Published: Mon, 27 Mar 2017 00:00:00 -0400
Last Build Date: Mon, 27 Mar 2017 18:20:47 -0400
Fri, 10 Feb 2017 16:45:00 -0500"Any notion that the Trump administration is going to be a radical shift from past presidencies is erroneous. These executive orders indicate more of the same, and the same is disastrous," says Harvey Silverglate—the famed criminal defense and civil liberties attorney, author of the seminal book Three Felonies a Day: How the Feds Target the Innocent, and co-founder of the The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE)—in a phone interview with Reason. To be clear, Silverglate thinks the Trump administration has "no imagination" and that the harsh law and order rhetoric and wild exaggerations about the level of crime in the United States included in Trump's most recent executive orders are designed to "pamper" the law enforcement agencies tasked with enforcing the nation's laws. "I just had trouble understanding the Obama administration's claim to be a change agent, it really wasn't," Silverglate says. "You have to be—pardon me—smoking a lot of weed to believe that." "The Obama administration promised change, and then it turned out to be more of the same, more prosecutions," Silverglate adds. "And then at the very end, to save his name from historical infamy he issued a lot of pardons and commutations, but that doesn't change the fundamental nature of his two terms as president. Very little imagination, run by the bureaucrats. The law enforcement bureaucracy is not going to go away quietly and there's nobody trying to push them away except for a few libertarians." According to Silverglate, the intensity of the rhetoric in Trump's executive order is the most significant change to the federal approach to law enforcement. Trump's repeated assertions that we're in the midst of an unprecedented crime wave, despite data-based evidence to the contrary, is represented in the executive orders, but "we get more and more criminal laws every day, we get more prisoners every day. It's an industry, the law enforcement industry. And anyone who sees it as anything other than a cynical attempt to employ more law enforcement officers, incarcerate more people, and anything more than an opportunity for members of the government to grandstand on the law and order platform is misled." States who have legalized recreational marijuana or medical marijuana should probably expect a Justice Department crackdown under President Trump, and Silverglate also thinks "the marijuana laws are a very important component of the full employment program for law enforcement officers that has been in place for quite a few administrations. Constantly, we need more and more law enforcement officers to enforce these insane laws that criminalize personal behavior." Silverglate sees no hope for reform from the Trump administration, but thinks that a bipartisan goal for congress should be passing mens rea legislation. "If the laws are going to become more draconian and prison sentences are going to go up and there's going to be more law enforcement officers arresting more people, the least we can make sure is that the people sent to prison knew what they were doing was illegal," Silverglate tells Reason. "As a criminal defense lawyer, I'm willing to cut down my own business for the good of the public." Watch Reason TV's "When Everything is a Crime: Harvey Silverglate on the Overregulation of Ordinary Life" below: src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/SV9m9N8gP9c" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" width="560" height="340" frameborder="0">[...]
Thu, 02 Feb 2017 14:57:00 -0500For the Southern Poverty Law Center, the move suggests that "President Trump wants the government to stop its efforts to prevent terrorism by far-right extremists." For Jezebel, it's "another victory in a long series of wins for Neo Nazis, the KKK, and other violent and terroristic groups." Salon calls it "pandering to white supremacists." The target of their ire: a plan to rebrand the federal government's Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) program. According to Reuters, which cites "five people briefed on the matter," the Trump administration wants to rename it "Countering Radical Islamic Extremism," or maybe just "Countering Islamic Extremism," and to focus its attention on Muslim terrorists rather than the various domestic right-wing kinds. In practice, CVE's efforts are already focused overwhelmingly on Muslims. But the big question here shouldn't be which groups ought to be the program's targets. It's whether the program should exist at all. No matter whether it's aimed at Islamists, white nationalists, or anyone else, the CVE approach has two big problems. First: It rests on the idea that the best way to root out terrorism is to fight "radicalization." This idea has support among both Democrats and Republicans, but the evidence supporting it is sparse. When investigators at the British think tank Demos (not to be confused with the U.S.-based liberal group of the same name) spent two years studying the differences between violent and nonviolent radicals, they found that while nonviolent radicalism can be a stepping stone to terrorism, it can draw people away from terrorism too. Meanwhile, there were other forces pulling people into terrorism that didn't have much to do with ideology at all. Other probes have reached similar conclusions. So the focus here is all wrong: Radical ideas do not usually lead to violent tactics, and violent tactics do not emerge only from radical ideas. Second: That focus can lead to some serious civil liberties problems. "Even though the agencies running the programs promised that they wouldn't use CVE for intelligence purposes (as they did in earlier iterations of it), the program itself is designed to teach community members, teachers, police, social workers, and religious leaders to identify and report to law enforcement people showing signs of 'radicalization,'" comments Michael German, a former FBI agent who now hangs his hat at the Brennan Center for Justice. So in practice, he argues, you get "soft surveillance," and that surveillance "is intended to suppress ideas, which is likely to cause more problems than solve them. It encourages the identification, reporting, and 'treatment' of people with bad ideas, which will only lead to misuse of security resources and deprivation of civil liberties." Needless to say, that sort of surveillance can itself radicalize people. So CVE also runs the risk of contributing to the very process it's meant to stop. Rebranding "Countering Violent Extremism" as "Countering Radical Islamic Extremism" won't solve any of these issues. Indeed, it could conceivably make the effort even less effective. (German points out that the new name could alienate many of the Muslim groups whose cooperation the program relies on, since they could construe it as a sign the program is "antagonistic to the community.") But neither would it be a good idea to expend more CVE attention on the radical right; all the same problems would be in place there too. Better to drop the approach. End it, don't mend it.[...]
