Category Archives: Uncategorized

Prickett: Unintended Consequences (Hemp Edition)

Ed. Note: Greg Prickett is former police officer and supervisor who went to law school, hung out a shingle, and now practices criminal defense and family law in Fort Worth, Texas. While he was a police officer, he was a police firearms instructor, and routinely taught armed tactics to other officers.

In Texas, the state legislature meets every two years for 140 days. It would probably be better if it met every 140 years for two days, but that’s beside the point. At the end of 2018, Congress passed a law to allow the growth and production of hemp.[i] Well, it just so happened that the Lege in Texas was going to start its semi-annual regular session within three weeks of the new federal law, and they wanted to jump on the legalized hemp bandwagon. Of course, one of the problems with new laws and bandwagons is that, if the Lege is not careful, there are ofttimes unintended consequences.

That’s what happened in Texas. Legislators promptly introduced House Bill 1325, which adopted the federal framework for distinguishing hemp, with under 0.3% tetrahydrocannabinal (THC), from the evil devil weed marijuana,[ii] with over 0.3% THC. This would allow Texas farmers to grow hemp for industrial purposes, such as making rope, fabrics, paper, etc. and not be prosecuted for growing marijuana. It seemed like a good idea, was debated and passed by both houses of the Lege. It was then presented to the governor, Greg Abbott, who signed the bill into law. Continue reading

Leana Wen, A Victim of Reasonableness

She held the official titles of president and chief executive of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, “held” being the operative word. Leana Wen was unceremoniously ousted from her post. According to what you read, it was the direct consequence of her refusal to use gender neutral language to describe the users of women’s health care services or her efforts to cast the mission of Planned Parenthood as more than just a hated abortion provider.

Only in the position for a year, her tenure was tumultuous internally during a tumultuous time externally.

I had been leading our organization’s fights against these attacks, and believe they offer even more reason for Planned Parenthood to emphasize its role in providing essential health care to millions of underserved women and families. People depend on Planned Parenthood for breast exams, cervical cancer screenings, H.I.V. testing and family planning. To counter those who associate the organization with only abortion and use this misconception to attack its mission, I wanted to tell the story of all of its services — and in so doing, to normalize abortion care as the health care it is.

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Seaton: In Memoriam, Presumption of Innocence

The presumption of innocence died this week in America when the unduly passionate masses collectively agreed that while some people might have been wrongfully accused of crimes they didn’t commit, That Rat Bastard is Totally Guilty.

Though the familial relationship is not explicitly known, the presumption is preceded in death by the Third, Sixth, Eighth, Ninth, and Tenth Amendments to the United States Constitution.

Known surviving relatives are the First, Second, Fourth, and Fifth Amendments, though the health status of each is questionable. Continue reading

Short Take: But It’s Protein

There are many people dedicated to the sustainability of the planet and its human inhabitants. Among the many problems we face, sustainable food sources is on the list, even if not as high up as fossil fuel. Soylent Green, anyone? And Lauren Taranow of College Station, Texas, has a solution.

In one year, a single acre of black soldier fly larvae can produce more protein than 3,000 acres of cattle or 130 acres of soybeans. Such yields, combined with the need to find cheap, reliable protein for a global population projected to jump 30 per cent, to 9.8 billion by 2050, present big opportunity for the black soldier fly. The United Nations, which already warns that animal-rich diets cannot stretch that far long term, is encouraging governments and businesses to turn to insects to fulfill the planet’s protein needs.

Black soldier fly larvae is a more technical way of saying maggots. Continue reading

Voter In The Middle

The efforts to argue “in fairness” to Trump fall, as they should, on deaf ears. His “go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came,” would have been the end of any other presidency in memory, but Trump’s strategy, assuming it was more than accidental, was to make himself so repugnant that nothing would be stark and awful enough to take him down.

His supporters’ efforts, taken from the same playbook as used by both tribes, to parse the words, argue over whether it’s discrimination by race or national origin, get as deep into the weeds so as to not see the swamp, convinces no one disinclined to be convinced. It was outrageously offensive and flagrantly unAmerican no matter what you want to call it.

