Posts tagged ‘Washington Times’

The Administration's War on Due Process

Obama's Department of Education has been issuing a series of new rules to colleges that accept government funds (ie pretty much all of them) that going forward, they will be required to

  • Expand the definition of sexual harassment, forcing it to include even Constitutionally-protected speech.  Sexual harassment will essentially be redefined as "somehow offending a female."
  • Eliminate traditional protections for those accused of sexual harassment under these new definitions.  The presumption of innocence, beyond a reasonable doubt guilt standards, the ability to face and cross-examine one's accuser, and the right of appeal are among centuries old common law traditions that the DOE is seeking to eliminate in colleges.

Unfortunately, this is a really hard threat to tackle.  Most of those concerned with civil rights protections outside our small libertarian community are on the left, and these same people are often fully vested in the modern feminist belief that all men are rapists.  It also puts libertarians in the position of defending crude and boorish speech, or at least defending the right to that speech.

But at the end of the day, the DOE needs to be forced to explain why drunk and stupid frat boys chanting crude slogans outside the women's center on campus should have fewer rights as accused than does a serial murder.

Michael Barone has more today in the Washington Times:

But more often they involve alleged offenses defined in vague terms and depending often on subjective factors. Lukianoff notes that campus definitions of sexual harassment include "humor and jokes about sex in general that make someone feel uncomfortable" (University of California at Berkeley), "unwelcome sexual flirtations and inappropriate put-downs of individual persons or classes of people" (Iowa State University) or "elevator eyes" (Murray State University in Kentucky).

All of which means that just about any student can be hauled before a disciplinary committee. Jokes about sex will almost always make someone uncomfortable, after all, and usually you can't be sure if flirting will be welcome except after the fact. And how do you define "elevator eyes"?

Given the prevailing attitudes among faculty and university administrators, it's not hard to guess who will be the target of most such proceedings. You only have to remember how rapidly and readily top administrators and dozens of faculty members were ready to castigate as guilty of rape the Duke lacrosse players who, as North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper concluded, were absolutely innocent.

What the seemingly misnamed Office of Civil Rights is doing here is demanding the setting up of kangaroo courts and the dispensing of what I would call marsupial justice against students who are disfavored by campus denizens because of their gender or race or political attitude. "Alice in Wonderland's" Red Queen would approve.

As Lukianoff points out, OCR had other options. The Supreme Court in a 1999 case defined sexual harassment as conduct "so severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive, and that so undermines and detracts from the victims' educational experience, that the victim-students are effectively denied equal access to an institution's resources and opportunities." In other words, more than a couple of tasteless jokes or a moment of elevator eyes.

Women'g groups all the time say things like "all men are rapists."  That's pretty hostile and degrading to men.  My guess is that somehow this kind of gender-hostile speech will not be what gets investigated by these kangaroo courts.

I wrote about related events at Yale here.

Government Oversight Worse Than Private Alternatives

Via Overlawyered:

As part of the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008 (CPSIA), Congress mandated that the CPSC create a "publicly available consumer product safety information database" compiling consumer complaints about the safety of products. Last week, by a 3-2 majority, the commission voted to adopt regulations that have dismayed many in the business community by ensuring that the database will needlessly include a wide range of secondhand, false, unfounded or tactical reports. The Washington Times editorializes:

"¦[Under the regulations as adopted last week] anybody who wants to trash a product, for whatever reason, can do so. The commission can leave a complaint on the database indefinitely without investigating its merits "even if a manufacturer has already provided evidence the claim is inaccurate," as noted by Carter Wood of the National Association of Manufacturers' "Shopfloor" blog"¦.

Trial lawyers pushing class-action suits could gin up hundreds of anonymous complaints, then point the jurors to those complaints at the "official" CPSC website as [support for] their theories that a product in question caused vast harm. "The agency does not appear to be concerned about fairness and does not care that unfounded complaints could damage the reputation of a company," said [Commissioner Nancy] Nord.

Commissioners Nord and Anne Northup introduced an alternative proposal (PDF) aimed at making the contents of the database more reliable and accurate but were outvoted by the Democratic commission majority led by Chairman Inez Tenenbaum. Nord: "under the majority's approach, the database will not differentiate between complaints entered by lawyers, competitors, labor unions and advocacy groups who may have their own reasons to "˜salt' the database, from those of actual consumers with firsthand experience with a product."

Any number of private actors have already tackled this problem. Amazon.com has probably the most comprehensive set of product reviews, and has taken a number of steps (e.g. real name reviews) to increase trust in their system.  Reviewers who are shills (either for or against a product) are quickly outed by other reviewers.   Another site whose reviews I rely on a lot is TripAdvisor, which has hotel and other travel reviews.   TripAdvisor allows the reviewed hotels to respond to individual reviews in a way that the consumer can see to get both sides of the story.

