Climate: Only One Day to Go!

From The Guardian, May 4, 2007:

UN Scientists Warn Time Is Running Out to Tackle Global Warming

Governments are running out of time to address climate change and to avoid the worst effects of rising temperatures, an influential UN panel warned yesterday.

Greater energy efficiency, renewable electricity sources and new technology to dump carbon dioxide underground can all help to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the experts said. But there could be as little as eight years left to avoid a dangerous global average rise of 2C or more.  (Emphasis added.)

Those eight years run out tomorrow.  So I assume that climatistas will shut up tomorrow night.

David McCullough recommends

I read A Stillness at Appomattox when I heard David McCullough describe its impact on him. McCullough had majored in English at Yale and received the book as a graduation present in 1955. Reading this one of Bruce Catton’s several magnificent books made McCullough want to write history. I thought, correctly, that must be some book.

Daily Beast editor John Avlon asked McCullough about his favorite books and authors recently at the Charleston Library (video below). Among others, McCullough expressed his appreciation of Victorian novelist Anthony Trollope. (He loves The Way We Live Now as well as Trollope’s autobiography.)

McCullough also lauded the British mystery writer Ruth Rendell, who just died yesterday. Rendell’s New York Times obituary is here.

McCullough talked about favorite books and authors in this 2013 Boston Globe interview. In the Globe interview he names Henry Adams’s The Education of Henry Adams and Richard Henry Dana’s Two Years Before the Mast along with a few surprises (as they seem to me).

Mosby so far [With Comment by John]

Baltimore state’s attorney Marilyn Mosby has charged six Baltimore police officers with serious crimes in connection with the death of Freddie Gray on April 19. The New York Times account of the charges is here. The Washington Post enumerates the charges here and takes a look at Ms. Mosby here.

The charges quickly followed both Gray’s death and the rioting of the mob in Baltimore. Ms. Mosby’s announcement of the charges raises a concern whether some form of mob justice is at work. The Times reports:

The state’s attorney for Baltimore City, Marilyn J. Mosby, filed the charges almost as soon as she received a medical examiner’s report that ruled Mr. Gray’s death a homicide, and a day after the police concluded their initial investigation and handed over their findings. Officials had cautioned that it could take considerable time for her office to complete its own investigation and decide whether to prosecute.

The Post reports:

Michael Davey, an attorney for the Fraternal Order of Police in Baltimore, called Friday’s charges an “egregious rush to judgment.” He expressed skepticism that the investigation could be completed in two weeks when it involves six officers and charges that range from misconduct in office to second-degree murder.

Readers familiar with the Constitution might wonder if a grand jury shouldn’t be in the mix here. Reading news of the charges, I haven’t found any explanation of Maryland criminal procedure that provides the context for what transpired on Friday. With the proviso that I am not drawing on any expertise in Maryland criminal law or procedure, I want only to offer this brief note with a little additional background for readers who (like me) may be harboring questions in the back of their mind about what is happening here.

The Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution provides: “No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a grand jury…” All of the charges filed against the Baltimore officers are felonies that would fall within the scope of the Fifth Amendment if the Fifth Amendment applied.

However, the Supreme Court has held that the grand jury provision of the Fifth Amendment does not apply to the states under the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment; the requirement of an indictment is not “incorporated” against the states in the Fourteenth Amendment’s due process clause. The Supreme Court case so holding dates to 1886, in the case of Hurtado v. California. Accordingly, states such as Maryland can authorize prosecutors to promulgate serious criminal charges by means of an information stating formal criminal charges rather than an indictment handed up by a grand jury.

The origin of the grand jury lies deep in English law. Respect for the protective function of the grand jury accounts for the inclusion of the requirement at the opening of the Fifth Amendment.

Commentators have criticized the historic role of the grand jury as mythical. Prosecutors, it has been frequently observed, can get a grand jury to indict a ham sandwich. See, for example, the comprehensive 1995 law review article by Professor Andrew Leipold, “Why grand juries do not (and can not) protect the accused.” The article provides extremely useful historical and legal background.

