Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Joining the Austrian Mafia

It looks as though I recently got Don Luskin's attention again. For some reason, Luskin has this thing against Peter Schiff of Euro Pacific Capital, and I am not sure why. Luskin claims that it is because Schiff made some wrong judgments last year when he predicted then what is happening now: that people are getting the heck out of the U.S. Dollar.

I recently pointed out on Lew Rockwell's blog that Luskin still is fixated on going after Schiff, and Luskin fired back, calling me a "mafia capo":

"Austrian" mafia capo Bill Anderson accuses me of "attacking" his boy Schiff by posting the above, claiming that the quotation from Time is something I "declare" rather than an external authority whom I quote. Can these thin-skinned idiots even read?
Actually, I CAN read, and this is what was in the entire paragraph from Time, not just the small passage that Luskin cherry-picked:

This year, though, Schiff's TV bookings are down 75% to 85%, says his younger brother Andrew, who handles p.r. for him. About the only things written about him lately have been negative--the result of financial blogger Michael (Mish) Shedlock's pointing out that Schiff's investment recommendations were money losers in 2008. How could a bear have managed to lose money last year? Schiff was blindsided when global investors piled into dollars and U.S. government bonds during last fall's panic. But that rush to safety has already abated, and over longer periods, Schiff's decade-old strategy of steering clients out of U.S. securities and into commodities and overseas stocks has been a big winner. His investment record surely can't be the reason for his fall from media grace. (Emphasis mine. What I put in italics is what Luskin left out.)

Time added the following:

No, the main issue with Schiff seems to be that he hasn't changed his tune--and it isn't a pleasant tune to listen to. He thinks the "phony economy" of the U.S. is headed for even harder times. He believes that the crisis-fighting measures coming out of Washington are merely delaying the inevitable, debasing the dollar and loading future taxpayers with huge debts.

Why all the invective from Luskin? First, it is personal with him. Luskin got me a gig last fall with Forbes Online to write something about Paul Krugman receiving the Nobel Prize in Economic Science, and I produced "Krugman in Wonderland." Therefore, Luskin now believes that I somehow have betrayed him and am holding on to faulty economic reasoning.

Second, Luskin is a pal of Larry Kudlow, who claimed for a long time that there was no housing bubble, that President George W. Bush's policies were great, and that we were going to have prosperity for many years. When the wheels came off late in 2007 and especially last year, Kudlow had nowhere to turn, as he and his fellow commentators were caught with their pants down.

Third, Luskin and Kudlow have hated Schiff ever since he told Arthur Laffer in 2006 that we were headed for a deep recession, and that the government's scheme of printing money and selling debt abroad was going to run into a brick wall. Anything that contradicts Laffer and Kudlow is heresy to that crowd, and what is worse, Schiff really was right.

Today, Kudlow and the others are behind the government's plan to inflate our way out of this crisis, while Schiff rightly notes that the government's economic policies are a disaster. True, Kudlow and Luskin do not support Obama, but they were firmly behind last year's bailouts and attacked anyone who said that the bailouts would make things worse.

Anyway, I cannot say that I am the best "capo" for the Austrian Mafia, but nonetheless I will put the analysis of Austrian Economics against anything that Kudlow and Luskin throw out there.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

More Brutal Criminality by the Cops

Seattle, Washington, is a place where the people there like to refer to themselves as "progressive." I remember several years ago when the Seattle Public Schools posted some definitions of "cultural racism" on its website, and under the umbrella of the definitions given, just about everyone was a "cultural racist." (After being bombarded with phone calls and emails, the school system took down the incendiary commentary and replaced it with a "we just want to be nice" post.)

However, "progressives" also have a dark side, in that a "progressive" community, because it depends upon a lot of coercion, also needs the stick to go with the carrot, and that "stick" comes in the form of a "kick-ass" local police force. Thanks to Youtube, we can see a Seattle police officer slam the head of a man into the wall, and today, the man remains in a coma in critical condition and on life support. The cop, not surprisingly, remains on the force.

Not surprisingly, the Seattle Sheriff's Department, which employs the officer in question, has deemed the whole thing a "tragic accident," especially given that the person attacked by the police was wrongly identified as someone having committed a crime. No one will be charged with anything, which is pretty typical when police engage in this kind of brutal conduct.

