“Rather than securing a better trade agreement for American farmers and blue-collar workers, the real goal of President Donald Trump’s trade war with China was a second term in the White House. So says John Bolton, Trump’s former national security advisor, in a Wall Street Journal excerpt from his forthcoming book, The Room Where It Happened.
Bolton writes that he would be “hard-pressed to identify any significant Trump decision” that wasn’t driven by the president’s re-election plans. But Bolton singles out Trump’s fraught and sometimes frothy relationship with Chinese President Xi Jinping as a particularly striking example of how Trump “commingled the personal and the national.””
“Rather than getting tough on China, Trump appears to care far more about the appearance of getting tough with China than actually accomplishing substantial policy.
That’s been fairly obvious to anyone who cared to look. After all, how many economists and journalists have debunked Trump’s claim that China is paying for the cost of his tariffs, or pointed out that trade deficits don’t work the way Trump seems to think they do? But the tariffs were a useful way to appear to be doing something. From the outside, Trump’s trade policy has looked like a haphazard, self-interested mess from the start; Bolton confirms that’s how it looked inside the White House too.”
“An outbreak at a Pentecostal church in Oregon, where hundreds of worshipers resumed gathering over Memorial Day weekend, forced an entire county to return to phase one of its reopening after local officials traced 258 cases of Covid-19 back to the facility. In West Virginia, six health departments across the state have reported coronavirus outbreaks linked to churches. One of them, a Baptist church in Greenbrier County, had 34 congregants test positive for the virus. And in Texas, which hit an all-time high of new cases last week, health officials have received numerous reports of church-related exposures.”
“When San Francisco police raided journalist Bryan Carmody’s home last year, in a misguided (and illegal) search attempting to track down a leaker, none of the event was captured on police body camera.
This turns out to be by design. A newly released memo reveals that a lieutenant with the investigative services detail specifically told police at the scene, following a captain’s orders, that officers were not to use their body cameras for the operation. The only explanation provided in the two-paragraph memo was that the “footage could compromise the investigation.””
” Body cameras, when properly and carefully implemented, are helpful tools for police transparency and accountability. But they’re used inconsistently. Sometimes officers individually decide to turn them off, but here we see leaders purposefully ordering police not to record an investigation. That’s a problem.”
“Cops pull over 20 million motorists a year—by far the most common form of police interactions with the American people. Those encounters occasionally end violently and tragically. Consider the cases of Darrius Stewart, Samuel DuBose, Philando Castile, and Maurice Gordon, all of whom were shot during routine traffic stops. Gordon was killed by a New Jersey state trooper just last month.
Those traffic stops often evolve into drug searches, which carry serious Fourth Amendment concerns. They also disproportionately impact black and Hispanic people. (Blacks are four times more likely to be arrested for drug offenses and 2.5 times more likely to be arrested for drug possession, though whites use drugs at comparable rates.) Those with fewer means are more likely to be fined, arrested, and shuffled through the legal system, notwithstanding the fact that they’re less able to afford getting trapped in that cycle.
In Colorado and Washington, where marijuana has been legalized, search rates at traffic stops have dramatically declined, a testament to how often those arbitrary searches are tied to drug laws that have no impact on traffic safety.”
“traffic safety doesn’t necessarily need to be enforced by the police. “Don’t use a hammer if you don’t need to pound a nail,” writes economist Alex Tabarrok at Marginal Revolution. “The responsibility for handing out speeding tickets and citations should be handled by an unarmed agency. Put the safety patrol in bright yellow cars and have them carry a bit of extra gasoline and jumper cables to help stranded motorists as part of their job—make road safety nice.”
It’s a worthy idea. But it’ll be tough to get state and local governments to accept it. Police departments, many of them furnished with weapons fit for a battlefield, often act as revenue raisers for the cities in which they serve.
“A Police Executive Research Forum report on St. Louis law enforcement found that local governments within the county were using police to ‘plug revenue gaps’ by running up the number of traffic citations, which coincided with many low-level arrests,” writes Derek Thompson in The Atlantic. “As one St. Louis County resident told the report’s authors: ‘It’s no secret that a lot of these municipal police officers are only supposed to be revenue drivers for their cities.'””
“We could minimize such encounters just by having fewer laws. “Things like the war on drugs, they’ve given police officers multiple reasons to be present in [minority] communities,” Reason’s Zuri Davis recently told the Washington Examiner’s Siraj Hashmi. That “gives rise to a lot more interaction—and negative interaction.” If we want fewer innocent people to die at police officers’ hands, we need to cut back on the encounters that keep spiralling into such deaths.”
“The temporary 60-day pause that President Donald Trump declared on legal immigration in mid-April after the coronavirus hit was not so temporary after all. Starting tomorrow, Trump will extend this pause until the end of 2020. But that’s not all. He is also expanding the scope of the ban to cover even more categories of immigrants.
