light, I could not help being struck with the foolishness of that institution which treated me as if I were mere flesh and blood and bones, to be locked up. I wondered that it should have concluded at length that this was the best use it could put me to, and had never thought to avail itself of my services in some way. I saw that, if there was a wall of stone between me and my townsmen, there was a still more difficult one to climb or break through, before they could get to be as free as I was. I did not for a moment feel confined, and the walls seemed a great waste of stone and mortar. I felt as if I alone of all my townsmen had paid my tax. They plainly did not know how to treat me, but behaved like persons who are underbred. In every threat and in every compliment there was a blunder; for they thought that my chief desire was to stand the other side of that stone wall. I could not but smile to see how industriously they locked the door on my meditations, which followed them out again without let or hindrance, and they were really all that was dangerous. As they could not reach me, they had resolved to punish my body; just as boys, if they cannot come at some person against whom they have a spite, will abuse his dog. I saw that the State was half-witted, that it was timid as a lone woman with her silver spoons, and that it did not know its friends from its foes, and I lost all my remaining respect for it, and pitied it.
Thus the State never intentionally confronts a man’s sense, intellectual or moral, but only his body, his senses. It is not armed with superior wit or honesty, but with superior physical strength. I was not born to be forced. I will breathe after my own fashion. Let us see who is the strongest. What force has a multitude? They only can force me who obey a higher law than I. They force me to become like themselves. I do not hear of men being forced to have this way or that by masses of men. What sort of life were that to live? When I meet a government which says to me, “Your money or your life,” why should I be in haste to give it my money? It may be in a great strait, and not know what to do: I cannot help that. It must help itself; do as I do. It is not worth the while to snivel about it. I am not responsible for the successful working of the machinery of society. I am not the son of the engineer. I perceive that, when an acorn and a chestnut fall side by side, the one does not remain inert to make way for the other, but both obey their own laws, and spring and grow and flourish as best they can, till one, perchance, overshadows and destroys the other. If a plant cannot live according to its nature, it dies; and so a man.
The night in prison was novel and interesting enough. The prisoners in their shirt-sleeves were enjoying a chat and the evening air in the doorway, when I entered. But the jailer said, “Come, boys, it is time to lock up”; and so they dispersed, and I heard the sound of their steps returning into the hollow apartments. My room-mate was introduced to me by the jailer as “a first-rate fellow and a clever man.” When the door was locked, he showed me where to hang my hat, and how he managed matters there. The rooms were whitewashed once a month; and this one, at least, was the whitest, most simply furnished, and probably the neatest apartment in the town. He naturally wanted to know where I came from, and what brought me there; and, when I had told him, I asked him in my turn how he came there, presuming him to be an honest man, of course; and, as the world goes, I believe he was. “Why,” said he, “they accuse me of burning a barn; but I never did it.” As near as I could discover, he had probably gone to bed in a barn when drunk, and smoked his pipe there; and so a barn was burnt. He had the reputation of being a clever man, had been there some three months waiting for his trial to come on, and would have to wait as much longer; but he was quite domesticated and contented, since he got his board for nothing, and thought that he was well treated.
He occupied one window, and I the other; and I saw that if one stayed there long, his principal business would be to look out the window. I had soon read all the tracts that were left there, and examined where former prisoners had broken out, and where a grate had been sawed off, and heard the history of the various occupants of that room; for I found that even here there was a history and a gossip which never circulated beyond the walls of the jail. Probably this is the only house in the town where verses are composed, which are afterward printed in a circular form, but not published. I was shown quite a long list of verses which were composed by some young men who had been detected in an attempt to escape, who avenged themselves by singing them.
I pumped my fellow-prisoner as dry as I could, for fear I should never see him again; but at length he showed me which was my bed, and left me to blow out the lamp.
It was like travelling into a far country, such as I had never expected to behold, to lie there for one night. It seemed to me that I never had heard the town-clock strike before, nor the evening sounds of the village; for we slept with the windows open, which were inside the grating. It was to see my native village in the light of the Middle Ages, and our Concord was turned into a Rhine stream, and visions of knights and castles passed before me. They were the voices of old burghers that I heard in the streets. I was an involuntary spectator and auditor of whatever was done and said in the kitchen of the adjacent village-inn — a wholly new and rare experience to me. It was a closer view of my native town. I was fairly inside of it. I never had seen its institutions before. This is one of its peculiar institutions; for it is a shire town. I began to comprehend what its inhabitants were about.
In the morning, our breakfasts were put through the hole in the door, in small oblong-square tin pans, made to fit, and holding a pint of chocolate, with brown bread, and an iron spoon. When they called for the vessels again, I was green enough to return what bread I had left; but my comrade seized it, and said that I should lay that up for lunch or dinner. Soon after he was let out to work at haying in a neighboring field, whither he went every day, and would not be back till noon; so he bade me good-day, saying that he doubted if he should see me again.
When I came out of prison — for some one interfered, and paid that tax — I did not perceive that great changes had taken place on the common, such as he observed who went in a youth and emerged a tottering and gray-headed man; and yet a change had to my eyes come over the scene — the town, and State, and country — greater than any that mere time could effect. I saw yet more distinctly the State in which I lived. I saw to what extent the people among whom I lived could be trusted as good neighbors and friends; that their friendship was for summer weather only; that they did not greatly propose to do right; that they were a distinct race from me by their prejudices and superstitions, as the Chinamen and Malays are; that in their sacrifices to humanity, they ran no risks, not even to their property; that after all they were not so noble but they treated the thief as he had treated them, and hoped, by a certain outward observance and a few prayers, and by walking in a particular straight though useless path from time to time, to save their souls. This may be to judge my neighbors harshly; for I believe that many of them are not aware that they have such an institution as the jail in their village.
It was formerly the custom in our village, when a poor debtor came out of jail, for his acquaintances to salute him, looking through their fingers, which were crossed to represent the grating of a jail window, “How do ye do?” My neighbors did not thus salute me, but first looked at me, and then at one another, as if I had returned from a long journey. I was put into jail as I was going to the shoemaker’s to get a shoe which was mended. When I was let out the next morning, I proceeded to finish my errand, and, having put on my mended shoe, joined a huckleberry party, who were impatient to put themselves under my conduct; and in half an hour — for the horse was soon tackled — was in the midst of a huckleberry field, on one of our highest hills, two miles off, and then the State was nowhere to be seen.
