Sessions Embraces Thievery

Of all the appointments that Trump has made, the appointment of Jeff Sessions as Attorney General was the one I most opposed. The AG has a lot of power and Sessions’ ideas on crime are … archaic might be a generous word. He has ordered reviews of the consent decrees on troubled police departments. He wants to restore mandatory minimum drug sentences. He wants to revive DARE, one of the biggest wastes of money in the history of the Drug War. The Democrats focused on his past racism. But while I was concerned about that, I was way more concerned with his approach to law and order, one defined by more prisons, more cops, more laws, less freedom. You should read Radley Balko taking apart one of Sessions’ speeches on the Drug War, showing over and over again that Sessions is poorly informed and out of touch with what’s been going on in criminal justice reform for the last decade or so.

Yesterday, he dropped a bombshell:

Attorney General Jeff Sessions just made it easier for police to seize cash and property from people suspected ─ but not necessarily charged with or convicted ─ of crimes.

He did it by eliminating an Obama administration directive that prevented local law enforcement from circumventing state restrictions on forfeiture of civil assets. The technique was embraced in the early years of the war on drugs, but it has since been linked to civil rights abuses: people losing cash, cars and homes without any proven link to illegal activity; police taking cash in exchange for not locking suspects up; a legal system that makes it hard for victims to get their possessions back.

Two dozen states have made it harder for authorities to take property from suspects without first securing criminal convictions. Three have outlawed it entirely, according to the Institute for Justice, a nonprofit that advocates for reform.

Multiple states — conservative states — have been reigning in asset forfeiture as abusive and unconstitutional. Police departments have been trying to bypass these rules through “adoption” — getting the federal government to nominally participate in the case so they can just take the money regardless of state law. It is a perversion of the law and abuse of state’s rights. Eric Holder put a stop to that, requiring the Feds to respect state law in the matter, one of the few things he did right. Sessions now wants to reverse that. There are a few little protections left in place — review of seizures and scrutiny of smaller amounts. But this amount to open season.

Words can not express my disgust at this. Civil asset forfeiture — in which the property is charged with a crime and its owners must prove their innocence to get it back — is a violation of our most basic constitutional rights. The IJ calls it “policing for profit” and some police departments — notably that of Tenaha Texas — have become notorious for abusing the process. It shows the duplicity of supposed federalists like Sessions that they are all about “state’s rights” when it comes to discrimination but suddenly all against them the second a state wants to shore up the basic civil liberties of its citizens.

National Review:

This is almost certainly unconstitutional, something that conservatives ought to understand instinctively. Like the Democrats’ crackpot plan to revoke the Second Amendment rights of U.S. citizens who have been neither charged with nor convicted of a crime simply for having been fingered as suspicious persons by some anonymous operative in Washington, seizing an American’s property because a police officer merely suspects that he might be a drug dealer or another species of miscreant does gross violence to the basic principle of due process. No doubt many of the men and women on the terrorism watch list are genuine bad guys, and no doubt many of those who have lost their property to asset forfeiture are peddling dope. But we are a nation of laws, which means a nation of procedural justice. If the DEA or the LAPD wants to punish a drug trafficker, then let them build a case, file charges, and see the affair through to a conviction. We have no objection to seizing the property of those convicted of drug smuggling — or of crimes related to terrorism, or many other kinds of offenses. We object, as all Americans should object, to handing out these punishments in the absence of a criminal conviction.

Conor Friedersdorf:

This was highway robbery perpetrated against American citizens by their own government. The official euphemism for the practice: “Civil-asset forfeiture.” And egregious abuses have happened in every region of the country. Over the last fifteen years, I have heard these abuses criticized by people from almost every part of the political right. The issue united conservatives at National Review and the Claremont Institute with Cato Institute libertarians and right-wing populists at Breitbart.

Conor also quote from Clarence Thomas’s scathing rejection of civil asset forfeiture, a must-read.

