Free Minds & Free Markets

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ACLU To File Civil Rights Lawsuit Against Milwaukee Over Stop-and-Frisk

A class-action federal civil rights lawsuit argues the Milwaukee Police Department’s suspicionless stop-and-frisk practices are unconstitutional.

Charles Collins // Joshua Lott/ACLUCharles Collins // Joshua Lott/ACLUOne spring evening in 2014, Charles Collins, a 67-year-old black Milwaukee resident, was driving back home with his wife. They had just dropped off their grandchild at their son's house after a day of babysitting.

"We were returning home, driving along, talking, just having a great interaction. You know, wife and husband, kicking it," Collins recalls. "Out of nowhere a policeman pulled up behind us with lights on."

When the Milwaukee police officer approached Collins and asked for his license, Collins handed it over and asked if there was any problem with his car of if he'd been speeding.

"We're not the ticket police," the officer replied, according to Collins.

The officer noticed Collin's concealed handgun license and asked him if he had any weapons in the car. When Collins said no, the officer went back to his cruiser, returned a short while later, handed Collins' license back, and let them go. The officer never said why he pulled Collins over.

The husband and wife drove away, stunned and confused. Although not too confused. The same thing had happened to Collins several times over the years, just as it had to his son and many of his friends, both young and old.

"As a brother or black man living in Milwaukee, it's not an unusual thing," Collin says. "When I leave my home, I leave with apprehension. Not that it's in your face, but it's there. I feel there's a good possibility that I'll get shot or pulled over. It's in me, you know what I'm saying? I can feel it."

Now Collins is one of the lead plaintiffs in a federal class-action lawsuit the American Civil Liberties Union is filing against the Milwaukee Police Department for operating what it says is an unconstitutional and racially discriminatory stop-and-frisk program.

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Reason and Libertarianism in the Trump Era [Reason Podcast]

"Free movement of people and goods across borders are incredibly important things. And Trump is not into either of those things."

"Free movement of people and goods across borders are incredibly important things. And Trump is not into either of those things"—Katherine Mangu-Ward.

At the 10th annual International Students for Liberty Conference, Reason magazine Editor in Chief Katherine Mangu-Ward, former editor and longtime head of the Institute for Humane Studies Marty Zupan, and I discussed the history and future of Reason and libertarianism in President Donald Trump's America.

We each talked about the signature issues of the decades we were at the magazine's helm (the 1980s for Zupan, the '00s for me, and currently for Mangu-Ward) and whether libertarianism is waxing or waning.

This podcast was recorded live on Friday, February 17. Now finishing up its first decade, SFL reported that about 1,700 guests from all over the world attended this year's conference.

Produced by Mark McDaniel.

Subscribe to the Reason podcast at iTunes or click below to listen right now!

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Government by Leak

The contradictions of a crackdown

Ryndon RicksRyndon Ricks"Top secrecy is translated into public participation and responsibility by the magic flexibility of the controlled news leak."
Marshall McLuhan

The first time anyone ever leaked a story to me, way back in the 1990s, he declared himself a whistleblower. That was one of the first words out of his mouth: "whistleblower." And the word fit. He was phoning to tell me about something his boss had done that was at least arguably improper.

He didn't mention it, but it didn't take much digging to discern that my anonymous source had a hidden motive too. He had been passed over for a promotion, and he was pissed about it.

One lesson here is that leakers don't always have noble motives. A second is that you can have shady motives and still reveal a legitimate story. Deep Throat didn't leak information about the Watergate investigation to Bob Woodward because Richard Nixon's crimes offended him. He was a high-ranking FBI guy with his own history of trampling the Constitution, and his leaks were part of a complex game of bureaucratic warfare. Nonetheless, they exposed significant facts.

But the biggest lesson in my little tale is that leaks are a standard part of how modern government works. I was an obscure reporter; my informant was an obscure bureaucrat. This wasn't Woodward-and-Bernstein stuff. But the informal rules and rituals of the leaking game were accessible to us too. The back channel to the press was an established part of the political process, and it had been for a long time.

Tyler Cowen makes that point well in a column at Bloomberg today:

Sometimes governments trade leaked information to reporters, to curry favor. Other times leaks are used to hurt rivals within the public sphere, or a leak can serve as a trial balloon to test the popularity of an idea. Leaks also may help a president's Cabinet members build up their own internal empires, which can boost a president's agenda.

