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Weekly Hit & Run Archive 2017 March 15-31

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Gorsuch’s Smooth Sailing; Ryancare’s Rocky Road

Matt Welch and Thomas Massie among those on tonight’s Kennedy

Sadly, though not to anyone's surprise, today's confirmation hearing for Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch did not feature much in the way of Damon Root-caliber questioning. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) gave unconvincing testimony on behalf of "the little men," Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) asked Gorsuch for a definition of the term "dark money" and asked the judge to call for not-required-by-law disclosure of the people who are spending money advocating his nomination, and the reliably inane Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) spent a good chunk of time drilling into a handful of controversial statements by the man who was Gorsuch's dissertation advisor more than two decades ago. By constantly trying to shoehorn the conversation into some Transitive Property-level association with possible racism/sexism/richism, the Democrats reminded us all of why they are in the governing minority all over the country, even at a time with a historically unpopular (compared to his predecessors at this stage in their careers) president.

We talk about all this and more on tonight's Kennedy (Fox Business Network 8 p.m. ET, with replays at midnight). I am on the Party Panel with BoldTV founder Carrie Sheffield and Wall Street Journal U.S. Editor Glenn Hall, and we also discuss the Democrats' shallow bench, some silly university safe-space policy, and whether legal weed is challenging beer for market share. Also talking Ryancare prospects at the top of the show is beloved libertarian-leaning Republican Rep. Thomas Massie of Kentucky.

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Neil Gorsuch to Senate Judiciary Committee: 'Yes, the Constitution Definitely Contains Privacy Rights'

The SCOTUS nominee talks unenumerated rights.

C-SPANC-SPANIn his 2006 book The Future of Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia, Neil Gorsuch expressed significant doubts about the propriety of the U.S. Supreme Court recognizing and defending unenumerated constitutional rights under the Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment. Citing the work of the late conservative legal scholar Robert Bork, Gorsuch wrote that the Due Process Clause has been stretched "beyond recognition" by the Supreme Court when the Court interpreted it to be "the repository of other substantive rights not expressly enumerated in the text of the Constitution or its amendments."

Today Gorsuch was asked about that part of his book during his SCOTUS confirmation hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

"I'm interested in your view of privacy," said Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.). As every con-law aficionado watching immediately understood, Coons was referring to the fact that the right to privacy appears nowhere in the text of the Constitution. Indeed, it is precisely the sort of thing that Gorsuch meant when he referred to (and criticized) "substantive rights not expressly enumerated in the text of the Constitution or its amendments."

Coons wanted to know what Gorsuch had to say about the matter now. "Do you believe the Constitution contains a right to privacy?" he asked the nominee.

"Yes, Senator, I do," Gorsuch responded. "Privacy is in a variety of places in the Constitution," he said, such in the Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures, as well as in the Third Amendment's prohibition on the quartering of troops in private homes during peacetime. And the Supreme Court has said for decades that the "Due Process Clause protects privacy in a variety of ways," Gorsuch added. "So Senator, yes, the Constitution definitely contains privacy rights."

That is a very noteworthy answer. The idea that "the Constitution definitely contains privacy rights" is the exact opposite of what Robert Bork thought about this issue. Indeed, Bork was famous for castigating the Supreme Court for its 1965 decision in Griswold v. Connecticut, in which the Court first recognized a constitutional right to privacy in the course of striking down a state law prohibiting married couples from obtaining birth control devices. The problem with Griswold, Bork wrote in the Indiana Law Journal, was that the Court invented "a new constitutional right" out of thin air. "When the Constitution has not spoken," Bork declared, "the only course for a principled Court is to let the majority have its way." In other words, because the Constitution does not expressly list the right to privacy, the Supreme Court has no business enforcing that unwritten right against legislative enactments. Under the Bork-ian view, only enumerated rights are entitled to judicial protection.

Neil Gorsuch certainly seemed to take the Bork-ian view in his 2006 book. But today at his SCOTUS confirmation hearings, Gorsuch seemed to take a different view. In fact, Gorsuch's argument today that "privacy is in a variety of places in the Constitution" sounds a whole lot like the Griswold case's well-known argument that a "zone of privacy" can be found among the "penumbras" and "emanations" of the Constitution's explicit guarantees.

Does Gorsuch now reject the Bork-ian view of unenumerated rights? Or was he simply summarizing existing legal doctrine and keeping his own views to himself?

I encourage other members of the Senate Judiciary Committee to press Gorsuch with follow-up questions about this fundamental matter of constitutional law and interpretation.

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Concern Over Tillerson Skipping NATO Meeting Misplaced

The secretary of state is staying in the U.S. to be at President Trump’s meeting with China President Xi Jinping.

William Munoz/flickrWilliam Munoz/flickrSecretary of State Rex Tillerson will miss a summit of NATO foreign ministers in Brussels on April 5 and 6 in order to be present at the meeting between President Trump and China President Xi Jinping at Mar-a-Lago on April 6 and 7. Reuters yesterday initially reported based on anonymous sources that the State Department had declined offers to try to reschedule the NATO meeting, but today, Reuters reports, Tillerson offered alternative dates he could attend. "We are certainly appreciative of the effort to accommodate Secretary Tillerson," a spokesperson for the department said at a press conference.

Rep. Elliot Engel (D-N.Y.) called Tillerson skipping the meeting, in favor of a meeting between the presidents of two of the most powerful countries of the world, "a grave error that will shake the confidence of America's most important alliance and feed the concern that this administration is simply too cozy with Vladimir Putin." Tillerson has a planned visit to Russia later this month. Hysteria over Russia's purported role in Hillary Clinton's presidential defeat always risked poisoning already complex and deteriorated relations between the U.S. and Russia. Spinning scheduling conflicts and routine foreign trips for a secretary of state as part of some imagined Trump-Putin connection is particularly irresponsible for anyone who says they support international engagement over unnecessary conflict.

Neither should European politicians and bureaucrats seek to do so. One anonymous senior European diplomat told Reuters that Tillerson meeting the meeting was "unfortunate symbolism," as Reuters reported after the State Department signaled it was interested in a rescheduling of the NATO meeting.

In its earlier article, Reuters reported that "Trump has already worried NATO allies by referring to the Western security alliance as 'obsolete' and by pressing other members to meet their commitments to spend at least 2 percent of gross domestic product on defense." Yet for American and European politicians, bureaucrats, and policymakers interested in maintaining the NATO alliance, neither of these points should be a cause for concern. The Trump administration has insisted campaign period comments about NATO were not indicative of a U.S. withdrawal but interest in change. Asking other member states to meet a commitment they made, irrespective of how arbitrary it may be, is even less of a reason for concern.

Other than the U.S., only three NATO countries spend at least 2 percent of their GDP on defense spending—Greece, Poland, and Estonia. The latter two border Russia and have extensive histories that sustain the political will for military spending, while the former borders fellow NATO ally but historical rival Turkey, which has also in recent weeks compared a number of other European NATO allies to Nazis, and most recently accused the Netherlands of being responsible for the Srebrenica massacre. Erdogan's outburst come after the European countries declined to permit rallies in favor of a constitutional referendum that would significantly expand the power of Turkey's president, the authoritarian Recep Erdogan, who has been in power for 14 years.

Former Secretary of State John Kerry was criticized last year for leaving a NATO summit in Warsaw early to return to the U.S. to attend a friend's wedding in Nantucket and then to go see Hamilton in New York City, his second time attending the musical.

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American Psychiatric Association Says Ketamine Can Treat Depression, But Don't Expect the FDA to Approve It

The cost of getting FDA approval doesn't bode well for ketamine's therapeutic potential.

The anaesthetic ketamine has been a popular party drug for decades due to its ability to put users in a blissful mood. Earlier this month, the American Psychiatric Association released a consensus statement acknowledging that the drug might also be a breakthrough treatment for severe depression.

The statement authors write that seven studies--all placebo-controlled, double-blind, and randomized--provide evidence that ketamine therapy is a "rapid and robust, albeit transient" response to severe clinical depression. The treatment is effective within hours, while conventional antidepressants generally take weeks to work. The transient nature of the drug, meanwhile, suggest it works best with twice-weekly dosing.

Ketamine hasn't been approved for treating depression, but Yale psychiatrist Gerard Sanacora succinctly explained to NPR why the drug's off-label status hasn't deterred him:

Sanacora says other doctors sometimes ask him, "How can you be offering this to patients based on the limited amount of information that's out there and not knowing the potential long-term risk?"

Sanacora has a simple answer.

"If you have patients that are likely to seriously injure themselves or kill themselves within a short period of time, and they've tried the standard treatments, how do you not offer this treatment?"

It certainly seems that the long-term risks of ketamine therapy, regardless of how severe they may be, are preferable to the short-term risk of a successful suicide attempt.

The APA paper closes with the hunch that "economic factors make it unlikely that large-scale, pivotal phase 3 clinical trials of racemic ketamine will ever be completed," which means patients with treatment-resistant depression who'd like to give ketamine a shot will need an appointment at one of a handful of clinics offering ketamine treatment. Or, they can apply for enrollment in a philanthropic or federally funded ketamine study, of which there don't appear to be many.

This is a rather strange fate for a drug that the APA says has "generated much excitement and hope for patients with refractory mood disorders and the clinicians who treat them," but it's also an indictment of the Food and Drug Administration's regulatory process. Ketamine is off patent, which means no pharmaceutical company is going to spend several million dollars per phase to get approval for a drug formulation that any company could turn around and sell, no matter how many lives it might save.

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'No Such Thing as a Republican Judge' Says Gorsuch, Older Folks More Politically Polarized, How the Web Has Been Good to Mail-Order Brides: P.M. Links

  • Consolidated News Photos/NewscomConsolidated News Photos/Newscom"I have no difficulty ruling against, or for, any party, other than based on what the law and facts in the particular case require," Trump Supreme-Court pick Neil Gorsuch told his Senate confirmation hearing Tuesday afternoon. "There's no such thing as a Republican judge or a Democratic judge. We just have judges in this country."
  • Political polarization has grown more among the oldest Americans than any other age group over the past few decades, according to a new working paper published by the National Bureau of Economic Research. "These findings argue against the hypothesis that the internet in general or social media in particular are the main drivers of increasing polarization," write the authors.
  • In "Operation March Sadness," deputies of Polk County, Florida, arrested 38 sex workers and 51 men attempting to pay for sex. "This is not a star basketball team. These are losers, and they all fouled out," said Sheriff Grady Judd by way of explanation.
  • Traditional conservatives may be mad at The Blaze's Tomi Lahren over her abortion comments but the alt-right has been rallying behind her.
  • The city of Sandy Springs, Georgia, has decided to end a long-controversial ban on the display and sale of sex toys.
  • How the internet has been good for mail-order brides.

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Pennsylvania House Passes Bill to Hide Cops’ Names After Shootings

The legislature passed the same bill last year, but the governor vetoed it. If at first you don't succeed...

Bastiaan Slabbers/NurPhoto/Sipa/NewscomBastiaan Slabbers/NurPhoto/Sipa/NewscomA bill that would shield the release of the names of police officers involved in fatal shootings sailed through the Pennsylvania House Monday, over the objections of civil liberties groups who say it would "throw a cloak of secrecy" over serious use-of-force incidents by police.

Pennsylvania House Bill 27 would place a 30-day gag, except for district attorneys and the state attorney general, on identifying a police officer involved in a use-of-force incident that results in death or serious injury. It passed by a vote of 157-39. Supporters say the bill will protect officers from harassment and retribution after high-profile incidents, but opponents, like the Pennsylvania chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, say it keeps vital information the public.

"Let's be very clear about what this legislation does: This bill hides police who kill," Reggie Shuford, executive director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania, said in a statement. "The criminal justice system is already heavily weighted in favor of the police. This bill throws a cloak of secrecy over them at times when communities need information the most, after someone has been killed or seriously injured."

The Philadelphia Police Department has a policy of releasing the names of officers involved in fatal shootings within 72 hours, but currently the decision of when, and if, to release officers' names is left to the discretion of police chiefs and prosecutors.

The Pennsylvania legislature passed the same bill last year by wide, bipartisan margin, but Gov. Tom Wolf vetoed it, saying "government works best when trust and openness exist between citizens and their government, and as such, I cannot sign into law a policy that will enshrine the withholding of information in the public interest."

"These situations in particular—when law enforcement uses deadly force—demand utmost transparency, otherwise a harmful mistrust will grow between police officers and the communities they protect and serve," Wolf continued. "Further, I cannot allow local police department policies to be superseded and transparency to be criminalized, as local departments are best equipped to decide what information is appropriate to release to the public."

Asked if Wolf would veto the bill again, the governor's office responded: "The governor's opposition to this bill remains unchanged."

The bill is yet another salvo in the legislative battle going on in statehouses across the U.S. over police reform. In opposition to activists calling for aggressive police reform, state lawmakers have introduced numerous "blue lives matter" bills, such as ones that would make police officers a protected class under hate crime laws. Last year, North Carolina passed a bill exempting police body cam footage from the state's public record law.

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In His Last Budget, Christie Continues to Show What Not to Do With Pensions

Christie gets half-credit for doing more than any of his predecessors, but his efforts reveal just how daunting the state's pension crisis really is.

Phil McAuliffe/Polaris/NewscomPhil McAuliffe/Polaris/NewscomGov. Chris Christie will leave office next year, and his final state budget has left a real mess for whoever succeeds him as New Jersey's chief executive.

An analysis by S&P Global Ratings, one of the three major credit ratings agencies, says New Jersey's budget remains "structurally imbalanced" thanks to underfunded state pension systems.

"Christie's fiscal 2018 budget proposal might look fine in the near term, but long term, structural balance remains elusive thanks to the state's continued deferral of full funding for future retirement obligations," wrote David Hitchcock and John Sugden, the two S&P analysts who authored the report. "The picture looks much worse" in future years, they warned, since the current budget relies on a series of short-term fixes.

