Farewell to the Mother of Modern Feminist Cartooning


Farewell to Aline Kominsky-Crumb, the mother of modern feminist cartooning.

Aline Kominsky-Crumb, a great and trailblazing cartoonist, died this week in her home in France at age 74 from pancreatic cancer.

Kominsky-Crumb grew up in Long Island, and the agonies and complications of her parents’ and family’s “sleaziness, out of control materialism, upward striving, tension, financial problems, selfishness and misery,” as she wrote in her 2007 memoir Need More Love, created a general “post-war jerk family atmosphere” that informed many of her autobiographical comix.

After years of art education in New York and Arizona, she relocated in the early 1970s to San Francisco and began publishing her cartoons in underground comix, influenced by the pioneering autobiographical work of Justin Green. Her 1972 “Goldie: A Neurotic Woman” was the first story in the first issue of one of the first, and longest-lasting, comix periodicals edited and drawn entirely by women, Wimmen’s Comix.

Her story was a brutally honest self-assessment of her relations with family, men, and her own conflicted self-image, with the bare beginnings of her unique lumpy, sweaty, hairy style. Her figuration often seemed like cut-out dolls more than realistic or even conventionally cartoonish humans, influenced more by German expressionists such as George Grosz than any forebear in the world of American comic books, over- or underground. And she was the first to bring this sort of psychologically acute autobiographical approach to comics of any sort.

Underground comix was a realm of small-business entrepreneurialism in the 1970s, very rooted in personal relationships, a strange corner of publishing driven more by the interests of artists than editors or publishers, and distributed through a subterranean, often bordering on criminal, system connected with drug paraphernalia shops (the work itself could be and often was condemned by local officials as illegally obscene). It was thus the perfect, indeed only, space for cartooning voices as conventionally off-putting as Kominsky-Crumb’s to get published and distributed nationally, if not winning huge numbers of fans at first. She broke with the Wimmen’s Comix collective over the individuality of her feminism. She felt that her “sisters” were overly censorious about how she dressed and comported herself.

In a 2021 interview for my book on the history and creators of underground comix, Dirty Pictures, Kominsky-Crumb told me she felt pushed out by “feminist militancy that taken to its most extreme destroys the possibility of enjoying the difference between men and women. Being paid equally, treated with respect of course, I was very much feminist but wanted to create a life exactly as I wanted to, and for me that means having lots of sex partners, being free, and I also wanted to look sexy so I’d attract men….I never felt like a victim. I was choosing who I wanted to be with.” She felt this version of individualist feminism brought censorious wrath on her head from some of her fellow woman cartoonists.

Through the 1970s and ’80s in various comix publications she drew her short, sharp, hilarious tales of mothers and daughters, lovers and husbands, food and body image, being American and being French (having moved to France in the early 1990s), all in a brash, knowing, zesty personal voice. (If you think you can literally “hear” her voice, especially knowing her Long Island Jewish background, you are probably right.) Her—not quite shameless, but certainly brazen—self-revelation through both laughs and tears was the godmother of later generations of pop storytelling showing women’s concerns with themselves and their relationships and sexuality that were knowingly direct and vulgar, such as Lena Dunham with her Girls and Phoebe Waller-Bridge with her Fleabag.

Kominsky-Crumb made great contributions to modern comics as an editor as well, running Weirdo (launched by her husband, cartoonist Robert Crumb, in 1981) from 1986 to 1993. In its pages she was an early promoter of the works of the finest of the post-underground generation of personal female cartoonists, including Carol Tyler, Dori Seda, Krystine Kryttre, Phoebe Gloeckner, and Mary Fleener.

She was a trailblazer, yes, the kind of creator whose cleared paths and innovations were filled and followed by so many after her that the original risks having a modern reader think “you’ve seen and heard it before.” But Kominsky-Crumb was so relentlessly herself, her insights into herself and the world around her so at the same time laced with a deep love and engagement and deep bemused contempt, her twisted, surface-primitive but highly layered and textured panels, linework, and figuration so sui generis that the original never feels superseded by followers.

Kominsky-Crumb enjoyed poormouthing herself, telling stories about how a comic book of hers sold so poorly its publisher used boxes of it for insulation and remembering decades later how hostile Crumb’s fans got about mixing his classical draftsmanship with her “scratchy, ugly drawing” in the couple comix they drew together. But she could still in one conversation with me both say that “I was not in it for money at all, or recognition, which is a good thing because I never got any money or any recognition” and later note with somewhat bemused pride how much of her DNA she sees in modern female storytellers in and out of comics and how she now sees her work “getting academic attention.”

Her innovations in brutally honest memoir and autobiography from a decidedly individualistic feminist perspective mean her work will live, and her storytelling remains one of the best guides one can find to being a torturously free-spirited American woman and semi-popular artist in the second half of the 20th century.

