Tax, Taxes, and Taxation (on Tax Day)

It’s Tax Day, which is an annual holiday where 20 year old white kids complain about how much our goverment spends on “entitlement programs” or defense or public education … or whatever else Ron Paul says we shouldn’t be paying for.

Is there some stuff I don’t want to pay for? You bet. Do I get to decry all taxation because some of my money goes to things I don’t support? No, I don’t think so.

Could we find ways to make things function with less waste? Surely. Could we find ways for the super-rich to pay a little more rather than consistently helping them to pay less? I would think so.

All of these issues are serious ones; I don’t mean to make light of them. But they don’t suggest that we ought not to help people who don’t have enough to eat or that we ought to leave the elderly high and dry.

As it turns out, in the real world having an enormous society that functions at all is very expensive. Being a part of society means pitching in; it also means benefiting from being a part of society.

Would I be happier if we lived in a utopia where no one ever needed a helping hand from the rest of us, where private charity was sufficient to provide for all the needs of the least well off in our society, and/or where we could just melt down all of our weapons instead of buying more of them? I guess so. Most people would.

And yet, all the wishing and hoping and complaining about taxation won’t turn our current society into a tax-free libertopia. So here’s to another year of taxes. Go out there and enjoy driving on the roads, check out a book from the library, and be glad that millions of kids have access to public education. You paid for it.

# politics # libertarians


Last month, when Glenn Ford was released from prison for a crime he didn’t commit, the state of Louisiana “gave him a $20 debit card for his troubles.” That, plus the four cents he had left in his prison account, was all he had.
How do you build up the material accumulations of a lifetime overnight? How do you do it with no money? Where do you even begin?
Ford’s friend John Thompson had a clever idea: Do what millions of Americans do when they are hoping that other people will buy them a whole bunch of stuff. Build an Amazon registry.

The Amazon Wish List is here.
Read the whole piece here.

Last month, when Glenn Ford was released from prison for a crime he didn’t commit, the state of Louisiana “gave him a $20 debit card for his troubles.” That, plus the four cents he had left in his prison account, was all he had.

How do you build up the material accumulations of a lifetime overnight? How do you do it with no money? Where do you even begin?

Ford’s friend John Thompson had a clever idea: Do what millions of Americans do when they are hoping that other people will buy them a whole bunch of stuff. Build an Amazon registry.

The Amazon Wish List is here.

Read the whole piece here.

# Louisiana # Amazon # politics # criminal justice

Sometimes people ask me whether I’m just making up the pro-gun position that I occasionally discuss on this blog (and that I tend to refer to as wingnuttery). I assure you I am not.
The above is the tail end of a conversation with someone who found my blog via the Washington Post and wanted to argue with me about whether or not Florida’s Stand Your Ground law constitutes an example of self-defense as an inalienable right found all the way back in the philosophy of Locke and Blackstone. [You can find the whole discussion here if you want to see how he arrives at this nonsensical position.]
Does Locke think you are justified in defending yourself if someone attacks you and there’s no other way for you to preserve yourself? He does. But, if at all possible, it would be better to let the proper authorities handle the matter; one of the main points of having a civil society is that it precludes every man from being judge, jury, and executioner. Locke suggests this over and over again.
Does Locke think you have a right to wander around with a weapon looking for trouble and then claim self-defense when you kill someone you’ve been following around for no good reason? No, sir; that’s utter madness. The only ones who think this way are people who like the idea of waving guns around to make themselves feel like big men.

Sometimes people ask me whether I’m just making up the pro-gun position that I occasionally discuss on this blog (and that I tend to refer to as wingnuttery). I assure you I am not.

The above is the tail end of a conversation with someone who found my blog via the Washington Post and wanted to argue with me about whether or not Florida’s Stand Your Ground law constitutes an example of self-defense as an inalienable right found all the way back in the philosophy of Locke and Blackstone. [You can find the whole discussion here if you want to see how he arrives at this nonsensical position.]

Does Locke think you are justified in defending yourself if someone attacks you and there’s no other way for you to preserve yourself? He does. But, if at all possible, it would be better to let the proper authorities handle the matter; one of the main points of having a civil society is that it precludes every man from being judge, jury, and executioner. Locke suggests this over and over again.

