Free Minds & Free Markets

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Let’s Dump Terrible, Protectionist State Liquor Laws: New at Reason

South Carolina rejects a bad regulation. Can this become a trend?

Liquor storeViorel DudauAlcohol regulations in this country could improve dramatically if more state courts would reject bald economic protectionism as a valid basis for lawmaking. That's the conclusion of a new study published last week by the R Street Institute, a free-market think tank in Washington, D.C.

The new study, Could Economic Liberty Litigation 'Free the Booze'?, uses the hook of a recent South Carolina court case to suggest—hopefully—that we may be seeing the dawn of a new period of much-needed state alcohol deregulation.

The lawsuit in question concerned section 61-6-140 of South Carolina's Alcohol Beverage Control Act, which stated that "[n]o more than three retail dealer licenses may be issued to one licensee[.]" The case involved national alcohol beverage superstore Total Wine, which owns three locations in South Carolina but was rebuffed by the state in its efforts to open a fourth. Total Wine sued to overturn the South Carolina law.

The state, the court found, "offer[ed] economic protectionism as the sole justification of this extreme business regulation." The court determined the state's "only justification for these provisions is that they support small businesses." Food policy expert Baylen Linnekin explains more.

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Sen. Dean Heller Comes Out Against Obamacare Repeal Bill, E.U. and Japan Inch Closer to Trade Deal, and Johnny Depp Apologizes For Trump Assassination Joke: P.M. Links

  • Actor Johnny Depp (left)Ricky Brigante/FlickrWhile the United States continues down its protectionist path, other areas of the world are gaining a bit more trade freedom. Japan and the European Union are reportedly nearing a trade deal that would rollback restrictions on food and automobile imports.
  • Johnny Depp issued an apology for joking about assassinating President Donald Trump during a screening of his 2004 film The Libertine at England's Glastonbury Festival. "When was the last time an actor assassinated a president?" he had asked the crowd, a reference to the assassination of Abraham Lincoln.
  • More and more Republican senators are coming out against the Senate version of Obamacare repeal. The latest is Sen. Dean Heller of Nevada, who said in a press conference that he could not support the bill in its current form. Five Republican senators are now opposed to the bill, including Heller, which would be enough to kill its chances. Read Reason's coverage on why that would be a good thing.
  • The Arab states of Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the UAE, and Bahrain have presented a list of demands to Qatar which the country must satisfy to restore normalized diplomatic relations. They include shutting down its state-funded Al Jazeera news network, cutting ties with Iran, and halting the construction of a Turkish military base in its territory.
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How the CIA Turned Us onto LSD and Heroin: Secrets of America's War on Drugs

New History Channel series explores the dark corners of prohibition and takes viewers on great, freaky trip.

America's War on Drugs, History ChannelAmerica's War on Drugs, History Channel"There's a huge story to be told," says Anthony Lappé, "about the actual extent of the U.S. government's involvement in drug trafficking."

And that's exactly the story Lappé and his co-producers Julian Hobbs and Elli Hakami tell in a mesmerizing four-part series that debuted this week on cable TV's History Channel. Through dramatic recreations and in-depth interviews with academic researchers, historians, journalists, former federal agents, and drug dealers, America's War on Drugs (watch full episodes online here) tells true tales of how, for instance, the CIA and Department of Defense helped to introduce LSD to Americans in the 1950s.

"The CIA literally sent over two guys to Sandoz Laboratories where LSD had first been synthesized and bought up the world's supply of LSD and brought it back," Lappé tells Nick Gillespie in a wide-ranging conversation about the longest war the U.S. government has fought. "With that supply they began a [secret mind-control] program called MK Ultra which had all sorts of other drugs involved."

The different episodes cover the history of drug prohibition, the rise of the '60s drug counterculture; heroin epidemics past and present; how drug policy has warped U.S. foreign policy in Southeast Asia, Central America, Afghanistan, and beyond; the bipartisan politics of prohibition; and much more. America's War on Drugs features exclusive and rarely seen footage and documents how, time and time again, the government was often facilitating trade and use in the very drugs it was trying to stamp out. The show's website adds articles, short videos, and more information in an attempt to produce an "immersive experience" that will change how viewers think and feel about prohibition.