The post Farewell to the Mother of Modern Feminist Cartooning appeared first on Reason.com.

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Treasuries Have No Time to Hear Powell’s Most Important Message

Treasuries Have No Time to Hear Powell’s Most Important Message

Authored by Ven Ram, Bloomberg cross-asset strategist,

Fed Chair Jerome Powell said pretty much what one would have expected him to say on Wednesday. Just earlier this week, we saw how the markets sometimes hear what they want to hear — and it being the last day of the month, stock traders decided it was time to send valuations s-s-s-soaring.

Yes, Powell did remark that the Fed may dial down the pace of its increases as soon as this month, but it was an acknowledgement of what was already known. 

He did follow it up with these lines, which were completely lost on the markets:

“Given our progress in tightening policy, the timing of that moderation is far less significant than the questions of how much further we will need to raise rates to control inflation, and the length of time it will be necessary to hold policy at a restrictive level…

For good measure, he also remarked that the Fed is aiming for “significantly positive real rates,” a message he has delivered before.

Inflation-adjusted policy rates are now around -90 basis points, a far cry from levels where the Fed will look to stop. In other words, if key surveys about short-term inflation expectations stay around current levels, there is just no way the Fed can afford to stop before rates get to 5.25%. And that would probably be the lowest possible level. In other words, the current terminal rate of around 4.90% is not quite where it needs to be. In fact, the Fed has never really been able to wind down its tightening before real rates went significantly higher — which has been circa 200 basis points on average.

Powell doesn’t want to be remembered as someone who left his task on quelling inflation unfinished, and there was ample reiteration of that as well:

“History cautions strongly against prematurely loosening policy. We will stay the course until the job is done.”

So why did stocks rejoice and Treasury yields slump? The markets, we know, are a voting machine in the short run but a weighing machine in the long run.

That means one hard day of partying may be followed by many days being just hung over.

Tyler Durden
Thu, 12/01/2022 – 10:55

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Musk Tweets Apple And Twitter “Resolved Misunderstandings” About Potential App Store Removal

Musk Tweets Apple And Twitter “Resolved Misunderstandings” About Potential App Store Removal

In a series of tweets earlier this week, Elon Musk accused Apple of sabotaging Twitter by slashing advertising spending and threatening to remove the social media platform from the App Store. Such claims led to speculation that Musk would need to build his own smartphone if Twitter was de-platformed from iPhones. However, in a significant sign of de-escalation, Musk tweeted Wednesday that he met with Apple CEO Tim Cook and resolved their issues.

“Good conversation. Among other things, we resolved the misunderstanding about Twitter potentially being removed from the App Store,” Musk tweeted. “Tim was clear that Apple never considered doing so.”

Musk tweeted a short clip of a reflecting pool at the center of Apple Park in Cupertino, California. 

The meeting comes after the head of Apple’s App Store deleted his Twitter account last month, then Apple deleted all Twitter posts from its official account. Musk said earlier this week that Apple pulled its ad revenue from Twitter while giving no explanation, adding that the Big Tech giant hates “free speech.”

“Apple has mostly stopped advertising on Twitter. Do they hate free speech in America?” he asked. “Apple has also threatened to withhold Twitter from its App Store,” Musk wrote, “but won’t tell us why.” Musk also asked CEO Tim Cook in a tweet, “What’s going on?

Another problem Musk had (ahead of the relaunch of Twitter Blue) was Apple’s 30% fee it charges Twitter for in-app purchases. Musk posted a meme suggesting he could “go to war” with Apple.

“Did you know Apple puts a secret 30% tax on everything you buy through their App Store?” Musk tweeted on Monday.

… and now it appears Cook followed Musk on Twitter. 

So they’re now friends? 

Tyler Durden
Thu, 12/01/2022 – 10:35

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Short Interest Ratio Vs Borrow Cost, Or How To Avoid Short Squeezes

Short Interest Ratio Vs Borrow Cost, Or How To Avoid Short Squeezes

By Russell Clark of the Capital Flows and Asset Markets substack

I was having lunch with an old fund manager friend, and we were talking about my recent post – the three profit centers of short selling. I suddenly realized we were getting short interest ratio and borrow cost of a short mixed up. If veteran short sellers could get this concept confused, then anyone could. I thought I would do a quick presentation on the difference between the two and why it is important to distinguish between the two. In my view, borrow cost is a much better metric to look at, as it will be more likely to help you avoid career ending short squeezes.

Short squeezes are part and parcel of life in markets. The problem for short sellers is that as the losses on short selling are unlimited, markets know that if you can push a price high enough, the short seller MUST buy back the position. So short sellers tend to look at various metrics to work out how crowded a position is. One metric is a short interest ratio. Another is cost of borrow. In my experience, cost of borrow is a much better indicator of potential for a short squeeze.

