Saturday, June 23, 2018

You Might Have a 'Uniquely Compelling' Reason to Find Out Whether Your Government Has Placed You on a Kill List

You Might Have a 'Uniquely Compelling' Reason to Find Out Whether Your Government Has Placed You on a Kill List

Bilal Abdul Kareem has been nearly droned in Syria five times already. A federal judge agrees his lawsuit over the matter can proceed.

It's just possible, Judge Rosemary Collyer of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia Circuit concluded in a decision last week, that being a journalist in Syria placed on a kill list by your own government might constitute a violation of your First, Fourth, and Fifth Amendment rights.
Fibonacci Blue on / CC BYFibonacci Blue on / CC BY
The lawsuit started with Ahmad Muaffaq Zaidan and Bilal Abdul Kareem, two journalists from the Middle East, who often report on terrorism-related stories. Zaidan, who has worked for Al Jazeera for over 20 years, thinks the United States has labeled him as a terrorist, apparently because his work has him interacting with so many of them (Zaidan has interviewed Osama Bin Laden, among others).
Kareem, an American citizen and freelance reporter, has been at the site of five aerial bombings while working in Syria in one three-month period.
Both believe they might be on a secret U.S. government "kill list" and sued various government officials from President Trump on down last year to find out if they are.
Judge Collyer, allowing the lawsuit to proceed at least in part, wrote that their complaint asserted being on such a kill list would be "arbitrary, capricious and an abuse of discretion" and "violates the prohibition on conspiring to or assassinating any person abroad" and "violated due process because Plaintiffs were provided no notice and given no opportunity to challenge their inclusion."
Further, placing them on the kill list "violated the First Amendment because it 'has the effect of restricting and inhibiting their exercise of free speech and their ability to function as journalists entitled to freedom of the press.'"
Kareem, the citizen, asserts on his behalf that being on the kill list "violated the Fourth and Fifth Amendments because it constituted an illegal seizure and 'seeks to deprive [him] of life without due process of law.'"
The government claimed Zaidan and Kareem have no standing to sue and that this whole kill list thing is a "political question" outside the jurisdiction of the federal courts.
Judge Collyer disagreed, at least as applied to U.S. citizen Kareem. Collyer did agree that when it comes to foreigner Zaidan, who is unable to prove he was indeed on any kill list, "the Court finds no allegations in the Complaint that raise that possibility above mere speculation. Accordingly, the Court finds Mr. Zaidan has failed to allege a plausible injury-in-fact and therefore has no standing to sue."
But the legal situation for Kareem is different, the judge insisted. She noted that "two of the attacks [at or near Kareem] involved his place of work, one involved his own vehicle, one involved a work vehicle in which he had been traveling immediately before, and one hit a location from which he had just walked away."
The government insisted, well, Syria's a real violent place these days and lucky for him he hasn't been killed being surrounded by so much war. Kareem's problems, the government claimed, are not "attributable to anything more than a journalist reporting from a dangerous and active battlefield."
"While it is plausible that Mr. Kareem is not being targeted by the United States," Collyer wrote, "it is also plausible that Mr. Kareem's multiple near-miss incidents were caused by Defendants' decision to include him on the Kill List and were, therefore, caused by Defendants' actions."
Collyer was unimpressed by the government's argument that this is all military business and thus not subject to judicial second-guessing. The war aspect is irrelevant, the judge maintained, since the injury Kareem alleges is the fact that he was placed on a kill list back in D.C. "Mr. Kareem complains of an alleged decision to authorize a lethal strike against him and not a decision in the field to attempt to carry out that authorization. He wants the opportunity to persuade his government that he is not a terrorist or a threat so that the alleged authorization to kill is rescinded."
Collyer used that distinction to differentiate her decision from some precedents regarding drone attacks that were seen as more specifically about a judge's second-guessing of military decisions in the field. That's not what Kareem is trying to do here, Collyer concluded. "It remains a truism that judges are not good judges of military decisions during war. The immediate Complaint asks for no such non-judicial feat; rather, it alleges that placement on the Kill List occurs only after nomination by a defense agency principal and agreement by other such principals, with prior notice to the President. The persons alleged to have exercised this authority are alleged to have followed a known procedure that occurred in Washington or its environs."
Collyer did agree with the government that certain counts in the original suit should be dismissed, including, "whether Defendants complied with the Presidential Policy Guidance [for putting people on a kill list]," which "is a political question the Court must refrain from addressing" since the guidance itself is so vague that it "provides no test or standard that must be satisfied before the government may add an individual."
In other words, the kill list policy is so inherently arbitrary there is no way to procedurally abuse it.
Similarly, "the process of determining whether Defendants exceeded their authority or violated any of the statutes referenced in the Complaint would require the Court to make a finding on the propriety of the alleged action." But that, Collyer wrote, "is prohibited by the political question doctrine."
In other words, the court can't consider whether a government act was a good idea, merely whether it violated a specific law or constitutional provision.
Luckily for Kareem, and for the larger issue of justice in executive power, the judge reasoned that the whole kill list process might have "denied Mr. Kareem his rights to due process and the opportunity to be heard and deprived him of his First, Fourth, and Fifth Amendment rights."
As Collyer concluded in letting those aspects of Kareem's case move forward:
Mr. Kareem alleges that the Defendants targeted him for lethal force by putting his name on the Kill List, which he deduces from five near misses by drones or other military strikes. As a U.S. citizen, he seeks to clarify his status and profession to Defendants and, thereby, assert his right to due process and a prior opportunity to be heard. His interest in avoiding the erroneous deprivation of his life is uniquely compelling.
Mr. Kareem does not seek a ruling that a strike by the U.S. military was mistaken or improper. He seeks his birthright instead: a timely assertion of his due process rights under the Constitution to be heard before he might be included on the Kill List and his First Amendment rights to free speech before he might be targeted for lethal action due to his profession. The D.C. Circuit and the Supreme Court have previously held that a citizen "must have a meaningful opportunity to challenge the factual basis for his designation as an enemy combatant."
This does not mean Kareem has won his case, merely that the government has failed to have it thrown out of court. Collyer acknowledged that it is not yet settled fact whether Kareem even is on a kill list, but while "the Court finds that Mr. Kareem's allegations may be wrong as a matter of fact... Complaint presents them in a plausible manner."
Opposing drone strikes on U.S. citizens was the central point behind Sen. Rand Paul's (R-Ky.) reputation-making 2013 filibuster, and for good reason: There is nothing more tyrannical than the power to specifically target someone for murder absent any judicial proceedings, which, alas, is standard operating procedure for the U.S. government thanks to our endless and impossible Forever War on Terror.

