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CALIFORNIA SCHEMING: Minor Violations Lead to Massive Prosecution Fees in Two California Desert Towns.

I don’t think we’ve seen an enforcement mechanism as nasty and cruel as the one the Desert Sun has uncovered out in California’s Inland Empire. The cities of Indio and Coachella partnered up with a private law firm, Silver & Wright, to prosecute citizens in criminal court for violations of city ordinances that call for nothing more than small fines—things like having a mess in your yard or selling food without a business license.

Those cited for these violations fix the problems and pay the fines, a typical code enforcement story. The kicker comes a few weeks or months later when citizens get a bill in the mail for thousands of dollars from the law firm that prosecuted them. They are forcing citizens to pay for the private lawyers used to take them to court in the first place. So a fine for a couple of hundred dollars suddenly becomes a bill for $3,000 or $20,000 or even more.

In Coachella, a man was fined $900 for expanding his living room without getting a permit. He paid his fine. Then more than a year later he got a bill in the mail from Silver & Wright for $26,000. They told him that he had to pay the cost of prosecuting him, and if he didn’t, they could put a lien on his house and the city could sell it against his will. When he appealed the bill they charged him even more for the cost of defending against the appeal. The bill went from $26,000 to $31,000.

Brett Kelman of the Desert Sun found 18 cases in Indio and Coachella where people received inordinately high legal bills for small-time violations. A woman fined for hanging Halloween decorations across a city street received legal bill for $2,700. When she challenged it, the bill jumped to $4,200.

Kelman notes that these thousands of dollars in fees came from a single court hearing that lasted minutes.

As Glenn would say, “tar, feathers.” And as Kate of Small Dead Animals titles her recurring posts on California craziness, “O, Sweet Saint Of San Andreas, Hear My Prayer.”

GOOD LORD: FBI Reviews Allegations Of Puerto Rican Officials Withholding Hurricane Relief.

“People call us and tell us some misappropriation of some goods and supplies by supposedly politicians, not necessarily mayors, but people that work for the mayors in certain towns,” FBI Special Agent Carlos Osorio told The Daily Caller Wednesday.

Osorio explained, “They’re supposedly withholding these goods and these supplies and instead of handing them out to people who really need them, [there are claims] that [local officials] are assigning them to their buddies first–people that have voted for them or people that contributed to their campaigns or what not.”

He added, “So what we’re doing is looking into these allegations. That I can tell you is happening. Again, I cannot say that we have any ongoing investigation. We’re just corroborating these allegations.”

I would hope there’s nothing to these allegations, but if there is: Tar, feathers.

OH FER CRYIN’ OUT LOUD: Hours After Hurricane Irma, Miami-Dade County Tickets Residents For Code Violations.

Celso Perez was helping his neighbors remove some fallen trees blocking their street when a county code enforcer rolled up and issued him a safety notice for having a downed fence. “I laughed,” Perez tells WSVN-TV. “I thought he was kidding. ‘You are kidding right? We just had a hurricane six hours ago.'”

It wasn’t a joke. The official told Perez that the downed fence—which encloses a pool—was a safety hazard, and that if it wasn’t fixed by the time he returned, Perez would be hit with a fine. The official then hung the safety citation on the portion of Perez’s fence that remained standing, leaving him and his neighbors to finish clearing the debris from their street.

According to WSVN, the county has handed out 680 safety notices for downed pool barriers, and another 177 electrical hazard safety notices. Reason reached out to the county to confirm those numbers, but has not received a reply.

From what can be gleaned from the WSVN story and from county code enforcement procedures, these safety notices appear to be just warnings, meaning no fines have been handed out as of yet. Reason tried to confirm this with the county as well, but was again rebuffed.

Still, these warnings carry with them a duty to correct the violation within a specific window of time. That might not even be possible for some residents, given how many businesses are still out of operation.

Tar, feathers.

PAY-TO-PLAY: Business license required for teens to cut grass in Gardendale, Alabama.

Teenagers have been threatened by officials and other lawn services to show their city issued license before cutting a person’s lawn for extra summer cash.

