- victory over ISIS in the Syrian city of Raqqa. Syrian forces are declaring
- Former presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama had some things to say about the Trump administration yesterday.
- Why Trump can't handle the cost of war.
- Laptops in checked bags could be a fire hazard says the Federal Aviation Administration.
- Spirit animal.
- Introducing the Federal Facebook Agency?
The Snowman is a movie that defies you to keep watching it. Who are all these characters? Who forgot to give them chemistry and coherence? And all these sinister snowmen—are we in some sort of dark Pillsbury universe here?
You know a movie's doomed when its director admits what a mess it is even before its US release. Tomas Alfredson, the Swedish filmmaker best known for his excellent vampire-kids flick Let the Right One In and the so-so Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy remake, got handed The Snowman after Martin Scorsese stepped away from the project very late in the production game. In a recent interview for the Norwegian Broadcasting System, Alfredson complained that he was given insufficient time for filming, and that resources were so thin that he was unable to shoot 10 to 15 per cent of the script, leaving narrative holes he couldn't finesse in the editing—even with the emergency assistance of Scorsese's longtime editor Thelma Schoonmaker, writes Kurt Loder in his latest review for Reason.View this article
anti-burqa law. The man received a $176 fine when he refused to remove his shark head for having his face covered in public.A man dressed as a shark to promote the new McShark electronics store in Vienna was fined under Austria's new
Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has offered up a new twist on "asset forfeiture," the practice of taking property from citizens not convicted of a crime (the horrible, unjust uses of that policy is something one can read about here at Reason with great (and depressing) regularity).
The Intercept reported this month laughable (if it couldn't harm so many innocent people) guidelines in an ICE manual for agents to maximize the amount they can steal from citizens without ever convicting them of any crime in a court of law.
ICE is part of Homeland Security, which, as Intercept reports, "seizes millions of dollars in assets through the course of investigations — everything from cash and houses, to boats and cars....the revenue is also used to award and reimburse state and local law enforcement agencies that participate in federal seizure-related investigations, which those agencies then use to purchase equipment, weapons, and other law enforcement technology."
ICE "leads the way both in seizures feeding into the fund and in payments doled out to state and local law enforcement."
That is, law enforcement can institutionally profit by stealing property from citizens who may not have ever been convicted of a crime. The handbook Intercept intercepted has "extensive discussion of how agents should painstakingly determine whether a property is valuable enough to make seizure worthwhile."
The manual describes, in telling and infuriating detail, the niggling level to which agents are instructed to make a quasi-legal excuse for blatant theft:
The manual instructs agents to perform drive-by viewings of property, as well as "post-and-walk" viewings — a measure ICE calls "potentially one of the most important steps in the seizure/forfeiture process." In the case of post-and-walk viewings, ICE agents obtain a warrant allowing them to search a property's premises, and are instructed to bring along a private real estate expert to help appraise the property's value...
And if the house wasn't connected to any crime, well, maybe, just maybe, the agent can find a phone on the premises that was.
If so, a big hurrah for the cops and their campaign against crime (and against citizens' property)! Connecting the phone to a crime, in and of itself, can be enough: "The manual instructs agents seeking to seize a property to work with confidential informants, scour tax records, and even obtain an interception warrant to determine whether 'a telephone located on the property was used to plan or discuss criminal activity' in order to justify seizing the property."
While the handbook was dated 2010, Intercept confirmed with ICE that it represents up to date policy and practices, which continue to be evil.
- George W. Bush spoke out against the direction American democracy has turned to under President Donald Trump, saying, "Bullying and prejudice in our public life sets a national tone, provides permission for cruelty and bigotry, and compromises the moral education of children." He did not, however, directly reference Trump. Former President
- Trump, on Twitter, suggested this morning that the FBI, the Democrats, and the Russians may all be colluding on distributing that "Steele Dossier" that alleged ties between him and the Russian government.