View full post on Libertarianism.org
Andrew J. Coulson
Get a good education and you’ll probably lead a more fulfilling, more successful life than you would have without it. Since those benefits accrue directly to you, education is partly what economists call a “private good.” But while you’re busy earning a living and paying taxes, you aren’t dependent on government handouts or (probably) holding up liquor stores. So your whole community benefits, indirectly, from your education (especially the liquor stores). As a result, education is also partly a “public good.”
The thing about public goods is that the beneficiaries don’t have to pay for them. Economists fear that if the public doesn’t have to pay for something, it won’t; and that if something isn’t paid for, it won’t be produced in the first place. As a result, some economists theorize that government must step in to ensure that education delivers the public goods, either by operating schools of its own or by subsidizing and regulating the kind and quantity of schooling that teachers are allowed to offer and that families are allowed to consume.
This is the dominant economic argument for the existence of a major government role in K-12 education, and it is based on a pair of unstated assumptions, both of which are testable and false.
The first assumption is that, left to their own devices, families would consume insufficient education, or the wrong kind of education, to produce the sought-after public benefits. If that’s true, it seems that we’d be most likely to see it in times and places where most parents had low levels of education themselves—places like early 19th century Britain and America. And, indeed, these are widely viewed as cases in which government education spending and mandatory attendance laws brought universal literacy and school attendance to a previously benighted populace.
Widely, but wrongly. As far back as 1965, economist E.G. West demonstrated that growing 19th century government education expenditures in the U.K. did not so much increase the consumption of schooling as displace pre-existing sources of private funding—in his phrase: “jumping in to the saddle of an already-galloping horse.”
In the 1994 update of his book Education and the State, West did much the same thing for the U.S. case, showing that the elementary enrollment rate was close to 90 percent and still rising in early 19th century New England, at a time when no state board of education yet existed, the majority of students attended private or home schools, and tax-funding made up only a small portion of total education spending—even in the semi-public “common” schools (which charged most families tuition).
Echoing this pattern, I pointed out in a chapter for the book Liberty and Learning (p. 105) that U.S. compulsory attendance laws had no noticeable effect on enrollment rates over the decades (1852 to 1918) in which they were introduced.
In modern times education researcher James Tooley has repeatedly shown that destitute families living in slums of the developing world are increasingly paying for ultra-low-cost private schooling themselves, despite the availability of better-funded “free” public schooling. They do this, they tell Tooley, because they feel the public schooling is inferior or even worthless. Tooley’s careful studies of these schools, reported in academic journals and his wonderful book The Beautiful Tree, confirms the parents’ view.
The second assumption of the public good argument is two-fold: first, that government is a better judge of how to create the public benefits of education than are families acting individually; and second, that government provision and/or regulation are capable of producing the outcomes which they nominally seek. Both are contradicted by the evidence.
One of the single most consistent lessons of the history of education from classical Greece to the present, which I chronicled in Market Education: The Unknown History, is that parents have tended to make better decisions for their own children than elected or appointed bureaucrats have made on their behalf. Since its publication, I have reviewed the world-wide, within-country statistical research comparing alternative school systems and found that the most parent-driven, market-like, least regulated school systems do the best job of serving families across all outcomes measured.
The one outcome area which that literature review does not cover is civic-mindedness—the sort of tolerance and desire to engage with one’s fellow citizens that is perhaps the most public of education’s public goods. That area, however, has been studied by others and the results are much the same: they compellingly favor the private, minimally regulated provision of education as more effective in creating these social virtues. See, for instance, the work of Patrick Wolf and David E. Campbell.
And if all this is not enough to bury the public good argument for a major government role in education, there’s more: state control over the content of education actually has demonstrable negative social effects: “public bads,” if you will. As I chronicled in Market Education: The Unknown History, ceding control over learning to the state forces people of diverse beliefs into conflict over the content of that officially-sanctioned education. My colleague Neal McCluskey has documented this ongoing effect in his paper titled “Why We Fight,” and on an interactive “battle map,” of public-schooling-induced social conflicts around the United States.
Education does indeed have spillover benefits to society at large, but these benefits are best secured through free and voluntary association. The best policies are those that move us in that direction.
View full post on Cato @ Liberty
Gagged by Big Ag
Horrific abuse. Rampant contamination. And the crime is…exposing it?
By Ted Genoways | July/August 2013 Issue
SHAWN LYONS WAS DEAD TO RIGHTS—and he knew it. More than a month had passed since People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals had released a video of savage mistreatment at the MowMar Farms hog confinement facility where he worked as an entry-level herdsman in the breeding room. The three enormous sow barns in rural Greene County, Iowa, were less than five years old and, until recently, had raised few concerns. They seemed well ventilated and well supplied with water from giant holding tanks. Their tightly tacked steel siding always gleamed white in the sun. But the PETA hidden-camera footage shot by two undercover activists over a period of months in the summer of 2008, following up on a tip from a former employee, showed a harsh reality concealed inside.
The recordings caught one senior worker beating a sow repeatedly on the back with a metal gate rod, a supervisor turning an electric prod on a sow too crippled to stand, another worker shoving a herding cane into a sow’s vagina. In one close-up, a distressed sow who’d been attacking her piglets was shown with her face royal blue from the Prima Tech marking dye sprayed into her nostrils "to get the animal high." In perhaps the most disturbing sequence, a worker demonstrated the method for euthanizing underweight piglets: taking them by the hind legs and smashing their skulls against the concrete floor—a technique known as "thumping." Their bloodied bodies were then tossed into a giant bin, where video showed them twitching and paddling until they died, sometimes long after. Though his actions were not nearly as vicious as those of some coworkers who’d been fired immediately, Lyons knew, as the video quickly became national news, that the consequences for him could be severe.
As we sat recently in the tiny, tumbledown house he grew up in and now shares with his wife and two kids, Lyons acknowledged—as he did to the sheriff’s deputy back then—that he had prodded sows with clothespins, hit them with broad, wooden herding boards, and pulled them by their ears, but only in an effort, he said, to get pregnant sows that had spent the last 114 days immobilized in gestation crates up and moving to the farrowing crates where they would give birth. Lyons said he never intended to hurt the hogs, that he was just "scared to death" of the angry sows "who had spent their lives in a little pen"—and this was how he had been trained to deal with them. Lyons had watery blue eyes that seemed always on the verge of tears and spoke in a skittish mutter that would sometimes disappear all the way into silence as he rubbed his thin beard. "You do feel sorry for them, because they don’t have much room to move around," he said, but if they get spooked coming out of their crates, "you’re in for a fight."
