Quotulatiousness

January 14, 2018

Google’s unhealthy political monoculture

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

Megan McArdle doesn’t think that the lawsuit that James Damore is pursuing against Google has a lot of legal merit, but despite that she’s confident that the outcome won’t be happy for the corporation:

The lawsuit, just filed in a California court, certainly offers evidence that things were uncomfortable for conservatives at Google. And especially, that they were uncomfortable for James Damore after he wrote a memo suggesting that before Google went all-out trying to achieve gender parity in its teams, it needed to be open to the possibility that the reason there were fewer women at the firm is that fewer women were interested in coding. (Or at least, in coding with the single-minded, nay, obsessive, fervor necessary to become an engineer at one of the top tech companies in the world.)

That much seems quite clear. But it’s less clear that Damore has a strong legal claim.

I understand why conservative employees were aggrieved. Internal communications cited in the lawsuit paint a picture of an unhealthy political monoculture in which many employees seem unable to handle any challenge to their political views. I personally would find it extremely unsettling to work in such a place, and I am a right-leaning libertarian who has spent most of my working life in an industry that skews left by about 90 percent.

But these internal communications have been stripped of context. Were they part of a larger conversation in which these comments seem more reasonable? What percentage did these constitute of internal communications about politics? At a huge company, there will be, at any given moment, some number of idiots suggesting things that are illegal, immoral or merely egregiously dumb. That doesn’t mean that those things were corporate policy, or even that they were particularly problematic for conservatives. When Google presents its side of the case, the abuses suggested by the lawsuit may turn out to be considerably less exciting — or a court may find that however unhappy conservatives were made by them, they do not rise to a legally actionable level.

Google, for its part, says that it is eager to defend the lawsuit. But lawyers always announce that they have a sterling case that is certain to prevail, even if they know they are doomed. And unless they can present strong evidence that there were legions of conservatives happily frolicking away on their internal message boards while enjoying the esteem of their colleagues and the adulation of their managers, there is no way that this suit ends well for Google. If the company and its lawyers think otherwise, they are guilty of a sin known to the media as “reading your own press releases,” and to drug policy experts as being “high on your own supply.”

There are expensive, time-consuming, exasperating lawsuits, and then there are radioactive lawsuits that poison everyone who comes within a mile of them. And this lawsuit almost certainly falls into the latter category.

January 13, 2018

Everyone You Love Did Drugs

Filed under: History, Law, Liberty, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 06:00

ReasonTV
Published on 12 Jan 2018

It turns out that a lot of accomplished, well-respected historical figures did drugs. From Winston Churchill taking amphetamines to Thomas Edison lacing his wine with cocaine, not everyone who uses narcotics is a hopeless basket case living in a dumpster. While some drug users spiral into addiction and crime, others go on to become president. It’s time to debunk the age old stereotypes of the back alley dangerous dealer or the lazy stoner when, according to the National Survey on Drug Use, roughly half of all Americans have tried an illegal drug.

In the latest “Mostly Weekly” host Andrew Heaton breaks down the cartoonish Drug Warrior portrayal of drugs by showing some of the beloved historical figures who used them.

January 3, 2018

Oregon reacts in horror to the idea of pumping their own gas

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

Full-service gas stations have been on the endangered list for a long time … I can’t remember the last time I saw one in my travels. Apparently, if I’d been to Oregon, that’s all I’d have encountered because it’s one of two states that forbid drivers to pump their own gas. At least, that was until the start of 2018, when Oregon allowed certain rural gas stations to allow self-service, and you’d think the world was about to end, based on these Facebook comments:

Click to see Facebook comments.

Sandy Franklin I don’t even know HOW to pump gas and I am 62, native Oregonian…..I say NO THANKS! I don’t want to smell like gasoline!

Cathy Dahl No! Disabled, seniors, people with young children in the car need help. Not to mention getting out of your car with transients around and not feeling safe too. This is a very bad idea. Grrr

Tina Good Not a good idea, there are lots of reason to have an attendant helping, one is they need a job too. Many people are not capable of knowing how to pump gas and the hazards of not doing it correctly. Besides I don’t want to go to work smelling of gas when I get it on my hands or clothes. I agree Very bad idea.