- John Kelly, Trump's chief of staff (and a retired general whose son was killed in Afghanistan), has come to Trump's defense over how the president spoke to the widow of a Green Beret killed in Niger.
- The Pentagon has launched a formal investigation into the circumstances of that ambush in Niger that ended in the deaths of four Green Berets
- Trump also sat down with Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosello and gave his own federal team a rating of 10 in how they responded to hurricane damage.
- Crowds with various loudly expressed opinions on things (including police) have gathered at the University of Florida in Gainesville for white nationalist Richard Spencer's speech.
- Ohio Republican Lawmaker Rep. Pat Tiberi is resigning from office come January.
- Alphabet, Google's parent company, has just invested $1 billion in financing in ridesharing company Lyft. On its blog, Lyft notes that their services are now available to 95 percent of the American population.
Regardless of how the president and FEMA have responded, Puerto Rico was set up for disaster well before Hurricane Maria hit. Yo-yo tax breaks, needlessly expensive imports, and crippling debt all lead to a shoddy infrastruture that's still without power on much of the island.
On the latest "Mostly Weekly," Andrew Heaton explores: how did Puerto Rico get screwed over well before the lights went out, and how do we get them back on?
Click here for full text and downloadable versions
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has pointed out, Niger, where four American commandos were recently killed, is a scandal, not least of which because there's no clear, compelling national interest to justify a U.S. presence that started in 2005.As Ed Krayewski
That's when George W. Bush dispatched forces to train local military and to support French efforts to combat terrorism. In 2013, Barack Obama sent more troops, for the same basic reasons. In the wake of the new deaths, Bonnie Kristian writes,
Donald Trump seems content to stay the course of under-the-radar escalation. A major U.S. base is under construction to serve as a hub for drone activity throughout the region, while American boots on the ground in Niger are significantly occupied with the arrival of extremists from neighboring Libya, which remains in chaos since the U.S.-facilitated ouster of strongman Moammar Gadhafi in 2011.
The three most recent U.S. presidents thus deserve responsibility for putting Americans in harm's way. But their ability to do so without facing any sort of serious reproach is abetted by the awful one-upmanship that grips political Twitter like grim death itself. For example:
I happen to know and like Stephen Miller and I recommend you follow him on Twitter (he's not the ethno-nationalist who works for President Trump). But the exchange between him and MSNBC's Joy Reid sums up much if not everything wrong with not just Twitter but politics in general. People are so driven by tribal loyalties that virtually all they care about is pulling a gotcha on somebody from the other side of the left-right, liberal-conservative, Democrat-Republican divide. It doesn't matter if you're both wrong and it doesn't matter if fewer and fewer of us want to be associated with either of those sides.
We will not have truly 21st-century politics and policies until we leave behind political groupings that had burned out even before the end of the 20th century. Certainly we will not have a foreign policy that can fake even the smallest coherence until we move beyond petty, stupid, and inaccurate blame-gaming.
ineffective, immoral, and incredibly expensive idea. But lately he's been making it even worse, by suggesting that it double as a giant solar power plant.Donald Trump's border wall has always been an
The president first floated this notion back in June, saying that a wall topped with solar panels "creates energy and pays for itself." Now, with work on border wall prototypes getting underway, his idea doesn't seem to be just a passing fancy.
"Solar panels or technology bundles on top of the fence certainly isn't off the table," Mario Villarreal, the new division chief for San Diego's Customs and Border Protection field office, told The Washington Examiner yesterday. Villarreal's office is overseeing the construction of eight different border wall prototypes.
How exactly solar panels would make a border wall better is not entirely clear. Solar technology would be a poor migrant repellent, and there is every reason in the world to doubt that it would actually bring the costs of a wall down.
Some number crunching by Business Insider puts the cost of simply installing a solar array along the southern border at somewhere between $1.4 billion and $4.2 billion—all to generate maybe $100 million worth of electricity a year. Those estimates, mind you, do not include the cost of transmission lines, software, energy storage systems, regular maintenance, and everything else that goes into getting power from panels to people.
