Free Minds & Free Markets

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McCain Disses Graham-Cassidy, Kim Jung-un Disses Trump, and HHS Sec. Tom Price Investigated for Private Jet Use: P.M. Links

  • Sen. John McCainRon Sachs/SIPA/NewscomSen. John McCain (R – Ariz.) announces his opposition to the Graham-Cassidy healthcare reform bill. Read Reason's coverage of the bill's chances here.
  • Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price is being investigated for his frequent use of private jets for HHS business.
  • Portland loses its ranking as America's top airport. Portlanders are a little salty about it.
  • Sick Kim Jung Un burn of Trump grows Americans' vocabulary.
  • San Antonio cop is fired for dating a prostitute.
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The Hillary Clinton School of Literary Criticism

The former first lady, senator, and secretary of state interprets the classics.

Hillary Clinton, TwitterHillary Clinton, TwitterThe most eye-catching aspect of Hillary Clinton's widely reviewed, reviled, and literally discounted campaign memoir, What Happened, is her take on George Orwell's 1984. Most readers interpret the novel as imploring us all to be skeptical of those in power. Clinton argues that authoritarianism is bad not because it tortures and kills people but, well, because it

sow[s] mistrust towards exactly the people we need to rely on: our leaders, the press, experts who seek to guide public policy.

In that vein, we're happy present to you some other, lesser-known interpretations of classic works by Secretary Clinton.


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Feminist Group Loses Fight to Declare Yik Yak App a Civil-Rights Violation

Court rejects Title IX complaint against University of Mary Washington over failure to ban the social-media platform from its campus

A federal court in Virginia shot down one of the sadder displays of anti-speech authoritarianism in recent memory, a demand that the social-media app Yik Yak be declared a civil-rights violation on college campuses.

The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia this week dismissed a lawsuit filed against the University of Mary Washington (UMW) by a coalition led by the Feminist Majority Foundation. The suit contended that UMW allowing Yik Yak on campus constituted a violation of Title IX of the Civil Rights Act, which prevents sex discrimination at educational institutions receive federal funding.

"As social media has proliferated, cyberbullying has become a national problem," and "solutions are not easy or obvious to anyone," the court noted. "In seeking solutions, however, schools cannot ignore other rights vital to this country, such as the right to free speech."

The whole debacle stems from Yik Yak users at UMW harassing members of a campus feminist group (and branch of the Feminist Majority Foundation) in 2015. Yik Yak is now defunct, but at the time it was a popular app on college campuses, allowing users within a certain distance to broadcast their thoughts anonymously in a Twitter-like fashion. The students complained to UMW administrators, who told them they could not ban the app on campus because of free-speech concerns.

That's when Feminist Majority Foundation and others asked the Department of Education to intervene. In an administrative complaint against UMW, the groups charged colleges with violating students' civil rights "by failing to adequately address the sexually hostile environment created by persistent online harassment and threats" on Yik Yak—a private platform students could download independently on their own phones or devices.

Schools exerted no control over who downloaded the app or what they posted on it. The feminist groups proposed schools get around this by installing software that would block Yik Yak on school computer networks, a "solution" that would both fail on technological grounds (anyone using their phone's network or non-school wifi could still access the app) and First Amendment ones.

Feminist Majority Foundation also filed a civil lawsuit against the school, alleging violations of Title IX and the Equal Protection Clause. On Tuesday, the court explained its reasons for granting its motion to dismiss the suit.

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'We Own This Property...It's Ours Until We Are Done'

Cops raid the wrong house...again.

Kicked-in front doorAlan/FlickrThe Fourth Amendment requires police to obtain a warrant before searching a private home. It also requires that the home they end up searching is the one they actually have the warrant for.

Sheriff's deputies in Van Buren County, Iowa, were golden on that first requirement when they raided Michael Owings' house on June 27 for suspected drug possession. They did indeed have a warrant.

Unfortunately for them—and for Owings—their warrant allowed them to search the house of one Gary Shelley, Owings' neighbor.

In a suit filed yesterday in U.S. District Court, Owings accuses Van Buren County Sheriff Deputy John Zane and four unnamed deputies of displaying a "gross disregard" for his constitutional rights by conducting "a flagrantly illegal entry of his private residence."