Those concerns probably sound familiar, because they're almost identical to the reasons given for the 10 credit rating downgrades New Jersey has recieved during Christie's tenure. The most recent downgrade came in November, when S&P cut the state's rating to A-, the fourth lowest grade in their system.

In the new budget plan, Christie has proposed to pay about $2.5 billion into the pension fund during the next fiscal year, which starts on July 1, but that's not enough to satisfy the public retirement system's needs. It's not even close. New Jersey's pension funds are facing a deficit of more than $135 billion, one of the worst shortfalls in the country. Actuaries for the funds say nearly $5 billion in state contributions would be needed next year to break even.

"We have done more for the solvency and stability of the pension system than any governor in history despite all the empty rhetoric to the contrary," Christie said last month during his budget address.

Incredibly, he's right. That's how bad things are in New Jersey.

Bloomberg did the math and determined that Christie has paid more than $8.8 billion into the state pension system since he took over as governor in 2010. That's more than double the total payments made by all New Jersey governors in the 16 years before Christie took over—so give him some credit there—but it's less than half of what the pension system needs on an annual basis to remain solvent, according to the actuaries who make such determinations.

That should give you a sense of both how completely unsustainable New Jersey's (and many other states') pension mess is, and also how long it's been ignored. Christie has paid more than three decades of pension bills in just eight years, and yet he's still only halfway to breaking even.

And who might inherit this fiscal disaster? Possibly Reason buddy Preet Bharara, maybe.

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Why Is Planned Parenthood So Popular? Because Government Thwarts Alternatives

Look beyond Medicaid to really cut dependence on Planned Parenthood while still ensuring that low-income women have access to medical care.

A provision in the Republican health care bill would bar Medicaid patients from choosing Planned Parenthood clinics for covered care. The idea, ostensibly, is to curtail abortion by driving Planned Parenthood out of business. Some folks also argue that the move is fiscally responsible. But contrary to conservative talking points, terminating Medicaid's relationship with Planned Parenthood would neither drive down costs for the publicly-funded health insurance program nor reduce dependence on abortion, as I note in today's Los Angeles Times.

If, as Republicans insist, patients can seek all the same services elsewhere, Medicaid costs will remain unchanged. The move won't necessarily affect Planned Parenthood's ability to provide abortions, since it doesn't rely on Medicaid reimbursements for this service. At the same time, less access to contraception and family-planning services could lead to greater demand to terminate pregnancies.

Presently, the U.S. health care scene is totally ill-equipped to handle the influx of low-income, reproductive- and sexual-health care patients we would see if we simply strip Planned Parenthood from patient options. America is already experiencing a shortage of obstetricians and gynecologists, many private providers won't see Medicaid patients, and community health centers are stretched thin as it is. Meanwhile, more than half of the approximately 2.8 million patients Planned Parenthood sees annually cover their visits via Medicaid. Like it or not, Planned Parenthood—which provides everything from cervical cancer screenings and urinary tract infection treatment to emergency contraception, prenatal care, and vasectomies—is currently a crucial part of the medical care and family-planning ecosystem.

Want to reduce dependence on Planned Parenthood? Look at why it's so popular among Medicaid patients in the first place, what alternatives currently exist (not a lot), and how we can remedy this dearth of alternatives. In many cases, government rules are to blame. But simple changes—allowing birth control pills to be sold over-the-counter; clearing the regulatory way for telemedicine; rethinking scope-of-practice rules that prevent nurse practitioners, pharmacists, and midwives from performing tasks they're perfectly capable of; and repealing regulations that prevent non-traditional providers (like mobile or retail health care clinics) from setting up shop in medically underserved areas, for starters—could go a long way toward making it so Planned Parenthood isn't the only OB-GYN option for many. And as I argue in the Times,

Helping bring more medical options to marginalized populations is a worthy goal for even the most ardent Planned Parenthood supporter.

Whether one's underlying goal is ensuring access to vital reproductive and sexual healthcare, reducing women's need for abortions, or reducing publicly funded healthcare expenditures, focusing on breaking down barriers to innovative, independent and cost-effective care in underserved areas will make a world more difference than micromanaging where poor women can get birth control pills.

Read the whole thing here.

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Oklahoma Jury Rules in Favor of Army Vet Who Died in Jail Due to Neglect

Tulsa County owes $10.2 million in damages.

Babawawa / PixabayBabawawa / PixabayBack in October 2011, Army veteran Elliott Williams died in a Tulsa County, Oklahoma, jail cell after being denied medical care for a broken neck and left to lie on the floor, paralyzed, for days, the Tulsa World has reported.

Today, KRMG reports that a federal jury ruled in favor of Williams' estate and called for Tulsa County to pay $10.2 million in damages and for former Sheriff Stanley Glanze to pay $250,000.

Evidence presented in the case included video surveillance of the last 51 hours of Williams' life, which directly contradicted jail records that claimed he was eating and receiving medical care, per the KRMG report. Instead, the video revealed a horrible reality. Williams lay for days naked and paralyzed on the cell floor, with food occasionally tossed in and water kept just out of his reach. Repeated calls for help were ignored by both the prison guards and the medical personnel.

Williams was initially arrested in Owasso, Oklahoma, on a misdemeanor obstruction complaint, according to the World. Owasso officers responded to reports that he was suffering a mental breakdown, and he was taken into custody after he refused to obey police orders to remain seated. Instead, Williams reportedly approached officers and told them he wanted them to shoot him. He was pepper sprayed and taken to Tulsa County Jail, where he rammed his head into the door of a holding cell and broke his neck.

The state medical examiner ruled that Williams died of "complications of vertebrospinal injuries due to blunt force trauma" and was suffering from dehydration, per the World report.

"We believe that this prolonged and reckless neglect, in the way that they treated Elliot Williams in the Tulsa County jail, really constitutes one of the worst civil rights violations in U.S. history," Williams' estate lawyer, Dan Smolen, told KRMG.

Defense attorney Guy Fortney indicated to the World that he will be meeting with the current sheriff to discuss future plans, including potentially appealing the decision.

Williams' family meanwhile said the ruling, while satisfying, isn't enough. "No amount of money is going to bring him back," Williams' brother Kevin Williams told the World. "People need to be going to jail. There needs to be criminal charges filed."

Julian Simon Would Tell Us America Needs More Immigrants: New at Reason

DHSDHSWhat would economist Julian Simon say about immigration?

His son, David M. Simon, writes:

The late economist Julian Simon taught us that people are the "ultimate resource." In the short-term, population growth causes problems. It increases traffic, crowds our schools, and stretches family and government budgets. But over time, population growth pushes us to innovate and find solutions that leave us better off. Population growth drives economic expansion. It makes us richer. And it improves our health and environment.

Simon died in 1998, but he left behind decades of controversial and path-breaking work—and an unusually good track record.

In 1980, Simon famously offered a wager to back up his work showing that natural resources generally become less scarce and less expensive. Doomsayer Paul Ehrlich accepted the challenge, chose five metals, and bet that between 1980 and 1990, their prices would rise because they would become scarcer. Simon bet that the prices of the metals would fall. In 1990, Simon won the bet. Prices of all five metals fell.

I miss Julian Simon more than most. He was my father. I often think about what he would say about the economic issues we face today. On the subject of immigration, I know what he would say: The economic evidence is clear that America needs more immigrants.

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Relax: Gutting the EPA Won't Make Your Air Dirtier and Water More Polluted

There have been diminishing returns to federal pollution regulation for a long time

EPABudgetCutsBuilderBuilderPresident Donald Trump's proposed cuts in the Environmental Protection Agency's budget "will not 'Make America Great Again', " asserted Conrad Schneider, the advocacy director at Clean Air Task Force activist group. "It will 'Make America Gag Again.'" Schneider and other alarmed activists are conjuring the bad old days of the mid-20th century when America's cities were blanketed with smog and its streams clotted with filth. In his new budget blueprint, Trump wants to cut back Environmental Protection Agency funding by 31 percent and fire 3,200 of agency's bureaucrats.

But would such steep EPA budget cuts really unleash polluters to pump out more smoke and sewage? To get a handle on this question, let's take an amble down memory lane to assess the evolution of pollution trends in the United States since President Richard Nixon cobbled together the Environmental Protection Agency in 1970.

First, with regard to air pollution, air pollution in most American cities had been declining over the course of the 20th century. Why? Many American cities had recognized the problem of air pollution in the late 19th century. Consequently they passed ordinances that aimed to abate and control the clouds of smoke emitted from burning coal in industry, heating, and cooking. For example, Chicago and Cincinnati adopted smoke abatement ordinances in 1881.

American Enterprise Institute scholars Joel Schwartz and Steven Hayward document in their 2007 book, Air Quality in America, that emissions of smoke, soot, ozone and sulfur dioxide had been falling for decades before the creation the EPA and the adoption of the Clean Air Act. For example, ambient sulfur dioxide had fallen by 58 percent in New York City during the seven years preceding the adoption of the Clean Air Act. "Air quality has indeed improved since the 1970 passage of the" Clean Air Act, they claim. "But it was improving at about the same pace for decades before the act was passed, and without the unnecessary collateral damage caused by our modern regulatory system."

They attribute a lot of the pre-EPA improvement in air quality to market-driven technological progress and increases in wealth that enabled households to switch from coal to cleaner natural gas for heating and cooking; railroads to replace coal-fired locomotives with diesels; more efficient industrial combustion that reduced the emissions of particulates; and improvements in the electrical grid that allowed power plants to be situated closer to coal mines and further from cities.

Even if the Clean Air Act did not noticeably speed up the rate of air pollution abatement, the air is nevertheless much cleaner than it used to be. How clean? Since 1980 the index for six major pollutants, carbon monoxide, ozone, particulates, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide and lead has dropped by 65 percent since 1980. In the meantime, the economy grew more than 150 percent, vehicle miles increased by more 100 percent, population grew by more than 40 percent and energy consumption rose by 25 percent. And yet, a 2016 Gallup poll found that 43 percent of Americans say that they worry about air pollution a great deal.

EPAPollutionTrends2015EPA

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Cop Who Put Eric Garner in Fatal Chokehold Has History of Substantiated Abuse Allegations Against Him

He is still employed by the NYPD.

screengrabscreengrabDocuments obtained by ThinkProgress reveal that Daniel Pantaleo, the NYPD officer who put Eric Garner in a fatal chokehold after engaging him over the alleged sale of loose, untaxed cigarettes, had seven disciplinary complaints consisting of 14 individual allegations lodged against him, four of which, from two complaints, had been substantiated by the Citizens Complaint Review Board (CCRB), which, according to ThinkProgress, had recommended disciplinary action against the cop.

The four substantiated allegations of abuse of authority yielded three penalties from the NYPD, and one ruling that rejected the CCRB's conclusion. The allegations came from two incidents, a vehicle search in in December 2011 and a stop & frisk in June 2012. The CCRB recommended the harshest penalty available to it for each of the allegations—administrative prosecution by the NYPD. The process can end in termination. Instead, the NYPD's Administrative Prosecution Unit found Pantaleo not guilty on one of the abuse charges stemming from the June 2012 incident, and guilty on the other, penalizing him two vacation days. The NYPD rejected the CCRB's recommendation in the December 11 incident, going with the weakest penalty instead, mandatory training.

Unsubstantiated allegations, according to ThinkProgress, included "allegations that Pantaleo refused to seek medical treatment for someone in 2009, hit someone against an inanimate object in 2011, made abusive vehicular stops and searches on two separate occasions in 2012, and used physical force during another incident in 2013." Experts ThinkProgress spoke to said that the number of allegations against Pantaleo should have raised "red flags" with the NYPD. But given the extensive protections granted cops through their union contracts as well as local and state laws, there is not much incentive for the NYPD to pursue problematic cops. CCRB data, according to ThinkProgress, shows that fewer than 5 percent of NYPD officers have more than seven complaints against them like Pantaleo, and just 2 percent (738 cops) have more than one complaint with substantiated allegations.

The New York Civil Liberties Union told ThinkProgress that the city's decision in 2014 to stop releasing officers' complaint histories to attorneys and reporters who requested them illustrated that Mayor Bill de Blasio "has not been good on police transparency." A spokesperson for the mayor disputed that, but neither the NYPD nor the New York City Law Department, which represents the NYPD, officers who are sued, as well as the CCRB, responded to ThinkProgress' requests for comment.

Samuel Walker, a criminal justice emeritus professor at the University of Nebraska, noted to Think Progress that New York City has a lot of influence on police departments across America. "With the largest police force in the country and a robust local media presence, the NYPD can impact how officers and unions operate elsewhere," ThinkProgress paraphrases Walker as saying. But substantive police reforms in New York will require political leaders who, unlike de Blasio, are actually committed to reform and not just to re-election, and who are not ideologically sympathetic to the unions that helped produce the rules that protect bad actors.

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3 Questions for Supreme Court Nominee Neil Gorsuch

He should explain his views on federalism, executive power, and unenumerated rights.

The Senate Judiciary Committee is holding hearings this week on the nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Gorsuch is a federal judge with admirers across the political spectrum. But his views on several crucial constitutional issues remain unclear. Here are three questions I'd like to hear Judge Gorsuch address this week before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

1. Congressional Power

The Supreme Court has upheld the power of the federal government to prosecute cannabis users in California under Congress's authority to regulate interstate commerce. Yet the medical marijuana that was the focus of that 2005 ruling was both grown and consumed only in California.

I'd like to hear Judge Gorsuch explain his views on the limits of federal power. Does Congress have the authority to ban a local activity that's legal under state law?

2. Executive Power

The federal courts are currently hearing arguments about the constit utionality of President Trump's ban on travelers from a handful of majority-Muslim countries. According to the Trump administration, the federal courts have no business second-guessing the president's authority on an issue that affects national security.

I'd like to know if Judge Gorsuch agrees that the president's executive orders are beyond the reach of judicial review. How deferential must the federal courts be to the commander in chief?