Bureaucrats Shut Down Your Kids’ Lemonade Stands? Country Time Will Pay the Fines.

Bureaucrats Shut Down Your Kids’ Lemonade Stands? Country Time Will Pay the Fines.

A summer promotion will cover fines and fees when your local code enforcers come calling.

Every summer, it seems, brings a parade of outrageous stories about petty local officials who shut down kids' front-yard lemonade stands because the little moppets don't have the right permits. But this summer things might be different as civil disobedience meets corporate marketing. Young lemonade entrepreneurs are getting some support against local bureaucrats from powdered lemonade manufacturer Country Time.
This morning the company launched an ingenious summer promotional campaign. Country Time wants your kids to open lemonade stands. If some stiff suit from city hall comes calling, Country Time will help you out by covering the costs of fines and permit fees:
This promo site provides the details. To take advantage of the offer, you need to be the parent of a child 14 or younger who has a lemonade stand. Country Time will cover fines or fees up to $300 per child. The company has budgeted $60,000, enough to help at least 200 kids, for the program, which runs through August. But the tweet says Country Time is prepared to create a fund of up to $500,000 to help more kids in future summers.
Country Time has an obvious agenda here: More lemonade stands potentially means more people purchasing and consuming its product. But the promotional stunt is a reminder that these meddling local officials are not protecting public safety but interfering in people's lives for stupid reasons and demanding to be paid for the service. Kudos to Country Time for trying to discourage this awful behavior, although in some cases $300 might not be enough to cover rapacious city permitting demands.