Trump is justifying all this as an effort to save American workers from foreign competition. But if America’s past experience with restrictionist policies is any indication, the ban will backfire and end up hurting, not helping, American workers, its intended beneficiaries, while crimping America’s economic recovery.”
“There are already significant obstacles built into labor and immigration law that make it far more time consuming and costly for businesses to hire foreign workers. So businesses already automatically prioritize American workers over foreign workers. As Sen. Lindsey Graham (R–S.C.) tweeted after Trump’s announcement: “Work visas for temporary and seasonal jobs covering industries like hospitality, forestry, and many economic sectors can only be issued AFTER American workers have had a chance to fill the position.”
The fact of the matter is that American employers only hire immigrants to fill niches at the top and the bottom end of the labor spectrum where qualified Americans aren’t available or willing to take jobs. Restrictionists like White House aide Stephen Miller, the real architect of Trump’s immigration pause, claim that starving businesses of foreign workers will force them to invest in training domestic workers and/or paying them more, resulting in more jobs and higher wages for Americans.
But this is the flawed logic of central planning. It ignores the fact that there are limits to the price increases that a market can bear. Businesses will automate functions that can’t be performed abroad and will outsource other functions to keep a lid on the costs of a key input—all of which will hurt, not help, American workers.”
“Interestingly, Trump’s immigration ban does not extend to H-2A visas for farm workers. In fact, that’s the one category of visas that has expanded on his watch. Why? Because agriculture is the mainstay of many red state economies whose leaders have indicated that they would not take kindly to being cut off from a key source of labor. Trump has also carved a very narrow exemption for foreign workers “involved with the provision of medical care to individuals who have contracted COVID-19” and who are “currently hospitalized.”
But high-skilled foreign workers that blue states like California, Washington, and New York depend on are out of luck. What is likely to happen in these states? Will they rush to hire Americans with big bucks in hand? Not really.
For starters, there just aren’t enough high-skilled Americans sitting around to be hired. The unemployment rate last month—the peak of the pandemic—for computer jobs was 2.5 percent compared to the overall rate of 13.3 percent for all jobs, according to an analysis by the National Foundation for American Policy.
So as high-tech companies are choked off from hiring foreign workers, they’ll start outsourcing more operations abroad. This is what happened in 2004 when Congress slashed the H-1B cap from 195,000 to less than half”
“We are often told that law enforcement must have a way to get around strong encryption technologies in order to catch bad guys. Such a “backdoor” into security techniques would only be used when necessary and would be closely guarded so it would not fall into the wrong hands, the story goes.
The intelligence community does not yet have a known custom-built backdoor into encryption. But intelligence agencies do hold a trove of publicly unknown vulnerabilities, called “zero days,” they use to obtain hard-to-get data. One would hope that government agencies, especially those explicitly dedicated to security, could adequately protect these potent weapons.
A recently released 2017 DOJ investigation into a breach of the CIA Center for Cyber Intelligence’s (CCI) “Vault 7” hacking tools publicized in 2016 suggests that might be too big of an ask. Not only was the CCI found to be more interested in “building up cyber tools than keeping them secure,” the nation’s top spy agency routinely made rookie security mistakes that ultimately allowed personnel to leak the goods to Wikileaks.”
“Bostock is, undoubtedly, a major victory for LGBTQ rights — before Bostock, it was still legal for employers to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity in most states.
But it is unclear whether Bostock will entirely ban workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. That’s because the Court is also considering whether to grant employers with religious objections to LGBTQ people an exemption from anti-discrimination laws.”
“Gorsuch is a vocal proponent of “textualism,” the belief that the meaning of a law turns on its words alone, not on the intentions of the law’s drafters.”
“In Bostock, the Court considered Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which forbids employment discrimination that occurs “because of [an employee’s] race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.” Though there is little doubt that the people who drafted this law in 1964 did not believe they were enacting a ban on LGBTQ discrimination, the thrust of Gorsuch’s opinion is that the expectations of lawmakers in 1964 simply do not matter.
Only the text of Title VII matters. And, as Bostock explains at length, that text clearly prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. Gorsuch lays out why in just five crisp sentences on the first page of his majority opinion:
” In Title VII, Congress outlawed discrimination in the workplace on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. Today, we must decide whether an employer can fire someone simply for being homosexual or transgender. The answer is clear. An employer who fires an individual for being homosexual or transgender fires that person for traits or actions it would not have questioned in members of a different sex. Sex plays a necessary and undisguisable role in the decision, exactly what Title VII forbids.””
“a 6-3 opinion. Both Gorsuch, a Trump appointee, and Chief Justice John Roberts, a conservative appointed by President George W. Bush, joined the majority. Roberts joined Gorsuch’s opinion in full and did not write a separate opinion. Neither man has shown much sympathy for LGBTQ rights plaintiffs in the past.”
“the sheer force of the plaintiffs’ textual arguments in Bostock appears to have weighed heavily on both men. At the very least, Bostock suggests that this conservative Supreme Court can follow the clear text of a law, even when that reading points in a liberal direction.”
