Patterico's Pontifications


BREAKING: Trump Commutes Roger Stone’s Sentence

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 5:01 pm

As corrupt as it gets:

Even Bill Barr said this was a righteous prosecution. But Trump recently maintained, in a statement literally nobody except his most rabid and senseless fans believe, that Stone was “framed.”

Dirty. Corrupt. Inexcusable.

Vote him out.

More On Coronavirus and Masks

Filed under: General — Dana @ 2:02 pm

[guest post by Dana]

State assembly member Autumn Burke (D-Inglewood) reported that she was told that she had “mask to mask” exposure to Covid-19, and days later, tested positive for the coronavirus:

Burke had “mask to mask” exposure to the virus on June 26, she said — the same day that an Assembly employee was last in the Capitol before testing positive. That employee wore a face covering at all times, according to an Assembly Rules Committee email.

It goes without saying that we wish Ms. Burke and her daughter well, and prayerfully they remain symptom-free.

With that, I haven’t seen any report specifically citing mask-to-mask exposure leading to infection before this one. If you have seen a report making a similar claim, please link to it in the comments.

Anyway, as of Monday morning, the California Assembly is now on an indefinite hiatus:

The Assembly is suspending its session until further notice following five confirmed COVID-19 cases among lawmakers and employees.

John Casey, a spokesman to Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, said the Assembly is “closed until further notice,” meaning it will not return for previously scheduled legislative hearings on Monday.


The Assembly recorded its first COVID-19 case on June 22, when an employee tested positive after reporting to work in the Capitol the week prior…

Meanwhile, there has been a post making the rounds on social media that presents an alleged “contagion graphic” indicating to what degree mask-wearing interferes with the transmission of coronavirus. Here is the unsourced claim:

Untitled (Recovered)

Untitled (Recovered)

Kasier Family Foundation recently looked into the claims being asserted. Because there was no source information to refer to, they contacted the CDC (Center for Disease Control) to see if they could substantiate the claims with actual research. No such luck:

“We have not seen or compiled data that looks at probabilities like the ones represented in the visual you sent,” Jason McDonald, a member of CDC’s media team, wrote in an email. “Data are limited on the effectiveness of cloth face coverings in this respect and come primarily from laboratory studies.”

McDonald added that studies are needed to measure how much face coverings reduce transmission of COVID-19, especially from those who have the disease but are asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic.

Other public health experts we consulted agreed: They were not aware of any science that confirmed the numbers in the image.

“The data presented is bonkers and does not reflect actual human transmissions that occurred in real life with real people,” Peter Chin-Hong, a professor of medicine at the University of California-San Francisco, wrote in an email. It also does not reflect anything simulated in a lab, he added.

Andrew Lover, an assistant professor of epidemiology at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, agreed. He had seen a similar graphic on Facebook before we interviewed him and done some fact-checking on his own.

“We simply don’t have data to say this,” he wrote in an email. “It would require transmission models in animals or very detailed movement tracking with documented mask use (in large populations).”

“We get the most protection if both parties wear masks,” Linsey Marr, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at Virginia Tech who studies viral air droplet transmission, wrote in an email. She was speaking about transmission of COVID-19 as well as other respiratory illnesses.

Chin-Hong went even further. “Bottom line,” he wrote in his email, “everyone should wear a mask and stop debating who might have [the virus] and who doesn’t.”

However incorrect the percentages are in the graphic, mask wearing is favored as a preventative measure to limit the transmission of droplets and aerosols:

“The main reason that the masks do better in the outward direction is that the droplets/aerosols released from the wearer’s nose and mouth haven’t had a chance to undergo evaporation and shrinkage before they hit the mask,” wrote Marr. “It’s easier for the fabric to block the droplets/aerosols when they’re larger rather than after they have had a chance to shrink while they’re traveling through the air.”

So, the image is also right when it implies there is less risk of transmission of the disease if a COVID-positive person wears a mask.