The story began on June 26, when Zane carried out a traffic stop. In the course of the stop, he got a tip that illegal drug use and distribution might be going on at Shelley's residence, a two-story farm house on rural Heather Avenue. Police promptly got a warrant for Shelley's house. But they showed up at Owings' mobile home, about a third of a mile up the road.

Owings was not home at the time, but his lawsuit says there were several signs that cops had arrived at the wrong house. One was an actual sign prominently listing the address at the gate of the property. Another was a name plate reading "Owings" located next to the front door.

Undeterred, the deputies forced their way into the home, where they encountered further evidence that they were in the wrong place, including prescription bottles and bank statements bearing Owings name. To top it all off, Owings' mother and girlfriend arrived while police were still tearing through the place; they flat out told the officers that they had the wrong house.

According to the lawsuit, deputies responded by saying, "We own this's ours until we are done."

The search turned up no illegal activity, and the police eventually cleared out, though not before removing items from the house and damaging the property.

Sadly, wrong-address raids are not unusual in the United States. Many of these cases lead to tragic consequences. Back in July, police in Southaven, Mississippi, killed Ismael Lopez while looking for an assault suspect at the wrong address. In 2015, Miami cops "destroyed" the home of 90-year-old woman while searching for drugs they never found. In 2012, while conducting a wrong-door raid in St. Paul, Minnesota, police killed the family dog and then forced three handcuffed children to sit by their dying pet while officers smashed up their home.

Owings is demanding compensation for the damage done to his property, for the violation of his Fourth Amendment rights, and for emotional distress. A court date has not been set.

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Are You Ready for Fall’s New Television Shows? New at Reason

Monday offers four new shows, only one of which suggests real potential.

'Young Sheldon''Young Sheldon,' CBSMonday marks the launch of the new fall television season, but television critic Glenn Garvin is not terribly impressed as yet. For the first of several upcoming columns previewing the new shows, he finds only one show salvageable out of four:

The hell with Charles Dickens. The new fall television season is certainly not the best of times, nor is it the worst of times (mostly, anyway, though CBS' 9JKL certainly gives pause). It is, perhaps, the most mediocre of television times since The Sopranos and Sex and the City established cable TV as a programming force in which a Nielsen rating of 35 could not be reasonably mistaken for the average IQ of the viewing audience.

Nineteen new series will debut on broadcast television between now and November 2. (Well, 18; The Orville, Fox's cartoon send-up of Star Trek, somehow slipped through security a couple of weeks ago, and if you're only learning this now, count yourself lucky.) And they are nothing if not diverse.

There are American Special Forces troops in Syria (NBC's The Brave), American Special Forces troops in Liberia (CBS' Seal Team), and American Special Forces troops in America (The CW's Valor). There are remakes from the 1970s (CBS' S.W.A.T), remakes from the 1980s (The CW's Dynasty) and remakes from the 1990s (NBC's Will & Grace, less a remake than a desiccated zombie clawing its way back out of the grave, since it features the same cast). There are mutants battling a fascist military government (ABC's Marvel's Inhumans) and mutants battling a fascist civilian government (Fox's The Gifted).

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U.S. Troops Watch TV Shows Cops, NCIS to Train Afghan Security

Training locals is cited as a reason to stay in Afghanistan 16 years after the war started.

FOXFOXSome American soldiers in Afghanistan have taken to watching shows like Cops and NCIS to figure out how to train Afghan security forces, a sobering reality nearly 16 years after the U.S. first invaded Afghanistan.

John Sopko, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) released a particuarly bleak 283-page report on "Reconstructing the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces: Lessons from the U.S. experience in Afghanistan."

Sopko found the U.S. was "ill-prepared to build the war-torn country's security forces, whose foundation is ravaged by decades of conflict, illiteracy and corruption," as the Washington Post reported.

American troops found themselves with inadequate training to train Afghan security forces in large part because, as the SIGAR report noted, "police development was treated as a secondary mission for the U.S. government." Troops have in some cases turned to police procedurals because they provide something familiar in a jumbled training environment.

U.S. efforts, for example, rely on cutting-edge technology and weapons systems, even though large parts of the Afghan security forces are illiterate. "We really do need to align capabilities to the needs of Afghans," Sopko told the Post yesterday. "Effective security forces are basically the way this thing ends."

