Free Minds & Free Markets

Article Thumbnail

We Are So Unprepared for the Coming Budgepocalypse: Podcast

You have come to the right place for CBO death porn.

Those terrifying fingers coming soon to a throat near you ||| ReasonReasonOne of the best things about divided federal government, Nick Gillespie reminds us on the new editors' roundtable edition of the Reason Podcast, is that at least it's not unified. Which is to say, there's less chance of unfunded entitlement expansions, big new overseas military commitments, and all the debt/deficit that they bring.

Fellow podcasters Katherine Mangu-Ward, Peter Suderman, and yours truly weigh in with dramatic Congressional Budget Office readings, tales from post–World War II governance, and grim assessments of almost all politicians who hold elected office. Also debated: voter fraud fantasia, President Donald Trump's reading comprehension issues, and this delightful Isaac Asimov roundtable discussion from the 1970s.

Subscribe, rate, and review our podcast at iTunes. Listen at SoundCloud below:

Audio production by Ian Keyser.

'Fifteen Street' by Blue Dot Sessions is licensed under CC BY-NC 4.0

Relevant links from the show:

"House Democrats Plan to Use Their New Majority to Target Trump. Let's Hope It Keeps Them Too Busy to Legislate," by Elizabeth Nolan Brown

"With Midterms Done, Are We Going To Get Serious About Policy or Continue the Clown Show?" by Nick Gillespie

"When the Bubble Bursts, We're So Screwed," by Matt Welch

"Trillion-Dollar Deficits Are Nearly Here. Thanks, Republicans!" by Peter Suderman

"Failed States," by Michael Flynn and Adam B. Summers

"It Can Happen Here," by Arnold Kling, David Henderson, and Maurice McTigue

"The 19 Percent Solution," by Nick Gillespie and Veronique de Rugy

Don't miss a single Reason Podcast! (Archive here.)

Subscribe at iTunes.

Follow us at SoundCloud.

Subscribe at YouTube.

Like us on Facebook.

Follow us on Twitter.

Article Thumbnail

Trump Still Determined to Slap New Tariffs on Auto Imports

White House advisors are worried that "he could get impatient one day and force their hand like he did with the steel and aluminum tariffs."

JONATHAN ERNST/REUTERS/NewscomJONATHAN ERNST/REUTERS/NewscomPresident Donald Trump is reportedly chomping at the bit to impose tariffs on foreign-made cars despite warnings from the auto industry, from economists, and from his own advisers that the move could cost American jobs, hike car prices, and increase friction between the U.S. and Europe.

There is no sense that the tariffs are imminent, but Trump remains "jazzed" about the idea of import taxes on foreign cars; White House advisers are worried that "he could get impatient one day and force their hand like he did with the steel and aluminum tariffs," reports Axios' Jonathan Swan.

Trump has been talking about putting tariffs on cars since well before he became president, but the threat of auto tariffs ramped up during the spring and summer. The Commerce Department held hearings on the proposed tariffs in July, around the same time that the White House instructed Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross to find a "national security" justification for tariffs on imported cars—something that is necessary for the president to impose tariffs unilaterally, under the terms of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962. That's the same process used to impose the tariffs on steel and aluminum, which Trump ordered in March after months of investigations and hearings. The deadline for Ross to complete his report is early next year.

In a speech given in Berlin on Monday, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker sounded a pessimistic note about trade relations with the U.S., according to Bloomberg. Juncker and Trump had reached a temporary truce in July that prevented further escalations of the trade war between the U.S. and the E.U., but Juncker now says he expects that truce to expire shortly after the new year.

Trump's justification for auto tariffs seems to rest—much the justification for the steel and aluminum tariffs—on two very different arguments. Politically, he seems to believe the auto tariffs are powerful leverage that can be used to squeeze other concessions out of Europe and other trading partners. At a political rally in West Virginia during August, Trump bragged about telling Juncker how America would soon "put a 25 percent tax on every car that comes into the United States from the European Union."

That tax, of course, will be paid by Americans buying those cars. Still, the threat of tariffs has worried European officials, because they could disrupt international supply chains and harm American sales of European-made cars. If sales drop, American automakers could have to cut jobs too.

An analysis from the Center for Automotive Research, an industry-backed group, says a 25 percent tariff on automotive parts imports will result in up to 2 million fewer vehicle sales in the U.S., triggering more than 714,000 job losses in the industry and reducing U.S. economic output by $59 billion.

Trump's second argument for the tariffs is even more nonsensical. Under the terms of Section 232, there has to be a national security justification for the auto tariffs. There is no way that imported cars are a national security threat. At the July hearing hosted by the Commerce Department—a hearing held with the goal of finding such a justification—more than 40 people representing automakers, dealerships, and specialty equipment manufacturers repeatedly told the department that tariffs will increase costs for raw materials, which will hike prices for consumers, which will reduce car sales, which will cost manufacturing jobs, all without any benefit to national security.

Even if Trump listens to his advisers and holds off on the tariffs, the auto industry and consumers are likely to start feeling the pain from other aspects of Trump's trade policy. Tariffs on Chinese imports will hit many of the roughly 30,000 parts used to assemble vehicles at American automaking facilities, and higher component prices will increase the final sticker price on American-made cars.