“In terms of public health messaging, it’s giving the right message. It just might be overly exact in terms of the relative risk,” said Lover. “As a rule of thumb, the more people wearing masks, the better it is for population health.”

Ulitmately, Kasier Family Foundation drew this conclusion about their findings:

Experts agreed the image does convey an idea that is right: Wearing a mask is likely to interfere with the spread of COVID-19.

But, although this message has a hint of accuracy, the image leaves out important details and context, namely the source for the contagion probabilities it seeks to illustrate. Experts said evidence for the specific probabilities doesn’t exist.


Judge Sullivan Requests D.C. Circuit to Rehear Flynn Mandamus En Banc; UPDATE: Court of Appeals Issues Stay

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 8:24 am

Washington Post:

The legal saga of President Trump’s former national security adviser Michael Flynn continued Thursday when a judge asked the appeals court in Washington to revive his effort to scrutinize the Justice Department’s move to drop Flynn’s case.

The full U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit will now decide whether to take a second look at U.S. District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan’s plan to examine whether the government’s move to undo Flynn’s plea of guilty is in the public interest.

. . . .

In response, Sullivan’s attorneys told the court that while the panel majority’s opinion is couched as a fact-bound ruling, it marks a “dramatic break from precedent” that “threatens to turn ordinary judicial process upside down.”

That is correct. The opinion makes a mockery of the usual standard for mandamus, which is there to redress the harms to a petitioner only when there is “no other adequate means to attain the relief he desires.” The court could not possibly know whether Flynn — the only party that sought relief (the Government did not) — could obtain the relief he desired (a dismissal) until Judge Sullivan was allowed to rule.

The full court should rehear the case. Whether they will is anyone’s guess. I’m on record saying they will, but it’s taking them a while.

Read Judge Sullivan’s brief here.

UPDATE: The Court of Appeals has stayed the proceedings and called for briefing (a completely standard move):


Band Changes Name To Lady A, Sues Blues Singer Using Same Name ‘To Affirm Right To Continue To Use The Name Lady A’

Filed under: General — Dana @ 5:54 pm

[guest post by Dana]

[Ed.I wasn’t comfortable with the title of the post, and struggled to find something suitable and succinct. I’ve edited to something more clear, but still clunky and long…]

FYI: the band is white, the blues singer is black…

During a time of racial unrest and national discord, a white country outfit called Lady Antebellum had an epiphany after 20 years, and recently expressed remorse for using a professional name which failed to “take into account the associations that weigh down this word referring to the period of history before the Civil War, which includes slavery”. Realizing that it might not be a well-considered (or well-received) name these days, they then changed the band’s name to “Lady A”. However, the road to wokeness has been anything but smooth:

In June, the band formerly known as Lady Antebellum announced it would change its name to Lady A to remove any association with slavery. But weeks after appearing to reach an agreement with Seattle-based blues singer Anita White, who has been using the same name for more than a decade, the country group announced on Wednesday it is suing her.

“Today we are sad to share that our sincere hope to join together with Anita White in unity and common purpose has ended,” the band members of Lady A said in a statement to CBS News. “She and her team have demanded a $10 million payment, so reluctantly we have come to the conclusion that we need to ask a court to affirm our right to continue to use the name Lady A, a trademark we have held for many years.”

Band members Hillary Scott, Charles Kelley, and David Haywood decided to sue after “White’s attempt to enforce purported trademark rights in a mark that Plaintiffs have held for more than a decade,” according to the lawsuit. The band is not seeking monetary damages, the lawsuit said.

According to the lawsuit, the band had reportedly been going by both Lady A and Lady Antebellum since 2006-2007, and the band trademarked “Lady A” in 2011, to no one’s objections:

“Prior to 2020, White did not challenge, in any way, Plaintiffs’ open, obvious, and widespread nationwide and international use of the Lady A mark as a source indicator,” the lawsuit said.

