Morning Links

Thursday, May 21st, 2009
  • Yes, there are still innocent people at Gitmo.
  • A federal judge will hold a hearing on whether to bar the media from publishing photos of a New York legislator in handcuffs. He was arrested for tax evasion. The judge says he finds the photos “especially troubling to me” because Newsday could have used other photos. I’m astounded that this would even be considered. I wonder if the judge has expressed similar concerns when newspapers run mug shots, perp walk photos, and prison jumpsuit photos of people accused of crimes who don’t happen to be politicians?
  • Florida congressman wants a federal law mandating a week of paid vacation each year. Eventually, he’d require two. Best quote: “The idea: More vacation will stimulate the economy through fewer sick days, better productivity and happier employees.”
  • Matthew Yglesias likes the idea of taxing alcohol to pay for universal health care. I obviously disagree with Yglesias about the merits of a single payer health care system, but even assuming that disagreement away, paying for it with an alcohol tax (a) is regressive, and (b) would seem to be be somewhat counterproductive, given the almost universal consensus now in the scientific community about the health benefits of moderate alcohol consumption.
  • Colorado Springs police department refuses to release arrest report in the case of a man who claims he was beaten for videotaping the police as they were arresting another man.
  • Journalism layoffs may hamper fight against the death penalty.
  • FTC looks to regulate blogger credibility. Another government solution in search of a problem.
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  • 35 Responses to “Morning Links”

    1. #1 |  ChrisD | 

      Matt Yglesias is the Matthew McConaghy of punditry. He seems to have brutal idea after brutal idea, but against all odds still gets taken seriously. It must be the thick-framed “smart guy” glasses that do it for him.

    2. #2 |  MDGuy | 

      One doesn’t need to know anything about the inmates themselves to know there are innocent people in Guantanamo. All you have to do is examine our method of rounding these people up: march into an impovrished third world country and start handing out $5,000 to anyone who turns in a “terrorist.” Why risk life and limb fingering the real bad guys when that deadbeat son-in-law you want out of the family will do just fine?

    3. #3 |  Marty | 

      I’ve already started gathering up my old homebrew equipment…

      I can screw up my own sex life, so I’m hoping they’ll leave that alone. My motorcycles are probably gonna be gps tracked and taxed to support head injuries and tattoo removal services. My guitar amplifier isn’t very energy efficient and it’s entirely too loud, so that’s probably about to be ‘regulated’ to cover wind turbines and hearing aids. I can’t imagine my paintball and airsoft guns having a lot of time before the ‘widows and orphans’ funds of the local police depts start getting a cut of that. My Sunday night hockey leagues are gonna be taxed by the game, to pay for crippled knees and sutures. The dental lobby will be sponging off my Wrigley’s gum to make the dentists rich beyond their dreams.

      I feel real optimistic that I’ve been doing it wrong all my life and I’m about to be shown a better way to live…

    4. #4 |  Mattocracy | 

      Another morning ruined by the Morning Links. I really need to stop doing this to myself.

    5. #5 |  Nick T | 

      “I wonder if the judge has expressed similar concerns when newspapers run mug shots, perp walk photos, and prison jumpsuit photos of people accused of crimes who don’t happen to be politicians? ”

      Spoiler alert, Radley: he hasn’t :)

    6. #6 |  Elliot | 

      It’s inevitable that government attempts to curb unhealthy diet or activity by taxation will eventually
      lead to encouraging the wrong things. I noticed the vending machines at local schools no longer held sodas, but were filled with “sports drinks” and fruit juices. What genius doesn’t understand that large amounts of sugar is unhealthy, with or without carbonation?

    7. #7 |  J sub D | 

      Tax on a bottle of MD 20/20 – 15%.
      Tax on a bottle of Dom Perignon – 0.25%

      You can be certain not a solitary blue teamer will stop by to defend raising taxes on people who make less than $250K.

    8. #8 |  SJE | 

      J sub D: I don’t think that’s accurate. If you tax alcohol equally by amount, its not surprising that the more expensive beverage would have the alcohol proportion of the tax be lower. However, add in sales and other taxes, and I am sure that the total taxes are about the same proportion for MD 20/20 as for Dom Perignon.

      Both are also made with subsidized agricultural products, and so you could also argue that the US should try to get back more from the domestic product to counter the artificially low cost of the corn used in manufacture. (Of course, I would rather no subsidies)

    9. #9 |  Chris in AL | 

      Golly, where was this federal judge that doesn’t like arrest photos when Nick Nolte needed him?

    10. #10 |  J sub D | 

      A federal judge will hold a hearing on whether to bar the media from publishing photos of a New York legislator in handcuffs.

      Oh jeez. O.J. Simpsons mug shot was on the cover of both Time and Newsweek.

      In arguing that Spatt should throw out Liotti’s request for a hearing, David Schulz, attorney for Newsday and News12, said that never in U.S. history has the U.S. Supreme Court or the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals allowed a judge to restrain news organizations before publication.

      “Courts do not get [into] telling the media what to publish,” Schulz said.

