Federal Prosecutors Argue COVID-19 Is Just ‘One More Way to Perish in Prison’

elderly-inmate

Federal prosecutors unsuccessfully tried to argue this week that an 80-year-old inmate serving a life sentence for marijuana offenses shouldn’t be released because COVID-19 is just “one more way to perish in prison.”

U.S. District Judge Donald Graham disagreed and ordered Atilano Dominguez, who was 27 years into his life sentence, to be released from federal prison on Tuesday, over the objections of the Miami U.S. Attorney’s Office and the Bureau of Prisons (BOP). The U.S. government opposed his petition for compassionate release on the grounds that Dominguez, who’s mostly confined to a wheelchair due to advanced arthritis in both knees, was a recidivism risk and that his life sentence was imposed with the knowledge that he could die of any number of illnesses in prison.

Dominguez was one of thousands of federal inmates who applied for compassionate release—a policy allows elderly and terminally ill inmates to go home ahead of schedule—in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. In late March, Attorney General William Barr directed the BOP to use compassionate release, home confinement, and other measures to get elderly and at-risk inmates out of federal prison. Despite the release of more than 7,000 thousand inmates, though, the rollout of Barr’s directive has been maddeningly inconsistent for inmates and families.

Dominguez was sentenced in 1994 to life in prison on two charges of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute marijuana and possession with intent to distribute marijuana. His sentence was upgraded to a mandatory life sentence after prosecutors filed a draconian “three strikes” enhancement against him based on previous cocaine offenses. Graham wrote in his order releasing Dominguez that the judge at Dominguez’s original sentencing noted it was probably “too severe,” but there was nothing the judge could do because of the mandatory sentence.

Dominguez’ advanced age and long list of serious medical conditions—including diabetes, hypertension, and congestive heart failure—certainly fit the qualifying conditions for inmates at risk for COVID-19. But federal prosecutors said those were not “extraordinary and compelling reasons” to grant him relief, because he was expected to die in prison anyway.

“The government does not contest that the Defendant’s age and medical condition render him vulnerable to serious consequences if he were to contract the illness,” the Miami U.S. Attorney’s Office argued in a motion opposing Dominguez’s petition. “However, the Defendant’s sentence of life imprisonment always contemplated that the Defendant could perish in prison. The existence of one more way to perish in prison, specifically COVID-19 in addition to heart disease, cancer, stroke, aneurysms and myriad other ailments that afflict the aged, does not alter the appropriateness of the Defendant’s incarceration.”

Before 2018, that would have been the end of the line for Dominguez. There used to be no judicial review available for inmates applying for compassionate release, leaving inmates at the mercy of an arbitrary, inscrutable, and cruel prison bureaucracy. Justice Department records obtained by the criminal justice advocacy group FAMM in 2018 showed that at least 81 federal inmates had died since 2014 while waiting for the government to review their applications. 

However, after the passage of the FIRST STEP Act in 2018, federal inmates can now take their pleas to a judge if the BOP rejects their applications.

Graham ruled in Dominguez’s favor, finding that “there is no authority that persons sentenced to life imprisonment are somehow precluded from being granted compassionate release or are subject to a higher standard of proof.” He was also not convinced by the argument that an 80-year-old quadruple bypass survivor with arthritic knees was a significant safety risk to the community.

For criminal justice groups, cases like this boil down to basic human decency. “Title 9 of the U.S. Attorney’s Manual governs criminal proceedings, and there is no provision there that requires you to be an asshole,” FAMM president Kevin Ring says.

Ring is not the only one. Earlier this year, a federal judge harshly rebuked the U.S. Attorney’s Office in San Francisco for pressuring defendants into plea deals that would waive their rights to compassionate release under the FIRST STEP Act, calling the practice “appalling cruel.”

Reason reported last year on the case of Steve Brittner, a former federal inmate who was diagnosed with metastatic brain cancer. Federal prosecutors opposed his compassionate release petition because they said his life expectancy exceeded his release date. In essence, Brittner wasn’t dying fast enough to qualify.

Then there’s Angela Beck, who suffered a year of potentially fatal medical neglect waiting for a breast cancer diagnosis and treatment. A federal judge granted Beck’s petition for compassionate release, finding that the neglect Beck suffered “likely reached the level of a constitutional violation,” and that if she remained in BOP custody she would face “a substantial likelihood of substandard medical care for her life-threatening disease.”

So far, there have been 124 federal inmate deaths and two BOP staff deaths due to COVID-19. The first inmate to die was a drug offender.

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BLM Stealth-Edits Website Amid Marxist Blowback, Plunge In Americans’ Support

BLM Stealth-Edits Website Amid Marxist Blowback, Plunge In Americans’ Support

Tyler Durden

Fri, 09/25/2020 – 16:20

A new Associated Press poll finds that there has been a massive 15 point swing and that most Americans are now hostile to Black Lives Matter protests.