The lawsuit does note that White has identified as Lady A since 2010 and that she also features her music on a Spotify artist page. But the suit pointed out that White’s artist page at the time of the court filing had 166 monthly listeners, compared to the band’s more than 7 million.

White responded to the lawsuit, saying:

“I had suggested on the Zoom call that they go by the Band Lady A, or Lady A the Band, and I could be Lady A the Artist, but they didn’t want to do that.”

She explained that in the recent past, she was unable to verify that her name was Lady A for multiple days while attempting to upload a new single to streaming services.

In the band’s statement, they cited White “demanding a $10 million payment” as their reason to filing the lawsuit. White explained to Vulture that she wanted to use half the money to rebrand and donate the other half to organizations that support independent Black artists.

“I was quiet for two weeks because I was trying to believe that it was going to be okay and that they would realize that it would be easier to just change their name, or pay me for my name,” White said. “Five million dollars is nothing, and I’m actually worth more than that, regardless of what they think. But here we go again with another white person trying to take something from a Black person, even though they say they’re trying to help. If you want to be an advocate or an ally, you help those who you’re oppressing. And that might require you to give up something because I am not going to be erased.”

The band said in the lawsuit:

“We never even entertained the idea that she [White] shouldn’t also be able to use the name Lady A, and never will — today’s action doesn’t change that. …We felt we had been brought together for a reason and saw this as living out the calling that brought us to make this change in the first place.

We’re disappointed that we won’t be able to work together with Anita for that greater purpose. We’re still committed to educating ourselves, our children and doing our part to fight for the racial justice so desperately needed in our country and around the world. …We hope Anita and the advisers she is now listening to will change their minds about their approach. We can do so much more together than in this dispute.

Legalities aside, the optics of this are just terrible: a white band gets woke, and realize that their professional name of 20 years might be “associated with slavery,” they need to change it. Thus they break free from their antebellum shackles and give themselves a new name, which unbeknownst to them, happens to be the exact same name that a black blues singer has used professionally for more than 20 years. And because the concerned parties are unable to come to an agreement about use of the name, the white band decides to sue the black singer … because of racial justice.

Man, for professional musicians, they strike me as being mighty tone deaf.

Anyway, here’s an extra: You can watch Lady A (the singer) perform “Mississippi Woman” here. You can watch Lady A (the band) perform “Need You Now” here.


Trump Tax Return Cases: Wishy-Washy Rulings Will Push Issue Past Elections

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 8:29 am

The Supreme Court kinda sorta decided the Trump tax cases today. Mazars (congressional subpoenas) is here. Vance (state grand jury subpoenas) is here. Both are 7-2.

You’d think Trump lost. Vance holds: “Article II and the Supremacy Clause do not categorically preclude, or require a heightened standard for, the issuance of a state criminal subpoena to a sitting President.” Mazars does not uphold Trump’s absurd position that he is categorically immune from state grand jury subpoenas, but holds only that “[t]he courts below did not take adequate account of the significant separation of powers concerns implicated by congressional subpoenas for the President’s information.”

But grand jury material is secret, and the Vance opinion makes clear that Trump can still raise objections in the lower courts. As for the congressional subpoenas, no 5,496 factor balancing test (I exaggerate, slightly) can be applied and go through another round of appeals by November.

As with the Mueller grand jury materials, the effect is to run out the clock until after the election.


The Interesting Internal Squabble at Vox

Filed under: General — JVW @ 6:15 pm

[guest post by JVW]

I know that so many of you hate Twitter. I kind of hate it too, though I confess that I just can’t quit it. While it is indeed chock-full of dumb, reactionary, mean-spirited ripostes — including 2,443 of them from yours truly — it does give us a voyeur’s window into the internal politics of certain media organizations which otherwise we would have to learn from the rumor mill.