Tue, 31 Jan 2017 15:30:00 -0500Freedom House is a think tank devoted to promoting the expansion of freedom and democracy around the world. Every year, the organization releases a report updating how political and civil rights are faring in 195 countries. In its latest report, Freedom in the World 2017, the group finds that freedom has been receding for a decade after it peaked in 2006 when 47 percent of countries were free, 30 percent partly free and 23 percent were not free. The Freedom House analysts are particularly worried about the increase in tribalism, uh, nationalist populism, in Europe and the United States and crack-downs by emboldened autocrats, especially Xi in China and Putin in Russia. Freedom House measures freedom in each country on a scale of 0 to 100. The countries with the worst aggregate civil and political liberties scores included Syria (-1), Eritrea, Uzbekistan, North Korea (3 each), South Sudan and Turkmenistan (4 each). The countries that received the highest scores are Finland, Norway, Sweden (100 each), Netherlands (99), Australia, Luxembourg, New Zealand and Uruguay (98 each). The United States' aggregate score was 89 points. In comparison, China and Russia scored 15 and 20 points respectively. In its 2006 report, Freedom House noted, "On the whole, the state of freedom showed substantial improvement worldwide, with 27 countries and one territory registering gains and only 9 countries showing setbacks. The global picture thus suggests that the past year was one of the most successful for freedom since Freedom House began measuring world freedom in 1972." The more somber 2017 report observes, "A total of 67 countries suffered net declines in political rights and civil liberties in 2016, compared with 36 that registered gains. This marked the 11th consecutive year in which declines outnumbered improvements." Overall, the percent of free countries fell to 45 percent and percent of not free countries rose to 25 percent and partly free countries held steady at 30 percent. Back in 2011, independent political scientist Jay Ulfelder told my Reason colleague Jesse Walker that after period of making major gains the global trend toward greater freedom had plateaued and experienced some "minor slippage." Now Ulfelder acknowledges, "It's now getting to the point that talking about the erosion of freedom around the world is valid." By rescaling and parsing the Freedom House data on a 10 point population weighted scale Ulfelder aims to quantify how the average individual on earth is faring with respect to civil and political liberties. He calculates that global freedom peaked at 5.321 points in 2005 and has now dropped to 5.098 points; that is about back to where it stood at the turn of the millennium. In a more hopeful contrast, the latest Economic Freedom of the World report (using 2014 data) from the Fraser Institute found that "the economic freedom rating for advanced countries with ratings since 1985 has increased from 6.9 to 7.7 in 2014. The average chain-linked economic freedom rating for developing countries with ratings since 1985 has increased from 5.0 to 6.7 in 2014." However, if autocracy and nationalist populism continue to rise, I predict that this trend will be reversed and more people will soon be both poorer and less free.[...]