Ciaramella:

Lee was referring to conservative Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas’ notable dissent in an asset forfeiture case this June. Thomas wrote that forfeiture operations “frequently target the poor and other groups least able to defend their interests in forfeiture proceedings.”

Data on asset forfeiture backs up what Thomas says. A Reason investigation of more than 23,000 police seizures in Cook County, Illinois over the last five years showed that Chicago’s poor neighborhoods were hit hardest by asset forfeiture. A similar investigation of Mississippi court records showed that law enforcement recorded many big hauls of cash, but the records were also littered with petty and abusive seizures.

A 2014 Washington Post investigative series found that warrantless police seizures of cash through the equitable sharing program have boomed since 9/11, hauling in $2.5 billion. Also in 2014, for the first time ever, the U.S. government seized more property from Americans than burglars did.

You can also watch John Oliver’s takedown of the practice.

If there’s a silver lining here, it’s that maybe Congress or the Court will wake up from their Constitutional stupor and put hard restraints on this abusive practice. But I prefer not to depend on that. Opposition to Sesssions’ directive should be immediate, sharp and relentless. We should not take one step back when it comes to civil asset forfeiture.

McCain’s Brain

I’ve had many disagreements with John McCain over the years but I’ve always respected his service the country. I’ll wish him a recovery from an aggressive brain tumor that was discovered during surgery today. McCain seemed confused and disoriented during the Comey hearing a few weeks back. I don’t know if it had anything to do with this.

Environmentalists Mad About Things Environmentalists Say

A few months ago, NYT columnist Bret Stephens was lambasted for saying this:

A guy I know just had a baby and he’s a big global warming, climate change activist. If he thinks in 20 years we’ll be heading toward unsustainable climates and there will be tens of millions of people being displaced, presumably including himself, at the most apocalyptic level, then presumably he wouldn’t be having children.

It contradicts the belief that we are heading ineluctably for an apocalyptic environmental future.

The entire environmentalist blogosphere erupted. But … the thing is that what Stephens said has been environmentalist gospel for years. There is about half a century of the left side of the environmental movement embracing and even demanding population control. From Ehrlich to Holdren to Bill Nye, we’ve had constant calls for population control. The most recent iteration appeared in the Guardian, which talked about a paper that said the most effective way to reduce your carbon footprint is to have fewer children.

Carbon emissions must fall to two tonnes of CO2 per person by 2050 to avoid severe global warming, but in the US and Australia emissions are currently 16 tonnes per person and in the UK seven tonnes. “That’s obviously a really big change and we wanted to show that individuals have an opportunity to be a part of that,” said Kimberly Nicholas, at Lund University in Sweden and one of the research team.

The new study, published in Environmental Research Letters, sets out the impact of different actions on a comparable basis. By far the biggest ultimate impact is having one fewer child, which the researchers calculated equated to a reduction of 58 tonnes of CO2 for each year of a parent’s life.

Put aside the fancy calculations. What this amounts to is saying that there would be no carbon emissions if there were no people. And that’s true enough, I guess. But this paper has been run with by many environmentalists, including those who criticized Stephens, as sound advice for a healthier planet. You would think the ugly history of population control, such as China’s brutal one-child policy, would give them pause. But no, they’re running out there with another round of, “Stop having babies, everyone!”

Well, they’re wrong against just as they’ve always been wrong on this particular subject. As it happens, the world is not facing an overpopulation crisis. Population is projected to peak mid-century. In fact, many countries are now worried about an underpopulation crisis. Countries like Japan and almost all of Western Europe are worried that their societies will not be able to sustain themselves.

What’s more, global warming is not a problem that we have a solution to. Alternative energy and efficiency are great but they are only delaying actions. The real breakthroughs — on nuclear power, energy storage or climate mitigation — have yet to be made. We need future generations of engineers, scientists and business people if we’re going to make those breakthroughs. That means having children. That especially means educated people have educated children. By encouraging such people to not have children, the greens are delaying future environmental progress, not advancing it.

