Sunday, August 31, 2008

Mich. government overhaul backers appealing ballot initiative denial

LANSING, Mich. - Proponents of a Michigan ballot measure that would cut judges' pay 15 percent and eliminate some of their positions is challenging an appeals court decision this week that blocks the proposal from the Nov. 4 ballot.

A three-judge appeals court panel on Aug. 22 said the proposal has a "reach and expanse never before seen" in Michigan constitutional amendments.

Judges Patrick Meter, Bill Schuette and William Whitbeck on Wednesday ordered state election officials to not place the measure on the ballot.

Reform Michigan Government Now is asking the state Supreme Court to hold an emergency hearing on the proposal so county elections officials have time to put the measure on their ballots.

For more on this story, go to Legal

Confusing wealth with income

by Richard W. Rahn

Which of the following families is "richer"? The first family consists of a wife who has recently become a medical doctor, and she makes $160,000 per year. Her husband is a small business entrepreneur who makes $110,000 per year, giving them a total family income of $270,000 per year. However, they are still paying off the loans the wife took out for medical school and the loans the husband took out to start his business, amounting to debts of $300,000. Their total assets are valued at $450,000; hence, their real net worth or wealth (the difference between gross assets and liabilities) is only $150,000.

The second family consists of a trial lawyer who took early retirement and his non-working wife. They have an annual income of $230,000, all of it derived from interest on tax-free municipal bonds they own. However, their net worth is $7 million, consisting of $5 million in bonds, a million-dollar home with no mortgage, and a million dollars in art work, home furnishings, automobiles and personal items.

The second family is clearly far better off financially than the first family, yet many in the U.S. Congress, including Sen. Barack Obama, want to increase taxes on the first (and poorer) family and not on the wealthier family. They have mis-defined "rich" by confusing a flow (income) with a stock (real net assets), and thus come to the wrong conclusion. They want to tax those (who make more than $250,000 a year) who are trying to become rich, while preserving the status for those who already have wealth.

For more on this commentary, go to

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Because inmate was not an 'employee', DOC wants Lakin suit tossed

CHARLESTON - The state Division of Corrections is asking a suit naming it as a co-defendant in a sexual harassment case arising out of one its facilities in Mason County be dismissed because the acts that led to it were not done in the course of a normal employee-employer setting.

On Aug. 6, WVDOC filed its reply in the civil suit filed against it, and David W. McCormick, a former employee at the Lakin Correctional Center for Women in West Columbia, by Kristin Childs.

Now a resident of Titusville, Fla., Childs alleged that in October while an inmate at Lakin, McCormick coerced her into having sex with him in exchange for agreeing to transfer her to another work detail.

As a result of their encounter, Childs become pregnant. Records show Childs did not initially report the encounter for fear it would harm her chances of parole, which was granted on March 19.

In its reply filed with the assistance of David E. Schumacher, with the Charleston law firm of Bailey and Wyant, WVDOC denies McCormick was acting within the scope of his employment. Therefore, WVDOC denies it breached any affirmative duty or standard of care with respect to keeping Childs' work environment free from intimidation and sexual harassment.

For more on this story, go to The West Virginia Record

The Fallacy of We

by Jim Fedako

While watching the Olympics, we tend to cheer participants along national lines. We root for our country's athletes over those from the rest of the world. While there is nothing wrong with this fun diversion, the concept of the individual must never be lost amid the ideal of the collective — the belief that the members of the collective (the nation in this instance) are faceless automatons dedicated to serving the whole.

For more on this commentary, go to The Ludwig von Mises Institute

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Minn. man foils IRS in tax case

WASHINGTON — It took seven years, but Charles Ulrich did something many people dream about, but few succeed at: He beat the IRS in a tax dispute.

Not only that, but tax experts say potentially millions of other taxpayers could benefit from his victory.

The accountant from Baxter, Minn., challenged the method the IRS has used for more than 20 years to tax shares and cash distributed by mutual life insurance firms to their policyholders when they reorganize as public companies.

A federal court recently agreed with his interpretation.

"There's a tremendous amount of money at stake," said Robert Willens, a New York City-based tax analyst at Robert Willens LLC. "Tens of thousands of people could be in line for a refund."

