Exclude this

Back when I was young, naive, and too easily influenced by TV and Hollywood, I thought the exclusionary rule was just horrible.  Why would you let a clearly guilty person go free just because the cops made a mistake.  Isn’t the solution to just punish the cops?!  Oh, how naive I was.  I have long since learned better.  The genius of the exclusionary rule is that it gives the police a hell of an incentive not to violate Constitutional rights in the collection of evidence.  Because, as we know, in reality, the chance that police will actually be meaningfully disciplined for conducting illegal searches, etc., is pretty damn small.  Thus, yes, we do actually let guilty people go free sometimes.  But all of us  are the beneficiaries because it keeps us from living in a police state.

Adult me who studies criminal justice (or lets be honest, any adult who reads the news without hopeless ideological blinders) can tell you that punishing the police is not going to be the solution.  Alas, people like Antonin Scalia, a supposedly brilliant jurist, still managed to see the world like my 13-year old self.  Radley Balko follows up his great reporting on the totally corrupt and out-of-control Little Rock PD with some very compelling evidence on the importance of the exclusionary rule.  Balko:

As I pointed out in a piece published on Sunday, the reason narcotics officers can get away with it goes back to another Supreme Court case — 2006’s Hudson v. Michigan. In that case, the court ruled 5 to 4 that, while the Fourth Amendment does indeed require police to knock and announce, violations of the knock-and-announce rule would not result in the suppression of any evidence seized in the ensuing raid. In the majority opinion, Justice Antonin Scalia argued that there were other remedies for violations of the rule, such as civil liability (lawsuits) or internal professional discipline. [emphases mine]

Seriously?!  Oh, the willful naivete.  Continuing:

As David Moran — the attorney who argued for the losing side in Hudson — told me, Scalia’s remedies have proven insufficient to deter these violations. And, in fact, those of us who were concerned about these sorts of raids predicted at the time that the court’s ruling in Hudson would result in, well, exactly what we’re now seeing in Little Rock.

There’s lot of debate about the Exclusionary Rule, which says any incriminating evidence that police obtain during an illegal search can’t be used against a defendant at trial. Conservatives have long argued that the rule only protects the guilty, since innocent people won’t be in possession of incriminating evidence, regardless of the legality of the search. And even some supporters of the rule have argued that it doesn’t have much value as a deterrent.

What is happening in Little Rock would seem to refute both arguments.

Let’s take the first argument, that the rule only protects the guilty. To examine this, let’s assume that (a) the Supreme Court had ruled the other way in Hudson, and (b) the Exclusionary Rule is an effective deterrent against violations of the knock-and-announce rule. Even assuming both of those things, the innocent people wrongly raided by Little Rock police over the last few years would still likely have been visited by the SWAT team. But instead of having their doors blown off their hinges, incurring thousands of dollars of damage to their homes and facing eviction from their apartments, not to mention experiencing a lot of trauma, the SWAT team would have been required to knock on the door, announce themselves, and give these suspects sufficient time to answer to avoid the violence of a “dynamic entry.” (I should note here that even when police do knock and announce, they often do so just as the battering ram hits the door, which basically nullifies the difference between a no-knock and a knock-and-announce warrant. But in this hypothetical, we are assuming the courts are properly enforcing the rules, so those raids would also be violations of the knock-and-announce rule.)

So 97, and possibly 99, of these 105 warrants were in violation of the Fourth Amendment. I think it is safe to say that, contrary to Scalia’s opinion, lawsuits and internal discipline are providing very little deterrence here. And Little Rock residents have very little protection against having their Fourth Amendment rights violated by illegal no-knock raids…

That said, the comparison is pretty compelling. When Little Rock police and judges know a rule will be enforced by suppression of evidence, they complied with that rule at least 76 percent of the time. (It could be more, depending on how many of the 22 exceptions were legitimate.) But when it’s a rule not enforced by suppressing evidence, they at most complied 8 percent of the time.

In Little Rock, at least, the Exclusionary Rule matters.