What also interests me is the lack of concern by the Seattle media. I found this list of articles from the Seattle Times, and they are stunning by their lack of any critical analysis. Even the editorial on the subject lacks any sort of outrage at what happened, despite the fact that the video clearly shows the young man, Christopher Harris, had stopped and was facing the police officer, who then shoved him into the wall.

I would recommend that none of you try this yourself, unless you wear the Blue Uniform. Anyone else who might do such a thing would be charged with a felony. Just like the Durham cops who framed the Duke lacrosse players and lied their way through the case, nothing will happen at all to the cop who brutalized this young man, who very likely will not survive this attack and certainly will never be the same again, given his massive head injuries.

Tragic accident? Let us try something else, but that something else is reserved only for those people who are not police officers.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Questions about the "Temple Plot" in NYC

I know that what I am going to write will be controversial, but nonetheless I am going to express some real misgivings about the so-called plot to blow up a Jewish temple and shoot down some military planes by "domestic terrorists" in New York. Yes, we know that these guys planted what they thought were bombs and even had what they thought was a Stinger missile in their possession.

However, how did they get those "weapons of mass destruction"? Well, they got them from an FBI agent who also served as the "idea guy" or what is known as the "agent provocateur." An update in the New York Times that the four men arrested "acted alone" seems to confirm my hypothesis.

Furthermore, there is this little problem of actually obtaining these WMDs. Plastic explosives and Stinger missiles are not exactly standard fare at your corner drug store or even at your local flea market. Furthermore, it seems that this particular agent was a guy who was trying to get people to engage in terrorism:

At the Masjid al-Ikhlas mosque in Newburgh where the men first met the F.B.I. informant, they were not considered devoted members, said an imam at the mosque, Salahuddin Mustafa. He also said that the man he believes was the informant showed up about two years ago and started inviting people to meals, where he would talk about jihad and violence. The imam and others believed the man was a government agent and steered clear of him, he said, but Mr. Cromitie (one of the people arrested) apparently took the bait.
Would any of these men be planting any bombs or be looking to obtain missiles had this agent provocateur not been there to push along this "plot"? Somehow, I don't think so.

Now, the standard response is that they might have done something in the future, so it is best to "smoke out" the "potential terrorists" now. I'm sorry, but I don't buy that. The idea of the FBI or any other government agency manufacturing a "crime" so that the government then can claim it is "protecting" us is as dishonest and phony as it comes.

Interestingly, the FBI had infiltrated both the groups at Elohim City that gave us the Oklahoma City bombing and the group that set off a huge truck bomb at the World Trade Towers in 1993. In those cases, the bombs actually exploded, so maybe we should be thankful that this time the explosives were inert and the missile was a fake.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Steven Greenhut Exposes the Blue Wall of Silence

It seems that Durham, North Carolina, is not the only place where the "Blue Wall of Silence" of the police exists. Steven Greenhut, an editorial writer and columnist for the Orange County Register, writes about a recent incident in Orange County, California:

Sheriff Sandra Hutchens and Association of Orange County Deputy Sheriffs President Wayne Quint were both furious – Wayne had steam coming out of his ears, according to one associate – at District Attorney Tony Rackauckas, and more specifically at his press spokesperson, Susan Schroeder, for a few matter-of-fact comments she made after a recent mistrial. When asked why the office was not going to retry the excessive force case against a deputy who used a Taser on a handcuffed suspect, she gave an honest answer: "We argued in closing arguments that we felt there was a code of silence – what is it? A thin blue line. We're very disappointed. … It's very important for the District Attorney's Office to have ethical and law-abiding law enforcement officers."

The D.A. believes OC deputies had "blue amnesia" – they lied, or conveniently "forgot" critical facts – when testifying in a case involving one of their own. It's the latest incident in a string of cases involving sheriff's deputies who allegedly covered up for their misbehaving colleagues, ranging from the D.A.'s allegations of departmental perjury and witness tampering following the John Chamberlain jail murder in October 2006 to the possible cover-up by sheriff's officials of a deputy, Gerald Stenger, accused last year of child molestation.

The jury voted to acquit the Taser-happy cop, Christopher Hibbs, by an 11-1 verdict. According to Rackauckas, speaking at a press conference on May 12, it did so because the key witnesses changed their stories.

Deputies painted a clear picture of Hibbs and his Taser abuse in an internal investigation and before the grand jury. But they told differing accounts of the event once the trial got under way. The public knows that cops frown on "ratting out" one another, even though this undermines the rule of law. While a "code of silence" is no surprise, the sheriff's overreaction to a few words certainly is surprising.