“The poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research finds that 44% of Americans disapprove of protests in response to police violence against Black Americans, while 39% approve. In June, 54% approved. The new survey was conducted Sept. 11-14, before Wednesday’s announcement that a lone Louisville police officer would be charged in the Taylor case, but not for her actual death.”

As Summit News’ Paul Joseph Watson notes, the figures are also interesting when broken down along racial lines.

Just 35% of white Americans approve of the protests, down from 53% back in June. Just Latinos, 31% approve, compared with 44% in June.

Support for BLM amongst African-Americans has also dropped from 81% to 63%.

As Chris Menahan notes, “AP-NORC chose to exclude Latinos from their chart to make it seem like this is just a Black vs White thing.”

Support for BLM amongst Republicans has also dropped from 29% to 9%. Meanwhile, 70% of Democrats still approve of the protests, while significantly more people on both sides of the political spectrum believe the demonstrations to be “mostly or all violent.”

The survey also finds that belief in the central underpinning narrative pushed by BLM, that blacks are being indiscriminately targeted by police, is being eroded.

“Overall, Americans are less likely than they were in June to say deadly force is more commonly used against a Black person than a white person, 50% vs. 61%. And fewer now say that officers who cause injury or death on the job are treated too leniently by the justice system, 52% vs. 65%.”

The numbers are clear – supporting Black Lives Matter is a losing election issue.

Only when Democrats began to realize that a few weeks ago did they finally denounce the bedlam that has plagued American streets since the end of May.

All of which may explain why BLM scrubbed its “what we believe” page from the organization’s website.

Frankly, as American Thinker’s Silvio Canto, Jr writes, we’re surprised that it took this long.

In other words, it’s amazing that all of those Marxist and anti-family ideas sat on the Black Lives Matter website for so long.

Well, BLM is changing its image, as Jason Whitlock wrote:   

BLM’s “what we believe” page originally exposed the movement’s heavy Marxist influence. The page called for the disruption of the nuclear family. Let me quote it directly.

“We disrupt the Western-prescribed nuclear family structure requirement by supporting each other as extended families and ‘villages’ that collectively care for one another, especially our children, to the degree that mothers, parents and children are comfortable.”

That’s a Marxist concept.

Libby Emmons at The Post Millennial succinctly summarized the BLM agenda, writing that BLM “espouses Marxist principles of communal children and the demise of the family structure over American ideals of individualism and family unity.”

People are finally looking beyond BLM’s catchy slogan and evaluating the actual agenda. The agenda is Karl Marx’s anti-God, pro-communism political theory. BLM scrubbed its “what we believe” page because smart people are distancing themselves from BLM. 

Thank you Jason, for pointing this out.

What continues to amaze is that this information sat on their website during all the riots and violence.  Yet, no one in the media ever asked anything about the people behind BLM or what all of those statements were about.

Things are starting to change, as Jason Whitlock notes, this summer while American sports leagues were swallowing Black Lives Matter’s entire agenda and embedding their slogans onto fields and courts, the Premier Soccer League distanced itself from BLM. 

Read this story from early July about EPL stars and their new position on BLM.  Two weeks ago, ESPN reported that Premier League clubs scrapped their BLM badges. 

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Dow Suffers Worst Week Since June As Dollar Surges Most In Six Months

Dow Suffers Worst Week Since June As Dollar Surges Most In Six Months

Tyler Durden

Fri, 09/25/2020 – 16:00

A mixed picture in the major US equity indices this week with mega-tech-heavy Nasdaq managing gains (busting a three-week losing streak) as The Dow suffered its worst week since June, S&P and Dow down for the 4th week in a row (longest losing streak since Aug 2019)

But, away from index-land, the media US stock is in bear market, down over 20% year-to-date…

Source: Bloomberg

A much uglier week for European stocks…

Source: Bloomberg

The S&P 500 bounced off “unch” for 2020 today…

 

Cyclicals underperformed this week (down the 4th week in a row – longest losing streak since March collapse)

Source: Bloomberg

Uncertainty around the election continued to rise this week…

Source: Bloomberg

Treasury yields were all lower on the week with the long-end outperforming (30Y -5bps, 2Y -1bps)…

Source: Bloomberg

Real yields surged higher on the week, dragging gold lower…

Source: Bloomberg

The dollar ripped higher this week (5th day higher in the last 6 higher) to its best week since March

Source: Bloomberg

Notably the dollar rallied to the March low pivot…

Source: Bloomberg

We note that the net spec positioning across FX futures was extremely short the USD which may explain the week’s squeeze…

Source: Bloomberg

Cryptos were all lower on the week (even with the rally of the last two days) with Bitcoin the least hit and Ethereum worst…

Source: Bloomberg

Silver was on target for its worst week since Sept 2011 before today’s bounce but all the major commodities were weaker on the week amid a soaring USD…

Source: Bloomberg

The last time silver saw such a drop, it screamed higher…

Source: Bloomberg

WTI ended lower but managed to hold back above $40…

Gold has outperformed silver for 5 of the last 6 days – the biggest weekly outperformance since March…

Source: Bloomberg

Finally, there’s this…

Source: Bloomberg

And, this seemed to sum things up nicely…

via ZeroHedge News https://ift.tt/3hYgEMs Tyler Durden

Amazon’s In-Home Security Drone Is Company’s “Most Chilling Surveillance Product” Yet

Amazon’s In-Home Security Drone Is Company’s “Most Chilling Surveillance Product” Yet

Tyler Durden

Fri, 09/25/2020 – 15:50

One of the biggest takeaways from Amazon’s annual product event is the need for constant recording if that is at home or in the car.