Does Locke think you have a right to wander around with a weapon looking for trouble and then claim self-defense when you kill someone you’ve been following around for no good reason? No, sir; that’s utter madness. The only ones who think this way are people who like the idea of waving guns around to make themselves feel like big men.

# Locke # Blackstone # philosophy # guns # politics

So all of you who’ve been frustrated by your inability to give away more than $123,200 in each election cycle, your day of liberation has arrived.

That’s Alec MacGillis, in his piece “The Stunning Chutzpah of the Supreme Court’s New Elimination of Campaign Contribution Limits.”

All I can say is, “Finally, a Supreme Court ruling for me, the little guy.”

# politics # Supreme Court # corporations # news

reblogged from The New Republic
As many of my friends who left the Republican party in the past decade can attest, George Bush Lost an Entire Generation for the Republican Party:

[F]or the past 40 years voting patterns haven’t differed much by age. In fact, there’s virtually no difference between generations at all until you get to the George Bush era. At that point, young voters suddenly leave the Republican Party en masse. Millennials may be far less likely than older generations to say there’s a big difference between Republicans and Democrats, but their actual voting record belies that.
Whatever it was that Karl Rove and George Bush did—and there are plenty of possibilities, ranging from Iraq to gays to religion—they massively alienated an entire generation of voters. Sure, they managed to squeak out a couple of presidential victories, but they did it at the cost of losing millions of voters who will probably never fully return. This chart is their legacy in a nutshell.

As many of my friends who left the Republican party in the past decade can attest, George Bush Lost an Entire Generation for the Republican Party:

[F]or the past 40 years voting patterns haven’t differed much by age. In fact, there’s virtually no difference between generations at all until you get to the George Bush era. At that point, young voters suddenly leave the Republican Party en masse. Millennials may be far less likely than older generations to say there’s a big difference between Republicans and Democrats, but their actual voting record belies that.

Whatever it was that Karl Rove and George Bush did—and there are plenty of possibilities, ranging from Iraq to gays to religion—they massively alienated an entire generation of voters. Sure, they managed to squeak out a couple of presidential victories, but they did it at the cost of losing millions of voters who will probably never fully return. This chart is their legacy in a nutshell.

# Bush # politics

Jonathan Pollard, an American who admitted to spying for Israel in the mid-1980s, would be eligible for parole at the end of 2015. But it’s possible that he could get out of prison sooner if the Israeli government agrees to a series of concessions needed to keep negotiations open with the Palestinians.

There’s a major debate about whether spying for an ally is actually a crime and, of course, a major debate about exactly how damaging to U.S. interests was the information that Pollard passed to Israel. The side on which you find yourself in these debates determines whether you think Pollard should have been imprisoned at all, whether you think he should ever be released, and whether you think he’s some sort of hero or an obvious criminal.

The whole thing is a confusing ordeal until you remember that, when it comes to Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, the one thing on which everyone agrees is that they love finding new ways to free prisoners while accomplishing little else.

Personally, I’m pretty curious to see the discussion this post generates amongst readers of my blog since writing about Jonathan Pollard is generally akin to touching the third rail.

For more information, here is Haaretz’s guide to the perplexed.

# Israel # Palestinians # Pollard # politics # news

reblogged from

Regarding my earlier post about the case of Robert H. Richards IV, who was sentenced by a Delaware judge to probation rather than incarceration for his heinous crimes, I should clarify that I think the punishments meted out to other offenders are symptomatic of our narrow way of thinking about justice and that our criminal justice system has a wide variety of blemishes (that I’ve written about on this blog for years; peruse the “criminal justice” tag to find hundreds of such posts).

Should poor people spend their lives in terrible conditions in our prisons? They should not. Should minorities? They should not. Should the rich get all the breaks? Clearly, no.

The fact that Richards was not sentenced to spend his life in terrible conditions in a prison doesn’t somehow suggest that it’s right that anyone should. Nor is it right to say that he ought to be made to suffer more since others from different backgrounds and walks of life have been sentenced to do so.