With direct tariffs on cars and car parts, the effect will be more pronounced. A July analysis from the European Commission estimates that a 25 percent import tax on foreign cars would increase sale prices to American consumers by between $1,400 and $6,900, depending on the value of the vehicle. Similarly, the Center for Automotive Research says the average car sold in the U.S. would cost $4,400 more after tariffs, while the tariffs would also increase the price for American-made cars by about $1,200.

For much of the year, it was at least possible to give Trump the benefit of the doubt about the threatened auto tariffs. It was conceivable, after all, that he was just using them as a NAFTA renegotiating ploy. But if Swan is correct that Trump's "zest for car tariffs" has kept swelling even after the NAFTA negotiations are done...well, you might want to buy that new car sooner rather than later.

Article Thumbnail

Top National Police Organization Declares Support for Modest Federal Sentencing Reforms

What did it take? A promise not to make mandatory minimum reductions retroactive.

Mitch McConnellMIKE THEILER/REUTERS/NewscomCould it be? The nation's biggest police organization publicly coming out in favor of criminal justice reform?

Yes, it's true. The National Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) has just announced its support for the FIRST STEP Act, a prison reform bill that eases up federal incarceration for nonviolent crimes by expanding eligibility for halfway houses, keeping federal inmates closer to their homes, and banning the shackling of pregnant inmates, among other changes aimed at scaling back the harshness of our federal prison system.

The bill passed the House in May, and the Senate is working on some changes to it. The Senate version of the bill would reform mandatory minimum sentencing to give judges more leeway. It would also make the 2010 Fair Sentencing Act retroactive. That bill changed the law to reduce penalties for crack cocaine convictions to make them match powder cocaine convictions.

The bill is fairly modest, given the current congressional dynamics. Even though it's polling well, its future was uncertain. On Friday, its chances were bolstered significantly by the FOP's announcement that it's on board:

"By individually targeting those offenders with the lowest risk to offend, law enforcement and correctional officers can better focus their resources," [FOP President Chuck] Canterbury explained. "The F.O.P. played a key role in making sure that truly dangerous offenders, like those who commit crimes while armed and those who traffic and deadly narcotics like fentanyl, are ineligible to participate in the First Step program."

Note that even as legislators and police recognize the bad consequences of treating crack cocaine like a uniquely dangerous threat deserving harsher punishment, they're falling into the trap of treating fentanyl as a unique threat—and ignoring how the government's own attack on the medical use of painkillers pushes people toward the more dangerous black-market drugs that are more likely to cause overdoses.

The press release notes that the lawmakers have gotten FOP's support by promising not to make other sentencing reforms (besides the Fair Sentencing Act) retroactive. So those handed mandatory minimum life sentences for a drug offense under federal three-strikes regulations cannot request mercy to get their sentences cut to 25 years. This seems cruel, but hey, it keeps prison guards on the job. The bill also earned FOP support by granting guards the authority to carry concealed firearms on prison property as long as they're outside the secure perimeter of the prison.

But regardless of the gaps in the bill, it would still make life better for thousands of people currently in prison for nonviolent drug crimes. And with Attorney General Jeff Sessions being shown the door, the bill's prospects for passage may be improving. Sessions opposed weakening mandatory minimum sentences, but President Donald Trump seems open to these modest reforms. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said he's going to see if he's got the votes to get it passed during the upcoming lame duck session.

Article Thumbnail

If This Bill Passes, Possessing Pot in Texas Will Be Treated Less Harshly Than Distributing Straws in San Francisco

A new bill in the Texas legislature would repeal criminal penalties for possessing less than ounce of marijuana.

Alana290/Dreamstime.comAlana290/Dreamstime.comA new bill in the Texas legislature that would decriminalize the possession of up to an ounce of cannabis.

Rep. Joe Moody (D–El Paso) today introduced HB 63. If it becomes law, possessing up to an ounce of marijuana would be a civil infraction, punishable by a maximum $250 fine. Currently, possession of any marijuana is a Class B misdemeanor and can earn you up to $2,000 in penalties and six months in jail.

Some 41,000 people were convicted of marijuana possession in Texas between August 2017 and August 2018, according to the state Department of Public Safety.

Moody's bill would also bar police officers from arresting someone solely for possessing an ounce or less of marijuana.

"Civil penalty legislation is the first thing I've filed on the first day of filing for the 86th Session. There's been an incredible swell of bipartisan support since last session," says Moody in a press release. "I'm optimistic that this will be the session we finally see smarter, fairer marijuana laws in Texas."

Moody's bill is pretty limited compared to other drug reform efforts around the country. Marijuana would still be prohibited, and those who rack up more than three civil infractions would be liable for criminal charges on a fourth offense.

Still, that's more lenient than San Francisco's treatment of repeat violators of its plastic straw ban. And it's far superior to the status quo, says Heather Fazio, director for Texans for Responsible Marijuana Policy.

"Penalties are unreasonably harsh, even for a tiny amount of marijuana," Fazio tells Reason, noting that in addition to the criminal sanctions there are a host of collateral consequences that come with drug offences. "Hindered access to education, or housing, drivers' licenses' suspension for six months, a suspension of your right to carry, your right to self-defense for seven years."