The U.S. has been training Afghan forces since the start of the war and it remains a primary reason for the U.S. to remain in Afghanistan. That Sopko's report criticizes U.S. soldiers for being unequipped to do this training casts a shadow on the entire project. It is also a powerful argument for ending the war in Afghanistan.

"If you're just waiting to train the Afghans to be policemen and the military," Rep. Walter Jones (R-NC) told Reason almost five years ago, "it's taken 11 years already—you can train a monkey to ride a bicycle in less time."

The U.S. is not prepared to rebuild Afghanistan, and may never be able to, but its continued presence disincentivizes locals from trying to rebuild by themselves and take their futures into their own hands.

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No, Simply Touching Fentanyl Can't Kill You

An anesthesiologist explains fentanyl 101.

George Anderson used fentanyl patches to alleviate pain caused by multiple myeloma. Photo credit: Gerry Melendez/TNS/NewscomGeorge Anderson used fentanyl patches to alleviate pain caused by multiple myeloma. Photo credit: Gerry Melendez/TNS/NewscomFor all the ink American media outlets have spilled covering the increase in fentanyl-related overdose deaths, few of the stories I've read explain how fentanyl works or why it's so deadly.

As a result, journalists have created the impression that fentanyl is a magically awful drug. In that sense, it has a lot in common with PCP, methamphetamine, and crack cocaine. "Using [crack] even once," ABC's Peter Jennings declared in a 1989 episode of World News Tonight, "can make a person crave cocaine for as long as they live." If there's an equally believable-but-untrue claim about fentanyl, it's that simply touching the stuff can kill you.

I thought it might be useful for other reporters, and people who are simply concerned and/or curious about fentanyl, to figure out which oft-reported claims are true, partially true, or flat out wrong. So I got in touch with the Stanford anesthesiologist Steven Shafer, an expert in the pharmacology of pain medicine. I've edited our exchange for length and clarity.

Q: How do street-level doses of fentanyl—which seem to range from less than a milligram to a few milligrams—compare to surgical doses?

A: A milligram of fentanyl is a huge dose, one that would be fatal. For surgery we typically use doses of 0.1 milligram (100 micrograms). In terms of street drugs, the high potency has a very practical implication: The stuff is difficult to measure. There would be no obvious difference to a user given a packet of fentanyl-laced heroin if it had a very small amount of fentanyl, or a guaranteed fatal dose of fentanyl. The user would need to trust whomever weighed out the fentanyl used to lace the heroin.

Q: What makes illicitly used fentanyl deadlier than other opioids?

A: Fentanyl effect peaks at 5 minutes after an intravenous injection. The fast onset is more likely to be fatal than a slow onset, because the body doesn't have time to build up carbon dioxide. With a slow onset opioid (e.g., morphine), breathing slows gradually as the drug starts to act, and carbon dioxide rises. As carbon dioxide rises, it drives ventilation, offsetting (somewhat) the effects of the morphine on breathing. With the rapid onset of fentanyl, there is little time for carbon dioxide to raise before there is full effect of the fentanyl on depressing breathing. That will result in more lethality for the same maximal opioid drug effect.

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Rand Paul and John McCain Might Have Killed the GOP's Obamacare Repeal Bill

Paul says he won't be swayed by Trump's threats. "I'm a big boy."

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call/NewscomBill Clark/CQ Roll Call/NewscomSens. Rand Paul, R-Ky., and John McCain, R-Ariz., will vote against the latest Republican-led effort to repeal parts of Obamacare, likely killing any slim chance that the proposal had of reaching the necessary 50 votes in the Senate.

Paul told the Associated Press he plans to vote against the Graham-Cassidy bill because it does not do enough to repeal Obamacare's regulations and taxes.

McCain, in a statement issued later Friday, said he would not vote for the bill because he disagreed with the procedural shortcuts Republicans were taking to get the bill to the floor without committee hearings and the opportunity for amendments.

McCain, who cast the deciding vote against the Senate's so-called "skinny repeal" bill in July over similar concerns about Senate GOP leaders abandoning "regular order," said he would consider voting for the Graham-Cassidy bill "were it the product of extensive hearings, debate, and amendments" and only after getting a full CBO score of the bill, something that won't be available before the end of the month.

