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Archive for March 4th, 2021

A SWAT Team Tore Down This Woman’s Home and Left Her With a $50,000 Bill. She’s 76 and had planned to sell the house to fund her retirement.

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Emma Ockerman reports in Vice:

Vicki Baker had an unusual plea for police officers in McKinney, Texas, when she learned an armed fugitive had holed up in her home: Do not destroy the property.

It didn’t work. During an hourslong standoff with the man and a 15-year-old girl inside, SWAT officers shot approximately 30 tear gas canisters into Baker’s property, blew up her garage door, and drove an armored vehicle over her fence.

The teenager got out of the house, but by the time cops stormed the property, the fugitive had killed himself in Baker’s bedroom. Baker’s belongings, some of them irreplaceable, were ruined by tear gas. Even her daughter’s dog, which came running out of the home during the standoff, ended up nearly blind and completely deaf.

So, while Baker had nothing to do with the events behind the police confrontation—she wasn’t even in the state that day—she still suffered the punishment.

“There was two days that I couldn’t get off the couch, that I cried,” she said.

She’d recently signed a contract to sell the property, too. The 76-year-old needed the money to fund her retirement, but thanks to the extensive damage, the sale of the home quickly fell through.

The city of McKinney refused to help her out financially, and Baker’s insurance provider told her it also wouldn’t cover any destruction caused by the government. Ultimately, Baker was stuck with approximately $50,000 in damages.

Distraught, Baker later discovered that she wasn’t alone. Other innocent people had seen their property torn up by the police, too—and gotten squat in compensation. Now, Baker, in an effort to reverse that trend, is suing the city of McKinney for damages, with the help of the Institute for Justice, a libertarian public interest law firm.

“What I want is justice for everybody that this happens to,” she said.

In 2015, for example, Colorado cops blew up a man’s home while trying to get to an armed shoplifting suspect. More than four years later, a federal appeals court decided the property owner wasn’t entitled to compensation to cover the wreckage, since police were preserving public safety, according to NPR. The homeowner had no connection to the shoplifting suspect. The Institute for Justice petitioned the Supreme Court to review that case, which the high court declined to do in June of last year.

The government is supposed to pay up for the damage it’s caused, even if that destruction is the result of something good—like trying to arrest a fugitive, according to Baker’s lawsuit with the Institute for Justice. Under the takings clause of the Constitution’s Fifth Amendment, private property can’t be taken for public use without “just compensation.” Texas’ constitution similarly calls for “adequate compensation” if a person’s private property is taken, damaged, or destroyed during public use, the lawsuit notes.

Still, a growing number of lower courts have invented an exception to the takings clause: destruction caused by police, according to Jeffrey Redfern, an attorney at the Institute for Justice who is working on Baker’s case. That interpretation is incorrect, he said. Intentional damage caused by the government is supposed to be compensable.

“It’s not about wrongdoing on the police’s part. It’s certainly not about holding any individual police officers liable. It’s just about what burdens should be born by the public, and what burdens should be born by random unlucky individuals,” Redfern said.

And if the government won’t be on the hook for any cost from the damage, cops have little reason to stop and think before they bash up someone’s home, said Daniel Woislaw, an attorney with the Pacific Legal Foundation, a libertarian public interest law firm that is not involved in Baker’s case.

“The incentive structure that’s created when the government is not accountable for destroying or taking private property is they’re going to do that more, they’re going to be more destructive, they’re going to use more military equipment,” Woislaw said.

The McKinney Police Department did not respond to VICE News’ request for comment on Baker’s lawsuit. In a statement, the McKinney city attorney said, “The city does not comment on litigation matters, and it will vigorously defend the actions of our officers.”

But some cities have concluded on their own that . . .

Continue reading. There’s more.

Later in the article:

Baker emphasized that she’s not against the police. But in the wake of the incident that left her home totally destroyed, she still thinks cops went a bit overboard during the standoff. They blew up the garage door, for example, when they had been provided with an operator to open it.

Written by Leisureguy

4 March 2021 at 3:05 pm

Andrew Cuomo, old buffoon

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Politicians seem to weather evidence of bullying and that sort of power abuse, but Cuomo’s move on a young woman at a wedding (with photos) show him not so much a bully as a buffoon, an old man frantically grasping at youth — a pathetic spectacle that demonstrates powerlessness rather than power, weakness rather than strength, despair rather than hope. Begging for a kiss from a young woman clearly repelled by the idea is not a good look for a guy who wants to seem in control. He can’t even control himself.

Written by Leisureguy

4 March 2021 at 2:22 pm

Think of the total amount of CO2 emitted by burning (coal and oil and natural gas) since 1751. What percentage of that was during your own lifetime?

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Written by Leisureguy

4 March 2021 at 2:12 pm

Stockton’s Basic-Income Experiment Pays Off

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Annie Lowrey reports in the Atlantic:

Two years ago, the city of Stockton, California, did something remarkable: It brought back welfare.

Using donated funds, the industrial city on the edge of the Bay Area tech economy launched a small demonstration program, sending payments of $500 a month to 125 randomly selected individuals living in neighborhoods with average incomes lower than the city median of $46,000 a year. The recipients were allowed to spend the money however they saw fit, and they were not obligated to complete any drug tests, interviews, means or asset tests, or work requirements. They just got the money, no strings attached.  