Yesterday, Dana (with an addendum from Patterico) did a great job in outlining the curious dustup regarding the open letter supporting free speech and opposing cancel culture signed by many practicing leftists, which in turn led a Vox editor to decry the fact that fellow Voxxer Matt Yglesias had signed on to the letter, claiming that it makes her, as a trans-woman, “feel less safe.” This predictable contention, subject to ridicule though it was, seems to have laid bare some internal tensions within the Vox office (Voxxice? Voffice?). It began with Vox founder and head honcho Ezra Klein apparently asking Mr. Yglesias to avoid engaging this matter directly or with subtweets, which for the happily uninitiated are tweets that appear on their face to be generalized in nature but are in fact clearly intended for the attention of specific unnamed people. It started yesterday, when the Vox editor published her criticism of Mr. Yglesias and many voices on the right took to the his defense. This didn’t seem to sit well with our hero, who started digging up old tweets of some of the same defenders criticizing his past work:

Yglesias slagged

After settling those old scores in disdain of his newfound allies, he later pledged to change his strategy, perhaps after conferring with his friend Mr. Klein:

Yglesias promise

Then this morning Mr. Klein perhaps sent a message as to where Vox stands on free speech by retweeting Zach Beauchamp:

Klein retweets Beauchamp

He then followed it up with a tweet of his own, with a point regarding free speech and intersectionality that he claims wasn’t necessarily intended for Mr. Yglesias and the leftist signers of the open letter, but can hardly be read otherwise:

Klein tweets free speech and power

Mr. Yglesias clearly saw this as a subtweet to himself, and he responded somewhat caustically with a tweet that he appears to have then quickly deleted:

Yglesias responds to Klein

When Yascha Mounk of Persuasion called out Mr. Klein on the subtweet, the Vox founder was forced to begin backtracking:

Mounk and Klein

And ultimately realizing how dysfunctional this petty squabble was making his employer and his own brand appear, Mr. Yglesias sued for peace:

Yglesias surrenders

Thus ends the Battle of the Cancel Culture Open Letter at the Vox Offices, but the War for Free Speech rages on. Would you feel comfortable working for Ezra Klein, seeing his avowed commitment to the open exchange of ideas compromised by his insistence on paying homage to the more dopey notions of intersectionality and power structures? What if you weren’t Mr. Klein’s “co-founder and oldest friend in journalism,” but some lowly cub reporter?

Cheers to Matt Yglesias for taking a stand in favor of free speech, then not (thus far) backing down when the woke mob starting coming for him. Boos to Ezra Klein for being so wishy-washy on this issue which really ought to be central to his profession. He should take some time to work all of this out in his mind and come up with a principled and consistent position going forward, because one day the woke mob will almost certainly come for him.


Supreme Court Affirms Latitude for Religious Schools in Teacher Employment Matters

Filed under: General — JVW @ 3:33 pm

[guest post by JVW]

The U.S. Supreme Court declared today that the First Amendment limits the ability of courts to intervene in employment matters at private religious schools when the employee can be determined to have a ministerial aspect to his or her employment. The case, Our Lady of Guadalupe School vs. Morrisey-Berru, built upon an earlier decision in Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School vs. EEOC eight years ago in which the Court unanimously ruled that “it is impermissible for the government to contradict a church’s determination of who can act as its ministers” by applying that “ministerial exception” from Hosannah-Tabor to teachers who are expected to incorporate religious instruction in the classroom:

A variety of factors may be important in determining whether a particular position falls within the ministerial exception. The circumstances that informed the Court’s decision in Hosanna-Tabor were relevant because of their relationship to Perich’s “role in conveying the Church’s message and carrying out its mission.” But the recognition of the significance of those factors in Perich’s case did not mean that they must be met in all other cases. What matters is what an employee does. Implicit in the Hosanna-Tabor decision was a recognition that educating young people in their faith, inculcating its teachings, and training them to live their faith are responsibilities that lie at the very core of a private religious school’s mission.

