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The Prosecutocracy


Conrad Black writes Eric Garner’s America in The National Review.


The Supreme Court has sat like a shelf of suet puddings while the criminal-justice system has become a conveyor belt to the country’s bloated and corrupt prison system, and lawyers have become an immense industry, hiding its avarice behind a fog of insipid pieties about the rule of law (which, as the phrase was meant by the authors of the Bill of Rights, can scarcely be said to exist in the U.S.). New York federal judge Jed S. Rakoff wrote in the New York Review of Books on November 20 that the traditional American notion of the day in court is “a mirage” because of the corruption of the plea-bargain system, in which inculpatory evidence is extorted from witnesses in exchange for immunity from prosecution, including for perjury. Every week there is some new exposé of horror stories of prosecutorial abuse, yet prosecutors enjoy an absolute immunity, even when it is revealed that they have committed crimes of obstruction of justice, as in the infamous Connick v. Thompson decision of 2011: An innocent man spent 14 years on death row because prosecutors willfully withheld DNA evidence they knew would, and ultimately did, acquit him; the U.S. Supreme Court narrowly overruled the damage award to the wrongfully convicted Mr. Thompson on a spurious technicality. Less exalted courts are not more condign. Richard Posner in the Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago and Leo Strine, now gamboling in his new office as chief justice of Delaware, are, to this writer’s perfect and indelible recollection, among the most famous (and publicity-seeking) judges who have little discernible interest at all in coming up with a correct verdict or even in developing a reasonable knowledge of the cases before them. They are the zeitgeist in robes, Nancy Grace with a gavel and a sex change, and they boisterously consider themselves inexhaustible reservoirs of raucously insightful witticisms and aperçus.

The greatest problem is not racist police; the police generally follow orders, especially under a distinguished commissioner such as New York’s WilliamBratton. It is complacent judicial and media tolerance of a morally bankrupt prosecutocracy. There are scores of millions of Americans of every ethnic, economic, sociological, and age group and every region who are victims of the system as it has mutated; and this is the time for all those shocked at the Garnerchokehold tragedy, and other recent police excesses, to link arms and seek comprehensive reform. The principally aggrieved individuals in the current controversies and their advisers should demand equal treatment for defense and prosecution at trial, independently funded and accountable public defenders, a restoration of judges’ discretion in sentencing instead of mandated draconiansentences, appropriate community service in place of severe custodial sentences for non-violent offenses, a requirement that most judges not be ex-prosecutors, the last word before the jury for the defense (as in every other civilized country), and an absolute end to the plea-bargain system as a form of irresistible extortion ofinculpatory perjury. They would have the support of much of the media and there would be peaceful demonstrations in every community in America that could probably snowball to involve 100 million people. No one except the bloodstained fraternity of the prosecutors and associations of loopy police chiefs support the status quo, and a demonstration of public righteousness would bring every member of Congress, including the most witless and stentorian parrots of the law-and-order mantra, to their knees, miraculously cured of their policy infirmities.


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Rape Fraud

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The Capital of Incarceration

Conrad Black writes Eric Garner’s America in The National Review.


The United States has six to twelve times as many incarcerated people per capita as other prosperous democracies: Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Japan, and the United Kingdom. This appalling state of affairs has developed gradually over the last 40 years, as the percentage of prosecutions resolved by (very often) abusive applications of the plea-bargain system without a trial has risen from about 80 (an unheard of number in other democratic countries) to 97. The percentage of incarcerated people among the population has multiplied by five in that time, so the U.S. today has 5 percent of the world’s people, but 25 percent of its incarcerated people (and 50 percent of its lawyers – counting only those countries in which a serious professional entry course is required to practice that occupation).


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The Fundamental Defect of the Compassionate State

From the October 2014 issue of Hillsdale’s Imprimis, William Voegeli writes The Case Against Liberal Compassion


A first step in that direction is to note a political anomaly pointed out by Mitch Daniels, the former Republican governor of Indiana. Daniels contended that disciplining government according to “measured provable performance and effective spending” ought to be a “completely philosophically neutral objective.” Skinflint conservatives want government to be thrifty for obvious reasons, but Daniels maintained that liberals’ motivations should be even stronger. “I argue to my most liberal friends: ‘You ought to be the most offended of anybody if a dollar that could help a poor person is being squandered in some way.’ And,” the governor added slyly, “some of them actually agree.”

