Tough-on-Crime Cash Bail Initiatives Win in Ohio and Alabama

“Ohio’s new constitutional amendment will allow judges to set a dollar amount commensurate with a person’s criminal record, the seriousness of their alleged crime, and their odds of appearing at court following pretrial release. The Ohio Senate ushered the initiative forward in direct response to a ruling from the state’s highest court, which said in early January that bail could only be used to ensure a defendant’s presence at trial—the constitutionally prescribed reason for its use.

In Alabama, voters were tasked with deciding if the state should be able to deny bail for certain offenses if the government can convince a judge that the defendant poses a threat to the community or cannot be trusted to return to court. Those offenses include murder; first-degree kidnapping, rape, and sodomy; sexual torture; first-degree domestic violence, human trafficking, burglary, arson, and robbery; terrorism; and child abuse.”

“the debate has become increasingly politicized. Many reformers say that a dangerousness standard is racist, while law-and-order politicians are likely to present any bail reform as a driver of violent crime.
The answer is more nuanced than either major political party would want their base to believe.”

A Judge Accepts the Biden Administration’s Dubious Argument for Banning Gun Possession by Marijuana Users

“President Joe Biden, who recently issued a mass pardon for low-level marijuana offenders, says cannabis consumption should not be treated as a crime. His administration nevertheless defends the federal ban on gun possession by marijuana users, arguing that Second Amendment rights are limited to “law-abiding citizens.”
Last week, a federal judge agreed, dismissing a challenge to that rule by medical marijuana patients in Florida. The reasoning underlying that decision shows that the constitutional right to armed self-defense, which the Supreme Court has repeatedly upheld, is still subject to legislators’ arbitrary whims and irrational prejudices.”

“Winsor noted a long history of banning gun ownership by people convicted of certain crimes. But as Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett pointed out in a 2019 dissent as a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit, that history does not suggest that any crime, or even any felony, will do.

“Legislatures have the power to prohibit dangerous people from possessing guns,” Barrett wrote. “But that power extends only to people who are dangerous.”

Are cannabis consumers dangerous? Winsor suggested that they are, accepting the Biden administration’s analogy between the gun ban for marijuana users and laws enacted in the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries that prohibited people from either carrying or firing guns “while intoxicated.”

That analogy fails, however, because those laws did not impose general bans on gun possession by drinkers. They applied only when gun owners were under the influence.”

Jared Polis’ Success Shows That Democrats Can Win Without Embracing Big Government

“While Colorado was once considered a solid swing state, Polis’ continued success as governor, as well as the state’s other electoral outcomes, have entrenched the state’s Democratic leanings. However, Polis’ popularity shows that Democrats can receive solid victories without relying on the increasing technocratic impulses of the party as a whole. While other Democrats—and increasingly Republicans as well—turn to government to solve problems, Polis has found success by wanting to reduce government power.”

“While other Democratic governors were enacting strict COVID-19 regulations, Polis lifted mask mandates. While other Democrats scoffed at school choice, Polis, the founded of two charter schools, praised polices that increase educational choice. While other Democrats called for wealth taxes, Polis called on an end to Colorado’s income tax.
“I respect freedom,” Polis told Reason in July 2022. “It’s great because you’re free to be the way you want. That’s the way it should be.”

While the Democratic party—not to mention American politics as a whole—is trending towards embracing government control, Jared Polis offers a rare story of a politician that wants to reduce state power. His success offers evidence that an alternative approach, one where Democrats embrace rather than attack personal liberty, can be a wildly successful strategy.”

Can Ukraine’s infrastructure survive the winter?

“The scale of the destruction makes quick repairs impossible. Replacement parts are not often readily available. Energy infrastructure also remains vulnerable: A lot of it is big and out in the open; once hit by a missile and fixed, it can be hit again. “It’s not possible to repair quickly after it’s been damaged,” said Volodymyr Shulmeister, founder of the Infrastructure Council NGO and former first deputy minister of infrastructure of Ukraine from 2014 to 2015. “There were some spare parts, some electric power stations has been repaired, but there will be new problems coming from the air.”
That is on top of all the other destruction Ukraine accumulated in months and months of war: houses and apartment buildings, bridges, roads, railways. There is always collateral damage in conflict, but Russia’s attacks on non-military critical and energy infrastructure are intentional. “This is not a new tactic for Russia,” said John Spencer, a retired Army officer and chair of urban warfare studies at the Madison Policy Forum. “If you think about what they did in Chechnya, and in Syria, to basically bring the civilian population to such despair that they’re willing to capitulate.”

