Reason Roundup

Civility, Culture War, and Cake Gives Way to Libertarian Squabbling: Reason Roundup

Plus: The FDA approves a cannabidiol-based drug and The Intercept explores the NSA's secret spy hubs.


Jeff Malet Photography/Newscom

Gary Johnson, democracy criticized in wake of RedHenGate. We're entering day three of this week's debate over Donald Trump, civility, and free association. Already, plenty of us at Reason have weighed in, and there's not much meat left to dissect with regard to the particulars of White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders being asked to leave the Red Hen restaurant in Lexington, Virginia. However, the incident has spawned some interesting kerfluffles that are worth highlighting before we (hopefully) all move on soon.

Hanging over this latest culture-war spectacle is the recent Masterpiece Cakeshop case, in which the U.S. Supreme Court sided with a baker who refused to decorate a wedding cake for a same-sex celebration.

During the 2016 election, Libertarian Party presidential candidate Gary Johnson came under some fire for refusing to unequivocally denounce those who would force bakers to comply with creating cakes they're ethically opposed to (after candidate Austin Peterson proposed a hypothetical Jewish baker who refused to decorate a Nazi cake). And libertarian-leaning Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) isn't ready to let it go.

Massie's Monday tweet garnered a lot of libertarian love—but also some pushback from fellow travelers:

Quite a few commenters suggested that Massie's support for Donald Trump disqualified his disses of Johnson from serious consideration, while others metaphorically rolled their eyes over Massie's all-or-nothing approach to the Libertarian ticket.

Johnson may have been far from a perfect Libertarian candidate, but let's not forget who he was up against in the LP:

Outside of libertarian world, the debate has turned to whether this whole incident represents a crisis of civility or democracy (almost everyone is sure that it represents a crisis of something).

Michelle Goldberg at The New York Times and many other prominent media figures have started suggesting that Sanders getting the boot from a dining establishment showcases how dystopian our nation has become, how uniquely precarious our republic's position. Thankfully, some folks with less hysterical historical ignorance have also entered the debate:


The NSA's secret spy hubs. The Intercept "has identified an AT&T facility containing networking equipment that transports large quantities of internet traffic across the United States and the world" in each of eight major American cities. Tucked away in Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, New York City, San Francisco, Seattle, and Washington, D.C., these facilities "are central to an NSA spying initiative that has for years monitored billions of emails, phone calls, and online chats passing across U.S. territory."

"The NSA considers AT&T to be one of its most trusted partners," The Intercept reports. Their collaboration has lasted for decades. And yet…

Little known, however, is that its scope is not restricted to AT&T's customers. According to the NSA's documents, it values AT&T not only because it "has access to information that transits the nation," but also because it maintains unique relationships with other phone and internet providers. The NSA exploits these relationships for surveillance purposes, commandeering AT&T's massive infrastructure and using it as a platform to covertly tap into communications processed by other companies.

Read the whole thing here.


Cannabis-based epilepsy drug gets approval. On Monday, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Epidiolex, a prescription drug made with cannabidiol (CBD) that can be used to treat severe epilepsy. Derived from cannabis, it helps squelch epileptic seizures without the psychoactive effects of smoking marijuana (which come courtesy of the plant's THC, not CBD).

"The difficult-to-control seizures that patients with Dravet syndrome and Lennox-Gastaut syndrome experience have a profound impact on these patients' quality of life," said Billy Dunn, deputy director of the FDA's center for drug evaluation and research, in a statement.

In addition to another important treatment option for Lennox-Gastaut patients, this first-ever approval of a drug specifically for Dravet patients will provide a significant and needed improvement in the therapeutic approach to caring for people with this condition.

But FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb stressed that folks shouldn't get their hopes too high about this step, saying it was important "to note that this is not an approval of marijuana or all of its components. This is the approval of one specific CBD medication for a specific use."


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