Lappé, who has worked at Vice, Huffington Post, and elsewhere, tells Gillespie that he is particulary excited to see his series air on the History Channel because it's an indicator the drug-policy reform is in the air. Though not a libertarian himself, he says "a great trait of that knowledge and reason will eventually win out over keeping things in the dark, making things taboo." Even when it veers off into questionable territory (such as the role of the government in creating the crack epidemic of the 1980s), America's War on Drugs performs the invaluable function of furthering a conversation about drug policies and attitudes that have caused far more harm than they have alleviated.

Audio production by Ian Keyser.

Image: America's War on Drugs, History Channel.

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This is a rush transcript—check all quotes against the audio for accuracy.

Nick Gillespie: Hi I'm Nick Gillespie and this is the Reason podcast. Please subscribe to us at iTunes and rate and review us while you're there.

Today we're talking with Anthony Lappe who along with Julian Hobbs and Elli Hakami has produced a four part docuseries called America's War on Drugs for the History Channel. You can go to to watch the series and read more about our country's longest war. The series aired this week and it will be in reruns on History Channel, so check it out there.

Anthony, thanks for joining the Reason podcast.

Anthony Lappe: It's great to be here Nick.

Gillespie: Give us the big picture first. Who's your audience for this and what do you hope to bring to people through the docuseries?

Lappe: The exciting thing about this project really is the fact that it's on the History Channel. I honestly didn't believe it was actually going to air until it started airing on Sunday night and I was sitting there watching it because what we do here is actually pretty radical. I don't think anyone has ever really told this story fully on mainstream cable television before. We take a very critical look at the entire history of the war on drugs. In particular, looking at American foreign policy and how the Central Intelligence Agency is not just been involved in a couple of bad apples here and there. In couple rogue operations as a lot of these drug trafficking allegations have been called before.

But actually very directly involved in drug trafficking not only drug trafficking but in the largest drug trafficking stories of our time. Whether that's in the secret tests that introduced LSD to the United States or heroin during the late 60's and early 70's from southeast Asia, to cocaine during the late 70's and early 80's onto opium and heroin coming out of Afghanistan. There's a huge story to be told there about the actual extent of the US government's involvement in drug trafficking.

Gillespie: Let's talk first about the old days of MK Ultra and mind control and the way that the CIA actually helped introduce LSD evolved drugs into America, to American minds. What was going on in the 50's with the CIA and how did they become involved in introducing LSD to Americans?

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Religious Objections to LGBT Issues in Mississippi Back in Play—for Now

Rather than advancing liberty, the controversial law establishes state-recognized beliefs.

Wedding cakeIvonne WierinkA controversial, religion-based LGBT law in Mississippi can't be blocked based solely on fears that discrimination will follow, a federal panel of judges ruled this week.

On the surface, Mississippi's HB 1523, passed last year, appears to be "religious freedom" legislation intended to protect Christian conservatives from state punishment for making decisions like declining to sell wedding cakes to gay couples.

What the law actually does is more complex, anti-libertarian and clearly unconstitutional.

The law grants special protections by the state for three particular religious beliefs. They are:

  • Marriage is or should be recognized as only being between a man and a woman.
  • Sexual relations are properly reserved to such a marriage.
  • Male (man) or female (woman) refer to an individual's immutable biological sex as objectively determined by anatomy and genetics at time of birth.

The law grants people who have only those beliefs various protections under the law. Religious organizations cannot be accused of discrimination on the basis of making decisions in accordance with the protected beliefs. The state cannot discriminate against families who want to adopt or foster children because they share those protected beliefs.

The state cannot punish doctors or therapists who refuse to provide services that would violate those beliefs (meaning a doctor couldn't refuse to treat people simply because they're gay or transgender but could refuse to provide therapy or treatment to help facilitate a sex change).

The state couldn't punish businesses for refusing to serve people in accordance with those beliefs or interfere with schools and businesses setting their own policies of how (or if) to accommodate transgender people. The state wouldn't even be able to punish government employees who refuse to hand out same-sex marriage licenses, but only if it's because of their religious beliefs.

To be very clear, this is not some form of Religious Freedom Restoration Act allowing people general but limited exceptions to following laws because of religious beliefs. This is a law that determines only these three beliefs get special protection. The law is in clear violation of the Establishment Clause, which prohibits the government from showing a preference for any particular religious belief. It is blatantly unconstitutional.

Objecting to the law, a group of plaintiffs filed suit, and a lower court put an injunction in place to keep it from implementation.