Let’s talk about the short interest ratio first. This ratio is the number of shares out short divided by the number of shares outstanding, is actually widely reported and can be downloaded directly from Bloomberg is you wish. Let us look at one of the worst shorts in history – Tesla. From the moment Tesla was listed it had a very high short interest ratio. For the first few years of its life its short interest was regularly in the 30% range, before collapsing down to much lower levels.

But as can be seen above, Tesla’s short interest ratio fell but short interest never fell. The reason for this is because Tesla has constantly issued shares to fund its capital expenditures.

Tesla is a good example of short interest ratio falling not really indicating the stock is safe from a short squeeze. In 2013, when Tesla did a large capital raising, its short interest ratio fell, but actual total short interest remained high. The reason it remained high was that analysts could still see that there would be future capital raisings, which was correct, but unfortunately for short sellers the stock went massively against them. High levels of absolute short interest always run the risk of a squeeze. Another short squeeze where short interest ratio failed to indicate a short squeeze risk was AMC.

For short sellers in 2020 looking at both the short interest ratio, it was well below levels seen in 2015, but total short interest was near highs, but neither gave a particularly strong warning that AMC was about to have a career ending short squeeze. In fact, despite a relatively high short interest ratio, AMC had been a “wonder short” form mid 2018 to early 2020, before spiking to new all-time highs during Covid.

For this reason, I have tended to focus on cost of borrow to limit short squeeze risk. To put it simply stocks where the borrow cost is less than two percent. Unfortunately, data on the borrow cost is not freely available and can vary according to who is lending the stock out, and who wants to borrow it. But that being said, borrow cost for short selling a stock is very highly correlated with corporate borrowing costs. If we look at the CDS for Tesla, it was at 700 in mid 2019, before collapsing down to a low of 100 in 2021. That is stock borrow would have been expensive in 2019, before falling through 2021.

With AMC we have a traded corporate bond we can look at rather than CDS. As corporate bonds yield rise, cost of borrow also rises. If we look at the 5.75 June 2025 AMC bond, it was relatively well behaved until Covid hit, and the bonds were priced for default very rapidly, something that is now occurring again.

With AMC bonds selling off again, cost of borrow to short the stock is 33% roughly. That means I need to pay to a long owner willing to lend me the stock 33% annually. The way I interpret very high borrow costs is that the stock is a popular short, which we can see from the very high levels of absolute short interest, but also a very unpopular long position. To get hedge funds and other special situation operators to buy the shares, you have to entice them with a very high yield. However once you have lent out a stock, if you then decide you want to sell it, you need to carry out a recall, which means the short seller needs to buy it back and return it before you can actually sell it. This means there will be a few days to weeks, when long investors cannot sell, and short sellers have to buy. This creates an environment where a stock can only go one way.

Before the shenanigans with Telsa, AMC and GME, the all-time capital destruction short squeeze was Volkswagen. The Volkswagen short squeeze was organized by the management of the company, who had quietly managed to secure control of a large amount of VOW GY shares (voting shares). VOW attracted a large number of shorts, due to a) it was the middle of the GFC, and b) it was trading at an all-time high relative to its more liquid preference shares. German listed stocks do not provide short interest ratio as readily as US listed stocks, but the cost of borrow prior to the spike was around 4% (I had a small position at the time, but fortunately all my other shorts were making money so was not a career ending squeeze for me – unlike many other funds).

Hence when I talk about never short a stock with 2% borrow, I am referring only to the cost of borrowing the stock to short sell, and not its short interest ratio. And I do this as I have yet to a stock with a 2% borrow have a career ending short squeeze.

Tyler Durden
Thu, 12/01/2022 – 10:21

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“Gloomiest In A Decade” – US Manufacturing Surveys Tumble Into Contraction

“Gloomiest In A Decade” – US Manufacturing Surveys Tumble Into Contraction

Following ADP’s report of job losses in the goods-producing sector of the economy, it is perhaps no surprise that US Manufacturing surveys suggest that part of the economy is contracting.

  • S&P Global US Manufacturing PMI 47.7 (Contraction) in November (final), down from 50.4 in October – the weakest level since June 2020

  • US ISM Manufacturing tumbled to 49.0 (Contraction) in November, down from 50.2 in October – weakest since May 2020.

Source: Bloomberg

Under the hood, all the major ISM sub-indices contracted with prices tumbling to 43.0 and jobs and new orders falling…

Source: Bloomberg

Chris Williamson, Chief Business Economist at S&P Global Market Intelligence, said:

A combination of the rising cost of living, higher interest rates and growing recession fears have led to slumping demand for goods in both the home-market and abroad. Companies are consequently cutting production at a rate not seen since the global financial crisis, if the initial pandemic lockdowns are excluded. However, even with the latest production cuts, the downturn in demand has still led to one of the largest increases in unsold stock recorded since survey data were first available 15 years ago, which suggests that companies will continue to reduce production in the coming months to bring these inventories down to more manageable levels.

