Archive

June 2nd, 2016

Justice for military victims of sexual assault

    Three years ago, during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing at the height of a contentious debate about sexual assault in the military, one of our nation's highest-ranking military officials - the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff - blatantly misled Congress to defeat a policy reform. The question now is: Does Congress care?

    The debate was about the central question related to military sexual assault: When a service member is accused of sexually assaulting someone, who decides whether to prosecute? The Defense Department insists that a commander should decide, even though most commanders have little to no expertise in legal or criminal matters, and may know and socialize with the accused. A bipartisan majority of the Senate agreed with me that this decision should be made instead by a highly trained military prosecutor, outside the chain of command of the victim and the accused.

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Donald Trump should be ashamed

    It is beyond contempt that a politician would use a family tragedy to further his candidacy, but such is the character of Donald Trump displayed in his recent comments to The Washington Post. In this interview, Trump cynically, crassly and recklessly insinuated that my brother, Vincent W. Foster Jr., may have been murdered because "he had intimate knowledge of what was going on" and that Hillary Clinton may have somehow played a role in Vince's death.

    How wrong. How irresponsible. How cruel.

    "There are people who continue to bring it up because they think it was absolutely a murder," Trump said in response to a question about Vince's death.

    Trump was canny enough to hedge - he's not the one raising questions, he said, but others have. He noted that Vince "knew everything that was going on, and then all of a sudden he committed suicide." The circumstances of Vince's death, he observed, were "very fishy" and the theories about possible foul play "very serious."

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How to avoid nuclear catastrophe

    President Barack Obama's visit to Hiroshima comes almost 71 years after the conclusion of a world war that was fought and ended with tremendous sacrifice, huge casualties and immense devastation. Today, global nuclear arsenals are capable of destroying not only cities but also civilization itself. Albert Einstein's prophesy bears repeating: "I do not know how the Third World War will be fought, but I can tell you what they will use in the Fourth - rocks!"

    Since the end of World War II, the United States and our allies have relied on the ultimate threat of mutual assured destruction for our security, as the Soviet Union did and Russia does now. Today, with nine nations possessing nuclear arms and terrorists seeking them, this strategy has become increasingly hazardous and decreasingly effective.

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The long lines at airports are a problem for Hillary Clinton

    The long security lines at U.S. airports are another problem for Hillary Clinton. A lot of Americans interact with the Transportation Security Administration, and they expect that agency to function properly. And when there is a problem, they want it fixed. Does anyone think of Clinton as a problem-solver? Answer: No. Can anyone think of a problem she has ever solved?

    As I have written before, the Democrats are identified as a party that agitates for interest groups and social causes. They impose their will through regulations and via the courts. The Barack Obama era has left the Democrats without any claim to managerial expertise or problem-solving skills, and Clinton will pay a price for that in November.

    The current problems at the TSA are a perfect example. When Americans are standing in lines at our nation's airports and fuming about incompetence in government, they don't want to hear excuses about a lack of government resources. Who do you think is more likely to shake things up with the bureaucrats at the Department of Homeland Security and actually get the TSA working, President Hillary Clinton or President Donald Trump? It's no contest.

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These days, it's Facebook that defines pornography

    In the 1964 case Jacobellis v. Ohio -- on whether the state of Ohio could ban the showing of a film it had deemed obscene -- Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart famously defined hardcore pornography, a genre not constitutionally protected, by saying: "I know it when I see it." The film in question, he elaborated, was not that. Less than a decade later in the case Miller v. California , the Supreme Court developed a three-prong legal framework to determine obscenity -- called the Miller test -- based on what an average person would find offensive.

    The trouble with effectively applying these standards to Internet pornography, even outside of a judicial context, is the manner in which cyberspace is governed. The spaces in which we interact online are largely controlled today by corporations, which by and large rely not on some semblance of the Miller test but on Justice Stewart's older "I know it when I see it" standard. As Rebecca MacKinnon has asserted , these unelected "sovereigns of cyberspace" operate without accountability, and often with little respect to our hard-won freedoms.

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Finding better ideas to rebuild the American economy

    The just-published book "Concrete Economics," by University of California-Berkeley professors Brad DeLong and Stephen S. Cohen, needs an expanded sequel -- 900 pages long, with charts, data, theory and an exhaustive list of historical case studies. That book would become the Bible of the New Industrialist movement that is just beginning to grope its way out of the ashes of the neoliberal free-market consensus. Perhaps that tome will get written. But DeLong and Cohen couldn't wait to write it, because we need new ideas now, and they decided they had to put a sketch of those new ideas into people's heads very quickly. And I agree with their decision.

    If you're at all concerned about economic policy, this is a book you need to read. It will take you only a couple of hours, and the time will be well spent.

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Porn isn't a public health hazard

    Is pornography a public-health crisis? Of course not. While it is not surprising to see the Utah legislature unanimously declare it one - the anti-pornography movement has been quietly building momentum for a state-by-state takeover for some time - what remains shocking is the perceived legitimacy of anti-porn activists, despite the profound unreliability and inconsistency of their hyperbolic claims about porn's harms to society.

    How has a movement based on such shaky theoretical ground succeeded in a massive campaign to convince the public that sexually explicit media is responsible for an epidemic of sexualized violence against women and children; the rise of a zombie army of emotionally robbed and sexually desensitized men; and the explosion of an underworld of prostitutes trafficked directly from porn sets to street corners across the nation?

    This is not real. This is what a sex panic looks like.

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Trump's vice president can't be his CEO

    Turns out maybe Donald Trump doesn't want to be president after all.

    Oh, he wants to run for president. Almost certainly wants to win. Probably wants to be inaugurated.

    But doing the actual job? That's something else. At least according to Paul Manafort, Trump's strategist and campaign chairman, in an interview with HuffPost's Howard Fineman:

    "The vice presidential pick will also be part of the process of proving he's ready for the White House, Manafort said.

    "'He needs an experienced person to do the part of the job he doesn't want to do. He seems himself more as the chairman of the board, than even the CEO, let alone the COO.'"

    Not the CEO? As the Atlantic's Yoni Applebaum noted: "The Constitution says, 'The executive Power shall be vested in a President.' CEO is literally the job description."

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Want to end corruption? Crack down on tax havens

    It is a sign of progress that a Nigerian leader was able to come to London and, with a straight face, publicly accuse Western countries of promoting corruption on a global scale.

    "African countries have all too often been the victims of international corruption planned and executed from abroad using our own resources," Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari said in a May 12 speech at a London anti-corruption summit in which he took aim at tax havens backed by rich countries. "Every dollar siphoned through dirty deals and corruption to offshore tax havens makes the livelihood and survival of the average African more precarious."

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'Parking while black' is not probable cause

    Can the police detain and search you on the suspicion that your car might be parked illegally? A federal appeals court has said yes, upholding a felon-in-possession conviction for a man who was searched after Milwaukee police surrounded the parked car he was sitting in and handcuffed its four occupants -- because the car was parked within 15 feet of a crosswalk. The outraged dissenting judge said that the defendant had been stopped for "parking while black," and insisted that the holding went beyond anything the Supreme Court ever authorized.

    The decision, by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, offers a Rashomon-like model of diverging perceptions. To read the majority opinion by Judge Frank Easterbrook, a Reagan appointee, you would think that the events were pretty unremarkable. In his telling, the case began when police "saw a car stopped within 15 feet of a crosswalk, which is unlawful" in Milwaukee unless the car is loading or unloading. One police car drew up beside the parked car and another behind. "Shining lights through the car's windows (it was after sunset), police saw a passenger in the backseat trying to hide a firearm."

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