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REASON Express

November 22, 1999

Vol. 2 No. 47

1) The Milk Wars Are Lost

2) More Fallout from Anti-Drug War Talk In New Mexico

3) Free Trade With a Big Hitch

4) The State of Smokes

5) Quick Hits

–—Udder Failure—–  

Once upon a time–three years ago–Congress resolved to dismantle a Soviet-style pricing system for the nation's milk supply. Refrigeration was at last cheap and plentiful, obviating the need for a cow on every corner.

It was tough, and some concessions were made, but at last the mighty edifice known as the Agriculture Department was instructed to do away with Depression-era milk-price controls. As the Ag Department slowly put its lumbering bulk into motion to do just that, Congress looked around and hit the stop button.

Seems the old math of charging millions of people a nickel or a dime too much for milk, while routing that booty back to concentrations of voters in the thousands, is just too good for politicians to let go. It has certainly worked for Sen. Jim Jeffords (R-Vt.), whose entire reason for being is to prop up his state's dairy industry.

So even though the first, modest implementation of the reforms would have saved consumers $185 million to $1 billion a year while saving the federal Treasury $42 million to $149 million thanks to cheaper food programs, reform is dead. No use crying.


Brian Doherty churned up the federal milk program, back when it looked like it would be reformed, at https://www.reason.com/9802/ed.doherty.html


–—Copped Out—–

The top cop in New Mexico resigned, citing differences with Republican Gov. Gary Johnson on drug policy. Johnson has been an outspoken foe of the War on Drugs, culminating with a suggestion that drugs be legalized.

"This is no longer a call for debate. This is a crusade to legalize drugs and I don't share those beliefs," Department of Public Safety Secretary Darren White said.

Interestingly, White criticized Johnson's position on drugs as a "morale killer" for law enforcement personnel in the state. How a theoretical debate over the merits of a particular public policy could sap the strength of professionals, sworn to uphold the law–whatever that law might be–is telling.

It suggests that police in New Mexico–and likely nationwide–have become co-opted by the War on Drugs, dependent on the ever-larger budgets and staff, and the bigger, more militarized equipment that has characterized this war.

That the day-to-day running of a police force has become so politicized, especially around a single issue, that an administrator has to quit over hypotheticals tells us that the war has inflicted collateral damage which will take a long time to repair.



Jacob Sullum reflects on Gov. Johnson's guts https://www.reason.com/sullum/101399.html


–—Trading Up—–

Somewhat obscured by the giddiness over the agreement with China on a World Trade Organization pact is the Clinton administration's move to conduct environmental impact studies of free trade agreements.

The order provides for reports from the government and the private sector on how any future trade deals would affect air, land, water, and wildlife.

Right off the idea bows to greenie assumptions that trade–indeed commerce, or just about any human endeavor–ipso facto harms the environment.

The executive order would apply to all trade negotiations of any kind, including multi-nation agreements under the WTO. Not coincidentally, a big WTO confab will convene in Seattle in several weeks, with throngs of green protesters expected.

Vice President Al Gore wasted no time in trying to take credit for the executive order, predicting it would "revolutionize the way the environment is dealt with in all future trade talks."

For their part, green groups reacted with a yawn. They want a process whereby strict trade protections in Europe and elsewhere, often advanced under enviro-protection cover, trump U.S. pushes for free trade.



–—Smoking by the Numbers—–

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that–surprise–states which grow a lot of tobacco and have low tobacco taxes tend to have more cigarette smokers. Conversely, strong social and religious taboos against smoking produce less smoking.

And, despite the great hue and cry over the evils of tobacco in recent months, the percentage of Americans who smoke remained steady at 22.9 in 1998 compared to 23 percent in 1997.

Kentucky led the nation with a 30.8 percent smoking rate while Utah, home of a strong Mormon Church stand against tobacco, counts 14.2 percent of its population as smokers.

The survey also asked about cigar smoking and found that only 5.2 percent said they had lit one up the past month, a measure of regular smoking. Interestingly, Nevada had the highest rate of current cigar smokers at 7.4 percent.

No doubt the concentration of high rollers.


************************************************************* QUICK HITS

–—Quote of the Week—–

"Those kids stole a lot of merchandise from me: doughnuts, chips and peanuts. I don't understand it. What does this have to do with the rapes?" Marvin Mikhaim, the manager of the Diamond Market near Detroit's Denby High, on protests which started out to draw attention to nine girls who were attacked this fall while walking to or from school, but wound up degenerating into simple riots.


–—Quote of the Week, Maybe This Wasn't Such a Great Idea Division—–

"Maybe she has to give up her day job," Judith Hope, the New York state Democratic chairwoman, on the lurching non-candidacy of Hillary Clinton for U.S. Senate. New York Democrats are increasingly worried that being First Lady is incompatible with a successful campaign.


–—Cut and Walk—–

Monterey (Calif.) County Superior Court Judge Jonathan Price reversed himself and freed a woman who served two years in prison for cutting off her boyfriend's penis. Deici "Daisy" Mascada, 20, had claimed she was a victim of battered woman's syndrome, which caused her to lash out and attack Julian Luna with a kitchen knife. Luna, however, was later arrested and charged with beating his new girlfriend. Price said that information makes Mascada a likely victim of abuse.



The Illinois Supreme Court struck down a state law that allowed fines of up to $50 for drivers who played any "sound amplification system" at a volume that could be heard 75 feet or more from a vehicle on a public highway. The court said the law violated the First Amendment.


–—Reason #51,687 for Real Tax Reform—–

The Associated Press found that members of Congress from both parties, as well as the Clinton White House, triggered audits of hundreds of tax-exempt groups in recent years, often by just writing a letter to the Internal Revenue Service.


–—Who Is That Tap, Tap, Tapping?—–

The 1994 Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act is going to federal court, as telephone companies and civil liberties groups complain that the FBI and FCC have gone overboard in extending wiretap rules to wireless phones. The new rules could permit things like monitoring conference calls even if no party on the call has had a wiretap warrant issued against them.


############################################################## REASON NEWS

-Register now for Reason's 2nd Annual Dynamic Visions Conference, February 19-21, Santa Clara Marriott, Santa Clara, California. For information and registration, see https://www.reason.com/dynamic/dynamic2000.html

Speakers include:

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  • Reason Senior Editor Charles Paul Freund
  • Neil Gershenfeld, MIT Media Lab and author of When Things Start to Think
  • Reason Executive Editor Nick Gillespie
  • Lisa Graham Keegan, Arizona superintendent of public instruction
  • Grant McCracken, Harvard Business School, author, Plenitude
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  • Daniel Pink, contributing editor, Fast Company
  • Steven Postrel, UC-Irvine Graduate School of Management
  • Reason Editor Virginia Postrel, author, The Future and Its Enemies
  • Adam Clayton Powell III, Freedom Forum vp technology and programs
  • Richard Rodriguez, essayist and author, Hunger of Memory and Days of Obligation
  • Reason Public Policy Institute Executive Director Lynn Scarlett
  • Michael Schrage, Fortune columnist, author, Serious Play and No More Teams!
  • Robert Zubrin, president, The Mars Society, author, The Case for Mars


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