"You do feel sorry for them," says Shawn Lyons of how he was taught to handle sows. But if they get spooked, "you’re in for a fight."
Lyons had been trained in these methods of hog-handling (many of them, including thumping, legal and widely practiced), but a spokeswoman for Hormel—one of the largest food processors in the country and the dominant buyer of MowMar’s hogs—had already called the video "appalling" and "completely unacceptable," and MowMar’s owners had responded by vowing that any additional workers found guilty of abuse as authorities pored over the tape would be terminated. Still, it came as a surprise when his boss informed him that he had been formally charged and immediately fired. "We don’t want to do it," the supervisor told him, "but we got to—because Hormel will quit taking the sows." He told Lyons to turn himself in at the courthouse.
While Lyons filled out paperwork and had his mug shot taken, his wife’s cellphone buzzed again and again: Her husband’s name was already on the evening news. Lyons hired a lawyer—but he was on video and he’d confessed to the deputy sheriff. "They got you, dude," Lyons said his attorney told him. He accepted a plea agreement—six months’ probation and a $625 fine plus court fees—and signed an admission of guilt. It may seem like a slap on the wrist, but Lyons was the first person ever convicted of criminal livestock neglect on a Midwestern farm—and only the seventh person convicted of animal abuse in the history of the American meat industry. He wasn’t alone for long: Five of Lyons’ coworkers soon signed similar agreements.
It was a major PR win for PETA—which often appeals to local authorities to make arrests but rarely gets the kind of cooperation they got from the Greene County Sheriff’s Office—but it was also a hollow victory. "Who in their right mind would want to work in a dusty, ammonia-ridden pig shed for nine bucks an hour but somebody who, literally, had no other options?" asked Dan Paden, the senior researcher at PETA who helped run the investigation. "And at the end of a long, frustrating day, when you are trying to move a pig who hasn’t been out of its crate in [months], that’s when these beatings occur—and people do stupid, cruel, illegal things." PETA was urging prosecutors to go beyond plea agreements for farmworkers; they wanted charges against farm owners and their corporate backers, to hold them responsible for crimes committed by undertrained, overburdened employees.
Which states have ag gag provisions?
Passed Pending Failed
This prospect scared industrial-scale meat producers into organizing a coordinated pushback. Recognizing that, in the era of smartphones and social media, any worker could easily shoot and distribute damning video, meat producers began pressing for legislation that would outlaw this kind of whistleblowing. Publicly, MowMar pledged to institute a zero-tolerance policy against abuse and even to look into installing video monitoring in its barns. And yet last summer, at the World Pork Expo in Des Moines, MowMar’s co-owner Lynn Becker recommended that each farm hire a spokesperson to "get your side of the story out" and called the release of PETA’s video "the 9/11 event of animal care in our industry."
As overheated as likening that incident to a terrorist attack may seem, such thinking has become woven into the massive lobbying effort that agribusiness has launched to enact a series of measures known (in a term coined by the New York Times’ Mark Bittman) as ag gag. Though different in scope and details, the laws (enacted in 8 states and introduced in 15 more) are viewed by many as undercutting—and even criminalizing—the exercise of First Amendment rights by investigative reporters and activists, whom the industry accuses of "animal and ecological terrorism."
Using a legal cudgel to go after critics wasn’t entirely a new tactic for agribusiness. PETA first began undercover investigations around 1981—getting video of rhesus monkeys being vivisected in a Maryland medical research lab by posing as employees—and a few legislatures responded by enacting laws to protect animal research from exposés. (Only Kansas had the foresight to expand its law to cover "livestock and domestic animals.") Then, in 1992, when two ABC PrimeTime Live reporters shot undercover video of Food Lion workers in the Carolinas repackaging spoiled meat, Food Lion sued—not for libel, since the tapes spoke for themselves, but for fraud and trespass, because the reporters had submitted false information on their job applications. (A jury awarded $5.5 million, but an appeals court reduced it to just $2.) In 1996, at the height of the mad cow scare, the Texas Beef Group launched a two-year lawsuit against Oprah Winfrey over an episode that questioned the safety of hamburger. Recently, not only has the rhetoric heated up, but so has the coordinated legislative effort. Deeply invested in industrywide methods that a growing number of consumers find distasteful or even cruel, agribusiness has united in making sure that prying eyes literally don’t see how the sausage is made.
"If you think this is an animal welfare issue, you have missed the mark," said Amanda Hitt, director of the Government Accountability Project’s Food Integrity Campaign, who served as a representative for the whistleblowers who tipped off ABC in the Food Lion case. "This is a bigger, broader issue." She likened activist videos to airplane black-box recorders—evidence for investigators to deconstruct and find wrongdoing. Ag gag laws, she said, don’t just interfere with workers blowing the whistle on animal abuse. "You are also stopping environmental whistleblowing; you are also stopping workers’ rights whistleblowing." In short, "you have given power to the industry to completely self-regulate." That should "scare the pants off" consumers concerned about where their food comes from. "It’s the consumer’s right to know, but also the employee’s right to tell. You gotta have both."
UNTIL THE 20TH CENTURY, American meat production, especially in the Midwest, was necessarily seasonal. Cattle, hogs, and chickens were part of small, diversified farms that sustained livestock all year long but tended to fatten animals and bring them to market only after harvest, when feed was plentiful and cheap. After profits ballooned during World War II, packers were eager to keep upping output (and sales) by turning packing into a year-round activity.
But hog farming on the cold, windswept plains of the Midwest was difficult in those days. Even in milder winters, farmers often suffered deaths among their herds, and sows would farrow only once a year. Midwestern stockmen tended to raise either cattle, which were hardy enough to withstand the cold, or chickens, which could be cooped during winter months. But then some enterprising hog farmers began building large confinement barns with slotted floors and pits below to catch manure. Such enclosures not only overcame mortality due to bad weather, but they made it possible to farrow sows twice a year.
