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Overkill America

Monday, July 21st, 2014

The death of Eric Garner, a 43-year-old Staten Islander, by police chokehold, not only sparked in me the usual combination of sadness, anger and frustration — there was an additional element: would this do it?

Would the nation’s shock, incredulity, indignation amount to anything?

Lots of questions. But one thing not being focused on in the standard reports was noted by Scott Shackford of Reason. It’s not merely a question of why the bust went so violent. Why, he asks, a bust at all? “We should be concerned that the reason why the police swarmed Garner in the first place is getting lost. He allegedly possessed ‘untaxed cigarettes.’ That is it.”

A tax matter.

The police are arresting people — and going into overkill mode in the process — on tax matters.

Couldn’t this such issues be handled by mere citation, followed by a court summons? With an arrest the last resort?

Why go all violent when violence is not really in order?

But maybe it’s not just about the taxes. Or “contraband.” Maybe this is also about “drugs.” (Yes, tobacco’s a drug.) We’ve long had a “War on Drugs” in this country. It has not gone well. As I suggested last week (as well as yesterday, on Townhall), the effects have not only been wide and deep, but inevitable.

War is like that. Expect the “unintended consequences.”

Scott Shackford suggests that New York lower the city’s high sin taxes on cigarettes.

But maybe the whole mindset of the modern state needs changing. Big things, like murder, slavery, etc., those are worth fighting about. Let’s not go to war over the little things.

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.

Free Talkers Now

Monday, June 30th, 2014

Ah yes, “criminal schemes.”

The Weekly Standard reminds us that when partisan Democrats declare Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker to be “at the center of a ‘criminal scheme’ in which Walker’s campaign illegally coordinated political activity with outside organizations,” they neglect the fact that two judges have already determined that the “case” against Walker is worse than bogus.

“Political coordination” seems to be an infinitely elastic category of pseudo-crime applicable to anyone a political apparatchik chooses to target. You “politically coordinate” if you’re a) political active, b) share political values with any other activists, and c) read the newspapers, talk on television. If “political coordination” is criminal, so is freedom of speech and freedom of association. It’s all the same species of delinquency.

Wisconsin district attorneys abused power to harass reformers like Governor Walker, my colleague Eric O’Keefe, and others into (what they hoped would be) silence and ineffectuality. Despite a gag order intended to shut up the victims, though, Eric has spoken out; and he’s sued Milwaukee County DA John Chisholm.

In May, federal Judge Rudolph Randa observed, for one thing, that the “theory of ‘coordination’ forming the basis of the investigation, including the basis of probable cause for home raids, is not supported under Wisconsin law and, if it were, would violate the United States Constitution.” Randa granted a preliminary injunction (pdf) to stop the probe.

I’m hopeful that the bad guys won’t win here. We still have the First Amendment.*

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.


* Though, 44 U.S. Senators are proposing to repeal it.

 

IRS Says We Wuz Wrongish

Wednesday, June 25th, 2014

The IRS has a “Love Story” relationship with citizens. Being the IRS means never having to say you’re sorry.

Actually, in real life, as opposed to cinematic catch phrases, people who care about each other do often feel a need to genuinely apologize about actual wrongs. But the IRS doesn’t care about us except insofar as we have wallets. And doesn’t feel sorry about anything they do to get our cash or to protect their turf except insofar as they get caught.

Getting caught isn’t so bad. The worst is a little public embarrassment and maybe having to fork over some of the money provided by all taxpayers to a subset of all taxpayers. Example: the agency has agreed to pay $50,000 in damages to the National Organization for Marriage, whose tax return and donor list the IRS illegally divulged to an opposing political group two years ago.

The guilty IRS employee has still not been identified. And the IRS is not really regretful. All spokesman Bruce Friedland will say is that privacy law “prohibits us from commenting.”

This isn’t the only recent occasion on which IRS has divulged private tax-return info for ideological purposes. What about an employee’s abuse of the private tax information of U.S. Senate candidate Christine O’Donnell during a political campaign? What about Lois Lerner’s illegal provision of tax data on tax-exempt organizations to the FBI?

Yes, the IRS targets us ideologically, in addition to the other ways they target us. And they’re not sorry.

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.

The Dog-Ate List

Thursday, June 19th, 2014

It’s hard to keep track of things. It helps to make a list.

I’m trying to follow all the IRS-scandal stonewalling, the latest example of which is how emails inculpating Lois Lerner and others have mysteriously disappeared; with, allegedly, no server backups (see my latest Townhall column, “The Dog Ate My Country”).

How many ways have fedgov officials fudged, fabricated, prevaricated, and otherwise non-cooperated with investigators after news broke that IRS had targeted for special harassment sundry conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status?