California already spends $9 million a year maintaining its own portion of our current low-tech border wall. Constantly replacing solar panels damaged by storms or smugglers would make the price sky-high.
Trump's other protectionist policies have only compound these expenses. In April, the president signed a number of executive orders instructing his administration to adhere to several "Buy American" rules for government procurement.
As Dan Ikenson of the Cato Institute told Reason at the time, such requirements only drive up the cost of government projects. "If we're talking about a $1 trillion infrastructure project, we might only get $500 billion of infrastructure."
Meanwhile, the Trump administration may start slapping tariffs on solar panels. Last month the International Trade Commission declared that imported Chinese solar panels were hurting American manufacturing jobs; it will soon recommend to the White House whether or not to impose new trade barriers in response.
Should those tariffs go through, the U.S. market will be starved of cheaper competition, sapping already-subsidized domestic solar companies' incentive to innovate and bring prices down. That means U.S. taxpayers would have to shell out even more for 1,000 miles of solar border fencing.
Taken one at a time, Trump's various protectionist policies come across as costly and counter-productive. When merged into the single idea of a solar border wall, they combine into an absurd and contradictory mess. To protect American workers with a giant border wall, Trump wants to spend even more money covering that wall with high-cost American solar panels that he may make even more expensive with tariffs.
If that counts as winning, I'm already sick of it.
news report from Alabama offers two textbook cases of how sweeping powers of civil asset forfeiture allow police to seize people's property with near impunity.A
Under civil asset forfeiture laws, police can take property suspected of being connected to criminal activity, even if the owner is not charged with a crime. Law enforcement and prosecutors say the practice is a vital tool to disrupt drug trafficking and other organized crime by targeting ill-gotten gains. But in state after state, horror stories have emerged of regular people having their possessions expropriated and their lives turned upside down.
In the Alabama case, around 20 heavily armed officers raided Frank Ranelli's computer repair shop in Ensley in 2010, on a tip that Ranelli was selling stolen goods. Police seized roughly 130 computers from the shop, most of them belonging to customers.
The Alabama news outlet Al.com reports what happened next:
Nothing ever came of the case. The single charge of receiving stolen goods was dismissed after Ranelli demonstrated that he had followed proper protocol in purchasing the sole laptop computer he was accused of receiving illegally.
Yet none of the property seized by police that summer morning more than seven years ago has been returned to him.
"Here I was, a man, owned this business, been coming to work every day like a good old guy for 23 years, and I show up at work that morning—I was in here doing my books from the day before—and the police just f***ed my life," he said.
The obsession with the idea that the Russians are responsible for President Donald Trump's election is now being used to push for more regulation of social media.
Sens. Mark Warner (D-Va.) and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) are being joined by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) to make their effort to regulate online political advertising a bipartisan affair.
Today they plan to introduce what they're calling the Honest Ads Act, which aims to introduce ad disclosure regulations similar to those for television. The text of the bill is not yet available, but here's a summary of the contents via Quartz:
- Make public digital copies of any advertisement these groups purchase, including the dates and times published.
- Include a description of the audience and political ad target, and the number of times it was viewed.
- Disclose contact information for the ads' purchaser, and how much they paid for the ad.
- Make "reasonable efforts" to ensure that any political ads or messaging isn't purchased by a foreign national, directly or indirectly.
The justification for the bill is the discovery that a Russian company linked to the Kremlin spent $100,000 on Facebook ads, which is chump change when compared to domestic campaign advertising spending.
But let's be clear here: Russian meddling is just being used as an excuse to do what politicians and federal agencies have wanted for a long time—to regulate how people campaign online. As The New York Times notes, the Federal Election Commission has been attempting to regulate online political advertising for years, and tech companies have been resisting.
As is often the case when lawmakers attempt to regulate campaign advertising, there's very little thought about how these lawmakers are not exactly disinterested parties. I mean, it's not terribly surprising that McCain, in a permanent feud with Trump, might want to find ways to work with the Democrats to control online political ads.