For more on this story, go to FOX

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Two Georgias, two tales of self-defense

In today's Wall Street Journal, U.S. Sens. Lindsay Graham (R - S.C.) and Joe Lieberman (I - Conn.) call upon their fellow countrymen to stand with them in helping to arm Georgians against violence. Specifically, they say, "...Georgian[s]...should be given the ... [weapons] systems necessary to deter any renewed ... aggression. These defensive capabilities will help to prevent this conflict from erupting again..."

Sadly, the two McCain frontmen were talking about arming Georgians in the former Soviet Union, not Georgia, U.S.A. As it now stands Georgians on the other side of the world have more freedom to bear arms than those next door to Mr. Graham.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Starcher refers to MPLA as a 'monster' in Mason med mal opinion

Though the state Supreme Court was correct in remanding a malpractice case from Mason County back to the circuit court, one of the justices said the piece of reform legislation that gave rise the suit has become a Frankenstein "monster."

For more on this story, go to The West Virginia Record

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Mich. reform group ask for additional recusals on ballot initiative

LANSING, Mich. - Proponents of a Michigan ballot measure that would cut judges' pay and eliminate some of their positions are asking the state Court of Appeals to block some judges from hearing challenges to the proposal.

Reform Michigan Government Now says seven of the Appeals Court judges should be disqualified from the case because they could lose their judgeships if the measure passes in November.

Additionally, the measure would eliminate two state Supreme Court justice positions, while 10 judgeships would be added at the circuit court level.

For more on this story, go to Legal Newsline

Photo: Michigan Judge William Whitbeck sat on the three-judge panel that recently heard a motion by Reform Michigan Government Now to have potential appeal's court judges disqualified from ruling on the group's proposed ballot inititive to trim elected officials which includes judges.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

The faux Fannie and Freddie bailout figures

by Don A. Rich

A recent study from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has zero credibility. It pegged likely taxpayer losses in the Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac bailouts at $25 billion. For those with a sense of history, it is worth remembering that the S&L bailout had a $160 billion price tag. The numbers diverge so far from reality as to be laugh-out-loud funny. Funny, that is, except that the CBO estimate demonstrates a willful disconnect with the actual consequences of federal government actions.

As demonstrated below, the real cost of the bailouts will easily exceed $1.3 trillion. In fact, the real cost is likely to range between $1.3 trillion to $1.6 trillion, and is not unlikely to reach $2.5 trillion.

For more on this commentary, go to The Ludwig von Mises Institute

Friday, August 22, 2008

Freedom to fail

by Steve Greenhut

I love cars, but I also love it when the market weeds out the lousy carmakers.

Being a libertarian, I'm often accused of being pro-business, which is absurd. I'm a believer in free markets, and an essential tenet of free-market thinking is that businesses must be free to fail if they are insufficiently responsive to the needs of the consumer. I love it when lousy businesses fail. Unfortunately, politicians from both parties often try to use taxpayer subsidies and government-enforced protections to help out their favorite businesses or to keep them from falling into the "wrong" hands.

For more on this commentary, go to

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Fighting back against junk mail

Did you know the average person gets only 1.5 personal letters each week, compared to 10.8 pieces of junk mail? Each person will receive almost 560 pieces of junk mail this year.

That’s 4.5 million tons of junk mail produced each year!

44 percent of all junk mail is thrown in the trash, unopened and unread. Approximately 40 percent of the solid mass that makes up our landfills is paper and paperboard waste.

Believe or not there are ways to fight this nuisance.

In addition to contacting the Direct Mail Association to opt-out of all unsolicited offers, the folks at the Office of Strategic Influence suggest attaching the postage-paid envelope that comes in the unsolicited letter to a box containing a brick. Since the company has to pay $.25 for each ounce, an eight pound package will set them back $25.

As a take off on this idea, Steven Kinsella on suggested a way to stick it to fundraising letters for political candidates, especially the McBama camp. With the right amount of diligence and patience, one can make 2009 a year hassle-free from junk mail.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Courts records becoming less public in Okla.

Tulsa, Okla. - Oklahoma's district court judges are sealing thousands of court cases and documents — mostly because attorneys simply asked them to.