And, obviously, it’s not just Little Rock.  This is such an obvious cost/benefit.  Meaningful freedom and protection from a police state for all citizens versus the occasional criminal going free due to overzealous policing.  But, hey, tough on crime!!  That’s worked so well for us.


Republicans for socialized medicine!

This from Sarah Kliff is awesome, “White House anti-socialism report inadvertently makes a case for single-payer: The Trump administration says this chart is a case against single-payer. Actually, it’s a case for it.”

Earlier today, the White House released a paper titled “The Opportunity Costs of Socialism.” Weirdly, it contains a chart that actually makes a pretty decent argument for single-payer health care.

The chart compares wait times for seniors in countries like Canada, the United Kingdom, Switzerland, and the United States. It purports to show that seniors in single-payer countries wait much longer than those here in the United States…

It all looks pretty clear cut: Places like Canada and Norway have long wait times in their single-payer systems, whereas we here in the United States have very short wait times.

Except, here’s the key thing it leaves out: America’s seniors are essentially in a single-payer systemThe vast majority of Americans over 65 get coverage through Medicare, a government-run health care plan. [emphasis mine]

Ezra follows up with a nice twitter thread of the foolishness of judging a health system primarily by wait times (usually a dead give away that somebody just knows talking points and doesn’t really understand health care policy):


The voter fraud fraud, NC Edition

Damn these Republicans will stop at nothing to suppress the vote and make outrageous bad faith claims about voter fraud in doing so.  WRAL’s Laura Leslie on the goings-on from our hard-right Lieutenant Governor:

 Lt. Gov. Dan Forest released a video last week with step-by-step instructions for “organized groups” to commit voter impersonation, a felony in North Carolina.

Forest, a Republican, is not up for election this fall – his second term runs through 2020. However, he has been a strong proponent of requiring voters to show a photo identification at the polls, and a proposal that would write voter ID into the state constitution is on the ballot.

The video, titled Voter Fraud 101, was promoted on Facebook and paid for by the NC Republican Council of State Committee, a political action committee chaired by Forest and largely funded by Greg Lindberg, a major political donor currently under federal investigation.

Although Facebook doesn’t release targeting information in its online ad archive, data from ProPublica’s Facebook Political Ad Collector shows that some of those targets included North Carolinians interested in President Donald Trump.

“Committing voter fraud is easy in our state,” Forest says to the camera in the two-minute video. “Just for fun, here’s one way an organized group could commit voter fraud in North Carolina.”

In the slickly produced animated video, Forest goes on to describe an elaborate process by which a group could scrape the names, addresses and voting status of infrequent voters before Election Day, then go to their polling places, claim to be those voters, which is a crime under state law, and cast fraudulent ballots…

North Carolina Republican Party director Dallas Woodhouse defended the video as part of his party’s educational outreach on the need for a voter photo ID amendment.

“This is simply laying out for the public what is already known by those inclined to cheat,” Woodhouse told WRAL News. “Honest voters do not see a PSA explaining exactly how our system has faults and then decide to become a criminal. And the criminals already know this.”

“It’s one reason we are pushing many of our traditional Election Day voters to vote early,” Woodhouse added. “For their protection.”

Of course, when it comes to bad faith political arguments, you could probably have a photo of Woodhouse next to a definition.  Anyway, WRAL does give us the reality that Republican intentionally try and deceive us about:

An audit of the 2016 election conducted last year by the state elections board found only two cases of voter impersonation out of millions of votes cast. In both cases, the voters cast absentee ballots on behalf of a family member. No charges were filed.

The audit found that all the other cases of suspected voter impersonation in 2016 turned out to be the result of clerical errors by elections workers. [emphasis mine]

The only voter fraud going on is the massive fraud being perpetrated by the Republican Party and their media enablers about virtually non-existent voter fraud.

Lions, tigers, and taxes, oh my!