“Likewise, companies are slashing their purchases of inputs and raw materials at a rate not seen outside of the pandemic since the global financial crisis.

“This slump in demand is increasingly manifesting itself in a shift from a sellers’- to a buyers’-market for a wide variety of goods, as evidenced by improving supply chains, meaning price pressures are now abating rapidly.

“While supply chain worries persist, notably in relation to China’s lockdowns, companies’ concerns are increasingly moving away from the supply side to focusing on the darkening outlook for demand, meaning the business mood remains among the gloomiest seen over the past decade.”

Manufacturing Production is set to tumble…

That should bring down inflation, right Jay?

Tyler Durden
Thu, 12/01/2022 – 10:06

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Doesn’t Goldilocks Get Eaten In The End?

Doesn’t Goldilocks Get Eaten In The End?

Authored by Peter Schiff via Academy Securities,

Yesterday was a great “everything” rally day! The market “finally” or “once again” got to price in a “soft landing”. It is possible that Goldilocks survives in the end, but growing up with Slavic folk tales, the stories rarely seemed to work out with “Hallmark” endings.

It started with a deluge of data.

  • ADP jobs were weak, but no one understands how their new methodology works.

  • The price and inflation components of GDP came in higher than expected, but not by much.

  • JOLTS, job opening were down, but better than expected (and still much higher than I find believable).

  • Chicago PMI was “Showgirls” bad! Maybe it is “specific” to the Chicago area, but this number stuck out like a sore thumb.  

We only had worse data during the lockdown, in the aftermath of Lehman and at the height of the dotcom bubble bursting (and some fraud at massive IG companies). We will come back to this!

All that really mattered, was Powell.

  • Powell confirmed, what us and many other have been saying for some time, the pace of hikes has to slow! That the risk of overtightening is real (we think they already have overtightened, but that’s another story).

  • His words helped:

    • Lower the terminal rate to 4.9% according to Bloomberg WIRP. Still a touch high as discussed in this weekend’s Positioning & Key Drivers.

    • Sent the 2-year treasury from 4.55% to a low of 4.31%. The entire yield curve moved and we had some serious bull steepening (or less inversion). There should be more steepening to come!

    • The S&P 500 was up 3% with Nasdaq up 4.5% and the beleaguered ARKK ETF up 7.7%.

    • DXY, a dollar index had a weak day, which continued overnight, and is now the lowest it has been since August and could break through to levels not seen since June!

    • Even crypto participated, though the crypto rally started overnight. More on this another time as it is a sideshow for the moment.

We are also getting signs that China, while technically not submitting to the protestors, is submitting to the protestors. There are hints that China’s “official” policy is noticing changes in how COVID is affecting people, which would support a decision to ease restrictions.

Doesn’t Goldilocks Get Eaten in the End?

Back to the main theme of today’s quick report.

We have been looking for lower yields and admission by the Fed that they have potentially gone too far, too fast. We got that.

But what is next?

  • If for no other reason than we got an almost 5% rally in the Nasdaq, look for some Fed speakers to try and talk markets down. It won’t be horribly effective, but it won’t stop them from trying.

  • What if the PMI is a sign of things to come? What if, far from being an outlier, this is indicative of the direction the economy is headed? I remain staunchly in the camp that the recession is coming sooner and will be deeper than consensus. It will be driven by high paying jobs being lost, the wealth effect and the inventory overhang!

  • NFP should now be set up for a “bad news is bad” trade.

  • Don’t underestimate the power of daily and weekly expiration options to drive markets far more than they should be on days like yesterday. It is anyone’s guess on which way the traders driving the market with Friday expiration options will decide to try and drive the market, but after yesterday’s big move, where we started with relatively “neutral” positioning, trading to the downside on any catalyst seems easier than driving it much higher. But in any case this trading pattern has introduced a new randomness to the size of the moves (less so to the direction).

  • The quiet grind of QT continues. Liquidity, slowly, but steadily is leaving the system. Far less dramatically than how QE inserted the liquidity, but a likely headwind, nonetheless.

Bottom Line

Small fade on the rates move. Generally think front end yields are still too high and we should see steepening (less inversion).

Larger fade on the equity side. China reopening would be a wildcard against this, but that, realistically is a spring thing and we have plenty of issues to deal with before then.

It is encouraging that the Fed is finally on the “nearly done hiking” page, but once that gets fully priced in (and it may already be), then we can move to the “done too much hiking already” phase, which won’t be pretty for risk assets (there was a time, in a galaxy far away, where “risk-off” was a thing and stocks did poorly as yields went lower.

The market is in the “just right” stage of the 3 bears story, but I don’t think that is how the story ends!