3. Unenumerated Rights

The Constitution lists a number of individual rights, such as free speech and the right to keep and bear arms. But it also refers to rights that aren't explicitly mentioned.

For example, the Supreme Court has protected the right to privacy, the right of parents to send their children to private schools, and the right to gay marriage. None of these rights are mentioned anywhere in the text of the Constitution.

In his 2006 book, Judge Gorsuch was critical of reading the Constitution in this way. He wrote that the Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment has been "stretched beyond recognition" in the name of defending unwritten rights.

I'd like to know if Judge Gorsuch thinks the same is true of the 9th Amendment and the Privileges or Immunities Clause, both of which refer to unwritten rights. Does he believe the Constitution protects any rights that aren't explicitly mentioned?

The American people deserve to hear what Judge Gorsuch has to say about these fundamental constitutional issues. Given all the unanswered questions about his jurisprudence, he should fully explain himself at this week's confirmation hearings.

Written by Damon Root. Shot by Jim Epstein. Edited by Joshua Swain.

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Good News! A Court Has Ruled This Skim Milk Can Be Called Skim Milk!

A decision so plainly obvious must have roots in intrusive government regulations.

milkOcheesee CreameryHooray for common sense over really stupid regulatory behavior that is clearly designed to protect entrenched government interests! Skim milk is skim milk!

This calls for a more detailed explanation, obviously. A creamery in Florida, Ocheesee Creamery, has been fighting with state regulators over its skim milk. One might assume that skim milk is simply milk with the cream removed. That's what thinking for yourself gets you. According to the Florida Department of Agriculture, in order to actually call your skim milk "skim milk" in the marketplace you are required to add vitamin A to replace what has been removed from the process.

Ocheesee doesn't want to add vitamin A (or anything else) to its skim milk and has been fighting state regulators. The state wanted Ocheesee to label its milk "imitation skim milk," which is absurdly not true. It is actual skim milk but without added vitamin A. It even offered to label the lack of vitamin A, but it wasn't enough for regulators.

Baylen Linnekin, who writes about food law and food policy issues weekly for Reason, had been covering the case and was even retained as an expert to explain in a report that consumers would not be misled by the fact that Ocheesee's pasteurized skim milk was still pasteurized skim milk regardless of whether vitamin A had been added.

Linnekin also noted that the larger dairy industry was more than happy to side with regulators given the opportunity to keep potential competitors with different kinds of choices out of the marketplace. Note how dairy interests are trying to also convince the feds to prohibit products like soy milk or almond milk from calling themselves "milk," though there's no real consumer confusion here that necessitates government intervention.

A federal judge initially sided with the Florida regulators against Ocheesee, but this week a panel of federal judges reversed the decision on appeal, ruling "The State was unable to show that forbidding the Creamery from using the term 'skim milk' was reasonable" and that Ocheesee was not misleading consumers.

It's also yet another win for the freedom-protecting lawyers of the Institute for Justice, who were representing the creamery in court. Read more about the case here.

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The Age of Frank Gaffney

War, paranoia, and institutional power

Peter Beinart has a detailed article in The Atlantic about the anti-Islamic theories of Frank Gaffney, a man who thinks that Islam in itself is a subversive force and that the Muslim Brotherhood is trying to turn America into a caliphate. Beinart's piece, which is convincing on most points, looks both at how Gaffney's views have grown more influential in the Trump era and at how they fit into the longer history of conspiracy theories about minority groups. I found this passage particularly interesting:

High FrontierHigh FrontierIt was not September 11 that made conservatives receptive to Gaffney's theories. It was America's failed post-9/11 wars. Joseph McCarthy won a following in the early 1950s, when Americans were exhausted by the stalemated war in Korea, by arguing that the real communist threat could be vanquished cheaply and nonviolently by ferreting out traitors at home. Gaffney argues something similar. "We can kill as many semi-literate bad guys as possible in the world's most hellish backwaters," he declared in 2012, "but as long as we ignore, or worse yet, empower and submit, to the toxic ideology they share with highly educated and well spoken Islamists in this country and elsewhere, we are doomed to defeat."

Over the last decade, conservatives disillusioned by the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and alienated from their party's interventionist elite, have found in Gaffney's theories an appealing alternative.

Beinart has overstated his case here. The grassroots right did see an increase right after 9/11 in Gaffney-style crank theories about Islam. (And for that matter, the postwar Red Scare began before McCarthy's antics, and indeed before the Korean War.) But the real growth in Gaffneyism did come later, and I think Beinart's theory helps explain why. War-weariness can express itself in many ways. Gaffney himself shows no sign of being war-weary—his organization, the Center for Security Policy, is constantly hyping one external threat or another—but his ideas about Islamic subversion have an obvious attraction for conservatives disillusioned both with Bush-era ideas about how to fight jihadism and Bush-era ideas about Islam as a religion of peace.

In any event, Beinart's piece is worth a read. But before you rush over to check it out, a couple of parting thoughts on the other fellow mentioned in that passage.

The McCarthy era is widely remembered—with good reason—as a time of conformity, with people feeling pressure to conceal dissenting views. But what makes the McCarthy period stand out from the rest of the postwar Red Scare is that the senator aimed his accusations at some of the central institutions of American life, finally crashing after he reached too far and attacked the Army. There is a tension between enforcing conformity and disrupting institutions, and that tension didn't disappear entirely with McCarthy's fall; the fiercest segments of the anti-Communist right continued to amp up their domestic distrust after he departed the stage. The John Birch Society, for example, gradually moved from seeing powerful Americans as agents of the Communists to seeing Communists as agents of powerful Americans.

If you seriously believe that the country's most powerful institutions are being infiltrated by the enemy, then there comes a point when you start seeing those institutions as enemies themselves. The fear of subversion itself breeds subversive suspicions. And that wasn't just true during the Cold War. Ask any Bush-era national-security conservative who today is overflowing with suspicion of the Deep State.

Yet this sort of fear can also have a de-radicalizing effect: A distrust of institutions can be displaced by a distrust of the people who happen to occupy the institutions at the moment. The Obama years didn't end with the election of a veteran Tea Partier; they ended with the election of a veteran birther. The noisiest Deep State–fearing conservatives are less interested in rolling back the intelligence agencies than in purging them. And on the other side of the spectrum, the opposition to Trump often seems less interested in constraining the power of presidency than in exposing the president as a puppet of a foreign government. Paranoid nationalism comes in many flavors.

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Gorsuch Stresses Independence from Trump in Senate Confirmation Hearings, Says 'No Man Is Above the Law'

What’s happening on day two of Neil Gorsuch’s SCOTUS confirmation hearings.

C-SPANC-SPANYesterday's opening session of the Neil Gorsuch Supreme Court confirming hearings was defined chiefly by the fact that nothing substantive actually happened. The 11 Republicans and nine Democrats of the Senate Judiciary Committee delivered one long-winded opening statement after another, employing mostly hollow slogans and partisan talking points to mind-numbing effect.

The real action began this morning when Gorsuch and his Senate interrogators finally came to grips. Early questioning centered on a few primary lines of inquiry.

"How do we have confidence in you that you won't be just for the big corporations? That you will be for the little men?" asked Sen. Diane Feinstein, who was up first for the Democrats.

Gorsuch replied by pointing to numerous cases in which his opinions sided with "the least among us," such as ruling in favor of an undocumented immigrant over the Board of Immigration Appeals in a major statutory interpretation case and in favor of multiple criminal suspects in Fourth Amendment cases.

Sen. Patrick Leahy, meanwhile, repeatedly pressed Gorsuch to prove his independence from President Donald Trump and asked Gorsuch to share his legal views on the constitutionality of Trump's recent executive orders banning travelers from certain Muslim-majority countries.

Predictably, Gorsuch refused to weigh in on those ongoing legal disputes.

What about "the president's national security determinations," Leahy pressed on. "Are those reviewable by the Court?" The Trump administration, Leahy pointed out, has "asserted that their national security determinations are un-reviewable by the Court."

"Senator, no man is above the law," Gorsuch replied.

A few minutes later, Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham circled back to the issue of Gorsuch's judicial independence from the president who nominated him.

"Do you agree with me that the detainee treatment act prevents waterboarding?" Graham asked, alluding to President Trump's numerous comments in favor of waterboarding.

"Yes, Senator, that's my recollection of it," Gorsuch replied.

"In case President Trump is watching," Graham said with a smile, "if you start waterboarding people you may get impeached, is that a fair summary?"

Gorsuch demurred on that, saying only that the impeachment power belonged to the Senate and that he refused to speculate about any possible future prosecutions of Trump or anybody else.

"But no man is above the law," Graham stressed.

"No man is above the law," Gorsuch immediately agreed. "No man."

If President Trump is watching, I doubt he will like the sound of that.

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First ICE Report on Police Who Won’t Detain Immigrants Shows How Small the Problem Is

Around 200 refusals, and many of those were merely charged, not yet convicted.

immigration protestsJim West/ZUMA Press/NewscomAs President Donald Trump ordered in the earliest days of his leadership, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has released its first weekly list of law enforcement agencies that refuse to cooperate with orders to detain immigrants in the United States illegally.

ICE's first report covers people released by law enforcement agencies between January 28 and February 3, but the actual detainer requests can go back much longer, even several years. But of the 3,083 requests by ICE to detain immigrants and hand them over to the feds, only 206 requests were declined. And the majority of the refusals were concentrated in a handful of communities, particularly Travis County, Texas, home of Austin.

Furthermore, of those declined requests, slightly more than half the immigrants on the list are people who have only been charged with crimes and not yet convicted. And while some of the charged crimes are very serious and violent (there's a person charged with homicide in Philadelphia), ICE is also trying to detain and possibly deport people charged with much lesser crimes like prostitution and drug possession. They're even trying to get their hands on a Venezuelan in Florida convicted of a traffic violation.

It's also not clear how accurately we should treat the report. A section of the report lists all the law enforcement agencies in the country who have limits or restrictions on how much they cooperate with ICE on detaining and handing over immigrants. The New York Times notes that Nassau County in New York is listed among these agencies, but in fact the county's sheriff's office assures they're very, very cooperative with ICE. In Texas, Williamson County's sheriff said the same thing. He says the four people ICE claims they refuse to detain for them were actually moved to other jurisdictions that subsequently refused to cooperate.

It's the first report of its kind, so perhaps some kinks are to be expected. The numbers may also end up increasing, though it's not clear of the degree. The report introduction notes that law enforcement agencies don't often inform ICE that they're refusing the detainer request, so the report is based on what ICE employees are able to figure out for themselves. This could explain the Williamson County mistake. The report also notes that ICE had previously stopped sending detainer requests to law enforcement agencies with a history of non-cooperation. Under Trump's orders, ICE is going to start sending them requests again. The report notes, "As a result, the number of issued detainers will increase over the next several reporting periods."

So the number of refusals may increase, but that doesn't mean that there's a dramatic increase in crime caused by immigrants here illegally. Keep that in mind (and the fact that many people on the list have merely been charged) when examining future trend coverage of these reports. Evidence shows that immigrants are not major sources of criminal activity.

Read through the report yourself here. Note that a lot of the agencies listed as not cooperating aren't simply flat-out refusing to detain immigrants on ICE's demand. Many require a warrant or a court order of some sort.

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Donald Trump's Fantasy World (Reason Podcast)

Nick Gillespie, Katherine Mangu-Ward, and Matt Welch talk deficits, Chuck Berry, Gorsuch, and the Bezos bot.

"We're using the rhetoric of cuts, and fiscal responsibility, and Republicans pairing things down to the bone for a budget that's not actually smaller than its predecessors," says Reason magazine Editor in Chief Katherine Mangu-Ward.

And thus we lose.

On our latest Reason podcast, Mangu-Ward, Matt Welch, and Nick Gillespie discuss a preliminary federal budget that "takes the things that lefties like and dumps it in to the things that righties like;" the "strangulation of Big Bird in his nest;" the existential despair at three-year-old birthday parties in Washington, D.C.; Jeff Bezos and the coming of the robot overlords; Chuck Berry as our cultural Apollo project (or is it Wikipedia?); the coming, extended, nauseating theater of the Gorsuch hearing; and the greatness of pop music as "an endless parade of freaks differentiating themselves."

Click below to listen to the conversation—or subscribe to our podcast at iTunes and never miss an episode.

Don't miss a single Reason podcast! (Archive here.) Subscribe, rate, and review!

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Upset About Budget Cuts to the National Institutes of Health? Blame the National Institutes of Health

The NIH's track record suggest that Trump's proposed $6 billion budget cut won't be the end of science, progress, or discoveries.

Andrew Seng/ZUMA Press/NewscomAndrew Seng/ZUMA Press/NewscomScientists and fans of science are getting all worked up over a proposed 20 percent cut to the budget of the National Institutes of Health. If they're looking for someone to blame for those cuts, they can start by blaming the National Institutes of Health.

Seriously. From funding experiments that gave cocaine to quails and rats, to studying the sex habits of hamsters and goldfish, there are few parts of the federal government that have made a better case for budget cut than the NIH.

Adrienne LaFrance has a piece at The Atlantic that takes the hysteria over President Donald Trump's first budget proposal to new heights. The budget, which includes a cut of $6 billion to the NIH, has scientists bracing for "a lost generation in American science," according to LaFrance, who says scientists told her that the "consequences of such a dramatic reduction in public spending on science and medicine would be deadly."

One of those scientists, Peter Hotez, the dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine, tells LaFrance that the proposed cuts "would bring American biomedical science to a halt and forever shut out a generation of young scientists."

Please.

Behind all the hysterics is one simple fact. Even if Trump's budget cuts are enacted, as proposed, by Congress (which they won't be), the NIH would be funded at the same level as it was in 2003. That's less than 15 years ago. It's hardly a return to the Dark Ages—heck, that's hardly a return to the pre-iPhone ages—or to the era when smallpox and polio were running rampant. If the generation of young scientists that went to school in the 1990s and early 2000s managed to survive and get funding for research without the NIH at its current levels, then surely the next generation will.