The clear implication—that many liberals are not especially troubled if government dollars that could help poor people are squandered—strikes me as true, interesting, and important. Given that liberals are people who: 1) have built a welfare state that is now the biggest thing government does in America; and 2) want to regard themselves and be regarded by others as compassionate empathizers determined to alleviate suffering, it should follow that nothing would preoccupy them more than making sure the welfare state machine is functioning at maximum efficiency. When it isn’t, after all, the sacred mission of alleviating preventable suffering is inevitably degraded.

In fact, however, liberals do not seem all that concerned about whether the machine they’ve built, and want to keep expanding, is running well. For inflation-adjusted, per capita federal welfare state spending to increase by 254 percent from 1977 to 2013, without a correspondingly dramatic reduction in poverty, and for liberals to react to this phenomenon by taking the position that our welfare state’s only real defect is that it is insufficiently generous, rather than insufficiently effective, suggests a basic problem. To take a recent, vivid example, the Obama Administration had three-and-a-half years from the signing of the Affordable Care Act to the launch of the website. It’s hard to reconcile the latter debacle with the image of liberals lying awake at night tormented by the thought the government should be doing more to reduce suffering. A sympathetic columnist, E.J. Dionne, wrote of the website’s crash-and-burn debut, “There’s a lesson here that liberals apparently need to learn over and over: Good intentions without proper administration can undermine even the most noble of goals.” That such an elementary lesson is one liberals need to learn over and over suggests a fundamental defect in liberalism, however—something worse than careless or inept implementation of liberal policies.

That defect, I came to think, can be explained as follows: The problem with liberalism may be that no one knows how to get the government to do the benevolent things liberals want it to do. Or it may be, at least in some cases, that it just isn’t possible for the government to bring about what liberals want it to accomplish. As the leading writers in The Public Interest began demonstrating almost 50 years ago, the intended, beneficial consequences of social policies are routinely overwhelmed by the unintended, harmful consequences they trigger. It may also be, as conservatives have long argued, that achieving liberal goals, no matter how humane they sound, requires kinds and degrees of government coercion fundamentally incompatible with a government created to secure citizens’ inalienable rights, and deriving its just powers from the consent of the governed.


This the fundamental premise of the The Road to Serfdom.  Private virtues can be a vice in the public domain.

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Transfers – Taxes = Net Taxes

from Carpe Diem, Mark Perry writes Adjusting for transfers and taxes reduces income inequality between highest and lowest quintiles by 50%  and New CBO study shows that ‘the rich’ don’t just pay their ‘fair share,’ they pay almost everybody’s share


Here’s another way to think about the burden of the “net payer” top income quintile. The average household in that income quintile made a contribution net of transfers in 2011 in the amount of $46,500. That would be equivalent to the average household in the top quintile writing four checks: 1) one check in the amount of $8,600 that would cover the average net transfer payments of a household in the bottom quintile, 2) another check for $12,500 to cover the average net transfers of a household in the second lowest quintile, 3) a third check in the amount of $9,100 to cover the average net transfer payments to a household in the middle income quintile, and 4) then finally writing a check for the balance of $16,300 that would go directly to the federal government, which for the households in the quintile as a whole would have covered almost 100% of the non-financed federal government spending in 2011. So except for a small contribution net of transfers in the amount of $700 from the average household in the fourth quintile, the highest income quintile is basically financing the entire system of transfer payments to the bottom 60% AND the entire operation of the federal government. And yet don’t we hear all the time that “the rich” aren’t paying their fair share of taxes and that they need to shoulder a greater share of the federal tax burden? Hey, they (the top 20%) are already shouldering almost the entire federal tax burden along with almost the entire system of entitlements and transfer payments! And that’s not “fair” enough already?