If readers see nothing wrong with the proliferation of mass surveillance, nevertheless, a host of always-on surveillance products operated by a mega-corporation, then now could be the time to purchase a camera-mounted drone that can buzz inside your home, searching for intruders or making sure the stove is not on. 

Ring announced the Always Home Cam during the Amazon event on Thursday, a “compact, lightweight, autonomously flying indoor camera” that can fly around the home, searching for disturbances. 

The tiny drone will retail for $250 and launches if another Ring product is triggered; It can respond to a whole host of emergencies such as break-ins and fires. After launch, the drone flies to the source of the disturbance, producing a live streaming feed for the end-user. 

The technology sounds wonderful, who wouldn’t want a personal security drone monitoring their home, but again, it’s owned by Amazon, which will undoubtedly raise some red flags about privacy. 

Big Brother Watch, a non-profit British advocacy group, described the drone as the “most chilling home surveillance product” yet.

“It’s difficult to imagine why Amazon thinks anyone wants flying internet cameras linked up to a data-gathering company in the privacy of their own home,” Silkie Carlo from Big Brother Watch told BBC

“It’s important to acknowledge the influence that Amazon’s product development is having on communities and the growing surveillance market,” Carlo said. 

If readers are aware, Ring recently partnered with more than 400 law enforcement agencies around the country, allowing police access to homeowners’ camera footage if necessary. The partnerships allow police to tap into millions of internet-connected cameras for solving crimes.

Ring’s deals with police fuel broader questions about privacy, surveillance, and the expanding reach of tech giants and local police into private homes. 

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Is Powell Sending An Even Louder Message: Fed Refuses To Resume Bond ETF Purchases Despite Slump

Is Powell Sending An Even Louder Message: Fed Refuses To Resume Bond ETF Purchases Despite Slump

Tyler Durden

Fri, 09/25/2020 – 15:30

Two weeks ago, when the Fed published its latest monthly breakdown of purchases Secondary Market Corporate Credit Facility which shockingly showed that in the entire month of August, the Fed had not purchased a single corporate bond ETF and had barely purchased any corporate bonds in the open market, we asked if Powell was “sending the market as message.”

In the subsequent two weeks, which saw a sharp drop in risk assets and the Nasdaq sliding into a 10% correction, coupled with a modest rout across the corporate bond sector, many had expected the Fed to revert to its role as custodian of market stability and ramp up its purchases of corporate bonds, if for no other reason then to assure investors that Uncle Jerome was still watching over everyone.

So in what may come as a big surprise to all those praying for the Fed to bail them out, or to at least telegraph that he is keeping an eye on the current tech-led market mess, Powell did no such thing and in fact the Fed’s latest weekly H.4.1 report showed that the corporate credit facilities held $12.911bn of corporate bonds and ETFs as of Tuesday, up a tiny $44 million from $12.867BN the prior week.

And since that implies the Fed bought a paltry $9 million/day of corporate bonds and ETFs on average this past week, down from $19 million/day the prior week, and far, far below the $300 million in daily corporate bond/ETF purchases for much of the early summer, one wonders if Powell is urgently trying to let the market know that it is on its own?

 

 

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Short Circuit: A Roundup of Recent Federal Court Decisions

Please enjoy the latest edition of Short Circuit, a weekly feature from the Institute for Justice.

Recently the Eleventh Circuit upheld Florida’s system of allowing former felons to get back their right to vote, even though it makes it very hard for former felons to actually do that. Critics have rightfully decried the ruling, but, unfortunately, it’s based on decades of Supreme Court precedent that many of those same critics have likely endorsed. Director of IJ’s Center for Judicial Engagement Anthony Sanders tells us how supporting the extreme version of the rational basis test in some cases but not others is a bargain with Leviathan that you just can’t win. Click here to read.

