Justice in America

I have an aversion to the death penalty because far too many people seem to be sentenced to death for questionable reasons. Case in point, a South Dakota jury sentenced a man to death. The man was found guilty of murder, so he isn’t exactly an angle. However, the jury’s reasoning for issuing the death sentence calls its impartiality into question:

On Monday, the Supreme Court announced it would not stop South Dakota from killing a man who may have been sentenced to death because he is gay.

Some of the jurors who imposed the death penalty on Charles Rhines, who was convicted of murder, have said they thought the alternative — a life sentence served in a men’s prison — was something he would enjoy as a gay man.

During deliberations, the jury had often discussed the fact that Mr. Rhines was gay and there was “a lot of disgust” about it, one juror recalled in an interview, according to the court petition. Another said that jurors knew he was gay and “thought that he shouldn’t be able to spend his life with men in prison.” A third recounted hearing that if the jury did not sentence Mr. Rhines to death, “if he’s gay, we’d be sending him where he wants to go.”

I would say that the jury’s impartiality is certainly in question. There is some obvious discrimination displayed since the justification given, that a gay man would enjoy being incarcerated in a men’s prison, is absurd (if that were the case, why aren’t gay men constantly committing crimes that will result in them being sent to prison). This discriminatory attitude calls into question whether the jurors were impartial during the case or allowed their discriminatory views of gay men to color their judgement.

None of this is to say that Charles Rhines is an innocent man who would be set free. However, the jury’s apparent lack of impartiality along with the fact that it sentenced Rhines to death for an absurd reasons does, in my opinion, indicate a need to review the trial and especially the sentence. Unfortunately, the Supreme Court was uninterested in doing so, which means that a further review is unlikely.

Voting Other People’s Money to Yourself Must Be Nice

Affordable housing is a hot topic here in the Twin Cities. Most people believe that there isn’t enough and that the solution is to bulldoze a bunch of existing infrastructure so it can be replaced with luxury high-density residential buildings. However, the politicians in Washington DC perceive a similar problem in their area but are coming up with a different solution:

Democratic members of Congress want taxpayers to subsidize their housing, signing onto legislation that would allow them to deduct living expenses for members of the House of Representatives.

Rep. Bennie Thompson (D., Miss.) introduced a bill that would ban members of Congress from sleeping in their offices and would change the tax code to allow House members to deduct their spending on housing in D.C. up to $3,000. The deduction would not apply to senators.

Thompson has also proposed turning a vacant building near Capitol Hill into apartments for House members at the expensive of taxpayers, which critics have dubbed a “Congressional Animal House.”

Being able to vote other people’s money to yourself must be nice. You can’t find a place to live in a price range you desire? Just vote to force the taxpayers to build you an apartment complex. While you’re at it, you might as well vote yourself a special tax deduction for housing that doens’t apply to anybody else. After all, you’re far more important than the little people from whom you’re stealing so it’s not only OK, it’s the moral to do!

Should Free Speech Be a Little Less Free?

Should free speech be a little less free? The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is beginning to think so:

The American Civil Liberties Union will weigh its interest in protecting the First Amendment against its other commitments to social justice, racial equality, and women’s rights, given the possibility that offensive speech might undermine ACLU goals.

“Our defense of speech may have a greater or lesser harmful impact on the equality and justice work to which we are also committed,” wrote ACLU staffers in a confidential memo obtained by former board member Wendy Kaminer.


The memo also makes clear that the ACLU has zero interest in defending First Amendment rights in conjunction with Second Amendment rights. If controversial speakers intend to carry weapons, the ACLU “will generally not represent them.”

One good thing to come out of the Trump presidency is that many political activists and organizations are revealing their true colors. I’m of the opinion that rights are make believe. Part of why I believe this is because of how supposed rights are treated here in the United States. I’m of the opinion that if rights exist, then they’re absolute. The prevailing attitude here in the United States is that rights exist but instead of being absolute they’re more like a wishy-washy guideline that can be infringed whenever convenience requires it.

The ACLU has advertised itself as a bulwark of rights since its inception. Moreover, the ACLU generally cites the Bill of Rights when it discusses the matter. However, anybody who has seen the ACLU’s lack of zeal in defending the Second Amendment knows that the organization, like most Americans, has been selective in regards to what is considers rights for ages now. It should come as no surprise that the organization is now less zealous about defending the First Amendment as well. If the Bill of Rights is the source of rights, as the ACLU generally acts, then it admitted that rights can be infringed whenever convenience requires it as soon as it decided that the Second Amendment wasn’t worth defending.

In a way I get the ACLU’s position. Nobody wants to be seen as the person who defends Nazis or members of the Ku Klux Klan. But if you’re going to be in the business of defending supposed rights, then you’re necessarily putting yourself in a position where you’re going to be defending unsavory sorts because those are the sorts whose rights tend to get infringed frequently. While I do understand the ACLU’s position, I also think that if the organization can’t take the heat, it should get out of the kitchen. Perhaps it could change its name to the American Convenient Liberties Union or something to reflect its true nature.