"I cannot in good conscience vote for the Graham-Cassidy proposal," McCain said Friday. "We should not be content to pass health care legislation on a party-line basis, as Democrats did when they rammed Obamacare through Congress in 2009. If we do so, our success could be as short-lived as theirs when the political winds shift, as they regularly do."

By themselves, Paul and McCain would not be enough to sink the GOP health care bill. But at least two other Republican senators—Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Susan Collins of Maine—are widely believed to be "no" votes on the bill. Collins confirmed Friday to the Associated Press that she's leaning against the bill.

President Donald Trump on Friday threatened Republicans—and Paul in particular—who were considering voting against the bill. He said those who refused to support the Graham-Cassidy bill in the Senate "will known as 'the Republican who saved Obamacare'"

In the tweet, Trump specifically identified Paul, who has so far been the only Republican to go on the record as opposing Graham-Cassidy, though at least two other Republican senators—Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Susan Collins of Maine—are widely believed to be "no" votes on the bill. Murkowski and Collins, along with Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., voted against the so-called "skinny repeal" bill in July.

Trump's threats have nothing to do with the policy of the bill, and the White House is only interested in a political win, Paul told the AP.

Paul's assessment of the situation seems pretty accurate. Trump has never indicated much of an interest in the policy aspects of the health care debate that has raged on Capitol Hill since March, though he did quickly organize a Rose Garden press conference to celebrate the House's passage of an earlier Obamacare repeal bill. A lack of White House engagement was widely noted in the wake of the "skinny repeal" bill's embarrassing failure in July, but—aside from some bluster on Twitter—neither the president nor his top health officials have been particularly active in selling the Graham-Cassidy bill to potentially recalcitrant Republicans this week.

Indeed, even Republicans in the Senate who said they would vote for the Graham-Cassidy bill appeared this week to be having a difficult time explaining the merits of it. A vote on the bill is scheduled for next week, but that timeline is dictated more by the ticking clock than by any broad agreement that Graham-Cassidy is a good bill. Republicans only have until September 30 to pass a health care bill using the reconciliation process. After that a major rewrite of Obamacare will require 60 votes and therefore must have Democratic support.

Paul's and McCain's opposition creates some difficult math for GOP leaders. That's why Republicans, as IJR's Haley Byrd reported yesterday, have dangled a carrot in front of Murkowski. In exchange for voting to scrap parts of Obamacare, her home state of Alaska will be allowed to keep Obamacare. It's a blatantly political move to buy votes (the same kind of move that Republicans denounced when it was used to help pass Obamacare in the first place), and Paul is right to recognize it as such, which he did in his interview with the AP.

As for Trump's promise to attack him in future political campaigns if he votes against the bill?

"I'm a big boy," says Paul.

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Does the Colorado River Have Rights?

The river doesn't need rights if people have strong property rights to its water.

RiverColoradoFotoeye75DreamstimeFotoeye 75/Dreamstime"In a first-in-the-nation lawsuit filed in federal court, the Colorado River is asking for judicial recognition of itself as a 'person,' with rights of its own to exist and flourish." So declares a press release from the activist organization Deep Green Resistance. The lawsuit against Colorado's governor is being filed in federal district court by the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF), which says it "seeks a ruling that the Colorado River, and its ecosystem, possess certain rights, including the right to exist, flourish, evolve, regenerate, and restoration."

In support of the legal theory that rivers have rights, the suit cites Supreme Court Justice William Douglas' famous dissent in Sierra Club v. Morton (1972). In that case, the Sierra Club sued to block the Disney company from building a ski resort at Mineral King in the Sequoia National Forest. The majority of the court ruled that the Sierra Club did not have legal standing—that is, that the group failed to demonstrate to the court sufficient connection to and harm from the law or action challenged to support that party's participation in the case. (As it happens, the ski resort was never built anyway.)

In his dissent, Justice Douglas, with considerable legal poetry, argued:

Inanimate objects are sometimes parties in litigation. A ship has a legal personality, a fiction found useful for maritime purposes. The corporation sole—a creature of ecclesiastical law—is an acceptable adversary and large fortunes ride on its cases. The ordinary corporation is a "person" for purposes of the adjudicatory processes, whether it represents proprietary, spiritual, aesthetic, or charitable causes.