More than 2,300 cases statewide have received a judge's order to make at least one record in the file not available to the public, according to a Tulsa World analysis going back to 2003.

These records are added to a growing list of nonpublic court information, including that generated in drug courts, mental health courts and juvenile proceedings.

Records that are being sealed include financial records of companies and hospitals, settlements in wrongful-death lawsuits, divorce proceedings, protective orders and name changes.

Joey Senat, past president of Freedom of Information Oklahoma, said he was surprised by the amount of sealed records.

"I had heard of this going on in other states, but I'm really disappointed this is happening to the courts in our state," Senat said. "This is a real indication there are two systems — one for the rich and powerful and one for the rest of us. The public has been left out of this process.

For more on this story, go to The Tulsa World

Monday, August 18, 2008

Learning about drug legalizaton from Motley Crue

by Verdan Vuk

Motley Crue rocked the 1980s. They played hard and partied harder. Their lifestyle was a toxic mixture of drugs, alcohol, fast cars, and fast women. Their reputation for drug abuse remains legendary — rivaling Ozzy Osbourne, the Grateful Dead, and even the Rolling Stones.

Anyone supporting drug legalization must reconcile their position with the existence of these coked-up hallucinating tattooed hooligans on motorcycles. Most citizens fear legalization would lead to the rapid decline of Western Civilization: the youth would jump at drugs; dope would be in every home and every vein; morality would fly out the window, and life as we know it would collapse all around us.

With these "esteemed" gentlemen as examples, only the deranged could support drug legalization. That is, until one examines the specifics more closely.

For more on this commentary, go to The Ludwig von Mises Institute

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Why the "bad" economic news is good

by Llewellyn H. Rockwell

Sometimes the bad news is the good news. So it is with the report that retail sales are down by 0.1 percent in July, the sharpest drop in many months.

Why good news? It means that consumers are starting to cut back. They could be going into less debt. They might be saving more. They are being more careful about long-term plans pending short-term trends.

These are all preconditions for recovery. It’s only bad news if one adopts the crude theory that economies are sustained by consumer spending. The truth is nearly the opposite. Consumer spending is the final payoff for the less visible foundation of growth, which is real saving and investment – that is, making the choice for the future over the present. What declines in retail spending indicate is a coming to terms with reality.

For more on this commentary, go to

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Remembering the great gold heist of '33

by Thomas E. Woods

It's been 75 years since the federal government, on the spurious grounds of fighting the Great Depression, ordered the confiscation of all monetary gold from Americans, permitting trivial amounts for ornamental or industrial use. This happens to be one of the episodes Kevin Gutzman and I describe in detail in our new book, Who Killed the Constitution? The Fate of American Liberty from World War I to George W. Bush. From the point of view of the typical American classroom, on the other hand, the incident may as well not have occurred.

A key piece of legislation in this story is the Emergency Banking Act of 1933, which Congress passed on March 9 without having read it and after only the most trivial debate. House Minority Leader Bertrand H. Snell (R-NY) generously conceded that it was "entirely out of the ordinary" to pass legislation that "is not even in print at the time it is offered." He urged his colleagues to pass it all the same: "The house is burning down, and the President of the United States says this is the way to put out the fire. [Applause.] And to me at this time there is only one answer to this question, and that is to give the President what he demands and says is necessary to meet the situation."

Among other things, the act retroactively approved the president's closing of private banks throughout the country for several days the previous week, an act for which he had not bothered to provide a legal justification. It gave the secretary of the Treasury the power to require all individuals and corporations to hand over all their gold coin, gold bullion, or gold certificates if in his judgment "such action is necessary to protect the currency system of the United States."

For more on this commentary, go to The Ludwig von Mises Institute

Friday, August 15, 2008

McCain, Obama Equally Ignorant on Solving Gas Price Crisis

by Radley Balko

In an interview last week on National Public Radio, Barack Obama was asked about his proposal for a "windfall profits" profits tax on oil companies. To her credit, the interviewer prefaced her question by noting that nearly all economists from across the political spectrum oppose the idea. Taxing oil company profits won't make gas any cheaper — it'll likely make it more expensive in the long run by discouraging exploration — and it won't speed the development of alternative energy sources. Obama's answer was pure demagoguery, pitting senior citizens and working class families against oil companies, who he says are reaping profits "hand over fist."