Read the rest here.

Economists and the "Zimbabwe Solution"

It seems that the madness among at least some economists is not abating. Harvard University apparently is vying with Princeton to see who can create the most outrageous policy prescriptions. While Paul Krugman has been leading the pack, it is disheartening to see Greg Mankiw (who at one time made sense once in a while and was George W. Bush's chief economic advisor) and also Kenneth Rogoff, the former chief economist at the International Monetary Fund. Apparently, they like what has happened in Zimbabwe so much that they believe we need a dose of the same thing: inflation.

What the U.S. economy may need is a dose of good old-fashioned inflation.

So say economists including Gregory Mankiw, former White House adviser, and Kenneth Rogoff, who was chief economist at the International Monetary Fund. They argue that a looser rein on inflation would make it easier for debt-strapped consumers and governments to meet their obligations. It might also help the economy by encouraging Americans to spend now rather than later when prices go up.

“I’m advocating 6 percent inflation for at least a couple of years,” says Rogoff, 56, who’s now a professor at Harvard University. “It would ameliorate the debt bomb and help us work through the deleveraging process.”

This falls into the OMG category of policy prescriptions. Note that what they really are advocating is the repudiation of debt via monetary debasement. Now, when you and I receive debased products, such as lower-quality food and other goods, we don't like it and believe we are being cheated.

However, now the Great Minds of the Ivy League are claiming that if we do the same thing to money, we will have prosperity. Somehow, I think we are dealing with an economic non sequitur, not that it matters at the Ivies.

Makiw and Ben Bernanke claim that the Great Enemy is deflation:

For the moment, the Fed’s focus is on preventing deflation -- a potentially debilitating drop in prices and wages that makes debts harder to repay and encourages the postponement of purchases. The Labor Department reported May 15 that consumer prices were unchanged in April from the previous month and were down 0.7 percent from a year earlier.

“We are currently being very aggressive because we are trying to avoid” deflation, Fed Chairman Ben S. Bernanke told an Atlanta Fed conference on May 11.

Keep in mind that deflation is nothing more than money regaining previously lost value and the re-aligning of the economic fundamentals into lines of sustainable production. What Bernanke and company are saying is that they are going to do everything they can to prevent economic recover -- all in the name of putting the economy back on the road to recovery.

This is not economics, folks. It is madness.

(Hat tip to Matt Moselle)

Monday, May 18, 2009

More Disturbing News about U.S. Prosecutors

Whenever I write about prosecutorial abuse, there generally is someone who writes me to claim that while there are a "few bad apples" out there, most prosecutors are hard-working, honest people who just want to do the right thing. I would love to be able to believe that, but this article from today's New York Times is extremely disturbing, as it describes how prosecutors are actively blocking DNA testing for people already convicted of crimes:

A recent analysis of 225 DNA exonerations by Brandon L. Garrett, a professor at the University of Virginia School of Law, found that prosecutors opposed DNA testing in almost one out of five cases. In many of the others, they initially opposed testing but ultimately agreed to it. In 98 of those 225 cases, the DNA test identified the real culprit.

In Illinois, prosecutors have opposed a DNA test for Johnnie Lee Savory, convicted of committing a double murder when he was 14, on the grounds that a jury was convinced of his guilt without DNA and that the 175 convicts already exonerated by DNA were “statistically insignificant.”
This is breathtaking. Prosecutors are admitting that they really don't care about individual guilt. That is the only conclusion one can draw from the "statistically insignificant" statement. A number of those exonerated were on death row, which means that the State of Illinois was preparing to execute these men even though forensic science was able to demonstrate they were not the killers.

To me, this demonstrates a level of depravity that one would expect to find among dictators and criminals. Another reason given by prosecutors was the need for "finality" in a conviction:

“It’s definitely a matter of drawing the line somewhere,” said Peter Carr, the assistant district attorney who handled the case of Mr. Wright, who was accused of raping and killing a 77-year-old woman. The defendant did not request testing until 2005, three years after the statute was passed, Mr. Carr said, and in his view there was no possibility that the test would show innocence.

There’s also the idea that you want finality for the victim’s sake,” Mr. Carr said (emphasis mine). “If someone else’s semen was found at the crime scene, we’d have to talk to the victim’s family about whether the victim was sexually active.”
Indeed, something tells me that Peter Carr would have been happy to defend Mike Nifong's "Jake Blues" logic in Nifong's defense of why he lied about the DNA found on Crystal Mangum's body. Prosecutors love the word "finality," because it permits them to say that even if a person convicted is innocent, at least someone is behind bars or on death row, so punishment is being meted out by the authorities, even if the wrong person is on the receiving end.