Applying this understanding of the Religion Clauses here, it is apparent that Morrissey-Berru and Biel qualify for the exception recognized in Hosanna-Tabor. There is abundant record evidence that they both performed vital religious duties, such as educating their students in the Catholic faith and guiding their students to live their lives in accordance with that faith. Their titles did not include the term “minister” and they had less formal religious training than Perich, but their core responsibilities were essentially the same. And their schools expressly saw them as playing a vital role in carrying out the church’s mission. A religious institution’s explanation of the role of its employees in the life of the religion in question is important. [Citations removed from original text.]

I had an interest in this case because Our Lady of Guadalupe is a parish in Hermosa Beach, just a couple of miles from where I live, and that case had been combined with a similar case, St. James School vs. Biel, which is the school attached to my own home parish. In what might be considered a pleasant surprise, Justices Stephen Breyer and Elena Kagan joined with the Court majority to deliver a 7-2 decision. Justice Clarence Thomas concurred, but went a bit further than the majority in reiterating “my view that the Religion Clauses require civil courts to defer to religious organizations’ good-faith claims that a certain employee’s position is ‘ministerial,’” apparently being unwilling to leave it to the courts to determine what defines a ministry. Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote a dissent, joined by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, arguing that the terms “minister” and “ministerial” should be applied far more narrowly and generally reserved to those who exercise a leadership role within the actual church, not just at a church school.

Religious freedom issues are now three-for-three in this court term, with today’s decision coming on the heels of last month’s decision in Espinoza vs. Montana Department of Revenue in which the Court ruled (5-4, conservatives vs. progressives) that the state could not prevent a taxpayer-funded scholarship intended for private school tuition from being used at religious schools. Also announced today was a decision in Little Sisters of the Poor Sts. Peter and Paul Home vs. Pennsylvania, a continuation of the battle the Little Sisters of the Poor has waged against a post-Obamacare mandate that religious employers’ health plans cover contraception usage by lay employees. Pennsylvania, joined by New Jersey, argued that the Trump Administration’s exemption of all religious organizations’ work from the contraceptive mandate was not allowable under the terms of the Affordable Care Act, and that it had not properly been formulated through administrative channels. The Court again decided by a 7-2 margin (same lineup as the Our Lady case) that the exemption was proper and legal, though the majority opinion, written by Justice Thomas, refused to go so far as to declare that the Little Sisters have a First Amendment right to forever refuse to pay for contraception coverage. This of course leaves the entire issue of whether a religious exemption ought to exist up to future administrations. Justice Alito made note of this in his concurring opinion, joined by Justice Gorsuch, and predicted that Pennsylvania and New Jersey would soon be back in the lower courts raising yet another objection to the ruling that would keep the Little Sisters busy defending their religious freedom.

A hallmark of the Roberts Court has been its careful — a critic might say timid — narrowing of the scope of the Court’s rulings. This term we have established that taxpayer-funded scholarships can’t be denied to religious school students, but the Court has been unwilling to categorically strike down Blaine Amendments in state constitutions. The Court has expanded the ministerial exception to include teachers at religious schools, but only if the school explicitly outlines the expectations it has for the teachers in advance, rejecting Justice Thomas’s belief that religious schools be granted “good-faith” deference. And they have continued to protect the Little Sisters of the Poor from requirements that they violate the dictates of their conscience, yet they frustratingly refuse to expand the ruling in Hobby Lobby and declare that religious orders do not have to fund contraception for lay employees. There is certainly some virtue in the Supreme Court refusing to act as a supra-legislature (except when it wants to), but at some point it would be nice if they would stand up for the Constitution.


Sunshine State: Covid Rates Spike, Disney World To Reopen, GOP Convention Set For Jacksonville

Filed under: General — Dana @ 11:57 am

[guest post by Dana]

In three days, Disney World Orlando will reopen:

Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla., will welcome back visitors on Saturday even as coronavirus cases in Florida remain high. In doing so Disney is stepping into a politicized debate surrounding the virus and efforts to keep people safe, where even the wearing of masks has become a point of contention.