Kyle Allen One time, my dad came to Oregon and pumped his own gas. The street immediately lit on fire and he caused massive recession countrywide because he took away 20 billion jobs by pumping his own gas. I was in the back seat when brother was nabbed through the locked door by a transient creeper who raised him to be his human ottoman. My dad then tried wiping his windshield but the stuff he used turned out to be sulfuric acid. The car exploded with me in it and I died. My dad lost 3 parenting points because he was 2 feet away fueling his car when he could have had someone else do this very simple task for him.

Joseph Kimrey It’s official.
Oregon is full of mentally defective, full grown children, incapable of the most mundane of adult tasks.

Chris Donnelly Apparently most people in Oregon assume that in order to pump gas you must first remove all people from the vehicle and stand in the open while thugs attack from all angles, all while being sprayed with gas

Mike Perrone I’ve lived in this state all my life and I REFUSE to pump my own gas. I had to do it once in California while visiting my brother and almost died doing it. This a service only qualified people should perform. I will literally park at the pump and wait until someone pumps my gas. I can’t even

Shifty McQuick If your only marketable job skill is being able to pump gas, by god, move to Oregon and you will have reached the promised land.

Kelsa Freitas Yuck! Pumping my on fuel in freezing temperatures and handling a nasty ole fuel nozzle that 50 other people have touched that day (and who knows what cooties are on there), no thank you. It’s nice to not have to pump your own fuel.

H/T to M.A. Rothman for linking to the original post.

December 16, 2017

When righteous fury slides into moral panic

Filed under: Business, Law, Media, Politics — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

Megan McArdle on the dangers of believing all accusations of sexual impropriety and eliding mere crass behaviour with violent sexual assault:

Unfortunately, when we accept no limits on what constitutes a crime, and when we lower the standards of evidence for believing a crime has occurred, we aren’t necessarily furthering the cause of crime-reduction.

Of course, some people might say that that’s just too bad, but we’re going to have to expect some casualties in the war on the patriarchy. Women have left jobs for years because they couldn’t stand the harassment; have found their careers stalled because they wouldn’t play along; have spent far too many hours desperately trying to dodge creeping hands. Why should we weep because a few innocent men are now victims?

One answer is that “truth and justice matters.” That’s a good answer. But if it doesn’t satisfy you, here’s another: Moral panics aren’t good for anyone, including the victims they’re trying to protect.

In the early days of the University of Virginia rape scandal, when questions were first raised about Rolling Stone’s story, battle lines developed between those who wondered about the rather cinematic details, and those who asserted “#IBelieveWomen.” In truth, even many of the people asking the questions confessed how uncomfortable it made them to do so (and you can add my confession to the list). How can we risk adding insult to the already-grievous injuries of a woman who has been raped, by also demanding that she prove she’s not a liar? And yet, if we don’t, we risk convicting people who are innocent, and damaging our own cause.

Ultimately the norm of reflexively believing every accusation, and meting out harsh treatment to every man who is accused, does grave harm to the cause of fighting rape and harassment. #BelieveAllWomen elides the messy reality that women, like the rest of humanity, aren’t always telling the truth — and that even when they are, their interpretations of events is not always the most reasonable one. If we reify too many weak or false claims, the norm will quickly slide toward “believe no women.”

Why not try a truly independent “independent counsel”?

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

Jay Currie suggests someone the US government could bring in to investigate the whole “deep state” mess who would not be in any way tainted by past contacts or entanglements:

The American mess is deep and sordid and, frankly, needs to be cleaned up. But by who?

The fact is that virtually any special counsel appointed by the DOJ will be tainted one way or another. And so, apparently, will investigators drawn from the FBI. It is a mess but it also needs to be resolved.

So, a friendly suggestion from Canada.