By the close of the 1960s, the practice was so successful that Midwestern family farmers worried that meatpackers would build their own confinement facilities, establishing feed-to-market monopolies that would squeeze out small operations. Between 1971 and 1982, laws devised to forbid vertical integration and price-fixing passed in every state between Wisconsin and Oklahoma. Thus, when big meat producers began erecting barns capable of holding thousands of animals, the boom centered in the unregulated South.
But as the 1990s drew to a close, the industry suffered a devastating one-two punch. First, in July 1999, a North Carolina grand jury handed down the first animal cruelty indictments of farmworkers in American history after a three-month PETA investigation at Belcross Farm documented "daily violent beatings and bludgeonings of pregnant sows with a wrench and iron pole." Then, in September, floodwaters from Hurricane Floyd ruptured and overtopped manure lagoons all across the state. As the New York Times reported, "Feces and urine soaked the terrain and flowed into rivers." The ensuing backlash pushed producers to reconsider the Midwest, already depopulated by farm consolidation, as a place they could build large facilities with little governmental oversight or public outcry.
Through a series of lawsuits, big meatpackers successfully rolled back the family-farm protection laws, and soon industrial producers were rushing to buy up smaller Midwestern meatpacking plants and finance large-scale confinement facilities and feedlots. Beef packers moved into cattle-rich Nebraska, but hog development tended to focus on Iowa, where three of the biggest packers—Smithfield, Cargill, and Hormel—had gained special exemptions to the family-farm protection law by agreeing to two conditions: They would not engage in price-fixing of feed or livestock, and they would not seek to punish whistleblowers.
This compromise led to a mind-boggling boom in Iowa factory farms. For example, Greene County—which had few large-scale facilities when MowMar Farms applied for its permit a decade ago—now has 70, with at least another 14 permitted for construction. In a county of roughly 9,000 people, the hog population is more than 250,000.
As in any boom, the quick money and minimal restrictions attracted a number of fly-by-night developers. They sold to long-distance owners who, via a few local management companies, often hired inexperienced workers. And before long, Iowa resembled North Carolina of a decade before: a state dotted with giant hog confinements, many operating in violation of health codes, environmental requirements, and animal cruelty laws.
The release of the MowMar Farms video could have been a gut-check for the industry, a moment to reflect on whether the runaway growth had led to conditions unsafe for man or beast, perhaps even an opening for dialogue with animal welfare advocates. Instead, Julie H. Craven, the spokeswoman for Hormel, went on the offensive against PETA, criticizing its practice of methodically building cases over a period of months in order to demonstrate patterns of abuse. "If they are truly concerned about animal welfare," she said, "they should release information when they obtain it."
It marked a transition in the industry’s strategy: Where once it had pushed back against journalists and whistleblowers after their videos ignited public outrage, now they were looking for a way to prevent such exposure in the first place. Soon afterward, meat industry lobbyists dusted off a long-dormant piece of model legislation crafted by a conservative think tank that would not only make it harder to release undercover video but would criminalize obtaining, possessing, or distributing it to anyone—including journalists or regulators.
Cindy Cunningham, spokeswoman for the National Pork Board, told me she thought such legal protections could be appropriate. "I liken it to somebody walking into your living room and taking video," she said. "If you’re at a cocktail party and somebody shoots video of you from behind a candle—like they did to Mitt Romney—is that legitimate?"
BACK IN SEPTEMBER 2003, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) released a piece of model legislation it called the Animal and Ecological Terrorism Act. Like so many bills drafted by the free-market think tank, AETA was handed over, ready made, to legislators with the idea that it could be introduced in statehouses across the country with minimal modification. Under the measure, it would become a felony (if damages exceed $500) to enter "an animal or research facility to take pictures by photograph, video camera, or other means," and, in a flush of Patriot Act-era overreaching, those convicted of making such recordings would also be placed on a permanent "terrorist registry."
After a few years on the shelf, ALEC’s pet project found new life when radical groups like the Animal Liberation Front and the Earth Liberation Front destroyed testing labs and torched SUVs, prompting FBI deputy director John Lewis to say in 2005 that "the No. 1 domestic terrorism threat is the ecoterrorism, animal-rights movement." The bill was overhauled—modifying the ban on shooting video to "damaging or interfering with the operations of an animal enterprise" and eliminating the section on creating a terrorism watch list. This defanged version, renamed the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act, was repackaged to congressional leaders as a needed revision of existing laws protecting medical research from unlawful interference. Though it wouldn’t become apparent until much later, it was the beginning of lobbyists and lawmakers conflating radical ALF-type incidents with the undercover work done by PETA and journalists. The bill sailed through the Senate by unanimous consent, and in the House encountered resistance only from Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio). Kucinich warned it would "have a chilling effect on the exercise of the constitutional rights of protest," before a voice vote on the bill allowed it to be ushered through.
Application of the law soon nipped at the heels of the First Amendment. Most notably, a jury found a New Jersey chapter of a UK-based anti-animal-testing group guilty of conspiracy for publishing the home addresses of researchers at Huntingdon Life Sciences—handing down convictions for seven, including the chapter’s webmaster. The case was chronicled in a low-budget documentary called Your Mommy Kills Animals, which discussed the case for prosecuting animal rights activist groups, including PETA and the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), as homegrown terrorist organizations. The movie was underwritten by über-lobbyist Richard Berman, who runs the Center for Consumer Freedom and was immortalized by 60 Minutes as "Dr. Evil." Because nonprofits don’t have to reveal their donor lists, it’s impossible to know exactly how much money Berman takes in from particular corporations. However, a canceled check for $50,000, introduced as part of a lawsuit resulting from the documentary, revealed that Hormel was a backer—and Berman described them in testimony as a "supporter." (Berman sued the filmmakers because, contrary to his wishes, they made a movie that was too evenhanded.)
By early 2011, there was another run at introducing state-level laws that would expand the definition of "enterprise interference" to include shooting undercover video. It came after Joe C. Swedberg, vice president for legislative affairs at Hormel, invited Minnesota House Majority Whip Rod Hamilton and state Sen. Doug Magnus, chairs of their respective agricultural committees, to jointly deliver the policy lecture at the Minnesota Agri-Growth Council. The council sees its mission as shaping the legislative agenda; Swedberg was then board chairman. Magnus was former chairman of the United Soybean Board; Hamilton had been president of the Minnesota Pork Producers Association and worked in communications for Christensen Family Farms, the third-largest pork producer in the United States. Swedberg and Hamilton had previously served together on Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s Livestock Advisory Task Force and a legislative commission on immigration.
