Thursday, April 25, 2019

Molested By The State: Warrantlesss Strip Searches of Children

Source: Home School Legal Defense Association

This case pertains to a four year old child, identified pseudonymously as I.B. in the amicus brief, who was strip searched against her will and photographed by a CPS caseworker at preschool. The strip search was conducted as part of a child welfare investigation without probable cause that the little girl had been physically abused or neglected.

‘When the child’s mother, who is listed as Jane Doe, picked I.B. up from preschool one day her daughter asked, Mommy, do you remember when the woman with white hair came to my school? I hope she doesn’t come again, because I don’t like it when she takes all my clothes off.

The little girl’s horrified mother immediately contacted the preschool, but the teachers assured her that nothing had happened. Unsatisfied, Jane continued to press the school on the issue.

Weeks later, the school finally revealed that, during a child abuse investigation, a caseworker, Ms. Woodard, had strip-searched I.B.

Eventually, the investigator admitted that she had not only taken I.B’s clothes off against her will, but she had also taken color photographs of the child’s naked body. After finding that no abuse had occurred, Woodard had simply closed the investigation.’

While this was conducted at a formal preschool, the case has far reaching implications for home schooled children as well who have been subjected to the same warrantless searches in previous years. In the 1999 case of Calabretta v. Floyd, a CPS investigator entered a home without a warrant and strip searched a three year old child. The Ninth circuit court held this to be a violation of the family’s 4th and 14th amendment rights against unreasonable searches and seizures. A similar case occurred in Roe v. Texas Dept of Protective and Regulatory Services, wherein a 6 year old child was not only strip searched but also subjected to a ‘genital examination.’

Aside from concerns about the constitutional rights of parents and the psychological harm that strip searches and ‘genital examinations’ may inflict on children, this also brings the privacy rights of children to the forefront. Children have the same human rights, and ,to a certain extent, the same constitutional rights (delineated in the bill of rights), as adults. Sure children cannot vote, hold public office, enter into contracts, consent to participate in scientific studies, drive or consume alcohol but this is due to diminished autonomy rather than an absence of rights. The same restrictions often apply to adults with mental and physical disabilities, yet they are not stripped of their constitutional and human rights and relegated to an inferior legal status like convicted criminals. Likewise, a person who becomes unconscious doesn’t suddenly lose their rights and then regain them upon regaining consciousness. In relation to actions taken by the state or any public authority, children have the same rights as adults, which includes the right to privacy and the right to refuse unreasonable searches and seizures; these rights do not suddenly kick in at a certain age. Although a special exception could be made for infants and other children who are non-verbal, and we would have to defer to the mother or caretaker, we should recognize that just as children are not subject to the arbitrary and capricious will of their parents or guardians (i.e. restrictions on child abuse) they also should not be subject arbitrary and capricious actions of the state or public authorities (e.g. privacy rights). The fact that children are usually unaware of their rights makes this even more critical.

Predicting and Preventing Chronic Homelessness

Source: The Economic Round table

All incidents of homelessness are not the same; in fact, much of it is short lived so approaching homelessness with a one-size fits all solution would be wasteful and ineffective. The majority of people who become homeless recover, often with little outside help, within a year. However, about 40% of people who become homeless stay homeless for at least a year or experience two or more episodes of homelessness within three years. So why do some people stay perpetually homeless while others find a way out? There are several factors that could explain the difference between these two populations. The chronically homeless have significantly higher rates of serious mental illness, physical disabilities, chronic physical illness, substance abuse, alcohol abuse, severe depression, PTSD, developmental disabilities and traumatic brain injuries. For instance, about 55% of chronically homeless persons have a serious mental illness compared to only 21% of those who escape homelessness within a year. About 39% of the chronically homeless have a physical disability compared to only 16% of those who experience short-term homelessness, and about 38% of the chronically homeless suffer from a chronic physical illness compared to only 16% of those who experience short-term homelessness. About 37% of the chronically homeless engage in drug abuse compared to only 14% of those who experience short-term homelessness. However as I explained in ‘Is Chronic Homelessness a Mental Health Problem’, while certain factors such as mental illness and substance abuse disorder are closely associated with chronic homelessness they are not necessarily the cause of chronic homelessness; these factors are both predictors and risk factors for chronic homelessness. The stressors of homelessness could actually result in these disorders that then reinforce homelessness. Having a method for differentiating between individuals who are likely to become chronically homeless and individuals who are likely to escape homelessness is the first step towards finding interventions that will reduce the chronically homeless population.