Our deeply respected, longest serving, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada is retiring at the end of the year. Beverly McLaughlin, while I disagree with some of her opinions, is tough, fair-minded and very, very, smart. By the nature of her position, she is “read in” on intelligence and security cleared. She’ll be bombarded with job offers but, if asked nicely, might be willing to lead an investigation into the whole ball of wax which the 2016 American election created. Russians, Hilly’s server and how it was dealt with by the FBI, Lynch on the tarmac with Bill, Mueller, Comely: the whole thing.

But Bev is not enough. Sending a small detachment of the RCMP – white collar and intelligence – with her, with really serious investigative powers, would get the whole mess cleared up in six months. (The scarlet tunics would be optional but would make great tv as they raided offices and homes of the swamp creatures.) McLaughlin would not proffer charges, rather she would write a report and recommend such charges as arise.

Better still, the Chief Justice and the Horsemen would be paid for – independently – by the Canadian government with a bill to be presented to our American cousins at the end of the investigation.

Sometimes the mess is so big you need an independent professional to clean it up. This is one of those times.

December 14, 2017

Canadian politicians and police chiefs still struggling with notion of “legal” marijuana

Filed under: Cancon, Government, Law — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

The federal government will legalize the use of marijuana across Canada in July, 2018. You’d think that would be plenty of time for provincial, regional, and municipal governments and police forces to make adequate changes for the newly legal product, right? No, this is Canada, the home of the overblown local concern:

December 11, 2017

The FBI and the Michael Flynn case

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

At Reason, Sheldon Richman explains why the FBI is nobody’s friend:

One of the unfortunate ironies of the manufactured “Russiagate” controversy is the perception of the FBI as a friend of liberty and justice. But the FBI has never been a friend of liberty and justice.

Rather, as James Bovard writes, it “has a long record of both deceit and incompetence. Five years ago, Americans learned that the FBI was teaching its agents that ‘the FBI has the ability to bend or suspend the law to impinge on the freedom of others.’ This has practically been the Bureau’s motif since its creation in 1908…. The FBI has always used its ‘good guy’ image to keep a lid on its crimes.” (Bovard has made a vocation of cataloging the FBI’s many offenses against liberty and justice, for which we are forever in his debt.)

Things are certainly not different today. Take the case of Michael Flynn, the retired lieutenant general who spent less than a month as Donald Trump’s national-security adviser. Flynn has pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI in connection with conversations he had with Russia’s then-ambassador to the United States, Sergey Kislyak, between Trump’s election and inauguration. One need not be an admirer of Flynn — and for many reasons I certainly am not — to be disturbed by how the FBI has handled this case.

One ought to be immediately suspicious whenever someone is charged with or pleads guilty to lying to the FBI without any underlying crime being charged. Former assistant U.S. attorney Andrew C. McCarthy points out:

    When a prosecutor has a cooperator who was an accomplice in a major criminal scheme, the cooperator is made to plead guilty to the scheme. This is critical because it proves the existence of the scheme. In his guilty-plea allocution (the part of a plea proceeding in which the defendant admits what he did that makes him guilty), the accomplice explains the scheme and the actions taken by himself and his co-conspirators to carry it out. This goes a long way toward proving the case against all of the subjects of the investigation.

That is not happening in Flynn’s situation. Instead, like [former Trump foreign-policy “adviser” George] Papadopoulos, he is being permitted to plead guilty to a mere process crime.

When the FBI questioned Flynn about his conversations with Kislyak, it already had the transcripts of those conversations—the government eavesdrops on the representatives of foreign governments, among others, and Flynn had been identified, or “unmasked,” as the ambassador’s conversation partner. The FBI could have simply told Flynn the transcripts contained evidence of a crime (assuming for the sake of argument they did) and charged him with violating the Logan Act or whatever else the FBI had in mind.

But that’s not what happened. Instead, the FBI asked Flynn about his conversations with Kislyak, apparently to test him. If he lied (which would mean he’s pretty stupid since he once ran the Defense Intelligence Agency and must have known about the transcripts!) or had a bad memory, he could have been charged with lying to the FBI.