  • After Congress declined to appropriate funding to Build The Wall, the president moved some money around to build some of it anyway. House of Representatives: Can’t do that. D.C. Circuit: “It is a core structural protection of the Constitution—a wall, so to speak, between the branches of government that prevents encroachment of the House’s and Senate’s power of the purse.” Therefore, the House has standing to sue. The case should not have been dismissed.
  • Police planning a no-knock raid on a suspected drug dealer observe him leaving home around 9:00 p.m. Without checking whether the suspect had returned, police conduct the raid the next morning. Within seconds of breaching the front door, police shoot an unarmed houseguest in the stomach. Jury: The officer wasn’t negligent, but the city was. Trial court: The municipality didn’t have a “special relationship” with the plaintiff and therefore had no duty to avoid negligently getting him shot in the stomach. Second Circuit: Not so clear; we’ll let the New York Court of Appeals straighten this out.
  • Technology company rescinds job offers after background checks turn up past felony convictions. Two would-have-been employees sue, claiming the company’s policy has a disparate impact on African Americans.  Second Circuit:  Plaintiffs would have us assume that, because African Americans in general are more likely to have felony convictions, the same holds true for African American web developers.  That assumption is not plausible or even logical, so the complaint must be dismissed.
  • Grim reading: At the turn of the 20th century, German colonial and military authorities annihilated about 100,000 people in what is now Namibia, killing 80% of the Ovaherero and 50% of the Nama tribes and subjecting many more to slavery, concentration camps, and live medical experimentation. Second Circuit: These terrible wrongs can’t be addressed in U.S. courts.
  • After praising the Christchurch massacre online, white supremacist is interviewed by the FBI. He lies to agents about owning a gun, and he’s convicted of making a false statement. Among his conditions of supervised release: monitored internet use and no promoting violence online (or posting at all on violence-promoting websites). Second Circuit: Yes, he was convicted of lying to the feds about a gun, but, in the broader context, these conditions are appropriately related to the crime. The “violence” condition, however, is too vague.
  • Stay in your apartment, says Philadelphia 911 operator, and wait for the fire department to come rescue you. But then the 911 operator gives the fire department a wrong address and neglects to mention there’s a family still in the building. Rescue never comes. Third Circuit: Gov’t owes a duty of care when it itself creates a danger; but that rule does not apply here, where the operator merely failed to act. (Two judges separately confer, find this conclusion “troubling” not because it denies liability but because liability might conceivably be imposed in some other case.)
  • Allegation: Acting on the advice of his lawyer, Pennsylvania man stands up at a sheriff’s auction to inform bidders that he has an unrecorded interest in a property up for auction. An attorney for the sheriff’s office and an officer promptly place him in a chokehold, stun him, and drag him from the room for violating their unwritten “no comment” rule. A First Amendment violation? Third Circuit: The auction is a nonpublic forum, and the “no comment” rule is a reasonable way to move things along. Probably didn’t need to rough the guy up, though.
  • In which Judge Willett, concurring, again expresses himself of the view that “courts should attempt to provide greater judicial guidance” in qualified immunity cases by “explaining whether a right was in fact violated, not merely whether a rights violation was clearly established.” (Nota bene: A pending cert petition authored by, inter alios, the MacArthur Justice Center invites the U.S. Supreme Court to align itself with this view.)
  • Courtesy of the Fifth Circuit, here’s a reminder that it doesn’t matter if subject-matter jurisdiction wasn’t raised below. Thus, this challenge to state billboard regulations—removed to federal court by the gov’t, which raised subject-matter jurisdiction just 11 days before appellate argument—is headed back to state court.
  • After more than 1,300 cities and counties file lawsuits against opioid manufacturers, the cases are consolidated in the Northern District of Ohio. Attorneys representing 51 of these plaintiffs attempt to certify a “negotiation class” consisting of every city and county in the United States. The trial court certifies the class; objecting municipalities appeal. Sixth Circuit: However “innovative and effective” such a class might be in resolving mass tort claims, it’s not allowed under the Federal Rules. Dissent: The Federal Rules are about making it easier to resolve cases, and that’s how we should interpret the class certification rules.
  • After sustaining a blow from a baseball bat, would-be robber is arrested and held in Franklin County, Ky. jail. In the days that follow, he consistently vomits and suffers two seizures before being taken to hospital (where he suffers a third seizure). Sixth Circuit: The jail’s medical personnel were not deliberately indifferent to the man’s medical needs, so his constitutional claims were rightly dismissed. Partial dissent: For three of the nurses, a jury should decide whether they acted recklessly.
  • In 1971, a hippie is murdered in Nederland, Colo. The main suspect is the town’s marshal, but he’s not charged until confessing at a nursing home in 1997. Twenty years later, one of the hippie’s friends decides “to take care of some old business” by leaving a homemade bomb at the Nederland police station. (The bomb squad neutralizes it.) He’s sentenced to 27 years. Tenth Circuit: Resentence him. Among other things, shouldn’t have applied that terrorism enhancement.
  • Eleventh Circuit: It violates due process for judicial actors to profit from convictions and sentencing decisions and that also goes for quasi-judicial actors, like private probation companies. So a lawsuit against a probation company used by Gardendale, Ala. to impose conditions on probationers and extend their terms of probation, thus increasing the fees the company could extract from them, should not have been dismissed. (IJ filed an amicus brief urging this course of action.)
  • And in en banc news, the Fourth Circuit will not reconsider its decision that a school district violated Title IX and the Constitution when it prohibited a transgender male student from using male restrooms. Judge Niemeyer concurs in the denial on the grounds that the panel opinion is so wrong the Supreme Court should take the case directly. Judge Wynn concurs on the alternative ground that the panel opinion is so right that there’s nothing to rehear.