Lynn Becker says conditions at MowMar have improved, but he’s wary of letting reporters take a look. Photo: Mary Anne Andrei
The talk, according to the Agri-Growth Council’s newsletter, drew one of the largest and most varied arrays of attendees in the group’s history. Ten weeks later, Hamilton and Magnus introduced identical bills that would make it a crime to "produce a record which reproduces an image or sound" inside an animal facility—or even "possess or distribute" such a recording. Daryn McBeth, the president of the Agri-Growth Council, told the Minneapolis Star Tribune that the law would be "an important deterrent tool in our toolbox" against videos shot by "fraudulently hired employees." The Star Tribune pointed to a case that rocked Minnesota a few months earlier, when workers at the Willmar Poultry Company—the country’s largest turkey hatchery, producing 45 million birds a year—were filmed by HSUS undercover activists throwing sick, injured, and surplus birds into grinding machines while still alive.
It was a spotlight on another horrifying but legal practice. No surprise, then, that lobbyists from the poultry industry soon helped the effort to move similar bills onto the legislative agenda in Florida and Iowa, as well as Minnesota. Wilton Simpson, an egg farmer now running for the Florida Senate, pushed the legislation in the Sunshine State. In Iowa—where egg mogul Jack DeCoster was under a federal investigation that eventually found that filthy conditions at his facilities had led to a salmonella outbreak and nationwide egg recall—the Iowa Poultry Association freely admits the role it played in shaping the bill. Introduced by then state Rep. Annette Sweeney, former executive director of the Iowa Angus Association, the bill—supposedly composed around Sweeney’s kitchen table—was nearly identical in language to the bill introduced by Hamilton and Magnus in Minnesota, which in turn borrowed from ALEC’s model legislation.
Sweeney’s bill was overwhelmingly approved by the state House, despite a poll showing that 65 percent of Iowans opposed the measure. It stalled after Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller suggested that the bill as written might infringe on free speech, but a revised version, recrafted with input from Miller, was signed by Gov. Terry Branstad in March 2012. The new law evoked the Food Lion lawsuit—outlawing only employment fraud, not shooting video, and making it a misdemeanor, not a felony, to gain entrance to a farm or slaughterhouse on false pretense. Utah, however, passed a law closer to the original draft, making it misdemeanor "agricultural operation interference" to record video or audio at a farm facility—even if you were a whistleblower from within the company.
Meanwhile, in what some animal rights activists have called an "evolutionary change" in strategy, Missouri and Nebraska lawmakers introduced bills that include provisions for what is termed "quick reporting"—a concept ostensibly intended to protect animals, but that de facto makes it impossible for journalists or activists to build a convincing case of sustained abuse. Under some of these new provisos, activists or whistleblowers would be required to submit written reports of any signs of abuse they witnessed and all supporting evidence to authorities within a matter of hours—or face criminal charges themselves. Whistleblowers would not even be allowed to keep any copies of materials they submitted to authorities. Critics say the measures are a cynical warping of so-called good Samaritan measures that require reporting child abuse or sexual assault. Only in this case, by analogy, a teacher who later came to suspect child abuse could be prosecuted for not reporting the first bump or bruise.
"It’s absurd," said Amanda Hitt at the Government Accountability Project. She said she couldn’t believe that an industry that has been so regularly recorded breaking the law "would then have the audacity to come to any state legislative body and say, ‘Hey, we’re sick of getting caught doing crimes. Could you do us a favor and criminalize catching us?’"
BUT THAT’S EXACTLY what has happened in Nebraska—under the guise of a new advocacy group called We Support Agriculture. In 2010, the Nebraska Cattlemen, Nebraska Farm Bureau, Nebraska Poultry Industries, Nebraska Pork Producers Association, and Nebraska State Dairy Association formed the organization to "defend the responsible animal welfare practices of Nebraska’s farmers and ranchers from attacks by outside animal rights extremist groups." The effort was fraught with scandal from the start. First, the group received a $100,000 grant of taxpayer funds from Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning (who was running for US Senate at the time)—even though it didn’t yet have employees, offices, or initiatives of any kind. It later came to light that Bruning approved the grant via email just 32 minutes after the request was submitted. Since then, the Omaha World-Herald has uncovered 1,800 phone calls, many of them late at night, between the group’s first executive director, its only employee, and Nebraska’s married lieutenant governor, Rick Sheehy. (Sheehy resigned over the scandal involving this and other relationships in February.)
Despite the controversy, We Support Agriculture has pressed ahead with distributing material disparaging animal rights activists supplied by none other than Richard Berman and the Center for Consumer Freedom. Ron Meyer, a cattle rancher who attended an early We Support Agriculture meeting, said local meat producers were told that the goal of the Humane Society of the United States was "to destroy animal agriculture and force everyone to become either vegetarian or vegan." But Meyer said that the HSUS spokesman he met in 2011 was a hog producer from Missouri and that 95 percent of HSUS supporters eat meat. "Since 1980, Nebraska has lost 91 percent of its independent hog producers, 80 percent of its dairy producers and 40 percent of its beef producers," Meyer wrote in an editorial for the Lincoln Journal Star. "It was not HSUS that drove them out of business. What drove them out of business was a market increasingly controlled by multinational food corporations that include the large meatpackers, which destroyed competitive and fair prices and operate with no transparency." Still, We Support Agriculture has enjoyed the steadfast support of Gov. Dave Heineman (who said of the HSUS: "We’re going to kick your ass and send you out of the state") and a 27-year-old, Georgetown-educated state senator named Tyson Larson.
In January 2012, Larson introduced LB 915, a measure intended "to protect agricultural businesses from attacks by animal activist groups." He claimed that activists were gaining access to farms under false pretenses and injuring animals themselves in order to stage hoaxed videos. "I remember that they stuck a pitchfork in a cow’s butt region and took pictures of it," Larson said. He also criticized PETA for its practice of conducting investigations lasting at least 30 days—meaning, he testified, that abuse at the hands of animal activists would last more than a month. His goal was twofold: first, to criminalize "obtaining employment at an animal facility with the intent to disrupt the operations of the business" (a notion lifted directly from the initial draft of the Iowa bill) and, second, to require that any witnessed abuse—or even "suspected abuse"—be reported within 12 hours, accompanied by any and all documentation of that abuse.