On Wednesday, Florida reported more than 9,900 new cases, bringing the state’s total to 223,775 cases over the course of the pandemic.

Visiting Disney World will be different: Parades, fireworks and most indoor shows have been suspended. There will be no opportunities to hug any costumed characters. Fingerprint scanners will not be used at park entrances.

“Covid is here,” Josh D’Amaro, Disney’s theme park chairman, said. “We have a responsibility to figure out the best approach to safely operate in this new normal.”

Would you feel safe enough to go?

Meanwhile, President Trump’s re-election campaign moved the GOP convention to Florida after first-choice North Carolina’s governor made it clear that there would be social distancing protocols in place by only allowing “a scaled-down convention with fewer people, social distancing and face coverings.”

As a result, Jacksonville, Florida has been selected as the host city for the convention:

In a television interview with… Trump suggested the format for the Aug. 24-27 event would depend on the severity of the outbreak in the Sunshine State.

“Well, we’re always looking at different things,” the president said on Tuesday. “When we signed in Jacksonville, we wanted to be in North Carolina. That almost worked out, but the governor didn’t want to have people use the arena, essentially. And so I said, ‘Too bad for North Carolina.’”

Trump said that when the RNC announced it was changing venues, Florida “looked good.”

“It’s spiking up a little bit,” he told Van Susteren. “And that’s going to go down. It really depends on the timing. Look, we’re very flexible. We can do a lot of things, but we’re very flexible.”

Imagine, here we are in the middle of a pandemic where the infection rate is climbing, and not only does the President of the United States not want to hold a convention in a state because their priority is to keep people safe and try to limit the rate of transmission, but he backhands them for doing so!

Interestingly, Florida’s Gov. DeSantis now finds himself in a bit of a tight spot:

Last week, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a close Trump ally, was forced to roll back the state’s reopening plans, imposing restrictions that include limiting the capacity of indoor facilities to 50 percent.

On Tuesday, DeSantis refused to say whether he would lift the mandate for the convention, which would limit it to 7,500 people. Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry, who lobbied for the city to host the event, announced Tuesday that he and his family are in self-quarantine after he was exposed to a person who tested positive for COVID-19.

The president has not yet commented on the protocols put in place by the Jacksonville 2020 Host Committee. These will include daily coronavirus tests and temperature checks for all attendees. Also, while Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry noted that “there is a statewide executive order that facilities can’t have over 50% capacity,” he said that the city will reassess that order when the convention dates draw near.

Note: Already there are five GOP senators who have said they will not attend the convention, with a few citing concerns about coronavirus.

Meanwhile, Florida hospitals are feeling the strain :

More than 40 Florida hospitals in multiple counties across the state have maxed out their ICU capacity or are close to running out of intensive care beds as the coronavirus outbreak across the Sunshine State worsens, according to the state’s Agency for Health Care Administration.

As of Tuesday, more than 5,000 Florida patients were using roughly 83% of the state’s more than 6,000 ICU beds, according to Florida’s health agency, which is responsible for licensing the state’s health-care facilities. That leaves a little more than 1,000 free ICU beds, compared with nearly 1,400 available ICU beds less than three weeks ago, according to CBS’ local affiliate WTSP.

Overall, the state’s hospitals are now running at 78% capacity, according to AHCA. ICU beds are running out at several hospitals in some of the state’s most-populated counties, including Miami-Dade County, Orange County, Hillsborough County and Broward County, which are respectively home to Miami, Orlando, Tampa and Fort Lauderdale.

Florida, which has more than 213,700 confirmed cases so far, is struggling with the third-worst outbreak in the country after New York and California.