Grand juries may not live up to the role assigned to them in our law. That is to say, they may merely serve pro forma to bless charges sought by a prosecutor. Most criticism of the grand jury function at present derives from the grand jury’s failure to serve its putative historic function.

Some states have given prosecutors the option of avoiding the grand jury process and issuing charges themselves. Maryland has not eliminated grand juries — here is the Maryland grand jury handbook — but has authorized prosecutors to file charges themselves, subject to a preliminary hearing in district court to determine probable cause, if requested by the defendant within 10 days.

One commentator has recommended the preliminary hearing in lieu of the grand jury in the wake of Ferguson:

Half of states have already [eliminated the grand jury] and instead rely on preliminary hearings to be the means by which a prosecutor’s abuse of power is checked. Unlike the grand jury system, the preliminary hearing is completely transparent. It is recorded, the defendant is present (although does not present or contest evidence), and a judge decides if there is enough evidence to hold a trial. The standard is low enough so that the majority of charges, just like in the grand jury process, will result in an indictment.

Ms. Mosby herself wields the authority of the state in filing the criminal charges brought against the six Baltimore officers. As a prosecutor, she is subject to the Rule 3.6(A) of the Maryland Rules of Professional Conduct provides:

A lawyer who is participating…in the investigation or litigation of a matter shall not make an extrajudicial statement that the lawyer knows or reasonably should know will be disseminated by means of public communication and will have a substantial likelihood of materially prejudicing an adjudicative proceeding in the matter.

Rule 3.8(e) of the Maryland Rules of Professional Conduct provides:

The prosecutor in a criminal case shall…except for statements that are necessary to inform the public of the nature and extent of the prosecutor’s action and that serve a legitimate law enforcement purpose, refrain from making extrajudicial statements that have a substantial likelihood of heightening public condemnation of the accused…

The video below gives us Ms. Mosby’s press conference announcing the charges. Our friend Bill Otis comments: “There is more than just a credible case that the state’s attorney is in violation of both rules.”

JOHN adds: It is interesting to compare the Gray case with the Trayvon Martin/George Zimmerman matter. In Zimmerman’s case, local authorities declined to prosecute Zimmerman because they believed–correctly, as it turned out–that it was a case of self-defense. So Florida’s governor appointed Angela Corey as a special prosecutor. Her politically-inspired mission was, rather obviously, to indict Zimmerman, which she did, without empaneling a grand jury. Her indictment was a blatantly political document, analogous to Marilyn Mosby’s press conference.

Time will tell how strong the charges against the police officers are, but I agree with Mosby to this extent: I would rather see the local prosecutor make a decision for which she will be accountable to voters, than defer to a special prosecutor who will lack such accountability and whose appointment may carry its own implicit political message.

Marilyn Mosby: hypocrite, grandstander, ideologue

Alan Dershowitz, the famous defense lawyer, has called the case against the six Baltimore officers involved in the death of Freddie Gray “a show trial.” The actions of prosecutor Marilyn Mosby “had nothing to do with justice,” but instead amounted to “crowd control,” Dershowitz said in remarks reported by the Daily Caller.

With regard to the second-degree murder charges against Caesar Goodson, Dershowitz stated that “there’s no plausible, hypothetical, conceivable case for murder under the facts as we now know them.” At most, there may be a case for involuntary manslaughter.

Dershowitz believes that, having overplayed its hand, the prosecution is unlikely to obtain any convictions. And if even if it does, there’s a good possibility the convictions will be reversed on appeal.

Dershowitz compared the case of the Baltimore six with that of George Zimmerman. In that case, Dershowitz accused the prosecutor of overcharging Zimmerman and argued that she should be disbarred for unethical behavior. As we all remember, Zimmerman was acquitted.

Speaking of the Zimmerman case, Chuck Ross reports that after Zimmerman’s acquittal, Marilyn Mosby denounced the verdict during a protest rally at the federal courthouse in Baltimore. Her husband, city council member Nick Mosby, went even further, calling for a boycott of Florida businesses.

Either the Mosbys don’t understand the concept of self defense or they are demagogues. Maybe both.