Tyler Durden
Thu, 12/01/2022 – 09:45

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South Africa President Ramaphosa’s Resignation Believed Imminent Over ‘Farmgate’ Scandal

South Africa President Ramaphosa’s Resignation Believed Imminent Over ‘Farmgate’ Scandal

South Africa is facing deep political turmoil and corresponding uncertainty across markets amid growing calls for President Cyril Ramaphosa to step down over an emerging bizarre scandal centered on the alleged theft of $580,000. The over half million in cash was literally found stuffed in a sofa at a farm that Ramaphosa owns. The timing of the crisis couldn’t be worse given long-awaited economic reforms had only just begun to take shape and improve the country’s outlook. 

The mysterious cash payment has sparked outrage particularly among the opponents of the ruling African National Congress, and with his allies holding emergency consultations. On Thursday South African media is reporting President Ramaphosa is to imminently address the nation as prospect for his resignation grows, and as he faces impeachment.

South African president Cyril Ramaphosa, via AP.

Ramaphosa, who has advanced himself as an ‘anti-corruption’ and reformist president, has vehemently denied wrongdoing in the scandal coming to be known as “Farmgate”, centered on a game farm he owns in South Africa’s northeast.

According to a summary of the scandal in CNBC

In what has become known as the “Farmgate” scandal, Ramaphosa is alleged to have covered up a $4 million theft from his Phala Phala farm in the north east of the country in 2020. Some $580,000 of this was found beneath sofa cushions, and allegations also include working with Namibian authorities to apprehend, torture and bribe the suspects.

Ramaphosa staunchly denies the allegations and has not been charged with any crimes. He maintains that the cash was the proceeds from the sale of buffalo. He has confirmed that the robbery took place, but insists that the amount stolen was smaller than alleged and denies participating in a cover-up.

The rand has weakened more than 3% against the dollar as the country is on edge awaiting Ramaphosa’s and the ANC’s next move. The economic reforms he set in motion are now seen as under threat by the major scandal, also as political succession within the ANC would remain uncertain. 

According to more on the jitters unleashed across South African markets on news of Ramaphosa’s likely impending resignation, via Bloomberg

  • The yield on 10-year local-currency bonds climbs 74 basis points to 11.55%, the most in a day since December 2015
  • Benchmark dollar bonds lead losses among EM peers; 10-year yield up 48bps to 7.42%
  • Dollar-rand one-week imlied volatility surges to the highest since May 2022 at 20.4%
  • 5-year CDS +12.5% to 274.62 bps, biggest jump since March 2021

developing…

Tyler Durden
Thu, 12/01/2022 – 09:25

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Meet the Reason Editors: Livestream


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Got questions, comments, insults, or compliments for the Reason team?

This Thursday starting at 1 p.m. Eastern, join Reason‘s Nick Gillespie and Zach Weissmueller for live interviews with Katherine Mangu-Ward, Robby Soave, Meredith Bragg and Austin Bragg, Elizabeth Nolan Brown, and Billy Binion. What are their favorite pieces from 2022? How did they join the staff? What are their plans for the coming year?

This is part of Reason‘s Annual Webathon, a weeklong event in which we ask our readers, viewers, and listeners to support our principled, libertarian journalism. All donations made through the webathon link or paid superchats are tax-deductible.

Watch and leave your questions and comments on the embedded video above or on Reason‘s Facebook page.

The post Meet the <em>Reason</em> Editors: Livestream appeared first on Reason.com.

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Challenging Fauci, Documenting Government Outrage: What Reason Does With Your Donations!


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So what has Reason done to deserve your hard-earned, tax-deductible donation money since our last record-breaking Webathon? A quick tour through our traffic leaderboard over the past 51 weeks shows the type of depth, variety, and commitment to sometimes niche defenses of individual liberty that have for more than half a century helped convert your cash into far-reaching journalism and commentary dedicated to Free Minds and Free Markets.

Before we go much further, though…WON’T YOU PLEASE DONATE TO REASON RIGHT THE HELL NOW???

OK, here are five samples plucked from our Top 10 list of past-year eyeball-catchers, along with brief elaborations of the genres from which they spring.

1)Anthony Fauci Says If We Could Do It Again, COVID-19 Restrictions Would Be ‘Much, Much More Stringent,’” by Robby Soave.

For the past year and a half, Senior Editor Robby Soave has, in addition to cranking out crackerjack Reason content on tech policy and education and pop culture, been a host on Rising, the daily webcast produced by The Hill. There he has engaged in some memorable (and occasionally censored) debates with commentators from across (beyond?) the political spectrum, and conducted some libertarian cross-examination of notable newsmakers.

Such as Dr. Anthony Fauci.

“If I knew in 2020 what I know now, we would do a lot differently,” Fauci told Soave. “The insidious nature of spread in the community would have been much more of an alarm, and there would have been much, much more stringent restrictions in the sense of very, very heavy encouragement of people to wear masks, physical distancing, what have you.”