San Francisco Supervisor Introduces CAREN Act Because “This Is The CAREN We Need”

Filed under: General — Dana @ 7:58 am

[guest post by Dana]

A San Francisco lawmaker has introduced the CAREN Act (Caution Against Racially Exploitative Non-Emergencies Act) in an effort to deter any future so-called Karens from making false, racially biased 911 calls:

Calling 911 to report a fabricated, racially-biased emergency would be illegal in San Francisco under a new proposal called, appropriately enough, the CAREN Act.

“Racist 911 calls are unacceptable that’s why I’m introducing the CAREN Act at today’s SF Board of Supervisors meeting,” San Francisco Supervisor Shamann Walton tweeted Tuesday. “This is the CAREN we need. Caution Against Racially Exploitative Non-Emergencies.”

The proposed San Francisco legislation would hold people liable for calling 911 to report something they know is false or exaggerated, and based on racial bias.

Fellow San Francisco Supervisor Matt Haney co-authored the bill, and noted in a tweet: “Racist false reports put people in danger and waste resources.”

Obviously, the bill would apply to both men and women, but the supervisor is clearly pushing back on the recent spate of “Karens” who have filed police reports against black men.

While it is already illegal in California to make a false police report, the CAREN Act adds a hate crime designation based on the racial bias of a fabricated report.

California State Assemblymember Rob Bonta of neighboring Oakland, who introduced similar legislation in AB 1550, released a statement discussing why he believes there is a need for his bill:

Racism and discrimination of any form is morally repugnant. California must continue to reassert its commitment to diversity, inclusion, and equity. But those principles are being undermined by the persistent and, often fatal, presence of systemic and institutionalized racism, personal prejudice, and implicit bias in our society. AB 1550, when amended, will impose serious consequences on those who make 911 calls that are motivated by hate and bigotry; actions that inherently cause harm and pain to others. This bill is incredibly important to upholding our values and ensuring the safety of all Californians.

…If you are afraid of a black family barbecuing in the community park, a man dancing and doing his normal exercise routine in the bike lane, or someone who asks you to comply with dog leash laws in a park, and your immediate response is to call the police, the real problem is with your own personal prejudice.

Given that Bonta specifically included the woman in Central Park who called the police on the black birder because she felt threatened by him, he has already determined that, had she been in California, she would be in violation of AB 1550. Yet given the vigorous debate we have been having about whether said woman in Central Park was actually threatened or not, and whether she should have been charged, I don’t see this legislation as being much more than a sticky wicket for both the public and law enforcement. Bonta essentially decided that the only reason the woman in the park called the police was because the birder was black, and dismissed out of hand her belief that she was being threatened based on the words the birder said. With this new legislation, how would a legal determination be made about the viability of a threat, and whether the individual was justified in making a 911 call? Is anyone not concerned that, with the passage of this bill, there will be an increased likelihood that individuals, particularly white women who are actually being threatened by a black male, might be reluctant to make an emergency 911 call? At some point, a subjective determination would need to be made as to whether an individual who believed they were being threatened, was actually being threatened and how much of their perception was based on racial animus. While I understand the concerns of wasting precious time and resources on fabricated calls, and even more importantly, the emotional damage that occurs when a black male is falsely targeted, is this the most effective way to solve the problem? I don’t think so.


UPDATE BY PATTERICO: I thank Dana for writing this post and would like to amplify her concerns by noting that this bill flies in the face of longstanding public policy. In Walker v. Kiousis, a CHP officer brought suit against a motorist alleging that the motorist had fabricated allegations in a misconduct complaint. The officer submitted a tape recording of the encounter as proof.

Kiousis filed a citizen complaint against Walker with the CHP. Kiousis alleged that during the arrest Walker had used profanity in speaking to him, had threatened him with physical violence, and had threatened him with three days in jail if he did not take a blood test.

. . . .

The tape recording failed to show that either officer at any time (1) told Kiousis, “Put your fucking hands behind your head”; (2) said anything about Kiousis getting his “ass kicked”; or (3) told Kiousis he would be in jail for three days if he did not take a blood alcohol test.