Mon, 30 Jan 2017 16:00:00 -0500Everything went to hell over the weekend for the immigrants and refugees who had been legally approved to live and travel in the United States but were then caught up in President Donald Trump's terrible executive order banning them from returning back into the country. I watched through social media the outraged reactions across the political spectrum from friends and analysts alike. The reasons for the opposition varied. Some (especially on the left) thought the order remarkably cruel. Others acknowledged the president's authority to generally regulate immigration rules but recognized this executive order as being poorly drafted and illegal. There was a reason that when I blogged about the stay on Trump's order I pointed to the argument by the American Civil Liberties Union that the order violated due process. For much of Saturday it felt very much like a coming together of anybody who valued human liberty and the rule of law across the political spectrum. I found it so much more an important and positive development than the women's march because it was about something very concrete and fundamental to American values. I've gotten so used to the reflexive, condescending "This is not who we are" derision that President Barack Obama's administration used to try to shut down criticism. It was different to see people across the political spectrum in significant agreement (though, yes, there were some exceptions), even if not for the same reasons. Then "#DeleteUber" happened, and I threw up my hands and yelled, "Goddammit!" In New York City, taxi drivers organized a work stoppage to stop ferrying travelers to John F. Kennedy Airport for an hour in solidarity with those who were being detained there. I will admit that I was at first utterly mystified as to how refusing to transport people in New York for a while would help resolve any of this at all, but after reading their Facebook statement, I realized that it wasn't really a "strike" so much as taking an hour so that they could participate in the protests as well. Uber continued ferrying travelers and—interestingly—announced that it was ending its price surge. While Uber catches a lot of flak for having price surges at peak hours from people who don't understand basic supply-and-demand economics, they caught flak this time for continuing service. They were perceived as trying to "break" this strike. In addition, Uber CEO Travis Kalanick has agreed to join Trump's economic advisory team (along with the likes of Elon Musk and Disney CEO Bob Iger). Despite a Facebook post from Kalanick declaring that Uber was going to do what it could to assist drivers who would be negatively affected by Trump's executive order, this apparently wasn't enough for some. A social media movement sprang up to encourage people to delete the Uber app from their phones and go with a rival like Lyft instead. Under normal circumstances and with other companies, this would merit a shrug from libertarians (it might still). Uber has a right to operate, but it doesn't have a right to customers. People have the right to choose with whom to do business and to use public pressure to influence company decisions. In this case, I don't think either side has behaved unethically or illegally. So why the frustration? First of all, we can't look at this protest in a vacuum. Uber is a company that is frequently targeted by protectionist taxi cartels and unions (and leftist supporters), and they're willing to use their power and influence to use government force to stop Uber's operations as much as they can. There is a bit of an obvious political trap going on here, and Uber kind of fell into it. Second, the response is symptomatic of a deeply entrenched desire to use a communal form of punishment against those who are perceived as straying from established ideological positions. It's practically a reflexive response at this point to find somebody to attack. Why do headlines like "Can Taylor Swift call herself a feminist after skipp[...]
Wed, 11 Jan 2017 12:25:00 -0500The second day of confirmation hearings into the nomination of Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) for attorney general takes place today, beginning with a series of testimonials from witnesses who will then be questioned by members of the committee. Reason's Eric Boehm noted that Sessions got away with offering only "unclear, useless answers on marijuana" during the first day of hearings, and some liberals wanted a more contentious hearing with aggressive questioning from the committee's Democratic senators and less of the Senate's typically staid rules of decorum that often provides cover for evasive answers. Wade Henderson of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights told CNN, "The first day of Senator Sessions' confirmation hearing proved that the rushed nature of the confirmation process places senatorial collegiality over the advice and consent responsibilities that are the Senate's constitutional duty." Late in the first day of hearings yesterday, Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) noted that police unions adore Sessions, to which Sessions added he believes the Obama administration failed to provide adequate support for local police departments. Sessions promised that as attorney general, he would place fewer restrictions on federal financial assistance to local PDs (who sometimes lose federal grant funding for lack of compliance with federal law) and cut back on efforts designed to curtail police misconduct. Sessions also reiterated his skepticism of consent decrees—federally enforced reforms and monitoring imposed by the courts on cities with demonstrated records of police misconduct. Sessions hedged just a bit in his opposition to consent decrees, saying some consent decrees "could be a legitimate decision." In the foreward for a 2008 paper published by the Alabama Policy Institute, Sessions wrote, "One of the most dangerous, and rarely discussed, exercises of raw power is the issuance of expansive court decrees." Ex-Reasoner Radley Balko posted in his Washington Post column a series of excellent questions pertaining to civil liberties and federalism that Sessions should be asked (but likely won't): You said this in 2007: "The civil libertarians among us would rather defend the constitution than protect our nation's security." Do you believe these two things are incompatible? If sworn in as attorney general, you'll take an oath to defend and uphold the Constitution. Let's say that once in office, you're faced with a situation in which you believe it is necessary to violate the Constitution in order to protect national security. Let's say that the actions you think you need to take aren't constitutionally ambiguous — you yourself believe they're unconstitutional. What would you do? ... You're also a strong advocate of "states' rights," or federalism. Many states whose legislatures don't share your view of civil asset forfeiture have passed laws to restrict or even end the practice. The federal government responded with its "equitable sharing" program, which allows police agencies in such states to call up a federal law enforcement agency such as the Drug Enforcement Administration when they want to confiscate some property. The investigation is then considered "federal," which means it's controlled by federal forfeiture laws, not the more restrictive state laws. This would seem to be a direct infringement on the intent of those states' legislatures, wouldn't you agree? The Obama administration has tried to limit the practice, though it hasn't ended it. Would you repeal the Obama reforms to equitable sharing, strengthen them or end them? Speaking of federalism, you also have some strong feelings about marijuana legalization. You recently said that "good people don't smoke marijuana" and that the drug is "already causing a disturbance in the states that have made it legal." You've been critical of Obama and his Justice Department for not cracking down on the states that have legalized the drug. Can you poin[...]