Post Scriptum: I noted earlier that I was in Israel this week. I’ll write a full report at some point. But one thing I’ve noticed about Israel — especially in contrast to Europe — is the number of children. There are children everywhere in Tel Aviv. This is as opposed to Rome or London, which are almost childless. It’s not unusual to see a family with four or five children. Part of this is religious of course. But it’s not like Israel is a totally oppressive patriarchy. Women serve in the military. The WEF ranks Israel 49th in gender equality, even by their somewhat odd methodology (which ranks Rwanda 5th). If you look at maps of countries by gender equality, Israel is an island of gender equity in sea of oppression.

One theme you run into in Israel is past-present-future, the idea that this is a country which has a rich history but is looking forward to the future. They have one because they’re having children. Europe … doesn’t have a future. And if we listen to the environmentalists and stop having children, neither will we.

Trump, Jr. Under the Bus

I’m in Israel at the moment, attending a scientific conference. So I’ve been a bit out of the loop, politically. But the revelation that Donald Trump Jr. met with a Kremlin-connected attorney in the hopes of turning up dirt on Hillary Clinton is extremely bad. Probably not Trump-will-be-impeached bad but unethical, slimy and disgusting. The best defense I’ve heard — I mean other than “the media lies about stuff the White House is telling them!” — is that he was too dumb to know that this was a bad thing to do.

We’re gonna have four years of this garbage. It’s only going to get worse.

Update: Jesus Christ.

It’s Idiocy All the Way Down

Let me see if I can follow the train of events here.

  • Last week, Donald Trump posted a gif that someone had made of him “beating” a guy at a wrestling event as part of the act. They had put CNN’s logo over the face of the other actor so it appeared as though Trump were beating down CNN. This was kind of stupid.
  • The media, of course, gave it non-stop coverage to the detriment of major news stories such as North Korea’s missile test, the G20 summit and the AHCA debate. Some called it a threat of violence although it was clearly, in a legal sense, no such thing. This was really stupid.
  • It was then discovered that the gif came from a thread on Reddit, the human sewer of the internet. That the Trump team is plumbing the depths of Reddit for tweets by the President of the United States is incredibly stupid.
  • CNN reporter Andrew Kaczynski then decided to track down the person who made the gif — a Reddit user by the name of HansAssholeSolo. Because apparently this was of interest to anyone. The user, fearing exposure, issued a groveling apology, saying that he was just shitposting and didn’t mean to offend anyone. This was unbelievably stupid from everyone.
  • CNN’s report on Han ended in the note that it wasn’t revealing his identify because he was a private citizen and had apologized. According to them, the legal department then added the note, “CNN reserves the right to publish his identity should any of that change.” Whatever the intention of that statement was, it crossed almost everyone who read it as a threat. This was not only monumentally stupid, but kind of evil.

The internet erupted over that last line and for very good reason. It’s horrible that people feel the need to go on the internet and be bigoted trolls. But the punishment in this case — doxxing the user — would be massively out of proportion to the crime. Being exposed for putting bad or controversial stuff on the internet can ruin someone’s life. They lose jobs, they get threats, they get harassment. It is the Sword of Damocles that hangs over all of us who comment on blogs, Twitter or even Facebook. I’ve been lucky so far but have often thought of quitting this whole shebang out of the fear that some poorly phrased tweet or ill-considered post could destroy my life.

For CNN to even hint at this was, well …

Althouse:

So the human being behind the ridiculous pseudonym HanA**holeSolo should cringe for the rest of his life and never publish anything that CNN could possibly deem “bigoted” or “racist” because it would trigger CNN’s delusional duty to destroy him.

Absolutely despicable.

This person is a nonentity. We shouldn’t even have heard about him in the first place. Who cares who originally posted the video clip of the CNN logo stuck on the face of the guy Trump was wrestling?