Priscilla Villarreal is a one-person news phenom in Laredo, Texas. Going by “Lagordiloca” (an endearing Spanish nickname meaning “the big crazy lady”), she’s drawn national attention for her bold newsgathering and unfiltered reporting. As a critic of local government and police, she’s also drawn their ire. So they began a campaign of retaliatory actions against her, culminating in her arrest and prosecution under an obscure and seldom used statute against “misuse of public information.” But Villarreal didn’t misuse anything. All she did was ask a confidential police source to corroborate facts about breaking news stories. That’s what Pulitzer Prize winners do every day. So Villarreal sued for retaliatory arrest. But a federal district court granted the officials qualified immunity, holding that they could plead ignorance of the First Amendment by pointing to their reliance on a statute—no matter how obviously unconstitutional or inapplicable. Now, IJ has filed an amicus brief in support of Villarreal, urging the Fifth Circuit to recognize that the district court’s holding is dangerous to a free society and that qualified immunity cannot shield officers who enforce blatantly unconstitutional laws or criminalize core First Amendment activity.

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Short Circuit: A Roundup of Recent Federal Court Decisions

Please enjoy the latest edition of Short Circuit, a weekly feature from the Institute for Justice.

Recently the Eleventh Circuit upheld Florida’s system of allowing former felons to get back their right to vote, even though it makes it very hard for former felons to actually do that. Critics have rightfully decried the ruling, but, unfortunately, it’s based on decades of Supreme Court precedent that many of those same critics have likely endorsed. Director of IJ’s Center for Judicial Engagement Anthony Sanders tells us how supporting the extreme version of the rational basis test in some cases but not others is a bargain with Leviathan that you just can’t win. Click here to read.

  • After Congress declined to appropriate funding to Build The Wall, the president moved some money around to build some of it anyway. House of Representatives: Can’t do that. D.C. Circuit: “It is a core structural protection of the Constitution—a wall, so to speak, between the branches of government that prevents encroachment of the House’s and Senate’s power of the purse.” Therefore, the House has standing to sue. The case should not have been dismissed.
  • Police planning a no-knock raid on a suspected drug dealer observe him leaving home around 9:00 p.m. Without checking whether the suspect had returned, police conduct the raid the next morning. Within seconds of breaching the front door, police shoot an unarmed houseguest in the stomach. Jury: The officer wasn’t negligent, but the city was. Trial court: The municipality didn’t have a “special relationship” with the plaintiff and therefore had no duty to avoid negligently getting him shot in the stomach. Second Circuit: Not so clear; we’ll let the New York Court of Appeals straighten this out.
  • Technology company rescinds job offers after background checks turn up past felony convictions. Two would-have-been employees sue, claiming the company’s policy has a disparate impact on African Americans.  Second Circuit:  Plaintiffs would have us assume that, because African Americans in general are more likely to have felony convictions, the same holds true for African American web developers.  That assumption is not plausible or even logical, so the complaint must be dismissed.
  • Grim reading: At the turn of the 20th century, German colonial and military authorities annihilated about 100,000 people in what is now Namibia, killing 80% of the Ovaherero and 50% of the Nama tribes and subjecting many more to slavery, concentration camps, and live medical experimentation. Second Circuit: These terrible wrongs can’t be addressed in U.S. courts.
  • After praising the Christchurch massacre online, white supremacist is interviewed by the FBI. He lies to agents about owning a gun, and he’s convicted of making a false statement. Among his conditions of supervised release: monitored internet use and no promoting violence online (or posting at all on violence-promoting websites). Second Circuit: Yes, he was convicted of lying to the feds about a gun, but, in the broader context, these conditions are appropriately related to the crime. The “violence” condition, however, is too vague.
  • Stay in your apartment, says Philadelphia 911 operator, and wait for the fire department to come rescue you. But then the 911 operator gives the fire department a wrong address and neglects to mention there’s a family still in the building. Rescue never comes. Third Circuit: Gov’t owes a duty of care when it itself creates a danger; but that rule does not apply here, where the operator merely failed to act. (Two judges separately confer, find this conclusion “troubling” not because it denies liability but because liability might conceivably be imposed in some other case.)
  • Allegation: Acting on the advice of his lawyer, Pennsylvania man stands up at a sheriff’s auction to inform bidders that he has an unrecorded interest in a property up for auction. An attorney for the sheriff’s office and an officer promptly place him in a chokehold, stun him, and drag him from the room for violating their unwritten “no comment” rule. A First Amendment violation? Third Circuit: The auction is a nonpublic forum, and the “no comment” rule is a reasonable way to move things along. Probably didn’t need to rough the guy up, though.
  • In which Judge Willett, concurring, again expresses himself of the view that “courts should attempt to provide greater judicial guidance” in qualified immunity cases by “explaining whether a right was in fact violated, not merely whether a rights violation was clearly established.” (Nota bene: A pending cert petition authored by, inter alios, the MacArthur Justice Center invites the U.S. Supreme Court to align itself with this view.)
  • Courtesy of the Fifth Circuit, here’s a reminder that it doesn’t matter if subject-matter jurisdiction wasn’t raised below. Thus, this challenge to state billboard regulations—removed to federal court by the gov’t, which raised subject-matter jurisdiction just 11 days before appellate argument—is headed back to state court.
  • After more than 1,300 cities and counties file lawsuits against opioid manufacturers, the cases are consolidated in the Northern District of Ohio. Attorneys representing 51 of these plaintiffs attempt to certify a “negotiation class” consisting of every city and county in the United States. The trial court certifies the class; objecting municipalities appeal. Sixth Circuit: However “innovative and effective” such a class might be in resolving mass tort claims, it’s not allowed under the Federal Rules. Dissent: The Federal Rules are about making it easier to resolve cases, and that’s how we should interpret the class certification rules.
  • After sustaining a blow from a baseball bat, would-be robber is arrested and held in Franklin County, Ky. jail. In the days that follow, he consistently vomits and suffers two seizures before being taken to hospital (where he suffers a third seizure). Sixth Circuit: The jail’s medical personnel were not deliberately indifferent to the man’s medical needs, so his constitutional claims were rightly dismissed. Partial dissent: For three of the nurses, a jury should decide whether they acted recklessly.
  • In 1971, a hippie is murdered in Nederland, Colo. The main suspect is the town’s marshal, but he’s not charged until confessing at a nursing home in 1997. Twenty years later, one of the hippie’s friends decides “to take care of some old business” by leaving a homemade bomb at the Nederland police station. (The bomb squad neutralizes it.) He’s sentenced to 27 years. Tenth Circuit: Resentence him. Among other things, shouldn’t have applied that terrorism enhancement.
  • Eleventh Circuit: It violates due process for judicial actors to profit from convictions and sentencing decisions and that also goes for quasi-judicial actors, like private probation companies. So a lawsuit against a probation company used by Gardendale, Ala. to impose conditions on probationers and extend their terms of probation, thus increasing the fees the company could extract from them, should not have been dismissed. (IJ filed an amicus brief urging this course of action.)
  • And in en banc news, the Fourth Circuit will not reconsider its decision that a school district violated Title IX and the Constitution when it prohibited a transgender male student from using male restrooms. Judge Niemeyer concurs in the denial on the grounds that the panel opinion is so wrong the Supreme Court should take the case directly. Judge Wynn concurs on the alternative ground that the panel opinion is so right that there’s nothing to rehear.