Sun, 08 Jan 2017 09:59:00 -0500Nat Hentoff, the prolific critic, journalist, and civil libertarian, passed away yesterday at age 91. His son Nick reports that he "died surrounded by family listening to Billie Holiday," which I suspect is exactly how he wanted to go. Hentoff wrote many things, from young adult novels to the sleeve notes of an early Bob Dylan album. But he was most famous for two great passions: his defenses of the Bill of Rights, especially Amendment One, and his enthusiastic writing about music, especially jazz. When people talk about old-school liberals who'd defend to the death your right to say anything you want, chances are good that Hentoff is the fellow they've got in mind. In his columns for The Village Voice and The Washington Post and in articles for countless other venues (including Reason), he pounded away at the evils of censorship, and he didn't care if the censor had a left-wing agenda or a right-wing one. If anything, he seemed especially perturbed when people he expected to share his values started stomping on individual liberties. Hentoff was less likely to be called a liberal later in life. That's partly because his brand of free-speech absolutism was growing less common on the left, and it's partly because of his heterodoxy on abortion. (Hentoff was pro-life, arguing against abortion on the same grounds that he argued against capital punishment and war. Or, at least, against some wars—he eventually rended his seamless garment to support interventions in Rwanda and Iraq.) But you couldn't really cast him as a man of the right either: Besides his intense distrust for the police agencies that conservatives tend to revere, he was a longtime democratic socialist who held onto a lot of his leftist economic ideas in old age. It's not even quite right to call him an ACLU liberal, because he kept butting heads with the ACLU. (The nation's most prominent civil libertarian organization wasn't always civil libertarian enough for him.) Best to think of him as his own man, with at least a couple of views to offend pretty much anyone. He would have left a substantial legacy even if he had never written about politics at all, thanks to his work in the music world. His criticism covered several genres—one of my favorite articles of his was an appreciation of the country singer Merle Haggard—but his great love was jazz, a topic on which he wrote whole volumes. He produced several jazz albums too, by artists ranging from Max Roach to Cecil Taylor, and he had a hand in the great 1957 TV special The Sound of Jazz, which my colleague Kurt Loder once called "a landmark of televised jazz that has never been surpassed." (Watch it here.) But it was his political writing that left its biggest mark on me. I grew up reading Hentoff's attacks on censorship and surveillance, and whatever disagreements I sometimes had with him on other topics I learned a lot from his uncompromising consistency on those issues. For a taste of just how committed to free speech he was, I'll wrap up this obit with a video of him attacking the existence of libel laws, a hardcore position that even some of the fiercest civil libertarians aren't willing to accept. (For the record: I think he's right.) The video, shot in 1986, shows him debating the Objectivist philosopher David Kelley, who argues that we need libel suits to protect our "right to a reputation." When it came to regulations on speech, Nat Hentoff could make even a Randian look like a big-government guy by comparison: src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/ge57bIoTXoY" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" width="560" height="315" frameborder="0">[...]
Thu, 17 Nov 2016 13:45:00 -0500
Last night on The Kelly File, Carl Higbie, the spokesman for a pro-Trump PAC, defended the idea of a federal registry of Muslims by citing the World War II–era internment of Japanese Americans as a precedent, weakly adding "call it what you will, it may be wrong":
src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/SkjCgb7K1ZQ" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" width="560" height="315" frameborder="0">
Megyn Kelly immediately leaped on this, and Higbie quickly declared that he did not in fact favor internment camps. The video then went viral.
The video also gave me a dose of deja vu. Last December, shortly after Trump started pitching the idea of keeping Muslims out of America, this exchange took place on Good Morning America:
(image) DONALD TRUMP: What I'm doing is no different than what FDR— FDR's solution for German, Italian, Japanese...
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: So you're for internment camps?
TRUMP: This was a president highly respected by all. He did the same thing. If you look at what he was doing, it was far worse. I mean, he was talking about the Germans because we're at war. We are now at war. We have a president that doesn't want to say that...
STEPHANOPOULOS: I've got to press you on that, sir. You're praising FDR there. I take it you're praising the setting up of internment camps for Japanese in World War 2?
TRUMP: No, I'm not. No, I'm not. No, I'm not. Take a look at Presidential Proclamations 2525, 2526, and 2527—having to do with alien Germans, alien Italians, alien Japanese—and what they did. You know, they stripped them of their naturalization proceedings. They went through a whole list of things. They couldn't go five miles from their homes. They weren't allowed to use radios, flashlights. I mean, you know, take a look at what FDR did many years ago. And he's one of the most highly respected presidents by—I mean, respected by most people. They name highways after him.