Ken White, in a really great post looking at the whole phenomenon of internet rage:

I found this alarming and ugly. CNN should publish the name or not publish the name. For CNN to tell him what he should or shouldn’t say in the future, and threaten him that they will reveal his name in the future if they don’t like his speech, does not make them sound like journalists. It makes them sound like avenging advocates, and lends substantial credibility to the argument that they pursued him because he posted a GIF about them. I don’t know what they actually intended — they’ve denied intent to threaten and claim this was only to clarify that there was no agreement. If so, that could have been conveyed much less like a threat. However they meant it, this is reasonably interpreted as a warning that the Redditor must speak only as approved by CNN or suffer for it. That’s grotesque. Legal, but grotesque.

German Lopez, with whom I rarely agree:

Personally, if I reported this story, it would have been pretty straightforward: “CNN is not publishing ‘HanAssholeSolo’s’ name because he is a private citizen.” Period. The rest of the information in that paragraph is unnecessary, because a media organization simply shouldn’t release a private citizen’s personal information. He shouldn’t have his private information threatened just because the president picked up one of his Reddit shitposts, which he made with the expectation that he would be kept anonymous. (Though it is a truly bizarre turn of events that it’s even possible to write this sentence.)

In journalism, there is a clear line between public and private figures. Public figures are held to a higher standard — since they represent not just themselves but their offices, their industries, and so on. But private figures are given a veil of privacy, since it’s not really in the public interest to get some random person’s private information.

The problem here is that the internet is not proportional. People wouldn’t merely react to this guy making some offensive remarks on the internet by making some offensive remarks to him. They would react as the internet has reacted before to these kinds of situations — with potentially thousands of hateful messages, death threats, attempts to get him fired, and harassment not just against him but also his family. Lines would quickly be crossed.

Our friend, Thrill:

First, there was no reason to track this Asshole guy down. None. He had nothing to do with the story, really. In fact, it’s even possible that CNN got the wrong guy. I can’t read that paragraph and see anything other than that CNN wanted contrition out of the guy, not a story. Again, the story shouldn’t have been about anything except Trump being a prick for posting the inflammatory .gif.

As for that last line, how can anyone see any other message other than, “If he posts anything like that again, naturally, we will reveal his name and ruin his life”? This guy is probably going to stay off the Internet for the rest of his life for fear that CNN will come after him again and set the SJW mob loose on his employer and family.

It’s gotten even stupider since then, with people threatening Kaczynski and even his parents, for some reason. Because apparently, no one can be a dick these days without someone saying, “Hold my beer.”

Almost everyone in this story is acting like a dick. The anonymous shitposter is a dick; Trump is a dick; CNN is a bag of dicks; the people threatening Kacyznski are dicks. And since it seems that being a dick is in fashion these days, I’ll go ahead and say I’m a dick, too. Last week, I wrote about the need for empathy in politics and said that it was a subset of a need for empathy in our society. This fiasco illustrates it perfectly. If anyone involved had taken just a second to think about what it would be like if they were on the receiving end of their action, the entire chain of bullshit would have been broken off.

The Acceptable Prejudice

So this happened:

Occurring a day ahead of Chicago’s enormous Pride Parade, the Dyke March has always billed itself as a social justice-driven gathering that seeks to build alliances across race, religion, class, gender identity and immigration status.

At its core, organizers say, the march is designed to celebrate inclusiveness.

At this year’s march, however, some participants accused organizers of excluding them for expressing their Jewish pride. Laurie Grauer, 35, told The Washington Post that she was one of three marchers who were asked to leave the event because they were carrying Jewish Pride flags — a symbol that some in the crowd viewed as a symbol of Palestinian oppression.

The Dyke March has defended their decision, as have several other Leftist organizations. They claim that Israel’s oppression of Palestine justified kicking these people out. They further claim that Israel’s record on LGBT rights — which is the best in the entire continent of Asia — is simply “pinkwashing” their crimes against Palestinians. Because clearly Israel, with millions of conservative Jews, decided to embrace LGBT rights so no one would notice Gaza.