The U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals panel did not make a decision about the constitutionality of the law in any way. Instead, the three judges ruled unanimously that the plaintiffs lacked standing at this point to oppose the law. There is no case yet seeking relief from the courts. The ruling notes that in order for the judges to grant standing, it's not enough to argue that the law violates the Establishment Clause—"[the plaintiffs] must allege a personal violation of rights."

The panel's decision should not be taken as a determination that the law is constitutional or valid. Assuming the law actually gets implemented, it probably won't be long before somebody will be able to prove the law has affected them.

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Documentary on Gawker/Hulk Hogan Case Focuses on Wrong Issues: New at Reason

This is not the defense the free press needs.

Hulk HoganScott Keeler/ZUMA Press/NewscomTelevision critic Glenn Garvin does not think Netflix documentary Nobody Speak: Trials of the Free Press succeeds in making viewers feel for the fate of Gawker after it published the private sex tape starring Hulk Hogan:

The case that's the subject of Nobody Speak is possibly the most fascinating and least significant in the three-century history of media litigation. It's full of depraved sex, villainous intrigue, and lurid betrayals. But its ultimate contribution to legal canon was not exactly epic. As longtime media lawyer Charles Glasser (an interview of whom would have been a welcome addition to Nobody Speak) wrote after the verdict, the case's lesson was simple: "Don't publish secretly-made sex tapes."

The story begins in 2012, when celebrity wrestler Hogan (nom de real life: Terry Bollea) got an unusual gesture of friendship from his best pal, radio shock-jock Bubba the Love Sponge: Hey, wanna sleep with my wife? Hogan knew this was a frequent recreational activity of Bubba (nom de non-perv world: Todd Alan Clem) and the busty Mrs. Sponge and had previously declined to participate But this time, down on his luck—and wallet—after a series of business reverses and an expensive divorce, he agreed.

What Hogan didn't know was that the Sponges routinely and secretly taped these marital guest appearances. (After the case blew up, Bubba claimed Hogan knew all about the taping, but he wouldn't repeat it under oath during the trial.) That might not have mattered except that a copy of the recording, apparently stolen by one of Bubba's employees, found its way into the hands of the scabby gossip website Gawker.

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Supreme Court Deals Blow to Property Rights

Chief Justice Roberts: “Today’s decision knocks the definition of ‘private property’ loose from its foundation.”

Olivier Douliery - Pool via CNP/NewscomOlivier Douliery - Pool via CNP/NewscomWhen governments issue regulations that undermine the value of property, bureaucrats don't necessarily have to compensate property holders, the Supreme Court ruled Friday.

The court voted 5-3, in Murr V. Wisconsin, a closely watched Fifth Amendment property rights case. The case arose from a dispute over two tiny parcels of land along the St. Croix River in western Wisconsin and morphed into a major property rights case that drew several western states into the debate before the court.

Chief Justice John Roberts, in a scathing dissent, wrote that ruling was a significant blow for property rights and would give greater power to government bureaucrats to pass rules that diminish the value of property without having to compensate property owners under the Firth Amendment's Takings Clause.

"Put simply, today's decision knocks the definition of 'private property' loose from its foundation on stable state law rules," Roberts wrote. The ruling "compromises the Takings Clause as a barrier between individuals and the press of the public interest."

Donna Murr, in a statement provided by the Pacific Legal Foundation, the libertarian law firm that represented the family in the case, said her family was disappointed by the result.

"It is our hope that property owners across the country will learn from our experience and not take their property rights for granted," Murr said. "Although the outcome was not what we had hoped for, we believe our case will demonstrate the importance of taking a stand and protecting property rights through the court system when necessary."

In 2004, Murr and her siblings sought to sell one of two parcels of land that had been in the family for decades. Murr's parents bought the land in the 1960s, built a cabin on one parcel, and left the other parcel undeveloped as a long-term investment.

The family attempted to sell the vacant parcel to pay for renovations to the cabin, but were prevented from doing so by regulations restricting the use of land along rivers like the St. Croix approved by the state in the 1980s, long after the purchase of both lots.

Those regulations effectively gutted the value of the Murrs' property. The property was appraised at $400,000 before the Murrs tried to sell it. When the family came to the county, now the only eligible buyer, the county offered $40,000.

The Murrs filed a lawsuit against the state and county, arguing that they should be compensated for the lost value of the property, arguing the Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution guarantees governments must compensate property owners when land is seized or otherwise made un-useful for public purposes.

