October 24, 2016

The “logic” of hate crime legislation

Filed under: Britain, Law, Religion — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Julie Burchill wonders why we enshrine in law the repulsive notion that some lives are more important than others:

I’ve always been somewhat bemused by the concept of ‘hate crime’ – a phrase which first came into use in the US in the 1980s and into practice in the UK in 1998. I must say that the idea that it is somehow worse to beat up or kill someone because you object to their race or religion, than because you’re a nasty piece of work who felt like beating up or killing someone, strikes me as quite extraordinary – hateful, even, implying that some lives are worth more than others. Are we not all human, do we not all bleed? If we’re murdered, do not those who love us grieve for us equally? Why, then, are attacks on some thought to be worse than attacks on others? Indeed, the book Hate Crimes: Criminal Law and Identity Politics claims that hate crime legislation may exacerbate conflict, upholding the idea that crimes are committed by members of groups rather than by individuals, thereby inflaming intolerance between different ethnic communities.

Nevertheless, in a dark twist on Alice In Wonderland’s all-must-have-prizes shtick, gay people were added soon afterwards. Then, obviously realising that it was somewhat stupid to deem an attack on a big strapping man who was more than capable of standing up for himself worse than an attack on a frail, heterosexual OAP, the elderly were added in 2007 to the list of people who it’s especially bad to attack or kill. This being the case, quite understandably the disabled were soon eligible to be victims of hate crime, too.

It’s very easy for me to be offensive about anything, so I’ll tread very carefully here. I do think that there is something particularly vile about picking on those with far less chance of fighting back and that those who do it should be dealt with particularly harshly. On the other hand, I don’t think that ‘hate’ usually comes into attacks on the elderly and the disabled, or on children – simply the very unpleasant fact that sadists, cowards and bullies know they are easy targets. In fact, they probably like this about them.

It’s also quite hard for me to understand how those who claim, and have their champions claim, to be the most chronic and vulnerable victims of hate crimes are Muslims. If you visited this country from another planet, all the ceaseless clatter about hate crimes of the Islamophobic kind might have you believing that a brace of Muslims a week were being butchered in the street due to the sheer molten hatred of the blood-thirsty Christian community. Whereas, in fact, Islamist terrorism kills eight times more Muslims than non-Muslims. In this country, three Muslims have been killed for being Muslims over the past three years – all by other Muslims.

October 15, 2016

QotD: “Progressive” versus “liberal”

Filed under: Britain, Law, Liberty, Quotations, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

Some years ago, the liberal writer Michael Kinsley described the different attitudes to free speech in the U.K. and the U.S. as follows: “In a country like Great Britain, the legal protections for speech are weaker than ours, but the social protections are stronger. They lack a First Amendment, but they have thicker skin and a greater acceptance of eccentricity of all sorts.”

Today, both sorts of protection for speech — legal and social — are weaker than before in both countries. This year, official regulation of the press was passed into U.K. law for the first time since 18th-century juries nullified press prosecutions. These new restraints enjoyed the backing not just of all the parties but apparently of the public as well.

In the U.S., the case of Mann v. Steyn, let alone a hypothetical case involving Quran-burning, has yet to be decided. But Democrats in the Senate are seeking to restrict political speech by restricting the money spent to promote it. And in the private sector, American corporations have blacklisted employees for expressing or financing certain unfashionable opinions. In short, a public culture that used to be liberal is now “progressive” — which is something like liberalism minus its commitment to freedom.

The U.S. and Britain have long thought of themselves as, above all, free countries. If that identity continues to atrophy, free speech will be the first victim. But it will not be the last.

John O’Sullivan, “No Offense: The New Threats to Free Speech”, Wall Street Journal, 2014-10-31.

October 13, 2016

QotD: Libertarian constitutionalism

Filed under: Law, Liberty, Quotations, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

Libertarian constitutional thought is a distinctly minority position among scholars and jurists, one that at first glance has little connection with either modern Supreme Court jurisprudence or the liberalism that remains dominant in the legal academy. However, libertarian ideas have more in common with mainstream constitutional thought than at first meets the eye. They have also had greater influence on it.

