Big government

Supreme Court rules states may not impose excessive fines

The Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that state law enforcement is bound by the same rules against excessive fines as the feds, incorporating a new Eighth Amendment protection against efforts to seize property. The justices, in a 9-0 decision, ruled in a case involving a convicted Indiana drug dealer whose SUV cops wanted to forfeit to pay off his fines — but the vehicle was worth four times what he owed. The high court said seizing the car to pay off his fine was grossly disproportionate. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who delivered the court’s opinion, said protection against excessive economic sanctions was “fundamental to our scheme of ordered liberty.” “For good reason, the protection against excessive fines has been a constant shield throughout Anglo-American history: Exorbitant tolls undermine other constitutional liberties,” she wrote. “Excessive fines can be used, for example, to retaliate against or chill the speech of political enemies.” The ruling comes as police forfeiture powers are increasingly under scrutiny. In the case before the court, Tyson Timbs faced a maximum $10,000 fine a drug-dealing conviction involving $400 worth of heroin. He struck a deal agreeing to pay about $1,200 as part of his sentence, which also included a year in home detention and five years on probation. Indiana then filed papers to conduct a civil forfeiture of his 2012 Land Rover, which he purchased for roughly $40,000 after receiving an inheritance from his father, and which was used in his drug-dealing. A trial court ruled for Timbs, saying the value of the vehicle was far more than even his maximum penalty. An appeals court affirmed, but the Indiana Supreme Court ruled against him, saying the U.S. Constitution’s protection against excessive fines only applied to federal authorities. The Supreme Court stepped in Wednesday, ruling for Timbs and establishing that the Eighth Amendment’s Excessive Fines Clause does extend to the states, via the Fourteenth Amendment’s Due Process guarantees. Justices Neil M. Gorsuch and Clarence Thomas both wrote concurring opinions agreeing with the court’s ultimate ruling, but disagreeing with the legal reasoning. They said the Eighth Amendment’s protection against excessive fines should be incorporated through the 14th Amendment’s privileges and immunity clause rather than through due process. “As a constitutionally enumerated right understood to be a privilege of American citizenship, the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition on excessive fines applies in full to the states,” Justice Thomas wrote. Brianne Gorod, chief counsel for the Constitutional Accountability Center, said the ruling was a “milestone in the 228 year history of the Bill of Rights.” “Significantly, this case has united progressives and conservatives—both advocates and the justices themselves—in a shared understanding of the original meaning of the Constitution,” she said.

Agreed..  This is a HUGE victory for our personal civil liberties!  Kudos to the Supremes for this 9-0 smackdown of the Indiana Supreme Court.  Outstanding!!   🙂

