Thursday, September 10, 2015

Baltimore reaches $6.4million settlement with Freddie Gray's family almost five months after he died

This clearly pre-empts the outcome of a court case so is a gross breach of proper procedure.  Black solidarity at work, it seems

The family of Freddie Gray, who died after being critically injured in police custody, reached a $6.4million wrongful death settlement with the city of Baltimore, resolving civil claims about a week after the first hearing in the criminal case against six police officers, officials said on Tuesday.

Six Baltimore police officers face criminal charges stemming from Gray's death. Gray, who was black, was critically injured on April 12 in the back of a prisoner transport van after he was arrested.

His death sparked protests, rioting and unrest that shook Baltimore for days.

The settlement still needs the approval of a board that oversees city spending. The five-member board controlled by Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake meets on Wednesday.

'The proposed settlement agreement going before the board of estimates should not be interpreted as a judgment on the guilt or innocence of the officers facing trial,'Rawlings-Blake said in a news release.

She continued: 'This settlement is being proposed solely because it is in the best interest of the city, and avoids costly and protracted litigation that would only make it more difficult for our city to heal and potentially cost taxpayers many millions more in damages.'

The proposed settlement does not resolve any factual disputes, and expressly does not constitute an admission of liability on the part of the city, its police department or any of the officers.

The payment is larger than the sum of settlements from more than 120 other alleged police brutality and misconduct lawsuits brought against Baltimore Police since 2011, according to the Baltimore Sun.



Fight Over North Carolina Election Rules Shows Obama Will Stop at Nothing to Win Elections

The recently concluded federal trial over North Carolina’s election rules proved one thing beyond a reasonable doubt: The Obama administration and its partisan, big-money, racial-interest-group allies will stop at nothing to win elections. And using the courts to change election rules is a key part of their strategy.

That was clearly evident in the federal courtroom in Winston-Salem. The plaintiffs, including the Justice Department, challenged a number of election reforms implemented in 2013 that were designed to reduce the cost and complexity of running elections and make it harder to commit voter fraud.

The administration pushed a novel legal argument. In its telling, if a change in election rules might statistically affect blacks more than whites, it constitutes illegal discrimination. For example, if 98 percent of whites have a voter ID but only 97.5 percent of blacks have one, then requiring voters to present ID violates federal law. Never mind the fact that getting an ID is free, easy, and open to everyone without regard to race. And never mind if a policy change is in line with the rules of many other states, or if it’s explicitly sanctioned by federal law. The mere act of changing the law in the wrong direction is discriminatory.

In other words, the Obama administration would turn the Voting Rights Act into a one-way ratchet to help Democrats. The court refused to go along.

None of the reforms had an obvious racial angle. For example, North Carolina required voters to vote in the precinct where they actually live. This commonsense reform—returning to the law the state had prior to 2003—prevents chaos on Election Day, from overcrowded polling places to precincts running out of ballots because election officials can’t predict how many voters will show up. Thirty-one states do not allow voting outside of your precinct. The Justice Department claims that North Carolina broke the law when it returned to this policy.

North Carolina was wrong to end same-day registration, too, according to Justice. North Carolina implemented same-day registration in 2007. Shortly thereafter, a local election in Pembroke, N.C., had to be done over because of voter fraud and unverified ballots. The problem with same-day registration is that people can register and cast a ballot simultaneously—leaving election officials unable to verify the accuracy of a voter’s registration information. So the state changed that. In North Carolina, you now have to register at least 25 days before the election, well within the voting standard set by federal law, which makes 30 days the maximum. Only about a dozen states today have same-day registration.

The state also shaved a few days off early voting to cut down costs, but North Carolina’s new ten-day period falls well within the norm. The number of early-voting days allowed by states varies from just four to 45, with the average being 19. At least 16 states don’t allow early voting at all. Additionally, more than 20 early-voting states do not allow either any weekend voting or Sunday voting, both of which are available in North Carolina. And yet, according the Justice Department, this reform was also illegal.

The rule in most states is that you can register to vote if you will be 18 prior to Election Day. In 2009, North Carolina changed the law to allow 16- and 17-year-olds to pre-register, apparently causing a logistics nightmare for election officials, who were forced to create two different voter-registration lists and integrate them when the pre-registered teenagers actually became eligible to vote. So the state went back to the prior rule, which the vast majority of states follow. Justice challenged this decision as well.

To no one’s surprise, given the current Justice Department’s partisan history on voting-related issues, North Carolina’s new voter-ID requirement was also challenged, although that law will not be in effect until 2016.

Incredibly, the Justice Department, the NAACP, and the other plaintiffs claimed that all of these changes were “discriminatory” and violated the Voting Rights Act—a law designed to break down racial barriers to the ballot box. Apparently, in 2015 North Carolina, not being able to register when you are 16, having to register 25 days ahead of time, having only ten days before the actual date of an election to vote, and being required to vote on Election Day in the precinct where you actually live are not only racist, but barriers to voting itself.  Contrast these “conditions” with the ugly discrimination of the early ’60s.

Times have certainly changed. When the racial interest groups sued North Carolina over its reforms, a swarm of lawyers from gigantic law firms donated their services. The Justice Department devoted hundreds of thousands of dollars and man-hours to attack the law. But no witnesses could be found to say they couldn’t vote because of the changes.