Friday, June 22, 2018

90 percent of MAPE — represented job classifications have a pay range, that is — on average — 7.8 percent above the market rate.”

Marin public employees’ union authorizes strike

County employees demonstrate during a rally at the Marin County Civic Center in San Rafael on May 22. (Richard Halstead/Marin Independent Journal)
County employees demonstrate during a rally at the Marin County Civic Center in San Rafael on May 22. (Richard Halstead/Marin Independent Journal) 

The Marin Association of Public Employees, the union that represents a majority of Marin County’s public employees, has voted to authorize a strike.
The vote was taken last week and ballots were counted late on Friday. Rollie Katz, executive director of the Marin Association of Public Employees, said 654 of the union’s members voted in favor of a strike authorization and 47 voted not to authorize a strike.
The union represents 1,471 of the county’s 2,740 employees. Only 1,280 of the employees represented by the union are members, however; the remaining 191 are fee payers who are entitled to representation but do not enjoy the privileges of membership.
“It’s a pretty strong statement by the members,” Katz said.
The vote authorizes the union’s 15-member bargaining team to call a strike if they deem it necessary. The team is made up of rank-and-file members elected by the full membership. Katz said no date for a strike has been set at this time.
“We hope we don’t have to strike,” Katz said, “but this vote is a very clear sign to the Board of Supervisors that they need to get management to move off of some of their positions and find a resolution.”
The two sides began working with a state mediator on June 13. The next meeting with the mediator is scheduled for June 25.
At last report, Marin County and MAPE were at loggerheads over a new three-year contract.
The county had proposed wage increases of 2.5 percent, 2.5 percent and 2 percent over each of the next three years. The union countered with a proposal for wage increases of 3.5 percent, 4 percent and 3.5 percent.
In addition to the dispute over pay raises, county managers and MAPE are at odds over several changes the county is seeking that could result in significant pay reductions for some lower-paid county employees.
“I can’t talk in detail about what has happened in mediation,” Katz said. “We’ve got a few smaller items off the table, but none of the make-or-break proposals. Nothing has happened that would move the needle significantly.
“We would hope there would be further movement in bargaining,” Katz said. “We’re certainly prepared to compromise. We have been offering compromises.”
There has been speculation that if MAPE calls a strike, other county unions, including the Marin County Management Employees’ Association, might stage a sympathy strike or work slowdown.
Katz said, “My expectation is that if we have a strike a number of other workers, including MCMEA, will be very supportive.”
The last time Marin County employees went on strike was the summer of 1998. At that time, MAPE was seeking a 10 percent wage increase over two years. County managers started out offering a 7.5 percent wage hike over three years. At the end of the seven-day strike, however, the county agreed to a contract that gave employees a 10.5 percent wage increase over three years.
As of July 2017, 55 percent of Marin County’s employees lived outside of Marin. Many say they can’t afford Marin housing prices.
Mary Hao, Marin County’s director of human resources, said Marin County recently conducted a survey of salaries across the Bay Area, including San Mateo, Napa, Solano, Sonoma, Alameda and Contra Costa counties; the city and county of San Francisco; and the cities of Novato, Berkeley, Santa Rosa, San Rafael, Vallejo and Palo Alto.
“This cross sampling helps us determine the market rate for the same or similar jobs in those collective areas, based on median of the pay in these jurisdictions versus average,” Hao wrote in an email. “What we discovered in our research was that 90 percent of MAPE — represented job classifications have a pay range, that is — on average — 7.8 percent above the market rate.”