So it should be as respects valleys, alpine meadows, rivers, lakes, estuaries, beaches, ridges, groves of trees, swampland, or even air that feels the destructive pressures of modern technology and modern life. The river, for example, is the living symbol of all the life it sustains or nourishes—fish, aquatic insects, water ouzels, otter, fisher, deer, elk, bear, and all other animals, including man, who are dependent on it or who enjoy it for its sight, its sound, or its life. The river as plaintiff speaks for the ecological unit of life that is part of it. Those people who have a meaningful relation to that body of water—whether it be a fisherman, a canoeist, a zoologist, or a logger—must be able to speak for the values which the river represents and which are threatened with destruction.

The CELDF also cites a recently enacted provision in the constitution of Ecuador that confers rights on nature:

Nature, or Pachamama, where life is reproduced and occurs, has the right to integral respect for its existence and for the maintenance and regeneration of its life cycles, structure, functions and evolutionary processes. All persons, communities, peoples and nations can call upon public authorities to enforce the rights of nature.

Let's just say that the law pertaining to the use of water is complex. I personally prefer common law riparian rights as a way to govern streams, rivers, and lakes. Riparian water rights give landowners along a stream rights to an undiminished quantity and quality of water. Consider the 1913 case Whalen v. Union Bag & Paper, in which a New York Court of Appeals ruled that a million-dollar paper mill employing 500 people did not have the right to pollute the water flowing past Robert Whalen's 255-acre farm on Kayaderosseras Creek, near Albany, New York. The Court reasoned:

Although the damage to the [farmer] may be slight as compared with the [paper mill's] expense of abating the condition, that is not a good reason for refusing an injunction. Neither courts of equity nor law can be guided by such a rule, for if followed to its logical conclusion it would deprive the poor litigant of his little property by giving it to those already rich.

It did not matter how much money had been invested or how many jobs were at stake; the paper company had violated Whalen's right to an undiminished quantity and quality of water flowing past his farm.

In the western United States, the prior appropriation doctrine awarded water rights to individuals on a "first-in-time, first-in-right" basis. Those who first diverted water had first claim on water. State water laws also typically require that rightsholders divert water for use; otherwise, they forfeit it to other users. (In other words, use it or lose it.) Thus state intervention basically stymied the development of water markets that would enable farmers, cities, ranchers, fishers, canoeists, and environmentalists to bargain among themselves on the best ways to manage rivers and streams. The Property Environment Research Center* in Bozeman, Montana, describes how markets enable the nonprofit Scott River Trust in Siskiyou County, California, to lease water from rightsholders in order to maintain instream flows to support salmon runs. There is no need to confer rights on the Scott River when trading transferable rights to water make it possible to protect salmon.

Deep Green Resistance and CELDF have a point in that unowned natural goods are subject to a tragedy of the commons, in which users have an incentive to overexploit and ruin them. But instead of trying to confer rights on nature, the better course is to assign strong property rights to people, so that individual and common owners are empowered to protect resources and environmental amenities.

*Disclosure: I have been the happy beneficiary of grants, conferences, and intellectual enrichment from PERC for many years.

We Read HIllary's Book So You Don't Have to: New at Reason

Clinton takes complete ownership for how her actions are all your fault.

Hillary Clinton's new book What Happened attempts to explain Trump's upset victory in 2016 through a series of reasons which are not Hillary Clinton. The gambit runs from apathetic white lady voters to Russian meddling to the inscrutable popularity of Donald Trump. When Clinton's focus turns to herself, however, she's light on culpability. She admits she can be guarded, but that admission doesn't encapsulate the relentless political ambition paired with shady financial dealings and a willingness to subvert national security that turned off much of the country.

In the end Clinton was also just a bad candidate.

In the latest Mostly Weekly Andrew Heaton explores Clinton's new book, so you don't have to.

Click below for full text, links, and downloadable versions.

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Mel Brooks: 'We Have Become Stupidly Politically Correct' and It's Killing Comedy

Could Blazing Saddles or The Producers get made today?