This article explores the connections between mainstream and libertarian constitutional thought in recent decades. On a number of important issues, modern Supreme Court doctrine and liberal constitutional thought has been significantly influenced by pre-New Deal libertarian ideas, even if the influence is often unconscious or unacknowledged. This is particularly true on issues of equal protection doctrine and modern “substantive” due process as it pertains to “noneconomic” rights. Here, both the Supreme Court and much of the mainstream academic left have repudiated early twentieth century Progressivism, which advocated across-the-board judicial deference to legislatures. They have also rejected efforts to eliminate common law and free market “baselines” for constitutional rights.

The gap between libertarian and mainstream constitutional thought is much greater on issues of federalism and property rights. Here too, however, recent decades have seen significant convergence. Over the last thirty years, the Supreme Court has begun to take federalism and property rights more seriously, and the idea that they should get strong judicial protection has attained greater intellectual respectability. Moreover, much of libertarian constitutional thought merely seeks to apply to federalism, property rights, and economic liberties, the same principles that mainstream jurists and legal scholars have applied in other areas, most notably “noneconomic” constitutional rights and separation of powers.

Ilya Somin and David Bernstein, abstract to “The Mainstreaming of Libertarian Constitutionalism” in Law and Contemporary Problems, reposted in the Washington Post, 2015-02-20.

September 22, 2016

Arizona’s law to effectively criminalize parenting survives state supreme court scrutiny

Filed under: Law, USA — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

If anything could symbolize the Crazy Years, this (insane) Arizona law certainly qualifies:

The Legislature passed laws ostensibly designed to punish child molesters, but apparently forgot to make sexual intent a requisite element of molestation.

As Slate legal writer Mark Joseph Stern notes, the laws prohibit any person from “intentionally or knowingly” touching “any part of the genitals, anus or female breast” for anyone under 15. That’s it:

    Indeed, read literally, the statutes would seem to prohibit parents from changing their child’s diaper. And the measures forbid both “direct and indirect touching,” meaning parents cannot even bathe their child without becoming sexual abusers under the law.

In response to a legal challenge by a man convicted of molestation because of the Legislature’s idiocy, three of five judges ruled there was no ambiguity in the law. They declined to

    rewrite the statutes to require the state to prove sexual motivation, when the statutes clearly contain no such requirement.

There’s some interesting discussion between the majority and minority over whether the law is nonetheless unconstitutional, even if it’s not ambiguous. The minority, per Stern:

    No one thinks that the legislature really intended to criminalize every knowing or intentional act of touching a child in the prohibited areas. Reading the statutes as doing so creates a constitutional vagueness problem, as it would mean both that people do not have fair notice of what is actually prohibited and that the laws do not adequately constrain prosecutorial discretion.

This terrible bit of legislative farce is actually a symptom of a much wider problem:

Let’s not forget, however, that if the Legislature had taken its job seriously and crafted legislative language that passed the laugh test, Arizona parents wouldn’t be in this position.

Lawmakers have gotten a little too comfortable in trusting that they can pass any idiotic law – perhaps to sate their rabid, ignorant constituents – and judges will save them from the consequences.

Then they can rail against “judicial activism” and get re-elected. It’s a perfect scheme.

If more judges were to let lawmakers suffer the consequences of their foolishness, perhaps voters would sober up and stop demanding the most draconian, unjust, utterly pointless measures against sexual offenses, real or perceived.

September 21, 2016

Pathological altruism

Filed under: Business, Law, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Amy Alkon on the mainspring of some (possibly many) altruistic actions:

I write about this sort of thing in Good Manners for Nice People Who Sometimes Say F*ck. It’s called “pathological altruism,” and describes deeds intended to help that actually hurt — sometimes both the helper and the person they’re trying to help:

    [Dr. Barbara] Oakley notes that we are especially blind to the ill effects of over- giving when whatever we’re doing allows us to feel particularly good, virtuous, and benevolent. To keep from harming ourselves or others when we’re supposed to be helping, Oakley emphasizes the importance of checking our motives when we believe we’re doing good. “People don’t realize how narcissistic a lot of ‘helping’ can be,” she told me. “It’s all too easy for empathy and good deeds to really be about our self-image or making ourselves happy or comfortable.”

