Tag: Steve Chapman

‘Counterfeit Comfort’

Steve Chapman on sex offender registries:

Most convicted sex offenders do not go on to be arrested for new sex offenses, and more than 90 percent of child victims are assaulted not by strangers but by relatives or other people they know.

Sex offender registries may cause parents to focus on the remote peril while ignoring the more pertinent one. And, as in the examples cited earlier, they can inflict harsh punishment that departs from common sense and does nothing for public safety.

Shielding citizens from vicious predators is unquestionably one of the central functions of any sound government. Megan’s Laws were enacted in the sensible pursuit of that goal. What they offer in practice, though, is counterfeit comfort.

Read the whole thing.  Lenore Skenazy has more thoughts about this here.

The Heritage Foundation is not only making the case for registries, but is making the case for federal intervention in this area.   Wrong.  Like education, crime-fighting is a subject the feds should stay out of.  See the Tenth Amendment (pdf).

Cop-Cams on the Rise

The police in Austin, Texas will be testing nine different body-mounted cameras over the next 30 to 60 days. This is a positive development for both officers and citizens. It’s good legal defense for officers against false claims of excessive force and a training tool to show trainees best practices. It’s good incentive for officers to act within the bounds of the law. Video also makes for solid evidence in court. Many jurisdictions require law enforcement officers to record confessions and/or interrogations. Steve Chapman argued last year that the FBI should adopt such a policy.

Recording should be mandatory in SWAT raids, the most intense law enforcement encounters. I make the case for recording SWAT operations with Radley Balko and Clark Neily in this video:

A Ban On “Walking While Wired”?

New York state senator Carl Kruger (D-Brooklyn) is crusading to ban pedestrians’ use of cellphones and other mobile devices while crossing the street. It’s for your own good, you must understand:

“When people are doing things that are detrimental to their own well being, then government should step in.”

The Daily Caller asked me to write an opinion piece about this proposal so I just did. Excerpt:

Phone use on the street has become near-ubiquitous in recent years, yet over nearly all that time — nationally as in Gotham — pedestrian death rates were falling steadily, just as highway fatalities fell steadily over the years in which “distracted driving” became a big concern.

In the first half of 2010, the national statistics showed a tiny upward blip (0.4 percent), occasioned by a relative handful of fatalities in a few states. Even a spokesman for the Governor’s Highway Safety Association, Jonathan Adkins, seems to agree it’s premature to jump to conclusions: “You don’t want to overreact to six months of data,” he told columnist Steve Chapman.

Like others who seek quasi-parental control over adults, Sen. Kruger tends to infantilize his charges. He told the Times: “We’re taught from knee-high to look in both directions, wait, listen and then cross. You can perform none of those functions if you are engaged in some kind of wired activity.”

This drew proper scorn from columnist Chapman: “Actually, you can perform all those functions and dance an Irish jig, even with text messages or rock music bombarding you.” That some ear bud devotees don’t take due caution is no reason to pretend they can’t.

C.S. Lewis, Lily Tomlin and Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood all get walk-on parts as well.

How to Profit by Expanding Freedom

That’s the title of this week’s column by Steve Chapman:

Here’s an excerpt:

Spending huge sums of money and getting no results to justify the expense: That’s the relentless, and accurate, Republican critique of President Barack Obama’s efforts to revive the U.S. economy. But it also describes a policy staunchly supported by Republicans as well as Democrats decade after decade: the war on drugs …

None of the [data is] new, but it has fresh relevance because of budgetary pressures that have forced citizens to ask what on earth the drug war is accomplishing. Californians, whose state government is in a bottomless fiscal hole, will vote next month on an initiative to legalize cannabis. One big selling point is that it could yield a $1.4 billion windfall to state coffers.

What is true for the Golden State is true for the other 49. In a new study for the libertarian Cato Institute in Washington, Harvard economist Jeffrey Miron and research associate Katherine Waldock estimate that, nationally, legalizing and taxing marijuana would save $8.7 billion in enforcement costs and harvest $8.7 billion in revenue.

Read the whole thing.  The Cato study can be found here.

Axelrod Is Shocked, Shocked to Find Corporate Money in Elections

White House senior advisor David Axelrod continued the administration’s campaign against the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision on ABC’s This Week:

But thinking about Teddy Roosevelt, I wonder what he would think about a bill that essentially allows for a corporate takeover of our elections, or a court decision. And that’s what we’re dealing with here. Under the ruling of the Supreme Court, any lobbyist could go into any legislator and say, if you don’t vote our way on this bill, we’re going to run a million-dollar campaign against you in your district. And that is a threat to our democracy.

He was of course echoing and defending President Obama’s declaration in the State of the Union address:

With all due deference to separation of powers, last week, the Supreme Court reversed a century of law that I believe will open the floodgates for special interests, including foreign corporations, to spend without limit in our elections. I don’t think American elections should be bankrolled by America’s most powerful interests or, worse, by foreign entities. They should be decided by the American people.

Axelrod and Obama are horrified at the idea of corporate contributions to elections. Who can imagine the impact? It’s too horrifying to contemplate.

Except – it turns out that Axelrod and Obama don’t have to imagine a political system wracked by corporate contributions. They’re already intimately familiar with such an undemocratic system. Chicago Tribune columnist Steve Chapman points out:

But consider a state where corporations are already allowed to spend as much as they want on elections: Illinois.

That is, Obama and Axelrod spent their entire political careers in a state where corporations can make direct political contributions. Chapman isn’t impressed with the corporations’ impact:

Here, companies have established beyond doubt that this prerogative, when combined with $2.25, will get them a ride on the bus.

Illinois is something short of a corporate paradise. It ranks 30th among the states in its friendliness toward business. The Tax Foundation, which did the survey, complains of excessive sales, property and unemployment insurance taxes.

Illinois is one of a minority of states requiring employers to pay more than the federal minimum wage. It is notorious for heavy workers’ compensation costs. It puts no limits on the punitive damages a company can be assessed.

All this evidence should dispel the fear that future congressional debates will pit the senator from Exxon Mobil against her distinguished colleague from Bank of America. It turns out that where corporate expenditures are allowed, corporations a) don’t do much or b) don’t get much for what they do.

Whether or not that’s true, someone should ask Obama and Axelrod whether they accepted corporate contributions in Illinois, whether they fought to end that system, and whether they think democracy still exists in Illinois. But as far as I can tell, no one has, including ABC, NBC, and CNN, all of whom interviewed Axelrod this morning.