BrooksDominic Lipinski/ZUMA Press/NewscomLegendary filmmaker Mel Brooks unloaded on political correctness yesterday, blaming P.C. pressures for undermining comedians' abilities to perform social satire.

"We have become stupidly politically correct, which is the death of comedy," he said on BBC Radio.

Brooks, an actor, writer, and director known for making such comedies as The Producers, Young Frankenstein, Blazing Saddles, and Spaceballs, described comedy as "the lecherous little elf whispering in the king's ear, always telling the truth about human behavior." He complained that his 1974 film Blazing Saddles—in which a black sheriff overcomes the racism of an all-white frontier town—couldn't be made today, given the likelihood that someone would deem it problematic.

We have seen this phenomenon play out again and again in recent years. Can We Take a Joke? a documentary film directed by former Reason TV producer Ted Balaker, highlights a number of cases of comedians being castigated for making politically incorrect jokes on college campuses. Jerry Seinfeld, Chris Rock, and Tina Fey have made similar complaints.

Audiences are under no obligation to appreciate politically incorrect humor, of course, and tastes do change with the times. Consider this part of Brooks' comments, as reported by The Telegraph:

The director said he could find comedy in almost everything but conceded there were areas even he would not mine for material.

"I personally would never touch gas chambers or the death of children or Jews at the hands of the Nazis," he told the BBC's Radio 4's Today programme.

"Everything else is ok."

Brooks never satirized death chambers, but he did make fun of Nazis in his very first film, The Producers, in which a theater company produces a deliberately offensive pro-Nazi play called Springtime for Hitler: A Gay Romp with Adolf and Eva at Berchtesgaden. One could very easily imagine a boycott of the film today, with some activist accusing Brooks of normalizing Nazism.

But with the alt-right ascendant and white supremacists marching in Charlottesville, is not the need for un-PC Nazi-skewering greater than ever? We don't need to punch Nazis; we can just belittle them.

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Emperor Joshua Norton I: The Movie

Friday A/V Club: "An empire of voluntary subjects"

public domainpublic domainWhile Abraham Lincoln and Jefferson Davis were leading a war between the American north and south, a rival emperor was conducting a much more peaceful reign out west. 158 years ago this week, on September 17, 1859, Joshua Norton of San Francisco proclaimed himself emperor of the United States. Once a prosperous rice trader, now living on the edge of vagrancy, he issued his own currency, which local businesses often honored; he wrote royal proclamations, which local newspapers printed; legend has it he once managed to stop an anti-Chinese riot by standing in front of the mob and reciting the Lord's Prayer. He allegedly inspired a character in Huckleberry Finn—the phony dauphin who travels with Huck and Jim for a spell—but he didn't need Mark Twain to be remembered; he generated plenty of memorable stories on his own.

A few of those tales appear in The Story of Norton I: Emperor of the United States, a short film made by Columbia Pictures in 1936. Let me warn you up front: This is a clumsily made movie with stilted acting and, in one scene, one of the most cringeworthy blackface performances you'll ever see. But there are moments when the acting is so far removed from natural behavior that it stops seeming bad and starts to feel like some strange David Lynch experiment. And surely there's something inspirational in the film's final line: "He was insane, but—strange as it seems—honesty and sympathy won him an empire of voluntary subjects."

Needless to say, that's a rather romanticized assessment. Emperor Norton I lived in poverty—plenty of businesses did not accept his scrip—and he had to withstand more than his share of mockery and cruelty. But he was loved too, and he managed to reign for two decades through sheer power of personality. I cannot think of a better American statesman, with the possible exception of President-in-Exile Dick Gregory.

Here is the film:

For some background on the motion picture, check out this post from the folks at the Emperor's Bridge Campaign, a commendable effort to name the San Francisco Bay Bridge for Emperor Norton.

(Past editions of the Friday A/V Club can be found here.)

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California Demands Money from Gatorade to Protect Water from Slander

Silly mobile game pisses off nannies, costs company $300,000.

GatoradeFabio Formaggio / DreamstimeGood news, Californians! Attorney General Xavier Becerra is using your tax dollars to punish the real evildoers: those who would besmirch the good name of water.