The argument that prosecutors use in claiming there is no need for DNA testing because the person convicted was identified by an "eyewitness." This is another red herring, for it has been established without a doubt that so-called eyewitness testimony often is unreliable. What prosecutors really are saying is this: We don't care about guilt and innocence. Once we have a conviction, then that conviction must stand no matter who actually committed the crime because prosecutors cannot ever be demonstrated to be wrong.

This is not rule of law. It is a return to the despotism of ancient times and of the modern totalitarian state which held that the sovereign or the state always is right. In a real sense, these prosecutors are endorsing the Stalin Show Trials and the show trials conducted by the infamous Nazi judge Roland Freisler.

Evidence? We don't need no stinkin' evidence!

[Update, May 18]: One thing that hit me as I read this article was that the New York Times insisted that in the Duke Lacrosse Case, suddenly DNA no longer mattered. I pointed out that contradiction to the writer of the article I have featured, although I did not accuse her personally. I do find it interesting that in a case that matched the ideological bent of the NYT editorial page, the editors and Duff Wilson, the "DNA does not matter" mindset of prosecutors also became the watchword for the NYT. Coincidence? I doubt it.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Prosecutors and Wrongful Convictions: They Don't Care, Anymore

Supposedly, the worst nightmare for a prosecutor is obtaining a wrongful conviction and having the errors he or she committed played out in front of others. Yet, because prosecutors rarely face any real problems or sanctions for engaging in the behavior that brings about wrongful convictions, we find that they are likely to be fast-and-loose with the truth.

I became involved in the infamous Duke Lacrosse Case because I believed that the prosecutor, Michael B. Nifong, was knowingly presenting false evidence and pursuing charges solely for political and personal reasons. I believed that even before he obtained indictments against Reade Seligmann and Collin Finnerty, and I will tell you I was not surprised when he finally was caught with his pants down during a hearing on December 15, 2006.

One of the things we have heard ad nauseum has been that Nifong was an outlier, a "rogue" prosecutor, someone who does not follow the rules. I wish that were true, and that Nifong were the exception to the rule. Unfortunately, I don't believe that, anymore. While Nifong clearly embarrassed other prosecutors with his showboating antics and his bald-faced lies, nonetheless there are plenty of other prosecutors in this country who care as little for the truth as did that cocky sociopath who ruled the roost for a brief time in Durham County, North Carolina.

Radley Balko of Reason Magazine has done a lot of heroic work in uncovering prosecutorial misconduct that brings about wrongful convictions. He does it again here in a great article which exposes the quackery in so-called forensics science which has put innocent people on death row and in prisons for long terms. Balko's target this time is the Mississippi dentist Michael West, who has been a favorite "expert witness" for prosecutors in Mississippi and Louisiana, as he is well-known for testifying that whoever happens to be on trial was the murderer, as "proven" by his "bite marks."

As Balko demonstrates, this "expert" became the target of a private sting conducted by attorney Christopher Plourd, who sent West photos of a bite marks on the breast of a murdered woman, and then sent his own dental mold, but told West that the mold was taken from the "prime suspect" in the murder. He also sent West the required $750 retainer.

West fell for the bait and told Plourd that the mold matched the bite marks on the woman. Plourd publicized the findings but, incredibly, the Mississippi State Supreme Court still insists that convictions in cases in which West supposedly fingered the guilty party are legitimate:

West failed Plourd’s test in 2001. Yet as late as 2003, the Mississippi State Supreme Court still upheld West’s bite-mark testimony in a murder case. In rejecting an appeal by convicted murderer and death row inmate Eddie Lee Howard, the court wrote that “Just because Dr. West has been wrong a lot, does not mean, without something more, that he was wrong here.” And as late as 2006, Mississippi District Attorney Forrest Allgood relied on West’s bite-mark testimony to keep rape and murder convict Kennedy Brewer in prison. Though DNA evidence had shown back in 2003 that Brewer didn’t commit the rape, Allgood argued that because West matched bite marks he claimed to have found on the victim to Brewer’s teeth, Brewer must have bitten the victim while someone else raped her. (Other analysts say the marks weren't even bites.) Brewer remained in prison an additional five years, and was only released in 2008.
So, here we have evidence that Mississippi prosecutors and judges have been made aware of just what a liar and charlatan Michael West really is, but he still is their great expert. Who would use an "expert witness" who has been caught fabricating evidence and lying in a court of law? Why, a prosecutor seeking a conviction at all costs.