The Green New Deal Threatens to Derail Colorado’s Economy

Oil and gas rigs have been popping up all across Colorado in recent years, as have jobs working the rigs. Colorado’s total oil production is valued at more than $9.9 billion for 2018—an estimated 62 percent higher than 2017, according to the University of Colorado Boulder’s most recent study of the state’s economy. The value of the state’s natural gas production in 2018 was estimated at $5.3 billion. Employment in the Colorado oil and gas industry has grown by more than 23 percent since 2016, now accounting for around 25,700 jobs. This year it is expected to grow another 4.8 percent. But now, the Green New Deal, proposed Thursday by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA), is threatening the state’s energy boom. The plan calls for the U.S. to completely abandon the use of fossil fuels over the next ten years. That would not just derail Colorado’s natural resource and mining sector but also the many businesses and jobs that have grown up to serve the energy boom. “Unexpected economic and political factors can change the trajectory of Colorado’s NRM employment outlook abruptly,” the University of Colorado Boulder study warned. Across the United States, the Green New Deal could threaten such extreme economic disruption that it could put into play states once considered safe for Democrats. That is especially true of Colorado, which accounts for almost 5 percent of the total crude oil produced in the United States and has far more to lose from the Green New Deal than places like New York and Massachusetts. In 2016, Hillary Clinton won 48.1 percent of Colorado’s votes. Donald Trump won just 43.1 percent. Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson took 5.1 percent. A Democrat candidate who embraced a plan that would certainly eliminate 25,000 oil and gas extraction jobs and likely another untold number of jobs indirectly related to the sector could create a political, as well as an economic, earthquake. Of course, the Green New Deal would also create jobs, according to its proponents. But while Colorado’s oil and natural gas jobs cannot be located outside of the state, there is no guarantee the new green jobs would be created there. Making matters worse, wind and solar energy farms can be operated with a far thinner workforce, which means that even if the Green New Deal’s new energy were produced in Colorado, it would employ far fewer workers. Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO) is reportedly considering a presidential bid. This puts him in a political bind: support the Green New Deal program popular with the base of the national party or stand by his state’s economic interest. His office did not respond to a request for comment. Although natural resource drilling and mining employ just 1 percent of the Colorado workforce, the sector pulls above its weight calls in economic impact because the jobs generate some of the highest per worker income levels in the state. Average pay in the sector is 146 percent of the state average. The damage will go beyond just oil and natural gas. Coal jobs too would be killed off. According to a 2015 National Mining Association survey, the coal industry contributed $1.9 billion to Colorado’s economy and directly employed 3,723 workers, plus 12,977 indirect and induced jobs. In the United States, factories that produce equipment for mining and drilling have boomed in recent years on the backs of the technological innovations that have made the U.S. one of the world’s largest energy producers. These factories and the investments in them would go to waste in a Green New Deal that made fossil fuels obsolete or illegal. Investment in Colorado’s traditional energy sector would dry up. Whether investors burned by a government that turned against fossil fuels would willingly support investment in Green-New-Deal-favored energy projects is a risk—and certainly a risk for Colorado’s economy. Ocasio-Cortez portrays the Green New Deal as offering Americans a tremendous opportunity. And no doubt a new national program of green investment, subsidized by cheap government financing, would create many new wealthy entrepreneurs. But it also threatens jobs that Americans already have and depend upon for their livelihoods. Colorado, because it has such a high concentration of good jobs extracting fossil fuels, is one of the states that would be hit the hardest.

Agreed..  Thanks to John Carney for that sobering analysis.  All of us who are tax-paying voters here in the great state of Colorado need to keep this in mind in November of next year when we go to the polls..

Delingpole: Green New Deal Is a Revamped Communist Manifesto

A few years ago at the height of the global warming scare I wrote a book which set out to answer one of the key questions of our time: if climate change isn’t really a problem why do so many people act as though it is? The answer, I discovered, is that environmentalism is just a fashionable mask for the usual leftist obsessions with state control and wealth redistribution. That’s why I called the book Watermelons: green on the outside, red on the inside. Not everyone who believes in man-made climate change is a full on Commie. Some are merely useful idiots. But whatever reason people may have for supporting the scam – greed, stupidity, virtue-signalling, idiot leftist teachers – the net result is the same: bigger government, higher taxes, more regulation, lower standards of living. Exactly like you’d get under communism, in fact. So color me completely unshocked by the Green New Deal. It looks like a revamped Communist Manifesto because that’s exactly what it is. If implemented, the size of government would increase to levels never before seen in a Western economy. The state’s control of everything from wage levels to how businesses are run to your personal freedoms would be total. There’s no mention of gulags or political prisoners or secret police but of course those would inevitably follow because how else would the state have a hope of enforcing measures which freedom loving Americans would naturally resist? The only surprise about the Green New Deal for me is that its proponents are so brazen about their plans.

Indeed..  For more of this outstanding op/ed from James Delingpole, click on the text above.  He really nails it.