To avoid liability in the case, the state and county told the Murrs they could combine the two parcels of land for regulatory purposes. This meant that even though the two pieces of land were separate and the Murr family paid taxes on them separately, the family would be unable to make a takings claim for one of the two parcels.

In short, they could sell both lots together, but not one or the other.

Lower courts agreed with the government interpretation and the Supreme Court on Friday upheld the court rulings.

"Treating the lot in question as a single parcel is legitimate for purposes of this takings inquiry, and this supports the conclusion that no regulatory taking occurred here," Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote in the majority opinion. "They have not been deprived of all economically beneficial use of their property."

Justices Stephen Breyer, Elena Kagan, Ruth Bader Ginsberg, and Sonia Sotomayor joined Kennedy in the majority opinion, while conservative justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito joined Chief Justice John Roberts' dissent. The Supreme Court's newest member, Justice Neil Gorsuch, did not participate in the case.

The ruling could have implications that go well beyond the 2.5 acres of land in Wisconsin.

Several western states filed amicus briefs in the case on behalf of the Murr family (as did the Reason Foundation, which publishes this blog). Though states like Nevada and Arizona did not have a direct interest in the Murrs' ability to sell their vacant land, they saw the case as having important implications for conflicts over federal lands.

Many state governments own contiguous lots and large bodies of water near areas owned by the federal government (military bases, national parks, etc). If those government bodies are allowed to merge contiguous lots for regulatory purposes, the federal government could impose severe restrictions on state land and wouldn't have to pay consequences, warned Ilya Somin, a professor of law at George Mason University who authored the amicus brief on behalf of those western states.

Writing Friday at The Washington Post about the ruling, Somin said it is "likely to create confusion and uncertainty going forward."

"In at least some cases, today's indeed ruling allows the government to avoid compensating property owners for the taking of their land, merely because they also own the lot next door," he writes. "But the vague nature of the test established by the Court makes it very hard to figure out exactly when that might happen."

With Friday being the 12th anniversary of the infamous decision in Kelo v. New London (in which the Supreme Court upheld an objectionable use of eminent domain), Somin jokes that maybe property rights advocates should hope the court doesn't release any more rulings on June 23.

Roberts, in his dissenting opinion, stressed that the court's ruling in Murr could allow for "ad hoc, case-specific consideration" of takings claims, thus undermining constitutional protections that should be consistent and predictable for property owners. Meaning more leeway for governments to do what Wisconsin did to the Murrs.

"The result is that the government's goals shape the playing field," Roberts wrote, "even before the contest over whether the challenged regulation goes 'too far' even gets underway."

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Rural Senators and Private Jet Operators Threaten Air Traffic Control Reform

The Senate apparently wants to leave the current out-dated, needlessly expensive FAA system in place.

ATC TowerDan Marsh/FlickrA bi-partisan group of senators is attempting to scuttle reform with a Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization bill that leaves the agency in charge of America's costly and outdated air traffic control system.

Much of the blame for this quick retreat rests with the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA)—which represents the business jet operators who benefit immensely from the current broken system—and its well-funded effort to lobby rural lawmakers, Bob Poole, Director of Transportation Policy at the Reason Foundation (the non-profit that publishes this website) says.

The NBAA has spent $750,000 on lobbying, hiring three different lobbying firms in the first quarter of 2017 alone to make their case directly to Congress.

Business jet operators, are getting "a pretty sweet deal," Poole says. "[They] pay a tiny fuel tax that amounts to…one percent of the total aviation tax revenue that goes to FAA," while using up to 15 percent of air traffic control services.

The NBAA has also covertly mobilized rural mayors and pressured rural senators to block changes to the current system with front groups like the Association for Aviation Across America (AAAA), Poole says. Among them is Sen. John Thune, (R-S.D.), chairman of the Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, who said there was not sufficient support in his committee to privatize air traffic control.

In numerous policy briefs and open letters, the AAAA (chaired by NBAA president Ed Bolen) has peddled the claim that air traffic control reform would decimate rural air service by empowering big airlines to spend resources at only the most profitable urban hubs.

The House version of FAA reauthorization (which includes air traffic control reform), however, requires air traffic control service to be maintained for rural airports, Poole says. The House bill also gives smaller regional airlines who service those rural airports the same voting power in its proposed independent air traffic control corporation as larger commercial airlines.