One example of this is The New York Times series on nail salons — intended to help the workers but actually keeping a number of them from being able to get work…work they were able to get before the crackdowns the NYT piece led to. From Reason‘s Jim Epstein:

    Salon owners have also stopped hiring unlicensed workers, whether they’re undocumented or not. By law, every manicurist working in New York State must complete 250 hours of training at a beauty school, which costs about $1,000, and then obtain a government-issued license. This is a barrier to entry, and some aspiring manicurists can’t afford the time or tuition. There are some salon owners in the industry who, up until recently, were willing to hire them anyway because they were desperate for employees and the state rarely checked. Cuomo’s task force changed that.

    Kim sponsored a state law, passed in July, that attempted to remedy the situation. The bill made it legal for nail salons to hire workers as apprentices receiving on-the-job training. After a year, they’re eligible for a state license without attending beauty school.

    Few are utilizing the apprenticeship program. “It needs tweaking,” Kim admits. Despite assurances to the contrary from state officials, Kim says he’s hearing on the ground that when signing up for the program, applicants are being asked their citizenship status, which is scaring off many would-be apprentices.

    Licensed workers legally working in the U.S. have also been hurt by the inspections. “Workers themselves prefer to be paid in cash, and it’s not just at nail salons,” says Kim. Salon owners have started recording every dollar that passes through their shops to avoid getting fined. The inspection task force has had “unintended consequences,” he says.

    The biggest victims, however, are people like Jing Ren, the main character in the Times series. Ren, 20, is undocumented, penniless, and “recently arrived from China.” Instead of paying $1,000 for salon school, she signed on as a trainee at a shop in Long Island. By the end of the article, she’s making $65 per day in base wages.

    When weaving its cartoonish tale of evil bosses and oppressed workers, the Times never considers what would happen if all of the nail salons willing to hire Jing Ren disappeared. Would future immigrants like her be better or worse off?


September 12, 2016

QotD: Turning regrets into “rape”

Filed under: Britain, Law, Media, Quotations — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 01:00

Today, it is not uncommon for rape charges to be brought in respect of foolish or stupid sexual encounters. After presiding over back-to-back trials where a female complainant had been so drunk she could not remember what had happened and, therefore, whether she had consented to sex, Judge Mary Jane Mowat observed that “the rape conviction statistics will not improve until women stop getting so drunk”.

It was significant that Judge Mowat prefaced her comments by noting she would “be pilloried for saying” them. She may have had in mind the treatment of Ken Clarke MP, who, in 2011, referred to “serious rape”. This prompted Labour leader Ed Miliband to call for Clarke’s resignation on the grounds he was suggesting “there are other categories of rape”. Clarke spent the rest of the day saying he “always believed that all rape is extremely serious” and he was “sorry” if his comments had given any other impression.

Despite the censorious you-can’t-say-that attitude of some feminists, there is an urgent need, not to debate the seriousness of rape, but to debate what rape is. Rape, properly defined, is serious. But by redefining rape to encompass drunken or foolish sexual activity, which a man believes the woman is consenting to, the crime of rape is, in these instances, being stripped of its criminal culpability.

“Impossible”, claim rape campaigners with a glib understanding of how rape is now defined. Labour MP Harriet Harman responded to Sarah Vine’s column with an all-too-familiar analogy: “If I leave a window open an inch and someone breaks in, steals everything I own and ransacks my house, no one would say it wasn’t a crime or that the offender had ‘made a mistake’.”

Yet there is no parallel between a burglar who trespasses into a house and steals, and a man who believes a woman is consenting to sex. Trespass followed by theft is inherently unlawful. Sex, though, is inherently lawful, which is why it requires a carefully drawn law before it is criminalised. Traditionally, a conviction for rape could only be secured if the prosecution proved beyond reasonable doubt that the man either knew the woman was not consenting to sex or he could not care less whether she was consenting (Morgan, 1975). It was this mental element of the offence (mens rea, as lawyers call it) that ensured that only defendants with an appropriately guilty mind could be convicted of rape.

Jon Holbrook, “New rape laws: turning sex into a crime”, spiked!, 2015-02-12.

September 6, 2016

Could this be a winning strategy for Il Donalduce?

Filed under: Law, Politics, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Jay Currie suggests a three-part plan that might bring about a Trump victory in November:

First, announce that a Trump administration will decriminalize marijuana.