Before going any further, though, an important note on Trump's budget. It's terrible. His proposed cuts are not a serious effort at reducing the size of the federal government, but rather a way to pay for a mostly useless wall on the border with Mexico and to feed the Pentagon more money ($52 billion more, to be exact), so the military can flush it down the toilet of endless wars, overpriced weapons systems, and who-knows-what-else because not even government auditors can figure out how the Department of Defense manages to waste so much taxpayer money.

The terrible spending decisions in Trump's budget, though, do not make his proposed cuts any less legitimate, and few government agencies have made a better, stronger case for having their own budgets reduced.

More than 80 percent of the NIH's annual budget is used to fund research grants, mostly for universities and post-grad students. While there is plenty of good research funded by the NIH, there's also no shortage of examples that make you wonder if they're secretly conducting a study on how many ridiculous, wasteful studies they can fund before Congress or the president cuts their budget.

Perhaps the most infamous example of pure WTF research funded by the NIH is the $175,000 grant given to the University of Kentucky to study how cocaine affects the sex drives of Japanese quail.

"It's hard to think of a more wasteful use of American taxpayers' money than to give cocaine to quail and studying their sexual habits," deadpanned then-Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Oklahoma) in highlighting the study in his 2011 report on wasteful government spending.

There are plenty of other head-scratching examples, like the $509,000 grant used to study how meth-heads responded to text messages using "gay lingo." The NIH spent more than $2.8 million over four years funding a study to determine why "nearly three-quarters of adult lesbians overweight or obese," and why gay men generally are not. More than $600,000 from the NIH helped finance a study on the sex habits of hamsters, and another $3.6 million from the NIH allowed researchers at Bowdoin College to ponder "what makes goldfish feel sexy?"

My personal favorite is the 2012 NIH-funded study that determined rats on cocaine prefer listening to jazz music instead of classical. Specifically, they like listening to Miles Davis' classic album "Four" more than Beethoven's "Fur Elise." Don't worry, the researchers did the same experiment with rats high on methamphetamine, too, and found that they also enjoy Miles Davis. Cool.

Not to be outdone, researchers at the University of Illinois used a $242,600 NIH grant to get honeybees high on cocaine, ultimately discovering that the intoxicated bees are "about twice as likely to dance" and moved 25 percent faster than sober bees.

Other NIH studies simply prove what everyone already knows, like when a $548,000 grant helped demonstrate that adults over age 30 who frequently binge-drink tend to be less mature than their peers. Or when the NIH spent $666,000 on a study that found watching re-runs of old television shows make people happy, because it gives them an "energizing chance to reconnect with pseudo-friends."

Even when they try to clean up their act, the NIH ends up raising questions about how it's spending taxpayer money. After a government audit found that the NIH had blown $823,000 on a Las Vegas conference (enough to fund five more studies about the drug habits of Japanese quail, can you believe?) in 2010, the agency created new levels of bureaucratic oversight to make sure that didn't happen again. The problem: Bloomberg reported in 2015 that the additional oversight costs as much as $14.6 million annually, roughly equal to how much the agency spends each year researching Hodgkin's disease.

The hilarious examples of waste at the NIH are just a drop in the bucket of the federal deficit, of course, but it certainly seems like the agency could do a little trimming without losing any critical medical research.Cato InstituteCato Institute

Even without budget cuts, that research is increasingly being driven by the private sector anyway.

In her piece at The Atlantic, LaFrance points out that the federal government funded 60 percent of research and development in the United States in 1965. By 2006, however, more than 65 percent of R&D funding was coming from private sources, she notes.

This, we're meant to believe, is a bad thing. A sign that government—that all of us—is not doing its part to finance the scientific discoveries that make the modern world such a wonderful place to live. For shame.

Get rid of the percentages, though, and a different picture emerges. Funding for the NIH has increased by about 3.5 times between 1970 and 2015 (not quite enough to keep pace with inflation, but pretty close). Most of that increase has been in the past two decades. In just five years, from 2000 through 2004, the NIH's budget grew by a whopping 58 percent, and there was another huge boost in NIH funding during the Obama administration's stimulus program (lots of shovel-ready jobs in labs, one assumes).

There hasn't been a reduction in public funding for research and development, but government funding now makes up a smaller portion of the overall pie because privately funded research has grown so quickly that it's overtaken government as the main patron of science. That's not a bad thing! Sure, privately funded research is subject to approval from corporate overlords at times—in her piece, LaFrance quotes an associate professor of psychiatry at Yale who proclaims that only "sexy, hot" science will get private funding, instead of the tedious research that leads to most important breakthroughs—but if that means fewer studies on why rats like Miles Davis, I think we'll survive.

Similarly, I think we'll be okay if a smaller budget for the NIH means the agency has to prioritize important things like research into deadly diseases ahead of questionably useful studies on the drug habits of Japanese birds, the importance of old television shows, and the sex habits of small mammals.

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A.M. Links: FBI Investigating Possible Trump-Russia Contacts, Gorsuch Confirmation Hearings Day 2, U.S. Bans Certain Electronic Devices on Flights from 8 Muslim-Majority Countries

  • C-SPANC-SPANToday is the second day of Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch's confirmation hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee.
  • FBI Director James Comey has confirmed that the agency is investigating possible contacts between Donald Trump's presidential campaign and Russia.
  • "Passengers traveling to the United States from 10 airports in eight Muslim-majority countries will be prohibited from bringing laptops, tablets and other portable electronic devices on board with them when they fly, according to new rules set to take effect Tuesday."
  • The European Union will hold a summit of its member states on April 29 to plan for Brexit.
  • Martin McGuinnes, the former chief of staff of the Irish Republican Army, has died at age 66.

Follow us on Facebook and Twitter, and don't forget to sign up for Reason's daily updates for more content.

When They Nullify the Law, Jurors Are Just Doing Their Jobs: New at Reason

Lee Bennett/flickrLee Bennett/flickrJury nullification angers judges and prosecutors, but it's all just part of the jurors' role in protecting us from the government.

J.D. Tuccille writes:

Why juries do what they do is often a mystery, especially when they protectively interpose themselves between the government and a defendant. Outsiders can't know what really goes on during jury deliberations, and jurors themselves have no way of knowing what truly motivates their colleagues to bring a not guilty verdict. That's why jury nullification—acquittals of defendants who jurors believe did violate the law but don't deserve punishment, either because of specifics of the case or because jurors oppose the law in question—isn't always obvious. It's extraordinarily rare for jurors to tip their hands by setting people loose and then telling them they should keep up the good work, which is what happened in a recent case from New York.

But, as with much of what jurors do, nullification is important and potentially powerful.

Prosecutors and their groupies don't really care why they were thwarted—just that they didn't get their way. When refused convictions in high-profile criminal cases, they tend to act as if the government has been denied something to which it's entitled by divine word and the laws of nature. Amidst whining by prosecutors about spending a week with "12 idiots," and huffing by editorial boards over an "absurd verdict," it's difficult to know whether a not guilty verdict represents an act of juror rebellion or a simple statement that the government didn't live up to its obligation to prove its arguments. Although, either way, jurors likely consider themselves to be doing what's right.

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The Coming German Energy Crisis: New at Reason

Windworks EnergieWindworks EnergieAn overcommitment to renewable energy by Germany has already had negative consequences.

Marian Tupy writes:

Recently, I came across a report by Fritz Vahrenholt, Professor in the Department of Chemistry at the University of Hamburg, entitled Germany's Energiewende: a disaster in the making. It made for interesting reading.

In the aftermath of the Fukushima disaster in 2011, the German government decided to shut down its 19 nuclear power stations, which supply nearly 30 percent of the country's electrical power, by 2022. Driven by social pressure, the German government now plans to get rid of all fossil fuels, thus increasing the share of renewable energy to 95 percent of total energy supply by 2050.

To accomplish its goal, the government has introduced a "renewable" levy on power bills, thus doubling the price of electricity. This additional cost amounts to €25 billion ($26.8 billion) annually. In a nod to rationality, the government has exempted energy-intensive industries (steel, copper and chemicals) from the renewable levy, thus maintaining their competitiveness.

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Brickbat: But the Coyote Is Still Alive

Warner BrothersWarner BrothersA cyanide bomb planted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture sent a 14-year-old Idaho boy to the hospital and killed his dog. The devices are used to kill coyotes and other predators. The USDA is supposed to put signs up around them, but both the boy and the local sheriff say there were no signs around that bomb, which was planted near the boy's home.

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Are NFL Owners Refusing to Sign Kaepernick Because They're Scared of a 'Nasty Tweet' from Trump?

The president likes to think so.

Seatacular/Foter.comSeatacular/Foter.comDonald Trump held the third campaign-style rally of his two-month-old presidency in Louisville tonight, where he boasted that some NFL owners weren't interested in signing Colin Kaepernick "because they don't want to get a nasty tweet from Donald Trump."

Trump cited a story from Bleacher Report, which quoted an unnamed general manager who suggested a fear of Trump might be keeping some teams from hiring Kaepernick, who last year declined to stand for the national anthem in protest of the treatment of African Americans in the U.S. as well as the corrupt political system (he knocked candidates Trump and Hillary Clinton last year, calling the former a racist and the latter someone who would be in prison if she weren't who she were).

"They think there might be protests or Trump will tweet about the team," Bleacher Report quoted the general manager as saying. "I'd say that number is around 10 percent. Then there's another 10 percent that has a mix of those feelings."

The manager went on to tell Bleacher Report the majority of team owners "genuinely hate him and can't stand what he did," and that only about a fifth considered Kaepernick, who began last season as a second-string quarterback and ended up starting 11 games for the 2-14 San Francisco 49ers, which he had taken to the Super Bowl just four years earlier. He became a free agent this year in a market with not a lot of good quarterbacks.

Kaepernick was not the only player to protest during the national anthem last year, but he was the first and by far the most prominent. Earlier this month, Kaepernick said he would stand for the anthem this year, arguing the method would detract from unspecified positive changes he believes are happening. He did not vote in November.

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Brexit Negotiations Moving Forward

The two sides have until March 2019 to come up with a withdrawal agreement.

Sam / FlickrSam / FlickrBrexit negotiations are on their way. Britian's government will begin the formal process on March 29, as reported by the Associated Press.

To start the clock, Britain will trigger Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, which details how member states can withdraw from the European Union. At that point, both sides will have until March 2019 to agree on a settlement, determining what the relationship between Britain and the E.U. will look like post-Brexit.

The negotiations are crucial in determining future trade relations, travel restrictions, and financial services between Britain and the rest of Europe. There is much at stake, as the kind of deal Britain receives will signal to other E.U. members whether it is worth leaving or not.

"They will all see from the U.K.'s example that leaving the E.U. is a bad idea," European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said, according to CNN. "On the contrary, the remaining member states will fall in love with each other again and renew their vows with the European Union."

Membership in the E.U., as the Harvard Business Review explains, is characterized by four freedoms: the free movement across borders of people, services, goods, and capital. The journal notes that Britain is negotiating for continued tariff-free trade but with the ability to control it own borders.

"The ideal outcome (and in my view the most likely, after a lot of wrangling) is continued tariff-free access," Brexit secretary David Davis said, per the Harvard Business Review article. "Once the European nations realize that we are not going to budge on control of our borders, they will want to talk, in their own interest."

The sentiment is not shared by the E.U.

"Half memberships and cherry-picking aren't possible," Juncker argued, according to reports from CNN. "In Europe you eat what's on the table or you don't sit at the table."

It was this sort of Euro-centric conformity that fueled pro-Brexit support, as Reason editor at large Matt Welch explained back in January:

Railing against the sovereignty-busting whims of overseas elites isn't just effective politics, it's also often right. The E.U. project has been liberating when it comes to free trade, privatization, and the movement of humans within its borders, but planners weren't content to stop there. They insisted on eradicating monetary sovereignty as well, implausibly lashing together the central banks of Germany and Greece, a system that leaves all participants perpetually (and rightfully) disgruntled. And the downside to pooling and outsourcing immigration policy has been all too clear these past few years, as locals have found some of their cities swollen with hard-to-assimilate migrants and refugees from war-torn Muslim regions of the Middle East and North Africa, without feeling like they had any say in the matter. Throw in what has become almost monthly acts of deadly Islamic terrorism on the continent, and the nationalist political reactions write themselves.

For more Brexit speculation, read Cato Institute policy analyst Marian Tupy's contribution to Reason on how Britain can negotiate for a better withdrawal settlement.

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Student Allegedly Attacked Female Basketball Player Because Her Hairstyle Was ‘Cultural Appropriation’

Braids aren't for white girls.

BraidPaul PrescottAuthorities charged a Hampshire College student with assaulting a member of Central Maine Community College's basketball team over a dispute about cultural appropriation. Really.

The Hampshire student, 20-year-old Carmen Figueroa, allegedly started a fight because the basketball player had braided her hair in a manner that upset Figueroa. She walked up to the visiting player—during a basketball game—and demanded that the player remove the braids from her hair, according to masslive.com.

Figueroa is a female student of color. The basketball player was a member of the women's team. Her ethnicity is not stated in news articles, though it seems likely she's either white, or belongs to some other race whose members aren't allowed to braid their hair Latina-style, according to Figueroa's world view.

Here's how the encounter unfolded. The Daily Hampshire Gazette reports:

When the players did not comply and began to leave the building, Figueroa allegedly initiated a fight towards one of the players. At the same time, another unknown Hampshire College student pulled the hair of a visiting women's basketball player causing her to fall to the ground, according to court documents.

While the player was on the ground, police allege that Figueroa kicked and stepped on the player causing injury.

Another Maine player attempted to protect her fallen teammate but Figueroa "grabbed her by the head and threw her to the ground," according to court documents.

In court last Friday, Figueroa pleaded not guilty.