But that kind of requirement runs smack into constitutional protections for the press. Floyd Abrams, the renowned First Amendment attorney, told me that videos like those made by PETA and other animal rights organizations constitute newsgathering—and as such the activists are afforded the same protections that any journalist would enjoy. "There are limits as to the burdens that you can impose upon newsgathering," he said. "And while not every effort at newsgathering is protected under the First Amendment, the underlying constitutional reality remains: The state, the government, can’t pass a law that so limits, burdens, threatens, or criminalizes newsgathering about important matters of public concern as to chill those efforts." Such a statute "could, in effect, criminalize newsgathering," Abrams said, "by requiring that information that is learned be turned over to authorities." Such a requirement "within any period of time seems to me highly likely to be held to violate the First Amendment." Nebraska’s legislators reached much the same conclusion, and Larson’s bill died in committee.
In January of this year, however, Larson introduced a revamped version, the penalty portion of which he now modeled after the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act. Only one person spoke in favor of the bill: Annette Sweeney, the former Iowa legislator who introduced the successful ag gag legislation there—and who now serves as a board member of Iowa Women in Agriculture. At the same time, 14 ag gag bills were submitted across the country, half of them including Larson’s quick reporting provision. In New Hampshire, where one such bill was introduced, Berman wrote an op-ed warning that PETA and the HSUS "have developed a cottage industry in filming alleged cruelty for weeks or months and then releasing it with a big media splash later. They get their faces on TV and their names in the paper when they think timing is right for a good PR campaign. And the animals? A few of them might suffer longer bouts of abuse while the activists film and wait." Without a hint of irony, he denounced the groups because they "employ professional media flacks" and have "produced propaganda films."
But Berman’s rhetoric comes off as positively mild when compared to the email Tennessee state Rep. Andy Hoyt sent the HSUS when his ag gag measure passed: "I am extremely pleased that we were able to pass HB 1191 today to help protect livestock in Tennessee from suffering months of needless investigation that propagandist groups of radical animal activists, like your fraudulent and reprehensibly disgusting organization of maligned animal abuse profiteering corporatists, who are intent on using animals the same way human-traffickers use 17 year old women. You work for a pathetic excuse for an organization who seek to profit from animal abuse. I am glad, as an aside, that we have limited your preferred fund-raising methods here in the state of Tennessee; a method that I refer to as ‘tape and rape.’ Best wishes for the failure of your organization and it’s true intent."
LYNN BECKER, head of LB Pork, describes his hog operation outside Fairmont, Minnesota, as a "good old-fashioned American family farm"—and it might appear that way at first. Everything about the place bespeaks its age, from the weathered, brick-red Dutch Gambrel barn to the simple farmhouse that Becker’s grandfather built in the 1930s. But, in truth, Becker is the head of a giant operation. By 2008, when he bought into the MowMar facility, he was bringing more than 120,000 pigs to market annually; today, it’s 156,000. The company is sprawling and complex, employing dozens of full-time and part-time workers spread out over 20 sites in Minnesota and Iowa.
Becker notes that the majority of the abuses captured on the PETA video occurred before his ownership, and he points to significant improvements in the last five years. Employees at the facility, renamed Fair Creek, now watch weekly training videos on a large flat-screen TV in the break room, where they are reminded of the fundamentals of "day one" piglet care. Piglets are now kept warm with heat lamps, and sows are moved much less frequently. "We try to leave pigs home with Mom," Becker’s health manager told the National Hog Farmer. "Never move more pigs than you have to." The new system has dramatically reduced piglet mortality rates—and, according to one worker, runts are now euthanized via the carbon monoxide system preferred by PETA, rather than the blunt-force thumping of old. "I didn’t completely buy into it when we first started focusing on day one pig care," said the new farm manager, "but it really works."
These changes have not only improved conditions for the hogs at the facility in Iowa, but they have also helped increase the profit margin for its owners. Thus, in the end, improved care has been touted as a win for everyone. But would it have occurred without the harsh light of public scrutiny? And why does the industry want to criminalize outside oversight if it leads to higher profits, as well as improved animal care? These are not merely academic questions. In February, the first person was charged under Utah’s ag gag law. She was filming from a public road as a slaughterhouse attempted to move a sick cow with a tractor. The cops arrived within minutes; the co-owner of the meatpacker is also the mayor. The charges were swiftly dropped after journalist Will Potter publicized the case—but, it should be noted, had the tractor been moving the cow toward the abattoir for processing, then the woman would have been documenting a crime, an act nearly identical to the one that touched off the largest ground-beef recall in US history in 2008.
Why would the industry possibly want to protect a few bad actors at the risk of major expense and public outcry? According to the Government Accountability Project’s Hitt, the push for ag gag is not about concealing illegal abuse; it’s about keeping the public from questioning whether legal, industry-standard practices should be allowed.
"Some of these standard operating procedures are things that the general public doesn’t like," Hitt said, "and, if by viewing them, your potential customer is turned off, then it is incumbent upon the industry to make changes." Take the use of gestation crates. When public opinion turned against keeping sows in nearly four-month-long confinement during pregnancy, the big producers were quick to change—with Smithfield and Hormel among the first to demand that their suppliers retrofit their operations. It’s to avoid these kinds of costly PR nightmares, Hitt said, that industry has pushed to keep consumers from seeing how their food is raised and made.
But the ag gag campaign has come at another kind of cost for the industry. Bills to criminalize undercover investigations have created the impression that something brutal—and potentially illegal—is still going on inside facilities like Fair Creek. I asked Becker if the industry might not be better served by increased transparency, rather than tightened security. Why not open up the operation to journalists to prove that it no longer resembles the days when it was MowMar Farms? He gave a list of reasons—sow health, proprietary practices—it wouldn’t be possible. Months of follow-up requests have gone unanswered.
It’s not hard to see why such evasiveness makes the public uneasy. In an era where we are all beginning to see the effects of letting industries regulate themselves—from the Deepwater Horizon spill to Wall Street’s meltdown to spinach recalls—people are asking legitimate questions about the safety of their food supply. With federal regulatory agencies now hobbled by spending cuts, the secrecy and impunity afforded by ag gag could send meat production back to the days of The Jungle.