QotD: Occupational licensing

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

… occupational licensing laws and Competitor’s Veto laws exclude would-be entrepreneurs from the marketplace — with disproportionately negative consequences for members of minority groups — […] Congress could act today to protect the fundamental human right of economic liberty against unjust state interference.

Licensing laws tend to have particularly harsh consequences on members of minority groups for a couple reasons. First, if a law requires a person to have, say, a college degree to practice the trade of interior design (which is the law in Florida), people who have less money and time to spend in college will find that avenue of opportunity closed to them. Since black and Hispanic Floridians are about 30 percent less likely to have a college degree, they will suffer more from this absurd licensing requirement than others will. Competitor’s Veto laws that forbid a person from practicing a trade unless they get permission from the businesses already operating in that industry are also very likely to create a sort of Old Boys Network, and to exclude entrepreneurs who lack political connections. Second, in a more general sense, any law that restricts economic opportunity for some to benefit others — as licensing laws tend to do — are likely to benefit those who have more political influence and can therefore get the government to regulate in ways favorable to them. Since members of minority groups have less political influence, they tend to be the ones excluded.

Timothy Sandefur, “Testifying to the U.S. Senate Oversight Subcommittee Tuesday about economic liberty and minorities”, Freespace, 2015-09-30.

December 8, 2017

Final hurdle for US tax reform efforts

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

Veronique de Rugy looks at the two differing tax bills passed by the Senate and the House of Representatives and what needs to be done to blend them into a single bill for the President to sign:

The House and Senate passed their own versions of a tax reform bill surprisingly fast. But now the hard work starts, as they need to turn those two bills into one. The trick is to produce a bill that can pass both chambers again, meaning a bill that appeases some powerful interest groups while still making the budget math work.

In some respects, this conference process may be easier than we think. Once lawmakers have come this far with such a big bill—when stakes are this high—it’s hard to imagine them not doing everything they can to cross the finish line. Helping in the process is the fact that their bills aren’t so vastly different in terms of philosophy and provisions that it makes reconciling differences impossible.

[…]

It’s worth considering some worst- and best-case scenarios resulting from this conference process. Worst-case scenario, the final bill would water down the investment provisions and entirely preserve many tax preferences currently targeted in both bills. It would also preserve the House version’s individual rates, including a 12 percent bubble rate for top income earners, which effectively would impose a marginal tax rate of 45.6 percent, as opposed to the current 39.6 percent.

It would expand the child tax credit value beyond the levels passed in the House ($1,600) and the Senate ($2,000). That change would remove a large number of taxpayers from the tax rolls, which would be problematic because Republicans also refuse to cut spending. This also would shift more burden to the top 10 percent (taxpayers making above $138,000), who already pay 70 percent of the total federal income tax. If members of Congress also were to expand the refundable part of the credit, it would dramatically increase government spending, too.

The cherry on a very unsavory tax cake would be if lawmakers adopted the House’s tax base erosion provisions, which include an idiotic excise tax that resembles the dreaded border adjustment tax, which was killed in recent months.

To finish on a positive note, allow me to dream a little. My best-case scenario would maintain the permanent 20 percent corporate tax rate. It would also delay the adoption of anti-tax avoidance provisions until lawmakers get to assess the full impact that cutting the corporate tax rate has on avoidance behaviors by companies. Congress would adopt the Senate version of the individual tax rates or even cut the top marginal rate further.

December 5, 2017

Happy Repeal Day!

Filed under: Government, History, Law, Liberty, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

Eighty-four years ago today, the US repealed Prohibition. Baltimore’s own H.L. Mencken was among the first to publicly celebrate the demise of the hated legislation:

HL Mencken celebrates repeal of Prohibition, December 1933

Reason‘s Baylen Linnekin celebrates the federal anniversary, but points out that devolving powers to the various states hasn’t been quite a libertarian panacea:

[December 5th] will mark the 84th anniversary of the ratification of the Twenty-First Amendment, which repealed alcohol Prohibition. The repeal of Prohibition is worth celebrating, even if the amendment was (and remains) a deeply flawed vehicle.