Or the American government may want to inform its people about, say, drone operations in Yemen, but without having to answer questions about the details. In this regard, leaks may substitute for more direct congressional oversight, to the benefit of the executive.

In other words, leaks are part of how the government manages the press and maintains its own popularity. A leak can get a story onto the front page, or if the first leak did not create the right impression, the information flow can be massaged by yet another leak.

Any war on leakers therefore involves a certain degree of institutionalized hypocrisy. The Obama administration tried to crack down on the leaks it couldn't control, but that doesn't mean it stopped leaking info itself. Cowen quotes Obama's chief of staff, William Daley: "I'm all for leaking when it's organized."

Where I part company with Cowen is when he writes this:

[W]hy haven't American governments worked harder to prosecute unwelcome leaks and leakers?

Well, if that policy were pursued successfully, the only leaks that would occur would be "approved" or government-intended leaks, and everyone would figure this out. The government could no longer use leaks as a way of providing information or making threats in a distanced manner with plausible deniability.

While that's true, it may be beside the point, because I'm not sure it's actually possible to pursue that policy successfully. Eradicating unwelcome leaks would be an enormous task. Millions of federal employees and contractors have access to classified data. Many others have info that's worse than classified: It's embarrassing. They also have access to high-tech tools that can allow them to get documents into journalists' hands without exposing themselves to scrutiny.

Trump may well intensify Obama's crackdown. (The New York Times reported last week that the president's "top advisers are considering an 'insider threat' program that could result in monitoring cellphones and emails for leaks.") But that doesn't mean he'll actually manage to stop the flood of information from the federal workforce to the outside world. If his administration wants to plant a story in the press, there will be plenty of unauthorized leaks to serve as camouflage.

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Mike Pence Meets Ukrainian President While Trump Lawyer Works on Back Channel Deal

VP calls on Russia to abide by Minsk ceasefire deal it negotiated with Ukraine.

Mykola Lazarenko/Ukrafoto/Polaris/NewscomMykola Lazarenko/Ukrafoto/Polaris/NewscomMike Pence met with Ukraine President Petro Poroshenko while making his first trip to Europe as vice president, with his office saying he had "underscored U.S. support" for Ukraine's territorial integrity and that the U.S. would continue to not recognize Russia's 2014 annexation of Crimea. He also called on Russia to implement the Minsk protocol, a 2014 ceasefire deal between Ukraine, Russia, and two breakaway republics in eastern Ukraine that have been supported by Russian armed forces—the U.S. was not a party to the Minsk protocol.

Meanwhile, The New York Times reports on back-channel efforts at resolving the Ukrainian situation, involving President Trump's personal lawyer, a business associate, Paul Manafort, and a Ukrainian legislator, Andrey Artemenko, who proposes Russian withdrawal from eastern Ukraine in exchange for a 50 or 100 year lease of Crimea to Russia. Poroshenko, who Artemenko accuses of corruption, says the lawmaker is not authorized to present "alternative peace plans."

The 1994 Budapest Memorandum, a political agreement signed on to by Ukraine, Russia, the United States, and the United Kingdom concerning Ukraine's surrender of its Soviet era nuclear arsenal in exchange for commitments to its sovereignty and territorial integrity and protection from nuclear strike. China and France, the world's other nuclear powers, signed separate understandings. The agreement, not a legal documented, is not interpreted to compel military action. Russia insisted it did not violate the terms because, it argued, the Ukrainian government, which replaced the pro-Russian one topped in a 2015 pro-Europe revolution, was not the same state with which it made a deal, a spurious argument particularly given that Russia assumed many of the treaty obligations of the Soviet Union and so is familiar with the concept of continuity in international law.

While the U.S. condemned Russia's actions in 2015, and imposed limited sanctions, Russia oversaw a referendum in Crimea it said approved of the territory, which belonged to the Russian Soviet Socialist Republic until Nikita Khrushchev transferred it to the Ukrainian S.S.R. in the 1950s, being annexed by Russia, and Russian control over the region, which houses a Russian naval base, has remained since then.