Pervasive Suburbanization: The 2017 Data

Pervasive Suburbanization: The 2017 Data

The most recent Census Bureau population estimates have made it clear that migration to the suburbs and away from urban cores has accelerated dramatically since the early years of the Great Recession (see here and here). More detailed national data, from the Current Population Survey (CPS) indicates that moving to the suburbs is pervasive (CPS is a joint program of the Census Bureau and the Bureau of Labor Statistics). The CPS data is much higher level geographically than similar data Census Bureau and Internal Revenue Service migration, providing no state, county or metropolitan area breakdowns. CPS data is national, and divided further into the 4 regions (Northeast, Midwest, South and West) and nine divisions (New England, Mid-Atlantic, East North Central, West North Central, South Atlantic, East South Central, West South Central, Mountain and Pacific).

Domestic Migration: Plus 2.3 Million to Suburbs, Minus 2.3 Million from “Principal Cities”

Between 2016 and 2017, more than 2.3 million (net) US residents moved into what the CPS classifies as. “suburbs.” At the same time, 2.3 million (net) moved away from “principal cities,” with most of their population in those classified as “central cities” (urban core cities) before 2003 (Figure 1). In fact this approach probably under-estimates the extent of migration into suburbs and out of the urban cores of metropolitan areas. This is because many principal cities are, in fact suburbs whose high employment levels, not their overwhelmingly suburban and automobile oriented urban form, determines their classification. For example, suburban principal cities, such as Plano, Texas, Mesa, Arizona, Bellevue, Washington, Sandy Springs, Georgia, and many others are likely to be not losing domestic migrants, while the suburbs with smaller employment bases around them are gaining. Indeed, many non-historical core principal cities did not even exist when the great post-World War II automobile -oriented suburbanization started and were some were primarily rural into the 1960s.
The move to the suburbs was so pervasive that CPS found gains in 89 of 90 categories. The principal cities, on the other hand lost in 89 of 90 categories (Figure 2), which are organized into total, sex, age, race and Hispanic origin, relationship to householder (formerly called “head of household), educational attainment, marital status, nativity, tenure, poverty status, income, labor force status, major occupation and major industry.
This article summarizes some of the most important findings from the latest CPS data.

Millennials: Moving to the Suburbs

One of the most enduring urban myths has been that millennials are rejecting the suburbs for the inner cities. We have previously shown that the largest percentage of millennial growth is in the suburbs not the urban core. According to CPS, those aged 20 to 29 are net moving in large numbers away from the principal cities, even including some largely suburban cities, (minus 329,000) and to the suburbs (plus 383,000)

All Other Ages: Moving to the Suburbs

Millennials are not alone. It is well known that the more family friendly characteristics of the suburbs attract people with young children. This is obvious by the 165,000 children aged 1 to 4 who are moved to the suburbs by their parents, compared to the 222,000 who are moved away from the principal cities (the balance of 57,000 were moved to non-metropolitan areas).
An even bigger gap is noted among children aged 5 to 9, 292,000 of whom were moved to the suburbs compared to the 334,000 moved away from the principal cities (and the 42,000 moved to non-metropolitan areas). This is consistent with the perception that core cities generally have inferior public schools, inducing parents to move to the suburbs or beyond when it comes time to enroll their children in schools.
The largest suburban advantage occurs in the 30 to 44 age category, when households are often starting families. Suburbs attract an astounding 683,000 domestic migrants in this category, while the principal cities lose 712,000. The suburban gains continue, but at a lower rate, as people reach 45 to 64 years of age. Suburbs gained 371,000 net domestic migrants, while principal cites lost 347,000.
The often suggested view that retirees are flocking to the inner cities is countered by the reality that in 2017, 104,000 aged 65 to 74 moved to the suburbs, while 78,000 moved away from the principal cities. The numbers moving are small since older people are increasingly aging in place, which for most is in the suburbs.
In every age category, then, the suburbs gain net domestic migrants, while the principal cities lose (Figure 3).

Minorities: Moving to the Suburbs

Perhaps the most important trends relate to ethnicity and race. The early post-World War II suburban migration might be characterized as “white flight,” but in recent decades minorities have been migrating to the suburbs. It is no surprise that White Non-Hispanics migrated strongly to the suburbs (plus 1,121,000) and away from the principal cities (minus 1,069,000). But Hispanics migrated even more strongly to the suburbs (plus 722,000) and away from the principal cities (minus 748,000). Similarly, African-Americans migrated to the suburbs (303,000) and away from the principal cities (minus 333,000). Asians, though a much smaller share of the population, also chose the suburbs overwhelmingly (plus 103,000) and abandoned the principal cities (minus 62,000).
Overall, among those who are minority or mixed race, 1.3 million moved to the suburbs, while 1.3 million moved away from the principal cities (Figure 4).