You might not think anyone would want to destroy water, since we'd all die without it. But you just don't understand the evils of corporate marketing strategies. Becerra does, though, and he has successfully fought off a malicious plot by a sports drink manufacturer to convince children that water is evil by giving out a mobile video game for free. And the world is just a little bit safer.

This is not the plot of a bad Saturday morning cartoon from the '80s, people! It's real.

In 2012, Gatorade introduced the world to Bolt!, a mobile game starring Olympic gold medalist Usain Bolt, noted for his sprinting skills. That was what the game was about: Players made Bolt run and pick up gold coins. If players hit a Gatorade logo, he would run even faster. If they hit water, though, he would slow down and lose energy.

Now, you might say to yourself, "Well, water would kind of be a threat to a sprinter if he's trying to run." And people with a lengthy history of playing video games might recognize that water is often represented as a threat and a slowing effect to be avoided in any kind of game that involves running or driving very quickly. And in any event, you might think it unlikely that this game would cause anyone to actually stop drinking water.

Thank God we have Becerra here to set us straight. This game was actually a marketing conspiracy to turn people—especially children—against water so they'll drink Gatorade instead. Fortunately, we have Becerra here to protect water's good name.

Becerra accused Gatorade of false advertising, and he has managed to extract a settlement from the company. His office notes:

Gatorade promoted "Bolt!" on social media, drawing in a youthful audience of which more than 70 percent was aged 13 to 24. The app amassed more than 2.3 million downloads and 87 million games played worldwide in 2012 and 2013. The app was also made available on iTunes for a period of time in 2017. "Bolt!" was downloaded an estimated 30,000 times in California. It is no longer available for download.

As part of the settlement, Gatorade will be required to pay $300,000, of which $120,000 will be used to fund research or education on water consumption and the nutrition of children and teenagers. In addition, the settlement requires Gatorade to disclose endorser relationships in any social media posts and prohibits the company from advertising its products in media where children under age 12 comprise more than 35 percent of the audience. The settlement also prohibits the company from negatively depicting water in any form of advertisement.

The population of California, by the way, is 39 million people. So less than .1 percent of the state's population ever saw this game; most probably never even knew it existed.

Guess where the rest of the settlement goes? It goes to Becerra's office. Some cynical people might argue such a mechanism creates a financial incentive for the attorney general's office to exaggerate the nature of a deep-pocketed defendant's misdeeds.

What inspired this absurd idea that water needs the government to protect it from defamation? It's all about the nanny state. Gatorade has plenty of sugar in it. The original version has 21 grams of sugar per serving, though there are also low-calorie powder versions with about half that amount. And yes, they do market themselves deliberately as an alternative to water, but also specifically for those involved in athletic activities.

So this is another mechanism for the state's health nannies to go on the attack against sugary drinks and try to get money for it. Why bother trying to convince the citizenry to raise taxes on sodas when they can just take the money directly from the corporations?

The press release from Becerra's office makes it clear their attack is partly driven by a desire to control children's sugar intake in order to fight obesity. Gatorade's entire marketing shtick revolves around kids being active athletes, not just sitting around drinking Gatorade in front of the television, but never mind. Experts say you don't actually need Gatorade. The company should just be happy that Becerra is letting them sell its drinks at all.

There are market-based solutions here. Gatorade's market competitor, Powerade, has a no-sugar-added version with zero calories. If consumers actually care about sugar consumption, a switch to Powerade would send Gatorade a much stronger message than whatever it is Becerra is doing.

But then the state nannies wouldn't get a cut of that money, would they?

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Breaking: Betsy DeVos Withdraws 'Dear Colleague' Letter That Weaponized Title IX Against Due Process

"These documents have led to the deprivation of rights for many students."

DeVosChris Kleponis/CNP/AdMedia/NewscomToday Education Secretary Betsy DeVos withdrew the Obama-era letter instructing colleges to use the preponderance of evidence standard when adjudicating sexual assault.

DeVos called the previous guidelines—distributed to colleges in 2011 as part of a "dear colleague" letter, then clarified in 2014—well-intentioned but flawed.