Revealing things happen when Reason staffers interact with the powerful. Your donations make that possible.

3)Mom Handcuffed, Jailed for Letting 14-Year-Old Babysit Kids During COVID-19,” by Lenore Skenazy.

True story: I was recently in Tel Aviv, listening to Inbal Arieli, author of Chutzpah: Why Israel Is a Hub of Innovation and Entrepreneurship, extol the virtues of her country’s “free-range parenting.” Such is the reach of our intrepid defender of childhood and parental freedom.

Appallingly if not quite surprisingly, the piece in question isn’t the only “moms handcuffed” in the Skenazy archive. There’s “Mom Handcuffed, Arrested for Oversleeping While Her Son Walked to School,” from 2015, and “Mom Handcuffed, Jailed for Making 8-Year-Old Son Walk Half a Mile Home,” from just last month.

Here’s how the COVID-handcuffing story begins:

When COVID-19 shut down her children’s daycare in May of 2020, and Melissa Henderson had to go to work, she asked her 14-year-old daughter, Linley, to babysit the four younger siblings. Linley was engaged in remote learning when her youngest brother, four-year-old Thaddeus, spied his friend outside and went over to play with him. It was about 10 or 15 minutes before Linley realized he was missing. She guessed that he must be at his friend’s house, and went to fetch him.

In the meantime, the friend’s mom had called the police.

Skenazy’s journalism and advocacy expands the zone of familial freedom and introduces normies to government overreach. Your donations make her work possible.

4)Texas Roofer Arrested in Florida for Helping Hurricane Victims,” by Eric Boehm.

Speaking of government overreach, here we’ve got a classic Reason twofer: The madness of occupational licensing, and the warped policymaking of disaster relief. These are the types of subject that, on their own, can feel a little bit like pushing a boulder uphill against popular sentiment and government (mal)practice. But like your snack candy of choice, the two tastes combine to produce some easily digestible libertarian insight.

Reporter Eric Boehm wrote about the case of Texas-based roofer Terence Duque, who came to offer his services in a part of Florida devastated by Hurricane Ian. And then:

Duque was arrested for “conducting business in Charlotte County without a Florida license,” the Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office announced on Friday. If charged as a felony, that’s an offense that could carry up to five years in prison under Florida law—although it’s possible that Duque could be charged with only a misdemeanor offense that carries a mere one year of jail time. […]

Duque got busted for his good deed after the Charlotte County Economic Crimes Unit—which is apparently a real thing—received a call from an investigator with the state Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR).

When a detective with the sheriff’s office tracked down Duque, the roofer reportedly said he believed he was allowed to work in Florida due to Gov. Ron DeSantis’ emergency order that loosened licensing rules in the aftermath of the storm. “The investigator informed Terence that this was not the case, and that Terence would be placed under arrest, as he had already done work in violation of the statute,” according to the Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office.

Outrage stories like this are a gateway drug into libertarianism. Your donations help to keep us cranking ’em out.

7)Tom Cotton, a Second Amendment Champion, Proposes a 5-Year Mandatory Minimum for Violating Arbitrary Gun Bans,” by Jacob Sullum.

Another great two-great-tastes-in-one—Senior Editor Jacob Sullum‘s market-leading meticulousness (meticulosity?) on gun-policy journalism, plus our free-floating distaste for one of the Senate’s least appealing gasbags.

Year in and year out, Sullum attracts well-earned eyeballs for his coverage of core libertarian issues—guns, free speech, pharmacological freedom, criminal justice, and how to use drugs in space. Your donations not only keep him doing this valuable work, it helps develop the next generation of baby Jacob Sullums.

9)The FBI Seized Almost $1 Million From This Family—and Never Charged Them With a Crime,” by Billy Binion.

Did someone say baby? Not that Mr. Binion is that young, quite—he’s going on his fourth anniversary producing bang-up criminal justice journalism for Reason. But in both his magazine/website coverage and his Twitter feed promoting thereof, Billy is a master of introducing people to policing outrages they can’t quite believe is legal.

In this particular piece, Binion writes about Carl Nelson and Amy Sterner Nelson, whose lives were upended by a massive cash seizure by the FBI during its investigation of Carl for possible kickbacks—an investigation that never produced any criminal charges. “We went from living a life where we were both working full-time to provide for our four daughters to really figuring out how we were going to make it month to month,” Amy told Reason. “It’s completely changed my belief in fairness.”