Now pair that reaction to this incident in Toronto in which Antifa activists tried to stop LGBT Muslims from demonstrating in the gay pride parade and calling out homophobia in Islamic countries. Their reason, they said, was that this would provide fuel to Islamophobes. This is not an isolated incident: there has been a curious silence from many on the Left about the oppression of LGBT folk in Muslim countries. This is the exact reason they give every time: they don’t want to promote hatred of Muslims. I understand that instinct. Oppression of LGBT people in majority-Mulim countries is sometimes used as a club to bash Muslims by people who don’t care about LGBT rights to begin with. But is pretending that gays don’t get murdered by Islamic radicals helping anyone? Why is it OK to call out Israel for Palestine but not to call out, say, Saudi Arabia, over gays?

Ask yourself: if you were an LGBT Muslim, which country would you rather live in? Israel, which grant full rights to Muslims and has the most gay-friendly legal regime on the continent? Or literally any other country in the Middle East? Tel Aviv is known as one of the most gay-friendly cities in the world. They don’t just have an annual gay pride parade; they have a gay pride week. There is literally no other country in that region where a gay pride parade would not be met with violence and oppression.

This is just one more piece of evidence that this “intersectionality” stuff is mostly garbage.

Intersectionality is the big idea of today’s progressive left. In theory, it’s the benign notion that every form of social oppression is linked to every other social oppression. This observation — coined in 1989 by Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw — sounds like just another way of rephrasing a slogan from a poster I had in college: My liberation is bound up with yours. That is, the fight for women’s rights is tied up with the fight for gay rights and civil rights and so forth. Who would dissent from the seductive notion of a global sisterhood?

Well, in practice, intersectionality functions as kind of caste system, in which people are judged according to how much their particular caste has suffered throughout history. Victimhood, in the intersectional way of seeing the world, is akin to sainthood; power and privilege are profane.

By that hierarchy, you might imagine that the Jewish people — enduring yet another wave of anti-Semitism here and abroad — should be registered as victims. Not quite.

Why? Largely because of Israel, the Jewish state, which today’s progressives see only as a vehicle for oppression of the Palestinians — no matter that Israel has repeatedly sought to meet Palestinian claims with peaceful compromise, and no matter that progressives hold no other country to the same standard. China may brutalize Buddhists in Tibet and Muslims in Xinjiang, while denying basic rights to the rest of its 1.3 billion citizens, but “woke” activists pushing intersectionality keep mum on all that.

The Left feels free to throw “intersectionality” out the window whenever it comes into conflict with their agenda — be it anti-Israel sentiment or anti-Islamophobia. To be fair: balancing various political interests is always a delicate dance. Just witness the mess going on in the Republican Congress as they try to balance Trumpers, establishment conservatives, mainstream conservatives, Tea Partiers and the needs of the country. But to be really fair, the Left has a long history of doing that dance by throwing anyone under the bus who they think is doing the wrong steps.

Electoral Reform Hits A Rock

Well, this was entirely predictable:

A Trump administration letter requesting data from all 50 state’s voting rolls has put some states and voting rights advocates on edge after many were already wary of the aims of the President’s commission on voting.

The Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity’s vice chairman, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, sent a letter to each state Wednesday asking a series of questions soliciting feedback about election administration, voter fraud and the integrity of the process. CNN obtained a copy of the letter sent to Maine’s secretary of state.

Kobach also requested that each state provide “publicly available voter roll data” as allowed under each state’s laws, which could include full names of registered voters, dates of birth, party registration, last four digits of Social Security numbers and voting history.

Multiple states, Republican and Democrat, have told the commission to go jump in an ocean. No, I mean that literally. Mississippi’s Secretary of State said, “They can go jump in the Gulf of Mexico, and Mississippi is a great state to launch from. Mississippi residents should celebrate Independence Day and our state’s right to protect the privacy of our citizens by conducting our own electoral processes.”

This is not surprising. Truly eliminating voter fraud, multiple registration and purging expired registration would require a national voter database. And the states zealously guard their ability to run their own elections, especially from someone like Kobach, who has long advocated a more aggressive approach to purging voter roles. I think they are absolutely in the right to refuse to provide this information and would almost certainly win a court battle over this. I’m surprised to see many liberal siding with the states here since a national voter database would be necessary if one wanted to abolish the Electoral College. But … their partisanship happens to line up with what’s right.