Allegations over ties between President Trump's associates, including Michael Flynn, who resigned as national security advisor after a controversy over what he said about sanctions in a call with the Russian ambassador to the U.S. before Trump took office, color any attempt at a de-escalation in tensions between Russia and the U.S. Yet the Flynn affair illustrates how improbable "collusion" between the Trump team and Russia is. In recent years, the U.S. has been caught spying on the communications of its allies—surely Russia knows its officials are spied on to. If Flynn, who was paid $40,000 to attend a Russia Today dinner, were an access point for the Kremlin into the White House, why would they blow their load prematurely on an exploratory call about sanctions? What difference would three weeks make?

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Milo Yiannopoulos Resigns from Breitbart, Trump Slams Anti-Semitism: P.M. Links

  • MiloJASON SZENES/EPA/NewscomMilo Yiannopoulos has resigned from Breitbart. His CPAC speech and book deal with Simon & Schuester were also cancelled.
  • Here's a transcript of Milo's press conference—published by Breitbart, oddly enough.
  • The New York Times wonders if liberal political-correctness-run-amok could be helping Trump. Gee, where did they get that idea?
  • A Texas legislator wants to force students to report rapes. What could go wrong?
  • The American Civil Liberties Union explains its opposition to a law that would make it harder for the mentally ill to purchase guns.
  • The Anne Frank Center is not satisfied with President Trump's stated opposition to anti-Semitism.
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Trump's Fake News Attack on Sweden, Immigrants, and Crime: New at Reason

Gage SkidmoreGage SkidmoreIs it safe for you to return to Sweden? That's the question an American friend asked Johan Norberg this weekend after President Donald Trump warned an audience in Melbourne, Florida, about Muslim immigrants and terrorism in Europe. "You look at what happened last night in Sweden" the president yelled, "Sweden! Who would believe this!"

Trump later took to Twitter to admit that he was not referring to something that happened in Sweden last night, but something that happened on Fox News last night. Tucker Carlson had interviewed Ami Horowitz about a documentary claiming that Muslim refugees were the cause of an "incredible surge in violence" in Sweden.

But as Johan Norberg explains, that documentary, and the Fox News segment based on it, are nothing but fake news. Here are the facts about immigrants, refugees, and crime in Sweden.

View this article
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Remembering Peak Oil: Saudi Arabian Production Was Supposed to Peak in 2006

It didn't.

OilWellsAtSunsetDreamstimeWarenemyWarenemy/DreamstimeThe world was running out of oil and the global economy was about to collapse as a consequence ten years ago. Imminent peak oil doom was everywhere and one of its leading proponents was banker Matthew Simmons. Among other things, Simmons based his prognostications on the claim that oil production in Saudi Arabia was about to peak and fall steeply, presaging an era of permanent global oil shortages. Simmons further suggested that global oil production had peaked in 2005 and would fall at a rate of 5 percent year thereafter.

To be fair, Simmons like most peak oilists fuzzied up his numbers and timelines enabling him to be vague about just what level Saudi production would achieve before beginning its inevitable decline. For example, one of the analysts over at peakist The Oil Drum site declared in 2009 that Saudi production had peaked at 9.6 million barrels per day in 2005 and projected that it would fall to around 7 million barrels per day by now. Simmons was a bit more canny and suggested that if Saudis worked really hard to boost production, they might briefly get to 12.5 million barrels per day. Even so, Simmons' main assertion in his book Twilight in the Desert was: "My research has convinced me it is unlikely that Saudi Arabia could sustain any higher oil output than it now produces, and that even the current production rate may be too high."

Simmons was sufficiently confident of his predictions that he took New York Times columnist John Tierney up on a bet in 2005 for $5,000 that the global price of oil would exceed an average of $200 per barrel in 2010. He lost.

So what did happen to Saudi Arabian production? According to Bloomberg News, Saudi production reached 10.7 million barrels per day in November and, as part of an agreed Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries' (OPEC) cut in production, dropped back to 10.5 millon barrels last month. World oil production in 2005 - when it supposedly peaked - averaged 85 million barrels per day. The global average stood at over 97.2 million barrels per day in 2016. Of course, the peak oilers also failed to see the shale oil and gas revolution made possible by fracking and horizontal drilling that boosted U.S. oil production from 5.2 million barrels per day in 2005 to nearly 9 million barrels per day today.

If the OPEC production cuts don't hold, some analysts see oil prices falling back toward $30 per barrel later this year.

