• How Pols Wring Money From Businessmen: Chicago Example

    The other day, I posted an extraordinary story of abusive political power.

    ZipDialog Post: Your property? Yeah, right, pal. I got friends who want it

    First, the story in a nutshell. Then, the larger meaning.

    Alderman Bullies Property Owner to Help a Friend

    Chicago Alderman Proco Joe Moreno wanted to help a business [Double Door Music Hall] that had contributed to his campaign coffers. So he told Brian Strauss, a firefighter and property owner, to rent his building to the business or suffer the consequences. When Strauss refused to comply, Moreno made good on his threats, downzoning Strauss’s building and scuttling multiple attempts to sell the property.

    Strauss is now suing, arguing that Moreno’s abuses of his aldermanic powers violate Strauss’ rights under the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments. –Reason blog (Link here)

    Fortunately, some of the strong-arm tactics were caught on cellphone video.

    It has also been investigated and reported by CBS2 Chicago, but largely missed by the local media.

    Chicago politicians acting badly is a “dog bites man” story in Chicago, just as it is in New Orleans or New Jersey–but not Minneapolis. Some jurisdictions are actually pretty honest; the voters demand it and toss out the miscreants.

     

    The Larger Meaning, Beyond the Usual Chicago Political Stench

    The larger meaning of the Moreno story is that politicians who can impose costly rules and regulations (or waive them), who can violate property rights and contractual rights with ease (or respect them) can use that discretion to extract benefits for themselves or their campaigns.
    If I, as an alderman, can prevent Chick-Fil-A or Walmart from erecting a store in my ward, as Alderman Moreno also did, then I can either
    • Extract donations from Chick-Fil-A or Walmart
    • Extract donations from their potential competitors or others who don’t like them, such as grocery owners and their unionized workers in Walmart’s case.

    Those political uses of weak property rights illustrates something significant–well beyond Chicago.

    When most people think of strong property rights, they think (correctly) that they are essential for economic growth. Why invest if the state can come and steal your profits?

    What they miss is a second implication: strong property- and contractual-rights constrain overreach by the state.

    That’s why FDR had to knock them down in 1937. They were blocking his New Deal programs, which had been ruled unconstitutional because they violated citizens’ economic rights.

    FDR told the Supreme Court Justices that, if they didn’t rule his way in the future, he would pack the court with more judges who favored him. This threat went beyond traditional appointments; there were no Constitutional limits on how many judges sit on the Supreme Courts, just as, at the time, there was only a norm (not a law) saying Presidents could not run for a third term. Faced with FDR’s threat, the judges caved in and began ruling New Deal programs were just fine with them.

    Aldermen use the same logic in a slightly different way: they say, I already have the power to crush you. So, give to me or I will.

    Bottom Line

    Whether the rights are free speech, free association, property, or contract, the message is the same. The state will overreach unless its limits are well-specified and institutionalized.

    That’s a Core Western Value. It ought to extend even to Chicago aldermen.

  • US Senate Race in Alabama: Roy Moore Wins Republican Primary

    Defeats incumbent Senatorial appointee, Luther Strange, despite Trump’s endorsement

    “Big Luther,” as Trump nicknamed him, was saddled with trouble from the beginning.

    He was appointed to office and many Alabama voters thought the decision was corrupt.

    It was made by the embattled, embarrassed, and now-departed Gov. Bentley.

    Somehow, the investigation of Bentley was stopped by the State AG’s office, headed by Strange. It’s not hard to figure what most people thought of that.

    Still, Strange was the incumbent, was endorsed and funded by Sen. Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell, and, thanks to McConnell, received Trump’s endorsement.

    Trump and Pence made trips to Alabama but never attacked Moore and, in fact, said they would support him in the general election. Moore is not so appealing to a general population but is still likely to win in a Deep Red State.