By keeping the FAA in charge of operations, these senators are leaving in place a bad model "that every other civilized country has eliminated by separating air traffic control from safety regulation," Poole says.

Poole has since the 1970s advocated, in the pages of Reason and on Capitol Hill, spinning off air traffic control into an independent, non-profit corporation managed by industry stakeholders and funded by user fees, not tax dollars.

About 60 countries have already adopted this model. In early June President Trump kicked off his "Infrastructure Week" throwing his support behind air traffic control reform. That was followed up by a House FAA reauthorization bill which closely follows Poole's model for reform.

Even people responsible for running the air traffic control system have gotten behind the idea.

"Five or six former Secretaries of Transportation and the current one, Elaine Chao, all support this. All three of the people who have been in charge of running the FAA's Air Traffic Organization…say we've got to do this," says Poole.

Poole also mentions the example of NavCanada, Canada's privatized air traffic control system, whose charter requires it to service numerous airports in vast rural north of the country. Canada's private air traffic control system has also been able to adopt new and safer technology far quicker than the FAA.

Air traffic control reform might still survive the Senate, Poole says. The House version of the bill has the support of several Democrats on the Transportation Committee, as well Republican Rep. Sam Graves of Missouri, who had previously been opposed to the idea.

Only a system independent of FAA management and congressional appropriation can bring U.S. air traffic control into the 21st century, Poole says.

"You can't run this thing as a high-tech business, which it's supposed to be," he says, "under the constraints of government budgets and congressional micromanagement."

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Rep. Thomas Massie: ‘Obamacare 1.1’ Will ‘Cause a Quicker Death Spiral’

Libertarian-leaning congressman slams the Better Care Reconciliation Act on Kennedy

Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Kentucky), the self-described Tea Party libertarian who is so cantankerous that he won't even join the House Freedom Caucus despite sharing many of its views, was always one of the most outspoken opponents to the Freedom Caucus-approved American Health Care Act (AHCA). After that bill first failed the House, Massie warned in an interview with me that "We don't really have 218 conservatives here [who] meant what they said when they said they wanted to repeal Obamacare." And just before his Freedom Caucus pals wilted under glare of President Donald Trump, the congressman snarked: "The AHCA is like a kidney stone—the House doesn't care what happens to it, as long as they can pass it."

So what does Massie think about the new Senate attempt to modify the Affordable Care Act? Not much. Our pal Kennedy had the congressman on the show last night, and he dubbed the Better Care Reconciliation Act as "Obamacare 1.1," warning that it may "cause a quicker death spiral." He then added more fuel to the Hot Potato Theory of the Republican Party's motivation for rushing through a bad and unpopular bill: "At some point I realized they didn't care what happened to the House bill as long as they could get it out of the House," Massie said. "The Senate probably just wants to get it out of the Senate." Whole segment here:

Re-read Peter Suderman's critical analysis of Obamacare Lite.

California Lawmakers Spend More, Avoid Reform: New at Reason

Phil Konstantin/flickrPhil Konstantin/flickrThe latest budget has new spending but no attempts at serious reform.

Steven Greenhut writes:

Legislators in California announced a budget deal last week that spends a record $125 billion in the general fund. But most interesting isn't what's in the deal, but what isn't.

There's plenty of new spending, of course, but not so much that it outpaces the rate of inflation. There are controversial "trailer" bills that attempt to change the rules in an ongoing recall election and take away power from elected members of the Board of Equalization, the state's tax board. Missing are any attempts at serious reform of existing government programs or ways to stretch the already hefty tax dollars Californians send to Sacramento.

The budget's authors talk quite a lot about funding important priorities, especially the public-education programs that consume an awe-inspiring 43 percent of the general fund. Yet Gov. Jerry Brown (D) and the Democrat-dominated Legislature refuse to confront the main reason such programs typically are so costly and ineffective: public-sector unions.

These unions are so powerful that they stifle cost-saving reforms in every conceivable area of government – from the prison system to policing to transportation programs to the public school and college systems. Union work rules don't allow for experimentation and creativity, or even the firing of poorly performing employees. The state is thus left with just one approach: throwing more money at the problem.

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Supporting Laws Banning Hate Speech Means Supporting Police Raids on People’s Homes

Germany violently enforces the law by busting into dozens of households to prevent a "climate of fear".