Predictive Model

A cohort study of the homeless population of Los Angeles county over a fifteen year period, conducted with a sample size of one million, assessed numerous risk factors for homelessness, and constructed a predictive model to estimate the probability of newly homeless individuals becoming chronically homeless. All low-wage workers are at risk of becoming chronically homeless if they lose their jobs but this risk varies depending on certain demographic characteristics; in particular, the risk is highest for low wage workers who are male, single and African American. A third of low-wage workers who become chronically homeless do so before they lose their job. A third also hold down jobs despite physical and mental impairments. These disabilities occur more often and become more debilitating when they lose their jobs. In general, people who become chronically homeless tend to have a history of job turnovers, underemployment and low wages. Providing comprehensive re-employment services, including education and job training, to low wage workers as soon as they lose their job would reduce the risk of chronic homelessness. Additionally, providing health care support to unemployed low wage workers with physical disabilities would improve their re-employment and job retention prospects. Chronically homeless individuals who have a criminal record and a history of substance and/or alcohol abuse will need behavioral health services or compulsory rehab along with legal services to expunge their record to gain re-employment prospects.

For young adults who enter adulthood homeless, the most reliable predictors of homelessness are six prior years of homelessness as an adolescent and prior time in foster care. Individuals who experience six prior years of homelessness as adolescents are three times as likely to experience homelessness as adults than individuals who were not homeless as adolescents. While only 5% of young adults come out of foster care, 13% of young adults who become chronically homeless come out of foster care. Additionally, homeless youth are more likely to be employed than their non-homeless counterparts but earn lower wages. Here too, education and job training programs would provide upward mobility.

The Public Incentive

Chronic homelessness is a taxpayer burden regardless of whether governments address it or not. Individuals who become chronically homeless have far higher public costs than non-homeless individuals. Healthcare costs are five times higher for chronically homeless workers and four times higher for chronically homeless youth than the general population. Justice system costs are nine times higher for chronically homeless workers and seven times higher for chronically homeless youth than the general population. Creating interventions tailored to meet the needs of people who have a higher risk of becoming chronically homeless will not only reduce the need for permanent supportive housing, but also reduce financial strain on local criminal justice and healthcare systems.

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Interest on National Debt Projected to Approach $1 Trillion in a Decade

'As long as mankind continue to pay "national debts," so-called -- that is, so long as they are such dupes and cowards as to pay for being cheated, plundered, enslaved, and murdered -- so long there will be enough to lend the money for those purposes; and with that money a plenty of tools, called soldiers, can be hired to keep them in subjection. But when they refuse any longer to pay for being thus cheated, plundered, enslaved, and murdered, they will cease to have cheats, and usurpers, and robbers, and murderers and blood-money loan-mongers for masters.'
-Lysander Spooner, No Treason: The Constitution of No Authority VII

Although the federal government cannot technically become insolvent; there are other undesirable consequences to exceeding its constitutional duties. While the national debt is not exactly like a household debt, since the federal government is technically a “sovereign currency issuer”, it still has to be paid with interest like a household debt and that interest payment is growing rapidly. In fact, according to CBO net interest on the national debt is the fastest growing portion of the congressional budget. CBO estimates that net interest on the national debt will grow by 248% over the next decade, much faster than GDP growth over the same time period (55%) or any category of congressional spending including healthcare spending (96%).

In the current fiscal year, congress spent nearly $400 billion paying the net interest on the national debt, about 9% of the total congressional budget (both discretionary and non-discretionary). This exceeds the amount spent on programs like SNAP, SSI and unemployment benefits. By 2028, the net interest on the national debt will climb to at least $914 billion or as high as $992 billion, constitute 3% of GDP, and exceed all categories of discretionary spending including defense spending. The U.S. is expected to pay approximately $7 trillion in interest on the national debt for the next decade.

It should be remembered that discretionary spending, currently about $1.3 trillion, is only a fraction of the annual congressional budget; in fact, it is less than half the budget. Most of the budget is non-discretionary or mandatory spending that congress does not get to approve on an annual basis. Any attempt to “balance the budget” through spending cuts or tax hikes would be futile.

Monday, April 15, 2019

Molested By The State: Warrantlesss Strip Searches of Children

Source: Home School Legal Defense Association

This case pertains to a four year old child, identified pseudonymously as I.B. in the amicus brief, who was strip searched against her will and photographed by a CPS caseworker at preschool. The strip search was conducted as part of a child welfare investigation without probable cause that the little girl had been physically abused or neglected.

‘When the child’s mother, who is listed as Jane Doe, picked I.B. up from preschool one day her daughter asked, “Mommy, do you remember when the woman with white hair came to my school? I hope she doesn’t come again, because I don’t like it when she takes all my clothes off.”
The little girl’s horrified mother immediately contacted the preschool, but the teachers assured her that nothing had happened. Unsatisfied, Jane continued to press the school on the issue.
Weeks later, the school finally revealed that, during a child abuse investigation, a caseworker, Ms. Woodard, had strip-searched I.B.
Eventually, the investigator admitted that she had not only taken I.B’s clothes off against her will, but she had also taken color photographs of the child’s naked body. After finding that no abuse had occurred, Woodard had simply closed the investigation.’