The good news, I guess, is that Trump said he wasn't in favor of the camps. The bad news is that he thought Hey, at least it's not as bad as this stuff that FDR did! was a compelling argument, just as Higbie seemed to think It may be wrong, but it's a legal precedent! would be a compelling argument last night. Is this the way the next four years are going to go? "I'd like to point out that this bill is not nearly as restrictive as the Alien and Sedition Acts." "You may not like the Palmer Red Raids, but you must admit they showed this could be done." "Eisenhower was president when COINTELPRO started, and they've got a memorial to him right here in D.C.!"
You want some more bad news? Korematsu v. United States—the 1944 Supreme Court decision that declared the Japanese internment camps constitutional—is still technically the law of the land. Sleep tight, mates.
Bonus link: "America's Other World War II Internment Camps."
Fri, 11 Nov 2016 13:03:00 -0500Will President-elect Donald Trump be the autocratic leader feared by so many? Or is he all talk, and merely played the electorate using bluster and vulgarity as his means of shaking up the system? A number of pro-civil liberties organizations are willing to take Trump at his word, and have released statements indicating how they intend to resist any potentional assaults on American constitutional rights. Freedom of the Press Foundation's Trevor Timm wrote of the next president's aversion to the First Amendment and promised to hold him accountable if he makes good on any of his threats to sue journalists and their employers, or to "open up libel laws" to enable such efforts. Timm also noted Trump "has blamed 'freedom of the press' for a terrorist attack in New York and has said the press has 'too much protection' under the First Amendment." (To be sure, Hillary Clinton said essentially the same thing, but she's not going to be president, Trump is.) Amnesty International's Salil Shetty wrote in a press release that "President-elect Trump must publicly commit to upholding the human rights of all without discrimination." Human Rights Watch's Kenneth Roth wrote that although Trump "found a path to the White House through a campaign marked by misogyny, racism, and xenophobia," he should push to uphold the rule of law and lead a U.S. government that "demonstrates a better record on issues like the rights of women and children, criminal justice, Guantanamo, drone strikes outside conventional war zones, and justice for torture." (The "drone strikes" mention seems like a subtle—and necessary—dig at a favorite Obama administration tactic.) The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) outlined the many ways they plan to defend an assualt on civil liberties by the Trump administration, and its executive director warned the incoming president they "will see him in court" should he make good on a number of his proposed policies. Regarding Trump's plan to engage in the mass deportation of over 11 million undocumented immigrants, the ACLU says the government would have to arrest "more than 15,000 people a day on immigration charges, seven days a week, 365 days a year." To accomplish that would require actions which would "undoubtedly violate the Fourth Amendment's prohibition 'against unreasonable searches and seizures.'" The ACLU asserts that Trump's dubious threat to ban Muslim U.S. citizens or legal residents from re-entering the country would violate "the Fifth and 14th Amendments from revoking an American's citizenship and banishing him based on the person's creed," adding, "any religion-based bar on lawful permanent residents trying to reenter the country would violate the due process clause." The ACLU's lawyers also concluded that "Trump's policies, if implemented, would lead to a heavy edit of the Constitution. The First, Fourth, Fifth, and Eighth Amendments to the Constitution would no longer protect certain people."[...]
Tue, 08 Nov 2016 07:00:00 -0500
Election Day is upon us and Americans are heading to the voting booths by the millions. The choices before the electorate are, by and large, deeply unappetizing and, whatever the outcome of the elections, America's freedoms and institutions will likely continue to take a beating in the years to come. Last week, I looked at the state of freedom globally. Today, the focus is America.
First, consider the good news. The United States has maintained a perfect "democracy" score since 1871 and citizens continue to elect freely their local, state and federal governments.
America's record on protecting civil liberties, such as freedom of expression, also surpasses that of much of the world. Since Freedom House began collecting data on civil liberties in 1971, the United States has consistently received the best score possible.
Americans also have more extensive political rights than most of our fellow human beings, although the political rights gap is slowly narrowing.
Unfortunately, on several indicators, America has recently been trending in an unfortunate direction. Consider freedom of the press, measured on a scale from 1 (most free) to 100 (least free). Between 1993 and 2014, U.S. freedom of the press dropped by 10 points.
Government accountability (i.e., public perceptions of the extent to which citizens are able to influence their government) has also been deteriorating in the United States.
When it comes to corruption (i.e., perceptions of the extent to which public power is exercised for private gain, including both petty and grand forms of corruption, as well as "capture" of the state by elites and private interests), America's score is deteriorating.
The United States has also been falling in terms of government transparency, which measures the availability of credible aggregate economic data that a country discloses to the public.
Finally, consider economic freedom. Once again, we are moving—rapidly—in the wrong direction. Economic freedom in the United States still exceeds the world average, but if current trends continue, that will soon no longer be the case.