The chief flaw with the Amendment is, as I wrote earlier this year, that it “simply shifted much of the power to prohibit and incessantly regulate alcohol from the federal government to the states.”

States have truly made the most of their teetotalitarian authority for decades, to the detriment of both alcohol producers and—much more so—consumers.

Much of the negative impacts of states’ approach to alcohol regulation can be tied to what’s known as the three-tier system, a Prohibition relic under which states generally prohibit direct alcohol sales from a brewer, vintner, or distiller to a consumer. The three-tier system mandates these alcohol producers first sell to a distributor or retailer — a mandatory middleman — who can then sell to actual drinkers.

Laws that require this approach create a host of problems, including, for one, that they drive up consumer costs dramatically and needlessly. States’ plenary control over alcohol has been controversial for decades, as this 1987 article in the Journal of Public Health Policy makes clear, noting that “the idea of a government monopoly of a consumer product seems odd and even bizarre[.]”

Great arguments in favor of scrapping the dreaded three-tier system are often countered by those who claim doing so will bring about the end of days, or worse.

Reposted from 2013:

ReasonTV
Published on 5 Dec 2012

In honor of Repeal Day, which celebrates the end of America’s “noble experiment” in banning alcoholic beverages, Reason TV is happy to introduce you to George Cassiday, a man whose life and work should be taught to every schoolkid — and to every member of Congress hell-bent on legislating the nation’s morals.

From 1920 through 1930 — the thick of the Prohibition era — Cassiday supplied illegal liquor throughout the halls of Congress. Known as “The Man in the Green Hat,” Cassiday was the Capitol’s highest-profile bootlegger, with a client list that included senior members of the Republican and Democratic Parties. How instrumental was he to the D.C. power elite? He even had his own office in the House and Senate office buildings.

Cassiday gave up the liquor trade after his arrest in 1930, but gained notoriety by penning a series of front-page articles for The Washington Post about his days as Congress’ top bottle man.

Though he never named names, Cassiday’s stories detailed every aspect of his former business — and the depths of hypocrisy in Washington. By his own estimation, “four out of five senators and congressmen consume liquor either at their offices or their homes.” Appearing days before the 1930 mid-term elections, Cassiday’s revelations caused a national stir and helped sweep pro-Prohibitionist — and ostensibly tee-totaling — congressmen and senators out of power.

Today, with the rise of cocktail culture and prohibition-vogue in full swing, Cassiday’s life and legacy are being re-discovered. Through books such as Garrett Peck’s Prohibition in Washington, D.C.: How Dry We Weren’t to New Columbia Distillery’s Green Hat Gin, the remarkable story of George Cassiday — “The Man in the Green Hat” — is again being told.

Reason TV spoke with Cassiday’s son, Fred, author Garrett Peck, and New Columbia Distillery’s John Uselton to discuss George Cassiday and the end of Prohibition.

December 3, 2017

Alberta debates marijuana legalization … oddly

Filed under: Cancon, Law, Liberty — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Colby Cosh’s most recent column is a real-life illustration of the old Bastiat saying that “The worst thing that can happen to a good cause is not to be skillfully attacked, but to be ineptly defended”:

I will leave better informed people to discuss Mr. Orr’s creative interpretation of the Cultural Revolution as being a proto-Reaganite anti-drug crusade. Actually, I am just informed enough to discuss it, briefly. Here’s the discussion: it’s bananas.

And yet! — the nonsense about China might not even have been the silliest part of the speech. Orr has concerns that legalized marijuana might not serve to suppress illegal production. This could, in itself, be a legitimate point. There is a genuine fear that the licensed vendors will set the price too high to compete with existing dealers. But it is not quite the point Orr chose to make. He seems to be convinced that licensed growers cannot compete with the black market at any price.

Why is it that criminals grow pot? Orr’s answer is not “because growing pot has, until now, been a crime.” That would be too easy. “Let’s look at it from a business point of view,” he suggests…

“The black market doesn’t have to pay taxes. They don’t have to pay (worker’s compensation). In most cases they don’t have to pay for any capital expenditures on land or buildings. They don’t have to buy business licences. In many cases they don’t pay for power… Anybody who tries to do this legally is going to have to pay all of these expenses, and you think you can compete financially on that level with them?”