I realize that most accusations of cultural appropriation do not end in violence. (Some do.) But it's a ludicrous belief, even when not backed up by force. Who is teaching these liberal students that they have the right to bully people for dressing and styling themselves in imitation of other races? Who is peddling the absurd notion that the right to wear braids, or hooped earrings, or sombreros, or geisha costumes belongs to some people, but not to others? Shouldn't Hampshire College be fostering liberal, cosmopolitan values among its students?

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FBI Investigating Trump Associates, Gorsuch Hearings Extremely Partisan, David Rockefeller Dies: P.M. Links

  • GorsuchPete Marovich/EPA/NewscomIn a House Intelligence Committee hearing today, FBI Director James Comey confirmed the FBI is investigating the extent of ties between President Donald Trump's associates and the Russian government and whether anything criminal happened. He also (along with others at the hearing) said he found no evidence that President Barack Obama had wiretapped Trump tower.
  • Hearings for Neil Gorsuch's confirmation to the Supreme Court began and are showing themselves to be very partisan, to the surprise of absolutely nobody at all. But he has John Elway's support!
  • Billionaire philanthropist David Rockefeller has died at age 101.
  • Kellyanne Conway's husband, George, is expected be nominated by Trump to lead the Justice Department's civil division.
  • A passenger plane with dozens aboard crashed in South Sudan. The good news is that there are survivors.
  • Eric Trump and wife, Lara, are expecting their first child.
  • Sesame Street is introducing a muppet with autism. No word on whether Oscar the Grouch will be blaming vaccines for her condition.

Follow us on Facebook and Twitter, and don't forget to sign up for Reason's daily updates for more content.

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Trump Budget Cuts: Real or ‘Reality’ Show? New at Reason

The Trump "budget cuts" are best understood as a kind of theater or performance art.

Splash News/NewscomSplash News/NewscomDonald Trump ran for office promising to crush the Islamic State, end the influx of illegal immigration from Mexico, and stop the flight of American manufacturing jobs to China. Now that he's in office, he seems to be focusing on different set of targets: Public television's "Big Bird," poor old people who benefit from "Meals on Wheels," and history graduate students and scholars of the Founding Fathers who get grants from the National Endowment for Humanities (NEH). Some reports even had the Trump administration slashing funding for the Coast Guard. What's going on here?

The Trump "budget cuts" are best understood in the context of Trump's home city, New York, suggests Ira Stoll. There, for decades, the mayor would propose draconian "cuts" to popular institutions like museums and libraries, the museums and libraries would dutifully rally their constituencies to fight against the proposed "cuts," and the City Council would intervene to restore the funding, winning the gratitude of those that had been targeted. This was widely and correctly understood as a kind of theater. No funding was genuinely in jeopardy, other than the personal funds of the taxpayers who wound up eventually footing the bill for the government spending. The mayor got to pose as fiscally prudent. And the City Council got to claim credit for protecting the museums and libraries, which had never really been in danger.

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Comey Confirms FBI Investigating Ties Between Russia, Trump Associates

Will assess whether anything illegal happened, but wouldn’t provide details.

ComeyC-SpanYes, associates of President Donald Trump are the focus of an FBI investigation over potential connections to the Russian government and Russia's attempts to meddle with the 2016 presidential election, FBI Director James Comey confirmed in a House committee meeting this morning.

Comey would not discuss any details of the ongoing investigation or suggest that they believed that any crimes had been committed as yet. That's what the investigation was for. The public announcement confirms what had been leaked out from several sources already. Comey did say there would be an "assessment of whether any crimes were committed."

Furthermore, pretty much everybody participating on both sides of this House Intelligence Committee hearing was on the same side in concluding that Trump's tweets that he had been wiretapped by President Barack Obama were not supported by evidence. This doesn't necessarily mean that other types of surveillance might have happened. But parties dismissed the idea that wiretaps were involved, and Mike Rogers, director of the National Security Agency, explained that Obama would not have had the authority to simply order Trump to be wiretapped on his own.

Other than those two major news hooks, much of the rest of the questioning from the House committee, at least in the earliest stages, ping-ponged back and forth between the two parties' attempts to spin this entire scandal their way. For Democrats, this meant a heavy focus on Russia's potential meddling in the election. Though there has still been no evidence that Russian hacking altered the results of the election in any way, committee ranking member Rep. Adam Schiff (D-California) spent a good 15 minutes detailing the entire background of the targeting of the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton's campaign pre-election for hacking and timed releases of private email discussions.

For Republicans, much of the focus was, first of all, pointing out that there was no evidence the election results themselves were altered by hackers, and then attacking the leaks coming out of the intelligence community, particularly wanting to track down and punish whoever it was who leaked to the press that Michael Flynn, Trump's short-lived national security advisor, had been talking to a Russian diplomat and—more importantly—had apparently lied to now-Vice President Mike Pence about it. The emphasis on the crimes of the leaks themselves may well have reached its strangest place when Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-South Carolina) made a show out of refusing to say Flynn's name when asking questions after making a big deal about how these intel leaks have the potential to violate the privacy of Americans.

There's a secondary goal here by pro-surveillance conservatives that helps make the line of questioning make a little more sense. It's not necessarily about protecting Trump and Trump's associates. It's about protecting the intelligence community's surveillance authorities. Rep. Tom Rooney (R-Florida), and other Republicans raised concerns that these leaks could compromise efforts to renew Section 702, an amendment to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) that details some authorities and restrictions on overseas or international surveillance that also ends up scooping up conversations or data from Americans.

Section 702 is going to sunset this year unless Congress takes action on it. Privacy and civil liberties groups have called for reforms to Section 702 to provide greater protections for Americans from having their information collected, stored, and used in domestic crime investigations without warrants. Surveillance advocates and the Trump administration itself do not want any reforms to 702 and want it renewed as it is. So the perception among Republicans on the panel was that the leaks revealing Flynn's name jeopardize the renewal of 702 because it shows that the American people can't trust that their privacy actually will be protected by the intelligence community.

It's yet another example of how people in position of power don't grasp the consequences of the abuse of authority until it's against them or their friends. Even so, there was little evidence the Republicans were concerned at all that the collection and use of the private communication was itself a problem but rather that the information was leaked.

And ultimately the partisan split in the discussions here presents us with a false choice. There's no reason why Americans shouldn't be concerned by a foreign power's breach of a political party's communications in an attempt to influence the election and at the same time worry about the dangers and long-term consequences of the intelligence community using agenda-driven links to attempt to damage the leaders of the executive branch (a.k.a. their bosses).

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Tomi Lahren, Pro-Choice Conservative, Not 'Incoherent' on Abortion

"I'm for limited government, so stay out of my guns, and you can stay out of my body as well," said Lahren on The View last week.

The ViewThe ViewConservative starlet Tomi Lahren is facing a heap of backlash from her usual supporters after an appearance on ABC's The View in which she defended the decriminalized status of abortion. Lahren, who hosts a popular show (Tomi) for Glenn Beck network The Blaze and is a frequent guest on Fox News programs, said that as someone who "loves the Constitution" and believes in limited government she can't support the government "decid[ing] what women do with their bodies."

"I'm pro-choice," Lahren admitted, calling it hypocritical to profess support for small government yet want to ban abortion. "I'm for limited government, so stay out of my guns, and you can stay out of my body as well."

Contra Lahren's critics, this is a perfectly coherent position, and one that was once perfectly respectable within the mainstream conservative movement. There's only tension between believing abortion should be legal—which is all being "pro-choice" means—and the Constitution's prescription of "life, liberty, and property" protection for all if you believe that personhood begins at conception. But one needn't believe this, nor even be a Christian at all, in order to champion conservative political philosophy.

And even if one does believe that abortion is an immoral practice, it doesn't necessarily follow that one must wish it banned completely. There are plenty of pro-life Americans who believe a blanket ban on abortion is not the best way to end the practice, given how black markets work. They instead strive to end abortion through changing hearts and minds, advocating better pregnancy-prevention methods, working to expand adoption options, and things like that. Again, this might seem horrific to people who believe that aborting an eight-week old fetus is the exact same as murdering a 2- or 20- or 80-year-old, but that's a matter of moral or religious perspective. Many others who believe abortion is wrong are simultaneously able to hold that it's not the same degree of wrong as ending a life outside the womb, or that the competing rights of pregnant women make abortion morally justifiable in some circumstances.

These are all positions that can convey coherent internal logic and political/moral belief systems. You may think folks like Lahren—who says she is personally against abortion, even though simultaneously pro-choice—are wrong, and that abortion is always the gravest of transgressions or never so, but it's erroneous and unfair to brush aside their beliefs as simple stupidity, hypocrisy, opportunism, or cowardice. It's exactly this kind of reflexive dismissal of differing beliefs and moral gray areas that keeps us locked in the stupidest kind of culture war over abortion, one that manifests in it being the most important litmus test for acceptance into political movements on the right and left and results in a host of high-profile, symbolic battles that all lead back to the same status quo.

Anyway, a lot of conservatives have been calling for Lahren's head since her View appearance, insisting it's an embarrassment and an outrage that such a pro-choice harpy could be a public face of Republicanism. As with Milo Yiannopoulos—who said all sorts of horrible things about women, Muslims, transgender people, etc., but was only ousted from polite conservatism after joking about pedophilic priests—it's telling (if predictable) that tepidly pro-choice views are the dealbreaker for the right with Lahren, while things like calling Black Lives Matter activists "the new KKK," referring to the Middle East as a "sandbox" that needs to be bombed, and defending the shooting of unarmed black men by cops never really rustled Republican jimmies.

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Does Neil Gorsuch Side With Clarence Thomas or Antonin Scalia on the 14th Amendment, The Slaughter-House Cases, and the Privileges or Immunities Clause?

Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch has something in common with both Justice Clarence Thomas and with the late Justice Antonin Scalia. All three jurists are known as proponents of originalism, which is the idea that the Constitution should be interpreted according to its original meaning at the time it was adopted.

ReasonReasonYet despite their shared affinity for originalism, Thomas and Scalia disagreed on some fundamental questions of constitutional law. Most notably, Thomas and Scalia disagreed about whether the Supreme Court should revive and enforce the original meaning of the Privileges or Immunities Clause of the 14th Amendment. I'd like to know where Neil Gorsuch stands on this crucial divide.

Here's the deal. According to the 14th Amendment, "No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States." What are the privileges or immunities of U.S. citizens? According to Republican Congressman John Bingham of Ohio, the author of that section of the 14th Amendment, "the provisions of the Constitution guaranteeing rights, privileges, and immunities to citizens of the United States" include both those enumerated rights that are specifically spelled out somewhere in the Constitution—such as in the Bill of Rights—as well as other fundamental rights that are not enumerated in the document. Among the fundamental unenumerated rights that are secured against state abridgment, Bingham told the House of Representatives, was the "constitutional liberty...to work in an honest calling and contribute by your toil in some sort to the support of your self, to the support of your fellowmen, and to be secure in the enjoyment of the fruits of your toil."

The 14th Amendment was ratified in 1868. The Supreme Court first ruled on its meaning five years later in a dispute known as The Slaughter-House Cases. At issue was the granting of an exclusive and highly lucrative slaughterhouse monopoly to a private corporation by the Louisiana legislature. According to a number of New Orleans butchers, the monopoly law was an act of pure special interest cronyism that violated their fundamental rights to economic liberty under the 14th Amendment.

The Supreme Court disagreed, ruling 5-4 in favor of the state and its corporate beneficiaries. According to the majority opinion of Justice Samuel Miller, to view the Privileges or Immunities Clause as a guarantee of individual rights against any sort of state law or regulation would "fetter and degrade the State governments" and transform the Supreme Court into "a perpetual censor upon all legislation of the States." Miller's opinion effectively gutted the Privileges or Immunities Clause.

The principal Slaughter-House dissent was filed by Justice Stephen Field, who argued that the majority had just trashed the original meaning of the 14th Amendment. "It is to me a matter of profound regret that [the monopoly's] validity is recognized by this court," Field wrote, "for by it the right of free labor, one of the most sacred and imprescriptible rights of man, is violated." In Field's view, "the fourteenth amendment does afford such protection, and was so intended by the Congress which framed and the states which adopted it."

From the standpoint of constitutional originalism, Field had the winning argument. But he failed to carry the day at SCOTUS. Slaughter-House remains what lawyers call "good law" to this day.

Which brings us back to Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia.

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Virginia Cop's Taser Set This Man on Fire—How Much Does the County Owe Him?: New at Reason

family photofamily photoTasers are supposed to be a step toward more humane policing, but because they are (usually) non-lethal, tasers might actually make excessive force more likely rather than less. In Virginia, a man was burned alive by a cop who may have been too quick to use a taser.

A. Barton Hinkle writes:

Let's get one thing clear at the outset: Miles November acted like an idiot.

November could have killed someone the night of February 7, 2015, when—driving on a suspended license, with a blood-alcohol level more than twice the legal limit—he led police officers on a high-speed chase in Chesterfield that ended when he rolled his car several times and crashed. A few months ago he pleaded guilty to drunken driving, running away from the cops, and driving on a suspended license.

For such behavior, he deserved a long stretch in a hard cell—especially given his long record of prior offenses for DUI and assaulting officers. Rosa Parks he ain't. Few people would dispute that. But only a demented sadist would contend that, for his crime, November should have been burned alive.

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The Brief, Half-Serious, and Sort of Visionary Political Career of Jimmy Breslin

The candidate who told an audience of cops that he'd abolish the New York Police Department

Mailer/Breslin campaignMailer/Breslin campaign"Good day to you," Jimmy Breslin told the crowd of cops. "I'd like the record to state that I'm here without a lawyer."

It was 1969. By this time Breslin, who died yesterday, was already a well-known newspaper columnist, but he wasn't giving a talk about journalism. He was campaigning to be president of the New York City Council. Also on the bill was Breslin's running mate, Norman Mailer, who was aiming to be mayor. The place was the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, and Breslin was about to give what Mailer's campaign manager, Joe Flaherty, later described as "the best speech he would deliver during the campaign." (It went over better than Mailer's turn with the crowd, which featured lines like "there were years when I hated some of you guys so much it wasn't funny" and "I'm as yellow as any good cop.")