Second, announce that every single person serving time for marijuana related offences is going to be pardoned on condition that they spend a three month intensive period in a pre-employment boot camp. And announce that, from the day Trump takes office, any criminal record for marijuana offences will be expunged as of right and right now.

Third, commit serious federal resources to creating paths to employment for the people who have either been in jail or who have had criminal records as a result of pot convictions.

You can picture Trump saying, “Let’s bring our kids, and their fathers, home.”

The last twenty years have been about incarcerating black people and Latinos for all sorts of crimes. Some of that is justified, but a lot of it has been felony marijuana arrests which should have been traffic tickets but got bumped because of priors, plea bargains and three strikes laws. It’s time for that to stop.

People’s children, husbands and wives have been sent to prison for a reason that an increasing number of states think is wrong. Washington, Colorado, Oregon and Alaska have legalized recreational pot and the federal government has gone along. Medical marijuana is legal in many other states. More states have either medical marijuana or recreational marijuana on the ballot in November.

The Donald does not have to say pot is a good thing. In fact, if he is smart he will say it is a bad thing and that he does not want any sensible American to use it; but it should not be a criminal thing because, if it is, there will be a disproportionate impact on black, Latino and poor white communities. That is just a fact.

September 5, 2016

QotD: Critical gun safety tips for when the police arrive at the crime scene

Filed under: Law, Quotations, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

There were other stories, and commercial breaks, and about thirty minutes later came an update to the shot burglar story: The newscaster now said that it was apparent that the police had shot the homewowner and more details would be forthcoming.

I said to Bobbi: “Dude thinks there’s a robber with a gun outside his house, calls the cops, goes outside with a gun his ownself. Then cops show up, the light on the homeowner’s ‘I’m A Good Guy’ IFF beacon is burnt out, the cops yell ‘Drop the gun, Buddy!’, he thinks ‘Surely they don’t mean me!’, turns toward them, and gets hisself popped.”

Looking at the TV station’s freshly-updated webpage, it looks like that’s more or less what happened […]


  1. Once the cops have been called, you don’t need to be running around outside with a gun in your hand. The chances for a blue-on-blue shooting skyrocket in incidences like that. Plainclothes officers get shot all the damn time in similar circumstances. It’s easy to tell who the responding officers are because they show up in a car with blinking lights and they’re all dressed the same. You want to not be on the playing field wearing the other team’s uniform when they show up.
  2. If you are on the playing field when they show up and you hear “Drop the gun!” then you need to drop the gun. Seriously. Like it just turned white-hot. (This is a good reason to carry drop-safe pistols, BTW. I realize that carrying that 1904 Ruritanian army surplus Schnellblitzenselbstlader in 8.3mm semi-rimmed is really cool, but aren’t you going to feel funny getting shot twice when you drop it: Once in the junk by your own gun when it hits the ground ass-end first, and again in the gut by the responding officer because he’s startled by the gunshot?)

Tamara Keel, “Breaking News…”, View From The Porch, 2016-08-23.

September 2, 2016

The hijab, the burka, and the burkini

Filed under: Law, Liberty, Religion — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Daniel Greenfield explains the role of the hijab, the burka, and other “traditional” Islamic clothing for women:

Does it matter what Muslim women wear to the beach? Arguably the government should not be getting involved in swimwear. But the clothing of Muslim women is not a personal fashion choice.

Muslim women don’t wear hijabs, burkas or any other similar garb as a fashion statement or even an expression of religious piety. Their own religion tells us exactly why they wear them.

O Prophet! Tell your wives and your daughters and the women of the believers to draw their cloaks (veils) all over their bodies that they may thus be distinguished and not molested.” (Koran 33:59)

It’s not about modesty. It’s not about religion. It’s about putting a “Do Not Rape” sign on Muslim women. And putting a “Free to Molest” sign on non-Muslim women.

This isn’t some paranoid misreading of Islamic scripture. Islamic commentaries use synonyms for “molested” such as “harmed”, “assaulted” and “attacked” because women who aren’t wearing their burkas aren’t “decent” women and can expect to be assaulted by Muslim men. These clothes designate Muslim women as “believing” women or “women of the believers”. That is to say Muslims.