There are some signs that reform is starting to win friends across the political spectrum. Earlier this summer, the Republican Party of Texas included a call for marijuana decriminalization in its platform. And in an October debate, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican, said that he would be open to legislation that made simple possession a Class C misdemeanor, meaning it would remain a criminal offense but not come with the possibility of jail time.

"One thing I don't want to see is jails stockpiled with people who have possession of small amounts of marijuana," Abbott said during that debate. Last week he was reelected by a large margin.

A University of Texas/Texas Tribune poll from June found 69 percent of registered Texas voters support reduced penalties for marijuana, and 53 percent support legalization. A full 62 percent of Republicans supported reduced penalties, as did 79 percent of Democrats.

Past efforts for marijuana reform in the Texas Legislature have sputtered out. In the 2017 legislative session, two reform bills with bipartisan support managed to be get voted out of committee—including a decriminalization measure and a medical marijuana bill—but conservatives blocked both from going to the full floor for a vote.

Fazio says she's optimistic about the prospects for reform this year.

"We've got more momentum, especially with the governor now stating his willingness to work with lawmakers on reducing penalties," she says. "I think 2019 will be the year we see this meaningful reform made in Texas, and it's so desperately needed."

Article Thumbnail

Michigan's Pot Tax Is Too Low, Mitch Albom Says, Because It Could Be Higher

The Detroit Free Press columnist seems oblivious to black-market competition.

YouTubeYouTubeUnder Proposal 1, the marijuana legalization initiative that Michigan voters approved last week, cannabis products will be subject to a 10 percent special sales tax. Detroit Free Press columnist Mitch Albom thinks that rate is way too low:

The goal [of legalization], at least partly, was to redirect the money going to (then) illegal drug dealers and put it to better public use through the government.

And how did we do this? By passing amongst the lowest tax rates on pot in the country. Dealers in Michigan will only have to shoulder a 10 percent excise tax—plus collect our normal 6 percent sales tax, which is what you pay if you buy a toaster at Best Buy.

By comparison, the state of Washington charges 37 percent sales tax on pot. Colorado takes a 15 percent sales tax and a 15 percent excise tax. Oregon, which doesn't have a sales tax on anything else, slaps 17 percent on marijuana. California levies a 15 percent excise tax plus a product-tax rate on every flower and leaf.

And Michigan? We just voted in about the cheapest deal in America. Which means private marijuana enterprises can make more profit here than almost anywhere else.

As Cheech might say to Chong. "Whoa, dude. We did that?"

We did.

No doubt Albom thought he was being clever by deploying a Cheech & Chong reference to portray supporters of legalization as idiots, a rhetorical technique that was already hackneyed when the drug czar used it two decades ago. But if anyone is hazy on the subject of marijuana taxes, it is Albom, who seems to assume that higher rates inevitably mean more money for "public use." If that were true, why stop at 37 percent? Why not 50 or 100 percent?

The problem is that cannabis consumers can continue buying pot the way they always have and are apt to do so if the prices in state-licensed stores are substantially higher than they are on the black market. Politicians who want to displace the black market, or even just maximize tax revenue, ignore that tendency at their peril. Canadian legislators, noting that heavy marijuana taxes in places like California and Washington had made it hard for licensed merchants to compete with old-fashioned pot dealers, settled on a rate similar to Michigan's. So did Massachusetts. Those decisions were based not on ideological opposition to high taxes but on a practical understanding of what happens when legal businesses are undersold by unlicensed competitors: Much, maybe most, of the market is not taxed at all.

Albom, by contrast, seems genuinely oblivious to the effects of competition. "Collecting the lowest taxes doesn't mean you'll get the lowest prices," he says. "Economics might suggest that, but greed is not subject to rules. After all, the state won't be selling you your marijuana, private businesses will. They can charge what they want."

Yes, they can charge whatever they want, as long as they don't mind losing business to competitors who charge less. According to Albom, some people are so greedy that they don't care about making money.

Article Thumbnail

The VA's Gross Mismanagement Does Nothing to Honor Vets

The Department of Veterans Affairs is honoring veterans of Veterans Day while simultaneously screwing them over again and again.

|||Paul Hennessy/Polaris/NewscomPaul Hennessy/Polaris/NewscomAll across America, Veterans Affairs (VA) departments are putting on events to honor veterans for their service. That's nice, but a more meaningful way to honor them would be to address the serious mismanagement that has come to define the department.

In 2014, an audit revealed that 100,000 veterans had been waiting in months- and yearslong lines for care at 700 VA hospitals, and that employees had attempted to mask the issue by falsifying scheduling records. At least 13 percent of scheduling personnel said they did so at the direction of supervisors. Later attempts to clean the backlog have led to appointments being improperly cancelled altogether.

For many veterans, the long wait times were the least of their concerns. This year a Wisconsin veteran with mental health issues froze to death on New Year's Eve after a VA hospital released him without an escort. A few weeks later, a veteran sued a Connecticut hospital after a surgeon left "an abandoned scalpel" in his abdomen. (A New York Times story used the Connecticut hospital's 5-star rating to show the flaws in the VA's ratings system.) Investigations have found practitioners on the VA payroll with revoked licenses, medical malpractice claims, and disciplinary issues.