This, of course, explains why, when we want furniture or shoes or chicken, we all invariably buy them in back alleys from underground businesses. But if Orr were to actually look around Alberta — even his own part of Alberta — he would see that lawful businesses do have some advantages.

Legal growers can raise hundreds of millions of dollars in capital markets not run by guys named Lefty or Snake. They can recruit scientists, professional marketers, and horticultural experts without having to hope Walter White shows up. They can exploit economies of scale. They can buy or rent acres of land without having to hide from helicopters. They can do business in broad daylight: they can rent billboards.

And meanwhile, it is not really as though illegal pot growers don’t have labour costs, or overhead, or capital and land requirements. Underground businesses that don’t pay “tax” still have to spend money, often more money, on the basic protective services that taxes buy the rest of us. Any economist could have told Mr. Orr as much. But I am afraid he got his economics out of the same Cracker Jack box his Chinese history came from.

November 18, 2017

Legalize Medically-Assisted Sex: Keep Government Out of Bedrooms and Wheelchairs

Filed under: Health, Law, Liberty, USA — Tags: — Nicholas @ 04:00

ReasonTV
Published on 17 Nov 2017

We should all be adults about sex and not deprive the disabled of services from which they’d benefit.

——

Nine out of 10 doctors agree sex is good for you, or at least better for you than smoking. But what happens if you have a disability that makes it difficult to engage in sex, or find a sexual partner in the first place? Enter sex surrogates, professionals who help the disabled work through their sexual problems (in large part by having sex with them). Although there’s a case to be made for the medical, if not psychological, benefits sex surrogates provide, they’re operating in a legal gray area.

In the latest Mostly Weekly, host Andrew Heaton makes the case that we should all be adults about sex and not deprive the disabled of services from which they’d benefit.

“Mostly Weekly” is hosted by Andrew Heaton with headwriter Sarah Rose Siskind.
Script by Sarah Rose Siskind with writing assistance from Andrew Heaton and Brian Sack.
Edited by Austin Bragg and Siskind.
Produced by Meredith and Austin Bragg.
Theme Song: Frozen by Surfer Blood.

November 15, 2017

Ignorance of the law … is inevitable, because there are so many laws

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

We’ve all heard the old saying that “ignorance of the law is no excuse”, but there has been such massive growth in the number and scope of laws in the last couple of generations that even the people who work in the legal field can’t possibly keep up. What chance do average citizens have to ensure they aren’t accidentally falling afoul of unknown (and for all practical purposes, unknowable) legal traps?

“Because I said so.” “Life isn’t fair.” “Ignorance of the law is no excuse.” These are some of the great cop-outs of all time, and the last one is particularly troubling in a country with so many laws that it is impossible to count — let alone read — them all. When was the last time you sat down with a complete set of the federal, state, and local codes setting forth the tens of thousands of criminal violations for which you could be sent to jail? If you answered “never,” you’re in good company. Nevertheless, America’s judges still cling to the proposition that it’s perfectly fine to lock people up for doing something they had no idea was illegal. But it’s not fine, and the justifications for that palpably unfair rule have only grown more threadbare with time.

Laws Are Not Even Countable, Much Less Knowable

Things have gotten so bad that even an act as innocent as sharing a Netflix password or a bank website password with a family member could potentially carry criminal penalties if the website disallows password sharing. The Computer Fraud and Abuse Act of 1986 bans intentionally accessing a computer “without authorization,” and the Supreme Court has recently declined to hear a case from the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, United States v. Nosal, that held that password sharing could be prohibited by the Act. Although the majority opinion did not explicitly mention innocent password sharing, the dissent noted that the lack of any limiting principle meant that the majority’s reasoning could easily be used to criminalize a host of innocent conduct.