Restrictions on campaign advertising pretty much always benefit incumbents and powerful parties, because they already have a significant amount of money, influence, and media access. Challengers have an uphill climb, and anything that controls campaign expenditures and advertising methods makes that climb steeper.
And in the end, all that Russian advertising "meddling" was about taking advantage of Americans' dissatisfaction with choices made by established political interests.
It's telling how much of the coverage of Russian interference is unwilling to look at the reasons it may have worked, and instead revolves around how to stop it. When the discussion does explore the meaning of the meddling, the coverage almost always announces that Russia is "taking advantage" of cultural divisions. At The Washington Post, Casey Michel breathlessly declares that a Russian-run group on Facebook encouraged Texas to secede from the union, and that Facebook allowing that to happen represents "one of the greatest frauds in recent American history." But the Texas secession movement is absolutely not new, and that fact that this particular effort wasn't a real thing means nothing in terms about how many Texans feel about their relationship to the federal government.
Remember, the official report from our national intelligence agencies on Russia's involvement on the presidential election, a summary of which was released back in January, focused heavily on how the country, via RT, was giving voice to Americans who were dissatisfied with the government. One of its examples was that RT brought in third-party political candidates and pointed out that many Americans were unhappy with the two parties.
As I noted then:
I don't dispute the findings here about RT, but look at those examples and they could apply not just to Reason but to media outlets of varying ideological positions within America. Americans are abandoning the two political parties. People are genuinely upset about surveillance and police brutality. If this is an attempt to sway the public to be concerned about RT, it's not terribly persuasive.
The problem isn't that the Russians attempted to influence the election. The problem was that many Americans found this "fraud" to be compelling. Michel suggests that Americans who fall for these frauds are "gullible." But that, again, is a way of just dismissing the political fractures themselves.
It isn't what she means, but there is one fundamental similarity between the two attacks: Both were the foreseeable effects of aimless intervention. The best way to prevent such meaningless deaths is to stop such meaningless interventions before they get off the ground.
President George W. Bush first sent U.S. troops to Niger in 2005. President Barack Obama sent an additional 100 special forces there in 2013. About 800 American troops there now. The U.S. is building a second, $100 million drone base in the country.
With so much military activity in Niger, American fatalities were bound to happen. A lot of questions remain about this particular ambush; the Senate Armed Services Committee, chaired by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), is likely to seek more details about how the attack occurred. What McCain will almost certainly not address is the point of the U.S. mission in Niger in the first place, just as none of the investigations into Benghazi bothered to reflect on how the U.S.-backed intervention in Libya destabilized the country and created the environment in which Benghazi could take place.
The ranking Democrat on the committee, Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.), signaled that he might look at the broader issues at play. "I think the administration has to be more clear about our role in Niger and our role in other areas in Africa and other parts of the globe," Reed said on CNN. "They have to connect it to a strategy. They should do that. I think that the inattention to this issue is not acceptable."MORE »
new analysis of data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH). A press release from the University of Alabama at Birmingham, where three of the study's four authors work, says these findings "suggest that treatments making use of classic psychedelics like psilocybin could well hold promise in reducing criminal behavior." Although I agree that psychedelic-assisted therapy looks promising based on other studies, this interpretation of the survey data seems dubious to me, mirroring the faulty logic of prohibitionists who assume that associations between drug use and antisocial behavior are causal.People who have used psychedelics are less likely to commit property and violent crimes than people who haven't, according to a
UAB psychologist Peter Hendricks and his colleagues looked at 13 years of NSDUH data and found that "lifetime classic psychedelic use [i.e., use of ayahuasca, dimethyltryptamine, LSD, mescaline, peyote or San Pedro cactus, or psilocybin mushrooms] was associated with a 27% decreased odds of past year larceny/theft, a 12% decreased odds of past year assault, a 22% decreased odds of past year arrest for a property crime, and an 18% decreased odds of past year arrest for a violent crime." That is after controlling for sex, race, education, income, marital status, religiosity, and several other potential confounding variables.