Americans have long enjoyed a level of freedom and quality of institutions that are still denied to the majority of humanity. But, if some of the worrying trends that can be seen above continue, America may not always be the "land of the free."
Tue, 01 Nov 2016 07:00:00 -0400These are interesting times to be an American. The people's trust in the U.S. institutions is plummeting and the outcome of the presidential election, however it ends, is unlikely to reverse that trend. Over at Human Progress, we have a whole section of the website devoted to "good governance" indicators. As you'll see in the charts below, it is a mixed bag. People around the world appear to be growing freer, but their governments are getting less transparent and more corrupt. Could these diverging trends be the key to understanding of the people's growing dissatisfaction with their ruling elites? Our political rights index reflects the ability of people to participate freely in the political process, including the right to vote freely for distinct alternatives in legitimate elections, compete for public office, join political parties and organizations, and elect representatives who have a decisive impact on public policies and are accountable to the electorate. On a scale from 1 (best) to 7 (worst), the world has experienced substantial improvement. Our freedom of the press index evaluates the legal environment for the media, political pressures that influence reporting, and economic factors that affect access to news and information. Freedom of the press, which is measured on a scale from 1 (worst) to 100 (best), is at an all time high. Our civil liberties index measures freedom of expression and belief, associational and organizational rights, rule of law, and personal autonomy without interference from the state. On a scale from 1 (best) to 7 (worst), the world has experienced considerable improvement since the early 1970s. Unfortunately, civil liberties have deteriorated somewhat since 2005. Our data on democracy versus autocracy over time codes democratic and autocratic "patterns of authority." It measures key qualities of executive recruitment, constraints on executive authority and political competition. It also records changes in the institutionalized qualities of governing authority. Country scores can be converted into three regime categories: autocracies (-10 to -6), anocracies or partial democracies (-5 to +5) and democracies (+6 to +10). Today, the average country scores a "4" and is considered a partial-democracy. The government transparency index measures the availability of credible aggregate economic data that a country discloses to the public. Here we have seen substantial deterioration since the apex of government transparency ten years ago. The corruption perceptions index scores countries on how corrupt their public sectors are seen to be, and captures the informed views of analysts, businesspeople and experts in countries around the world. Once again, corruption, which is measured on a scale from 0 (worst) to 100 (best) around the world, seems to be worsening. [...]
Tue, 25 Oct 2016 16:00:00 -0400A British man has been banned from entering bars after 9 p.m. and must alert police every time he intends to have sexual contact with someone new after being found innocent of sexual assault and rape charges in two jury trials. Think you must have read the above sentence wrong? Probably not. Despite being deemed innocent by his peers—twice—Nicholas Crawshaw, 23, is now subject to a civil "Sex Risk Order" after local cops weren't content to let the trials-by-jury stand. Initially, Crawshaw stood accused of sexually assaulting eight women between 2010 and 2015. In March 2016, a jury found him not guilty of several of the counts but couldn't decide on others, spawning a retrial. In that trial, which concluded October 18, Crawshaw was found not guilty of the remaining eight offenses. After spending 16 months in prison—and being cleared of all six counts of rape, three counts of sexual assault, and two counts of assault by penetration that had been facing him—Crawshaw was allowed to go free. Following the second trial, local prosecutor Alison Mutch said, "We respect the decision of the jury." But that respect was apparently short-lived. On October 21, just three days after Crawshaw was cleared of all charges against him, Cheshire Police initiated civil proceedings to impose an interim "Sex Risk Order" on Crawshaw. Speaking for Cheshire Police, Elizabeth Heavy told the court that Crawshaw was a "sexual predator" who had "admitted sexual contact" with several of the women who had accused him. Crawshaw "admitted in the course of criminal proceedings that he had sex with one complainant in a toilet in a nightclub," Heavy pointed out, and he said he met "many" complainants in nightclubs or bars. "It is for [these] reasons that the application has been drafted," she said. It's true that Crawshaw admitted to sexual contact with some of his accusers. It's also, on its own, irrelevant to whether he's a "sexual predator." The sexual contact Crawshaw admitted to was, he claims, consensual. The accusers claimed it was not. The jury found Crawshaw more credible. But West Cheshire magistrates agreed, at least temporarily, with the local cops' logic in this case. On Monday, they issued a temporary Sex Risk Order against Crawshaw which prohibits him from going into places that serve alcohol after 9 p.m. and requires him to inform local police beforehand every time he intends to have "sexual contact" with someone new. In November, magistrates will hold a full hearing to determine how long the order will stay in place. According to Sky News, more than 50 Sex Risk Orders have been issued by British authorities, although only one prior order requires its subject to notify the government of every new sex partner. That order, issued in 2015 against John O'Neill, was subsequently deemed "unpoliceable" by a York Magistrates' Court. However, the only adjustment York magistrates made to O'Neill's order was that he needn't inform cops 24 hours before starting a new sexual relationship but merely "as soon as is reasonably practicable."[...]