Shawn Lyons, who spent two years unemployed after being fired from MowMar Farms, finally got a job with a security company. He installs video cameras in hospitals, nursing homes, and schools for 24-hour monitoring. Before I packed up my things and left his tiny house, Lyons asked me whatever became of Becker’s promise to investigate security cameras for his hog barns. "That’s what I do now," he said.
His wife, Sherri, chimed in. "They could have some kind of a committee set up that can come in and check anytime that they want, someone that’s not associated with the company. I think that would be the better way to do it. So that people are well aware of the fact that there’s cameras here, and there’s this group of people that can come in anytime and look. So, you know, be on your best behavior."
Statistics: Posted by yoda — Wed Jun 19, 2013 12:31 am
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Last Thursday, a federal district court judge issued an injunction blocking the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet – the genteel name given the Bluegrass State’s department of transportation – from enforcing the state’s anti-competitive licensing law for movers.
In Bruner v. Zawacki, which is being litigated by Cato adjunct scholar Timothy Sandefur and our other friends at the Pacific Legal Foundation, small business owner Raleigh Bruner argues that the licensing laws, which allow existing moving companies to file “protests” to block new companies from opening, create a “Competitor’s Veto” that has no rational basis. Judge Danny Reeves ordered the state not to enforce those laws, at least until he has the opportunity to issue a complete opinion – but he strongly indicated that he already thinks those laws are unconstitutional:
The Sixth Circuit has held that “protecting a discrete interest group from economic competition is not a legitimate governmental purpose.” And it appears that the notice, protest, and hearing procedure in the statutes – both facially and as applied – operate solely to protect existing moving companies from outside economic competition. The defendants have admitted that they know of no instance where, upon a protest by an existing moving company, a new applicant has been granted a certificate … . [O]ver the past five years, no protest filed has been regarding an applicant’s safety record. Likewise, no applications have been denied on the grounds that the applicant was a danger to public health, safety, or welfare.
You can read more about the case at PLF’s Liberty Blog.
View full post on Cato @ Liberty
Bye-bye 5th Amendment! Supreme Court Decides: Anything You Don’t Say Can and Will Be Used Against You
June 19th, 2013
The Organic Prepper
Everyone knows that when building a police state, it’s vital to strike a few Constitutional rights off the books. Now, we can add the right to remain silent to the graveyard of the American justice system. How can you expect the people to be properly subjugated with all those pesky freedoms that the Bill of Rights blathers on about?
The would-be totalitarians can chalk up another victory, because the Supreme Court has made the decision that if you opt to remain silent, that silence can (and will) be used against you in a court of law.
The Fifth Amendment to the Constitution guarantees our right against self-incrimination.
No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.
The Supreme Court said that unless a person specifically asks for their Fifth Amendment right to remain silence, that your silence can be used as an indication of guilt. The case was brought to court on the basis of an unconstitutional prosecution against Genovevo Salinas. Justice Alito, who has a history of excusing the most disturbing abuses in favor of the government, said,“[Salinas'] Fifth Amendment claim fails because he did not expressly invoke the privilege against self-incrimination in response to the officer’s question. It has long been settled that the privilege `generally is not self-executing’ and that a witness who desires its protection `must claim it.’”
So, the advice to sit there and keep your mouth shut, should you be unfortunate enough to have been accused of committing a crime, is no longer the best option. If the police fail to read you your Miranda warning, you must explicitly say that you are claiming your Fifth Amendment right not to incriminate yourself. In stating that, aren’t you, in fact, letting the police know that a crime, has indeed been committed by you? The right to remain silent is supposed to mean just that – you can refuse to answer questions and your silence will not be used against you.
Justice Breyer said, in his dissent:
“The need to categorize Salinas’ silence as based on the Fifth Amendment is supported here by the presence, in full force, of the predicament I discussed earlier, namely that of not forcing Salinas to choose between incrimination through speech and incrimination through silence. That need is also supported by the absence of any special reason that the police had to know, with certainty, whether Salinas was, in fact, relying on the Fifth Amendment—such as whether to doubt that there really was a risk of self-incrimination, see Hoffman v. United States, 341 U. S. 479, 486 (1951), or whether to grant immunity, see Kastigar, 406 U. S., at 448. Given these circumstances, Salinas’ silence was “sufficient to put the [government] on notice of an apparent claim of the privilege.” Quinn, supra, at 164. That being so, for reasons similar to those given in Griffin, the Fifth Amendment bars the evidence of silence admitted against Salinas and mentioned by the prosecutor.”
In 2001, Ohio vs. Reiner, the Supreme Court ruled that “a witness may have a reasonable fear of prosecution and yet be innocent of any wrongdoing. The privilege serves to protect the innocent who otherwise might be ensnared by ambiguous circumstances.”
Apparently they have changed their minds.
As Justice Breyer said, you must now choose whether to incriminate yourself through speech and incriminate yourself through silence. I wasn’t there when they wrote it, but I really don’t think that “devil and the deep blue sea” decision is what the authors of the Fifth Amendment had in mind.
The “Supreme Court” is a joke.
Yesterday it was announced that they struck down the need to prove your citizenship in order to vote in the United States – all you have to do is say you’re an American, and then “poof – here’s a ballot!” They have decided again and again in favor of huge, evil corporations like Monsanto. They have decided in favor of Obamacare. The conflicts of interest within the Supreme Court, large corporations, the banking industry, and the government are so blatant that they don’t even bother to defend themselves against accusations of such.
The checks and balances designed to be in place with the three branches of power are all leaning to one side – there is no balance. We are collapsing into a police state, and the Judicial branch has just tipped us even further into that deep hole. It would be difficult to argue that this destruction of our freedom is not deliberate.
The Justices of the highest court in the land don their robes, they hear these cases, and they destroy the Constitution, amendment by amendment.
Please feel free to share any information from this article in part or in full, giving credit to the author and including a link to her website and the following bio.