Obama's opponent John McCain has smartly opposed a tax on oil company profits — and Obama has promptly attacked him for it.

But McCain isn't much better. McCain has proposed an equally ridiculous "gas tax holiday," which will also do almost nothing to provide relief at the pump. Obama has smartly opposed the idea — and McCain has promptly attacked him for it.Economic ignorance is nothing new in politics. Neither is the idea that a candidate would perpetuate economic idiocy he knows to be false because it plays into the narrative he's pitching to the voters. But no issue seems to prompt more jaw-dropping sophistry and anti-capitalist demagoguery than gas prices.

For more on this commentary, go to FOX

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Chuck Blake, please call your office! Firefighters who earn an honest living by fighting fires

Big Sur, Calif. - Seated behind the wheel of a fire engine, Dave Breglia follows a map dotted with expensive homes threatened by wildfires. His job: protect high-end real estate and save an insurance company millions of dollars.

"I never know where I'll go next or how long I'll be there," said Breglia, a private contractor who was in Paradise, about 80 miles north of Sacramento. "But this season I bet I'll be on the road until October."

Business is booming for private firefighting companies as drought and soaring temperatures combine to create one of the worst fire seasons in years across the West. Some contractors are even acquiring their own fire engines and flying helicopters.

For more on this story, go to

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

TSU whistleblowers awarded $540,000

Houston, Tex. - A jury awarded $540,000 to three former Texas Southern University student activists Thursday and let the school know that retaliation against whistle-blowers won't be tolerated.

"We wanted to send a message that this should not happen again — the violation of First Amendment rights and the false arrest," one juror said after the jury added $350,000 in punitive damages to the $190,000 they awarded the trio last week to compensate them for being kicked out of school and temporarily charged with a crime after helping uncover a financial scandal.

After deciding the extra damages Thursday afternoon, 10 jurors were grilled by the attorneys on their thoughts. Several said they were impressed by the young men. Juror Donnie Mathis hugged the three and said she was proud of them.

For more on this article, go to The Houston Chronicle

Buffalo mayor orders return of media access to crime info

Buffalo, N.Y. - Mayor Byron W. Brown on Thursday ordered police to restore the media’s access to crime information that had been removed from a Police Department computer in recent months.

The mayor said he had been unaware the information had been suppressed, and he blamed the policy change on “miscommunication ” caused by a “poorly worded memo.”

Brown said that he had discussions in January with representative of The Buffalo News and that those talks produced an agreement about what crime data police would provide.

“It was implemented, and somehow it was changed without me being told,” Brown said Thursday, adding that the change hit him “out of left field.”

For more on this article, go to The Buffalo News

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Farewell to Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

by Yuri N. Maltsev

Aleksandr Isayevich Solzhenitsyn, writer, Nobel Prize winner, and the most famous Soviet dissident died at the age of 89 on August 3, 2008 in his home near Moscow. He lived a long and hard life, but he died the way that he wanted to: "He wanted to die in the summer – and he died in the summer," his wife Natalya said. "He wanted to die at home – and he died at home. In general I should say that Aleksandr Isayevich lived a difficult but happy life."

For more on this op/ed, go to The Ludwig von Mises Institute

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Official: Lakin criminal, civil cases are firsts

Both a civil and criminal case arising from a former maintenance supervisor having a sexual relationship with an inmate at the Lakin Correctional Center for Women are the first since the facility opened in 2003 and a law passed penalizing sex with inmates, a top correctional official said.

For more on this story, go to The West Virginia Record

Photo: Kristin Childs, above, alleges in a civil suit filed in Kanawha County, David W. McCormick forced her to have sex with him while he was her supervisor on a maintenance crew at the Lakin Correctional Center. In addition to his termination from the prison, McCormick, 40, of Leon, plead guilty in June to one count of having sex with an inmate. He is scheduled for sentencing on Monday, Aug. 18 at 9:30 a.m. in Mason Circuit Court

Friday, August 8, 2008

The story behind the story of the TSU 3

On the night of Dec. 4, 2004, a Texas Southern University student named Ashley Sloan was gunned down near campus, struck in the temple by a bullet after leaving a party with her friends. A fight inside the party had reignited outside, and someone pulled a gun. Sloan’s friends were able to shield themselves behind a car as the shots rang out, but the 20-year-old sophomore didn’t make it in time. She died in the parking lot.