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Michigan State U. Bans Whiteboards in the Dorms Because People Write Things on Them

Are students engaging in more harassment, or are administrators defining harassment too broadly?

MSULovelac7Michigan State University will prohibit students from hanging whiteboards on their dorm room doors beginning in the fall.

That's because some people write offensive messages on them, and the university wants to take an even more proactive approach to fighting harassment.

Apparently, instances of students writing hate speech on other students' whiteboards have become more frequent.

"The functionality of whiteboards used to outweigh the downsides," Kat Cooper, a university spokesperson, told The Detroit Free Press. "That's not happening anymore."

Maybe students don't need to write on each other's whiteboards—they can just text. But if that's the case, why not just let whiteboards be optional? If a student doesn't find them useful, or is worried about offensive messages, he can take his down.

No, no—they all must come down. There's too great a danger of someone saying something that someone else doesn't like, according to administrators. The Free Press's article details the numerous strategies MSU deploys to prevent such an occurrence:

The university also has an anti-discrimination policy.

Staff, including resident assistants inside buildings, file reports with MSU's Office of Institutional Equity when they come upon offensive language on whiteboards. That office investigates the issues when reported, through the people who write the offending words or images are rarely identified.

"Any student found in violation of the university's Anti-Discrimination Policy can face sanctions ranging from a warning to suspension," Ande Durojaiye, director of Office of Institutional Equity, wrote in an e-mail.

Here's a theory: maybe the behavior of MSU students isn't worsening—maybe people aren't suddenly more prone to engage in harassment. Rather, the university has defined harassment in increasingly subjective terms, and encouraged members of campus to report each other anonymously. Students aren't abusing the whiteboards: administrators are abusing the students' free expression rights.

In such an environment, I'm sure it makes more sense for MSU to simply shut everyone up.

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Some Experts Are Now Blaming Politics for Rising Anxiety Levels

Is Post Election Stress Disorder real or are people just overreacting?

Erika Wittlieb / PixabayErika Wittlieb / PixabayFeeling anxious? Trouble sleeping? Find yourself fighting more with family and friends? You may be suffering from "Post-Election Stress Disorder" (PESD), or politics-induced anxiety caused by the recent presidential election. CNN claims that "mental health professionals around the country, especially those working in Democratic strongholds, report a stream of patients coming in with anxiety and depression related to -- or worsened by -- the blast of daily news on the new administration."

Before disregarding this as fake news, consider that the American Psychological Association (APA) recently released a report finding that stress levels (on a 10-point scale) have risen from 4.8 in August 2016 to 5.1 in January 2017. According to the APA, the uptick is the most significant increase since the survey was first conducted in 2007.

Some 66 percent of Americans surveyed cited stress over the future of the country, 57 percent claimed the current political climate as a major source of stress, and 49 percent noted the outcome of the election as having a significant impact on their mental health. Minority groups, millennials, and people with a college education had higher levels of stress about the election outcome.

"The fact that two-thirds of Americans are saying the future of the nation is causing them stress, it is a startling number," Vaile Wright, a licensed psychologist working with APA's Stress in America team, told The Washington Post.

While PESD is not formally recognized in The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, some mental health experts claim it's a real issue. In an op-ed for the Post, Maryland therapist Steven Stosny described something he calls "headline stress disorder," writing that "For many people, continual alerts from news sources, blogs, social media and alternative facts feel like missile explosions in a siege without end."

Licensed clinical psychologist Jennifer Sweeton also discussed PESD in Psychology Today; she claims a number of her female clients reported feeling anxious, depressed, and re-traumatized from past experiences. "Over the past three days I have received more emails and calls from female clients suffering from PESD-like symptoms than I have in the prior three months combined," Sweeton wrote the week after the election.

Not everyone has taken to the unofficial mental health disorder. U.S. Rep. Brian Mast (R–Fla.), an Army veteran, criticized talk of the phenomenon as disrespectful to those with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder in an interview with Fox & Friends. "There's a big difference between being pissed off about things and what happens on the battlefield," he said. "I have empathy for the stressors that are in people's lives as a result of this election, but that doesn't mean that there's any real comparison to service members that have been targeted by snipers, that have been blown up, that have had to take the lives of their enemies...there's not a comparison between the two, in my opinion."

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Sen. Wyden Calls for Warrants for Tech Searches on the Border

Court decisions have decimated Fourth Amendment protections for people on the edges of the country.