Daisy Luther is a freelance writer and editor. Her website, The Organic Prepper, offers information on healthy prepping, including premium nutritional choices, general wellness and non-tech solutions. You can follow Daisy on Facebook and Twitter, and you can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org
Statistics: Posted by yoda — Wed Jun 19, 2013 12:33 am
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Christopher A. Preble
Ankara, Turkey — We arrived in Ankara this evening after some sightseeing on the Aegean coast, from the resort town of Kusadasi we traveled to the ancient city of Ephesus. These are the most impressive ruins from the Roman period that I’ve ever seen (excepting Rome).
The amphitheater (pictured below) seats over 24,000 people and is appropriately famous for its sheer size, but the city as a whole was impressive, boasting an estimated population of 250,000 people at its peak circa the 1st or 2nd century AD.
We took a one-hour flight from Izmir to Ankara, the capital. As in Izmir and Istanbul, I was struck by the sense of confidence and growth. Modern buildings are under construction everywhere, and there is an ebullient mood. We passed a large festival with carnival style rides. Cars speed along the main road through the center of town. It is an impressive place. But it will be interesting to see if this upbeat attitude can be maintained in the midst of widespread strikes.
When I first arrived in Turkey, a traveling companion helped me to understand its complexity. The society is characterized by multiple social and cultural divides and disparate identities. Some of the more obvious that I alluded to yesterday include the divide between secular and religious people, and between the military and civilian officials. There is also, of course, the divide between Muslims and non-Muslims. Among Muslims there are those who are very observant and conservative, and others less so. Most are Sunni, but there is also an Alawite community in Turkey, especially near the Syrian border. There are ethnic divisions, most prominently (and sometimes tragically) between the Turks and Kurds, but there are regional divides as well, for example, between the more laid back communities in the coastal cities, and the bustling cosmopolitanism characteristic in the mega-city Istanbul, or here in Ankara. Lastly, there is a traditional political divide between left and right, and various gradations along that continuum.
Consider, then, that someone can be a leftist, a Kurd, and a moderate Sunni Muslim. One can be a relatively conservative, practicing Muslim, and a supporter of the center-right AKP, but also respect a strict separation between church and state, and thus oppose regulations that would impose their beliefs on others. Other more religiously conservative Turks might want tougher laws restricting the use of tobacco or the consumption of alcohol, and be enthused about Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s efforts in this regard. One can be a moderate leftist, a supporter of the main opposition party, the CHP, but also a practicing Muslim.
View full post on Cato @ Liberty
June 19, 2013
Impeach Eric Holder
By Dexter Wright
As the Washington media continues to trip over the stumbling blocks of administration scandals and echoes of Watergate bounce off the buildings across the Potomac River, the question comes to mind: Will there be impeachment hearings this summer as there were in the Summer of ’73?
There may indeed be impeachment hearings this summer, but not for President Obama; we may very well see that the House Judiciary Committee convenes hearings on the impeachment of the Attorney General (AG) Eric Holder. In a recent talk radio interview, Texas Congressman Lamar Smith the former Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, confirmed a rumor that behind closed doors he has heard a number of his colleagues discussing the impeachment of Holder.
Congress has the authority to impeach any Senate-confirmed cabinet official or federal judge, not just presidents. It states in Article II, Section 4, of the U.S. Constitution:
"…the President, Vice President, and all civil officers of the United States shall be removed from office on impeachment for, and conviction of, treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors."
The case against Holder is potentially profound, more so than the case against either Presidents Nixon or Clinton. But unlike these two former presidents, Holder is not an elected official, so that there can be no contention that the Republicans will be undoing a public mandate.
Looking at the chilling facts as they have been revealed so far, Holder is on very thin ice. So far, it has been revealed that Holder personally withheld information concerning the fatally flawed Operation Fast and Furious. The information in question was subpoenaed by Congress, and for his refusal to comply, he was found in contempt; an historical first for any sitting member of the cabinet. Ultimately, Holder’s master, President Obama, issued an Executive Privilege decree to provide legal cover for Holder.
But now there is new, publically-revealed evidence of two possible counts of perjury committed by the AG. The first count focuses on his assertion to Congress that he was not informed of the details of Fast and Furious. However, it was first reported by National Public Radio that when Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry was killed by one of the weapons involved in Fast and Furious, that the AG was informed by the U.S. Attorney for Arizona, Dennis Burke, via e-mail.
But most recently, the other possible count of perjury involves the statement to Congress by Holder on May 15th of this year, about obtaining the phone record and e-mails of the Associated Press and other major news organizations, wherein the AG stated:
"This is not something I’ve ever been involved in, heard of, or would think would be wise policy…"
Yet the facts seem to indicate quite the opposite, given the number of warrants issued by the FBI to conduct investigation of James Rosen, a Fox News reporter. This paper trail of contradictions prompted Republican members of the House Judiciary Committee to send a letter to the AG, in which they raise the possibility that Holder may have perjured himself by issuing a sweeping denial of any involvement. The letter asks for clarification by stating the following:
"The media reports and statements issued by the Department regarding the search warrants for Mr. Rosen’s emails appear to be at odds with your sworn testimony before the Committee…"
The letter goes on to state:
"We believe — and we hope you will agree — it is imperative that the Committee, the Congress and the American people be provided a full and accurate account of your involvement in and approval of these search warrants."
In the June 3rd response from the Department of Justice (DOJ), there seems to be an admission of guilt on the part of the AG. The DOJ response letter states:
"The Attorney General was consulted and approved the application for the search warrant during the course of the investigation."
There have been sixteen federal officials impeached since 1797. It falls to the House of Representatives to make the first move in this process. After Articles of Impeachment are passed by the House Judiciary Committee, the House either votes to have the Senate act upon these articles or to terminate the process. This procedure has not always resulted in the removal from office of the officials. In the cases of Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton, neither man was convicted by the Senate. In the case of Richard Nixon, he chose to resign rather than face a trial in the Senate. But the list of impeached officials includes the two presidents mentioned above, a cabinet member, a senator, a justice of the Supreme Court, and eleven federal judges. Of those, the Senate has convicted and removed seven, all of whom were judges.
Given the evidence so far revealed, the AG will likely resign in the dead of night on the Friday of the Labor Day weekend this September. He will try to disappear like smoke through the keyhole, but it would be nice if the Republicans could show him where the door is by convening impeachment hearings; the public deserves to know if their Attorney General is a crook.
Statistics: Posted by yoda — Wed Jun 19, 2013 12:22 am
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