After some opening jokes, Breslin got down to the heart of his pitch—elect his ticket, and "there will be no more New York Police Department as we know it":

Our idea is to have this city become a state, have the various sections of this city become cities right inside the state, and let them run their own police. Let's get the wisdom of the neighborhoods, give them the power, and let them run with it. I say the plan is far better from a police viewpoint than the way we're going, because in my estimation policemen today are being used. The police get all the mistakes of all the people who are supposed to be more important and smarter than us.

The argument that followed mixed lines a Black Panther could love ("Those days are gone when white people can rule the black neighborhoods") with sentences calculated to appeal to people afraid of Panthers ("I think the time also should be gone that we should ask a white person to go in there"). Breslin called for the radical decentralization not just of the police but of the schools, and he wrapped up with a joke about knowing a guy who could come in to teach a class on bookmaking. After the official event was over, the candidates found themselves shooting the shit with some beat cops who had skipped the lecture. One of them told Breslin he had "doubts about you with your long, curly hair." Breslin shot back that he "wouldn't want to walk into a piss house with you alone either, baby."

Mailer/Breslin campaignMailer/Breslin campaignBy this time Mailer and Breslin weren't a conventional ticket so much as a double act, with each candidate taking the spotlight in front of different audiences. Breslin, a more natural populist, was better with Catholics and cops, Mailer with Jews and intellectuals; when they spoke before an audience of feminists, they both bombed. It never was completely clear how serious a campaign they were running. Breslin told one audience that "anyone who runs for office in this city, with the shape this city is in, and takes it as a joke, is committing a mortal sin." But it didn't take Flaherty long to decide that Breslin saw his candidacy "as a brief and witty exercise to discredit the regular pols, then an exit before the real campaigning began."

The duo definitely believed that stuff about decentralization and community control. But they were also prone to pitching proposals that were satiric, utopian, or maybe both: banning cars from Manhattan, inviting gangs to fight jousting matches in Central Park, holding a stickball World Series on Wall Street. Mailer took to promoting an idea he called Sweet Sunday—one day a month when, in his words, "New York would stop for 24 hours. Everything would stop running. Electricity, cars, planes, trains, name it. If nothing else, it would give New York a chance to clear itself once a month. And people would hear themselves think for a change." Pressed on whether he'd permit hospitals to run their generators on Sweet Sunday, Mailer backed down slightly and said he'd allow it. And air conditioning? There he held firm, though he acknowledged that the people wouldn't like the results: "On the first hot day the populace would impeach me."

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Philadelphia Cancels Cinco de Mayo Parade Over ICE Raid Fears

But ICE insists it does not conduct raids that "target alien indiscriminately."

R. Kennedy for Visit Philadelphia™R. Kennedy for Visit Philadelphia™Organizers of the largest Cinco de Mayo-related annual event held in Philadelphia, El Carneval de Puebla, have canceled the parade over fears it could be targeted by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents. "Everyone is offended by the actions of ICE. They did not feel comfortable holding the event," organizer Edgar Ramirez told the local NBC affiliate of his co-organizers.

ICE recently announced that over a two-week period it had made nearly 250 arrests of illegal immigrants in Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Delaware that it said had previous records, as ICE noted in its press release. But such enforcement actions are not new. A week-long operation in the three states last May yielded 84 arrests, and a similar ICE press release highlighting the prior arrest and criminal records of some of those individuals apprehended. A spokesperson at the ICE Philly office, Khaalid Walls, told NBC that ICE "enforcement actions are targeted and lead driven" and that the agency did not "conduct sweeps or raids that target aliens indiscriminately." Organizers did not say they had a specific warning that their event would be targeted.

While President Trump has described recent immigration enforcement actions as unprecedented, and even as a "military operation," Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly has resisted such characterizations, insisting recent raids were not different than raids conducted regularly in previous years, and that there would be "no—repeat—no mass deportations" and "no—repeat—no use of military force in immigration operations."

The Trump administration has relied on hyping up and amplifying news of its raids in order to push other immigrants to self-deport and to discourage migrants from trying to cross the border. The administration says there has been a 40 percent drop in Southern border crossings. As Dara Lind noted at Vox.com, nothing ICE did in raids in early February was unprecedented, but it "feels different with President Trump in the White House." Lind pointed out that the truth of the raids, which did include practices not used during the Obama administration, like arresting other illegal immigrants found while targeting someone with a deportation order, was nevertheless "sometimes been overshadowed by rumors that sound much worse than anything that's been documented."

Arguably, those kinds of rumors, and reporting on immigration raids that conflates increased attention due to the political atmosphere with a marked increase in enforcement, are a powerful tool for the Trump administration. Any effort to deport millions of illegal immigrants will rely in part on self-deportations. Trump, through his rhetoric, has helped to create a climate of fear where that's more likely to happen. Organizers like Ramirez are doing their part to signal boost that climate instead of resisting it.

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Sex Offender Drives Past Bus Stop, Minds Own Business. But Cops Were Called.

Think of the children.

BusKevin LohkaYou'll never guess what happened in Palos Park, Illinois, this week: A sex offender drove his car by a school bus stop.

Oh my!

Did he threaten children? Abduct them?

Well, no. He didn't even get out of his car, actually.

But... the children! They were in danger, right?

Nope. "No students were involved in this incident," according to the police. (Incident? What was the incident, then?)

So, no kids were involved, but they could have been. Imagine that! It's so horrifying. Then they would have seen the guy drive right by them.

Apparently some parents noticed an unfamiliar red Hyundai and alerted the cops. Patch.com reports:

The police chief [Joe Miller] said the man's red Hyundai drew the attention of parents waiting for their youngsters at the school bus stop. The parents noticed the vehicle traveling through the area several times this past week.

"The car looked out of place to them," Miller said. "We wanted to follow up on it. The car came back registered to a sex offender."

Miller added that there were no furtive movements. The man did not violate his sex offender registration.

The police questioned the man. Turns out he kept driving by each day for the very creepy and bizarre reason that this happens to be the route to his job.

So the guy did nothing but drive his car down the street. And yet the cops praised the parents for calling the authorities:

"Parents were being alert and vigilant. Something looked out of place and they called police," the chief added. "They did what they were supposed to do."

Apparently, that's what parents are supposed to do these days: freak out at red Hyundais. Naturally, the police proceeded to notify the school district, and naturally, the superintendent notified even more parents.

Now everyone knows about a guy who was not violating his parole, did not get out of his car, and did not encounter any students. But still. Scary.

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Neil Gorsuch Confirmation Hearings: What You Need to Know About the SCOTUS Nominee

Today the Senate Judiciary Committee begins confirmation hearings on the nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch to the U.S. Supreme Court.

WikipediaWikipediaToday the Senate Judiciary Committee begins confirmation hearings on the nomination of Neil Gorsuch to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Gorsuch is a respected legal conservative whose admirers come from across the political spectrum. Not only is he immensely popular among Federalist Society members, he has also earned kudos from the liberal-leaning American Bar Association, which deemed Gorsuch "well-qualified" to serve on the Supreme Court. That is the ABA's highest rating for a judicial nominee.

Gorsuch is perhaps best known in legal circles as a leading critic of the doctrine known as Chevron deference, which takes its name from the Supreme Court's hugely important 1984 ruling in Chevron U.S.A., Inc. v. Natural Resources Defense Council. According to Chevron, when the federal courts are tasked with interpreting the meaning of an "ambiguous" federal statute, the courts should adopt the statutory interpretation favored by the federal regulatory agency charged with enforcing that statute. What that means in practice is that federal judges are now routinely tipping the scales in favor of such executive branch agencies as the Internal Revenue Service, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Board of Immigration Appeals.

To put it mildly, Gorsuch is no fan of the Chevron approach. In his 2016 concurrence in Gutierrez-Brizuela v. Lynch, for example, Gorsuch denounced Chevron deference as a "judge-made doctrine for the abdication of the judicial duty." As far as Gorsuch is concerned, "under any conception of our separation of powers, I would have thought powerful and centralized authorities like today's administrative agencies would have warranted less deference from other branches, not more."

Gorsuch has also been critical of judicial deference to law enforcement agencies. His 2016 dissent in United States v. Carloss, for instance, lambasted the majority's view that police officers had the "implied consent" to enter private property for a warrantless "knock and talk" on a homeowner's front porch when that homeowner had placed numerous "No Trespassing" signs on the property, including on the front door itself. Yet according to the majority's gloss on the Fourth Amendment, Gorsuch remarked, "a homeowner may post as many No Trespassing signs as she wishes. She might add a wall or a medieval-style moat, too. Maybe razor wire and battlements and mantraps besides. Even that isn't enough to revoke the state's right to enter." In Gorsuch's view, "this line of reasoning seems to me difficult to reconcile with the Constitution of the founders' design."

As I've previously written, "Gorsuch demonstrated admirable and reassuring judgment in these cases. Not only did he cast a principled vote against overreaching law enforcement, he cast a principled vote against the overreaching executive branch. It's not difficult to imagine Gorsuch imposing the same severe judicial scrutiny against the misdeeds of the Trump administration."

Many unanswered questions do still remain about Gorsuch's legal views. For example, he has never written a major opinion in an abortion rights case. Likewise, his views on the full scope of presidential power, including the president's authority to direct immigration policy via executive order, remain unclear. Needless to say, there will be plenty of questions about these and other hot-button issues from the members of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

To get you up to speed in preparation for today's start to the Gorsuch confirmation hearings, here is a selection of Reason's ongoing coverage of the SCOTUS nominee.

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Gorsuch Hearings Start Today, Tillerson Meets President of China, Chuck Berry Dies: A.M. Links

  • Glenn Johnson/ZUMA Press/NewscomGlenn Johnson/ZUMA Press/NewscomSenate confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch begin today. FBI Director James Comey, meanwhile, will testify before the House intelligence committee about President Trump's claim the Trump Tower was wiretapped by President Obama.
  • Secretary of State Rex Tillerson finished his first trip to Asia with a meeting with the president of China.
  • A man was arrested at the White House after telling Secret Service agents he had a bomb.
  • The FBI made an arrest in connection with an alleged assault by gif, via Twitter, of Kurt Eichenwald.
  • The prime minister of Russian-controlled Crimea, said he wants Vladimir Putin to be president for life.
  • Security in Mogadishu was ramped up as the chair of the African Union arrived for meetings with Somali leadership.
  • Shaquille O'Neal says he believes the Earth is flat.
  • Chuck Berry died over the weekend, aged 90.
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Why Several Western States Are Watching This Important Property Rights Case

Supreme Court will hear oral arguments Monday in Murr v. Wisconsin, which tests the rules for when governments must pay compensation for regulatory takings.

Olivier Douliery - Pool via CNP/NewscomOlivier Douliery - Pool via CNP/NewscomA dispute between a Wisconsin family and their local government could set an important precedent for how the federal government must compensate states when taking land.

The case, Murr v. Wisconsin, goes before the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday for oral arguments. The Murr family owns two adjacent plots of land along the banks of the St. Croix River in western Wisconsin, and wants to sell one of the parcels (with an estimated value of $400,000, the family claims) to pay for maintenance on the recreational cabin that sits on the other parcel. The county government, acting under the terms of a 1975 state law, prohibited the family from selling the second parcel and declared the two parcels are effectively a single parcel—a regulatory ruling that the Murr family claims has reduced the value of their land by as much as 90 percent.

(For more on the details and background of the case, check out my previous reporting here.)

The whole thing seems very narrow and technical—it's almost so provincial that it makes you wonder why the Supreme Court is involved at all—but the key detail is not the fight over whether the Murr's own one 2.5 acre parcel of land or two 1.25 acre parcels of land. No, the real question here is whether the state government has to compensate them for the loss of value.

Usually, this is fairly clear cut. The U.S. Constitution says governments must compensate property owners when land is taken for public purposes. In this case, though, the land wasn't necessarily taken, but rather the use of the land was significantly restricted by state regulations regarding where structures can be built relative to waterways, and by the separate decision to merge the two parcels into one without the Murr's consent.

The case before the Supreme Court will deal mostly with the question of whether the simple fact of having two adjacent parcels owned by the same person can allow the government to reduce the value of those parcels without having to pay compensation—something the government would not be able to do if the two parcels had different owners.

"However you come down on the question of whether there is a taking in [the Murr's] case or not, the answer shouldn't depend on the fact that the owners of one lot also happen to own the lot next door," said Ilya Somin, a professor of law at George Mason University, during a forum on the Murr case hosted Friday by the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank. Somin has called the case "by far the most important property rights case to come before the Supreme Court this term, and probably the most important in at least two or three years, if not longer."

It's the question of compensation that has attracted the interest of several states that are not directly involved in the dispute. Eight western states, led by Nevada, filed amicus briefs with the Supreme Court in support of the Murr's claim. If the state can combine the Murr's parcels of land and not have to compensate the family for the lost value, those states argue, then similar reasoning could leave states vulnerable to large-scale uncompensated encroachment by the federal government.

"If regulators do not have to pay compensation to affected property owners in cases where the latter happen to possess contiguous lots, they will often have little incentive to fully consider the costs and benefits of proposed regulations, and prioritize those with the greatest likely beneficial impact," they argue. "Aggregating contiguous parcels under common ownership into a single super-parcel will undermine traditional notions of property rights, have deleterious economic consequences, and encourage the undisciplined regulation of individuals' and states' property."

The states are not concerned with whether Wisconsin should have to compensate the Murr family for the reduced value of their property, but rather with the way in which the government executed the merger of the two parcels. If governments are allowed to do that—to decide that two adjacent parcels of land with the same owner can be treated as a single parcel under the law—then it creates several perverse incentives for individuals, states, and the federal government.