Apparently, none of this back and forth will be allowed in the CPSC data base.  The Democrats who wrote the process only want bad stuff in the data base, so it will not allow manufacturer responses or even positive reviews to appear.  The only possible justification for the government to run this database would be for the government to take a role in investigating and confirming or overturning claims and complaints, but it is clear it won't be doing this either.   This will just be a location for disgruntled people to drop turds on various manufacturers, all with the imprimatur of the government.  I can't see consumers finding much value here compared to the alternatives, but I can see the value in a courtroom to be able to stuff a government site with unsubstantiated claims and then use that site to say that the "official" government site is full of criticisms of the product.

Here Is A Great Issue for "Progressives." Somehow I Doubt They Will Run With It

From Daniel Griswold in the Washington Times:

President Obama and the other Group of 20 leaders delivered their obligatory warning against protectionism at last week's summit in Pittsburgh. But at home the U.S. president continues to conduct his own trade war, not only against imports from China and other developing countries, but against the most vulnerable of American consumers.

America's highest remaining trade barriers are aimed at products mostly grown and made by poor people abroad and disproportionately consumed by poor people at home. While industrial goods and luxury products typically enter under low or zero tariffs, the U.S. government imposes duties of 30 percent or more on food and lower-end clothing and shoes - staple goods that loom large in the budgets of poor families....

The tariff the president imposed on Chinese tires earlier this month was heavily biased against low-income American families. The affected tires typically cost $50 to $60 each, as compared with the unaffected tires that sell for $200 each. The result of the tariff will be an increase in lower-end tire prices of 20 percent to 30 percent. Low-income families struggling to keep their cars on the road will be forced to postpone replacing old and worn tires, putting their families at greater risk....

A few liberal Democrats still care, too. Edward Gresser of the Democratic Leadership Council has done more than anyone to expose the unfair, anti-poor bias of the U.S. tariff code.

In his 2007 book "Freedom From Want: American Liberalism and the Global Economy," he calculated that a single mother earning $15,000 a year as a maid in a hotel will forfeit about a week's worth of her annual pay to the U.S. tariff system, while the hotel's $100,000-a-year manager will give up only two or three hours of pay.

What, Was Ralph Nader Busy?

Per Overlawyered:

Mothers Against Drunk Driving is anything but an uncontroversial organization, as the Washington Times, Radley Balko, and our own archives make clear. Among the bad, sometimes awful ideas with which it has been identified are a reduction of the blood alcohol limit to 0.4 (meaning that for some adults a single drink could result in arrest), blanket police roadblocks and pullovers, the 55 mph speed limit, traffic-cams, and the imprisonment of parents who knowingly permit teen party drinking, to name but a few. Of particular interest when it comes to the policies of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), it has backed proposed legislation demanding that costly breathalyzer-ignition interlock systems be foisted on all new cars, whether or not their drivers have ever committed a DUI offense; it's also lined up with the plaintiff's bar on various dubious efforts to expand liability.

Now President Obama has named MADD CEO Chuck Hurley to head NHTSA. Drivers, car buyers, and the American public had better brace themselves for a season of neo-Prohibitionist rhetoric, nannyist initiatives, and efforts to criminalize now-lawful conduct. It won't be pretty.

Olson has tons of history linked on his site.

This Can't Possibly End Well

Forget for a moment the real scientific questions about the future magnitude of anthropogenic global warming.  Just imagine the abuse of this new proposed statute, given that incredibly difficult nature of causality in a complex, chaotic system like climate:

An under-the-radar provision in a House climate bill would give plaintiffs who claim to be victims of global warming a way to sue the federal government or businesses, according to a report Friday in The Washington Times.

The Times reported that Democratic Reps. Henry Waxman of California and Edward Markey of Massachusetts added it into a bill they authored.

The provision, which was just released, reportedly would set grounds for plaintiffs who has "suffered" or expect to suffer "harm" attributable at least in part to government inaction. The provision defines "harm" as "any effect of air pollution (including climate change)," according to the Times. Plaintiffs could seek up to $75,000 in damages a year from the government, with $1.5 million being the maximum total payout.

Remember that it was just weeks ago that the President of the United States blamed flooding in North Dakota on global warming.  If flood damage that resulted from a colder-than-average winter and near record snowfall can be blamed on anthropogenic global warming, then anything can.

Why We Don't Need More Highway Funds

We don't need more highway funds because right now, as estimated by the Anti-Planner, about 40% of Federal highway funds go to non-highway projects.   In particular:

Over the past fifteen years alone, America has spent well over $100
billion on rail transit construction projects but has little to show
for it. As mobility advocate John Semmens pointed out a few days ago in
a recent Washington Times op ed, transit's share of urban travel has actually declined since 1995.
Transitvdriving_800_2

Wow, money well spent, huh?  I have written many times on commuter rail follies in Phoenix and other western cities that are utterly unsuited to rail transit.  The most recent news here in Phoenix is that design flaws are appearing, even before the first train is run.

