Posts Tagged ‘WO writings’

Baltimore moves to seize Preakness Stakes race

Baltimore mayor Catherine Pugh has filed suit seeking to seize the famed Preakness Stakes race — trademarks, business deals, and all — through eminent domain. I’ve got a few things to say about that in Monday’s Wall Street Journal. Ilya Somin at Volokh Conspiracy has an analysis that quotes my piece.

For those just catching up with the underlying story, Pamela Wood covers it at the Baltimore Sun/Capital Gazette as does Robert H. Thomas at Inverse Condemnation. See also my 2014 Cato take on an earlier episode in Maryland’s history of “smash and grab” eminent domain methods.

The unreliable count of hate crimes

Laws on hate crimes raise longstanding questions of fairness both in theory and application, including (when enacted at the federal level) dangers of overextension of federal criminal law and inroads on the prohibition against double jeopardy. The role of hate crimes as culture war rallying points can make things worse. In the Jussie Smollett episode, journalists came under fire for raising questions about unlikely elements of the actor’s story — Smollett had been “doubly victimized as the subject of speculation by the media industry and broader culture,” said the head of one progressive outfit — and even for hedging their stories about with words like “allegedly.”

After Smollett’s story fell apart, some advocates argued that no matter what might have happened this one time, data show that hate crimes are sharply on the rise and reports of them hardly ever prove unfounded. Is that the case? I tackle the question in a new piece at Inside Sources

An oft-repeated talking point is that FBI statistics last year, to quote Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), “revealed a 17 percent increase in the number of hate crimes in America.”

Let’s be polite and say those FBI figures are difficult to interpret….

In the state of Oregon, the college town of Eugene reported 72 hate crimes to the FBI in 2017, about as many as the rest of the state put together. According to the Daily Emerald, the difference reflects “the city’s active approach. … The city carefully catalogs reported instances … and even classifies certain crimes — such as vandalism — as a hate crime that other cities would classify in a different way.”

Word is that the Eugene approach is spreading as other cities get interested in steps such as asking officers to write up on their own initiative as a hate incident a graffiti epithet they might see, rather than only if a public complaint happens to come in.

Should those methods spread in coming years, the FBI count of reported hate incidents is sure to mount — yet still not demonstrate with any certainty a genuine rise.

For whatever reason, many of us are predisposed to accept findings that seem to highlight the prevalence of terrible injustice. The impulse to believe extends to matters of scholarship. So it was with a recently retracted 2014 study that purportedly found “structural stigma” in society shortens the lives of LGBT persons by a remarkable 12 years. The authors acknowledged that they had inadvertently committed a coding error with the data; once it was corrected, there was no statistically significant correlation at all between “structural stigma” and mortality. Yet the paper, with its inherently implausible findings, had already achieved “highly cited paper” status, and has continued to garner citations even after its retraction.

More: David Kopel 2003 (recommending stronger penalties for the perpetration of hoaxes).

In the New York Post: “Trump is chipping away at Obama’s remade federal courts”

Are the federal courts really becoming a lost cause for liberal Democrats? My new piece for the New York Post, complete with detailed map, examines claims that Trump administration nominations are transforming the lower federal courts, with results that, as the cliche goes, will last for generations. But “the nature of the courts in our system is not that one side wins any permanent victories on judicial selection. And that’s a good thing.” Over the eight years of the Obama presidency, of the 13 federal appeals courts, the number with a majority of Republican appointees fell from 10 to 4; even though Trump has had a higher number than usual of holdover vacancies to fill, that number for the moment remains 4.

Green emergencies and grownups

“An end to industrial civilization, but like in a totally pro-union way.” My two cents at Ricochet on the politics of this week’s “Green New Deal” boomlet, the land of pure imagination that exists beyond trade-offs, and the likelihood of universal high-speed rail’s getting even through its preliminary litigation stages, let alone built and operating, within ten years.

Consent decrees: an exchange

My piece of two weeks ago for National Review about consent decrees, police, and the Jeff Sessions memo (briefly summarized here) drew a detailed response from Radley Balko in the Washington Post, whose writings on police misconduct I often link here. I’ve now responded in a second NR piece, arguing that while there is much common ground to be found on the issues here, I will stick with seeing the memo as generally on the right track in articulating proper limits to the feds’ constitutional role (especially under the post-Civil War Amendments) in restraining misconduct by lower levels of government. “The very real and sometimes dire failings of local governments do not change the most important fact about our federal government, which is that it is one of limited powers.”