    Backed by Steve Bannon and the populist wing, Moore’s win is a “victory for Trumpism but not for Trump.” The president will take some (small) comfort from that. And he’ll be leery of opposing that movement again at the ballot box.

    Who is the Big Loser, Besides Luther Strange?

    Who is the big loser? Mitch McConnell.

    He loses twice over. First, he loses a reliable vote in the Senate. Roy Moore is a loose cannon (though he lacks much firepower). Assuming he wins the seat, he won’t be a reliable vote any more than Mike Lee or Susan Collins.

    Second, ole Mitch is not going to enjoy his talks with Trump. He got Trump to endorse a loser. Trump is gonna love that. Mitch couldn’t get his own guy over the finish line and managed to associate Trump with the thing he hates most: losing. And, of course, Mitch cannot get key legislation passed. Trump is gonna treat him like road kill, restrained only by his desperate need to pay tax cuts and tax reform.

    Moore is Less

    As for Moore, he is

    • Dumb as a box of rocks, which doesn’t seem to faze Alabama Republican voters
    • Knows nothing about public policy, which takes some doing for a man who has been in public office for years
    • Considered by Alabama Republicans to be the authentic voice of populist anger and religious fervor.

    It was this last point–populist fury and Moore’s identification with it–that led to his victory.

    Expect to hear plenty from the Democrats about the “rule of law” in our country. They will move to exploit Moore’s flat refusal to remove the Ten Commandments from a court building, despite being to do so by a Federal Court. We’ve been through that issue before in our country. It was decided right the first two times. Moore’s refusal to obey a legitimate court order is despicable. It got him booted off the Alabama State Supreme Court but was apparently a feather in his cap politically. Uggh.

    With all those deficits, it tells you a lot about the primary electorate’s mood that he won. And it tells you a lot about how conservative Alabama is that Moore is favored to win the General Election.

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  • ZipDialog Roundup for Wednesday, September 13

    Articles chosen with care. Your comments welcomed.
    Linked articles in bold purple

    ◆ Bad as Hurricane Irma was, it could have been even worse

    Homeowners’ preparations and evacuations meant relatively few deaths.

    As for the physical damage, it is huge but still smaller than feared. One way to see that is to look at insurance company stocks.

    Today, they are UP. Chicago Tribune headline: Stocks jump as relieved investors buy banks, insurers, tech

    Small insurers, especially ones that do a lot of business in Florida, climbed. … Larger insurers also rallied. … Travel-related companies rose as investors felt their businesses won’t take such a big hit.  –Associated Press via Chicago Tribune

    The most immediate problem now: restoring electric power to millions of homes.

     Apple makes a big noise with its rollout. $1k for new phones. Market is unimpressed (Wall Street Journal, subscription)

    Comment: Students at elite universities will use the new phones to send selfies at demonstrations against inequality.

     Study: Over 90% of MSM reports on Trump are negative, same as previous studies (Washington Times)

    Comment: To be fair, they do actually hate him.

     Trump’s travel bans finally made it to the Supreme Court, which affirmed the President (Washington Times)

    The ruling, which stays a decision from the 9th Circuit, keeps some 24,000 refugees from entering the US, at least temporarily.=

    Good economic news: Middle-class incomes in US for 2016 were highest in history (in real terms)  (Washington Post)

    These figures from the Census Bureau cover the final year of Pres. Obama’s tenure.

    Median household income rose to $59,039 in 2016, a 3.2 percent increase from the previous year and the second consecutive year of healthy gains, the Census Bureau reported Tuesday. The nation’s poverty rate fell to 12.7 percent, returning nearly to what it was in 2007 before a financial crisis and deep recession walloped workers in ways that were still felt years later. –Washington Post

    Seattle Mayor, Ed Murray, resigns after fifth person comes forward accusing him of child-sex abuse (Seattle Times)

    The latest accuser: Murray’s cousin. He had been a teenager, like the others.

