RSSCategory: Law

Sessions: OK to jail people because they are poor

December 30, 2017 | By | Reply More

Op-ed from the NYT:

Last week, Attorney General Jeff Sessions retracted an Obama-era guidance to state courts that was meant to end debtors’ prisons, where people who are too poor to pay fines are sent. This practice is blatantly unconstitutional, and the guidance had helped jump-start reform around the country. Its withdrawal is the latest sign that the federal government is retreating from protecting civil rights for the most vulnerable among us.

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Trump exposes vulnerabilities of the U.S. Constitution

December 30, 2017 | By | Reply More

At the U.K. Guardian, Jonathan Freedman writes the following in his article, “The year of Trump has laid bare the US constitution’s serious flaws”:

I once thought the US constitution – a document crafted with almost mathematical precision, constructing a near-perfect equilibrium of checks and balances – offered protection against such perils. And there’s no denying that that text, as interpreted by the courts, has indeed acted as a partial roadblock in Trump’s path, delaying and diluting his Muslim-focused “travel ban”, for example.

But this year of Trump has also shown the extent to which the US has an unwritten constitution that – just like ours – relies on the self-restraint of the key political players, a self-restraint usually insisted upon by a free press. Yet when confronted with a leader unbound by any sense of shame – and shamelessness might just be Trump’s defining quality – America is left unexpectedly vulnerable.

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The Effect of Concepts Creeping to the Left

October 24, 2017 | By | 3 Replies More

In this paper titled, “Why Concepts Creep to the Left,” Jonathan Haidt supplements Nick Haslam’s paper titled “Concept Creep,” in which concepts such as bullying, trauma and addiction morph over time. And there are newish terms that have become prominent and expansive in recent years, “trigger warnings” and “microaggressions.” But these concepts don’t merely change. They change to the whims of the political left. And they especially change for current students and young adults rather than those over 40. In his article, Haidt asks why there is a direction to that change. Haidt writes:

These terms are part of a new conceptual package that includes all of the older concepts long referred to as “political correctness” but with greatly expanded notions of harm, trauma, mental illness, vulnerability, and harassment. These concepts seem to have expanded in just the way that Haslam (2016) describes — horizontally, to take in new kinds of cases (such as adding the reading of novels to the list of traumatizing activities) and vertically, to take in ever less extreme versions of older cases (as is made explicit by the prefix “micro” in the word “microaggression”). In this conceptually augmented political correctness, the central idea seems to be that many college students are so fragile that institutions and right-thinking people must all work together to protect vulnerable individuals from exposure to words and ideas that could damage them in a lasting way. If this protection requires banning certain speakers from campus, or punishing student newspapers that publish opinions that upset the dominant campus sensibility, then so be it.

What are the reasons for this expansion of these concepts to the left. Haidt explores several possibilities . ..

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Mob behavior and threats to free speech described and discussed by Nicholas Christakis

October 11, 2017 | By | Reply More

I recommend this excellent discussion by Nicholas Christakis on the topics of mob behavior, moral panics, and current threats to free speech. Illiberal behavior is destroying our ability to talk with each other, notably on the places where we would most expect vigorous exchanges of ideas: college campuses. Christakis is a sociologist and physician who conducts research in the area of biosocial science, investigating the biological predicates and consequences of social phenomena. He directs the Human Nature Lab at Yale University. Sam Harris presents this discussion on his Waking Up podcast.

At the tail end of the podcast, Christakis and Harris mention the work of Greg Lukianoff, President of FIRE, Foundation for Individual Rights in Education.

The mission of FIRE is to defend and sustain individual rights at America’s colleges and universities. These rights include freedom of speech, legal equality, due process, religious liberty, and sanctity of conscience—the essential qualities of individual liberty and dignity. FIRE’s core mission is to protect the unprotected and to educate the public and communities of concerned Americans about the threats to these rights on our campuses and about the means to preserve them.

FIRE has achieved long successful string of legal victories through its Speech Litigation Project. 