These kinds of cash transfers are a common, highly effective method of poverty alleviation used all over the world, in low-income and high-income countries, in rural areas and cities, and particularly for households with children. But not in the United States. The U.S. spends less of its GDP on what are known as “family benefits” than any other country in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, save Turkey. The Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program spends less than one-fifth of its budget on direct cash aid, and its funding has been stuck at the same dollar amount since 1996—when the Clinton administration teamed up with congressional Republicans to turn it into a compulsory-work program. Those changes sliced into the safety net, allowing millions of people to fall through.   

Most adults without children have no program to help them keep gas in the car and a roof over their head, no matter how poor they are. Most families with kids don’t have one either. In the United States, poverty is used as a cudgel to get people to work. We got rid of welfare for poor families’ and poor individuals’ own good, the argument goes. Give people money, and they stop working. They become dependent on welfare. They never sort out the problems in their life. The best route out of poverty is a hand up, not a handout.   

Stockton has now proved this false. An exclusive new analysis of data from the demonstration project shows that a lack of resources is its own miserable trap. The best way to get people out of poverty is just to get them out of poverty; the best way to offer families more resources is just to offer them more resources.

The researchers Stacia Martin-West of the University of Tennessee and Amy Castro Baker of the University of Pennsylvania collected and analyzed data from individuals who received $500 a month and from individuals who did not. Some of their findings are obvious. The cash transfer reduced income volatility, for one: Households getting the cash saw their month-to-month earnings fluctuate 46 percent, versus the control group’s 68 percent. The families receiving the $500 a month tended to spend the money on essentials, including food, home goods, utilities, and gas. (Less than 1 percent went to cigarettes and alcohol.) The cash also doubled the households’ capacity to pay unexpected bills, and allowed recipient families to pay down their debts. Individuals getting the cash were also better able to help their families and friends, providing financial stability to the broader community.  

“It let me pay off some credit cards that I had been living off of, because my household income wasn’t large enough,” one recipient named Laura Kidd-Plummer told me. “It helped me to be able to take care of my groceries without having to run to the food bank three times a month. That was very helpful.” During the study, Laura also experienced a spell of homelessness when the apartment building she was living in had a fire. The Stockton cash helped her secure a new apartment, ensuring that she could afford movers and a security deposit.

The researchers also found that the guaranteed income did not dissuade participants from working—adding to a large body of evidence showing that cash benefits do not dramatically shrink the labor force and in some cases help people work by giving them the stability they need to find and take a new job. In the Stockton study, the share of participants with a full-time job rose 12 percentage points, versus five percentage points in the control group. In an interview, Martin-West and Castro Baker suggested that the money created capacity for goal setting, risk taking, and personal investment.

“The big change was how it helped me see myself,” Tomas Vargas, another recipient, told me. “It was dead positive: I am an entrepreneur, I think of business ideas, I make business choices, I want to be financially stable.” When the program started, he worked in logistics. Now, in addition to nurturing his side projects, he is a case manager for individuals on parole.  

He noted that receiving the money had made him more civically and politically engaged, if also more infuriated at the country’s scorn toward low-income households. “It’s like it’s a big game,” he said. “These people are living with a silver spoon, talking—but how about you walk this life? Have you ever even seen it?”

Finally, the cash recipients were healthier, happier, and less anxious than their counterparts in the control group. “Cash is a better way to cure some forms of depression and anxiety than Prozac,” says Michael Tubbs, a former mayor of Stockton, who spearheaded the project. “So many of the illnesses we see in our community are a result of toxic stress and elevated cortisol levels and anxiety, directly attributed to income volatility and not having enough to cover your basic necessities. That’s true in the public-health crisis we’re in now.”

More work, less destitution, more family stability, less strained social networks, less stress, fewer incidences of homelessness, fewer skipped meals: This is what welfare could give the country.

And it just might. America’s welfare politics have shifted radically of late, in part because of the economic pressures felt by Millennials, the first generation in recent U.S. history likely to end up poorer than their parents. Two once-in-a-lifetime recessions, persistent wage stagnation, wild wealth and income inequality, the student-debt crisis, housing shortages, and a broader cost-of-living crisis have made redistributive policies much more palatable to them—and they’re now . . .

Continue reading. There’s more.

See also:

Written by Leisureguy

4 March 2021 at 11:57 am

Science can show how weird things are: Superluminal universe division

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Written by Leisureguy

4 March 2021 at 11:48 am

Posted in Daily life, Science, Video

Tcheon Fung Sing Tabacco Verde, Fine Marvel, and Alt-Innsbruck

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I’m now working my way through my shaving soaps that lack side labels and applying my own. This tub of Tcheon Fung Sing is an example. It’s a third-party container, since I bought the soap as a puck, so it naturally had no labels at all. I glued the puck label to the lid, and now the side is labeled. [

TFS shaving soap is quite good, and the Maggard 22mm synthetic raised a good lather. Three passes with the Fine Marvel (her on a bronze UFO handle) left my face smooth, and a splash of Alt-Innsbruck finished the job. The menthol in the aftershave seemed more pronounced this morning, perhaps because I’ve not lately used a mentholated aftershave.

The sun is out, the days are longer and in just over two weeks we’ll enjoy the equinox again.

Written by Leisureguy

4 March 2021 at 9:49 am

Posted in Shaving

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