The Nazgûl Decided that Small Online Businesses Must Be Destroyed

If you’re a small online retailer in, say, Texas and a customer in Minnesota buys an item from you, should you be required to collect sales taxes for Minnesota? I would argue that it’s asinine to expect a small only retailer to be familiar with the sales tax laws of all 50 states but I’m not one of the Nazgûl so my opinion on the matter is irrelevant:

The 5-4 decision overturns a 1992 Supreme Court precedent that effectively barred states from collecting such taxes, and could leave consumers paying more for online purchases as cash-strapped states tap a rich vein of new revenue.

The icing on the cake, in my opinion, is the justification for the ruling. Usually the nine muumuu clad individuals who constitute the Supreme Court cite constitutional precedence to justify their rulings. For this case they appear to have just outright said that the previous ruling was inconvenient and therefore invalid:

In making their decision, justices ruled that South Dakota can collect sales taxes from online retailers like Wayfair, which was sued by the state. In doing so, the court reversed a 1992 ruling that allowed states to levy taxes only on those businesses with a brick-and-mortar location within the state. The court said that law effectively incentivized businesses to “avoid physical presence” in states and led to “a judicially created tax shelter.” Ultimately, the justices deemed the current law outdated.

“The Internet’s prevalence and power have changed the dynamics of the national economy,” Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote in the majority opinion. “The expansion of e-commerce has also increased the revenue shortfall faced by States seeking to collect their sales and use taxes.”

This illustrates one of my biggest gripes with nation-state legal systems. It’s difficult to operate in an environment where the rules can change on a whim. At any point your municipal, county, state, of federal government could pass a law that affects your business negatively. Moreover, if you do manage to fight the new law in court and win, you aren’t safe because a future court ruling could reverse the decision.

In this case online retailers have been operating on a 1992 Supreme Court precedent that said that state governments can only collect sales taxes from businesses within their borders. Today’s Supreme Court decided that its previous decision was inconvenient and changed the rules. Now states are free to collect sales taxes from retailers in other states. That means every online retailer now needs people on hand who are familiar with the sales tax laws in all 50 states. Tax specialists aren’t cheap so this decision will impact a lot of retailers negatively, possibly to such an extent that they will be forced to close up shop.

Another Socialist Paradise

The best argument against socialism is socialism itself. Socialists will often argue that socialist nations ensure that their people have access to shelter, food, clean water, healthcare, and so on. That may be the case initially, though even that is extremely rare, but eventually the iron rule of TANSTAAFL comes into play and the price of all of those “free” things makes itself apparent and, unfortunately, that price is very high:

Venezuelan security forces have carried out hundreds of arbitrary killings under the guise of fighting crime, the UN says in a new report.

The UN’s human rights body says it has credible accounts of security forces raiding poor neighbourhoods and killing young men, often in their homes.

The rule of law was “virtually absent” in the country, UN human rights chief Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said.

Somebody has to pay for all of those “free” goods and services. If there is a great deal of wealth in a nation, its government can pilfer that wealth for quite some time to provide its promised “free” goods and services (which is how many European countries are getting away with it). However, the government eventually pilfers all of the wealth. When that happens, people begin to starve and starving people have a habit of not starving to death quietly. They tend to rebel. When that happens, the government has only one option to maintain its power: brute force.

Things get ugly when men with guns go against men without guns. But the men with guns who are employed by collapsing governments tend to only stay loyal so long as they’re receiving paychecks. Since the Venezuelan government is running out of money, it will soon be unable to pay its soldiers. Once the soldiers aren’t being paid, they will likely turn on everybody (they have the guns so they can take whatever they want from those without guns) and a warlord or two will eventually gain enough support to become the new government. It’s a messy process but the inevitable one for socialist nations.

Using Government Programs Against Themselves for Fun and Profit

I always enjoy it when government agencies give us little people enough rope to hang them with. In the pursuit of disarming as many people as possible, many police departments throughout the country host gun “buy back” (I’m putting the term in quotes because one cannot buy back something that they didn’t previously own, which makes the term utter nonsense) programs where people are offered a pittance in exchange for any firearms. Oftentimes these “buy backs” are done in a no questions asked manner, which means a murderer could turn in a firearm they used to murder somebody and not only would the evidence be destroyed by the police but the murderer would also receive some amount of payment. Win-win!

Fortunately, gun owners have identified a fatal flaw in this “buy backs.” Since the law enforces hosting these events will pay for any firearm, “buy backs” are great places to turn broken or cheap homemade firearms into cash for other uses:

GRAND CROSSING — A gun rights group plans to use its profits from a Chicago Police “gun buyback” event to send children aged 10 to 16 to a shooting camp hosted by the National Rifle Association.


Gun turn-ins are joint efforts between the Chicago Police Department and community organizations and are intended to be used to “get guns off the street,” said Anthony Guglielmi, a Chicago Police spokesman. Community members can bring in guns and give them to the police in exchange for $100.