      Spatt replied that as strong as the First Amendment protections are, they are not absolute. For instance, the government could restrain the publication of child pornography, Spatt said.

      Just a tad bit disingenuous, I’d say.

    11. #11 |  Bob | 

      Ok, so who actually thinks some crappy increase on alcohol taxes will even make a tiny dent in health care costs?

      Obviously, this is a Nanny State Behavior modification attempt thinly veiled as a funding source for that which cannot BE funded.

      Why even act like it’s somehow about the cost of Health Care?

    12. #12 |  MDGuy | 

      From the Colorado Spring P.D. article:

      “Johnson was arrested for resisting arrest in the October 2008 incident.”

      How can someone be arrested for resisting arrest? Isn’t resisting arrest an additional charge that is necessarily incidental to an arrest for another reason? You can’t resist arrest until they are actually in the process of arresting you…so what initiated the arrest in the first place? Oh yeah that’s right, they just arrest you because they damn well please and then tack on whatever charges they feel like after the fact.

      I think my head is going to explode.

    13. #13 |  Edmund Dantes | 

      MDGuy <— It definitely raises quite the chicken or egg argument doesn’t it.

    14. #14 |  Aresen | 

      I wonder if the judge has expressed similar concerns when newspapers run mug shots, perp walk photos, and prison jumpsuit photos of people accused of crimes who don’t happen to be politicians?

      Well, of course he doesn’t want embarrassing photos of his own class published. Humiliation is for the proles.

    15. #15 |  J sub D | 

      SJE, I was referring only to the excise tax in the proposed, soon to be passed legislation. When excise taxes are based on quantity or volume, they are regressive. Sales taxes are a flat consumption tax and not addressed in the article or my post.
      But lets do the quick and dirty and add Mihigan’s 6% sales tax, Michigan’s wine excise tax, the present federal wine excise tax to the proposed federal wine excise tax and see how it all shakes out.

      Dom Perignon at (SWAG) $200 a bottle (before sales tax but after excise taxes).
      Michigan excise tax 13¢ per bottle
      Federal Excise tax* 67¢ per bottle
      Proposed Federal increase of 49¢ per bottle.
      Michigan sales tax (6%) adds $12 to the cost for a total tax of $13.29 on a purchase price of $212 or 6.26%.

      You see where this is headed, right?

      MD 20/20 at (SWAG) $4 a bottle (before sales tax but after excise taxes).

      Michigan excise tax 13¢ per bottle
      Federal Excise tax* 31¢ per bottle
      Proposed Federal increase of 49¢ per bottle.
      Michigan sales tax (6%) adds 24¢ to the cost for a total tax of $1.27 on a purchase price of $4.24 or 29.95.%.

      That’s 6.22% total tax on a bottle of Dom Perignon and a 29.95% on a bottle of MD 20/20.

      Far too much googling and arithmetic involved, but my point stands.

      * Present federal wine excise taxes are different depending on category. Please don’t ask me why.

    16. #16 |  Bill | 

      Who is this federal judge in New York? He thinks he can tell a newspaper not to publish photos, but it is not in his power to restrain prosecutors from attempts to prejudice the jury pool? Who appointed this clown?

    17. #17 |  Thoughts | 

      As far as I know, in most states, you are not allowed to resist even an illegal arrest. Therefore you could be charged with resisting arrest even if they didn’t have a “real” charge.

      As for the alcohol thing, this is not as settled as that NY Times article would have you believe. (http://jnci.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/content/full/101/5/282). There are many errors in these studies, and it’s incomprehensibly difficult to control for the relevant factors. Lastly, as Matt argues, this wouldn’t hit moderate drinkers very hard. It would hit heavy drinkers, and everyone agrees that heavy drinking is bad for you. As for the regressive nature of it, all consumption taxes are regressive. Tax revenue has to come from somewhere and this seems reasonable if the health effect of alcohol are negative (the short term effects certainly are, by the way. It is the long term effects of a very narrow use of the drug that are in doubt here); we can’t oppose EVERY form of tax collection.

    18. #18 |  Chris in AL | 

      Since at this point I see very little hope for this country returning to a nation that respects individual freedom, civil rights, property rights etc…I think I will just start rooting for optimum entertainment value.

      For example, I rarely drink, so the tax does not effect me to any meaningful degree. However, if history repeats itself, such a tax will create a lot more robberies. That should be fun. I think J sub D is right when he says this will effect the poor far more than the rich. Shoplifting and liquor store robberies will skyrocket!

      In addition, people opting to home brew their liquor will go up as well. Moonshining will become popular again. The black market for tax free liquor will mean people not only make it for themselves but they are selling it. It will be the new weed!

      Only now, we will have Apache helicopters just lobbing missiles at stills from the air!

      Jumpin’ Jesus! We will have the government giving Apache helicopters to local police departments! This is going to be great.

      And I will get to watch it all from my couch. At least until a SWAT team busts in and kills my wife and I because they came to Cranberry Street instead of Cranberry Circle. But that’s okay. It will be deemed an honest mistake in which all the cops acted within departmental guidelines and a good American is willing to die so the government can get all their liquor taxes anyway.