At the Cato forum on Friday, Somin, who authored the amicus brief on behalf of those several western states, outlined some of those potential perverse incentives:

  • If property owners know that contiguous parcels can be merged together by governments, without compensation, they will have an incentive to NOT get common ownership. That creates other problems with efficiency, as property owners find ways to get around it, such as by creating other parties for a transaction purely to avoid legal problems.
  • It would make it harder to collect parcels of land for a large building project, either public or private.
  • States will have incentives to redefine parcels to avoid liabilities under the constitution's takings clause, and regulators will be able to undermine property values without having to worry about paying compensation
  • Many state governments own contiguous lots and large bodies of water near areas owned by the federal government (military bases, national parks, etc). Takings rules apply to land taken by the federal government from state government, but if you can say contiguous lots are merged, then the federal government would be able to impose severe restrictions on state land and wouldn't have to pay consequences.

The last point is the one that most concerns the states that are watching the Murr case closely. If the federal government is able to merge state-owned parcels and reduce access to them or otherwise regulate them to the point where they become unusable, the feds would normally have to compensate the state for the loss of access to its land. Depending on the outcome of the Murr case, that might change.

(The Reason Foundation, which publishes this blog, filed an amicus brief with the Supreme Court in defense of the Murr family's claim).

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Opioid Deaths Are Just Another Drug War Failure: New at Reason

Prohibition contributed to this problem. It won’t solve it.

SessionsZach Gibson/EPA/NewscomIllicit drug use is an old phenomenon, and Jeff Sessions has an old solution: take off the gloves. "We have too much of a tolerance for drug use," the attorney general complained to an audience of law enforcement officials Wednesday, promising more aggressive policing. "Our nation needs to say clearly once again that using drugs is bad," he declared. "It will destroy your life."

That claim will fall on a lot of deaf ears among the 100 million Americans who have used marijuana—most of whom found it did not destroy their lives and some of whom found it made their lives better.

He is right, though, that tolerance is rampant. A Gallup Poll last year showed that 60 percent of Americans think pot should be legalized for recreational use—as eight states and the District of Columbia have done. Medical marijuana is allowed in 28 states and D.C. But in his prepared remarks, Sessions insisted cannabis is "only slightly less awful" than heroin. Steve Chapman explains what Sessions is getting wrong.

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Brickbat: Beastly

'Beauty and the Beast'DisneyThe Russian government has barred children under 16 from seeing the new version of Beauty and the Beast because it has a gay character. Russian law bars what it calls gay propaganda aimed at minors.

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What Neil Gorsuch's Book on Assisted Suicide Reveals About His Views on Abortion Rights

The Federalist SocietyThe Federalist SocietyThe issue of abortion is guaranteed to come up this week when the Senate Judiciary Committee begins confirmation hearings on the nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch to the U.S. Supreme Court.

As a federal judge, Gorsuch's record on abortion is basically silent. He has not had the opportunity to write an opinion in a major abortion rights case. But his scholarly record is a different matter. Gorsuch's non-judicial writings contain several powerful clues about his views on the constitutionality of abortion.

In his 2006 book The Future of Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia, for example, Gorsuch rejected the case for legalizing assisted suicide on the grounds that "human life is fundamentally and inherently valuable, and the taking of human life by private persons is always wrong." That language seemingly points in an anti-abortion direction.

Furthermore, in that same book, Gorsuch questioned whether the Supreme Court had any business defending any sort of unenumerated constitutional rights under the Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment. Drawing on the work of conservative legal scholar Robert Bork, Gorsuch argued that the Due Process Clause has been stretched "beyond recognition" when the Court interpreted it to be "the repository of other substantive rights not expressly enumerated in the text of the Constitution or its amendments."

The most famous modern cases dealing with "substantive rights not expressly enumerated in the text of the Constitution or its amendments" are Griswold v. Connecticut (1965), which recognized a constitutional right to privacy, and Roe v. Wade (1973), which said the right to privacy included "a woman's decision whether or not to terminate her pregnancy." Both cases cited the Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment as a supporting authority.

Gorsuch's arguments about the Due Process Clause strongly suggest that he believes both Griswold and Roe were wrongly decided. The unanswered question is whether or not he believes those decisions should be overturned by the Supreme Court in future cases.

The Senate Judiciary Committee should ask him about that during this week's confirmation hearings.

Related: Questions for Neil Gorsuch on Congressional Power, Executive Power, and Constitutional Rights

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Trump Can Help Stop Prison Rape: New at Reaon

Will Jeff Sessions use his new power to enforce a bill he co-sponsored?

PrisonDuring the lame duck session in December, Congress did something amazing: It actually passed a criminal justice bill. Tucked among the provisions of the bipartisan law were new state reporting requirements on prison rape. While that's great, there's a lot more that could be done if the federal government is serious about stopping this heinous crime.

Back in 2003, Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions worked across the aisle with Democrat Sen. Ted Kennedy to pass the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA). Evangelical Christians, led by Chuck Colson—the former Watergate conspirator who turned to prison ministry after his own stint on the inside—were instrumental in whipping GOP support. But the Justice Department didn't adopt national PREA standards until 2012. Four years after they went into effect, the Associated Press reported that only 12 states were in full compliance with them.

A nationwide inmate survey by the Bureau of Justice Statistics found that in 2011–12 an estimated 4 percent of state and federal prison inmates and 3.2 percent of jail inmates reported being sexually victimized by another inmate or a member of the staff. In 2013, Eli Lehrer wrote at National Review that "PREA has reasonably few real teeth and, as a result, truly awful prisons and jails can still get away with allowing rampant sexual abuse. Cultural attitudes towards prison rape, distressingly, haven't changed much."

One major requirement of the law is that juveniles and other vulnerable inmates be segregated from the general adult population, writes C.J. Ciaramella.

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The Cost of Carrying Debt: New at Reason

Low interest rates ease the pain of carrying so much debt. But in the long run, somehow, the U.S. will end up paying for it.

DebtSometime in 2017, the total U.S. national debt will hit $20 trillion—more than the total gross domestic product (GDP) of the country in a year. That figure is projected to keep growing over time, thanks to rising annual deficits. Debt held by the public, a measure that counts all federal securities sold to individuals, corporations, and state and local governments, plus foreign investors, currently clocks in around $14 trillion. That figure is expected to hit $23 trillion in 2026.

There are risks to carrying a debt burden this big. It increases the nation's susceptibility to a fiscal crisis if interest rates rise, and it limits the sorts of projects government can take on in a constrained fiscal environment. The greater the debt, the greater these risks become, writes Peter Suderman.

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The Failures of the American Health Care Act: New at Reason

C-SPANC-SPANObamacare has sent our health insurance system into a death spiral. Premiums continue to soar as insurance companies are pulling out of the market, leaving consumers with fewer and fewer affordable choices. In over a third of the nation's counties, individuals have just one insurance plan as a choice. Soon, many counties will have no plans available. Repealing and replacing Obamacare is no longer an option. It's essential.



Answering the alarm, on March 6 Republican leaders in the House of Representatives unveiled the American Health Care Act, their attempt at "repeal and replace." Unfortunately, writes Dr. Jeffrey Singer, advocates of health care freedom have little reason to be pleased. The American Health Care Act does little to stop the death spiral underway. It may even accelerate it.

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What Does It Mean to Have a 'Right' to Health Care? New at Reason

A government-declared "right" is no right at all; it is rather a declared government power to allocate goods and services.

Lynne Cameron/ZUMA Press/NewscomLynne Cameron/ZUMA Press/Newscom

Despite the popular misconception, health care is not beyond economic law. It has to be produced, which means people must mix their scarce labor with scarce resources to produce the things used to perform the medical services we want. It would be foolish to expect them to donate their labor and resources because other people need them; they have their own lives to live and livelihoods to earn. It would be wrong to compel them; they are not slaves.

In other words, no one can have a right to the labor services and resources of other people—which means no one can have a right medical care or insurance, argues Sheldon Richman. Politicians, of course, can declare a right to medical care, but those are mere words. What counts is what happens after the declaration. Since a system in which everyone could have, on demand, all the medical care they wanted at no cost would be unsustainable, the so-called right to medical care necessarily translates into the power of politicians and bureaucrats to set the terms under which medical services and products may be provided and received. This is crucial: a government-declared "right" (that does not reflect natural rights) is no right at all; it is rather a declared government power to allocate goods and services.

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Prison Guards Who Threw Inmate in Hot Shower, Killing Him, Committed No Crime, State’s Attorney Rules

Incident occured in 2012, the investigation was launched two years later after a local paper started asking questions.

Florida Dept of CorrectionsFlorida Dept of CorrectionsDarren Rainey spent two hours locked in a shower inmates at the Dade Correctional Institute said prison guards left set to scalding hot before dying of the injuries caused by the water. Rainey's skin was peeling off when he was removed from the shower. Inmates say he was screaming to be let out before he died, and that guards regularly used extremely hot and cold showers to punish mentally ill patients. Nearly five years later, in a report released Friday, the state's attorney has ruled that there was no criminal conduct by the guards.

In her ruling, Katherine Fernandez Rundle said, according to the Miami Herald, that John Fan Fan, a sergeant, and the officers involved in getting Rainey into the shower, Ronald Clarke, Cornelius Thompson, and Edwina Williams, didn't act with premeditation, malice, recklessness, ill-will, hatred or evil intent. The officers involved were eventually promoted after the incident.

The state attorney claimed testimony from inmates was inconsistent with testimony from prison staff as well as physical evidence, and that she could not find evidence Rainey was burned to death. His family says they were pressured to cremate his body, the fact that Rainey's skin fell off on contact after his death is undisputed, and the nurse who tried to take his temperature after he died said it was too high to register on the thermometer. A prison officer tested the shower a couple of days after Rainey's death, finding it went as high as 160 degrees, but no investigators checked the shower the day of Rainey's death.

Only two prison officers, the nurse, and a paramedic were interviewed by police immediately after the incident—other witnesses, including inmates, were not interviewed until 2014. That investigation, the Herald notes, only started when the newspaper began "raising questions about the case as part of what would become a three-year probe into corruption in Florida prisons."

Harold Hempstead, an inmate who acted as an orderly at the mental ward, was reportedly the first person to question the incident. According to the Herald, he wrote letters and filed complaints "with police, the medical examiner and the state attorney about Rainey's death as well as other alleged abuses" in the transitional care unit, where Rainey died. Hempstead was recently transferred to a prison in another state, the Herald reported, making it impossible for them or other newspapers to interview him in the wake of the investigation report.

In mid-2012, another inmate committed suicide at the prison, leaving a note about the abuses he said he suffered while there. His death was not part of the Rainey investigation. The Herald also notes inconsistencies in the investigative report about abuse—at one point the report says just one other inmate said he had been thrown into an extremely hot shower, but at another it reports on two other inmates who said the same thing.

After the paper's work exposing abuses at the Dade Correctional Institute, the Herald reports that the "warden and assistant warden were forced out, and, later, then-Secretary [of Corrections] Michael Crews stepped down amid political pressure." The inspector-general of the prison system also eventually left—he had been accused by his investigators, according to the Herald, of hampering investigations.

Correction Secretary Julie Jones told the Herald she was appreciative of work by police and the state attorney, which exonerated the officers, and said she was still committed to reforms. "We will continue to integrate services which ensure these inmates successfully re-enter society," she told the Herald, "and lead crime-free lives upon release."

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Why Won’t Food Taxes Die? New at Reason

A regressive tax that won’t go away for good.

GroceriesDragonimages / Dreamstime.comHow much do you pay for food at the grocery store? In some states—thanks to growing discussions about food taxes—you could be paying more money for less food if lawmakers have their way.

What are food taxes? They're particularly odorous and onerous taxes on purchases of food for home preparation and/or consumption from grocery stores and similar establishments. They're distinct from taxes that single out a particular food category—such as soda taxes—and also from taxes on foods sold for immediate consumption by restaurants, which are subject to taxes in most states.

In recent months, several states have proposed new food taxes. Some states have proposed to revive old ones. But others have also moved to repeal or reduce existing taxes. Food policy writer Baylen Linnekin explains more.

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Jonathan Haidt on "the Coddling of the American Mind" and How We Should Address It (New at Reason)

Students rather than deans are calling for less speech and expression. That should worry us all.

The suppression of free speech on college campuses isn't a new thing, says Jonathan Haidt, a psychologist at the New York University Stern School of Business and author of The Righteous Mind: Why good people are divided by politics and religion. In the past, however, it was usually done by professors and administrators rather than students.

Haidt says student-driven speech suppression is a relatively new phenomenon. "It was after the Yale protests that everything really spread, and that was only 13 or 14 months ago," says Haidt, referring to an incident in which students protested potentially offensive Halloween costumes.

For Haidt, students calling for speech codes, trigger warnings, and the like is a reversal of what we had come to expect on college campuses in the wake of the Free Speech Movement of the 1960s. "The thing people were not expecting was that the students are the ones who are demanding [political correctness] now," he explains. "Before, it was typically the students who were demanding more freedom."

This can have a chilling effect on speech even as it pushes students to opposite ends of the political spectrum. "At schools," says Haidt, "men feel they can't speak and then they go and vote for Trump."

Reason TV's Nick Gillespie sat down with Haidt at the International Students for Liberty Conference to discuss the rise of political correctness and its cultural implications. They also talk about Heterodox Academy, a website that Haidt helped start that discusses the need for viewpoint diversity within the university system.

Produced by Mark McDaniel. Cameras by McDaniel, Joshua Swain, and Todd Krainin. Graphics by Meredith Bragg.

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Berkeley's Online Library Saved, Cornel West and Robert George Are Pro Free Speech: P.M. Links

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Netflix Offers Family-Friendly Teen Train Robbery Film: New at Reason

Deidra & Laney Rob a Train is worth a watch.