The guns Boch turns in at the events are “mostly scrap,” he said: They’re usually old and unusable, but even the newer ones that the Guns Save Life members turned in were all “broken down, all non-firing, missing parts and pieces.” Some appeared to have been through fires or rusted beyond use, he said.


Boch said his organization’s members have gone to buybacks in and around the city for years. He estimates they’ve made about $12,000 from various buybacks over the years, and he dismissed the trade-in events as “symbolism over substance.”

I love the fact that money donated by a gun control organization is being used to teach children how to shoot firearms. That’s adding insult to injury.

Gun control advocates will, of course, flip out about this and claim that gun owners are interfering with programs to make communities safer by getting dangerous guns off of the streets. To that I will say two things. First, “buy backs” don’t get dangerous guns off of the street. Dangerous guns are those in the hands of people who would use them against other humans beings outside of self-defense. No criminal is going to turn their primary source of income in for a measly $100 and no law enforcer is going to turn in their guns to the very program that they’re running. Second, if your tactic is so poorly thought out that it can be exploited this easily, it should exploited. It’s foolish to think that your opponent is going subsidize you by not exploiting your stupidity and poor planning.

A Proper Response

I’m of the opinion that everybody should have the best means available to them to defend themselves. I believe having the best means of self-defense available is especially important for those who may face violence because of who they are. People who fall under the LGBT label, for example, have a higher chance of being attacked, which is why stories like this warm my heart:

“I don’t want to get beaten to death, stabbed and burnt alive,” a slight woman with long blond hair and a checked shirt says. “I want a gun to feel equal.”

She is a member of one of the United States’ fastest-growing gun clubs, the jauntily named Pink Pistols.

Two years after the massacre at Orlando’s Pulse nightclub, gay, lesbian and transgender Americans are nervous. According to the Human Rights Center (HRC), a US LGBTI advocacy group, 52 gay people were murdered in the US last year because of their sexuality, and 28 transgender people met the same fate.

Of course, gun control advocates will say that these individuals shouldn’t need a means of self-defense. I do agree with that sentiment. However, I don’t believe that people should operate under ideas of what they believe should or shouldn’t be the case, they should operate under what is the case. What is the case is that there are people who will attack and even murder individuals for their sexuality and gender identity. Furthermore, if individuals who fall under the LGBT umbrella continue to arm themselves, they will likely create an environment where they are less likely to be attacked.

The Absurdity Continues

After a tremendous amount of public outrage, Trump finally relented and decided to end the policy of separating children from their parents. All is well again, right? As this is a post about a political solution to a political problem, you know that the answer is no. The executive order signed by Trump didn’t really improve the situation:

President Trump caved to enormous political pressure on Wednesday and signed an executive order that ends the separation of families by indefinitely detaining parents and children together at the border.


Mr. Trump’s executive order directed the government’s lawyers to ask for a modification of an existing 1997 consent decree, known as the Flores settlement, that currently prohibits the federal government from keeping children in immigration detention — even if they are with their parents — for more than 20 days.

But it is unclear whether the court will agree to that request. If not, the president is likely to face an immediate legal challenge from immigration activists on behalf of families that are detained in makeshift facilities.

If Trump’s request is granted, children won’t be separated from their parents but will instead be detained potentially forever alongside their parents. This raises a lot of questions about ethics. For example, what happens if a child is illegally brought into the United States with their parents when they are young but they come of age during a lengthy detainment? The child didn’t choose to cross the border illegally, they were brought by their parents. However, they’re now adults and in the country illegally. Are they prosecuted even if the reason they’re in the country and legally considered an adult is because they were detained by law enforcers?

What is happening now is what inevitably happens whenever a zero tolerance policy is implemented. The flexibility that allows absurd situations to be avoided is gone so now the absurd situations come into existence. Unless the zero tolerance policy currently in place is removed, we’re going to be seeing a lot of absurd situations crop up and, in this case, those situations are going to involved complex ethical questions.

Points for Honesty

The United States has announced its departure from the United Nations Human Rights Council:

After more than a year of complaints and warnings — some subtle and others a little less so — the Trump administration has announced that the United States is withdrawing from the United Nations Human Rights Council. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley announced the decision in a joint statement Tuesday.

As a violator of human rights, it’s nice to see the United States being a bit more honest about itself.

Seriously though, the Human Rights Council has been and remains a joke. The best punchline of this joke in recent years was the appointment of Saudi Arabia to a major panel. While the United States commonly violates what many consider to be basic human rights, Saudi Arabia takes matters to a whole new level. But what can anybody expect from a government made up exclusively of other governments?

What will be the aftermath of this decision? In all likelihood, nothing. What modern human rights abuses that have been perpetrated by the United States have been done during its council membership. When one considers that and considers many of the other nations that are allowed membership to the council, one can only assume that being a member doesn’t require abiding by any of the council’s decision. The council, like the United Nations in general, is toothless. Since it’s toothless, continued membership wouldn’t dissuade the United States from perpetrating additional human rights abuses even if it remained on the council.

This decision is so inconsequential that it shoudn’t even be newsworthy.