SWAT teamMartin BrayleyIf you hate the way police in the United States abuse, threaten, and sometimes kill citizens during routine law enforcement, and you also oppose hate speech and want the government to ban it, take note of how Germany enforces its hate speech laws: They send police to raid people's homes and arrest them.

This week German police, in a coordinated effort, raided the homes of 36 people accused of violating the country's hate speech laws. From The New York Times:

Most of the raids concerned politically motivated right-wing incitement, according to the Federal Criminal Police Office, whose officers conducted home searches and interrogations. But the raids also targeted two people accused of left-wing extremist content, as well as one person accused of making threats or harassment based on someone's sexual orientation.

"The still high incidence of punishable hate posting shows a need for police action," Holger Münch, president of the Federal Criminal Police Office, said in a statement. "Our free society must not allow a climate of fear, threat, criminal violence and violence either on the street or on the internet."

Nothing helps prevent a "climate of fear" like police officers busting into dozens of people's homes because they said things the government has outlawed, am I right, folks?

Americans who want to create an exception that "hate speech" not be protected by the First Amendment often point to Europe and insist countries with such speech bans are no less free for it.

On the theory alone, they're wrong. Prohibiting offensive messages is an imposition on freedom, regardless of whether one favors the laws. You are inherently less free when you face criminal penalties for saying certain things.

In practice, we see the obvious truth of hate speech law enforcement: gangs of police officers breaking into people's homes and charging them with crimes. In the context of America's struggles to hold police officers accountable for violent or reckless misconduct, the enforcement of hate speech laws in America would get people killed.

And if people think the victims will be those alt-right folks, they're just not paying attention. It's undoubtedly going to be some minority teen who recklessly tweets "Kill Whitey" in response to some news item of the day.

Yesterday we noted the government's tendency to unfairly apply speech regulations to benefit the powerful over the disenfranchised is a great reason not to give government power to determine hate speech. We have plenty of other examples showing how hate speech laws would actually play out in the hands of our government.

Several years ago the mayor of Peoria arranged for the police to raid the home of a man who made a Twitter account parodying him. After news of the raid went viral, the mayor showed absolutely no remorse for the absurd reason behind it and insisted he was the one who had his freedom of speech trampled.

Politicians would like nothing better than to possess the means to punish those who make fun of them. The local college diversity committee wouldn't be meting out punishment. The politicians would.

Look at what's happening to hate crime laws. People enacted these laws allegedly to protect minorities from violence based on their identities. Now states have added law enforcement as a protected class, and police are calling for sentencing punishments for those who say mean things about them when they are arrested.

It's reckless to think that hate speech laws won't end up in a similar place. Eventually we'll see police raiding people's homes for tweeting mean things about them. The kernel of this is contained in tweets from a police inspector in Sussex, England, who did not like people making fun of a rainbow-colored cop car.

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Cops Try to Shoot a Dog, Kill a Teenager Instead

Sheriff's deputies in LA kill a teen who was trying to restrain a dog they said charged at them "aggressively."

family photofamily photoLos Angeles County sheriff's deputies killed a teenager Thursday morning while shooting at a pitbull they said was charging at them.

It's another example of over-reliance on police response and too much deference to the actions they take. The Los Angeles County sheriff's office said its policy is that officers are allowed to shoot at dogs if they "reasonably believe" they could be seriously injured or killed by the animal.

The Los Angeles district attorney's office considers shootings of dogs that pose an immediate, severe or fatal threat justified, even if a person is injured in the shooting, the Los Angeles Times reported.

The deputies initially responded to a call about a "loud party," at an apartment complex. Deputies said a pit bull charged at them when they arrived at the location. Armando Garcia-Muro, 17, had briefly restrained the dog but it got away again.

Two of the five sheriff's deputies shot six to eight rounds at the pitbull. None of them appear to have hit the dog.

Garcia-Muro was hit in the chest by at least one round about 3:40 am Thursday in Palmdale. Deputies said the bullet may have ricocheted off the ground. A ricocheting bullet fragment also struck the leg of a deputy who was bitten by the dog, according to the police account.

The teen "may have been struck by one of the skip rounds in what we're calling an extremely, extremely unfortunate incident," Capt. Christopher Bergner told the Times. "Our initial impression was [the deputies] didn't even see the individual coming around from the side of the building."

The owner of the dog, who told the Times she didn't want to identify herself because she had "too many things going on with the law right now," said she doubted the deputies' claim that the 3-year-old blue-nosed pit bull attacked them.