Hendricks et al. say their results "were consistent with a protective effect of psilocybin for antisocial criminal behavior" and "contribute to a compelling rationale for the initiation of clinical research with classic psychedelics, including psilocybin, in forensic settings." They argue that the associations they found bolster the evidence from three studies conducted in the 1960s indicating that psychedelics might help rehabilitate criminal offenders: two LSD studies with tiny samples and one psilocybin study with a larger but still small sample. The latter study, known as the Concord Prison Experiment, was conducted by Timothy Leary. Hendricks et al. note that a 1998 review of the Concord Prison Experiment by Rick Doblin, executive director of the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, "concluded that these findings were overstated, inadequate support was provided outside of psilocybin sessions, and that serious methodological flaws preclude any conclusions."
It is certainly worth trying to replicate those early, tentative findings. But so far the evidence that psychedelics curb criminal tendencies is thin, and the NSDUH results do not make it much thicker, because they could be due to pre-existing differences in the sort of people who are inclined to try psychedelics. Only 15 percent of Americans say they have tried psychedelics, and they are bound to be different from the 85 percent who haven't in ways that a) cannot be readily measured and b) may affect their propensity to commit crimes. In seems plausible, for instance, that they are, on average, more introspective, more patient, more tolerant, and more open to alternative perspectives, even before they have dropped acid, drunk ayahuasca, or eaten magic mushrooms.
Hendricks et al. concede that cross-sectional data like the NSDUH results "limit causal inferences," that "a number of shared underlying or 'third' variables may be responsible for the associations reported here," and that "we could not evaluate potential mechanisms of action underlying the associations of classic psychedelic use with criminal behavior." The importance of those points becomes clearer when you consider what NSDUH tells us about people who use other illegal drugs, who unlike the psychedelic fans are more likely to commit property and violent crimes.
Hendricks and his colleagues found that people who had tried heroin were almost twice as likely to be arrested for property crimes as people who hadn't. You might assume that association has something to do with heavy users who steal to support their habits (a problem magnified by prohibition-inflated prices). But marijuana users were also about twice as likely to be arrested for property crimes, which is probably not due to habit-financing theft.
Prohibitionists might argue that marijuana makes people lazy, unemployable, and therefore financially stressed. But as with psychedelics, there are alternative explanations. Maybe marijuana use and theft are both related to a general disrespect for the law, or maybe they both reflect pre-existing social, economic, or psychological difficulties.
People who have tried marijuana are also twice as likely as people who haven't to be arrested for a violent crime—more likely than people who have used heroin, PCP, cocaine, or "other stimulants," including methamphetamine. In fact, people who have tried "other stimulants" are not significantly more likely to report an arrest for a violent crime than people who haven't. These findings seem inconsistent with current beliefs about how different drugs affect people's behavior.
In any case, it is surely risky to assume that the association between marijuana use and crime reflects a cause-and-effect relationship. It is equally risky to make the same assumption about the negative correlation between psychedelic use and crime.
When Halloween costumes are in the news, it's usually because they are igniting semi-riots on college campuses or being mocked for their misguided "sexiness" (click here, but what is seen can't be unseen).
Now, thanks to web developer to the stars P.J. Doland, there's a great new way to look at Halloween costumes, or at least those getups that flip the bird to repressive intellectual property laws. "I love the names of these shady unlicensed Halloween costumes—particularly Katniss Everdeen as 'Female Libertarian,'" tweets Doland.
"Female Libertarian" is indeed great (there's a reason it's sold out!), but the whole collection is an embarrassment of riches which, if I can push it a bit, seems to have been curated by someone with movement sympathies. Hence the "Condescending Online Man" sporting a popular-among-annoying-libertarians Guy Fawkes' mask, casting Uma Thurman's Pulp Ficton character as a "heroin diva," and the naming of Doc from Back To the Future as "'The Better Future' Bernie Sanders."