All Levels of Educational Attainment: Moving to the Suburbs

Regardless of educational attainment, net domestic migration is positive to the suburbs and negative to the principal cities (Figure 5). In relation to the total population of the educational attainment categories, the largest suburban over principal city gain was among those with bachelor’s degrees, while the smallest was among those without high school educations (Figure 6).

All Income Levels: Moving to the Suburbs

People of all income levels are moving to the suburbs. The highest income category shows the most significant movement into the suburbs and away from the principal cities (Figure 7)

Regardless of Poverty Status: Moving to the Suburbs

Both people above and below the poverty line exhibited strong net domestic migration to the suburbs and away from the principal cities. Approximately 85 percent of domestic migrants to the suburbs were above the poverty line (Figure 8). Our last review of central city versus suburban poverty showed that urban core poverty rates were double those of the suburbs.

Native Born and Foreign Born: Moving to the Suburbs

Both the native born and foreign born population exhibited strong net domestic migration to the suburbs and away from the principal cities (Figure 9).

Why People Continue to Move to the Suburbs

CPS summarizes reasons for moving, indicating that 43.0 percent of moves are housing related, 27.9 are family related, and 18.5 percent are employment related. Other reasons account for 10.6 percent. Housing related reasons would include moving to larger houses with yards, especially for their children. Family reasons would include households moving to school districts perceived likely to provide better educations to their children. Finally, employment reasons doubtless includes many households that move to be closer to jobs. All of these reasons favor the suburbs, where the houses are bigger and more spacious, where schools are perceived to be better and where 80 percent of the jobs are located.
Wendell Cox is principal of Demographia, an international public policy and demographics firm. He is a Senior Fellow of the Center for Opportunity Urbanism (US), Senior Fellow for Housing Affordability and Municipal Policy for the Frontier Centre for Public Policy (Canada), and a member of the Board of Advisors of the Center for Demographics and Policy at Chapman University (California). He is co-author of the “Demographia International Housing Affordability Survey” and author of “Demographia World Urban Areas” and “War on the Dream: How Anti-Sprawl Policy Threatens the Quality of Life.” He was appointed to three terms on the Los Angeles County Transportation Commission, where he served with the leading city and county leadership as the only non-elected member. He served as a visiting professor at the Conservatoire National des Arts et Metiers, a national university in Paris.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Stop Trying to Get Workers Out of Their Cars

Stop Trying to Get Workers Out of Their Cars

"Smart growth" is dumb about commuting.