Marilyn Mosby also had plenty to say about the Ferguson case, in which officer Darren Wilson acted in self-defense against Michael Brown. According to Ross, during a panel discussion last December, she called the local prosecutor’s handling of that case “problematic” and “questionable.” “We have to question the motives,” she declared, while strongly implying that racial dynamics were at play.

Given the speed with which Mosby brought charges against the Baltimore six case, the strong likelihood that she has overcharged, her grandstanding to the mob, and her marriage to a West Baltimore politician whose interests lie with throwing the book at the six officers, I think we have to start questioning her motives. As Mosby would put it, racial dynamics may well be at play.

There’s a final twist. In the Ferguson case, Mosby called for a special prosecutor to take the place of the local one. But in the Baltimore case, she has rejected bringing in a special prosecutor notwithstanding the potential for a conflict of interest that stems from the fact that her husband’s political interests are served by coming down with maximum impact on the police officers.

In rejecting calls for a special prosecutor, Mosby stated, “The people of Baltimore City elected me and there is no accountability with a special prosecutor.” But the people of St. Louis County, of which Ferguson is a part, elected prosecutor Bob McCulloch six times, and a special prosecutor in the Ferguson case would have had “no accountability.”

Marilyn Mosby, it appears, is a hypocrite, an ideologue, and a political grandstander. It may well be that one or more of the Baltimore six deserves to be prosecuted. But Alan Dershowitz is right to be concerned that Mosby’s actions have nothing to do with “deserve” and that she wants to conduct a show trial.

Visa Abuse at Disney

Disney CEO Bob Iger is a co-chairman of the Partnership for a New American Economy, a group that advocates increasing the H-1B visa cap. The Partnership recently sponsored a closed briefing for Congressional staff on Capitol Hill. One of the documents distributed to staffers said: “H-1B workers complement – instead of displace – U.S. Workers.” It argued that employers use foreign workers to fill “more technical and low-level jobs, so that U.S. workers can “assume managerial and leadership positions.”

But that isn’t the way IT workers at Iger’s own company, Disney, experienced it, according to Computer World:

At the end of October, IT employees at Walt Disney Parks and Resorts were called, one-by-one, into conference rooms to receive notice of their layoffs. Multiple conference rooms had been set aside for this purpose, and in each room an executive read from a script informing the worker that their last day would be Jan. 30, 2015.

Some workers left the rooms crying; others appeared shocked. …

From the perspective of five laid-off Disney IT workers, all of whom agreed to speak on the condition of anonymity, Disney cut well-paid and longtime staff members, some who had been previously singled out for excellence, as it shifted work to contractors. These contractors used foreign labor, mostly from India. …

“Some of these folks were literally flown in the day before to take over the exact same job I was doing,” said one of the IT workers who lost his job. He trained his replacement and is angry over the fact he had to train someone from India “on site, in our country.”

Disney officials promised new job opportunities as a result of the restructuring, and employees marked for termination were encouraged to apply for those positions. But the workers interviewed said they knew of few co-workers who had landed one of the new jobs.

One of the fired Disney employees said he “didn’t want to appear as xenophobic,” but couldn’t help noticing that “there were times when I didn’t hear English spoken” in the building. No one wants to appear xenophobic, which is probably part of the problem. A great deal more attention needs to be paid to corporate abuse of the H-1B visa program. From an employer’s perspective, it offers unique advantages: the company sponsors the immigrant, who is happy to come to the U.S. and work for less than the American he replaces. Better yet, he can’t change jobs without going back to India, or wherever he came from.

It is easy to understand why some employers prefer this approach to competing in the marketplace for qualified American workers, but why our government sponsors such a program, and why some politicians want to greatly expand it, is another question. Democrats have the luxury of not having to care about workers, but my guess is that any Republican presidential candidate who doesn’t take the position that U.S. immigration law should put the interests of American workers first, has no shot at the nomination.