On the other hand, it’s not as if Ilhan Omar or the rest of the Mod Squad is acceptable either. Had Trump’s #resistance been even remotely tactical and saved its bullets for the moment when there was no dispute across the middle of America that his repugnancy was too much for anyone to stand, this might be the topic of discussion at the moment.

We knew it would come, as what else could a vulgar, amoral ignoramus do but be himself? But they squandered all their ammo shooting wildly, constantly, passionately, and so one more scream of racism sounded like all the others and will have no greater impact than the Mueller Report, the last absolutely certain thing that would bring Trump down. Remember the Mueller Report?

Trump went on to pander to his base, courting (and laughably denying) the “send them back” chant. Jamelle Bouie questions why the media obsesses over Trump’s base and ignores that they are, “in fact, the minority.”

The anti-Trump vote is the single largest coalition in American politics. That was true in 2016, despite Hillary Clinton’s defeat in the Electoral College. It was true in 2017, after Democrats won major victories in Virginia and Alabama. And it was true in 2018, when the anti-Trump coalition gave Democrats a majority in the House of Representatives.

Despite their influence, however, anti-Trump voters are practically invisible in recent mainstream political coverage. Instead, the focus is the president’s most fervent supporters, as it has been since 2015, when Trump came down his escalator and announced his campaign for the White House. This past week is a prime example.

Whether that’s correct is highly doubtful, but he’s certainly right that Trump voters are a minority. So too are progressive voters. Here’s the trick being played, that the alternative to Trump voters is anti-Trump voters. But these are also the anti-progressive voters. They may poll against Trump, but they don’t poll for the great reinvention of America into a quasi-socialist state for the benefit of the marginalized. This isn’t an invitation to argue whether they should be; they’re not and screaming at them about how horrible Trump is won’t work. They already know how horrible Trump is. They just don’t want you either.

So there is the Trump base on one side, the progressive base on the other side, and neither is sufficient to prevail. Both sides need the middle voter, the one who finds Trump utterly repugnant, but has no intention of voting to tax themselves into oblivion or the re-education camps for not using the correct terminology for manholes. To even caution moderation today is to be viciously attacked by shrieking scolds reading moderation as total racist capitulation. They passionately believe this is going to win over hearts and minds?

The middle will vote in one way or another. They will go to the polls and vote for the lesser of evils, or they will stay home and utter “a pox on both your houses.” They will not vote for either, but against one.

As has been clear since the midterm elections, the left sees this moment in history as the most opportune to fundamentally re-engineer our social structure. When will they ever again have a president so despised, so beyond the pale offensive, as Trump? The strategy is to bootstrap the majority of voters, the anti-Trump majority, into a wave that will bring social justice, identity politics, socialism, into power.

Trump has no potential to capture the affirmative vote of the middle. There is absolutely nothing he can say or do at this point to change who he is, despicable, not that he appears to care. But there is no will on the other side to offer an alternative to the fundamental shift in American society.

Even if the candidate mouths the words of moderation, that she will be a president for all the people and not favor one race over another, one gender over another, and crush the hopes of Americans, especially those who risked so much to come here from other places, to achieve success for themselves and their posterity, no one will believe them. But they won’t say that, as their base will hate them for it. Both bases, despite their denials, are remarkably similar in their simplistic understandings, their viciousness and their demand for authoritarian control of the others.

The more Trump talks, the more repugnant he gets. But neither the Squad nor the 32 flavors of candidates are helping themselves. They want their revolution. The middle does not.

Conventional wisdom on 2020 is that Democrats will lose if they can’t get their progressive wing under control. This overstates the leftward swing of the Democratic Party and understates the distance between the center of American politics and the president’s right-wing policies. It also misses another, crucial dynamic — that by trying to court and convert voters who backed Trump, Democrats may sacrifice an opportunity to deepen support among their existing voters, to powerful electoral consequences.

Most people want to believe they’re fairly normal as opposed to some freakish outlier, and Bouie is such a person. But even if he can fool himself, it’s not going to fool anyone else. Elections are a numbers game, no matter how many words are murdered to argue otherwise. Just as Trump plays to the sort of person who would want to attend a rally where people chant “send her back” or “lock her up,” Bouie argues that the biggest mistake the Democrats could make is to forsake the extreme.