If you hate urban sprawl, you're probably familiar with the complaints of the "smart growth" movement: Roadways blight cities. Traffic congestion is the worst. Suburbanization harms the environment. Fortunately, say these smart growthers, there is an alternative: By piling on regulations and reallocating transportation-related tax money, we can "densify" our urban communities, allowing virtually everyone to live in a downtown area and forego driving in favor of walking or biking.
Smart growth proponents have been gaining influence for decades. They've implemented urban growth boundaries (which greatly restrict the development of land outside a defined area), up-zoning (which tries to increase densities in existing neighborhoods by replacing single-family homes with apartments), and "road diets" (which take away traffic lanes to make room for wider sidewalks and bike lanes).
Alas, there are inherent flaws in the "smart growth" approach—beginning with the idea that it makes sense for everyone to live and work in the same small area. In fact, that idea flies in the face of what economists call urban agglomeration.
Urban agglomeration is why there are more jobs in and around big cities. Job seekers have access to a large number of potential employers, which increases each person's likelihood of finding one that can make the best use of her unique talents and skills. The same is true for business owners, who have a much better chance of finding people in a large populous urban area who match their needs.
Transportation turns out to be a key factor in enabling these wealth-increasing transactions. Imagine drawing a circle around the location of your residence, defined by how far you are willing to commute to get to a satisfying job. The larger the radius of that circle, the more potential work opportunities you have. Likewise, a company's prospective-employee pool is defined by the number of people whose circles contain that company's location.
Most people measure that radius in time rather than distance; studies show they are generally unwilling to spend much more than 30 minutes commuting each way on a long-term basis. That means the size of their opportunity circle is critically dependent on how quickly they can get around.
Despite urban sprawl and ever-increasing congestion levels, economists Peter Gordon and Harry Richardson of the University of Southern California have documented, using census data, that average commute times in various metro areas have hardly changed at all over several decades. More recently, Alex Anas of the University of Buffalo modeled what would happen as a result of a projected 24 percent increase in Chicago's metro area population over three decades. He estimated that auto commute times would increase only 3 percent and transit trip times hardly at all. The reason is that people tend to change where they live or work in order to keep their travel times about the same. But this happy result comes about only if the transportation system expands accordingly.
A recent empirical study from the Marron Institute of Urban Management at New York University likewise found that, on average, the labor market of an urban area (defined as the number of jobs reachable within a one-hour commute) nearly doubles when the workforce of the metro area doubles. The commute time increases by an average of only about 7 percent, however—assuming an efficient region-wide transportation network. To achieve higher economic productivity, they recommend fostering speedier rather than slower commuting; more rather than less commuting; and longer rather than shorter commutes.
These policies would expand the opportunity circles of employers and employees, enabling a more productive urban economy. But these are exactly the opposite of the policy prescriptions of smart growth, which generally seek to confine people's economic activity to a small portion of a larger metro area.
One early manifestation of this was the attempt by urban and transportation planners in the '80s and '90s to promote "jobs-housing balance," where each county of a large metro area has comparable percentages of the region's jobs and of its housing. The rationale was that this would reduce "excessive" commuting by enabling people to find work close to their homes. But urban agglomeration theory makes it clear that that is a recipe for a low-productivity urban economy. Census data show that many suburban areas are now approaching jobs-housing balance on their own, but this does not necessarily reduce commute distances—to get to the jobs they want, many people still travel across boundaries.
A fascinating example is Arlington County, Virginia. Since 2000, the number of jobs and the number of working residents in the county have been approximately equal. But it turns out that only 52 percent of those working residents have jobs in the county. Out of 582,000 resident workers, 280,000 commute to adjacent counties or the District of Columbia. And out of 574,000 jobs in the county, 272,000 are filled by workers from other places.
A less extreme version of smart growth says that we should discourage car travel and shift resources heavily toward transit. People should be encouraged to live in high-density "villages" where they can easily obtain transit service to jobs elsewhere in the metro area. The problem with this vision is the inability of transit to effectively compete with the auto highway system.
Simply put, cars work better for workers. A 2012 Brookings study analyzing data from 371 transit providers in America's largest 100 metro areas found that over three-fourths of all jobs are in neighborhoods with transit service—but only about a quarter of those jobs can be reached by transit within 90 minutes. That's more than three times the national average commute time.
Another study, by Andrew Owen and David Levinson of the University of Minnesota, looked at job access via transit in 46 of the 50 largest metro areas. Their data combined actual in-vehicle time with estimated walking time at either end of the transit trip, to approximate total door-to-door travel time. Only five of the 46 metro areas have even a few percent of their jobs accessible by transit within half an hour. All the others have 1 percent or less. Within 60 minutes door-to-door, the best cities have 15–22 percent of jobs reachable by transit.
Meanwhile, Owen and Levinson found that in 31 of the 51 largest metro areas in 2010, 100 percent of jobs could be reached by car in 30 minutes or less. Within 40 minutes, all the jobs could be reached by car in 39 of the cities. Within an hour, essentially every job in all 51 places could be reached by car. The roadway network is ubiquitous, connecting every possible origin to every destination. The contrast with access via transit—let alone walking or biking—is profound.
Photo Credit: thomas-bethge/iStock