One rationale for the maxim that ignorance of the law is no excuse was to give people an incentive to educate themselves about legal requirements. But as any law student will attest, one can study those requirements for years and barely scratch the surface. Another rationale was to prevent people from escaping criminal penalties by claiming ignorance, even when they actually knew they were breaking the law. That might have made sense in ancient times when there were only a few dozen crimes on the books and all of them involved morally blameworthy conduct like murder, arson, or rape.

But today the law has grown so complicated, and the relationship between law and morality so attenuated, that these supporting rationales no longer make sense. There have been multiple attempts to count the number of federal crimes, including by the Department of Justice, and no one has yet succeeded. Title 18 of the United States Code, which governs crimes and criminal procedure, has over 6,000 sections, and it is estimated that there are more than 4,500 federal crimes and over 300,000 agency regulations containing criminal penalties. And of course, this does not include the dizzying array of state and local criminal codes, ignorance of which is practically assured but still not excused.

In 2009, Harvey Silverglate wrote Three Felonies a Day: How the Feds Target the Innocent. That was long enough ago that three is almost certainly an under-estimate by now … there are so many more laws and regulations that have been added (or “enhanced”) since then.

QotD: Some positive effects of a cashless society

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

There’s a lot to like about the idea of a cashless society, starting with its effect on crime. The payoff to mugging people or snatching their bags has already declined dramatically, simply because fewer and fewer people are carrying cash around. I myself almost never have any of the stuff on hand. If it weren’t for the rising value of mobile phones, street crime would have largely lost its profit motive … and if better phone security makes it impossible to repurpose a stolen phone, that motive will approach zero.

A cashless society would also see a decline in the next level of robberies: stickups of retail outlets. There’s obviously no point in sticking a gun in the face of some liquor store clerk when all he can give you is the day’s credit card receipts. Even if these sorts of crimes are replaced by electronic thefts of equivalent value, this would still be a major improvement for society, simply because the threat of violent crime is uniquely terrifying and corrosive to community.

One step beyond that, there’s the effect on criminal enterprises, for whom cash is key. Making it impossible to transact business while keeping large amounts of money away from the watchful eye of the government will make it much harder to run an illegal operation. And while I love the tales of quirky bootleggers and tramp peddlers as much as the next fellow, the truth is that large criminal organizations are full of not very nice people, doing not very nice things, and it would be better for society if they stopped.

Megan McArdle, “After Cash: All Fun and Games Until Somebody Loses a Bank Account”, Bloomberg View, 2016-03-15.

November 6, 2017

Oregon sets new standard in authoritarian oversight over teens

Filed under: Government, Law, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

Amy Alkon reacts to a report about a new Oregon state law that goes a long way to remove agency and personal autonomy from teenagers in the state:

The latest is a story from Oregon, from The Daily Caller, where Eric Owen reports that public school teachers must now inform the government when they find out a teenager has had sex. No, we’re not talking about sex with some adult predator, but sex with another teen — consensual sex with another teen.

    Teachers in the Salem-Keizer school district face fines and can even lose their jobs if they fail to blow the whistle on teen students who are voluntarily having sex with each other, reports the Statesman Journal, the main newspaper in Salem.

    The draconian requirements also require teachers in the district to report teen students who might have had consensual sex.

    …The state law — ORS 163.315 — makes it illegal for anyone who is under 18 years of age to consent to a sex act.

The Statesman Journal story by Natalie Pate does say this:

    Another Oregon law, ORS 163.345, or the “three-year rule,” addresses when the individuals are similar in age and force and coercion are not present. This often is thought of as “consensual” activity.

    While this law can be applied in criminal proceedings, it does not apply to mandatory reporting.

The problem is that when laws are passed, laws can be used.

The government has no business telling people under 18 that they aren’t allowed autonomy over their own bodies.

So high school teachers are now legally required to report to state authorities even the suspicion that a teen in their classes has had sex. Police officers and social workers can then go to that school and investigate the student (one can easily imagine how traumatic that might be…). There’s no indication how long or under what conditions these “sex files” will be kept or accessed. Talk about fearing that something was going to go on your “permanent record”!

Older Posts »

Powered by WordPress