Reason Roundup

Trump Changes His Mind About Turkey and Hopes Steel Tariffs Will Stop the Slaughter

Plus: Snowden warns about encryption threats, Libertarians fight for ballot access, and more...


The president has declared a national emergency over the crisis he helped create in Syria. In a letter to Congress on Monday, Donald Trump announced the issue of an executive order declaring a national emergency "due to the situation in and in relation to Syria, and in particular the recent actions by the Government of Turkey to conduct a military offensive into northeast Syria."

The same Turkish actions that got Trump's go-ahead last week are now described by him as "an unusual and extraordinary threat" to national security.

Last week, Trump seemed unconcerned about how Turkish actions would affect Kurdish people living there (they didn't help us during World War II, Trump told reporters).

This week, he says the Turkish invasion of Syria will "undermine the campaign to defeat" ISIS, put civilians in danger, and threaten the whole region's peace and stability.

But Kurds whose homes are being destroyed and whose families are being displaced and slaughtered can rest assured that Trump will tax Turkish steel! The president promised to raise the tariff back up to 50 percent, which is where it was before getting reduced in May.

Trump also said the government had stopped negotiations on a trade deal with Turkey, and that it would impose sanctions "against current and former officials" in the Turkish government.

Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said more sanctions were possible if Turkey is not willing "to embrace a ceasefire" and "come to the negotiating table" to "end the violence." Trump himself put it less delicately, saying:

I am fully prepared to swiftly destroy Turkey's economy if Turkish leaders continue down this dangerous and destructive path.

Meanwhile, Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan has taken to The Wall Street Journal to argue that Turkey has "stepped up" where European countries failed. "The international community missed its opportunity to prevent the Syrian crisis from pulling an entire region into a maelstrom of instability," Erdogan writes. "The European Union—and the world—should support what Turkey is trying to do."


  • Georgia Libertarians are appealing a court ruling that upheld the state's ballot access system. The Libertarian Party of Georgia says the state's excessively strict requirements have kept Libertarians and other third-party candidates from running for the U.S. House of Representatives for more than 70 years.

•  The Democratic presidential candidates debate again tonight. Details here.

•  The latest Quinnipiac presidential poll results show Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D–Mass.) leading the pack…

•  But another poll released yesterday shows Warren (with 15 percent support) still lagging behind Joe Biden, who is polling at 31 percent, and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I–Vt.) polling at 17 percent. The Hill/Harris X poll showed Sen. Kamala Harris (D–Calif.) with 6 percent, Pete Buttigieg and Beto O'Rourke with 4 percent each, and Andrew Yang and Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D–Minn.) with 2 percent each.


Edward Snowden says that without strong encryption, we lose. In a new Guardian op-ed, Snowden slams U.S. and U.K. governments for trying to undermine strong encryption practices—"the only method that currently exists for reliably protecting the world's information"—and warns that "should they succeed in their quest to undermine encryption, our public infrastructure and private lives will be rendered permanently unsafe."

He goes on:

When I came forward in 2013, the US government wasn't just passively surveilling internet traffic as it crossed the network, but had also found ways to co-opt and, at times, infiltrate the internal networks of major American tech companies. At the time, only a small fraction of web traffic was encrypted: six years later, Facebook, Google and Apple have made encryption-by-default a central part of their products, with the result that today close to 80% of web traffic is encrypted. Even the former director of US national intelligence, James Clapper, credits the revelation of mass surveillance with significantly advancing the commercial adoption of encryption. The internet is more secure as a result. Too secure, in the opinion of some governments.

Donald Trump's attorney general, William Barr, who authorised one of the earliest mass surveillance programmes without reviewing whether it was legal, is now signalling an intention to halt—or even roll back—the progress of the last six years.

Read more here.


Jacksonville, Florida, declares digital gambling a "public nuisance." The city's new ban on electronic gambling machines stands to shut down many internet cafes and adult arcades.

"Critics of the new enforcement schedule said they expect a lot of people—maybe 2,000 or more—to quickly lose jobs that had looked secure until after the holiday season," reports.

"We're not actually shutting anybody down," said Jason Teal, Jacksonville's city attorney—though he admitted that shutdowns might be "the practical effect" of the new legislation. City authorities justified the ban by saying "simulated gambling devices" are a "public nuisance."


  • More details on dirty work from Kamala Harris' prosecutor past.
  • Is being against abortion and "political correctness" all that unites the right?
  • The CEOs of Uber and Lyft are refusing to participate in Congress' anti-tech pageantry.
  • Chicago authorities want to ban having more than six hens in residential areas and slap urban farmers with permitting requirements.
  • St. Louis' mayor wants to fight crime with omnipresent surveillance planes over the city (courtesy of a company called Persistent Surveillance Systems).
  • California decriminalizes eating roadkill.
  • Cyntoia Brown-Long gave her first televised interview since being released from prison."I fully intend to step into that and to share my experiences as often as I can, with whoever I can, in the hopes that it can bring about more understanding about what goes on in the system with young girls who find themselves in the situation that I did," she told NBC Nightly News.
  • Former national security advisor John Bolton told aide Fiona Hill to alert the National Security Council's chief lawyer about Trump administration efforts to pressure Ukraine, Hill testified yesterday. Bolton allegedly told her that Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani was "a hand grenade who's going to blow everybody up."