One Koranic commentary is quite explicit. “It is more likely that this way they may be recognized (as pious, free women), and may not be hurt (considered by mistake as roving slave girls.)” The Yazidi girls captured and raped by ISIS are an example of “roving slave girls” who can be assaulted by Muslim men.

Muslim women who don’t want to be mistaken for non-Muslim slave girls had better cover up. And non-Muslim women had better cover up too or they’ll be treated the way ISIS treated Yazidi women and the way that Mohammed and his gang of rapists and bandits treated any woman they came across.

That’s what the burka is. That’s what the hijab is. And that’s what the burkini is.

And this is not just some relic of the past or a horror practiced by Islamic “extremists”. It’s ubiquitous. A French survey found that 77 percent of girls wore the hijab because of threats of Islamist violence. It’s numbers like these that have led to the French ban of the burka and now of the burkini.

When clothing becomes a license to encourage harassment, then it’s no longer a private choice.

On the other hand, Daniel Pipes says the burkini poses no threat and should not be banned:

France has been seized by a silly hysteria over the burkini, prompting me to wonder when Europeans will get serious about their Islamist challenge.

For starters, what is a burkini? The word (sometimes spelled burqini) combines the names of two opposite articles of female clothing: the burqa (an Islamic tent-like, full-body covering) and the bikini. Also known as a halal swimsuit, it modestly covers all but the face, hands and feet, consisting of a top and a bottom. It resembles a wetsuit with a head covering.

Aheda Zanetti of Ahiida Pty Ltd in Australia claims to have coined the portmanteau in 2003, calling it “smaller than a burka” while “two piece like a bikini.” The curious and sensational cross of two radically dissimilar articles of clothing along with the need it fit for active, pious Muslim women, the burkini (as Ahiida notes) was “the subject of an immediate rush of interest and demand.” Additionally, some women (like British cooking celebrity Nigella Lawson) wear it to avoid a tan, while pious Jews have adopted a variant garment.

[…] the burkini poses no danger to public security. Unlike the burqa or niqab, it leaves the face uncovered; relatively tight-fitting, it leaves no place to hide weapons. Men cannot wear it as a disguise. Further, while there are legitimate arguments about the hygiene of large garments in pools (prompting some hotels in Morocco to ban the garment), this is obviously not an issue on the coastal beaches of France.

Accordingly, beach burkinis should be allowed without restriction. Cultural arguments, such as the one made by Valls, are specious and discriminatory. If a woman wishes to dress modestly on the beach, that is her business, and not the state’s. It’s also her prerogative to choose unflattering swimwear that waterlogs when she swims.

August 26, 2016

Standing up for free speech in Australia

Filed under: Law, Liberty, Media — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Tim Black explains how Brendan O’Neill got up the noses of “right-thinking” Australians this time:

On Q&A, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s flagship political panel show, spiked editor Brendan O’Neill once again prompted the right-thinking first to tweet their spleen, and then to fire off snarky op-eds. And the reason for the riling? Was it O’Neill’s criticism of the Australian state’s incarceration of migrants on the micro-island of Nauru, ‘a kind of purgatory, a limbo where aspiring migrants are stuck between a place they don’t want to be and a place they want to be’, as he described it? Or was it perhaps his criticism of pro-refugee campaigners, whom, as The Australian reports, O’Neill accused of ‘infantilising’ migrants, treating them as weak, helpless, other?

Nope, none of the above. What got up the nose of the unthinkingly politically correct was O’Neill’s attack on Section 18C of Australia’s Racial Discrimination Act, which prohibits speech ‘reasonably likely… to offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate another person or a group of people’ because of their ‘race, colour or national or ethnic origin’. Or, to put it another way: Brendan O’Neill defended free speech. And, it was this, this defence of one of the cornerstones of radical, liberal, enlightened thought, that outraged the nominally liberal and leftist.

Here’s what O’Neill said: ‘I love hearing hate speech because it reminds me I live in a free society.’ Got that? O’Neill loves hearing hate speech, not in itself, not because he just loves vitriol, as some of his detractors really seem to believe. No, he loves hearing it because of what hearing it means: namely, that we live in a society that is confident enough in itself, in its liberal values, that it can tolerate dissenting and hateful views. O’Neill then went on to explain why freedom of speech is precisely the mechanism through which we can challenge racism: ‘The real problem with Section 18C is it actually disempowers anti-racists by denying us the right to see racism, to know it, to understand it and to confront it in public. Instead it entrusts the authorities to hide it away on our behalf so we never have a reckoning with it.’