Sen. Ron WydenJohn Rudoff/Polaris/NewscomHey, it's another "This was happening under President Barack Obama, but now everybody's freaking out about it," story. In this case, it's been established for years now by court decisions that American citizens do not have the full protection of the Fourth Amendment within 100 miles of the country's borders. Officials have for a long time, on the basis of border security, been permitted wide latitude to search travelers without warrants, even if they're United States citizens.

President Donald Trump's ascendance and a new, stronger push to control border access has increased attention to this gap in our Fourth Amendment protections. A story about an attempt by the Department of Homeland Security to force a Wall Street Journal reporter to hand over her phone when disembarking from a flight got some attention on social media recently. But the story actually dates back to last July under President Barack Obama, and there was a fivefold increase in the number of border searches taking place in the year before Trump took office.

But Trump's intentions to scale back immigration into the United States has drawn more attention to this abandonment of our privacy protections. Immigration officials also may be pressing to require visa applicants to hand over passwords to social media accounts so that the content may be examined. While these targets are not American citizens, we should always be concerned and extremely aware that any authorities granted to snoop on foreign targets end up eventually being used on Americans. See also: Stingray devices, fusion centers, and most of what Edward Snowden revealed.

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) has sent a letter to John Kelly, the secretary of Homeland Security, to express his concerns about Border Patrol officers attempting to get access to citizens' devices without warrants. He says he plans to introduce legislation to add some restraints to what border authorities may do:

There are well-established legal rules governing how law enforcement agencies may obtain data from social media companies and email providers. The process typically requires that the government obtain a search warrant or other court order, and then ask the service provider to turn over the user's data. If the request is overbroad, the company may seek to have the order narrowed. By requesting a traveler's credentials and then directly accessing their data, CBP would be short-circuiting the vital checks and balances that exist in our current system.

In addition to violating the privacy and civil liberties of travelers, these digital dragnet border search practices weaken our national and economic security. Indiscriminate digital searches distract CBP from its core mission and needlessly divert agency resources away from those who truly threaten our nation. Likewise, if businesses fear that their data can be seized when employees cross the border, they may reduce non-essential employee international travel, or deploy technical countermeasures, like "burner" laptops and mobile devices, which some firms already use when employees visit nations like China.

I intend to introduce legislation shortly that will guarantee that the Fourth Amendment is respected at the border by requiring law enforcement agencies to obtain a warrant before searching devices, and prohibiting the practice of forcing travelers to reveal their online account passwords.

Whether such legislation gets anywhere at all is heavily dependent on whether Senate Republicans are willing to put themselves out there to publicly vote for restraining the executive branch's surveillance authorities. We know that Republicans in the House are willing to do so. Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) is introducing legislation to try to restrain the widespread use of cell tower simulators by law enforcement to engage in warrantless phone surveillance. And proposed legislation to force authorities to get warrants to citizens' old private emails has overwhelming bipartisan support in the House. But it hasn't been able to get through the Senate.

It's very clear that any new efforts to close any loopholes that allow law enforcement and border officials to ignore the Fourth Amendment are dependent on whether the Senate is willing to buy into it. The House—with the assistance of filibustering senators like Rand Paul and Wyden—essentially forced the Senate to accept some reform to federal surveillance authorities that the Senate Republican leadership really didn't want (though Paul actually voted against the reforms because they didn't go far enough). And this was under the Obama administration that had (after they had meddled with it to weaken it) given the reforms a thumb's up. There's been very little suggestion that the Trump administration would accept any effort to limit the authority of federal law enforcement and the Border Patrol to snoop on people's information.

There is a caucus of representatives who support improvements to citizens' rights to privacy under the Fourth Amendment. And I'll be leading a panel discussion about what they might be able to accomplish under this administration (if anything!) at the South by Southwest Interactive (SXSW) conference in March. Details here. Yes, you can expect reminders about this panel for the next few weeks every time I blog about Fourth Amendment and surveillance issues.

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Conservatives Are Finally Feeling Screwed by Milo

That it took them so long to see he is a false anti-PC messiah shows their moral bankruptcy

So what did it take to puncture conservative bravado about feting and fawning over Breitbart shock jock Milo Yiannopoulos? His constant race baiting? No. His Milo YiannopoulosLeWeb14 via / CC BYmisogyny? No. Apparently, his defense of pedophilia—pederasty, to be exact, because evidently even this nihilist makes a distinction between sex with pre-pubescent and post-pubescent boys.