    The computer scandal engulfing House Democrats continues to widen. Latest news: the IT contractor used a secret server, tried to hide it, and then falsified what was on it (Daily Caller)

    Imran Awan, the Pakistani IT aide who worked closely with Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, also used Dropbox to back up data, which is illegal for Congressional data.

    Awan had access to all emails and office computer files of 45 members of Congress who are listed below. Fear among members that Awan could release embarrassing information if they cooperated with prosecutors could explain why the Democrats have refused to acknowledge the cybersecurity breach publicly or criticize the suspects. –Daily Caller

    Comment: This scandal receives almost no coverage. That’s a scandal, too.

     

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  • ZipDialog Roundup for September 2

    Articles chosen with care. Your comments welcomed.
    Linked articles in bold purple

    ◆ Melania Trump–to her great credit–wore high heels to Texas today. 

    Comment: I normally would not comment on such trivia. But the haters in Manhattan, Cambridge, and San Francisco and their fellow travelers in the media made it a big deal on Melania’s trip earlier this week.

    It was their behavior, not her’s, that was disgusting.

    By wearing high heels today instead of sneaker, she effectively gave the finger to the haters. This from the NY Post:

    Btw, you might not remember that the media said nothing about Michelle Obama’s shoes or outfit during the Hurricane Sandy relief.

    Know why?

    She didn’t bother to visit.

    ◆ Corrupt justice? Comey wrote his “no charges against Hillary and friends” memo long before the FBI interviewed all the key witnesses

    He will wriggle out of any legal trouble. He told Congress he did not make a decision until after the interviews. That now seems like perjury. But he will claim that the memo was merely a draft.

    Equally damning was his decision to let two people who demanded immunity in the investigation sit in on Hillary’s interview. No prosecutors ever do that.

    Comment: This whole thing stinks.

    California prosecutor, leading a murder trial against a gang, beaten unconscious “Buckets of blood” from her (CBS Los Angeles)

    No robbery. No sexual assault. Just a beating.

    Comment: Sounds like a message.

     Good News in Higher Ed: Turns out parents and students shy away from colleges that cave to far-left demonstrators. Mizzou and Evergreen State pay the price. (Fox News)

     

    The University of Missouri had to temporarily close seven dormitories – renting them out for special events, such as homecoming games – and planned to cut 400 jobs. –Fox News

    Bad news: The level of political correctness has reach ridiculous levels: Students at the Univ of Minnesota vote down remembrance of 9/11 out of fear it would “incite racism” and “offend Muslim students” (Minneapolis Star Tribune) 

    Comment: The refusal of students to attend schools without robust free speech is the best sanction of all.

    Nothing strikes fear in the hearts of administrators like the loss of revenue.

    Meanwhile, the locust-plague of social justice warriors continues on many campuses, shutting down free speech, often with help from the university administration.

    Judge Richard Posner retires from senior status. Most important judge in US not on Supreme Court (Chicago Tribune)

    Posner [age 78] said in a statement he has written more than 3,300 opinions in his time on the bench and is “proud to have promoted a pragmatic approach to judging.” He said he spent his career applying his view that “judicial opinions should be easy to understand and that judges should focus on the right and wrong in every case.”

    Posner’s biting and often brilliant written opinions as well as his unrelenting questioning from the bench have made him an icon of the court for years.

    Known as a conservative at the time of his appointment, Posner’s views skewed more libertarian through the years, and he often came down in favor of more liberal issues such as gay marriage and abortion rights. –Chicago Tribune

    Comment: I have known Judge Posner for many years, as a neighbor and a colleague. And, man oh man, do the lawyers who appear before him tell stories bout his razor-sharp tongue on the bench and his penetrating questions.

    In every generation, there are one or two judges not on SCOTUS who have enormous impact because of their clear thinking and writing. Judge Posner was the one of his generation. His academic impact was equally vast since he helped forge the entire field of “law and economics” (essentially the application of microeconomic logic to a wide range of legal issues).

     

     

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