Cutting grass is often one of the first jobs many have in the summer. But a business license in Gardendale costs $110. And for a job, just for a couple of months, that can be a bit extreme.

“I have never heard of a child cutting grass had to have a business license,” said Elton Campbell.
Campbell’s granddaughter cuts grass around the neighborhood.

“She charges one lady $20, and another lady $30, and another girl $40 besides what we pay her,” said Campbell.

For her, this was the perfect summer gig!

“Just helping out and raising money for admissions and trips,” said Alainna Parris.

But now, it’s becoming a hassle.

“One of the men that cuts several yards made a remark to one of our neighbors, ‘that if he saw her cutting grass again that he was going to call Gardendale because she didn’t have a business license,” said Campbell.

Tar, feathers.

(Hat tip, Michelle Rey.)

TAR, FEATHERS: Sheriff’s Raid to Find Blogger Who Criticized Him Was Unconstitutional, Court Rules.

TAR, FEATHERS: Lawmaker wants Cajun Navy, other volunteers to get training, pay fee.

UPDATE: “A lot of misinformation” about this.

TEXAS 14-YEAR-OLD TAKES HOMEMADE CLOCK TO SCHOOL, gets treated as terrorist. Police, school district refuse to apologize. And note this: “When he showed it to his teacher, explaining it was a clock, she said she thought it looked like a bomb. A few hours later, Ahmed found himself being questioned in a room with four cops, and then later in handcuffs on the way to a juvenile detention center.” So you thought it was a bomb — uh huh –and then you waited “a few hours” to do anything about it, but still treated it as terrorism. If you really think something’s a bomb, you don’t wait hours. If it can wait a few hours, you don’t need to go crazy.

Ken White’s take: “American lives are controlled by the thuggishly mediocre. The best measure of their control is this: when called out on their mediocre thuggery, they can comfortably double down.” I’m coming to believe that the only hope for addressing this phenomenon involves tar, feathers, and horsewhips.

Reminds me of this story. Note that when specifically warned about real terrorists, the Tsarnaev brothers, the law enforcement community twiddled its thumbs.

Also, sending your kids, especially boys, to public school is parental malpractice. You’ve been warned.

UPDATE: People are making a big deal about the kid’s name being Ahmed, but Razib Khan points out that school-administrator thuggishness knows no racial bounds.

WISCONSIN’S SHAME: David French’s latest on the human side of the John Doe investigation into conservatives: “He could have been shot. Over politics.”

It was still dark outside when “Jonah” (not his real name) heard the pounding on his front door. As luck would have it, he was awake — or mostly awake. He’d gotten up at 4:00 a.m. on October 3, 2013, to see his parents off to the airport. They were leaving on a quick trip to raise money for the children’s charity his father runs. Jonah was 16 at the time, old enough to stay home alone for a short time, but not old enough to deal with what awaited him on the other side of the door. . . .

Jonah’s father may have been the target of the raid on his home, but according to the family, investigators went well beyond the scope of the warrant to seize business records in his mother’s possession, including confidential donor and financial information for two conservative Wisconsin nonprofits, which were paralyzed for weeks as a result. Yet despite the overly expansive search, to this day, no one in Jonah’s family has been charged with a crime.

The damage to the family’s reputation was immense. Soon after the raid, and despite court orders mandating confidentiality (orders that prevented the family from publicly defending themselves), their names leaked to the press. Jonah’s father — working to help the most disadvantaged kids — found himself struggling to defend a professional reputation under siege. In both his day job as a political consultant and his nonprofit work, even the slightest rumor of illegality can cause clients and donors to shy away. As he puts it, when you’re hired as a consultant, “No matter how good you are, you can’t become the issue.” A consultant whose home was just raided by law enforcement is, most definitely, an “issue” for any politician or political movement.

I strongly suspect there is much more to be revealed about the vast scope of Chisholm’s John Doe investigation. It will make the Salem witch hunts look restrained.

As for Chisholm and his cohorts: Tar, feathers, Sicilian bull–or at least a substantial civil rights lawsuit victory.