The murder prompted an outpouring of accusations on campus of poor security. For many Houstonians, the shooting raised old fears of the violence-plagued TSU of the 1990s, which many thought had since been cleaned up by then-president Dr. Priscilla Slade.

As it turns out, the shooting would set in motion a series of events that not only called into question Slade’s multimillion dollar “academic renaissance,” but revealed a campus administration entrenched in scandal.

Slade’s vision for TSU was dazzling and reflected her own larger-than-life personality. At 53, Slade turned heads on campus, cruising around in her black Jaguar convertible and designer suits. For years, TSU, located eight miles from downtown Houston, lagged academically in comparison with nearby public universities Texas State University and the University of Houston, but Slade was said to be taking the provincial TSU and putting it on the map, nationally and internationally.

In her first few years as president, Slade had doubled enrollment to 12,000 students, launched the university’s first $50 million fund-raising campaign and a construction boom on campus, including a $25 million science building that features a four-story glass atrium and a NASA research center.
There is a new Tavis Smiley School of Communications, a new School of Public Affairs and a new College of Liberal Arts and Behavioral Sciences. The law school has been expanded and, for the first time in its history, posted higher Texas Bar exam passage rates than its main competitor, Texas Tech University. And in Diverse’s Top 100 rankings, TSU was the second highest producer of first professional degrees for African-Americans during the 2004-2005 academic year, second only to Howard University. The School of Business received accreditation in 2002, and the university has added master’s and doctoral programs in administration of justice, urban planning and environmental policy, pharmaceutical science and others. So although, some professors grumbled about Slade’s flashy persona, more felt she made TSU proud.

TSU spokeswoman Gayle Colston Barge points to new initiatives like the on-campus child care center and a summer remedial program for freshmen as examples of how TSU is helping support students, more than 40 percent of whom are the first in their families to attend college.

“I don’t know if that would have happened under just anyone; it could have, but I doubt it,” says TSU regent David Diaz, about the university’s growth.

TSU appeared to be putting the problems of the 1990s behind it. Before Slade arrived, the university switchboard often went unanswered, professors often didn’t show up for class and there was no standard accounting procedure. There was even a movement afoot to place the school under the University of Texas System because of mismanagement and poor bookkeeping.

However, to some on campus, Ashley Sloan’s murder demonstrated that Slade’s positive public image masked deep problems throughout the university. For instance, says Justin Jordan, freshman class president at the time of Sloan’s murder, the push for higher enrollment brought dangerous students to campus. Although the students had no real interest in academia, their tuition and fees helped fuel Slade’s grandeur, he says. And according to The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education, only 6 percent of TSU’s students who graduated in spring 2005 had earned their degrees within four years, one of the lowest rates in the nation.

“These are just fancy buildings. Nothing’s happening in them,” says Jordan. “It’s sick that people would treat an institute of higher learning like this.”

Jordan decided that he had to do something.

For more on this story, go to Diverse: Issues in Higher Education.

Photos: The "TSU 3",from left, Oliver Brown, Justin Jordan and William Hudson (above), and former TSU President Priscilla Slade (below).

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Texas Southern retaliated against student whistleblowers, jury finds

Houston, Tex. - Texas Southern University officials kicked out three students and had them arrested in retaliation for their public criticism of administrators, a federal jury decided Friday.

The jury of nine women and three men deliberated for 12 hours Thursday and Friday before unanimously accepting all the claims of William G. Hudson, Justin R. Jordan and Oliver J. Brown, who in 2005 sued the TSU regents, then-President Priscilla Slade and other university officials.

The former students were seeking at least $150,000 each and also sued to have their student disciplinary records purged.

Jurors awarded actual damages totaling nearly $200,000 for all three. The jury returns next week to decide on punitive damages, unless the opposing sides settle on that matter.

"At least someone stood up for us, and the jury stood up for us," said Brown.