While this was conducted at a formal preschool, the case has far reaching implications for home schooled children as well who have been subjected to the same warrantless searches in previous years. In the 1999 case of Calabretta v. Floyd, a CPS investigator entered a home without a warrant and strip searched a three year old child. The Ninth circuit court held this to be a violation of the family’s 4th and 14th amendment rights against unreasonable searches and seizures. A similar case occurred in Roe v. Texas Dept of Protective and Regulatory Services, wherein a 6 year old child was not only strip searched but also subjected to a ‘genital examination.’

Aside from concerns about the constitutional rights of parents and the psychological harm that strip searches and ‘genital examinations’ may inflict on children, this also brings the privacy rights of children to the forefront. Children have the same human rights, and ,to a certain extent, the same constitutional rights (delineated in the bill of rights), as adults. Sure children cannot vote, hold public office, enter into contracts, consent to participate in scientific studies, drive or consume alcohol but this is due to diminished autonomy rather than an absence of rights. The same restrictions often apply to adults with mental and physical disabilities, yet they are not stripped of their constitutional and human rights and relegated to an inferior legal status like convicted criminals. Likewise, a person who becomes unconscious doesn’t suddenly lose their rights and then regain them upon regaining consciousness. In relation to actions taken by the state or any public authority, children have the same rights as adults, which includes the right to privacy and the right to refuse unreasonable searches and seizures; these rights do not suddenly kick in at a certain age. Although a special exception could be made for infants and other children who are non-verbal, and we would have to defer to the mother or caretaker, we should recognize that just as children are not subject to the arbitrary and capricious will of their parents or guardians (i.e. restrictions on child abuse) they also should not be subject arbitrary and capricious actions of the state or public authorities (e.g. privacy rights). The fact that children are usually unaware of their rights makes this even more critical.

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Social Media Censorship is a Violation of The First Amendment

There is a lot of ignorance on this topic. People who favor of social media censorship of certain political persuasions claim that the first amendment only prohibits congress from abridging freedom of speech and that it does not apply to private companies like Twitter or Facebook or YouTube. Aside from the fact that the 14th amendment makes first amendment protections applicable to all levels of government, it also makes it applicable to corporations who allow the general public to use their property and who serve a public function. This is not just my personal opinion; although I wholeheartedly agree with the sentiment, it is the U.S. Supreme court ruling handed down in Marsh v. Alabama 326 U.S. 501

Many people in the United States live in company-owned towns. [n5] These people, just as residents of municipalities, are free citizens of their State and country. Just as all other citizens, they must make decisions which affect the welfare of community and nation. To act as good citizens, they must be informed. In order to enable them to be properly informed, their information must be uncensored. There is no more reason for depriving these people of the liberties guaranteed by the First and Fourteenth [p509] Amendments than there is for curtailing these freedoms with respect to any other citizen

In this case a Jehovah's Witness was convicted of trespassing for distributing religious literature in the town of Chickasaw, Alabama, which was privately owned by the Gulf Shipbuilding Corporation. Company policy prohibited solicitation of any kind, including the distribution of literature, on the privately owned streets and sidewalks. The Jehovah's witness was told she would not receive permission to proselytize and was asked to leave Chickasaw altogether. The Jehovah's witness protested this decision on first amendment grounds and was promptly arrested by a sheriff's deputy for criminal trespassing. The Supreme court eventually concurred in the Jehovah's witness's favor overturning the conviction and noting that the relevant distinction between where the first and fourteenth amendments are applicable and where the are not is not whether a place is owned by a government or private entity, but the function it is commonly used for.

The State (of Alabama) urges, in effect, that [p506] the corporation's right to control the inhabitants of Chickasaw is coextensive with the right of a homeowner to regulate the conduct of his guests. We cannot accept that contention. Ownership does not always mean absolute dominion. The more an owner, for his advantage, opens up his property for use by the public in general, the more do his rights become circumscribed by the statutory and constitutional rights of those who use it. Cf. Republic Aviation Corp. v. Labor Board, 324 U.S. 793, 798, 802, n. 8. Thus, the owners of privately held bridges, ferries, turnpikes and railroads may not operate them as freely as a farmer does his farm. Since these facilities are built and operated primarily to benefit the public, and since their operation is essentially a public function, it is subject to state regulation.

This aptly describes social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube. They are open for use by the general public, without charge, and function as forums for spreading ideas (both religious and secular), engaging in political discourse, and even advertising business the same way we used open public spaces such as side walks, parks and town squares in 1945. All of these large social media platforms are, in fact, public forums subject to first amendment protections. The fact that they are owned by 'private companies', a description which is a misnomer itself, is irrelevant. The entire argument that 'private companies' can do what they want rests on the mistaken belief that there is a single set of property rights protected by the non-existent legal doctrine of absolute property rights, which is found nowhere in the laws of any country, much less our own. Calling social media platforms 'private companies' is also a disingenuous red herring; they are public corporations charted by the states, in which they operate, for the purpose of providing a benefit to the public under their articles of incorporation. They are categorically different from proprietors, colloquially referred to as 'mom and pop shops' or simple fee owners of real property; comparing the two not only makes you a moron, but a belligerent moron to boot.