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Sam Harris comments on Black Lives Matters

September 16, 2017 | By | 2 Replies More

I’m am largely in agreement with Sam Harris on these issues.

There are more than a few bad cops out there, and lots of good cops. There are some totally innocent people who are being victimized by the bad cops.  There are also some people who are unwisely pushing back at cops on the street, in situations where emotions are peaking and there is a gun “on the table.”  And there are many people out there over-generalizing and sanitizing (one way or the other) an ever growing disparate collection of street encounters between cops and African-American, where the African Americans end up getting shot by cops.

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What the Bible actually says about abortion.

September 2, 2017 | By | Reply More

Here’s a fascinating post from a quirky and thoughtful website called “Bible Funmentionables.”

In this particular post, Michael Morris puts on his news reporter hat and simply asks what “God” had to say about abortion.

But many of the same people who give God a pass for allowing so many embryos to die, would like us to believe that God is punishing us for not making all abortions stop. Setting aside the fact that making abortions illegal does not cause them to stop, let’s examine what the Bible says DIRECTLY about abortion.

Spoiler alert: “It’s clear that if pro-lifers want to bring the Bible into the debate, the Bible is NOT on their side.” The evidence presented at Bible Funmentionables includes passages like this:

If his soul is not filled with good, and he does not receive proper burial, I say that an aborted birth is better than he. —Ecclesiastes 6:3

I’d encourage a visit to this post to prepare you for the next time a Bible thumper tells you that the Bible prohibits abortion.  You will be prepared to intelligently discuss the issue by citing chapter and verse.

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Rick Steves’ Pragmatic Approach to Terrorism

May 23, 2017 | By | 1 Reply More

I’ve long admired Rick Steves, not only for his immensely useful travel resources, but for his world view and his willingness to speak up on difficult topics, such as advocating for the decriminalization of drugs.

Another topic on which he has taken a courageous stand is the way we, as a nation, react to terrorism. Here’s what Steves had to say (in 2006):

I think we’re 300 million people and if we lose a few hundred people a year to terrorists, that doesn’t change who we are and it shouldn’t change the fabric of our society. Frankly I think we should get used to losing—as long as we’re taking the stance in the world of being the military superpower, you’re going to have people nipping at you. And if it’s hundreds or thousands—we lose 15,000 people a year to have the right to bear arms and most people think that’s a good deal, year after year. We spend 15,000 people for the right to bear arms. What do we spend to be as aggressive and heavy weight on this planet? We’re always going to have terrorism.

I agree with Steves. Zero tolerance regarding terrorism is ruining us. We tolerate death as inevitable in many other spheres without freaking out, clamping down on civil rights and indiscriminately bombing people overseas.

Yes, you should try to prevent (all) acts of violence, but occasionally you will fail to prevent deaths, as happens with gun violence, drunken driving, texting while driving, cigarette smoking, lack of medical care, eating crappy food and lack to exercise. How many people die early because they are forced to go to terrible schools, which sends them into a downward spiral?

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Why the war on drugs is worse than the drugs themselves.

May 16, 2017 | By | Reply More

Peter Christ, founder of LEAP (“Law Enforcement Action Partnership”). The war on drugs is worse than the drugs themselves, as Peter Christ’s explains in this video:

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Appellate Law in the Trenches

May 4, 2017 | By | Reply More

I was happy with the turnout and quality of speakers for today’s seminar sponsored by the Bar Association of Metropolitan St. Louis: “Appellate Lawyering in the Trenches.” I had the honor of being the organizer, but most of the work was done by the following presenters: Eric Martin, Beth Carver and Barbara Smith (Bryan Cave), Jeff McPherson (Armstrong Teasdale), Hon. Colleen Dolan and Joy Hannell (Missouri Court of Appeals), John Campbell (Campbell Law),and Shannan Hall (BAMSL). We have already received lots of good feedback from those attending and I look forward to doing something like this again within the next year or two.

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