CPAC cancelled its invite to Milo to speak at its annual conference this week after tapes surfaced in which Milo claimed that "sex between 13-year-olds and older men can be 'life affirming.'" Socrates might have agreed with him but this was too much for CPAC and Simon & Schuster that also cancelled his book deal. But Berkley College Republicans so far at least are still vowing to invite him back (along with right-wing conspiracy theorist Alex Jones) to deliver his previous speech that got aborted when far-left radicals declared war on the campus.

The radicals were nihilists in their own right, but if Republicans have a right to invite Milo, others have a right to judge them.

And what these invitations say about Republicans is not that they are some brave anti-PC warriors scoring one for free speech, I note in my column at The Week—but that they are fools who are declaring their moral bankruptcy by allying themselves with the equivalent of the Joker from Batman.

Go here to read the whole thing.

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CPAC Organizer Tries To Pawn Off Milo Yiannopoulos as "Libertarian"

Yeah, not so much.

Breitbart.comBreitbart.comWhat do you do when you're Matt Schlapp, the guy heading up the American Conservative Union, which runs the annual Conservative Political Action Conference (emphasis added), and it turns our your biggest draw to this year's event defends pedophilia? Well, first you disinvite him and then you bluster your way through an excrutiatingly painful few minutes on Morning Joe before trying to pawn Milo Yiannopoulos off as a libertarian:

"He doesn't call himself conservative. He calls himself more of a libertarian.... Some libertarians would deny that he's a libertarian."

On that much, we agree. Most libertarians I know wouldn't claim Milo as one of our own. You know who else says Milo isn't a libertarian? Well, Milo himself, it turns out:

"Libertarians are children. Libertarians are people who have given up looking for an answer. This whole 'everybody do what they want' is code for 'leave me to do what I want.' It's selfish and childish. It's an admission that you have given up trying to work out what a good society would look like, how the world should be ordered and instead just retreated back into selfishness. That's why they're so obsessed with weed, Bitcoin, and hacking."

Read more about that here and here.

Milo's critique of libertarianism is not so strong, is it? As it happens, the policy work being done by folks at Reason Foundation (the nonprofit that publishes this website) is revolutionizing K-12 education, public-sector pensions, transportation infrastructure, and more. Same goes for ideological compadres at the Cato Institute and elsewhere. To the extent that there's a principled opposition to really dumb military interventions, runaway spending, and conservative-approved idiocies such as a border wall and trade protectionism, well, it's not conservatives pushing it. And none of that is to deny one bit that drug policy, criminal justice reform, crypto-currencies, and forced transparency of government overreach are in any way about "selfishness."

What does it say about the modern conservative movement that CPAC was so desperate to get Milo on its stage in the first place? Nothing good. He's outrageous (not really "dangerous" in any meaningful sense of the word) and he is fully capable of bringing out the worst elements of the idiot-progressive left. But does he have anything to say when he's actually allowed to speak? Derp, not really. Schlapp can say that ACU wants to teach the controversy and all that, but the fact of the matter is that as an intellectual force and a serious place for discussion about policy, CPAC has been more watered-down than the beer at Delta House for a very long time. It's a good sign that someone with the last name Paul won five of the last seven presidential straw polls, but conservatives and Republicans have almost completely squandered their power and influence throughout the 21st century. When George W. Bush and the GOP ran the federal government, they busted the budget in a way that would embarrass drunken sailors the world over. When Obama was in power, they did virtually nothing to demand actual budgets or restrain executive power, and they're still pretending that they are an alternative health-insurance plan. They nominated and elected Donald Trump for president and it's surprising that CPAC invited/disinvited a flyweight trash talker to their big shindig? It's almost as if they didn't kick out the gays a couple of years ago or that Newt Gingrich doesn't show up every year and talk about the need for flag-burning amendments and English-only laws.

It's never easy for a movement founded on the cry of standing athwart history, yelling Stop to move forward, but this is simply ridiculous.

Here's Matt Schlapp on Morning Joe:

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Trump Eyes Libertarian-Minded Texas Judge for Federal Court Vacancy

The Trump administration has two openings to fill on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit.