Thu, 22 Sep 2016 10:05:00 -0400Cook County's Tom Dart, the prostitution-obsessed sheriff who launched a national month of police playing sex workers to arrest "johns" and unconstitutionally threatened Visa and Mastercard for doing business with the ad-site Backpage, has found a new way to threaten people's privacy, screw over sex workers, and grow the police state. The latest Dart-led initiative involves creating a national database of prostitution customers, using solicitation-arrest data submitted by cops through a phone app. Demand Abolition—a Massachusetts-based advocacy group that recently gave Boston Police $30,000 to look into new strategies to target prostitution customers—reported on Sheriff Dart's new plot in a late-August post crowing that "1,300 sex buyers—a record—were arrested across 18 states in just one month" of Dart's National John Suppression Initiative. Now, the sheriff is using data from that sting to start a national database of people arrested for soliciting prostitution. You know, for research purposes. "We are well on our way to developing a stronger, more nuanced understanding of who buyers are—information that can be used to find new ways to change their behavior," Demand Abolition chirps. This year's sex stings led to an "unprecedented level of buyer data collected, and shared, by this year's arresting officers," notes Demand Abolition. This is thanks to a new app that streamlines the logging of prostitution arrest information. The app was developed at a January "social justice hackathon", in which a hundred or so techies were presided over by a team of anti-prostitution zealots from across the country—including Dart, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, and Seattle-area prosecutor Val Richey (for more on Richey's work, see my recent series of stories on Seattle prostitution busts). The presumably well-intentioned developers and data scientists were told their work would help put an end to human trafficking, but the tools they developed are designed for police to target and track adults engaging in consensual prostitution. The January hackathon, funded by Thomson Reuters' Data Innovation Lab, gave birth to what Demand Abolition is calling an "arrest app," which "allows officers to easily log arrest info into a national database, which Dart's team can then use to identify trends in buyer demographics." During the last John Suppression Initiative, cops logged info from 80 percent of all arrests into the database. Keeping the personal info of people arrested for prostitution-related charges in one handy national database might help with whatever new Vice-Squad-on-Steroids agenda that Dart is designing. But it's obviously worrisome from a privacy perspective. Keeping all that sensitive information in one place would seem to make it a ripe target for hackers, but nowhere do Demand Abolition or Dart even mention cybersecurity. It's also important to note that the people being logged in the database have merely been arrested for, not convicted of, any crimes. Yet the arrest app isn't concerned with case outcomes. If police arrest someone and the charges are later dropped or beat, that person will still be counted in Dart's database as having been picked up in a sex sting. I reached out to the Cook County Sheriff's Office to get more details about the app and database—what security measures are in place, whether the info collected is subject to public-records requests, etc.—and will update if I hear back. Update: Cook County Sheriff's Office Press Secretary Sophia Ansari said no individual names or case numbers will be entered into the database. "Demographic information entered includes age range, race, marital status and education level–but that information is never connected to an individual or a number that could be connected [...]
Wed, 21 Sep 2016 23:24:00 -0400
(image) What can we learn from the fact that a half-dozen Muslim terrorists on American soil had gotten onto the radar screen of U.S. law enforcement before committing their foul deeds? One lesson, as Scott Shackford has observed in these pages, is that the seeming detection failures of targeted investigations render absurd all the time wasted on dumb, constitutionally questionable mass surveillance. But that still leaves the Monday-morning quarterback questions of did the FBI blow it, and what could law enforcement do differently?
We chew on these subjects and more on tonight's Red Eye w/ Tom Shillue at 3 a.m. on Fox News, where I will be panelizing along with comedians Alli Breen and Sam Roberts, and Fox News contributor Pete Hegseth. Other topics include whether Jack Shafer is an American hero or anti-hysteria hysteric (or both), and whether this barftastic Joss Whedon celebrity vote-against-Trump ad will turn us all into alt-righties sooner rather than later.
To whet your late-night appetite, here's the last time I appeared on Red Eye:
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Wed, 21 Sep 2016 09:15:00 -0400
One Friday evening last September, Connecticut resident Michael Picard was doing what he usually does: standing on a strip of grass by an Interstate onramp and protesting the government.
Picard, a local privacy activist, often protests police DUI checkpoints, which he believes are unconstitutional and a waste of money. That night he was holding a sign warning motorists of a DUI checkpoint farther up the road. Picard, like any good protester these days, also had a camera to document his interactions with police.