  • When the head of IRS’s department overseeing nonprofit applications, Lois Lerner, felt compelled to admit that IRS had specially targeted right-leaning organizations applying for nonprofit status, she and others put the main blame on a few low-level clerks.
  • Lerner twice formally refused to testify to Congress about the doings of her own department. Yet she also asserted, formally, that “I have not done anything wrong.”
  • IRS says it’ll take many years to comply with congressional requests for relevant documents. IRS was prompter when it handed abundant confidential information on conservative nonprofits to the Justice Department so that they could be selectively prosecuted.
  • DOJ selected an “avowed political supporter”  of President Obama to lead a meaningless “investigation” of the targeting of Obama’s critics. No prosecutions of wrongdoers are in the works.
  • Initially professing outrage at the IRS’s “inexcusable” targeting, Obama later airily dismissed the affair as a “phony scandal.” On which occasion was he lying? (Hint: both.)
  • Major media outlets do all they can to abet the stonewalling.

What did I miss?

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.

Gun Control of the Very Best Kind

Wednesday, June 18th, 2014

The headline: “Husband and wife shoot gunmen who try to enter their St. Louis home, killing 1, police say.”

They acted when two thugs tried to force their way into their home by using the St. Louis couple’s 17-year-old daughter as a shield. She had been outside fetching something from her car when the men grabbed her.

Inside, the father happened to see what was happening and pulled out his gun. His wife also retrieved a gun. Home invader Terrell Johnson entered first and received the first bullets. He didn’t survive. His partner Cortez McClinton — arrested in 2010 on a murder charge, but eventually released because of uncooperative witnesses — managed to escape, if only briefly. His brother took him to a hospital for chest and thigh wounds. The police picked him up there.

Mom had also gotten off a shot but did not hit either intruder, leading one blogger to opine that although her heart is in the right place, she needs practice. A reader replied, rightly, that when your own daughter is directly in harm’s way, your shooting skill is hardly the only variable.

Besides, the goal in brandishing a weapon isn’t necessarily to wound bad guys, but better yet to scare them off. There’s a deterrent effect in owning guns.

I am surprised that advocates of gun control and their compatriots in the national MainStream Media are not all over this story. For here is yet another dramatic proof of the need for effective gun control on which they constantly insist.

The gun used to thwart the invaders was very effectively controlled indeed.

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.

Assault on Political Speech, Deferred

Wednesday, May 28th, 2014

It’s like jumping from ice floe to ice floe while being shot at. Great if you can reach the next slab of ice while the shooters pause to reload. But then what?

Having been caught targeting right-leaning applicants for tax-exempt status, the IRS decided to clear up the “ambiguity” in rules for tax-exempt organizations that had “led” to this “confusion.” The solution, they decided, should be to make it impossible for a tax-exempt organization that ever mentions political candidates or elections to avoid getting into trouble with the IRS.

No. What Americans needed post-scandal is what we have needed all along: more restrictions on the government, not on our freedom to speak out.

Persons of all political stripes saw the danger in the Draconian new rules IRS was proposing, resulting in an unprecedented 150,000 public comments — mostly negative. So the IRS is backing down for now . . . but says it will try again.

Not everyone is happy about the reprieve.

“This delay is deeply disappointing and a real setback for democracy[!!] and faith in government[!!!],” says Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer. “The only hope we have is when the IRS goes back, they don’t succumb to any form of political pressure and enact a very tough rule that will equally curtail liberal and conservative groups.”

“Only hope” for what? Equal-opportunity repression?

It bodes ill that any major political figure could be so open about wishing to stomp on our freedom of speech.

The battle for our basic rights is far from over.

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.

DOJ Op Is Tyranny

Tuesday, April 29th, 2014

Tyrants traditionally lash out at any number of people and groups they find dangerous or inconvenient: churches, entrepreneurs, voluntary associations, you name it. In America, our government has been having difficulty not showing some amazingly tyrannical leanings. Mass spying and data accumulation, partisan tax programs, and now …

Operation Choke Point.

In the Wall Street Journal, Frank Keating, CEO of the American Banking Association, wrote that government officials in this wing of the U.S. Department of Justice are “asking banks to identify customers who may be breaking the law or simply doing something government officials don’t like. Banks must then ‘choke off’ those customers’ access to financial services, shutting down their accounts.”

One target? Porn stars, according to a variety of reports.

Teagan Presley, “adult film” actress and stripper, had her Chase account abruptly closed — along with her husband’s. She was told that she was “high risk.” Other adult industry professionals have revealed similar treatment.

Don’t blame the banks; they’re being coerced by the DOJ. According to Keating, a bank that won’t “shut down a questionable account when directed to do so, Justice slaps the institution with a penalty for wrongdoing that may or may not have happened.”

As distasteful as the porn industry may be, this DOJ program is worse. It’s full-blown rogue government.

It may have been designed to prosecute those breaking the law via fraud and identity theft, but its modus operandi is outside the law, bullying regulated banks into punishing other businesses and people, without any court proceedings taking place.

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.