Meanwhile, thanks to IT issues, hundreds of thousands of veterans have yet to receive education and housing payments supposedly guaranteed by the GI Bill. In 2017, President Donald Trump signed the Forever GI Bill, which expanded the original bill's benefits. But the bill did not allocate funds to update the department's antiquated computer system to meet the increased processing demand.

As the Cato Institute's Michael F. Cannon has explained, that the VA's largest problem is...itself. More specifically, the fact that it's controlled by a central government. While he says veterans should be weary of "false 'privatization' efforts," which currently includes a plan to treat the VA like Medicare by writing government checks to private doctors, Cannon is for reforms that "would transfer ownership of the V.A.'s physical capital (land, structures, gizmos) to private citizens—ideally, to the people the VA exists to serve: veterans." That sort of privatization "would constitute a hefty transfer of wealth to veterans that would be a large and welcome step toward making good on Congress' promise to care for them."

Article Thumbnail

Trump's Illegal Anti-Asylum Presidential Proclamation

He has manufactured a fake border crisis to justify an illicit power grab.

Trump DonkeyHoter via Foter.comPresident Donald Trump issued a proclamation on Friday that effectively scrapped the asylum laws passed by a duly elected Congress. He claims that the approaching migrant caravan justifies a ban on granting asylum to anyone entering between ports of entry on an emergency basis. This means that both the Immigration and Nationality Act and the international treaties that America has signed requiring it to offer an asylum hearing to those fleeing oppression and persecution would now be null and void.

As I note in my new column for The Week, this is a sweeping power grab that should distress everyone—especially rule-of-law conservatives who earn their living berating immigrants for minor transgressions. But what is even more disturbing about Trump's order is that it is based on a fake crisis. There is no stampede at the southwestern border justifying an emergency proclamation, without going through proper rule-making procedures. As this chart provided by National Immigration Forum's Zuzana Cepla shows, the number of apprehensions are literally at a 22-year low. Yet no presdient ever felt the need to engage in such extraordinary usurpation of exisitng laws:

National Immigration ForumNational Immigration Forum

Furthermore, the only reason that Central American asylum seekers are even trying to enter between ports of entry is because border agents have taken to illicitly shooing them away from authorized ports, a practice—called "metering"—that is under legal challenge.

In short, Trump first manufactured a fake border crisis and then used it to justify overruling existing laws. This is pretty much unprecedented, and the ACLU is suing the administration over it.

Go here to read my column.

Article Thumbnail

Navy Veteran Rep.-Elect Dan Crenshaw: 'Stop Looking for Reasons to Be Offended'

A culture of outrage doesn't help anyone.

YouTube Screenshot via Saturday Night LiveYouTube Screenshot via Saturday Night Live

Navy SEAL veteran and congressman-elect Dan Crenshaw (R–Texas), whose eyepatch was the subject of a much-maligned joke earlier this month, says people need to stop getting offended so easily.

First, some background. On November 3, Saturday Night Live comedian Pete Davidson made a joke about the eyepatch, which Crenshaw started wearing after losing an eye in Afghanistan. "You may be surprised to hear he's a congressional candidate from Texas and not a hit man in a porno movie," Davidson said. "I'm sorry, I know he lost his eye in war or whatever."

Davidson was roundly criticized for the bad-taste joke. And then, this past Saturday, the comic apologized on the air to Crenshaw, who by then had won his election. Crenshaw showed up to accept the apology in person. It made for an entertaining segment, as Crenshaw got a bit of revenge with some jabs of his own.

This morning, Crenshaw spoke with the hosts of NBC's Today about his SNL appearance. "It felt like the right thing to do," he said. "I would appreciate it if everybody would stop looking for reasons to be offended, and that's what this was all about":

Crenshaw has handled the controversy admirably from the start. The day after Davidson originally mocked him, Crenshaw wrote on Twitter: "I try hard not to offend; I try harder not to be offended."

His reaction has been a breath of fresh air in the midst of a 24-hour news cycle that likes nothing more than fresh outrage. As Reason's Robby Soave pointed out in May, too many conservatives and liberals love to one-up each other when it comes to finding things to get outraged about. This is particularly pointless when it comes to comedians. Some things (like baby rape or war wounds) don't make for good jokes. But telling a bad joke should be neither a crime nor an unforgivable offense. Searching for things to get offended over just perpetuates a culture of outrage, which doesn't help anyone but professional outrage-mongers.

Bonus link: Remy is OUTRAGED over outrageous outrage:

Article Thumbnail

Bureaucrats Consider Shutting Down Informal Play School for 2-Year-Olds Because It's Too Safe

The 45-year-old cooperative has ground rules, which means D.C. government considers it an unlicensed daycare.

PlayschoolOksun70 / DreamstimeBureaucrats in Washington, D.C. may make it impossible for an informal parent group to meet.

