Sunday, April 10, 2016

Trump / Cruz Rapprochement – Why and How It May Happen

As veteran Newt Gingrich points out:

"Trump and Cruz together have amassed a crushing 80% vote against the GOP Establishment elites.  There has never been such a strong message sent to those elites, who are still reeling from the shock.

Trump and Cruz cannot, and will not, get together on anything until one of them wins. So expect even more rancor and political theater.  When the winner is determined, it will be time to join forces, bind up the wounds, and move forward to crush Clinton or Sanders"

Newt says there are many ways the post-convention rapprochement could be handled, although he offers none in this short interview. Assuming Donald Trump wins the nomination, I for one am counting on him, the great negotiator and deal maker, to make the most consequential “deal” he ever made — by far.

Of course, conservative voters are themselves engaged in rancorous Trump vs Cruz debates, and some hard feelings have developed. But once the winner is declared, it will be time for all conservatives to do as the candidates must do — unite to defeat whatever dour old neo-Marxist candidate the Democrats manage to come up with.

We are likely witnessing an entire political party, the GOP, in an historic transition the likes of which have happened only a few times in all of US history.



Walmart Stores to Close— Blame the Minimum Wage

At the end of 2015, retail giant Walmart announced it would close 269 stores across the globe, some 115 in the United States. This might seem puzzling. The company is the largest retailer in the country, and some 80 percent of U.S. shoppers visit the chain at least once a year. But thousands of locations and a huge customer base cannot save Walmart from the consequences of backward economic policy—like the minimum wage.

Among the stores closed were those in Oakland and Chinatown in Los Angeles. While the company’s decisions “took into account a number of factors,” Oakland and Los Angeles have something important in common: Both recently raised their minimum wage considerably higher than the national average.

Many have criticized Walmart for its wages, claiming that a firm bringing in some $482 billion in sales can afford to pay its workers more than the current prevailing wage. But while Walmart is large and profitable, it’s still subject to the laws of economics. Oakland, L.A. and other places are about to learn that increasing the minimum wage not only fails to increase wages for the poorest workers, but is also likely to backfire.

First, while the company’s revenues seem high, Walmart’s profit margin is far from fat: a mere 3 percent. The company has billions in expenses every year—so significant that in a 31-day month, all its sales in the first 30 days go toward paying expenses. Only on the 31st day does the company actually turn a profit, assuming nothing goes wrong during that month—like an unexpected jump in wages.

Just like any other firm, Walmart employs individuals who will earn the company revenue. After pay increases early this year, the average full-time Walmart employee will earn $13.38 per hour, well above the industry average of $10.29. With other benefits, including short-term disability and paid time off, the company’s actual cost per employee is significantly higher.

That Walmart pays an average of $13.38 an hour plus benefits means it expects the average employee to earn the company more than that amount. While a jump in pay of just a few dollars may seem trivial, for a company that employs 1.4 million domestic employees, it is positively massive. This is not to mention the additional costs associated with taxes paid for each employee. With such thin profit margins, Walmart cannot afford to ignore these costs.

As the cost of employing workers increases, Walmart has to decide whether its current workforce is worth the price. For example, if a worker’s hourly wage plus benefits is $30 per hour, but he or she generates only $25 in revenue, the company loses money for every hour the employee works. Under those circumstances, it would benefit the company and its shareholders to lay off workers. It has nothing to do with “corporate greed.” It’s business. Firms can’t operate at a loss.

Arbitrary wage increases, such as those dictated through minimum-wage laws, do nothing to make workers more productive. They just add costs. While proponents of the minimum wage intend for the burden to fall on “greedy” companies like Walmart, employees and consumers will feel the pain.

This is exactly what we’re observing in California. Instead of offering more people higher paying jobs, companies like Walmart will lay off hundreds of people who rely on the company for work.

Customers and communities lose out too. While Walmart caters to a variety of clientele, the company has been particularly helpful to some groups. More than 20 percent of Walmart customers live in rural areas. One in five customers receives food stamps or other assistance. Closing the stores means these consumers are out of luck. They have to find other—likely higher priced—alternatives, assuming such options are available at all.

Communities also lose out on the thousands of tax dollars Walmart pays to local and state governments every year, funding projects we all benefit from.

The closing of these stores should ring alarm bells for everyone concerned about economic well-being. When it comes to the minimum wage, everyone loses and it’s not Walmart’s fault. The responsibility lies with those who advocate and implement irresponsible economic policy.



This is How You Get Fired in the Obama Administration

When Barack Obama isn't censoring mention of Islamic terrorism, he's firing those who tell him just how bad it is:
Two top intelligence analysts at U.S. Central Command say they were kicked out for producing negative reports on Syrian rebel groups backed by the Obama administration.

Sources close to these analysts told The Daily Beast that they were actively targeted by military leadership for not delivering a glowing report on U.S. progress in the war against the Islamic State, The Daily Beast reports.

It appears the military has had enough of analysts complaining to the media about their bosses manipulating intelligence reports. More than 50 anonymous CENTCOM analysts have previously voiced concerns about reports being fiddled with to show absurdly successful outcomes against ISIS. Now, military officials are ready to seek out these analysts and remove them from their positions.

Apparently, the great sin of the two senior analysts is that they neither trusted rebel commitment to U.S. strategic objectives, nor trusted their abilities to carry out the objectives.