Priscilla Villarreal is a one-person news phenom in Laredo, Texas. Going by “Lagordiloca” (an endearing Spanish nickname meaning “the big crazy lady”), she’s drawn national attention for her bold newsgathering and unfiltered reporting. As a critic of local government and police, she’s also drawn their ire. So they began a campaign of retaliatory actions against her, culminating in her arrest and prosecution under an obscure and seldom used statute against “misuse of public information.” But Villarreal didn’t misuse anything. All she did was ask a confidential police source to corroborate facts about breaking news stories. That’s what Pulitzer Prize winners do every day. So Villarreal sued for retaliatory arrest. But a federal district court granted the officials qualified immunity, holding that they could plead ignorance of the First Amendment by pointing to their reliance on a statute—no matter how obviously unconstitutional or inapplicable. Now, IJ has filed an amicus brief in support of Villarreal, urging the Fifth Circuit to recognize that the district court’s holding is dangerous to a free society and that qualified immunity cannot shield officers who enforce blatantly unconstitutional laws or criminalize core First Amendment activity.

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Antebellum Is Empty Social Commentary Disguised as a Horror Movie

antebellum-janelle-monae-LARGE

For decades, horror movies have been vehicles for social commentary. In 1968, director George Romero’s genre-defining zombie film, Night of the Living Dead, served (perhaps inadvertently) as a parable about American racism; its ’70s sequel, Dawn of the Dead, tackled soulless consumerism and suburban ennui. By the time the series reached the George W. Bush era, with 2005’s Land of the Dead, Romero transformed the unending war between humans and zombies into a darkly comic riff on class division and wartime propaganda. His movies were tense, gory affairs about a fantastical otherworld in which the shuffling, flesh-eating undead regularly chased terrified civilians through homes and roads and shopping malls. They were also about the very particular, very normal real world that he, and his viewers, lived in. 