So, thanks to the pro-Democratic year, Democrat Linda Coleman is giving Republican George Holding a tough run in NC’s 2nd district, which includes my media market– so plenty of ads.  A Republican PAC is running ads claiming that Coleman paid her taxes late, plus, she’s going to raise your taxes!  To Holding’s credit, even he claims this late taxes business is just a canard, but, part of me thinks, if all Republicans have against a Democrat is, “she’s going to raise your taxes!” they really don’t have much.  I don’t think there’s a Democrat anywhere in America in the last few decades that hasn’t been accused of favoring ruinous taxes.  And, since I love watching Jeopardy! all I get is campaign ad after campaign ad during the commercial breaks (give me some prescription drug and discount mattress ads, please!)  And, yet. plenty of Democrats elected and here will still stand.

Oh, and speaking of taxes.  Great Catherine Rampell column today:

The Republican tax cut is a big, fat failure.

It has achieved none of the things that Republicans promised it would. It didn’t reduce deficits. It didn’t target the middle class. And it didn’t win goodwill with voters. [emphases mine]

Yet, for some reason, President Trump wants to do it all over again . . . in the next nine days, no less.

Last week the Treasury Department reported that the federal budget deficit swelled by 17 percent, or $113 billion, from fiscal 2017 to 2018. This is noteworthy, and not only because Republicans usually claim to despise deficits (at least, they do when Democrats are in charge).

It also reflects a massive decoupling of the business cycle from the federal budget.

Usually, as the economy improves, deficits shrink. That’s because people earn more money, causing them to pay more in taxes and enroll in fewer federal safety-net programs. This relationship between deficits and the economy has generally held true for the past 70 years, except during times of war.

Unemployment (shown on the right-side axis) has been inverted so that it’s easier to compare the two series. Note that budget balances are shown according to fiscal years, and unemployment data are shown for calendar years. Sources: Congressional Budget Office [via Haver Analytics and Goldman Sachs Economic Research], Bureau of Labor Statistics. (Catherine Rampell/The Washington Post)

The Treasury numbers should not be surprising, by the way. Literally everyindependent forecaster predicted that the tax cut would increase deficits on net. Yet Republicans were somehow caught flat-footed by the news.

After all, when the White House published its 2018 fiscal plan a year and a half ago, Trump officials predicted that deficits would shrink substantially in 2018, thanks both to his tax cuts and the Miracle-Gro that Trump was supposedly sprinkling across the economy.

Yet in the end, the deficit was almost twice what the White House estimated it would be: $779 billion, compared with the forecast $440 billion.

But what do Republican candidates have to offer us.  Democrats will raise your taxes!  Ugh.

Legal marijuana is coming

It’s truly only a matter of when.  I haven’t seen public opinion trendlines like this since way back in the days of… same-sex marriage.  The latest from Gallup:

Line graph of 1969 through 2018. Sixty-six percent of Americans now support legalizing marijuana.

And even a bare majority of Republicans:

Line graph of 2000 through 2018. Support by party -- 53% of Republicans, 75% of Democrats support legalizing marijuana.

Importantly, this is not just generational replacement, people are changing their minds:

Line graph of support for legalizing marijuana by age: 78% of 18- to 34-year-olds, 65% of 35-54 and 59% of 55+ support it.

To me, the evidence is really, really clear that the benefits of legalization far outweigh the costs.  But that doesn’t mean there are no costs.  We should absolutely be smart about it.

So, yes, let’s do this smart.  Of course, it becomes harder to have a sensible conversation when the opposition is old Republican men of the Jeff Sessions “reefer madness!” variety who are still living in a delusional hellscape when it comes to marijuana.

I’m actually somewhat surprised Democrats are not pushing harder on this throughout the country.  Just need a very simple “sensible marijuana policy” or something like that message.  I really don’t think they would lose many votes and it would be just one more issue (i.e., added to climate and LGBT rights) to show young Americans that the old white dude Republicans are hopelessly out of touch.  Of course, as discussed those young Americans actually vote at low rates.  But, convince them more than ever that the Democratic party is the one for them and the dividends will be huge down the road as they age into more participation.