The court ruled against the CHP officer on numerous grounds, but the one that interests me was the motorist’s absolute privilege extending to statements in an official proceeding, which include reports of suspected illegal activity. The court cited the case of Imig v. Ferrar for the proposition that “The importance of providing to citizens free and open access to governmental agencies for the reporting of suspected illegal activity outweighs the occasional harm that might befall a defamed individual. Thus the absolute privilege is essential.” Imig itself makes it clear that the privilege extends to all sorts of complaints:

In King, the absolute privilege was applied to a letter written to the state Real Estate Commissioner charging misconduct by a broker. Likewise in Martin the privilege was extended to a letter written by a parent to a high school principal alleging unfitness of a teacher. In Ascherman it was extended to an interview which was preliminary to a hearing before the hospital board. The policy underlying the privilege is to assure utmost freedom of communication between citizens and public authorities whose responsibility is to investigate and remedy wrongdoing. As stated in King v. Borges, supra, 28 Cal. App. 3d 27, 34, “It seems obvious that in order for the commissioner to be effective there must be an open channel of [70 Cal. App. 3d 56] communication by which citizens can call his attention to suspected wrongdoing. That channel would quickly close if its use subjected the user to a risk of liability for libel. A qualified privilege is inadequate protection under the circumstances. … [¶] The importance of providing to citizens free and open access to governmental agencies for the reporting of suspected illegal activity outweighs the occasional harm that might befall a defamed individual. Thus the absolute privilege is essential.”

In those cases, the misconduct or illegality being reported is of an official, unlike, say, the lady in Central Park, who was reporting conduct of a citizen. However, the “importance of providing to citizens free and open access to governmental agencies for the reporting of suspected illegal activity” extends not just to reporting misconduct of public officials but to the reporting of any suspected illegal activity. The same government that proposes this CAREN act tells you “if you see something, say something.” But if you say something, we might prosecute you?

I propose my own KAREN bill, to outlaw calling people “Karen” unless their name is Karen. (You come up with the acronym; I lack the “create stupid acronyms” gene and accordingly will never run for office.) As for this bill, how about no.


A Letter On Justice And Open Debate

Filed under: General — Dana @ 12:06 pm

[guest post by Dana]

I’m just going to leave this here. Missing the irony, but better late than never, I guess:

Our cultural institutions are facing a moment of trial. Powerful protests for racial and social justice are leading to overdue demands for police reform, along with wider calls for greater equality and inclusion across our society, not least in higher education, journalism, philanthropy, and the arts. But this needed reckoning has also intensified a new set of moral attitudes and political commitments that tend to weaken our norms of open debate and toleration of differences in favor of ideological conformity. As we applaud the first development, we also raise our voices against the second. The forces of illiberalism are gaining strength throughout the world and have a powerful ally in Donald Trump, who represents a real threat to democracy. But resistance must not be allowed to harden into its own brand of dogma or coercion—which right-wing demagogues are already exploiting. The democratic inclusion we want can be achieved only if we speak out against the intolerant climate that has set in on all sides.

The free exchange of information and ideas, the lifeblood of a liberal society, is daily becoming more constricted. While we have come to expect this on the radical right, censoriousness is also spreading more widely in our culture: an intolerance of opposing views, a vogue for public shaming and ostracism, and the tendency to dissolve complex policy issues in a blinding moral certainty…


UPDATE BY PATTERICO: I think it’s a great letter — signed by a lot of people I admire — and along toddles a leftist to serve as a performative proof of the dangers the letter describes:

This is a threatening letter that insinuates that its author faces a hostile work environment — meaning it’s an implicit threat of litigation. In any event, this thin-skinned loser is definitely trying to harm Yglesias (someone for whom I have very little respect, but for whom signing this letter was an act of courage). If this delicate snowflake did not exist, the letter author(s) would have to create said snowflake.

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