For anyone faintly familiar with a liberal and radical tradition of thought, from Voltaire to Frederick Douglass to Karl Marx, O’Neill’s argument shouldn’t be controversial: it is only through the airing of prejudice that it can be reckoned with. And it certainly shouldn’t be difficult to understand. But sadly it seems that, for too many, it is. To these, the liberal-ish and the right-on, it is an anathema, thought from another planet.

August 25, 2016

QotD: The rapid rise and equally rapid fall of the crime of Witchcraft

Filed under: Britain, Europe, History, Law, Quotations — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

For the 19th century liberal and historian of ideas William Lecky, the most striking fact about England and France in the 17th century was the decline of belief in the supernatural. And the most striking instance of this fact was the collapse of belief in witchcraft.

At the beginning of that century, belief in witchcraft had been universal and unchallenged. James VI of Scotland (1567-1625) was one of the most learned men of his day. He believed without question in witches, and was a notable persecutor. When he became King of England as well in 1603, he brought his policies with him. It was to gain favour with him that Shakespeare introduced the witchcraft theme into Macbeth.

James procured a law that punished witchcraft with death on first conviction, even though no harm to others could be proven. This law was carried in a Parliament where Francis Bacon was a Member.

The law was carried into effect throughout England, and was especially used during the interregnum years of the 1650s. In 1664, under the restored Monarchy, Sir Matthew Hale — one of the greatest jurists and legal philosophers of the age — presided over the trial of two alleged witches in Suffolk. He told the jury that there could be no doubt in the reality of witchcraft. He said:

    For first, the Scriptures had affirmed so much; and secondly, the wisdom of all nations had provided laws against such persons, which is an argument for their confidence of such a crime.

One of the witnesses called for the prosecution was Sir Thomas Browne, one of the most notable writers of the age. Appearing as a medical expert, he assured the jury “that he was clearly of opinion that the persons were bewitched.” They were convicted and hanged.

It was the same in France. In the town of St Claude, 600 persons were burnt in the early years of the century for alleged witchcraft and lycanthropy. In 1643, Cardinal Mazarin wrote to a bishop to congratulate him on his zeal for hunting out witches.

Yet, in 1667, Colbert, the chief minister of Louis XIV, directed all the magistrates in France to receive no more accusations of witchcraft. Those convictions still obtained he frequently commuted from death to banishment. By the end of the century, witchcraft trials had all but ceased.

In England, belief collapsed later, but even faster than in France. The last trial for witchcraft was in 1712. Jane Wenham, an old woman, was accused of the usual offences. The judge mocked the prosecution witnesses from the bench. When the jury convicted her against his directions, he made sure to obtain a royal pardon for the old woman and a pension.

Whatever the lowest reaches of the common people might still believe, belief in witchcraft had become a joke among the educated. And because of the tone they gave to the whole of society, disbelief spread rapidly beyond the educated. Anyone who tried to maintain its existence was simply laughed at. Laws that had condemned tens or hundreds of thousands to death, and usually to the most revolting tortures before death, were now sneered into abeyance.

We should expect that a change of opinion so immense had been accompanied by a long debate — something similar to the debates of the 19th century over Darwinism, or to the debates of the day over the toleration of nonconformity. Yet Lecky maintains that there was almost no debate worth mentioning. There were sceptics, like Montaigne, who disbelieved all accounts of the supernatural, or Hobbes, who was a materialist and atheist. But, while, book after book appeared in England during the late 17th century to defend the existence of witches and the need for laws against them, almost no one bothered to argue that witches did not exist. Lecky says:

    Several… divines came forward…; and they made witchcraft, for a time, one of the chief subjects of controversy. On the other side, the discussion was extremely languid. No writer, comparable in ability to Glanvil, More, Cudworth, or even Casaubon, appeared to challenge the belief; nor did any of the writings on that side obtain any success at all equal to that of [Glanvil].