The NRA Ad

There are many reasons why, despite being a zealous supporter for the Second Amendment, I am not a member of the NRA. There is their support for the militarization of police and their unblinking support for police in all matters — as exemplified by their total silence on the Philando Castile matter. There is their response to school shootings, which involves putting armed officers in every school. There is their willingness to crush every other Amendment in the Constitution besides the one they like — especially the Fourth and Fifth Amendments. I can not abide an organization that says that the Second Amendment is necessary to prevent tyranny while happily allowing a tyrannical state apparatus to be put into place. And now there’s this, a deranged conspiratorial ad designed to make Americans feel terrified because liberals are saying nasty things about the President; an ad that seems to embrace police crackdowns on protest. These are not the words of an organization that is devoted to freedom. These are the words of an organization trying to cash in on fear. So I’ll side with them when they’re right on opposing gun control. But I can’t side with them on this nonsense.

This is one of the things that I have found bothersome about the Right Wing since about 2004. I understand being angry when your’e out of power. But the anger doesn’t seem to subside when we’re in power. If anything, it intensifies.

Today in “What A Surprise!”

I know, I know. You’re all shocked:

This paper evaluates the wage, employment, and hours effects of the first and second phase-in of the Seattle Minimum Wage Ordinance, which raised the minimum wage from $9.47 to $11 per hour in 2015 and to $13 per hour in 2016. Using a variety of methods to analyze employment in all sectors paying below a specified real hourly rate, we conclude that the second wage increase to $13 reduced hours worked in low-wage jobs by around 9 percent, while hourly wages in such jobs increased by around 3 percent. Consequently, total payroll fell for such jobs, implying that the minimum wage ordinance lowered low-wage employees’ earnings by an average of $125 per month in 2016. Evidence attributes more modest effects to the first wage increase. We estimate an effect of zero when analyzing employment in the restaurant industry at all wage levels, comparable to many prior studies.

Now, the study does come with some legitimate concerns about methodology. Among other things, it excluded workers who work with chains (which is about 40% of low-wage jobs) because that data is provided on a state, not a city, level. But the latest of multiple studies show that the Law of Supply and Demand does, in fact, apply to low-wage labor. And this does come from the very group the city commissioned to study the effect.

The thing I keep saying about the minimum wage is that it is literally gambling the lives of people on crackpot economic theory. To quote myself:

Here’s the thing: the Democrats are claiming, based on a grand total of one study that doesn’t say what they think it says, that we can raise the minimum wage without increasing unemployment. Let’s pretend that this point is up for debate and that we are, in effect, engaging in a massive gamble on the laws of economics. What is the downside risk if they’re wrong?

As I noted in my last post, long-term unemployment is one of the most damaging things that can happen to someone. It can repress earnings for a lifetime, it can affect health and happiness and, as we’ve seen in Europe, masses of unemployed young men can become a hotbed of crime and extremism. That’s the risk if they’re wrong.

The Democrats are gambling the futures of millions of people on this will-o-the-wisp idea that the Law of Supply and Demand is magically suspend for labor because … well, because the unions want it to be. If they’ve gambled wrong, they won’t be paying the price. Millions of poor people and minorities will. If the $15 wage causes mass unemployment, the effects will last for generations. It may not be reparable in our lifetime.

I’m glad the Democrats have a few pet economists who will tell them this is a low-risk bet. But it’s yet another illustration of how the Democrats “help” people by holding their heads underwater. I have no doubt that they think they are being compassionate. But gambling someone’s life on crackpot economic ideas is not compassion.

The last time we gambled our country on Left-Wing economic theory was when we deliberately inflated our currency in the 1960’s and 1970’s based on the idea that the Phillips Curve predicted it would end unemployment. We then ended up with both high inflation and high unemployment, which the Keynesians has assured us was mathematically impossible. It never ceases to amaze me how the Left will gamble so much on economic theory.