For 45 years, parents have brought their two-year-olds to the Lutheran Church of the Reformation as part of a cooperative play school endeavor. It's a chance to socialize with other haggard moms and (presumably some) dads dealing with the terrible twos, and it's volunteer run. But as Karin Lips, mom of a baby she hopes will join the club in two years, writes in The Washington Post:

On Sept. 7, the Office of the State Superintendent of Education investigators inspected a playgroup of toddlers to assess whether the cooperative was an illegal daycare. The investigators issued Capitol Hill Cooperative Play School parents a "statement of deficiencies," alleging that the Capitol Hill Cooperative Play School was violating the regulations that apply to a "child development facility."

The problem—which isn't actually a problem, unless you define it as such—is that because the play group has some rules and requirements, including the fact that parents must submit emergency contact forms, as well as tell the group when their kid is sick, the play group is not a play group but a "child development facility." And child development facilities are subject to regulation and licensing by the government.

As Lips points out, this actually creates an incentive for parent-run play groups to be less safe, because if they don't have rules about emergency contact info, and how to evacuate and such, they are considered officially "informal" and can go on their merry, possibly slipshod, way:

The D.C. Council should consider what will happen if the government regulates voluntary cooperatives like this out of existence. For starters, these parents and 2-year-olds will be worse off, denied the opportunity to get together for a few hours each week to visit with their friends.

But this regulatory encroachment could be the District's first step toward broader government overreach in this area and the crowding-out of voluntary associations. From nanny-shares to babysitting co-ops to regularly scheduled times to play at public parks, the Office of the State Superintendent of Education investigators could find new opportunities to crack down on the voluntary ways that D.C. families approach playtime and child care for their children.

Take a step back and you see a group of people—toddlers and parents—enjoying themselves. They're meeting, playing, and perfectly content. But another group is trying to butt in and end the fun—and the convenience.

Just who's acting like a two-year-old?

Article Thumbnail

House Democrats Plan to Use Their New Majority to Target Trump. Let's Hope It Keeps Them Too Busy to Legislate: Reason Roundup

Plus: menthol cigarettes may be banned, Big Tech warms to new regulation, and NYC building raided over illegal Airbnb listings.

modified from KCS Presse / MEGA / Newscommodified from KCS Presse / MEGA / NewscomWhat's a subpoena cannon? We're about to find out... Democrats are prepping to weaponize the House of Representatives against President Donald Trump—stockpiling potential subpoenas, readying the proverbial Pelosi boxing gloves, etc. "House Democrats plan to probe every aspect of President Trump's life and work, from family business dealings to the Space Force to his tax returns to possible 'leverage' by Russia," reports Mike Allen at Axios. He adds:

One senior Democratic source said the new majority, which takes power in January, is preparing a "subpoena cannon," like an arena T-shirt cannon.

I cannot tell if this is a joke. It's hard to tell when Allen is joking, and the same goes for #Resistance Democrats. In any case, a "subpoena cannon" would be gauche and ridiculous and I really hope it happens. We all know 2019 can only get more absurd than this year, so why not kick things off in a befitting fashion?

The Axios folks have put together a list of 85 potential investigations that House Democrats want to launch. "We have our boxing gloves on," incoming House Appropriations Chair Nita Lowey told the publication. "I'm ready. And so is Nancy [Pelosi]."

Incoming House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff (D–Calif.) says that Trump is likely to resist requests and subpoenas from the committee and that he foresees the fight going all the way to the Supreme Court. If that's the case, Brett Kavanaugh could wind up deciding Trump's fate. Fun!

ABC News reports that Democrats are homing in especially on Trump arranging payments to Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal, both of whom allege former trysts with Trump.

"Since the payments were not campaign contributions based on the [Federal Election Commission] rulings it would be as useless as Mueller's absurd investigation of Russian collusion which has established that the only Russian involvement was collusion with Hillary and DNC to produce fraudulent Steele dossier," Trump counsel Rudy Giuliani said in a statement.


Jonesing for GDPR. So far, the European Union's General Data Protection Rule (GDPR) has been bad news that promises only to get worse. Naturally, powerful Americans are eyeing it enviously.

For a while, big tech companies were resistant. But now that they already have to comply in European markets or face major fines, and with meddling of some sort all but certain in the U.S., many have started pushing for Congress to adopt the same rules as in the E.U.

Both the tech companies and the politicians are trying to sell this to the public under the ruse that it will protect their privacy. But the few consumer privacy protections are 1) debatable in their effects and 2) interspersed with all sorts of anti-competitive and pro-censorship mandates. If it's consumer privacy protection people seek, we don't need all this extra baggage imported too.

Read more on GDPR woes from Reason columnist Andrea O'Sullivan.


What police state? New York City police swarmed and raided a fancy Midtown apartment building in October. The hardened criminals inside? Residents sharing their extra rooms or renting out apartments on Airbnb without the permission of city bureaucrats. Police passed out 27 violation notices at the Atelier condo—and that could be just the beginning.

"The raid...may be a sign of what's to come. New York and other cities are seeking to limit short-term rentals that can run afoul of local laws designed to limit hotel-style stays in residential buildings," suggests Josh Barbanel at The Wall Street Journal. Meanwhile, a

new city law due to take effect in February could lead to a surge in the number of summonses issued. The law requires booking sites to transmit information about every short-term rental to the city. A lawsuit filed by the industry to stop the new law is pending in federal court in Manhattan.