Yesterday, I watched as a guy stated on twitter that he would vote third-party, as he could not support Trump or any of the Democratic candidates. He was pounded by progressives with the argument that if he didn’t vote Democratic, he was effectively voting for Trump the racist, and that made him a racist. There is no middle ground to either extreme, and yet that’s where the voters are that are needed and neither side seems to grasp the math.

Short Take: The Silliest Hole

When Stephanie West Allen sent over a news item about the Berkeley City Council, I had no idea what to expect. Something about giving sanctuary to immigrants? Maybe caring for the homeless, whether by housing or feeding them, or even providing someplace to defecate that didn’t require the unhoused to step over used needles? Nope. Steph took me by surprise.

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The Problem With “Experts”

The once-agitator, Radley Balko, wrote a critically-acclaimed and critical book about junk forensic science called “The Cadaver King and The Country Dentist: A True Story of Injustice in the American South,” dealing with bite mark testimony and its allegorical relationship to who and what gets admitted into expert evidence to lock down convictions when there is little to no actual evidence otherwise.

This issue is huge, both from the significance in the courtroom to its lack of significance as science. Working off this focus, Radley is doing a series of reports, “a six-part online symposium on the use of forensics in the criminal justice system.” 
Ten years ago, the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) published a groundbreaking study on the use of forensics in criminal trials. The study found that, in the “pattern matching” fields of forensics in particular, expert witnesses had been vastly overstating the significance and certainty of their analyses. For some fields, such as bite-mark analysis, the study found no scientific research at all to support the central claims of practitioners.

Since then, other panels populated with scientists have come to similar conclusions, including the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology and the Texas Forensic Science Commission. In 2013, Congress and the Obama administration responded to these reports by creating the National Commission on Forensic Science, a panel of lawyers and scientists charged with coming up with standards and protocols in these fields. The Trump administration then allowed the commission’s charter to expire in April 2017.

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The Wrong Shade

The president of the University of Richmond, Ronald Crutcher, writes that he finds himself in a dilemma.

Drink in hand, the student, Michael Kizzie, stands smiling on a table in what appears to be a fraternity house. He has a mock noose around his neck, and he is surrounded by unidentifiable — but presumably white — classmates in Ku Klux Klan robes, as some sort of sick joke.

This picture is from a 1980 yearbook photo, yet Crutcher laments that he has to make the phone call.

The student-driven Race and Racism at the University of Richmond Project had excavated a number of racist yearbook images, including the one of Mr. Kizzie but others too, starting in 2016. A reporter came across our publicly available archive of yearbooks and posted a tweet containing the noose photo. The post came in the immediate aftermath of the controversy surrounding racist photos in Gov. Ralph Northam’s medical school yearbook, and, perhaps unsurprisingly, it went viral in the university community.

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The Dumb Courtroom In A Dumb City

In an op-ed that is almost certain to be viewed with analog dismay, Shoshona Saxe observes that our love of new, shiny and smart has gotten a bit ahead of itself.

As we know all too well from our personal lives, tech products have a short reliable life span. We accept regular disruptions in internet and cellphone function as a fact of life. Technology ages rapidly, with glitches increasing common only a couple of years into its life.

Yet, “smart” technology is all the rage. Cities proclaim themselves smart by putting cameras everywhere and developing infrastructure scheme based upon as-yet uninvented technologies, mass data collection and the promise of AI to make it work. Continue reading

Tuesday Talk*: Should The Victims Speak?

At the bond hearing before SDNY District Judge Richard Berman, something almost unheard of occurred. Putative victims of Jeffrey Epstein rose at the hearing and addressed the court.

The women stood just feet from where Epstein was seated in his blue jail outfit as they asked a federal judge to reject a request by Epstein’s lawyers that he remain under house arrest in his $77 million Manhattan mansion until trial on conspiracy and sex trafficking charges.

Until trial? That’s the problem. They’re not characterized as “putative victims” as a pejorative, but because Epstein has yet to be tried and convicted in this case. That whole presumption of innocence problem keeps rearing its nasty head, since we know as a matter of law that it applies, even if we really feel like we don’t want it to. At least this time. Continue reading