      America, F*ck Yeah!

    19. #19 |  Jim Collins | 

      That FL Congressman actually has a pretty good idea. What he needs to do is to get away from calling it vacation. Call it “paid leave”. A company that I used to work for did this. Instead of having 80 hours of vacation and 24 hours of sick time, each employee had 104 hours of paid leave in their first year. This time was to cover vacation, illness, jury duty and personal issues. The only requirement was that you had to request anything more than 8 hours in advance. There was an allowance for sudden illness or injury but you had better have a Doctor’s excuse. (With their medical insurance plan, saying that you couldn’t afford a Doctor’s visit wasn’t an option. They had a Company Doctor.)

    20. #20 |  Dave Krueger | 

      From the story about the federal judge (Spatt):

      “Spatt replied that as strong as the First Amendment protections are, they are not absolute.

      They’re only strong if the courts uphold them.

    21. #21 |  Li | 

      All of the evidence I have been exposed to suggests decent vacations (5 days or more) actually do increase productivity, and decrease illness. Reason being, that it relieves stress (the biggest killer, and one of the biggest contributors to the obesity problem), and gives people time to engage in sun soaked, healthy activities.

    22. #22 |  Li | 

      Oh! I just realized the reason you posted that! It still hasn’t sunk into you that people’s greed can actually cause them to do short sighted things that hurt them and other people in the long run!

      You know, the derivatives/credit/confidence crisis, perhaps you should look into that.

    23. #23 |  Mattocracy | 

      But then people will go to Disney World and get exposed to the sun and get skin cancer. The government will just have to regulate that now. And people might drown at the beach causing short term, yet very high levels of stress just before death. We can’t have people going to the beach because we can’t trust them not to die in an effort to have fun. Then they won’t be productive at all. And their love ones will grieve and not be productive either.

      The only option is outlaw having a good time because that is in the interest of the greater goods’ productivity. It’s greed of the employee really, and people’s greed causes them to do short sighted things to harm others in the long run.

      Wow, so this is the reasoning people use to justify pushing their morals on everyone. Thanks Li, you have enlightened me.

    24. #24 |  JP | 

      #19 That’s great that your company sets up Paid Time Off like that. Mine does too. But the point is, it was my company’s CHOICE to do that. No one forced them to. Just like no one forced them to give me ANY paid vacation time. And if I don’t like it, I am free to look for employment elsewhere. Getting the government involved will just guarantee that the four weeks of Paid Time Off I get today are reduced to one week “to be fair to everyone else”.

      The day Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Code Pink) “actually has a pretty good ide” is the day winged primates emerge from my rectum.

    25. #25 |  SJE | 

      JsubD, I stand corrected

    26. #26 |  Mojotron | 

      why not tax booze based on alcohol content in tiers?

      the concern shown here for the poor in regards to the unfair (theoretical) taxes on fortified wine is heartwarming. Where will they get their health benefits from if they cannot afford to consume Mad Dog (in moderation of course)?

    27. #27 |  Aresen | 

      “why not tax booze based on alcohol content in tiers?

      I’m already in tears over the taxes I pay.

      ;P

    28. #28 |  food | 

      I get three weeks of paid vacation and bankable flex-time. Is the one week supposed to be shocking or sad?

    29. #29 |  J sub D | 

      SJE is an honest commenter.

      I think that’s way cool.

    30. #30 |  MacK | 

      I think Newsday should take every file photo they have of Judge Spatt and montage them onto a single page with the one photo of the legislator hidden in it.

      Put a big caption: Forget Waldo! Where’s Corbin?

    31. #31 |  supercat | 

      //As far as I know, in most states, you are not allowed to resist even an illegal arrest. Therefore you could be charged with resisting arrest even if they didn’t have a “real” charge.//

      Does that apply to illegal arrests, or only wrongful ones? A cop who reasonably believes probable cause exists to believe that someone committed some particular act which is, in fact, illegal may legitimately arrest the person; the arrest is lawful whether or not the person actually committed the crime. On the other hand, a cop who does not reasonably believe such probable cause exists may not legitimately arrest a person. Do states impose a duty to submit to such unlawful kidnapping?

    32. #32 |  Travis_T | 

      On the “Colorado Springs” thing it looks like the ACLU is involved.

      http://www.gazette.com/articles/department-18502-complaints-officers.html

    33. #33 |  Travis_T | 

      RE: the #31 comment. Looks Like I got it wrong.

    34. #34 |  pete | 

      does anyone else find it funny that Matt Yglesias, and other liberals are always the first to bitch and moan about income inequality, but then are always so keen to impose regressive taxes on them. obviously they only actually care about the poor people who don’t smoke, drink or eat junk food.

    35. #35 |  pam | 

      No doubt this judge is the type who much prefers the 13 year old on the front page in cuffs and jumpsuit not the congressman.. Laws aren’t made for congressmen are they?

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