"That's not my dog. That's not his personality," she told the Times. The woman also told the newspaper her apartment was used as a hangout for local teenagers who "come over and listen to music."

Deputies did not say whether or not they retrieved or killed the dog. Bergner told the Times any time a deputy fires their service weapon, they are put on temporary desk duty during the subsequent investigation.

From the sheriff's account the shooting appears to be accidental. That doesn't mean it wasn't preventable. Any thorough investigation would attempt to explain why, if Garcia-Muro was able to restrain the dog on his own, even for a brief time, couldn't five trained law enforcement professionals do so without the use of a firearm in the early morning in a dark residential area.

Department and district attorney policies on shooting dogs do not encourage finding those answers. The leeway given to law enforcement officers puts bystanders at risk.

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What If Donald Trump Doesn't Sink the Republican Party?: New at Reason

Michael Vadon/flickrMichael Vadon/flickrDistaste for the president may not translate to distaste for other Republicans, as the special election in Georgia showed.

David Harsanyi writes:

What if Republican voters who don't particularly like President Donald Trump are also able to compartmentalize their votes? What if they dislike Democrats more than they do the president? What if, rather than being punished for Trump's unpopularity, local candidates are rewarded for their moderation? This would be a disaster for Democrats. And Tuesday's runoff election in Georgia's 6th District shows that it might be possible.

Now, had Jon Ossoff come out ahead of Karen Handel, the coverage would have painted this as a game-changing moment: a referendum on conservatism itself, a harbinger of a coming liberal wave and a rejection of Trump's disastrous presidency. It would have illustrated that Democrats had figured out how to flip those suburban and affluent Republicans who aren't crazy about the president.

Perhaps some of that will still play out during the midterms because one race (or even four) doesn't tell us everything we need to know. Every district is unique. Still, there are definitely ominous signs for Democrats.

You can try and grasp at moral victories, of course, as I saw a number of liberal pundits on cable television trying to do yesterday. You can tell yourself that Ossoff had come closer than any Democrat ever in the 6th District. But there are numerous problems with this optimism. For one, there won't be many red districts where the president is less popular. Democrats are going to have to flip some of these seats to win back a majority. Second, it's difficult to imagine how the environment could be any worse for the GOP (though that, too, is possible). Moreover, Ossoff spent a record $23.6 million on a House race, yet Handel outran not only him but also Trump.

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Law & Order: P.O.W. Unit

Friday A/V Club: Ways of making you talk

Resisting Enemy Interrogation was nominated for a Best Documentary Oscar, though it's not a documentary as the term is usually used today. It's a World War II–era military training film that tells a scripted story, dramatizing the ways that Germans might try to extract information from their prisoners. Carefully, methodically, the captors trick their captives into revealing important intelligence.

Here's what's weird about it: The story delves so deeply into the nitty-gritty of the interrogators' methods, observing as they piece together their puzzle, that the bulk of it is basically a police procedural shot from the Nazi point of view. If there's a Law & Order in the Man in the High Castle universe, it probably looks a lot like this:

In 1951 the film was remade as a regular theatrical war movie, called Target Unknown. I don't think that happened with any of those training films about venereal disease, but you never know.

(For past editions of the Friday A/V Club, go here.)

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New at Reason: In Madison County, Mississippi, Police Roadblocks Are Rights-Free Zones

For generations, residents of Canton, Mississippi have felt under siege in their own town from a sheriff's department. Now the ACLU is suing the system.

credit: CJ Ciaramellacredit: CJ CiaramellaCANTON, Miss. — The sheriff's deputy has his hand around Khadafy Manning's neck. Manning, a 35-year-old black man, is standing rod straight, or at least as straight as someone with a debilitating spinal injury can, with his hands cuffed behind his back, dressed in his underwear, asking why he is being humiliated in his own living room.

"Officer, please. Why are you handling me like this?"

"Because you ain't acting right," the deputy responds.

It was 7 in the morning on June 26, 2016, and the scene was caught on video. Filming the encounter was Khadafy's quick-thinking wife, Quinnetta Thomas. According to Thomas and Manning, six deputies from the Madison County Sheriff's Department (MCSD) barged into their apartment without a warrant and demanded they sign a false witness statement about an alleged robbery at their neighbor's house.

Manning, who walks with a cane due to a chronic nerve condition, came hobbling out of the bedroom, said he had rights and didn't have to sign anything. It's at that point, Thomas says, that the deputies got angry and she reached for the camera.