Belief in witchcraft perished with hardly a direct blow against it. What seems to have happened, Lecky argues, is a change of world view in which belief in witches ceased to have any explanatory value. We live in a world where, orthodox religion aside, belief in the supernatural is confined to the uneducated or the stupid or the insane. But if we step outside the consensus in which we live, we should see that there is nothing in itself irrational about belief in the supernatural, nor even in witches. The belief is perfectly rational granted certain assumptions.

Let us assume that the world is filled with invisible and very powerful beings, that some of these are good and some evil, that some human beings are capable of establishing contact with these evil beings, and that some compact can be made in which the power of the evil beings is transferred to human control. Granting these assumptions, it becomes reasonable to ascribe great or unusual events to magical intervention, and that it should be the purpose of the law to check such intervention.

Now, the Platonic philosophies do accept the existence of such beings. That is how Plato reconciled his One Creator with the many gods of the Greek pantheon. This belief was taken over by the Church Fathers, who simply announced that the ancient gods were demons. It then continued into the 17th century. It seemed to explain the world. Doubtless, cases came to light of false accusations and of people convicted because they were ill rather than possessed by demons. But our own awareness of corrupt policemen and false convictions does not lead us to believe that there are no murderers and that murder should not be punished. So it was with witchcraft.

During the 17th century, however, the educated classes came increasingly to believe that the world operated according to known, impersonal laws, and that God — assuming His Existence — seldom interfered with the working of these secondary laws. In such a view of the world, the supernatural had no place. Belief in witchcraft, therefore, did not need opposition. It perished as collateral damage to the system of which it was a part.

Sean Gabb, “Epicurus: Father of the Enlightenment”, speaking to the 6/20 Club in London, 2007-09-06.

August 17, 2016

QotD: The Lifestyle Charity Fraud

Filed under: Law, Quotations, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

For decades I have observed an abuse of charities that I am not sure has a name. I call it the “lifestyle” charity or non-profit. These are charities more known for the glittering fundraisers than their actual charitable works, and are often typified by having only a tiny percentage of their total budget flowing to projects that actually help anyone except their administrators. These charities seem to be run primarily for the financial maintenance and public image enhancement of their leaders and administrators. Most of their funds flow to the salaries, first-class travel, and lifestyle maintenance of their principals.

I know people first hand who live quite nicely as leaders of such charities — having gone to two different Ivy League schools, it is almost impossible not to encounter such folks among our alumni. They live quite well, and appear from time to time in media puff pieces that help polish their egos and reinforce their self-righteous virtue-signaling. I have frequently attended my university alumni events where these folks are held out as exemplars for folks working on a higher plane than grubby business people like myself. They drive me crazy. They are an insult to the millions of Americans who do volunteer work every day, and wealthy donors who work hard to make sure their money is really making a difference.

Warren Meyer, “The Lifestyle Charity Fraud”, Coyote Blog, 2016-08-04.

July 28, 2016

QotD: Turning sex into a crime

Filed under: Britain, Law, Quotations — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

Rape is a serious crime: those convicted of it face a lengthy prison sentence. Sexual foolishness or stupidity should not be a crime, although its protagonists may well be deserving of moral censure. There is a line to be drawn between sex that is criminal and sex that lacks the criminal culpability to warrant a lengthy prison sentence. In recent years, that line has moved so that those who deserve the shameful tag “rapist” are now joined by some who do not.

The point was well made by the journalist Sarah Vine, who wrote of sexual behaviour that should not be criminalised: “Let’s face it, we’ve all done it at one time or another. Shared a cab home with someone we shouldn’t have; invited the wrong guy in for coffee. Unless you’re a saint, the chances of getting through life without making at least one disastrous sexual choice are very small.”

Acts of sexual foolishness or stupidity by men and women, particularly the young, have always happened. But, as Vine pointed out, “it used to be that women who made stupid mistakes with men, who had non-violent sexual encounters in dodgy circumstances — while drunk or otherwise intoxicated, in the heat of the moment or for a million other reasons — did not wake up the next morning and decide they had been raped. They took a shower, gave themselves a stern talking to, maybe told a friend about it , had a bit of a cry — and then moved on as best they could, vowing along the way never to end up in that kind of damn stupid situation again.” Likewise, men who made stupid sexual decisions would, in days gone by, have learnt from their mistakes, often as part of a process of growing up.