Photo of the day

As I’ve mentioned, not much of a baseball fan anymore, but this photo is awesome.  From a Post gallery of the week’s best:

Fans interfere with Boston Red Sox right fielder Mookie Betts as he tries to catch a ball hit by the Astros’ Jose Altuve during the first inning of Game 4 in the American League Championship Series. Altuve was called out after a replay review. Frank Franklin II/AP

Science, gender, Trump, and cruelty

When it comes to the latest Trump administration announcement on defining gender, I think Jamelle Bouie (borrowing from Adam Serwer) is exactly right, “the cruelty is the point.”

That said, James Hamblin with a really, really good piece on the complexities of biological sex that the Trump administration can only pretend to take into account.  And you gotta love the headline, “Against a Federal Registry of Genitals: A report that the Trump administration plans to define gender based on the appearance of infants runs counter to developmental biology and individual privacy.”

Life might be more orderly and easy to understand if biology worked just like this:

People come in one of two sexes, male or female. This is determined by chromosomes, and XX means female, and XY means male. Males have penises and testicles—which are all similar in appearance and curvature and size—that secrete testosterone in similar proportions. This testosterone is metabolized and functions similarly in all men and causes them to have similar amounts of musculature and deep voices and certain amounts of facial and back hair, and to act in particular ways due to this hormone. It causes their brains to develop and make them behave in ways that are “manly.”

These men are attracted to women, specifically women who look normal, which is a result of the fact that they definitionally have exactly and only two XX chromosomes that cause them to develop clitori and uteri and breasts and ovaries that produce estrogen and other hormones that cause cycles of growth and shedding of the uterine lining, and who predictably bear children when sperm meets egg. All of these features develop and function the same way in all women who are normal—whose amounts of hormones make their bodies look and feel more or less the same, and whose brains develop and function in a way that is female, and which consigns them to certain roles in social hierarchies.

This is the middle-school health class version. Like any simplistic model, this one is presented as an introduction. Most 11-year-olds do not yet know about enzymes and cell biology, and have barely begun to consider the complex differences between humans, and aren’t ready to grapple with the social implications of the simplistic dichotomy. Plus it would be impossible to go into greater depth without the class snickering every time the teacher said “ambiguous genitalia” or “micropenis.”

The paradigm is somewhat similar to saying that automobiles come in two forms: cars and trucks. This is a worldview that is easily challenged by the existence of SUVs and station wagons—neither of which would suddenly disappear, even if government officials tried to make up a definition that excluded them.

Yet this is the paradigm that the Department of Health and Human Services is preparing to use to define gender, ]emphases mine] according to a memo reported in The New York Timestoday: “The agency’s proposed definition would define sex as either male or female, unchangeable, and determined by the genitals that a person is born with … Any dispute about one’s sex would have to be clarified using genetic testing.”…

The agency proposes to define gender “on a biological basis that is clear, grounded in science, objective and administrable.” Which would indeed be ideal at a bureaucratic level. Even looking no further than the maternity ward or doula’s chambers, though, human biology does not abide by the rules laid out for us in sixth grade.

Though they have long been anathema to talk about, there are many thousands of variables that affect gestation and fetal development—some influenced by epigenetic factors generations before conception—that lead to a spectrum of outcomes for any given infant. This can include sex-chromosomal anomalies (XXY or XYY, for example), as well as irregular functioning of enzymes that activate or metabolize hormones, or the blocking of binding sites where hormones typically act, which effectively could lead an XY person to develop female genitalia (known as Swyer syndrome), or an XX person to develop male genitalia, and for thousands of infants each year who are born with “ambiguous genitalia” that can look something like a penis and a clitoris (which are fundamentally structurally analogous, spongy tissue consisting of a crus and glans that become engorged and hyper-sensitive during sex).

There are two statistical peaks in the distribution of infant outcomes that roughly accord with the states described in middle school, but there is also everything in between and on other sides. Entire textbooks are written on the wide variety of ways sex hormones can manifest during fetal development and throughout life. The exact number of infants born in the domain known as “intersex”—who, for any number of reasons, do not clearly fit into one of the two sexes based on genitalia or chromosomes or both—is difficult to know because for many years, such people were “normalized” at birth by default.

The obvious questions, of course, is, what’s the point?!  The cruelty.  And pandering the the cruel.

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