FDA thinks we need more black markets. It's not just flavored e-cigarettes that are drawing the ire of Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, who wants to keep flavored vaping products relegated to tobacco and vape shop sales. According to The Wall Street Journal, Gottlieb also wants a total ban on menthol cigarette sales.

Rich millennials still sold on cryptocurrency. Despite this year's drops in Bitcoin and other cryptocurrency prices, "affluent millennials"—defined by pollsters as folks ages 24 through 38 with at least $100,000 in household income or $50,000 in investable assets—are still sticking with them. A new survey finds that 25 percent say they currently hold some cryptocurrency.

Old habits die hard. "General Motors has recharged since being bailed out by the government in bankruptcy nearly a decade ago," writes the editorial board of The Wall Street Journal. "But now Government Motors is back: The largest U.S. automaker wants the Trump Administration to juice its bottom line with a truckload of electric-car mandates and subsidies."


Checking in on some of the still-contested midterm races from last week. Democrat Kirsten Sinema is still narrowly beating Republican Martha McSally in Arizona...Florida Republican Rick Scott is doing everything in his power to prevent all valid ballots from being counted, as he tops Democrat Bill Nelson by about 0.15 percentage points...Democrat Stacey Abrams is still trying to force a runoff election in the Georgia governor's race.


  • The Woolsey Fire continues to claim land—and lives—in California. By Sunday, the fire had ravaged 85,550 acres of land and destroyed at last 177 buildings, including the homes of Miley Cyrus and other celebrities. "Wildfires across California have scorched nearly 200,000 acres and killed at least 31 people in total in recent days," the Los Angeles Times reports.
  • Immigration and Customs Enforcement is detaining more people than ever.
  • After 15 terms, California Republican Rep. Dana Rohrabacher won't be returning to Congress next year. The Associated Press called his race on Saturday for Democrat Harley Rouda.
Article Thumbnail

Chicago Expelled a Male Student 4 Days Before Graduation Because His Ex Made a Dubious Sexual Violence Claim

He's suing the university—and the accuser.

ChicagoRdsmith4 / Wikimedia CommonsA former student who was expelled for sexual misconduct just four days before graduating is suing the University of Chicago for allegedly violating his due process rights.

He has also sued his accuser—his ex-girlfriend—which is a rare step for those seeking justice in such cases. Most lawsuits born of shoddy campus sexual misconduct adjudication solely target the institution.

That the accused student, "John Doe," has chosen to sue his accuser, "Jane Roe," is indicative of the serious, malicious actions he ascribes to her. According to Doe's lawsuit, their relationship was entirely consensual, and Roe did not dispute that. After they broke up, they continued to have sex, and those encounters were all consensual as well. Roe did not allege wrongdoing until her friends—to whom she had trash-talked Doe, and promised to stop seeing her ex—discovered she was still sleeping with him. She then claimed Doe had engaged in nonconsensual sex with her after she had passed out.

"UC expelled [John Doe] despite overwhelming evidence that Jane Roe fabricated her story because she was too embarrassed to admit to her friends at UC that she was engaged in a secret sexual relationship with her ex-boyfriend," wrote Doe's lawyers in his lawsuit.

Obviously, the lawsuit only represents one side of the story, and presents the facts in a light most favorable to Doe. Theirs appears to have been an extremely messy break-up and subsequent friends-with-benefits period; no doubt there is some blame to go around.

But a panel of university officials litigated their relationship and found Roe blameless for what had transpired. Doe actually filed a counterclaim accusing Roe of misconduct and violence. Officials scoffed at this and cleared Roe, according to the lawsuit.

Doe was not so lucky. In fact, he was expelled—even though one of his witnesses, a friend of Roe's, had told the university that the friend had spoken with Roe for an hour via FaceTime immediately before the encounter. This witness, "CG," said Roe did not seem too drunk to consent, and in fact bragged that she and Doe were about to have "angry sex," just before the call ended.

Again, these are all details from the lawsuit, though they directly quote from statements and text messages in the university's investigatory file. The full lawsuit is here.

To summarize the backstory, according to the lawsuit: Doe has claimed that he and Roe began dating during the fall 2017 semester. She spent so much time at his place that his roommates asked her to help pay for utilities. "For the most part, we had a good relationship—he was nice to me, we enjoyed each [other's] company, and I was happy," Roe wrote, according to the lawsuit.

That came to an end during winter break, when Doe accompanied Roe on a family trip to Costa Rica. During an argument, Roe punched Doe in the face and scratched him, and Doe spit at Roe. This caused them to break up.

When classes resumed, they continued to have sex, despite some persistent hurt feelings. Roe did not think her friends would approve of her continuing to sleep with Doe, so she misled them about what was going on. Roe texted a friend from her hometown, "KH," the following:

We both talked shit to our friends and they'd all be pissed if they knew we went back to each other in any capacity

So now idk where to go from here

I might just use him for sex when I want it and have no emotional connection

Roe subsequently misled KH as well, telling this friend that she was not having sex with Doe when she actually was.

"Like I don't want you to feel hurt or betrayed or anything but like I promise you that I'm not going back to him ever," Roe texted KH. "He's not my go to it's always you."