"These documents have led to the deprivation of rights for many students—both accused students denied fair process and victims denied an adequate resolution of their complaints," reads the new "dear colleague" letter, which was signed by Acting Assistant Secretary Candice Jackson and approved by DeVos.*

The previous guidance chipped away at due process in several ways. It lowered the burden of proof to a "preponderance of the evidence" standard, which meant that accused students could be found responsible for sexual misconduct if administrators were only 51 percent convinced of the charges; it discouraged allowing the accused and accuser to cross-examine each other, reasoning that this could prove traumatizing for survivors of rape; and it stipulated that accusers should have the right to appeal contrary rulings, allowing accused students to be re-tried even after they had been judged innocent.

The letter correctly notes that the Obama-era interpretation of Title IX was never subjected to public notice and comment—an inappropriate course of action, given that the guidance was essentially a new rule rather than a clarification of an existing rule.

The Education Department is formulating a new approach to Title IX sexual misconduct adjudication. In the meantime, the public is invited to refer to an interim Q&A-style document.

Given the massive issues with Title IX enforcement on campus, this is a promising step. If university administrators are going to be involved in the process of investigating sexual harassment and assault, they should do so in accordance with principles of basic fairness.

Given how invested many survivors' advocacy groups are in the previous, flawed Title IX procedures, it will be interesting to see their reaction to this news. Several former Obama staffers have already set up a legal defense fund to fight DeVos in court if she tries to "roll back Title IX ways we think are illegal," former Department of Education staffer Aaron Ament told Politico. One of the members of the group's advisory board is Catherine Lhamon, now chair of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights and former head of the Obama Education Department's Office for Civil Rights, the subagency responsible for the previous Title IX approach.

*This sentence was updated to clarify Jackson's role.

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Ohio Republicans Move to Ban Sexting Between Teens

The bill is being pitched as a way to help teens avoid harsh child-porn laws.

@RepBrianHill/Twitter@RepBrianHill/TwitterOhio state lawmakers have proposed a bill that would ban sexting between teenagers, potentially turning thousands of ordinary young Ohioans into sex offenders. Its sponsors are pitching this as a step against overcriminalization, since the state would no longer have to prosecute minors—or anyone ages 18 to 20—with possession of child porn when they consensually exchange explicit pics with their peers.

There is some weight to their argument, topsy turvy as it is. Ohio authorities are already bringing charges against young people for sexting with one another, and the only applicable charge is child pornography. The same goes for 18- to 20-year-olds sexting with those slightly younger than them.

The bill "is drafted to be sensitive to the age differences of a couple that may have met in high school, where a 17-year-old could conceivably be in a relationship with a 19-year-old," Gretchen Klaber, legislative aide to Rep. Brian Hill (R–97th District), tells me. Hill is co-sponsoring the bill (H.B. 355) with Rep. Jeffrey Rezabek (R–43rd District). It was inspired by a case in Hill's district in which a young man killed himself after being arrested for sexting.

"The sponsors of the bill hope to give young people involved in situations like this a second chance with a diversion program, rather than having them permanently labeled as felons and sex offenders," Klaber says.

While this might indeed be a step in the right direction, why criminalize sexting between a 17- and a 19-year-old at all? And why explicitly create a crime of sexting between minors of the same age?

Legislators could instead amend state statute to exempt teens exchanging pics between themselves, and people a few years over 18 texting with those a few years younger, from laws that treat them as child-porn producers and consumers. Prosecutors could decline to bring these charges against sexting minors, and schools could decline to hand these cases over to cops.

Instead, this bill would create the new misdemeanor crime of "possession of sexually explicit digital material," banning the creation, production, distribution, presentation, transmission, posting, exchange, dissemination, or possession "through a telecommunications device any sexually explicit digital material" by anyone under age 21. (An exception would be made for married couples in possession of pictures of a spouse.) The law defines sexually explicitly material as "any photograph or other visual depiction of a minor who is in any condition of nudity or is involved in any sexual activity." Those found guilty of sexting would be sentenced to eight hours of community service, or whatever (greater or lesser) sentence a court sees fit.

In some cases, young people could avoid a criminal record by completing anti-sexting education. (The program would not apply to anyone previously convicted of sexting or of any other sex-related offense.) All courts would be required to devise and operate their own "sexting educational diversion program" and may allow people charged under the new sexting statute to do the program as an alternative to prosecution.



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