Having lured readers in with a story of an outrageous injustice, Binion then broadened their horizons:

They’re not alone. There was the Indiana man whose car was seized. And the Kentucky man whose car was seized. And the Massachusetts woman whose car was seized. And the Louisiana man whose life savings were seized. And the Texas man whose life savings were seized. And the countless Californians whose money and random personal possessions were seized. Sometimes the money is returned—often only when a defendant manages to lawyer up for a civil suit. Sometimes only part of it is. Sometimes none of it is. “Civil forfeiture is quite common,” says Dan Alban, an attorney at the Institute for Justice (IJ), a public interest law firm that often litigates similar cases. “The fact that the government can do this can obviously ruin lives, and it can ruin lives without anyone being convicted of a crime, without anyone even being charged with a crime.”

Your donations make Billy Binion’s work possible, as well as the variety of writing and commentary Reason has been delighting and infuriating readers with since 1968. Won’t you please donate to Reason today?

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You Can Record Video of Police in Action. But Can You Livestream That Video?


person taking video with cellphone

Lawsuit asks whether livestreaming cops is protected by the First Amendment. It’s well-established that Americans have a First Amendment right to record police. But do we have the right to livestream that recording? That’s the central question in a case currently before a federal appeals court.

The question stems from a 2018 traffic stop in Winterville, North Carolina. When police pulled over a car in which Dijon Sharpe was a passenger, Sharpe whipped out his phone and started a Facebook Live stream.

One cop tried to grab Sharpe’s phone, saying “we ain’t gonna do Facebook Live, because that’s an officer safety issue.”

“Facebook Live … we’re not gonna have, okay, because that lets everybody y’all follow on Facebook that we’re out here,” said another officer. He told Sharpe that “in the future, if you’re on Facebook Live, your phone is gonna be taken from you … and if you don’t want to give up your phone, you’ll go to jail.”

“Is that a law?” Sharpe asks in the recording. “That’s not a law.”

Sharpe is right—there’s no law explicitly saying one can’t livestream interactions with police officers. But there’s also little legal precedent for what happens when one attempts to and cops curtail that attempt.

“No circuit court has yet ruled on whether passengers in traffic stops can be blocked from recording police or on whether live-streaming is different from merely recording,” notes The Washington Post.  And the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit, which will hear this case, “has not ruled on the right to record at all.”

The 4th Circuit heard oral arguments for the case—Dijon Sharpe v. Winterville Police Department—in October.

“This case is important; it’s going to affect thousands of thousands,” Sharpe’s attorney, Andrew Tutt, told the court. “This case has important consequences for every police-citizen interaction in this circuit.”

Sharpe said he had wanted to livestream the traffic stop because he thought it was suspicious (the cops said the car’s driver ran a stop sign, something Sharpe said did not happen) and because of previous negative interactions he and family members have had with police. His cousin, Dontae Sharpe, was imprisoned for 24 years on murder charges despite a key witness recanting testimony after trial (Dontae was finally released and formally pardoned in 2021). “Since getting involved in efforts to free Dontae, Dijon says his encounters with police grew increasingly hostile, culminating in his being Tasered and beaten by police officers in 2017,” notes the Post. “With no video to support his version of events” that time, “he was forced in court to apologize to them.”

This time around, Sharpe wanted to make sure there was a real-time recording of events that police could not later alter or delete. After an officer told him this wasn’t OK, he sued.

A U.S. district court sided with the cops. “The Fourth Circuit has not held in a published opinion that an individual’s right under the First Amendment to record a traffic stop is clearly established, much less held that an individual has a right to record and real-time broadcast a traffic stop from within the stopped car,” wrote the judge in an August 2020 decision. Thereby the police could not have known their actions were wrong, and were entitled to qualified immunity.

“Seven federal appellate courts have affirmed that there is a First Amendment right to film the police,” notes the Post. “But all said there can be ‘reasonable’ restrictions on that right, and the U.S. Supreme Court has not clarified what counts.”

Sharpe then appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit. And a slew of civil liberties organizations have filed briefs on behalf of Sharpe’s position.

The appeals court “should hold that…the right to record is not limited to recording for future publication,” states the American Civil Liberties Union in one such brief. “Rather, it protects—and, if anything, derives from—the right to publish and disseminate video, including the right to do so instantaneously. The First Amendment protects the choice of when to publish just as it does the choice of what to publish, and whether to publish at all. In other words, the First Amendment protects the right to livestream, which
enables individuals to simultaneously record and broadcast.”

Any reasonable officer should have known that preventing Mr. Sharpe from livestreaming his encounter with police would violate his clearly established First Amendment rights,” states a brief from the Institute for Justice. “After all, six federal circuit courts, the Department of Justice (‘DOJ’), and numerous local governments have long agreed that the First Amendment protects an individual’s right to record police in public.”

“Police have great power. Civilian recording of police officers serves the public’s vital interest in ensuring that police exercise this power lawfully,” states a brief from the National Police Accountability Project.