KH replied: "I really don't want u to go back to him or even be friends with him and if u do its really going to hurt me because things went back to normal and I'm closer to you than I ever was and I don't want you to be ruined again."

Roe took elaborate steps to deceive her friends: She changed Doe's name in her phone so it wouldn't look like he was sending her messages, and she turned off location services on her phone so they wouldn't know she was heading to his apartment.

That all these sexual encounters were consensual is not disputed. "I will say once again that each time we had sex post-relationship was consensual," Roe later told the investigators.

The only exception was a March 9 encounter. Doe invited Roe over to his place after a party that involved drinking. Well after 1:00 a.m., Roe posted Snapchat videos of herself in Doe's apartment. Around 3:00 a.m., Roe began facetiming with a friend, "CG." According to the lawsuit:

CG stated that Jane Roe facetimed her from Plaintiff's bed at around 3 a.m., Plaintiff and Jane Roe were wearing minimal clothing and the three of them talked for about an hour. CG said that "by all appearances, everything seemed consensual." Jane Roe "was able to participate fully and communicated clearly in the conversation." Jane Roe "was not incapacitated." After an hour, Jane Roe told CG that it was time for her to go and "angry fuck" with the Plaintiff.

Doe alleges that Roe's late-night Snapchat videos from his apartment effectively exposed her dishonesty to her friends. She then claimed that she had been too drunk to remember what was happening, and any sex between them was nonconsensual. A month later, she filed a complaint with the associate dean of students.

The ensuing investigation was unfair to Doe, he claims. He was not initially made aware of the charges against him; he did not know, for instance, which aspects of their relationship Roe had cited as evidence of wrongdoing. His hearing was scheduled for May 31—in the middle of final exams—and he was not informed of Roe's specific allegations until May 17.

Investigators compiled a report that consisted of interviews with 26 witnesses (including KH and CG). But the only people to testify at the hearing were Doe and Roe. They did so separately: The university did not allow cross-examination, and it did not permit lawyers to be present. The lawsuit describes the hearing as wildly prejudiced against Doe. Based on a preponderance of the evidence, officials found him responsible for having done things Roe never even alleged in any formal capacity, including that he was responsible for some bruises on her body. (One witness, "MS," testified that Roe had once fallen through a glass table, and she had posted a picture of her injury on social media with the caption, "My RA's just expressed concern for me after seeing my super bruised legs and I had to explain to them that I just fell through a glass table and am not, in fact, being abused.")

The university concluded that Doe had engaged in nonconsensual sex with Roe, as well as "coercive behavior," including "shaming," "name-calling," and "repeatedly asking for sex after being told no." His punishment was immediate expulsion, four days before he was scheduled to graduate. His appeal was denied. He also lost the job he had been promised after graduation, as it was contingent upon finishing his degree. He became depressed and suicidal.

The lawsuit accuses the university of breach of contract and abridgment of due process. It also contends that Roe defamed Doe and portrayed him in a false light.

I would certainly like to hear her side of the story. It could be the case that there was good reason for the university to reach a guilty verdict, and that the process was fairer than it seems. But it's difficult to square Roe's texts and calls to friends with what she alleged, at least according to the lawsuit.

One final note: The story was actually covered by the student newspaper, The Chicago Maroon. The author of that article—a sorority sister of Roe's, according to a disclaimer at the end—interviewed Roe, who said:

After the relationship ended, she said, she realized his behavior had been abusive.

"A lot of people have this idea that an abusive relationship is—you're throwing punches at the other person. But there's a lot more to it. You can have emotional abuse, verbal abuse," she said.

She said that attending a Panhellenic Council workshop—a film screening and discussion on relationship violence—was "eye-opening," confirming for her that she had been involved in an abusive relationship. Realizing this, she resolved to "move on" and put the experience behind her.

Doe told the newspaper, "I did not do this. I swear to that with every ounce of my being."

Even Roe thought the expulsion was a harsh outcome, she told The Maroon.

"To go through four full years of college, and to have paid for all of it, and get nothing for it, is a terrible thing to have happen," she said, while adding that "this all could have been avoided had he not behaved the way he did and made the decisions he made, and he is the only person to blame for him being expelled."

Article Thumbnail

Brickbat: Who You Gonna Call?

rainbow flagBumbleedee / Dreamstime.comPaul Makonda, governor of Tanzania's largest city, Dar es Salaam, has asked residents to report gay people to him. Makonda has vowed mass arrests of "homosexuals in our city."

Article Thumbnail

Instead of Making Today About Trump, Let's Remember the Dead of World War I

"If any question why we died/Tell them, because our fathers lied," wrote Rudyard Kipling of the Great War. Think about that, not contemporary politics.

CHINE NOUVELLE/SIPA/NewscomCHINE NOUVELLE/SIPA/NewscomAnyone expecting the midterm elections to lance the boil of ultra-banal media coverage of Donald Trump's presidency has got to be disappointed. Less than a week after the Democrats picked up control of the House of Representatives and a bunch of state legislatures and governor's mansions, the media and politicians seem laser-focused on the small stuff, like whether CNN's Jim Acosta manhandled a White House intern during a press conference.