There are currently two vacancies on the New Orleans-based U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit, the federal appellate court whose jurisdiction covers federal districts in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas. According to a recent report published in Legal Times, the Trump administration is moving quickly to fill those vacancies and is now considering a shortlist of six candidates for the two jobs. What names are on the list? Here's Legal Times:

According to four people who are familiar with the process but who declined to be named, the candidates being considered include: Texas Supreme Court Justice Don Willett; U.S. District Court Judge Reed O'Connor of Fort Worth; former Texas solicitor general James Ho; Andy Oldham, a deputy general counsel to Gov. Greg Abbott; Michael Massengale, a justice on Houston's First Court of Appeals, and Brett Busby, a justice on Houston's Fourteenth Court of Appeals.

Two names on this list jump right out at me.

Texas Supreme CourtTexas Supreme CourtThe first is Texas Supreme Court Justice Don Willett, a rising star in conservative and libertarian legal circles who also appeared on Trump's recent list of potential U.S. Supreme Court nominees.

Willett is best-known for his concurring opinion in the 2015 case of Patel v. Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation. At issue was whether state officials had a legitimate health or safety reason to require eyebrow threaders to obtain an occupational license before they could lawfully charge customers for the act of threading a piece of cotton string through their eyebrows in order to remove old hair and skin. The Texas Supreme Court laughed away the state's ostensible justifications and struck down the regulation.

Willett joined the majority opinion but also wrote separately in order to emphasize the broader issues at stake. His 49-page concurrence is effectively a call to judicial arms in defense of economic liberty. "This case is fundamentally about the American Dream and the unalienable human right to pursue happiness without curtsying to government on bended knee," he wrote. "It is about whether government can connive with rent-seeking factions to ration liberty unrestrained, and whether judges must submissively uphold even the most risible encroachments." I should also note that Willett's Patel opinion favorably cited my book Overruled: The Long War for Control of the U.S. Supreme Court.

If successfully appointed to the 5th Circuit, Willett would immediately rank as one of the most libertarian-minded federal judges in the country.

The second name on the 5th Circuit shortlist that jumps out at me is former Texas solicitor general James Ho. A former clerk to Justice Clarence Thomas, Ho is perhaps best known in legal circles for a 2006 law review article defending the constitutionality of birthright citizenship for the U.S.-born children of undocumented immigrant parents. "Birthright citizenship is guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment," Ho wrote. "That birthright is protected no less for children of undocumented persons than for descendants of Mayflower passengers."

Notably, Ho's position here is directly at odds with the stated views of Donald Trump. In an August 2015 immigration white paper, for example, presidential candidate Trump vowed to "end birthright citizenship," calling it the "biggest magnet for illegal immigration." In an interview with Fox News host Bill O'Reilly, Trump said, "I don't think they have American citizenship," referring to the U.S.-born children of undocumented parents. "It's not going to hold up in court, it's going to have to be tested."

Here's an amusing thought experiment: Trump tries to test his theory of birthright citizenship in the 5th Circuit and ends up in the courtroom of Trump-appointee Judge James Ho. How does Trump respond after Judge Ho rules decisively against him?

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Help Choose "The 50 Most Influential Libertarians" at FreedomFest with William Shatner This July!

Survey asks for picks from politics, business, media, and more. Participate and get $100 off FreedomFest registration.

FreedomFestFreedomFestThe 10th year of FreedomFest, the world's largest annual gathering of libertarian and free-market thinkers, activists, and policymakers takes place in Las Vegas between July 19 to July 22 at Bally's Paris resort.

Confirmed speakers include William Shatner talking about space exploration and the cultural staying power of Star Trek and newscasting legend John Stossel and there will be a celebration of the life and ideas of Steve Forbes, longtime FreedomFest "co-ambassador." There will also be a slate of special "Reason Day" sessions that deliver cutting-edge views on "Free Minds and Free Markets."

To add to the excitement, FreedomFest impresario Mark Skousen has teamed up with Newsmax magazine to produce a list of "the 50 Most Influential Libertarians" in each of eight different categories such as business and finance, entertainment and the news, freedom-movement organizations, media, politics, and academia.

Among the Reasoners in the hunt are Ronald Bailey, Brian Doherty, and Virginia Postrel (authors); John Stossel, Matt Welch, and myself (media); and Katherine Mangu-Ward, David Nott, and Robert W. Poole (think tanks and educational institutions).