Democratic societies flourish on the basis of information. Repressive societies silence those whose version of events doesn't comply with the dictator's preferred narrative. The purpose of national security advisors is not to flatter the president, but to provide him with detail oriented explanations that help him make the best decisions as commander in chief. One would think that  community organizer with no foreign policy experience whatsoever would understand his own limitations and trust these advisors.

One would be wrong



Supreme Court Hands Down Big Sixth Amendment Win

On Wednesday, the Supreme Court delivered a win for the Sixth Amendment right to counsel in Luis v. United States. Five justices—Justice Stephen Breyer, who wrote a plurality opinion joined by Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor, and Justice Clarence Thomas, who wrote a separate concurring opinion—sided with challenger Luis, concluding that the government cannot freeze her untainted assets and thereby deny her the opportunity to be represented by an attorney of her choosing in the criminal case against her.

In 2012, a grand jury indicted Sila Luis on federal charges stemming from an alleged Medicare fraud scheme. According to the indictment, Luis paid kickbacks and conspired to perpetrate a fraud that resulted in her obtaining nearly $45 million.

By the time Luis was charged, she had already spent most of the money, so prosecutors sought to freeze all of her assets up to $45 million, regardless of whether the money in question was derived from the alleged illegal conduct or “untainted” funds that were legitimately earned or otherwise lawfully obtained. The goal was to ensure that, should she be convicted, those funds would be available for forfeiture in order to pay restitution to victims and other statutory penalties.

Luis sought to unfreeze her untainted assets so that she could use some of the money to hire an attorney of her choosing to represent her in the ongoing criminal case, but the trial judge ruled against her, and the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed that decision.

But the Supreme Court disagreed, holding that the pretrial restraint of Luis’ untainted assets violated her right under the Sixth Amendment, which the Supreme Court has previously held, given that the close working relationship between a client and his or her lawyer and the need for trust encompass the right to hire the counsel of one’s choice (subject to certain reasonable limitations, such as when a lawyer has a conflict of interest).

The crux of the case lies in the distinction between tainted and untainted assets—that is, assets that are traceable to a criminal act as opposed to those that are not. The Supreme Court has long held that tainted assets may be seized before a criminal trial, even if doing so results in a defendant’s inability to afford counsel of his or her choice.

This makes sense. After all, it would be bizarre to hold that a thief who steals a purse with $100 in it has a right to then spend the illicitly obtained money on a lawyer to defend him in the purse-snatching case. Rather, the cash belongs to the owner of the purse, and the thief never had any legitimate claim to it.

Writing for the plurality, Breyer noted that “[t]he property at issue here, however, is not loot, contraband, or otherwise ‘tainted.’” It is, as the government conceded, entirely legitimate and unconnected to the fraud scheme Luis is accused of having perpetrated. Nevertheless, prosecutors wanted to “preserve Luis’ untainted assets so that they will be available to cover the costs of forfeiture and restitution if she is convicted, and if the court later determines that her tainted assets are insufficient or otherwise unavailable.”

While the plurality recognized the legitimacy of the government’s interests and even conceded that it had some statutory support, Breyer concluded that “compared to the right to counsel of choice, these interests would seem to lie somewhat further from the heart of a fair, effective criminal justice system.” And, Breyer noted, the law has tracing rules that permit prosecutors to freeze so-called substitute assets when they can establish that tainted funds have been used to purchase other goods.

The plurality was clearly concerned that if Congress were permitted to freeze untainted assets for this crime, there would be nothing to prevent Congress from doing the same for other crimes; to quote Breyer, there would be “no obvious stopping place.” If this were to happen, then “defendants, rendered indigent, would fall back upon publicly paid counsel, including overworked and underpaid public servants.”

Thomas reached the same conclusion but not for the same reasons. As Thomas noted, “constitutional rights necessarily protect the prerequisites for their exercise.” In his view, the 6th Amendment right “to have the Assistance of Counsel” necessarily “implies the right to use lawfully owned property to pay for an attorney. Otherwise the right to counsel—originally understood to protect only the right to hire counsel of choice—would be meaningless.”

In his dissenting opinion, Justice Anthony Kennedy, joined by Justice Samuel Alito, asserted that the government should be able to restrain any potentially forfeitable property regardless of whether it can be tied to a criminal offense. To do otherwise, he argued, would incentivize criminals to dispose of illicit assets while preserving legitimate funds, safe in the knowledge that these untainted assets could then pay for their legal defense.

This would short-circuit the government’s legitimate goal of safeguarding forfeitable property from dissipation. Moreover, as Justice Elena Kagan noted in her separate dissenting opinion, the plurality has drawn a line in the sand of Sixth Amendment jurisprudence that may be difficult to retrace in future cases.

Ultimately, the government may be able to prove that Luis committed the crime with which she has been charged. But then again, she may be innocent, which is exactly why the Sixth Amendment right to counsel is so important.



For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH,  POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated),  a Coral reef compendium and an IQ compendium. (Both updated as news items come in).  GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten. I also put up occasional updates on my Personal blog and each day I gather together my most substantial current writings on A WESTERN HEART.

List of backup or "mirror" sites here or  here -- for when blogspot is "down" or failing to  update.  Email me  here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or  here (Pictorial) or  here  (Personal)


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