I haven't been able to find the actual source catalog for this or other knock-off costumes and thus presume them to be fakes. But then again, we're only in it for the laffs, right?
Update: And sure enough, it's all a joke, pulled by comedy writer Mike Ginn. A beautiful, beautiful joke:
PJ, I'm happy to have fooled so many— shut up, mike ginn (@shutupmikeginn) October 19, 2017
Quebec banned people working in public service or using public services from wearing veils or any sort of facial covering, the first such ban in North America, one echoing "burqa ban" policies passed across Europe.This week,
Ushered in by Quebec's Liberal Party as a way to "foster social cohesion" and "religious neutrality," and to combat Islamophobia, the law largely takes aim at Muslim women who veil their faces in public. The Canadian Broadcasting Corp. explains that under the new "religious neutrality legislation" women can apply for exemptions—essentially a special license to wear a burqa or niqab that they would have to display to public officials.
Critics, like Shaheen Ashraf of the Canadian Council of Muslim Women, question the religious neutrality narrative. "I define neutrality as being able to do what I choose and you are able to do what you choose and everyone else is able to do what they choose and that's neutral. Accepting each other as we are," Ashraf told CTV Montreal.
Ihsaan Gardee, executive director of the National Council of Canadian Muslims, called it "an unnecessary law with a made-up solution to an invented problem. We don't have hordes of women in niqabs trying to access or work in public services."
Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre and others have questioned how the law would actually work in practice. "So what does it mean now? Niqab police as bus drivers?" Coderre told CTV. "What are we going to do in libraries? And refuse to provide them with services? If [a woman is] freezing with children, say no? You have to pull that out. I don't think the doability is there."
"Bus drivers are now being empowered to decide who gets a ride based on their understanding of the nuances of Muslim head scarves," pointed out Allison Hanes in the Montreal Gazette. "Are they going to get training on the difference between a hijab and a niqab? This law could not be worse for civil rights or social cohesion."
"Telling a woman how to dress—whether she's wearing a bikini or a burqa—is the opposite of feminism," continued Hanes. "And using the full weight of the state to marginalize one particular group, no matter how much thou doth protest that a law applies to everyone equally, is reprehensible."
Although Quebec politicians pushed the new policy as a feminist one, Canadian feminists commenting on it are largely unimpressed. "A bill that legislates clothing ends up linking emancipation of women to how little or how much they wear," wrote Shree Paradkar in The Star. "In doing so, it works against choice" and "should have been rejected."
Count former Vice President Joe Biden among those of us who remain confused and frustrated by the campus left's ongoing efforts to silence everyone with whom it disagrees.
During a joint event with Gov. John Kasich at the University of Delaware earlier this week, Biden was asked what should be done "to encourage people to be more accepting of opposing viewpoints."
"It's interesting," said Biden. "When I was coming up through college and graduate school, free speech was the big issue but it was the opposite. It was liberals who were shouted down when they spoke. And liberals have very short memories. I mean that sincerely."
Biden accused liberals of hurting themselves "badly" when they don't allow speech to take place. He specifically referenced the madness at Berkeley earlier this year and noted that the pre-emptive violence was deeply counterproductive.
"You should be able to listen to another point of view, as virulent as it may be, and reject it, expose it," he said. "The best thing to do is let this stuff be exposed. Don't be like these other people. Don't give the Trumps of the world the ability to compare you to the Nazis or you to the racists because you're doing the same thing. You're silencing."
While in office, President Obama made similar appeals to students to actually engage differing opinions rather than resorting to shutdowns. It is great to see Biden doing the same thing: answering bad speech—the kind calling for censorship—with more speech. Let's hope young people on the left will listen to Obama and Biden, if they aren't listening to anybody else.
Watch Biden's remarks below.
Hat Tip: Campus Reform
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