You can vote for up to five candidates in each category and the survey is open until March 15.

Go here now to cast your ballot and get $100 off your FreedomFest registration fee.

Over the past years, Reason TV has interviewed dozens of libertarians ranging from P.J. O'Rourke to Penn Jillette to John Mackey to Crossfit creator Greg Glassman to LP presidential ticket Gary Johnson and Bill Weld. Go here for a complete list.

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Trump Is Not an Anti-Semite. He Is Just a Jerk.

Ivanka Trump, unlike her father, understands that sympathy, not hostility, is the right response to people worried by anti-Jewish bomb threats.

C-SPANC-SPANYesterday Ivanka Trump responded to the latest spate of phony bomb threats to Jewish institutions across the country by calling for religious tolerance. "America is a nation built on the principle of religious tolerance," the president's daughter, who converted to Judaism before marrying Jared Kushner in 2009, said on Twitter. "We must protect our houses of worship & religious centers."

Jake Turx, White House correspondent for Ami magazine, seemed to be looking for just that sort of anodyne assurance when he tried to ask Ivanka's father a question at his press conference last Thursday. Trump called on Turx, an Orthodox Jew who wears a black suit and a large black kippah embroidered with his Twitter handle, after announcing, "I want to find a friendly reporter." He asked Turx, "Are you a friendly reporter?" After replying, "I am friendly," Turx introduced his question by telling the president that "despite what some of my colleagues may have been reporting, I haven't seen anybody in my community accuse either yourself or...anyone on your staff of being anti-Semitic." He even added, "We understand you have Jewish grandchildren; you are their zayde." Although Trump thanked him for that stipulation, he was so outraged by the subject of Turx's question that he would not let him finish:

Turx: What we haven't really heard be addressed is an uptick in anti-Semitism and how the government is planning to take care of it. There have been reports out that 48 bomb threats have been made against Jewish centers all across the country in the last couple of weeks. There are people who are committing anti-Semitic acts or threatening to—

Trump: You see, he said he was going to ask a very simple, easy question. And it's not. It's not. Not a simple question, not a fair question. OK, sit down. I understand the rest of your question.

So here's the story, folks. Number one, I am the least anti-Semitic person that you've ever seen in your entire life. Number two, racism—the least racist person. In fact, we did very well relative to other people running as a Republican.

Turx: [Inaudible objection.]

Trump: Quiet, quiet, quiet. See, he lied about—he was going to get up and ask a very straight, simple question. So you know, welcome to the world of the media. But let me just tell you something—that I hate the charge. I find it repulsive. I hate even the question because people that know me—and you heard the prime minister, you heard Netanyahu yesterday—did you hear him, Bibi? He said, I've known Donald Trump for a long time, and then he said, forget it. So you should take that, instead of having to get up and ask a very insulting question like that....It just shows you about the press, but that's the way the press is.

As Turx observed on Twitter, "President Trump clearly misunderstood my question." But the way he misunderstood it was telling. Even though Turx explicitly assured Trump he was not accusing him of anti-Semitism, the president interpreted his question as an accusation of anti-Semitism, which shows he was not paying attention and suggests he leaps at any opportunity to present himself as unfairly maligned (which he did through much of the press conference). The episode very clearly showed how Trump bullies people while claiming to be the victim, mirroring the left-wing critics whose political correctness he mocks.

"It was a very disheartening moment for us, to watch him being berated," Turx's editor, Rabbi Yitzchok Frankfurter, told The New York Times. I'm not sure what a president is supposed to do about anti-Semitic incidents like those Turx cited, beyond condemning them and perhaps saying the FBI is ready to assist local law enforcement agencies insofar as there is evidence of interstate coordination. Trump could easily have uttered some soothing words if he had not been so wrapped up in his own persecution complex that he literally could not hear what Turx, a bona fide "friendly reporter," was saying. Trump's egregious mishandling of the situation does not show he is an anti-Semite; it just shows he is a jerk, which we have known for quite some time now.

Update: After visiting National Museum of African American History and Culture today, Trump said what he should have said on Thursday: "The anti-Semitic threats targeting our Jewish community and community centers are horrible and are painful and a very sad reminder of the work that still must be done to root out hate and prejudice and evil."


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