For more on this story, go to The Houston Chronicle, and The Torch, the official blog of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Putting a halt to corporate welfare

Albany, N.Y. - Yesterday, Buffalo attorney and self-proclaimed "anti-politician" James Ostrowski filed suit in the Albany Supreme Court on behalf of 47 taxpayers to halt the state's practice of awarding over $1 billion in "economic development" grants to private corporations. The basis for the suit is an 1846 amendment to the state constitution banning the government from bestowing "gifts" to private entities.

According to Ostrowski, the 1846 amendment was passed when speculators selling politicians on the benefits of "internal improvements" left taxpayers holding the bag. Though a proposed 1967 amendment to overturn the 1846 amendment was defeated by a 3-to-1 margin, "state officials have acted as though the 1967 amendment had become law."

A copy of "The Mother of All Lawsuits," may be found on Ostrowski's blog.

Also, Ostrowski announced his intentions to file similar suits in all 50 states. Though the late-Larry Harless attempted with limited success to challenge the $200 million in economic development grants then-Gov. Bob Wise doled out in 2002, given that two new justices will be elected to the Supreme Court in November the timing may be right for a second, more principled legal challenge.

Anyone wanting to assist Mr. Ostrowski in this endeavor may contact him via telephone at (716) 435-8918 or e-mail at

Flight of the Valkyries, ghetto style

How apropos a Vietnam vet who was a ground attack pilot suggest this.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Why Wal-Mart should get into higher ed

by Gary North

I earned my Ph.D. in 1972. What I am about to describe is academically feasible. It is surely economically feasible.

Wal-Mart should start a college. As with virtually all colleges, it would be called a university. Why? Because of higher perceived value by the consumers.

Why should Wal-Mart bother? Here is a good reason. The total expenditure in the United States on higher education is in the range of a third of a trillion dollars a year. That is a great deal of money. Wal-Mart is not a company to let a large profit opportunity drift by.

You would be hard-pressed to find any industry with this level of income that is less efficient than higher education. If Wal-Mart gets into the field, this will change.

Wal-Mart could offer far lower tuition than any other private university, and lower than 80% of tax-funded universities. All it needs to do is offer what is already available, but which almost no one knows about.

For more on this op/ed, go to

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Exposing the War racket

Earlier this week, Investigative Reporters and Editors, a non-profit clearinghouse for investigative reporters worldwide, posted two separate, but related stories on its Extra! Extra! page

The first is from Peter Spiegel of The Los Angeles Times' Washington Bureau. On July 30, Spiegel reported that Stuart W. Bowen Jr., the U.S. special inspector general for Iraq, called for an end to all American funding of Iraqi reconstruction "because the Iraqi oil windfall plus unspent funds from earlier budgets are more than adequate to meet the country's reconstruction needs."

The second is from an Associated Press report on the first anniversary of the collapse of a section of I-35W in Minneapolis, Minn. that left 13 people dead. According to the AP, "two of every three of the busiest problem bridges in each state — carrying nearly 40 million vehicles a day — have had no work beyond regular maintenance."

Partly because of the I-35W tragedy, officials in nearly every state have made efforts to address the problem. However, "[s]oaring construction costs, budget shortages, election-year politics, a backlog of bridge projects, competing highway repairs and bureaucracy often held bridge work to only incremental progress."

Once again, Mr. Butler's maxim, that "War is a Racket" has been proven correct.

For more on these stories, go to The L.A. Times and AP.

Supervisor forced Lakin inmate into sex, suit alleges

CHARLESTON - An inmate at the Lakin Correctional Center for Women has filed a suit against the state division of corrections and her supervisor, claiming he forced her to have sex with him, through which she became pregnant.

Kristin Childs filed the suit June 16 in Kanawha Circuit Court against the West Virginia Division of Corrections and David McCormick. Childs is an inmate at Lakin, who worked under the supervision of McCormick, the maintenance supervisor.

During her time working with McCormick, Childs claims he forced her into unwanted sexual relations and physical contact that resulted in her pregnancy. Childs claims she attempted to transfer from the work area, but the transfer did not take place until after she was subjected to McCormick's unwanted sexual advances.

For more on this story, go to The West Virginia Record