Romero was far from the only director to inject political consciousness into genre filmmaking. In the 1980s, John Carpenter directed a string of beloved genre films—The Thing, Escape From New York, They Live—that reflected his left-leaning sensibilities. More recently, horror has tackled issues like familial trauma and mental health (Ari Aster’s Hereditary) and domestic violence (Leigh Whannell’s The Invisible Man), shading and sharpening prosaic horrors with genre thrills and chills. And thanks in large part to Jordan Peele, whose Get Out and Us directly overlaid the experience of present-day American racism onto horror tropes, the genre has continued to engage with issues of race and discrimination. Part of what made these movies effective was the balance between genre thrills and social commentary, the way that each enabled and expanded the possibilities of the other. 

As big-budget Hollywood studio filmmaking has drifted away from socially and culturally engaged stories and concepts, except in the most superficial way, modestly budgeted horror movies have become one of the few places where these sorts of ideas are consistently explored in popular feature films. Indeed, it is now almost more surprising to see a horror picture that does not attempt some sort of social commentary; it is only a little bit of an overstatement to say that horror has become Hollywood’s op-ed page.

Which brings us to Antebellum. The debut feature from filmmakers Gerard Bush and Christopher Renz, which recently debuted on video-on-demand, Antebellum is social horror movie that offers neither scares nor ideas. Instead, it’s a one-note, one-twist concept in search of a story. 

The film begins with a William Faulkner quote—”The past is never dead. It’s not even past.”—then opens onto a plantation run by Confederate soldiers where slaves are beaten, raped, and forced to perform punishing work in total silence. The central character is a slave, played by Janelle Monáe, who is plotting some sort of escape. But there’s little in the way of narrative momentum or character development until the story eventually appears to shift gears. 

Once again, we meet Monáe, but this time she’s a successful contemporary author who goes on television to debate racial justice, gives TED Talk–style lectures to packed rooms, and casually works references to intersectionality into conversations. Obviously, there’s a connection between the slave played by Monáe on the plantation and the author played by Monáe in the present day, a spiritual or metaphorical link between plantation-era slavery and the black lives of today. 

To explain that link, however, would be to spoil the film’s big twist, which—spoiler alert—is exactly what I’m going to do. 

It turns out that the two Monáes are not connected by spirit or ancestry or anything so metaphorically indirect. Instead, they are literally the same person. The scenes of Monáe as a successful author are actually flashback, at the end of which she is kidnapped by a shadowy cabal led by a stalker played by Jena Malone, then brought to a present slave plantation that is operated for the pleasure of present-day racists, including, it turns out, a sitting U.S. senator. 

That’s it. That’s the movie. There’s barely a story. The characters are paper-thin. The plantation scenes are difficult to watch, and if anything seem designed to capitalize on the very abuses they nominally seek to critique. But they’re not tense or frightening, nor even particularly illustrative, as in something like 12 Years a Slave; the scenes of grotesque violence do little to advance either a narrative or the viewer’s understanding the world. Monáe’s author character, meanwhile, has little to do except deliver pat mini-monologues about racial justice.

At every turn, Antebellum is flat, unpleasant, and empty. The entire film is just a delivery system for a twist whose entire unsubtle point could have been made in the space of a tweet. It’s Faulkner’s quote with handclap emojis. 

Fair enough, you might say: Racism’s legacy is neither subtle nor thrilling, but an omnipresent and awful reality. It’s not made for entertainment. But a movie, especially a horror movie, isn’t reality, and it has to give viewers a reason to want to watch. The most successful genre filmmakers take reality and recast it, shaping it into something else—a story, an idea, a parable, a portrait of a particular person. Romero’s zombie films were visceral, white-knuckle affairs with sympathetic characters; Get Out escalates into a terrifying escape scenario; The Invisible Man draws viewers into a tense, high-stakes cycle of abuse and revenge. All of these films had thrills and ideas in balance, each working to prop up the other. Antebellum has neither enough ideas for an op-ed nor enough scares for a horror movie. It’s an empty twist in search of grander meaning. 

Directors Bush and Renz have described themselves as activist filmmakers dedicated to advancing social causes. But no amount of activism can save such shoddy, underdeveloped material—and from the looks of Antebellum, their activism has clouded their filmmaking judgment. There are no zombies to be found in their film, but politics seems to have eaten their brains. 

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Virtually Insane: 12-Year-Old Louisiana Boy Suspended After BB Gun Spotted In His Room By Teacher

Virtually Insane: 12-Year-Old Louisiana Boy Suspended After BB Gun Spotted In His Room By Teacher

Tyler Durden

Fri, 09/25/2020 – 15:10

Authored by Jonathan Turley,

We recently discussed the absurd case of a school sending police to the home of a 12-year-old boy in Colorado because he showed a toy gun inside his own home.  Despite teaching such children virtually, the school treated the toy gun as a violation of “in school” policies.

Now  Ka Mauri Harrison, 9, who attends Woodmere Elementary in Harvey, has been suspended because a teacher spotted a BB gun in his room.  As with the Colorado case, Louisiana school officials defended this new case of virtual insanity.