“”Consider, for example, an employer with two employees, both of whom are attracted to men. The two individuals are, to the employer’s mind, materially identical in all respects, except that one is a man and the other a woman. If the employer fires the male employee for no reason other than the fact he is attracted to men, the employer discriminates against him for traits or actions it tolerates in his female colleague.””
“”Or take an employer who fires a transgender person who was identified as a male at birth but who now identifies as a female. If the employer retains an otherwise identical employee who was identified as female at birth, the employer intentionally penalizes a person identified as male at birth for traits or actions that it tolerates in an employee identified as female at birth. Again, the individual employee’s sex plays an unmistakable and impermissible role in the discharge decision.””
“The text of the law is the only thing that matters in Bostock. As Gorsuch concludes his opinion, “ours is a society of written laws,” and that means that “judges are not free to overlook plain statutory commands on the strength of nothing more than suppositions about intentions or guesswork about expectations.” Because Congress “adopted broad language making it illegal for an employer to rely on an employee’s sex when deciding to fire that employee,” the Court must hold that anti-LGBTQ discrimination in the workplace is illegal.”
“Section 230, the law that is often credited as the reason why the internet as we know it exists, could be facing its greatest threat yet. A seemingly coordinated attack on the law is unfolding this week from the Trump administration and Republicans in Congress. It follows complaints that platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube unfairly censor conservative speech. Though some are framing the efforts as a way to promote free speech, others say the result will be exactly the opposite.
Following President Trump’s executive order aimed at social media companies he thinks are censoring right-wing voices, the most direct actions taken against Section 230 arrived this week in the form of a new bill from Sen. Josh Hawley and a set of recommendations from Attorney General Bill Barr.
Hawley, a 40-year-old Republican from Missouri who has made no secret of his intentions regarding Section 230, is proposing a bill that would require large platforms to enforce their rules equally to stop a perceived targeting of conservatives and conservative commentary. Hawley is also rumored to be preparing another Section 230-related bill to add to his growing collection.
Meanwhile, Barr’s Department of Justice said it is calling for new legislation that, in certain cases, would remove the civil liability protections offered by Section 230. If platforms like Facebook, Google, and Twitter somehow encouraged content that violates federal law, these platforms would be treated as “bad samaritans” and would lose the immunity offered by Section 230. Like Hawley’s bill, the DOJ’s proposed rules would also force platforms to clearly define and equally enforce content rules.
Civil rights advocates say they’re concerned that some of these proposed measures may end up becoming law, leading to all sorts of unintended consequences and stifling speech — which will ultimately punish internet users far more than the websites.”
“Section 230 is part of the Communications Decency Act of 1996. It says internet platforms that host third-party content are not civilly liable for that content. There are a few exceptions, such as intellectual property or content related to sex trafficking, but otherwise the law allows platforms to be as hands-off as they want to be with user-generated content.
“If a Twitter user were to tweet something defamatory, the user could be sued for libel, but Twitter itself could not.”
“If these sites could be held responsible for the actions of their users, they would either have to strictly moderate everything those users produce — which is impossible at scale — or not host any third-party content at all. Either way, the demise of Section 230 could be the end of sites like Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, YouTube, Yelp, forums, message boards, and basically any platform that’s based on user-generated content.”
“The consequences of changing Section 230 will inevitably change the internet and what we’re allowed to do on it. Ruane, from the ACLU, points to the impact of FOSTA-SESTA, which she says “has been a complete and total disaster,” and its unintended consequences as a guide for what we can expect. Faced with the new law, online platforms didn’t seek to target specific content that might relate to or facilitate sex trafficking; they simply took down everything sex or sex work-related to ensure they wouldn’t get in trouble.
“It was only supposed to apply to advertisements for sex trafficking. That is absolutely not what happened,” Ruane said. “All platforms adopted much broader content moderation policies that applied to a lot of LGBTQ-related speech, sex education-related speech, and … sites where [sex workers] built communities where they shared information to maintain safety.””
“laws that force platforms to be “politically neutral” may not encourage more speech, as conservatives who favor those laws claim, but rather suppress it. Facebook has taken a similar stance, saying on Wednesday that changing Section 230’s liability protections would “mean less speech of all kinds appearing online.”
Section 230 won’t change tomorrow, if it changes at all. But a series of seemingly coordinated attacks from two of the three branches of government certainly shows some momentum toward the possibility of change.”
“discretionary DOJ grants to state and local law enforcement agencies will now be conditioned on whether police departments have obtained (or are in the process of obtaining) credentials certifying that they meet certain training standards. The credentialing process will emphasize use-of-force and deescalation trainings, and department policy must prohibit chokeholds — unless an officer’s life is at risk — in order to meet certification standards.”
“The second major provision of the order states that the Justice Department will create a national database to track misconduct by police officers, and that discretionary funding will be available only to those law enforcement agencies that provide the requested information. Additionally, the DOJ will “regularly and periodically make available to the public aggregated and anonymized data from the database.””