Nathan Glazer, R.I.P.

My obituary for the great sociologist is up at the Washington Examiner magazine. “Because of his long association with the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research, at which I was a fellow, I got to spend time with him on many occasions and he formed my model of the character of a public intellectual: benevolent, wise, curious, kind, and unassuming, his mind well-stocked with knowledge of all sorts, always taking the long view…..Rather than bicker about theory with his former progressive colleagues, Glazer simply showed again and again that their prescriptions had failed to work on behalf of the intended beneficiaries.”

Justice Department revamps consent decree rules: what the press missed

The feds plan to be less heavy-handed in using consent decrees to micromanage states and cities, and there’s a good case for that, I argue at National Review. Alas, as I explain, national media bungled the story in November by characterizing Jeff Sessions’s memo as if it were primarily aimed at reducing oversight of police. “Not once in its seven pages does the word ‘police’ even appear.”

My short piece doesn’t take up the question of how the well-documented problems of consent decrees in other areas are to be weighed against the possible advantages of the device in curbing abuse-prone police departments. But at least some advocates of police reform and accountability have expressed doubts about whether the process, which can sometimes take political pressure off the local authority, really works as advertised [David Meyer Lindenberg, Tim Lynch, Scott Greenfield; see also John McGinnis]

Supreme Court hears “bare-metal” asbestos case

Modern asbestos litigation has been described as an unending quest for the solvent defendant. Air and Liquid Systems v. DeVries, argued in October before the Supreme Court, presents the question of whether to permit suits against companies that made products containing no asbestos, “on the grounds that they had reason to foresee that the mineral would be used in conjunction with the products they did make.” I discuss the case in this new Reason piece.

More coverage of the oral argument from Brandi Buchman, Courthouse News and Ronald Mann, SCOTUSBlog reporting before and after. See also Robert H. Wright, Washington Legal Foundation; Federalist Society link roundup and video with Justin Torres of King and Spalding (& welcome SCOTUSBlog readers).

NYT: credit card companies should cut off (or report) gun sales

In the New York Times, financial writer Andrew Ross Sorkin asks why credit card companies and banks should not be made to monitor customers’ accounts for unusual gun purchases and share the information with law enforcers. Excerpts from my response at Cato.

…In an advocacy piece imperfectly dressed up as a news story, New York Times financial reporter Andrew Ross Sorkin observes that some perpetrators of mass public shootings have bought guns and ammo using credit cards, and asks why credit card companies and banks should not be made to stop this. How? Well, they could “create systems to track gun purchases that would allow them to report suspicious patterns” and “prevent [customers] from buying multiple guns in a short period of time.” Invoking the Patriot Act – you knew that was coming, didn’t you? – the piece goes on to ask why the sweeping financial-snooping powers bestowed on the feds by that act should not be deployed against everyday civilians who purchase more guns than would seem fit for them to buy.,,,

The piece mentions one reason gun dealers are reluctant to pass on to banks information about what products their customers buy: someone else might come into possession of the list and know to pitch guns to those names. It doesn’t spell out nearly as clearly what might seem a bigger fear about a who-bought-guns data file, namely that it would go a long way toward identifying owners once confiscation of existing weaponry gets on the table as a proposal. The ACLU may not care about gun rights, but as Sorkin concedes, one of its policy analysts gets to much the same point by a different route: “The implication of expecting the government to detect and prevent every mass shooting is believing the government should play an enormously intrusive role in American life.”

Whole piece here.

P.S. Scott Greenfield: And just wait till they accomplish their crackdown on transactions in cash. More: David French, James Setterlund.

A ban on airbrushing?

Jameela Jamil (“The Good Place”) wants to ban airbrushing in magazines and advertisements, warning BBC readers that, “If you buy the products airbrushing is used to advertise, you won’t look like the person in the photograph.”

“If this comes as a surprise to you, please exercise caution before stepping out of doors or in front of a mirror,” I reply in my new op-ed in southern California newspapers. “Here in the land of liberty, fortunately, we recognize that to ban display of someone’s airbrushed image even if they’re fine with the idea would constitute a trifecta of coercion, stomping on personal autonomy, freedom to contract with others, and freedom of the press.” Read it here.

P.S. Review of General Psychology paper on media and body image here, and related.