The Justice Department also pumped untold thousands of dollars into a database run by a company called Catalist. This database has been populated with data provided by the Democratic National Committee, unions, and other liberal organizations and is used to help them win elections. Catalist’s infrastructure and database are expensive to maintain, but fear not: the Justice Department, in the North Carolina trial and elsewhere, has provided federal tax dollars to its expert witnesses so that they could purchase Catalist’s proprietary data. Yes, federal dollars were used to fund a database that will be used next year to try to win the 2016 election for Democratic candidates.

For all the resources expended, the Justice Department’s entire case was built on speculative claims. Not able to produce a single eligible voter who was or would be unable to vote, the plaintiffs relied on hypothetical statistical arguments to claim that the turnout of black voters would be “suppressed” because they might use early voting and same-day registration slightly more than white voters, and because black voters are “less sophisticated voters.” DOJ experts actually made the borderline racist argument that “it’s less likely to imagine” that black voters could “figure out or would avail themselves of other forms of registering and voting.” That’s a shameful way to enforce a law that was used to protect real victims of real discrimination in the Deep South.

In the end, real statistics destroyed the Justice Department’s case. The reforms the plaintiffs claimed would disenfranchise “less sophisticated” black voters didn’t depress turnout at all. Indeed, in comparison with the 2010 primary, the turnout of black voters actually increased a whopping 29.5 percent in the May 2014 primary election, while the turnout of whites increased only 13.7 percent. The same thing happened in the general election. This knocked the stuffing out of the plaintiff’s discrimination claims.

The Justice Department still holds a thoroughly demeaning view of civil-rights law. It is a view that insists that blacks are incapable of performing basic societal functions, and therefore the law must step in any time they are asked to comply with a simple procedural step to participate in the electoral process. This is not only an abuse of the department’s authority; it’s a misuse of the Voting Rights Act. It should not be tolerated.



Obesity has plateaued

So the excerpt of the most recent journal article (below) tells us.  The obesity warriors can now take a bow and relax

Obesity is a major risk factor for type 2 diabetes. The prevalence of obesity in US adults, defined as a body mass index (BMI; calculated as weight in kilograms divided by height in meters squared) of 30 or greater, changed little between 1960 and 1980 (from 13% in 1960 to 15% in 1980). Subsequently, between 1980 and 2000, the prevalence of obesity in the United States doubled from 15% to 31%.1 Since then, there has been relatively little change in the prevalence of obesity among infants and toddlers, children and adolescents, or adults. Nevertheless, the prevalence of obesity is high with 8% of infants and toddlers, 17% of those aged 2 to 19 years, and 35% of US adults aged 20 years or older estimated to be obese.



The absurd tanning tax:  Moron bureaucrats at work

This somehow reminds me of Bastiat

A supposed revenue-generating provision of Obamacare is an expensive bust. Among the many items buried in the Affordable Care Act (ACA) was a new federal tax on indoor tanning salons that added 10 percent to customers’ bills. The “tanning tax,” according to Congress’s Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT), originally was projected to generate some $2.7 billion in new revenue through 2019 — $1 billion in the years 2011 through 2014 alone — which would be used to offset part of the estimated $940 billion that Obamacare was expected to cost through 2019.

The tax committee’s rosy projection was way off. Instead of $1 billion in revenue during its first four years, the tanning-salon tax has actually produced only about $362 million, slightly more than one-third of the JCT’s forecast. Revised estimates from the Internal Revenue Service and the White House Office of Management and Budget, released last year, now peg total tax revenue at $955.7 million through 2019.

But even that number appears overly optimistic. Why? Because the tax, along with public concerns that tanning might contribute to skin cancer, has helped put a lot of tanning salons out of business — some 9,658 nationwide over the past four years, according to the American Suntanning Association trade group. In New York State, the number of tanning salons has plummeted from 612 in 2009 to 284 today. In New Jersey, there were 431 in 2009; there are 197 today.

The JCT fell prey to a mistake commonly committed by revenue forecasters: They assume that consumers will meekly go along with price increases and that the volume of market transactions will stay the same. In that sense, the JCT’s bureaucrats behaved like Adam Smith’s “man of system,” who thinks he can move people around willy-nilly as if they were lifeless pieces on a chessboard impelled to action only by a player’s hands.

But humans have minds of their own and often respond rationally and predictably to tax increases and other external interventions. And their responses often differ from those the bureaucrats na├»vely expect of them. When a tax is imposed on any good or service, increasing its cost, many consumers will seek out substitutes — in this case, buying sunlamps to tan at home, tanning themselves by natural sunlight, applying artificial tans from a bottle, reducing the frequency with which they visit tanning salons, or forgoing tanning altogether.

Such responses are bad news for the owners and employees of tanning salons. In 2009, the industry employed more than 164,000 people, according to the Suntanning Association; in 2015, it employs just over 83,000 — a loss of nearly half the industry’s jobs. Workers unable to find employment elsewhere are no longer paying income or payroll taxes — something else the JCT didn’t count on.

Obamacare’s tanning tax also turns out to be a tax on women. According to the Suntanning Association, women own 70 percent of U.S. tanning salons, compared to an average of 26 percent of all other businesses. Women also account for approximately 95 percent of tanning-salon staffs, and 75 percent of the customers are female.

This is another example of Washington’s know-it-all bureaucrats getting it all wrong. The misnamed Affordable Care Act, which becomes less affordable every day, is the poster child for bad policymaking. It needs to be dismantled — one piece at a time, if necessary. Repealing the tanning tax is a good place to start.



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