In holding that qualified immunity applied in this case, “the district court heavily emphasized that the many other cases on this subject did not involve the exact facts as Mr. Sharpe‘s casespecifically, that he was not just recording the encounter, but also ‘realtime broadcasting with the ability to interact via messaging applications in realtime with those watching a traffic stop from inside the stopped vehicle,'” notes the Cato Institute in its brief.

“But this approach to assessing whether rights are clearly established is exactly the sort of misapplication of qualified-immunity precedent that the Supreme Court recently warned against in Taylor v. Riojas,” the Cato brief continues. “Taylor reaffirmed that the fundamental question in qualified immunity cases is whether the defendant had ‘fair warning’ that their conduct was unlawful, not whether there is a prior case with functionally identical facts.”

“Unfortunately, the sort of misapplication of qualified immunity employed by the district court—construing ‘clearly established law’ to effectively require a case with identical facts—is no isolated error, but rather part of an all-too-common practice in lower courts,” the brief reads. “That persistent misunderstanding of qualified immunity not only gets the law wrong, but its application to police officers has exacerbated a growing crisis of accountability for law enforcement officers generally.”


FOLLOW-UP

Appeals court won’t pause ruling against student loan forgiveness plan. After a Texas judge ruled President Joe Biden’s student loan debt forgiveness plan unconstitutional, the Biden administration appealed to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, asking the court to pause the judge’s order as the administration’s appeal plays out. The court said no.

“A three-judge panel of the 5th Circuit in Wednesday’s brief order declined to put Pittman’s ruling on hold while the administration appealed his decision, but the court directed that the appeal be heard on an expedited basis,” reports Reuters. “The White House had no immediate comment but the administration has said that if the 5th Circuit declined to halt Pittman’s order it would ask the U.S. Supreme Court to intervene.”


FREE MINDS

Ohio arrests journalist covering murder trial. “An ongoing murder trial involving multiple defendants has resulted in the editor of small local paper being arrested for performing an act of journalism,” reports Techdirt.

The case revolves around recorded testimony from one of the defendants, Jake Wagner. In general, “courts permit recordings and broadcasting of criminal trials,” but “the relevant exception here is that witnesses can request their testimony not be recorded or broadcast and, if the court agrees, this permission is revoked during this testimony,” Techdirt‘s Tim Cushing explains. Wagner “made this request and had it granted. Nonetheless, someone attending the trial recorded it and passed it on to Derek Myers, who runs the Scioto Valley Guardian.”

Myers and the Guardian published some of the audio with this note:

The Guardian received a portion of Jake Wagner’s testimony on his first day on the witness stand. The Guardian wants to disclose that the audio was not recorded by a member of the media and was submitted to the Guardian’s newsroom by a courthouse source who is authorized to have their cell phone in the room.

Nonetheless, officers with the Pike County Sheriff’s Office arrested Myers and seized his laptop and his phone.

Myers was charged with having used the contents of an illegally obtained recording. But the First Amendment protects Myers and his paper from prosecution for merely publishing information or audio of public interest that it obtained legally, even if that audio was illegally obtained by someone.

As Cushing puts it: “This wasn’t wiretapping. This was journalism.”

While Myers should ultimately beat this, he still “had to post a $20,000 bond, must submit to alcohol/drug tests [???], and keep his schedule open to attend any court hearings until the charges are either dropped, or he’s cleared by the court,” notes Cushing. “Why must he do this? Because the government is clearly in the wrong, yet has the luxury of being wrong until proven otherwise.”


FREE MARKETS

More bad news for the crypto industry: One of the world’s largest crypto exchanges, Kraken, is laying off nearly a third of its work force, to the tune of around 1,100 people being let go. CEO and co-founder Jesse Powell called the move necessary “in order to adapt to current market conditions.”

“Over the past few years, hundreds of millions of new users entered the crypto space and millions of new clients put their trust in Kraken during that time. We had to grow fast, more than tripling our workforce in order to provide those clients with the quality and service they expect of us,” writes Powell in a blog post on the Kraken website. “Since the start of this year, macroeconomic and geopolitical factors have weighed on financial markets. This resulted in significantly lower trading volumes and fewer client sign-ups. We responded by slowing hiring efforts and avoiding large marketing commitments. Unfortunately, negative influences on the financial markets have continued and we have exhausted preferable options for bringing costs in line with demand.”


QUICK HITS

• Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D–N.Y.) has been voted House Democratic leader, replacing Nancy Pelosi.

• Officials keep finding new ways to access private records without a warrant.

• Indiana’s attorney general continues to try and punish a doctor who provided an abortion to 10-year-old girl.

• “Today might not be a great time to buy a home. Tomorrow might not either,” writes Annie Lowrey.

• On the demise of Amazon’s Alexa.

• “A new expanded law on ‘foreign agents’ in Russia comes into force Thursday, signifying an intensifying crackdown on free speech and opposition under President Vladimir Putin that has accelerated as his fortunes in Ukraine have deteriorated,” reports CNN.

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