Opinion/Analysis: You’ve probably never heard of anti-competitive ‘certificate of need’ laws but they’re harming your health care

Imagine if a state law prohibited new restaurants from opening in your town unless an aspiring restaurateur successfully convinced the government that the area “needed” another eatery. Now imagine if that law didn’t stop there – that it also gave incumbent restaurants a say in the matter. If one could persuade the government that a new entrant would harm its interests – or could marshal its employees to lobby the state to protect their jobs – then that new restaurant would never open. Freed from competition, existing restaurants could hike prices or reduce service. And there would be little diners could do about it. Such laws actually exist. But they don’t govern restaurants. They prevent new hospitals and clinics from being built. These anti-competitive statutes, known as “certificate of need” (CON) laws, are driving up health care costs across the country. It’s time to repeal them. New York enacted the first certificate of need law in 1964. State lawmakers feared that hospital groups would build too many facilities and pass the cost of creating and maintaining excess capacity on to consumers. So they required health care providers to seek permission before constructing or expanding hospitals or clinics. In 1974, the federal government effectively forced states to put certificate of need laws on their books as a condition for receiving federal funding. But instead of keeping health care prices stable, CON laws concentrated market power with incumbent providers, who then gouged consumers. On average, U.S. hospital spending grew at a 14 percent annualized rate during the 1970s and a 9.6 percent annualized rate over the course of the 1980s. The federal government repealed its CON law requirement in 1986. Since then, 15 states have abolished their statutes. But 35 states and the District of Columbia still enforce them. And their residents pay a heavy price. Those 36 jurisdictions have 99 fewer hospital beds per 100,000 people than non-CON states, according to a study from the Mercatus Center at George Mason University. Patients in CON states also travel farther to receive health care. And they pay a lot more for it. Per capita health spending is 11 percent higher in states with CON laws than in those without them. These anti-competitive laws make it particularly hard for rural patients to access care. There are 30 percent fewer rural hospitals per capita in states with CON laws, according to another Mercatus study.

Thanks to Sally C. Pipes for that piece.  Sally C. Pipes is president, CEO, and Thomas W. Smith Fellow in Health Care Policy at the Pacific Research Institute. Her latest book is “The False Promise of Single-Payer Health Care” (Encounter 2018). Follow her on Twitter @sallypipes.

Pornhub reports jump in viewership amid partial government shutdown

As the partial government shutdown heads into its 28th day, Pornhub has reported a spike in traffic — coinciding with the same time some federal workers have stayed home from work. The site’s Insights team analyzed data from Jan. 7 to Jan. 11, and found that not only has PornHub seen an almost six percent increase in visitors, it’s also seen a “distinct shift in the hours during which people are watching porn.” The porn-viewing site’s traffic — pre-shutdown — was usually at its peak from 10 p.m. to midnight. But, post-shutdown, “late-night traffic increased by up to 14% above average, while early morning traffic from 9am to 10am had the smallest change.” In Washington D.C. alone, Pornhub claims its hourly traffic has increased an average of 6.32 percent, with female traffic, in particular, increasing 12.3 percent above average.

To steal a phrase… “we report, you decide.”   🙂

Trump Signs Bill Promising Back-Pay to Furloughed Federal Workers

In a moment of rare bipartisanship, President Donald Trump signed a Democrat-sponsored bill Wednesday guaranteeing back-pay to workers furloughed by the ongoing partial government shutdown. Since December 21, several government departments have been shut down due to an impasse between congressional Democrats and Trump over the president’s request of $5.7 billion to fund an expanded physical barrier at the U.S.-Mexico border. This stalemate has forced tens of thousands of federal employees to work without pay, with some 80,000 not receiving a paycheck for the first time last Friday. However, the signing of the Government Employee Fair Treatment Act of 2019, sponsored by Sen. Benjamin Cardin, D-Md., requires that all government employees be compensated for “wages lost, work performed, or leave used” during the shutdown, the Whitehouse announced in a news release. “This is an important step toward providing our civil servants with some stability and hope. But it doesn’t help pay the bills *now.* To do that, we MUST reopen the government,” Sen. Cardin said in a tweet prior to the bill being signed. Vice President Mike Pence informed U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents of the news, The Hill reported. “Just moments ago the House or Representatives passed legislation that will ensure that all the dedicated professionals at Custom and Border Protection and all of the agencies affected by this shutdown will be paid in full,” he said from the agency’s Washington, D.C., headquarters. The measure follows last week’s introduction of a bill that would protect furloughed federal workers from landlords and creditors filing legal action against them for failing to pay their bills during the shutdown, reported the Huffington Post. Earlier Wednesday, President Trump had a “constructive” meeting with the bipartisan group of Congress members dubbed the Problem Solvers Caucus to negotiate during the shutdown, reported CNN.