Moscow’s targeting of infrastructure, which some have argued amounts to war crimes, is an effort to undermine Ukraine’s economy and deprive people of essential services — heat, water, electricity — as winter approaches. Russia is struggling against Ukraine’s counteroffensive in the east and south, and so Moscow is trying to extend the war and spread out that pain across Ukraine, not just in war zones. All of it will make Ukraine even more reliant on aid from the West, which is dealing with its own inflation and energy crises. “Russians are actually now acting very cruel, but also in a very well-thought-through way,” said Andriy Kobolyev, former chief executive officer of Ukraine’s largest national oil and gas company Naftogaz.

In areas closer to the fighting, the infrastructure destruction is even more extreme, but also harder to fully assess. Zelenskyy accused Russian troops of destroying “all the critical infrastructure: communications, water, heat, electricity,” before retreating from Kherson last week. In Mykolaiv, in southern Ukraine, Russia cut off the city’s water supply months ago; salt water had run through the taps for months, and potable water is now just being restored. Zelenskyy said in early November, before the latest round of air strikes, that Russian attacks damaged about 40 percent of Ukraine’s energy infrastructure; precise data on how badly and where is hard to get, in part because Ukraine is closely guarding that information as a matter of national security.”

Pay Attention to Policy, not ‘Narratives’

“opinion leaders create narratives about how the world works—and then voters essentially buy into one that suits their biases. They pick a team. Social media reinforces each side’s thinking habits. As the election arrives, most voters aren’t doing a cost-benefit analysis—but embracing the candidate who touts the story their team tells (whether it’s true or not).

“Narratives … provide a rich source of information about how people make sense of their lives, about how they construct disparate facts and weave them together cognitively to make sense of reality,” explains a 1998 UC Irvine study. They can be helpful for understanding the world, but they can also send people down a rabbit hole.”

“fewer people can be persuaded by evidence. If you subscribe to the narrative that your opponents want to destroy everything that you find holy and dear, then you’ll put up with anything from a candidate from your tribe. During the 2016 election, Republicans embraced the “Flight 93″ theory—it’s time to rush the cockpit because a Hillary Clinton presidency would crash democracy.

Democrats believe something similar about a Donald Trump re-election, although they’re on more solid ground given that he did indeed try to steal an election and his election-denying acolytes filled the GOP ticket this year. Polls show most GOP voters have bought into that denialism narrative—and no evidence likely will sway them from their vote-stealing fantasies.”

“Jumping on the narrative bandwagon can take you to some morally dubious places. I don’t expect voters to adopt my balls-and-strikes voting strategy. But unless there’s a movement back in that direction, the story of our democracy might not have a happy ending.”

Tearing down the academic research paywall could come with a price

“Right now, the majority of published scientific findings — and the vast majority of prestigious new research — is hidden behind paywalls. Most of the top scientific publications charge readers high fees for access, with prices that are rising faster than inflation. An annual membership with Nature costs $199, Science starts at $79 per year, and The Lancet charges $227. And these are only a few of the hundreds of journals where new research appears.

This money goes to publishers, not to the academics who actually write scientific papers.”

“in a bid to tear down the paywall and make science more accessible to all, the White House last month announced new guidelines requiring that all taxpayer-funded research, including data used for a study, be made public at no cost by the end of 2025.
The Biden plan is one of the biggest wins yet for the “open science” movement. In practice, it often refers to publishing the papers that describe new scientific findings immediately and without paywalls. It can also include publicly sharing full datasets and code used for analysis.”

“Freeing research largely paid for by taxpayer money can seem like a no-brainer, but over time, the potential downsides of open science efforts like the Plan S mandate have become more apparent. While pay-to-publish but free-to-read platforms bring more research to the public, they can add barriers for researchers and worsen some existing inequalities in academia. Scientific publishing will remain a for-profit industry and a highly lucrative one for publishers. Shifting the fees onto authors doesn’t change this.

Many of the newly founded open-access journals drop the fees entirely, but even if they’re not trying to make a profit, they still need to cover their operating costs. They fall back on ad revenue, individual donations or philanthropic grants, corporate sponsorship, and even crowdfunding.

But open-access platforms often lack the prestige of well-known top journals like Nature. Scientists early in their careers — as well as those at less wealthy universities in low-income countries — often rely on precarious, short-term grant funding to carry out their research. Their career depends on putting out an impressive publication record, which is already an uphill battle.

The established journals are reluctant to commit to open access, since submission fees may deter potential researchers from sending in their work. And if journals don’t charge submission fees or reader subscriptions, they’ll have to turn to other sources of income, which may be unsustainable in the long run.”