Prosecutorial misconduct did not begin and end with Michael Nifong. Unfortunately, he is the only one who received punishment, as mild as it might have been, for his crimes. As long as American courts continue to treat these people with deference and reverence, we will have wrongful convictions and prosecutors who brag that "any man can convict a guilty person, but it takes a great prosecutor to convict an innocent man."

Paul Krugman Demands China Commit Economic Suicide

These are heady times for Paul Krugman. Armed with his Nobel Prize, The Great One now declares that the Chinese must embrace his view of environmentalism. Yes, he wants to spread his Gospel of Keynesian Environmentalism to China, which I only can hope will reject the nonsense being peddled by this charlatan. The Great One writes:

Like every visitor to China, I was awed by the scale of the country’s development. Even the annoying aspects — much of my time was spent viewing the Great Wall of Traffic — are byproducts of the nation’s economic success.

But China cannot continue along its current path because the planet can’t handle the strain.

The scientific consensus on prospects for global warming has become much more pessimistic over the last few years. Indeed, the latest projections from reputable climate scientists border on the apocalyptic. Why? Because the rate at which greenhouse gas emissions are rising is matching or exceeding the worst-case scenarios.

And the growth of emissions from China — already the world’s largest producer of carbon dioxide — is one main reason for this new pessimism.
Without going into all of the "science" behind the theories of human-caused global warming, I will say that it is interesting that since the planet has cooled in recent years, the "experts" have become more apocalyptic. This is an old trick in which one becomes increasingly shrill as the facts contradict one's theories.

For example, the Centers for Disease Control and their adoring media have magnified the view that we are headed for another 1918-style pandemic when, in fact, a lot more people have become sick via other means than the Swine Flu. As I wrote on Lew Rockwell's site recently, it always is 1918 at the CDC, and the government stands by to throw emergency powers at us in order to save us -- whether or not we want to be bullied by government bureaucrats. Even as life expectancy increases and living conditions for people improve (albeit slowly) across the planet, the bureaucrats and the Krugmans become even more shrill and demanding. (Yes, there is a connection between the two.)

Krugman's notion that government now is producing "real science" is a howler. The Environmental Protection Agency for years has been a repository of junk science coupled with authoritarian powers, the worst combination. That President Barck Obama is unleashing the EPA even more than it was unleashed under previous administrations is frightening.

Here is hoping that the political and economic leadership of China tells Paul Krugman where to stick it. As an advocate of both junk economics and junk science, Krugman is a bigger disaster than Swine Flu and Global Warming put together.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Judge Napolitano on "Positivism" in the law

For the past seven years, I have written a number of columns and papers on law and especially federal criminal law. (Candice E. Jackson, an attorney on the West Coast, often has been a co-author, and a great writing partner she is!) I wrote more than 60 articles on the infamous Duke Lacrosse Case in which the prosecutor, Michael B. Nifong, pushed on with charges that he had to have known were false.

Unfortunately, there are numerous "Nifongs" in the federal system, and I am currently working on an article that outlines some of the more egregious things happening in the federal system. The larger problem here is what Judge Napolitano calls "positivism," which he defines in the following way:

Positivism teaches that the law is whatever the lawgiver says it is, providing the rule is written down. Under positivism, so long as the legislature in a democracy was validly elected and followed its own rules in enacting a law, the law is valid and enforceable no matter what it says.
This is as opposed to "natural law," which Vice-President Joe Biden condemned during the 1991 hearings for the nomination of Clarence Thomas to the U.S. Supreme Court. Judge Napolitano writes this about "natural law":

Natural law teaches that our rights come from our humanity. Since we are created by God in His image and likeness, and since He is perfectly free—or, if you prefer, since we are creatures of nature born biologically dependent but morally free—freedom is our birthright. Liberty comes from our humanity, not from an outside source such as the government.
This is an article worth reading, for it outlines why the law has moved in the way that it has over the last hundred years or so, and especially since the Progressive Era of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

My First Post

Ladies and gentlemen, I am starting my first post on a blog. Given that K.C. Johnson and others can do it, so can I.

This blog will cover a lot of area, including my articles, thoughts on the economy, and especially my posts on the decline of law in the United States. I have to start somewhere, and here is a good place.