But today, to use Vine’s words, “there’s a far easier option” for the woman: “blame the bloke” by “crying rape”. And for the bloke there is now the stark scenario of being woken up not just with a splitting headache and a guilty conscience, but by a policeman’s knock on the door.

Jon Holbrook, “New rape laws: turning sex into a crime”, spiked!, 2015-02-12.

July 26, 2016

The “international sporting event” in “a major city in Brazil”

Filed under: Americas, Law, Media, Sports — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Every four years, the world’s media turn en masse to a new location for the summer Olympic Games. This time around the games event is in Rio de Janeiro a major city in Brazil. I’d give more details, but the IOC is determined to reserve as much of that information to themselves and their official sponsoring media partners:

As the Olympic Games approach, the tension between athletes and non-sponsors with the United States Olympic Committee and the International Olympic Committee has ratcheted up once again.

In recent weeks, the United States Olympic Committee sent letters to those who sponsor athletes but don’t have any sponsorship designation with the USOC or International Olympic Committee, warning them about stealing intellectual property.

“Commercial entities may not post about the Trials or Games on their corporate social media accounts,” reads the letter written by USOC chief marketing officer Lisa Baird. “This restriction includes the use of USOC’s trademarks in hashtags such as #Rio2016 or #TeamUSA.”

The USOC owns the trademarks to “Olympic,” “Olympian” and “Go For The Gold,” among many other words and phrases.

The letter further stipulates that a company whose primary mission is not media-related cannot reference any Olympic results, cannot share or repost anything from the official Olympic account and cannot use any pictures taken at the Olympics.

This isn’t really a new or surprising thing, as we had warnings about any discussion of the “‘international sporting event’ in ‘the capital of the United Kingdom'” back in 2012. More recently, Toronto’s Pan Am Games organizers did the same sort of trademarks-out-the-wazoo-and-lawyers-on-speed-dial stuff over their 2015 international sporting event in ‘a large city in Ontario’.

If nothing else, it gives me an excuse to not blog anything about those every-four-years international corruption championships…

Craft brewing has a growing trademark problem

Filed under: Business, Law, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

At Techdirt, Timothy Geigner predicts that the craft beer market is getting close to trademark armageddon … they’re running out of punny names they can legally use for their beer:

With all the trademark actions we’ve seen taken these past few years that have revolved around the craft beer and distilling industries, it seems like some of the other folks in the mass media are finally picking up on what I’ve been saying for at least three years: the trademark apocalypse is coming for the liquor industries. It’s sort of a strange study in how an industry can evolve, starting as something artisan built on friendly competition and morphing into exactly the kind of legal-heavy, protectionist profit-beast that seems like the very antithesis of the craft brewing concept. And it should also be instructive as to how trademark law, something of the darling of intellectual properties in its intent if not application, can quickly become a major speed bump for what is an otherwise quickly growing market.

All of this appears to have caught the eye of Sara Randazzo, blogging at the Wall Street Journal, who notes that the creatively-named craft beers that have been spewing out of microbreweries across the country may be running out of those creative names.

    As today’s Wall Street Journal explores, legal disputes in the beer world are becoming the norm as new craft breweries spring up at a rate of roughly two per day. Trademark lawyers have gotten so used to the beer disputes that they are now turning on each other. Some dozen lawyers are contesting San Diego lawyer Candace Moon’s attempt to trademark the term “Craft Beer Attorney,” which she says she rightfully deserves.

Within the rest of the post, Randazzo highlights one dispute between craft brewers in order to give a sense of just how small these belligerent parties are. It’s a dispute that escaped even my radar, despite what has become something of my “beat” around Techdirt. Three professionals with day jobs decided to make a go at brewing craft beer and named their company Black Ops Brewing, the pun resting upon “hops” used in their beer, while also serving as a nod to their family members that served in the military. Three guys making beer, but the trademark dispute came almost immediately.

The problem is that once you’ve been granted a trademark, you have to defend it early and often or you’ll lose it. This means tiny companies with a couple of trademarked products are pretty much required to lawyer-up and threaten to go nuclear at the faintest hint of an infringement for fear they’ll lose the right that they’ve claimed. The gains from pursuing a possible infringement are usually tiny and the legal costs almost always outweigh any “winnings”, but the risks of not doing so are potentially huge. This is an example of a perverse incentive in law.

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