The roughly one-minute-long video Thomas recorded is now part of a pile of evidence in a sweeping class-action civil rights lawsuit filed in May by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) against the MCSD.

The lawsuit alleges the county has subjected its citizens to more than a decade of brazenly illegal and discriminatory policing—unconstitutional roadblocks that only appear in black neighborhoods, warrantless home invasions, and aggressive "jump out" squads that target young black men doing nothing more than walking down the street. Essentially, the ACLU is arguing that Madison County police have turned black and minority neighborhoods into places where the Bill of Rights no longer applies.

"What is shocking about the case is the degree of constant constitutional intrusion and how long that high degree of intrusion has been permitted," says Paloma Wu, an attorney for the ACLU of Mississippi. "We're absolutely convinced that this is a program that has existed for more than a decade, if not decades. It outlives any single deputy or sheriff. This, we think, absolutely rises to the level of a policy to target black people for unconstitutional searches and seizures through a variety of means."

Interviews with local activists and longtime residents in Madison County reveal a community that feels under siege in their own houses and day-to-day lives, a county government that has been willfully indifferent to those concerns for generations, and a place where whether you have basic rights against police abuse comes down to what side of the county you live in, what side of the tracks you're on, and whether you're willing to speak out.

The lawsuit also comes at a time when, under Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the U.S. Justice Department is less willing to second-guess local police. It is currently reviewing Obama-era consent decrees between the federal government and police departments that were found to be violating citizens' rights. If the Justice Department pulls back from its oversight role, it will be up to civil rights watchdog groups and the courts to police the police. How the ACLU lawsuit against Madison County fares could be a bellwether for police reform during the Trump administration.

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Oregon Passes Hefty Insurance Tax to Prop Up Its Scandalous Medicaid System

The state is spending $37 million a month on recipients potentially not eligible for the program.

Oregon State CapitolZehnKatzen/Wikimedia CommonsOn Wednesday, Oregon lawmakers passed a major new tax on hospitals and health insurers to raise $673 million to shore up the state's scandal-ridden Medicaid system.

The new levies - 1.5 percent on health insurers and 4.6 percent on hospitals are a desparate attempt to plug the state's $1.4 billion budget deficit, about $1 billion of it is the result of Medicaid expansion. They will, however, do little in the way of reforming a wasteful system shot through with failed projects and inappropriate expenditures.

By far the costliest of these failed projects was Cover Oregon, the $300 million Obamacare exchange so utterly unworkable when it launched in 2014 the state was forced to abandon it.

It's successor, the Oregon Eligible or ONE system, is faring little better.

The Oregon Department of Human Services commissioned the ONE system in 2015 to handle a far less ambitious goal of verifying income eligibility for those applying for the Oregon Health Plan (the state's Medicaid program).

After spending $166 million—four times the initial contract costs—the state did manage to cobble together a workable website.

But Oregon still has not managed to perform federally-mandated income eligibility checks on 86,000 current Medicaid enrollees. The state is spending $37 million a month on potentially ineligible recipients, according to a May audit by the Oregon Secretary of State. That $444 million a year is about two-thirds of what the new hospital tax is projected to raise.

The state has booted some 14,000 people from the Medicaid rolls as a result of the audit and another 17,000 are under investigation.

Since 2016—when a federal waiver on conducting these income eligibility verifications expired—the state has terminated coverage for 300,000 ineligible Medicaid recipients, and state officials still can't say how much Medicaid money was dispersed in error.

Oregon Republicans have been harshly critical of the new tax plan, saying it does nothing to ensure the new revenue will not be wasted in a similar fashion.

"It should be a requirement to prove to the people we are making efficient use of the money they are already sending us before we ask for more," State Sen. Jeff Kruse (R-Roseburg) said in a newsletter.

State Rep. Knute Buhler (R-Bend) made a similar point in an Oregonian op-ed, calling the new taxes a missed "opportunity to repair and reform how the state funds and spends government health care dollars."

Still, enough Republicans voted for the plan to hoist it over Oregon Legislature's three-fifths requirement for levying new taxes.

The bill now goes to Gov. Kate Brown, who is expected to sign it.

Oregonians who are already facing double-digit premium hikes for 2018 can be expected to pay even more for health insurance premiums and hospital visits to cover a consistently wasteful and poorly-managed state healthcare system.


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