Liberalism Meets Reality In the Comic Book Business

Via InstaPundit, a lesson in economics for liberals. This time, it’s the minimum wage:

San Francisco’s Proposition J, which 77 percent of voters approved in November, will raise the minimum wage in the city to $15 by 2018. As of today, May 1, [Brian] Hibbs is required by law to pay his employees at Comix Experience, and its sister store, Comix Experience Outpost on Ocean Avenue, $12.25 per hour. That’s just the first of four incremental raises that threaten to put hundreds of such shops out of business. …

Hibbs says that the $15-an-hour minimum wage will require a staggering $80,000 in extra revenue annually. “I was appalled!” he says. “My jaw dropped. Eighty-thousand a year! I didn’t know that. I thought we were talking a small amount of money, something I could absorb.” He runs a tight operation already, he says. Comix Experience is open ten hours a day, seven days a week, with usually just one employee at each store at a time. It’s not viable to cut hours, he says, because his slowest hours are in the middle of the day. And he can’t raise prices, because comic books and graphic novels have their retail prices printed on the cover.

If he can’t stay in business, all of his employees will lose their jobs. Hibbs’s book stores aren’t the only ones feeling the effects of the new wage law:

On February 1, San Francisco’s renowned science-fiction bookstore Borderlands Books published the following on its website:

Although all of us at Borderlands support the concept of a living wage in princip[le] and we believe that it’s possible that the new law will be good for San Francisco — Borderlands Books as it exists is not a financially viable business if subject to that minimum wage. Consequently we will be closing our doors no later than March 31st.

Goodbye, jobs. Gibbs makes what I think is the key point:

“Why,” he asks, “can’t two consenting people make arrangements for less than x dollars per hour?”

Exactly. Conservatives should oppose minimum wage laws on fairness grounds. If a person is willing to work for, say, $8 an hour, how dare liberals tell him he must remain unemployed instead? There are many, many people whose best offer of employment will be for less than the $15 an hour that San Francisco will soon mandate. Liberals are, in effect, making it illegal for these people to work, even though they are ready, willing and able to do so.

Minimum wage jobs are overwhelmingly entry level employment. They provide valuable training, experience and opportunity for advancement. Making it illegal for young people, especially, to seek employment at the wage they can command isn’t just economically stupid, it is deeply unfair.

Climate: Better Put Some Ice on That

The climatistas have long been fond of warning us about “tipping points,” which will unleash a torrent of “perfect storms,” or some other mashup of overused clichés.  Blink, and you’ll miss them. (Sorry, couldn’t help it.)  Al Gore famously predicted that we’d have an ice-free arctic by this year if we did nothing.

Now one problem with letting climate clichés do your thinking for you is that there’s a very weak theoretical basis for them, as climate models do not have the ability to forecast definite inflection points (a slightly better term for sudden shifts in climate feedback effects).  The other problem is empirical: pesky real world facts get in the way.  Such as the slowdown in arctic ice loss, and the small rebound that appears to be under way.

The Journal of Climate has a study coming out shortly, conducted by the Scripps Institute of Oceanography and financed by the Koch brothers U.S. government, that concludes the panic over ice loss has been exaggerated, and that “tipping point” scenarios are not well founded scientifically. The full article, “How Climate Model Complexity Influences Sea Ice Stability,” is behind a paywall, and the abstract is typically abstract, but there’s no mistaking the meaning of this part of it:

We find that the stability of the ice cover vastly increases with the inclusion of spatial communication via meridional heat transport or a seasonal cycle in solar forcing, being most stable when both are included. If the associated parameters are set to values that correspond to the current climate, the ice retreat is reversible and there is no instability when the climate is warmed. The two parameters have to be reduced by at least a factor of 3 for instability to occur. This implies that the sea ice cover may be substantially more stable than has been suggested in previous idealized modeling studies. (Emphasis added.)

The “meridional heat transport” refers to decade-scale oscillations in ocean currents, and “solar forcing” means variations in the sun—long factors that climate skeptics have argued explain much of the observed changes in arctic ice. Nice to see the “consensus” science community coming around on yet another key point. Here’s the complete Scripps press release about the study.

And no, the article wasn’t written by Emily Litela.