Posts Tagged ‘WO writings’

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.

ICWA, child placement, and ICPC

I’ve got a new piece at Ricochet on the problems with the Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978, which a federal judge struck down as unconstitutional in October in a ruling (Brackeen v. Zinke) likely to be appealed. Excerpt:

One effect is to give tribal governments dangerous power over persons who never willingly submitted to their authority, including persons who have never set foot in Indian country. A couple briefly connect at a bar in Boston or Brooklyn or Baltimore one night and a child is born as a result. The father may not have mentioned at the time, indeed may only imperfectly remember, that as a child he was inducted into an affiliation with some faraway tribe toward whose leadership he has long felt indifferent or estranged. But ICWA covers as an “Indian child” any biological child of a tribal member so long as that child is “eligible for membership” in a tribe.

Sorry, Dad – and sorry, total-bystander Brooklyn Mom — but under ICWA that distant tribe now has a lot of power over your future. You are not necessarily free to make an adoption plan with some trusted member of your local community. Instead, you must submit to a distant tribal authority and prepare for the child’s possible “placement … in … homes [that] reflect the unique values of Indian culture.” What about your own cultural background as a non-Native parent, along with that of your relatives who may have been helping care for the child during his first years? Your youngster may have spent his life thus far immersed in that other culture — perhaps Korean-American, or Dominican, or African-American, or Eastern European. But the law cares not. In fact, it encourages as “ICWA-compliant” placement of your child with any Indian tribe around the country, however remote from that of either biological parent’s, in preference to any non-Native placement, however well matched to the circumstances of the child’s life thus far.

More discussion of the Brackeen case and ICWA: Wade Goodwyn, NPR. My piece stirred discussion at Ricochet including this from commenter Skyler:

The law I really despise is the ICPC, the Interstate Compact for the Protection of Children. It was originally intended to stop states from dumping foster children in other states to take advantage of their looser welfare policies.

First, it would seem to me that this should be the price paid for having loose welfare policies, but beyond that the real effect of the law is horrendous.

What the act does is make it hard to move children to caregivers out of state without that state’s permission or agreement. That agreement can take many months. A court action to return children to parents or name the state as their conservator has to be completed within a deadline, usually one year.

So, I have several cases where the parents’ families are from out of state. They have a large family network in that other state. But we can’t move the children to that family and have to put them in foster care. By the time the ICPC is completed, the foster family has a vested interest in the children and now they are fighting, and often succeed, in keeping the children away from the blood family.

I find this result to be repulsive, and that result is not at all unusual. I have a case that just ended where the mom and the dad’s family in New Hampshire are both very fine with middle class homes and lots of family support, yet because the children had been kept in foster care the courts don’t want to “disrupt” their lives again. It’s just about the most asinine government policy ever.

This gets me curious about ICPC. Other comments about its history and workings, positive or otherwise, are welcome.

Child Protective Services symposium wraps up at Cato Unbound

My second and concluding round is now posted in this month’s Cato Unbound symposium on Child Protective Services and its power to seize children from homes. Excerpt:

As I mentioned in my earlier comment, there are agencies willing, as policy, to snatch children from parents over marijuana use in the home, over letting Junior sit in the back seat while Mom picks up the dry cleaning, over playing alone in the park at age 8, and over a host of other infractions within past or present normal range. Ten years from now, maybe the triggers will be cigarette smoking in kids’ presence, moderate drinking during pregnancy, or a snack-food-based diet. Being popped into the care of paid strangers through multiple and shifting placements may involve getting yanked into a different school system, losing touch with your old friends, and crying yourself to sleep each night from missing your real family – but never mind, agencies record a low rate of formal abuse findings in situations like yours. Above all when shifting policy and value judgments get framed in the language of claims to expertise, families fear CPS, and they are right to fear CPS.

The discussion is led by attorney Diane Redleaf, author of the just-published book They Took The Kids Last Night, with Prof. James Dwyer of William and Mary Law School as the third participant.