The point of my original post was not to laud the light sentence that was handed down in Richards’ case or to applaud the lenient treatment afforded to the wealthy and/or white offenders in our society at the expense of the poor and people of color. It was instead to argue against the notion that justice can only be served by doling out suffering.

I’m also not arguing that this case is an example of restorative justice; I don’t believe this was a restorative sentence and I don’t believe that we’re anywhere near a place where offenders are being successfully rehabilitated or getting proper treatment or reintegrated into society. The point of the post was merely to suggest that calling for a long and suffering-filled prison sentence for offenders doesn’t accomplish anything and keeps us far away from even approaching a more restorative understanding of justice.

As I wrote at the end of my post:

Restorative justice isn’t about leniency for offenders; it’s about discovering and attempting to meet the needs of victims while encouraging offender accountability. It’s just not clear that lengthy prison sentences under the worst possible conditions accomplishes either of those things.

I completely understand the gut feeling that something terrible ought to happen to a person who harms a child; as a father myself, I’m disgusted and outraged by this man and what he did to his children. But that doesn’t mean we ought to turn that feeling into policy, especially if doing so accomplishes nothing more than making the public feel good about getting vengeance. Taking out our collective wrath on offenders doesn’t necessarily do anything to help their victims, nor does it automatically lead to offender accountability. Working to accomplish those things, rather than to sate our desire for vengeance, would likely result in a radical change in the way we think about justice and punishment, and the way we respond to crime.

# Delaware # politics # justice # restorative justice # criminal justice

In candor, I have been a dirty old man ever since I was a very young man. Except, that is, when it comes to my daughters (and other young women that I care deeply about). And that brings me to the amusing debate about how (mostly) young female lawyers dress these days.

That’s Richard Kopf, a Senior U.S. District Court Judge here in Nebraska, writing on his blog earlier this week.

Kopf explains to female lawyers that they should dress more conservatively, giving the example of a young lawyer who draws a great deal of attention to herself — very positive attention from men and very negative attention from female law clerks — as a result of her physical attributes and her clothing choices:

“She is brilliant, she writes well, she speaks eloquently, she is zealous but not overly so, she is always prepared, she treats others, including her opponents, with civility and respect, she wears very short skirts and shows lots of her ample chest. I especially appreciate the last two attributes.”

In the comments, when challenged by someone who said that at least three female law clerks had no idea who this young lawyer might be, Kopf argued that he wasn’t really referring to a specific person but to “an amalgam,” though he begins his description of the woman with the words “True story.”

Not surprisingly, the blog post has garnered a lot of negative attention. In a follow-up post, Kopf doubles down:

I honestly don’t care how you (or others) remember me.* I do care passionately that federal trial judges be seen as individuals with all the strengths and weakness (baggage) that everyone else carries around.

If, on balance, you think the post was harmful to the image of the federal judiciary and truly treated women as objects, I am very, very, very sorry for that, but I would ask you to pause and reread it. I hope you will find upon objective reflection that the mockery I make of myself and the hyperbole and somewhat mordant tone I employed, made a point worth considering.

In the rough and tumble world of a federal trial practice, it is sometimes necessary to see and react to that world as it is rather than as we wish it would be.

In other words, there are lots of men in the world of federal trial practice (and in the world, generally) who are sexists, who leer at women, who care less about the work done by a women than about her physical attributes. And the reality of this situation, the judge believes, obviously necessitates that women need to change their behavior and pay careful attention to the choices they make.

At some point, I have to assume, we’re going to move past this kind of nonsense as a society. But in 2014, when a federal judge feels totally confident about expressing this sort of opinion publicly for the good of women everywhere … well, we’re pretty clearly not there yet, are we?

# women # Nebraska # fashion # sadness # politics

A friend from college and a friend from grad school both made the same point about my homicide insurance post this afternoon … and they’re right. Everyone who wants to own a gun should have to buy insurance.

Should it be prohibitively expensive? For some guns and for some people, yes.

Insurance: It’s all about personal responsibility.

# guns # cotd # politics

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