NOLA.com reported that Ka Mauri was suspended for six days after his teacher spotted a BB gun in his bedroom. He was taking a virtual class on Sept. 11 when his younger brother came bursting into the room and tripped over the BB gun. Ka Mauri was taking an English test, so he quickly grabbed the BB gun and placed it “by his side” and continued the test. When the teacher called him out, Ka Mauri did not answer because his sound was muted during the test. As a result, he was suspended for having a gun “in school.”

The Louisiana Department of Education School Behavior Report listed the incident as “possesses weapons prohibited under federal law.”  Obviously, there is nothing prohibited in the possession of a bb gun, which is not even defined as a “firearm” since it is air-powered.  (The term “firearm” is defined in the Gun Control Act of 1968, 18 U.S.C. Section 921(a)(3), to include “(A) any weapon (including a starter gun), which will, or is designed to or may readily be converted to expel a projectile by the action of an explosive.) It does meet the definition of a weapon or simulated weapon under most school policies. However, those policies were written for the appearance of such toys or weapons in school, not in the home where they are perfectly lawful.

Like many thousands of parents, Nyron Harrison told NOLA.com that he bought a BB gun and taught his son to use it safely.  It was not loaded and Ka Mauri appears to have taken possession to keep it away from his younger brother and then continued with his test.  Even if the teacher had thought it might be a firearm and appropriately called the police for the child’s safety, it was shown not to be a firearm and there was no need for this suspension.

We have been dealing with the insanity of zero tolerance rules for years. Here is a prior column on the subject (and here). Children have been suspended or expelled for drawing stick figures or wearing military hats or bringing Legos shaped like guns or even having Danish in the shape of a gun. Various criminal and disciplinary cases were opened for finger guns. Despite the public outcry over the completely irrational and abusive application of zero tolerance rules, administrators and teachers continue to apply them blindly. If you do not have to exercise judgment, you can never been blamed for any failure. Conversely, even when the public outcry results in a reversal, teachers and administrators never seem punished with the same vigor for showing no judgment or logic in punishing a child.

How is suspension in the best interest of him or the school?  It is not. It is the same blind and callous application of zero tolerance rules that has been denounced for years without no apparent impact on school officials. A simple call to the parents would have sufficed to ask them to be sure that the bb gun is not displayed. Ka Mauri’s parents seem entirely responsible and responsive in these media accounts. Instead of addressing this issue with a modicum of restraint and proportionality, the interest of the child were discarded in a thoughtless and harmful bureaucratic response. There is a need for discipline in this case but it is not Ka Mauri who warrants such action.

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After 30 Years In LA, Canyon Partners Plans Move To Texas Due To “High Taxes, Congestion”

After 30 Years In LA, Canyon Partners Plans Move To Texas Due To “High Taxes, Congestion”

Tyler Durden

Fri, 09/25/2020 – 14:50

Two months ago, Joe Rogan famously questioned why people pay for the “privilege” to live in places like California; where taxes are sky high, likely heading higher, the government is bloated and intrusive and Democratic leadership seems to have no real interest in either being fiscally responsible or (lately) maintaining law and order.

“I’m outta here. I’m gonna go to Texas. I just want to go somewhere in the center of the country, somewhere it’s easier to travel to both places, and somewhere where you have a little bit more freedom.”

“Also I think that um, where we live right here in Los Angeles is overcrowded. And I think, most of the time that’s not a problem. But I think it’s exposing the fact that it’s a real issue, when you look at the number of people that uh, are catching COVID because of this overpopulation issue.”

“When you look at the traffic, when you look at the economic despair, when you look at the homelessness problem that’s accelerated radically over the last six, seven, ten years, I think there’s too many people here,” he continued.

“I think it’s not tenable, I don’t think that it’s manageable. And every mayor does a shit job of doing it because I don’t think anybody could do a great job of it. I think there’s certain things you’re gonna have to deal with when you have a population of whatever the f**k L.A. is, it’s like twenty million plus people,” Rogan said.

Quite a rant… But Rogan is far from alone as the exodus of rich, poor, liberal, conservative California Dreamers has escalated. As we noted at the start of the year, even before the lockdowns forced millions to ‘work from home’ or worse ‘not work’, about 203,000 people left California, a result of the state’s shifting migration patterns and economic strains that are making it harder to afford living here.

The latest high-profile “California leaver” turns out to be $24 billion AUM hedge fund Canyon Partners, which has been a well known fixture in Los Angeles financial circles since its founding in 1990.

As Bloomberg reports, high taxes, congestion, and the fire risks of Southern California, have driven Canyon’s founders, Josh Friedman and Mitch Julis to explore a geographical shift.

According to people familiar with the discussions, Dallas and Austin are the front-runners and the firm expects to make the final decision next month as employees have been pitched the lure of Texas to lead a better life.

Canyon had 177 employees as of the end of 2019, according to its latest regulatory filing.

This exodus from liberal, high-taxation states has been a notable theme on the East Coast, as we recently detailed here, and now seems to be spreading the wealthiest on the West Coast.

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