Category Archives: Law

The FBI Briefing On The Congressional Shooter

is bizarre:

The FBI admits that Hodgkinson:

•vociferously raged against Republicans in online forums,
•had a piece of paper bearing the names of six members of Congress,
•was reported for doing target practice outside his home in recent months before moving to Alexandria,
•had mapped out a trip to the DC area,
•took multiple photos of the baseball field he would later shoot up, three days after the New York Times mentioned that Republicans practiced baseball at an Alexandria baseball field with little security,
•lived out of his van at the YMCA directly next door to the baseball field he shot up,
•legally purchased a rifle in March 2003 and 9 mm handgun “in November 2016,”
•modified the rifle at some point to accept a detachable magazine and replaced the original stock with a folding stock,
•rented a storage facility to hide hundreds of rounds of ammunition and additional rifle components,
asked “Is this the Republican or Democrat baseball team?” before firing on the Republicans,
ran a Google search for information on the “2017 Republican Convention” hours before the shooting,
and took photos at high-profile Washington locations, including the east front plaza of the U.S. Capitol and the Dirksen Senate Office.
•We know from other reporting that the list was of six Republican Freedom Caucus members, including Rep. Mo Brooks, who was present at the practice.

So what does the FBI decide this information means? Well, the takeaway of the briefing was characterized well by the Associated Press headline about it: “FBI: Gunman who shot congressman had no target in mind.”

If they don’t want to call it terrorism because it was an attempted political assassination, then fine, but this is insane. If they want to continue to drain away the last vestiges of confidence in their competence, this is the way to do it.

[Update Friday morning]

Who does the FBI work for?

There’s no reason to beat around the bush here: what the FBI is claiming is mind-boggling when they claim the shooter had no target in mind. Consider the number of accidents of circumstance you would have to believe were going on here to not have the shooter doing what seems obvious from every piece of evidence we have: researching and planning for an attack on Republicans of some kind, particularly looking for an opportunity when security will be low and vulnerability will be high. This was an attack, not an “anger management” problem.

Step back, though, and think on the institutional conclusions here. Considering how ludicrous the FBI’s conclusions are as it relates to an attack on the third ranking member of the House of Representatives, you might reconsider whether to trust the FBI’s conclusions in other areas, as well. And this is how our faith in institutions is degraded: steadily, gradually, with incident after incident where men in suits stand in front of microphones and make claims we know are not the whole truth.

This is how you get more Trump. Despite the fact that Trump doesn’t seem inclined to do anything about it.

[Update a couple minutes later]

Related: Hey, Trump, how about firing Avner Shapiro? Your administration is full of people sabotaging your agenda. What are you going to do about it?

The Senate Health Plan

It appears to be ObamaCare Lite:

At a fundamental level, the Senate plan accepts Obamacare’s premises about the nature of health insurance and the individual market. It works from the assumption that the only way to make expensive health insurance cheaper is to subsidize it through the federal government. It is a plan that subsidizes, and therefore disguises, unaffordability, rather than attempting to bring down costs directly.

Republicans are useless.

[Update a few minutes later]

Bob Zubrin has a more radical plan:

…the problem that we face is not that there are too many people who lack health insurance, but that there are too many people who have it. If we want to get health-care costs under control, we need a system where the majority of medical expenses are paid for by informed individuals who shop for value and are free to choose what they want to buy accordingly.

So what should Congress do? The most effective action the government could take would be to simply ban health insurance and enact transparency laws forcing medical providers to clearly advertise their prices for services rendered. This would crash health-care costs overnight.

Unfortunately, things are not so simple. Health-care costs differ from grocery costs in one key respect: They are unpredictable, which means that for most people catastrophic health insurance would still be warranted. What’s more, there would still be indigent Americans unable to pay for health care even at the greatly reduced rates such a system would provide. Such people, however, could be given medical stamps, analogous to food stamps, to help cover all or part of their medical bills.

The recently failed Trump-Ryan health-care bill was useless, because it simply perpetuated the current nonsensical system in slightly altered form. To truly fix health care, we would need to build a new system from scratch with two cornerstones: the free market and a safety net — the former to drive down costs, and the latter to protect the most vulnerable.

Yup. The whole system is a disaster, and has been for decades, ever since employee-insurance and union demands completely warped the very concept of health insurance.

[Mid-morning update]

Well, here’s a different opinion:

Calexit 2

Now they want to negotiate a new deal:

The coalition filed a proposed constitutional amendment that would remove the word “inseparable” from the California Constitution’s declaration that the state is “an inseparable part of the United States of America.”

However, it should not be assumed the California Freedom Coalition wants total freedom. The proposed amendment holds out the possibility the state could be “sovereign and autonomous” without actually breaking away from the U.S.

Stephen Gonzales, the president of the California Freedom Coalition, told the Sacramento Bee the amendment would also open the door for negotiation. It would give the state’s governor the freedom to do a deal with Washington for the independence of California.