Democrat's Privacy Push

Via Powerline and the Washington Times comes a report (or maybe a prediction) that Democrats may be preparing to use privacy as the unifying theme of their 2006 legislative agenda and reelection efforts.  This actually echos a suggestion made by Kevin Drum last year (which may be an indication that Democrats are getting smarter, if they are listening to Drum rather than Kos).

John Hinderaker thinks that this suggestion, which would link abortion and NSA surveillance, ranks as either ineffective or "downright weird".  I think it would be fabulous, but, as I wrote in response to Drum's post the first time around, it contains huge land mines for the left:

I am all for a general and strong privacy right.  I would love to see
it Constitutionally enshrined.  But liberals (like conservatives, but I
am answering Drum's question) don't want it.  They want to allow women to choose abortions, but not choose breast implants.
They want the government to allow marijuana use but squelch fatty
foods.  They don't want police checking for terrorists but do want them
checking for people not wearing their seat belts.  They want freedom of
speech, until it criticizes groups to whom they are sympathetic.  They want to allow topless dancers but regulate the hell out of how much they make.  Liberals, in sum, are at
least as bad about wanting to control private, non-coerced individual
decision-making as conservatives -- they just want to control other
aspects of our lives than do conservatives.

It just so happens a perfect example is sitting right at the top of Instapundit this morning:  Teresa Nielsen Hayden apparently takes the drug Cylert to treat her narcolepsy.  For a while, it has been known that Cylert can cause some liver trouble.  She apparently knows this, has a doctor monitor her liver health, but is willing to take this risk because she apparently is fine with accepting some risk of liver trouble in exchange for substantially improved quality of life. 

The problem is, the liberal/progressive Public Citizen group has fought hard and successfully to deny her this choice for her own body.  This type action is not an exception, but rather is fundamental to the left/Democrat agenda, i.e. We are smarter than you about making choices, and we would never risk liver disease to cure narcolepsy (though we have never lived through narcolepsy ourselves) so we are not going to allow you to make that decision for yourself.  Vioxx users, like acute-pain sufferers for whom Vioxx is really the first treatment to allow them to enjoy life again without incapacitating pain, have also been denied this choice.  So have folks who want to get breast implants, manage their own retirement (social Security) funds, ride motorcycles without helmets and drive cars without seat belts.  One case that is quite revealing is NOW's insistence that women, even
at the age of 13, have the ability and absolute right to make abortion
decisions without government intervention, but that these same women are completely incapable of making breast implant decisions so they demand that the government curtail this choice. 

But the list really goes much further.  For example, why isn't it a "private" decision when two people agree without coercion as to how much money one will provide labor or goods or services to the other.  An enormous part of the Democratic platform rests on regulating the shit out of every single facet of this type of private encounter.

Since the left considers sex absolutely beyond regulation, and commerce completely fair game for detailed government intervention, its funny when the two cross, as they did when the ACLU argued that taxation of topless dancers interfered with their freedom of expression.  Fine, but if topless dancing is expression, which it seems to be, why isn't writing a book, designing a house, making an iPod or even cooking great cheese-fries?  Commerce is all about expression, about communication, about private agreements and exchanges.  But I am pretty sure that the Democratic party does not want their privacy stance to go in these directions.

A while ago, I had a fascinating experience actually reading for myself the much-talked about Roe v. Wade decision.  Because I take the 9th amendment seriously, I wasn't struck, as conservatives are, that the judges had created a privacy right out of nowhere.  What I was struck by instead was just how narrow a line the Court tried to walk in saying that a woman's decision to have an abortion (at least in the first trimester) is beyond the reach of government, but nearly every other non-coerced decision we make is still fair game for government intrusion.  It was this distinction, between abortion and every other decision that I found compelling:

However, I hope you see the quandary in which all this leaves abortion
supporters on the left.  Much of their philosophy and political agenda
rests on this notion of "a compelling state interest" in nearly every
facet of human endeavor.  The left pushes constantly for expansion of
government regulation into every corner of our lives.  They are trying
to walk a line, a line so narrow I don't think it even exists, between
there being no state interest in 16 year old girls getting abortions
without their parents' knowledge or consent and there being a strong
state interest in breast implants, painkillers, seat belt use, bike
helmets, tobacco use, fatty foods, etc.  They somehow have to make the
case that that a woman is fully able to make decisions about an
abortion but is not able to make decisions, without significant
government regulation and intervention, about her retirement savings,
the wages she accepts for her work, her use of a tanning booth, and her
choice of painkillers. I personally think she can handle all these, and more.

So, to the Democrats, bring on the privacy issue!  I am sure no one in the MSM will test these contradictions and certainly the Republicans don't want to go here (they are just as invested today in statism in their own way as Democrats).  But we libertarian bloggers should have a good time.

My summary post on attacks against individual decision making from both left and right is here.