What he ended capturing on video is now at the center of a civil rights lawsuit filed Monday on Picard's behalf by the Connecticut ACLU against three state troopers, whom Picard claims illegally seized his camera and then conspired to fabricate charges against him. Unbeknownst to the officers, though, the camera was still recording.
Watch the video:
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According the lawsuit, Connecticut state trooper John Barone confronted Picard, saying he had received complaints from passing motorists that Picard, who also open-carries a handgun, was waving his gun in the air. (The ACLU says there were never any such complaints and that Picard kept his gun holstered at all times.) After claiming it was illegal for Picard to film him, Barone snatched the camera and put it on the roof of his police cruiser while he and other officers discussed what charges to hit Picard with.
"You want to punch a number on this either way?" Barone asked one of his supervising officers, police slang for opening an investigation and entering a case number. "Gotta cover our ass."
"We could hit him with reckless use of the highway by a pedestrian and creating a public disturbance," Sgt. John Jacobi suggested.
"And then we claim in backup we had multiple people who stopped to complain," Master Sgt. Patrick Torneo added later in the conversation. "They didn't want to stay and offer a statement, so we took our own course of action."
The officers ticketed Picard, returned his camera and gun, and told him to protest in another location. It took Picard more than a year to get the criminal charges against him dismissed.
In the lawsuit, the ACLU says the three state troopers retaliated against Picard, violating his First Amendment rights to protest and film the government, as well as his Fourth Amendment rights against unreasonable search and seizure.
"Community members like me have a right to film government officials doing their jobs in public, and we should be able to protest without fearing political retribution from law enforcement," Picard said in a statement. "As an advocate for free speech, I'm deeply disappointed that these police officers ignored my rights, particularly because two of the troopers involved were supervisors who should be setting an example for others. By seeking to hold these three police officers accountable, I hope that I can prevent the same thing from happening to someone else."
A spokesperson for the Connecticut State Police said the issue was subject to an ongoing investigation and declined to comment.
Wed, 14 Sep 2016 10:00:00 -0400David Beito and Marcus Witcher begin their paper in the latest Independent Review with a familiar-sounding story about a witch-hunting 1950s congressional committee demanding that a witness name names: Nobody was quite sure what Edward A. Rumely would say in testimony before the U.S House Select Committee on Lobbying in 1950. Would he name names, plead the Fifth Amendment, or defy the committee and thus risk possible jail time? Rumely chose defiance, declaring, "I will not give you the names of people who have bought our books. You are invading our constitutional rights." Instead of the Fifth, he pleaded the First Amendment. Even before this encounter, the chairman of the House committee, Frank Buchanan, had warned that the unfriendly witness risked a contempt resolution. He vowed not to "permit Mr. Rumely or his organization to divert this hearing into an argument over constitutional rights." It may sound like a Hollywood reenactment of the McCarthy era, but the Buchanan Committee wasn't hunting reds—not yet, anyway. Rumely was the co-founder of the Committee to Uphold Constitutional Government, a group that had been launched to stop Franklin Roosevelt's court-packing scheme and had gone on to oppose much of Roosevelt and Truman's policy agendas. The people Rumely was refusing to identify were the people who had purchased his group's books in bulk. The Buchanan Committee was investigating "lobbies," and it wanted to know who was buying the books on the grounds that this would reveal who Rumely's financial backers were. Beito and Witcher frame the Buchanan Committee's probe as the last act of the first Brown Scare, Leo Ribuffo's term for the '30s/'40s hunt for subversives on the right. But by the end of the story, they note, the congressmen were red-baiting as well as brown-baiting. Eager to prove its balance, the committee decided to investigate the Civil Rights Congress (CRC), a clash that culminated with the committee demanding that the group reveal the donors who had contributed to the CRC's defense of a black man facing execution in Jim Crow Mississippi. Along the way, one Georgia congressman denounced CRC witness William Patterson as a "black son of a bitch" and a "chocolate covered Communist." Transpartisan alliances formed. When Congress considered a resolution to hold Rumely in contempt, the opposition came from conservatives—and from Vito Marcantonio, the most left-wing man in the House. When Patterson was the one facing a contempt resolution, several southern Democrats switched sides and supported the measure, but the opposition that remained was still a radical/conservative coalition. Both resolutions passed, but the Supreme Court eventually ruled in Rumely's favor, a precedent that proved useful to people in other parts of the spectrum. "Joseph McCarthy's leftist targets cited United States v. Rumely when refusing to name names," Beito and Witcher note. And "in NAACP v. Alabama, the U.S. Supreme Court cited United States v. Rumely when it upheld the NAACP's right to deny the state of Alabama the names of its members." It's a largely forgotten chapter in the history of civil liberties, and it should be especially engrossing to anyone interested in how anti-left and anti-right repression can feed on each other. I've barely scratched the surface of the story; to read the whole thing, go here.[...]