Symposium at Cato Unbound: “Children, Parents, and Child Protective Services”

This month I’m participating in a Cato Unbound symposium on Child Protective Services and family rights. In its lead essay, attorney Diane Redleaf details some of the ways in which CPS agencies can arm-twist parents into so-called interim placements and safety plans that separate families with little or no judicial review.  Participant James G. Dwyer, in a response essay, takes a relatively positive view of the agencies’s work. My essay, by contrast, generally backs up Redleaf’s critique of CPS as a species of government enforcement agency gone wild: far too often, these agencies seize children from parents based on flimsy evidence, second-guess everyday parental behavior and decisions, or act on misguided Drug War zeal.

Redleaf in her essay then goes on to raise distinctive objections about how the agencies negotiate with parents before a judge has ruled on their cases, which I paraphrase thus:

…what sorts of policy response should apply to agencies’ practice of proffering to parents ostensibly voluntary interim placements and “safety plans”? What happens when parents regret—the next month, or the next day—having agreed to those conditions? Can they reopen the concessions they made, and how? Does it matter whether the agency has withheld information from them or menaced them with worst-case scenarios?

In my response essay, I argue that the problems with these practices are real but that legal attack on the voluntariness of interim plans is likely to be of at best limited helpfulness because our courts follow a strong presumption of enforcing settlements as written. More promising in the long run, I argue, may be to impose direct obligations on agencies to respect families’ autonomy without attacking the settlement process as such. “Safeguarding every family’s rights will, as one of its benefits, shore up families against unwise surrenders of their rights.” [cross-posted from Cato at Liberty]

California’s rent control temptation

Even if California voters defeat Proposition 10 on Nov. 6, battles over rent control are likely to continue, I write in my new Cato post:

Though once favored in voter surveys, Proposition 10 has sagged lately, well behind in one poll and ahead in a second by only 41-38 with 21 percent undecided. But advocates of liberty (and all who prize the lessons of Economics 101) shouldn’t get complacent. …

It’s true that many California localities, the Bay Area especially, are experiencing skyrocketing housing costs. That has a lot to do with intense demand to live and work in places like Silicon Valley and San Francisco, and even more to do with the tight regulatory lid on new residential construction that artificially suppresses the supply of dwellings in the state generally and especially in desirable communities and near the coast. By shifting the blame for the resulting situation to owners of existing rental units, rent control would make it even less likely that Bay Area and coastal governments will take the one measure that would be effective against spiraling housing costs, namely legalizing much more new construction.

Whole thing here. Related: “What does economic evidence tell us about the effects of rent control?” [Rebecca Diamond, Brookings]

Labor roundup

  • Great moments in public employee unionism, cont’d: D.C. Metro track inspector charged after derailment with falsifying records wins reinstatement and back pay in arbitration [Max Smith, WTOP, earlier here (similar after fatal smoke incident) and here] Could be permanent? “Bus drivers’ union threatens strike over driverless buses” [Jason Aubry, WCMH (Columbus, Ohio)]
  • Letting guests skip housekeeping = grievance: “Union Threatens Strike over Marriott’s Green Initiative” [Darrell VanDeusen, Kollman & Saucier]
  • Stephen Bainbridge series on what’s wrong with Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s proposals [earlier, etc.] continues with a post on labor co-determination and employee involvement in corporate governance;
  • “Public Sector Unions Win Big at the California Supreme Court: California citizens must now meet and confer with union bosses before qualifying any compensation-related initiatives for the ballot.” [Steven Greenhut, Reason]
  • My Frederick News Post letter to the editor opposing Question D (mandatory binding arbitration and collective bargaining for career firefighters). More on mandatory binding arbitration in the public sector: Ivan Osorio et al on California, for Cato (see pp. 12 et seq.); Steve Eide, Public Sector Inc., 2013.
  • “Waikiki, Hawaii hotel workers decline to join union; the union demands they pay full dues anyway, starts process to garnish their wages. Does the union’s conduct amount to an unfair labor practice? NLRB: No, the union made an honest mistake. D.C. Circuit: That ‘makes no sense.’ The union never apologized or said it made a mistake. Its message to the workers was, ‘We can do this the easy way, or we can do this the hard way.'” [John Kenneth Ross, IJ “Short Circuit”]