President Trump is deeply complicit in this, of course. His primary method of operation is to keep all eyes glued on him, no matter what. Thus, the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I is now mostly being discussed in terms of Trump's unwillingness to venture out into the rain to pay his respects. Here's a representative tweet, from a British member of Parliament:

John Kerry, a former Secretary of State, United States senator, presidential candidate, and wounded Vietnam vet, got his digs in as well:

For what it's worth, The New York Post reports that the president did in fact go outside today, to a different cemetery, and in the rain, though bitching about it.

At his final stop in Paris, President Trump sucked it up and got soaked — but didn't seem happy about it.

A day after Trump was criticized for skipping a trip to an American cemetery due to inclement weather, the president spoke at a different US cemetery in the rain, and expressed jealousy that some of the veterans in the audience were seated under cover.

"You look so comfortable up there. Under shelter. As we're getting drenched," Trump told a World War II vet. "You're really smart people."

Here's an alternative way to think about the end of World War I, a terrible, stupid war made more terrible and stupid by America's late-breaking participation. Focus on the number of people who died instead:

The total number of military and civilian casualties in World War I was about 40 million: estimates range from 15 to 19 million deaths and about 23 million wounded military personnel, ranking it among the deadliest conflicts in human history.

The total number of deaths includes from 9 to 11 million military personnel. The civilian death toll was about 8 million, including about 6 million due to war-related famine and disease. The Triple Entente (also known as the Allies) lost about 6 million military personnel while the Central Powers lost about 4 million. At least 2 million died from diseases and 6 million went missing, presumed dead. This article lists the casualties of the belligerent powers based on official published sources. About two-thirds of military deaths in World War I were in battle, unlike the conflicts that took place in the 19th century when the majority of deaths were due to disease. Nevertheless, disease, including the 1918 flu pandemic and deaths while held as prisoners of war, still caused about one third of total military deaths for all belligerents.

More here.

And take some time to read Rudyard Kipling's Epitaphs of the War, penned between 1914 and 1918. Kipling, who carries a whole hell of a lot of baggage of his own, was originally in favor of the war and helped his son get a commission despite eyesight so poor it was disqualifying. His son was killed, the body never recovered. Kipling wasn't a pacifist by any stretch and he didn't necessarily think World War I was avoidable so much as insanely and incompetently prosecuted. Whatever his thinking, he penned lines that still burn with anger and resentment, including these:

If any question why we died,

Tell them, because our fathers lied.

Every leader should read Epitaphs before considering military action.

We'd all do a little better using historical commemorations for a moment of reflection instead of advancing the latest partisan outrage.

Article Thumbnail

No More Vietnam Syndrome: New at Reason

guvendemir/iStockguvendemir/iStockU.S. foreign policy for decades proceeded in the shadow of the failure in Vietnam. Some 58,000 Americans were killed in that war. Stateside protests were fierce enough to persuade President Lyndon Johnson to sit out the '68 election. Seven years later, after about 2 million civilian Vietnamese deaths, the U.S. finally gave up without having prevented a Communist takeover of the country.

"Vietnam syndrome" restricted our foreign conflicts, for a time, to such swift and relatively petty adventures as 1983's post-coup invasion of Grenada (which, though it involved fewer than 8,000 U.S. troops, did kill 19 U.S. soldiers, wound 116 more, and prompt a massive majority of the U.N. General Assembly to dub the American action a "flagrant violation of international law") and the 1989 overthrow of troublesome Panamanian leader Manuel Noriega, writes Brian Doherty.

View this article
Article Thumbnail

The Wild Rise of Lyndon LaRouche: New at Reason

What a conspiracy theorist, a Vietnam War deserter, and a Trump adviser have in common

Operation Chaos Henry Holt and CompanyOperation Chaos Henry Holt and CompanyPaul Krassner reviews the new book Operation Chaos by Matthew Sweet in the latest issue of Reason. A snippet:

In March 1981, I delivered a comedy routine cum keynote address at a convention of Yippies. I asked the audience a rhetorical question: "How would you like to be a Secret Service agent guarding Ronald Reagan, knowing that his vice president, George Bush, is the former head of the CIA?" Satire would soon be outdistanced by reality: At the end of the month, John Hinckley shot the president, hoping to impress the actress Jodie Foster and take her bowling.

On April 2, the Los Angeles Herald-Examiner quoted a dispatch from the New Solidarity International Press Service, an outfit run by followers of the unlovable conspiracy theorist Lyndon LaRouche. "A group of terrorists and drug traffickers linked to Playboy magazine," it said, "met in New York City's Greenwich Village area and publicly discussed an assassination of President Ronald Reagan and Vice-President George Bush. The meeting, convened by the Yippie organization, featured former Playboy editor Paul Krassner and numerous individuals associated with High Timesmagazine, Hustler magazine and the Chicago Sun-Times."

I was scheduled to perform stand-up at Budd Friedman's Improvisation Comedy Club in Hollywood the next month, and Friedman had asked me to try to get some advance publicity. "Paul," he told me after the report appeared, "that's not exactly what I meant."

View this article


Get Reason's print or digital edition before it’s posted online