Federal judge orders Susan Rice, Ben Rhodes to answer written Benghazi questions in Clinton email lawsuit

A federal judge ruled Tuesday that former national security adviser Susan Rice and former deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes must answer written questions about the State Department’s response to the deadly 2012 terror attack in Benghazi, Libya, as part of an ongoing legal battle over whether Hillary Clinton sought to deliberately evade public record laws by using a private email server while secretary of state. U.S. District Judge Royce C. Lamberth denied a request by the conservative group Judicial Watch to make Rice and Rhodes sit for depositions, but agreed to have them answer written questions. He also agreed to Judicial Watch’s request to depose the State Department about the preparation of talking points for Rice, then President Barack Obama’s ambassador to the United Nations, ahead of appearances on political talk shows the Sunday following the attack. That deposition is part of Judicial Watch’s inquiry into whether the State Department acted in bad faith by not telling a court for months that they had asked in mid-2014 for missing emails to be returned. Rice initially claimed on several talk shows that the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi was triggered by protests over an anti-Islam video. The attack resulted in the deaths of four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens. “Rice’s talking points and State’s understanding of the attack play an unavoidably central role in this case,” Lamberth wrote in a 16-page order. Lamberth added that “State’s role in the [talking] points’ content and development could shed light on Clinton’s motives for shielding her emails from [Freedom of Information Act] requesters or on State’s reluctance to search her emails.” Lamberth also allowed Judicial Watch to seek written answers from Bill Priestap, the former assistant director of the FBI’s Counterintelligence Division. Priestap, who supervised the bureau’s investigation into Clinton’s use of a private email server, retired from government service at the end of last year. “In a major victory for accountability, Judge Lamberth today authorized Judicial Watch to take discovery on whether the Clinton email system evaded FOIA and whether the Benghazi scandal was one reason for keeping Mrs. Clinton’s email secret,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “Today, Judicial Watch issued document requests and other discovery to the State Department about the Clinton email scandal. Next up, we will begin questioning key witnesses under oath.” The judge’s order amounts to approval of a discovery plan he ordered last month. In that ruling, Lamberth wrote that Clinton’s use of a private email account was “one of the gravest modern offenses to government transparency” and said the response of the State and Justice Departments “smacks of outrageous misconduct.” As part of the discovery, Judicial Watch can depose Jacob Sullivan, Clinton’s former senior adviser and deputy chief of staff, and Justin Cooper, a longtime Bill Clinton aide who helped arrange the setup of Hillary Clinton’s private email address and server. Judicial Watch said the discovery period will conclude within 120 days. A post-discovery hearing will then be held to determine whether additional witnesses, including Clinton and her former Chief of Staff Cheryl Mills, may be deposed.

Drip drip drip…  With each new day, we continue to learn more about Susan Rice’s and Hillary’s lies to we-the-people as they tried to cover up their poor decisions and incompetence that led to the tragedy in Benghazi.  Ben Rhodes was just a Dem political hack, a “useful idiot,” who just repeated the talking point lie that the riots were a result of a reaction to an online video (that nobody saw).  Kudos to Judicial Watch for pushing this issue and using the courts to get answers we should have had years ago.