JOY PULLMANN: The Civil Disobedience Charles Murray Wants Has Already Arrived.

The federal do-gooders who framed No Child Left Behind back in 2001 never envisioned that parents would take exception to their mandate that every child in grades three through eight (and once in high school) face annual math and reading tests. So the law is entirely silent on what happens if, as is happening now for the first time, thousands of parents across the country pull their kids in protest.

It’s hard to convey just how extraordinary this is. So here are a few snippets from just the past week’s news. In Germantown, Wisconsin, 62 percent of public-school students are sitting out tests. The district has been a hotbed of Common Core opposition, with a local school board among one of the handful nationwide to reject Common Core and decide to run with its own, higher-quality, curriculum. In Maine, “Cape Elizabeth saw 32 percent of its eighth-graders, 18 percent of its seventh-graders and 64 percent of its high school juniors opt out. There are many examples of high opt out rates across the state, but a reliable statewide tally isn’t yet available.” A bill to secure parents’ right to excuse their kids from mandatory tests recently passed the Delaware House 36 to 3 after a blaze of opt-outs left local schools scrambling. “A wide-ranging bill that would eliminate [national Common Core] tests in Ohio and limit state achievement tests to three hours per year passed the House 92-1 on Wednesday,” reported the Columbus Dispatch.

This is nowhere near a set of isolated incidents. In Washington state, every single junior at Nathan Hale High School (natch) refused state tests this spring. Somewhere around 200,000 children refused tests this spring in New York and, contrary to race-baiting from U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan, substantial numbers of these defiant parents were not white rich people. FairTest, a lefty organization not keen on rigorous data, nevertheless keeps compiling an impressive number of similar news stories each week.

What does this mean? Does it matter? While the opt-out numbers are unprecedented in American history, they still represent a very small proportion of U.S. schoolkids. I think they do matter, and that they signal many Americans are ready for Murray’s civil disobedience project. Here’s why.

So should I buy tar, feathers, and pitchfork futures? Sounds hopeful!

Meanwhile, I had barely paid attention to this story, but it seems relevant: Oath Keepers standing down from Sugar Pine Mine, awaiting appeal decision. “Armed members of the Oath Keepers in Josephine county are standing down from the Sugar Pine Mine in Galice tonight. Last night the Interior Board of Land Appeals announced that they will grant the mine owner’s request to place BLM enforcement on hold. The stay will last until a decision is made whether or not the BLM holds surface rights to the mine, or decides whether those rights were grandfathered-in to the mine’s owners. The Oath Keepers tell NBC 5 News they’re happy the BLM is taking the right steps and they’re in the process of moving their security people away from the mine and down to the staging area.”

The Feds, apparently, really don’t want another Bundy Ranch confrontation, which is understandable since they lost that one.

TAR, FEATHERS: EPA accused of tolerating rampant employee misconduct, obstructing probes.

TAR, FEATHERS: Teen Facing Sex Offender Prosecution for Streaking Prank Kills Himself.

TAR, FEATHERS: Elderly couple pulled over after their Buckeye car decal is mistaken for a marijuana leaf. Of course, there’s nothing illegal about having a marijuana leaf decal on your car, anyway.

I want to know the names of the cops involved, and their superiors. I have some remedial education in mind.

RATIONING: In Top Journal, Obamacare Boosters Push ‘Global Spending Target.’

Free-market economists have long known that “controls breed controls.” In health care, leading Obamacare supporters are now proposing unprecedented new government controls over all medical spending — private as well as public — to “solve” problems caused by prior controls. Welcome to ObamaCare 2.0.

In a recent article in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM), several prominent Obamacare supporters have called for a binding “global spending target for both public and private payers.” In regular English, this means a government-enforced cap on how much Americans may spend in aggregate on their health care, both public and private. The co-authors of this article include former Obama administration officials Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel (former White House health care advisor and brother of Rahm Emanuel, former White House chief of staff), Dr. Donald Berwick (former head of Medicare), and Peter Orszag (former budget director).