I guess they’re ignoring those pesky issues like needing the consent of Congress.

Convicting Of Federal Crimes

Ken White says it’s far too easy:

“Investigators and prosecutors will tell you that this is a good thing — that their power to convict targets for lying or obstruction helps catch criminals who would otherwise go free because of problems of proof. But people who hold vast power rarely think they ought not. In fact, the most petty and weak human reactions can lead to federal felony convictions during an investigation. To be a federal crime, a false statement to the federal government must be material — that is, meaningful.

But federal courts have defined materiality in a way that criminalizes trifles. Under current law, a statement is material if it is the sort of statement that could influence the federal government, whether or not it actually did. Hence, federal agents interrogating people always ask some questions as to which they already have irrefutable proof, hoping that the target will lie and hand the feds an easy conviction. That’s how FBI agents caught my client that early morning when he lied fruitlessly about being at a meeting the FBI knew with certainty he had attended.

People — good people, decent people, people who are usually honest — lie foolishly when frightened and under great stress. Is that immoral? That’s a philosophical question. Should it lead to a debilitating federal felony when it does not hinder a federal investigation in the slightest, when the federal government was fishing for a lie? No. That gives the feds far too much power to turn human frailty into crime.

Meanwhile, Glenn Reynolds says that Mueller should resign, or we need a second special counsel:

as Otis notes, the Justice Department’s rules forbid a person from participating in an investigation if doing so “may result in a personal … conflict of interest, or the appearance thereof.” Mueller clearly has one here.

And yet, despite a clear requirement that Mueller be “disqualified” from this investigation, his dismissal by either Trump or Sessions on the heels of the president’s firing of Comey would create a political firestorm that the president — even if entirely innocent of any wrongdoing whatsoever—might be unable to survive.

And Mueller can’t fix things by simply recusing himself from the “obstruction” investigation, while delegating it to a subordinate. Perhaps unwisely, he has chosen lawyers who records show have contributed substantially to Democratic campaigns. Indeed, two have given the maximum $2,700 donation to Hillary Clinton last year, while another worked for the Clinton Foundation. No one could accept them as impartial towards the man who defeated her.

So if he cares about the rules, Mueller needs to resign. But if he doesn’t, there is another way — and it may be the only way — to avoid either a tainted investigation or a political explosion.

Sessions can and should appoint a second special counsel lacking Mueller’s close relationship to any person “substantially involved in the conduct that is the subject of the investigation” of the “obstruction” issue, leaving the original investigation of “collusion” in the hands of Mueller.

And I suspect that there is no collusion. Undistracted by Comey’s nonsense, he would be able to focus on finding that.

Our Cold Civil War

While there is some violence involved, it’s largely a war of lawyers, and lawfare:

The distinguished political scientist Angelo Codevilla coined the ominous term “cold civil war” to describe America’s precarious condition, adding: “Statesmanship’s first task is to prevent it from turning hot.” The attempted massacre on June 14 of Republican congressmen and their staff by a deranged partisan of Sen. Bernie Sanders turned up the heat a notch, but it would be mistaken to attribute much importance to this dreadful outburst of left-wing rage. The augury of American fracture will not be street violence, but a constitutional crisis implicating virtually the whole of America’s governing caste. The shock troops in the cold civil war are not gunmen but lawyers.

A considerable portion of America’s permanent bureaucracy, including elements of its intelligence community, is engaged in an illegal and unconstitutional mutiny against the elected commander-in-chief, President Donald Trump. Most of the Democratic Party and a fair sampling of the Republican establishment wants to force Trump out of office, and to this end undertook an entrapment scheme to entice the president and his staff into actions which might be construed after the fact as obstruction of justice. By means yet undisclosed, the mutineers forced Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn from office and now seek to bring down the president for allegedly obstructing an investigation of Gen. Flynn that arose in the first place from the entrapment scheme.

One of the Republican Party’s most distinguished statesman recently told a closed gathering that a “cold coup” is underway against the president.

That would certainly appear to be the case.

California’s Minimum Wage

It’s already devastating the restaurant industry, and it hasn’t even fully kicked in yet:

Christopher Thornberg, director of UC Riverside’s Center for Economic Forecasting and Development, told the San Bernardino Sun that politicians should have adopted a regional approach. He said it would been better to adapt minimum-wage levels to varying economies – something like the Oregon model, the nation’s first multi-tiered minimum-wage strategy.

Oregon’s minimum-wage law is phased, with increases over six years. By 2022, the minimum will be $14.75 an hour in Portland, $13.50 in midsize counties and $12.50 in rural areas.

“That makes sense,” Thornberg told the Sun. “That’s logical.”

California is even more varied economically than Oregon. Thornberg believes hiking wages in blanket fashion will spark layoffs and edge low-skilled workers out of the job market.

It’s not “logical.” It’s just slightly less insane. And this is why a federal minimum wage is even more insane.