The authors argue that current Obamacare cost controls do not go far enough. Although Obamacare will reduce government-sector health spending (e.g., Medicare and Medicaid), insurers and medical providers will simply shift those costs onto the private sector. To properly control health care costs (they claim), the government must therefore also control private health spending.

I think we need global controls on busybodies. Enforced with tar, feathers, and other coercive elements.

JOHN HINDERAKER: The High Cost Of Regulation.

Remember when President Obama said that his policies would cause the cost of electricity to skyrocket? Well, the cost has skyrocketed, but not only because of Obama. In February, Robert Bryce of the Manhattan Institute released a study of the cost of renewable energy mandates. In most states, regulatory authorities have required utilities to obtain a specified portion of their power from renewable sources–wind, solar, and so on. Those energy sources are nowhere near as efficient as coal and natural gas, which means they cost far more per kilowatt hour. But the utility has to buy that energy by law, and it passes the higher cost on to its ratepayers. Generally, the ratepayers–i.e., all of us–have no idea that they are paying extra to subsidize “green” fantasies.

There’s too much regulation, for too many lousy reasons. If regulation isn’t clearly for the common good, it’s just bossiness — a deprivation of freedom for no good reason — and should be remedied by tar, feathers, and such other means as get the message across.

TAR, FEATHERS: NY Senators Want To Make Free Speech A Privilege. Of course they do.

CHICAGOLAND: Woman Recorded Cops After Harassment Claims Ignored.

Naturally, she’s the one being prosecuted: “Tiawanda Moore, 20, is charged with two felony counts of eavesdropping on a public official for allegedly recording a four-minute portion of the Aug. 18, 2010, interview on her BlackBerry, which she had hidden in her lap. . . . Under Illinois’ eavesdropping law, making an audio recording a law enforcement officer or court official without the consent of all parties is punishable by up to 15 years in prison.”

Tar, feathers. “Eavesdropping on a public official,” my ass. Let me be very clear: That law is there for only one reason: to protect corrupt politicians and their lackeys from exposure. Those enforcing it and hiding behind it are basically accomplices to a criminal enterprise. But then, when you’re talking about Chicago politicians, that’s a redundancy, isn’t it?

Plus, reader John Steakley writes: “Is there, perhaps, a Due Process right to preserve one’s own statements to the government even when uttered in a private place?” There should be, particularly given the prevalence of “testilying” by law enforcement. Hey, I think I just found my next law-review article topic!

TAR, FEATHERS: Philly Police Harass, Threaten to Shoot Man Legally Carrying Gun. “A story in today’s Philadelphia Daily News shows why it’s so important that citizens be allowed to videotape cops – it can be citizens’ only way to fight back against police abuse of power.” And that’s why they’re so quick to threaten and arrest videotapers.

Related: Orlando man arrested for videotaping police, now the video is missing. “Kurtz said the camera was in his hand when he was arrested. But police say it was never taken into custody and secured as evidence. Nor was it among the personal possessions returned to Kurtz when he was released on bail.” How convenient.

UPDATE: Some background on the Philly incident.

TAR, FEATHERS: Court: State Can Dump Non-Sex Offenders Into Registry. “Georgia’s Supreme Court is upholding the government’s right to put non-sex offenders on the state’s sex-offender registry, highlighting a little-noticed (but growing) nationwide practice.”

Well, hell, if you can pass a bill without a vote, I guess you can be a “sex offender” without sex. I wonder if this will be used against shopping malls who falsely imprison teens charged with shoplifting . . . .

TAR, FEATHERS: Peddler charged with taping cops during his own arrest. “A Rogers Park neighborhood man was charged with felony eavesdropping after allegedly taping conversations — including the voices of officers who arrested him — without permission while selling art for a $1 Wednesday afternoon in the Loop.”

Nothing beat cops say to you in the performance of their duties is private. If they don’t want it taped, they’ve got something to hide.

CANADIAN KANGAROO COURT UPDATE: Not just censoring speech, but censoring Ezra Levant’s legal papers in response.

Tar, feathers, and other “out of doors political activity” are beginning to look more appropriate.

TAR, FEATHERS. Three years in jail for possessing a BB gun.