'Deidra & Laney Rob a Train'NetflixSydney Freeland's well-regarded but seldom-seen 2014 directorial debut, Drunktown's Finest, was a somber look at American Indian identity issues that intertwined the stories of three Navajos: a young guy about to wash out of boot camp, a promiscuous transgendered woman, and a girl raised by white adoptive parents. She's finally made a follow-up for Netflix, Deidra & Laney Rob a Train, and it seems to have come from the opposite side of the universe.

Imagine a scruffy teenage version of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid made for the Disney Channel—funny with a streak of poignance, the violence appropriately muffled, and, of course, a happy ending, and you'll be close to the mark. This is not said with derision or condescension or any of the other qualities dearest to the TV critic's heart. Deidra & Laney won't remake the world, but it's a fun 90 minutes of television. Television critic Glenn Garvin reviews.

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Tillerson Suggests Pre-Emptive Military Action Against North Korea a Possibility

The U.S. is warning North Korea to denuclearize or else.

John Pavelka / Wikimedia CommonsJohn Pavelka / Wikimedia CommonsIn light of North Korea's recent nuclear and ballistic missile tests, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has announced that all talks with Pyongyang are closed until the country denuclearizes, reports the Associated Press.

Tillerson recently spoke at a press conference in Seoul, South Korea, as part of a three-nation trip that also included Japan and China. It has been described as a listening tour by the State Department in order to devise a better policy for dealing with North Korea, the AP story explained.

"It's important that the leadership of North Korea realize that their current pathway of nuclear weapons and escalating threats will not lead to their objective of security and economic development," Tillerson said. "That pathway can only be achieved by denuclearizing, giving up their weapons of mass destruction, and only then will we be prepared to engage with them in talks."

The secretary of state also announced that it may be necessary for the U.S. to take pre-emptive military action against North Korea if the country's weapons program reaches a critical threat level. "All of the options are on the table," he said.

North Korea became the eighth nation to have nuclear capabilities after successfully testing its first nuclear weapon in October 2006, CNN notes. Since then, the country has engaged in numerous nuclear and ballistic missile tests.

Just last week, CNN reported that North Korea launched four missiles, with three of the missiles landing just 200 nautical miles offshore of Japan. The act prompted Japan to hold its first civilian missile evacuation drill in the coastal city of Oga, per the AP.

As North Korea's weapon program advances, Siegfried S. Hecker, emeritus director of the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, told The New York Times that "Pyongyang will likely develop the capability to reach the continental United States with a nuclear tipped missile in a decade or so."

With this news, Tillerson declared that the Obama administration's policy of "strategic patience" is over. "Twenty years of talks with North Korea have brought us to where we are today," he said.

President Donald Trump has also weighed in on the situation in his typically outlandish fashion. "North Korea is behaving very badly," he tweeted this morning. "They have been 'playing' the United States for years. China has done little to help!"

As Reason Associate Editor Ed Krayewski noted last week, China is urging a diplomatic solution:

China, which has taken it upon itself to act as a mediator on the North Korea nuclear issue, proposed that North Korea suspend its nuclear and missile programs while the U.S. and South Korea suspend joint military exercises. However, the U.S. posture on the Korean peninsula has not escalated, and North Korea's erratic decision-making process on missile tests doesn't track neatly with specific U.S. or South Korean actions.

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St. Patrick's Day Parades Were the Cinco De Mayo Festivals of 18th-Century

We're all mongrels on St. Paddy's Day (and the rest of the year, too).

TeeShirtPalace.comTeeShirtPalace.comIn 2006, Fox Business anchor Lou Dobbs, then with CNN, made a splash when he declared, "Let's be clear. I don't think there should be a St. Patrick's Day." Why the hell should we be celebrating anything other American holidays, he asked, anticipating the rise of Donald Trump's economic and ethnic nationalism by a decade. Ever since returning to cable after a brief sojourn in Space (Space.com, that is), Dobbs has trafficked in populist attacks on illegal immigration (and most forms of legal immigration, too).

Today is, of course, St. Patrick's Day and many cities across the country mark the day with a parade that blocks traffic and congregates drunks who have not one drop of Hibernian blood pulsing in their veins along with alcohol metabolized from green beer. I've celebrated St. Patrick's at least once in some of the "Irish" cities in the country (Boston, Philadelphia, Buffalo, Cleveland, Chicago) and many times in New York. The essential fact about St. Patrick's Day in America—and especially St. Patrick's Day parades—is that it's not at all about being Irish, despite trappings that indulge in the worst sort of Darby O'Gill and the Little People-style ephemera. The first St. Patrick's Day parade wasn't held in Dublin or Belfast, but in Manhattan, in 1762. In fact, it took until 1903 for St. Patrick's Day to be more than a Catholic holy day of obligation in Ireland; the first St. Paddy's Day parade in the Old Sod took place the same year.

Stick that in your $4.35 leprechaun clay pipe (+ shipping) and smoke it. The point of the 18th-century parade in New York was to show solidarity in the face of English social, economic, and political power. It turns out nothing is more purely American than ethnic identity politics. Remember that when Cinco de Mayo rolls around and on Pulaski Day (look it up), and remember it, too, on Columbus Day as well. One of the ways we show that we're truly American is by recalling real and imagined hardships that our ancestors faced and over which they triumphed. And by letting others join in the legacy, even if that legacy is reduced to drinking until you puke.

That's a lesson worth remembering in the 21st century, especially the day after President Trump, who wants to put America first, just hosted Ireland's prime minister and read what he took to be an old Irish proverb but actually seems to be some doggerel written by a Nigerian banker.

"As we stand together with our Irish friends," said Trump, "I'm reminded of proverb, and this is a good one, this is one I like. I've heard it for many, many years and I love it. 'Always remember to forget the friends that proved untrue. But never forget to remember those that have stuck by you.'"

It's OK, President Trump. Everyone—and everything—is Irish on St. Patrick's Day.

In 2010, Reason TV documented why immigrants come to America:

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Elected Florida Prosecutor Tries to Stop Using the Death Penalty, but Governor Won’t Have It

A cop was killed, so there will be no debate about morality of the system.

Aramis AyalaJoe Burbank/TNS/NewscomAramis Ayala wasn't kidding when she ran and won a position as a prosecutor in Florida on a platform of criminal justice reform. And now she's making national news for refusing to ask for the death penalty in the case of a man charged with murdering his pregnant ex-girlfriend and subsequently an Orlando police officer.

Ayala represented a small number of new prosecutors representing a trend in 2016 of voters turning to candidates that offered a less harsh justice system and dumping some incumbents.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott is not impressed with Ayala's decision, and even though the citizens of Osceola and Orange counties elected her, Scott is using his authority to move the case to another district and put it before another prosecutor. This came after she ignored his fully absurd demand that she recuse herself for not having the same position on the applicability of the death penalty as Scott's.

The story has inevitably crystalized around the fact that Ayala will not call for the death penalty for a man who killed a police officer above anything else. From CNN:

"[Ayala] has made it clear that she will not fight for justice and that is why I am using my executive authority to immediately reassign the case to State Attorney Brad King," Scott said. "These families deserve a state attorney who will aggressively prosecute Markeith Loyd to the fullest extent of the law and justice must be served."

Earlier Thursday, Ayala said capital punishment in Florida had led to "chaos, uncertainty, and turmoil."

She argued that evidence showed the death penalty was overly expensive, slow, inhumane and did not increase public safety. Ayala said after "extensive and painstaking thought and consideration," she determined that pursing the death penalty "is not in the best interest of this community or the best interest of justice."

"Some victims will support and some will surely oppose my decision," she said. "But I have learned that the death penalty traps many victims, families in a decades-long cycle of uncertainty, court hearings, appeals and waiting."

To be very clear, because some of the coverage is a little ambiguous: Ayala is going to refuse to pursue the death penalty for any murder handled by her office. It's remarkable among prosecutors both for the political risk it opens up for Ayala but also for the fact that this isn't even a case where there's a lot of ambiguity that causes folks to question the application of the death penalty. This is the kind of case where people who are ambivalent about the death penalty are nevertheless likely to support Loyd's execution (assuming he's found guilty). Shooting a pregnant ex-girlfriend? Killing a cop execution-style and having it captured on video? The politically expedient thing for Ayala to do here would be to declare her personal opposition to the death penalty but ultimately allow the jury to decide.

Though leaders and representatives of law enforcement are furious, Ayala is getting support from groups like Amnesty International and the NAACP. The political maneuvering from the governor's office, though, shows the challenge when prosecutors attempt to step back even just a slight bit in high-profile cases. Based on the facts of the case, it seems unlikely Loyd is ever going to see the outside of a prison again, ever. But just the prospect that Florida might not execute him as well is apparently too much for some people to countenance, even though the state's own death penalty has been temporarily suspended over constitutional issues.

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Calculating the Risk of a False Title IX Sexual Assault Conviction: New at Reason

An innocent person faces a 20 percent probability of being found guilty under a preponderance of the evidence standard.

SexualAssaultJoshuaRaineyDreamstimeJoshua Rainey/DreamstimeIn his Commentaries on the Laws of England, William Blackstone declared, "It is better that ten guilty persons escape, than that one innocent suffer." In an 1785 letter, Benjamin Franklin was even more exacting: "That it is better 100 guilty Persons should escape, than that one innocent Person should suffer, is a Maxim that has been long and generally approv'd, never that I know of controverted."

In 2011, the U.S. Department of Education took a different position. The department instructed colleges and universities to use preponderance of the evidence rather than clear and convincing evidence when considering accusations of sexual assault on their campuses.

So how high a risk of false conviction do the innocent face under the department's guidance standards? John Villasenor, a professor of public policy at the University of California, Los Angeles, set out to answer that in a study that uses probability theory to model false convictions under the preponderance of the evidence standard. What he found should take all fair-minded Americans aback.

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Portland Anarchists Patching Up Potholes

A government official warns them they might be breaking the law.

Daniel Lobo / FlickrDaniel Lobo / FlickrA group of masked anarchists have taken to the streets of Portland, Oregon. But they're not out breaking windows or burning cars—instead, they're patching up potholes. The Portland Anarchist Road Care (PARC) group has tasked itself with addressing problems with the city streets that have plagued the community since winter, KGW reported.

"The city of Portland has shown gross negligence in its inadequate preventative care through this winter's storms, and through its slow repair of potholes as weather has improved," claims the group's Facebook page. "Daily, this negligence is an active danger to cyclists and causes damage to people's automobiles, and an increased risk of collision and bodily injury."

"Portland Anarchist Road Care aims to mobilize crews throughout our city, in our neighborhoods, to patch our streets, build community, and continue to find solutions to community problems outside of the state," the page also says.

In a recent outing, PARC repaired five potholes. Members assured the community that they will continue filling holes as long as they are able, according to the KGW report. But not everyone is thrilled with the group's service.

Especially peeved is the Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT). "If it's a city-maintained street, then folks should call us and have the professionals do it," bureau spokesman Dylan Rivera told OregonLive. "It's generally not safe for folks to be out in the street doing an unauthorized repair like this." The PBOT claims the city repaired 900 potholes during a recent patch-a-thon event, KGW reported; the city claims it fills up to 8,000 potholes every year.

OregonLive notes that Rivera couldn't say whether there's an ordinance against residents patching up potholes themselves, but he believed the action "might be illegal."

Portland isn't the only place where people taken it upon themselves to repair potholes in their neighborhoods. In Hamtramck, Michigan, a group that dubbed itself the Hamtramck Guerrilla Road Crew has been operating since 2015, reports USAToday. "Everyone who lives in or has been through Hamtramck recently knows how much help our roads need," the group's Facebook page reads. "The city is doing what they can with the major roads but unfortunately does not have funding to fix a lot of the pot holes in the residential streets."

A 2016 report by TRIP, a national transportation research group, found that 20 percent of major roads in the United States are in poor condition, costing around $523 per motorist (or around $112 billion total) per year in vehicle wear and tear. The report also claims that investment in roads and bridges nationwide would need to increase from $88 billion to $120 billion a year to adequately cover operation and maintenance costs.

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Republicans Are Trying to Embrace Obamacare’s Ideas Without Embracing Obamacare. It Won’t Work.

The continuous coverage provision is just one of the ways the House health care plan recycles the health law’s policy scheme.

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call/NewscomTom Williams/CQ Roll Call/NewscomIf you want to understand how awkwardly constructed the House Republican health care bill is, and how unlikely its policy scheme is to work, look no further than its continuous coverage requirement. It's just one of the many ways that Republicans are trying to embrace Obamacare's ideas without technically embracing Obamacare.

The rule requires insurers to tack a 30 percent, one-year "premium surcharge" onto the bill for anyone who has gone more than 63 days without coverage. The requirement is designed to create an incentive for people to avoid going without coverage, in hopes of maintaining an insurance pool that is healthy enough to be viable and affordable. If too many people wait until they are sick to buy coverage, then insurance premiums rise, more people drop out of the system, and the whole thing collapses.

Basically, the continuous coverage provision is a replacement for the individual mandate—with a crucial difference: It is likely to be even less effective. Its chief virtue is that it allows Republicans to say that the GOP health care bill repeals Obamacare's individual mandate.

Because the continuous coverage requirement is a mandatory charge levied by insurers rather than a penalty on individuals who fail to buy a product, it doesn't raise the same sort of constitutional concerns that plagued Obamacare's mandate.

But as a policy mechanism, it's virtually certain to be worse than a failure. Instead of giving people an incentive to stay covered, it would give healthy people an incentive to avoid coverage until they needed it.

That's because the main thing it really does is give people who don't have coverage an incentive to avoid buying insurance. But someone who lacks coverage and then gets sick with some expensive malady suddenly has a fairly significant incentive to pay the surcharge, which only lasts a year and in many cases is unlikely to be greater than the cost of treatment, while someone who is still healthy has an incentive to stay uninsured.

Here's how Robert Laszewski, a consultant for the health insurance industry, recently explained it:

The Republicans now want to create a scheme that doesn't require anyone to sign up. But when they get sick enough that they need insurance, they will be able to quickly do so by paying a paltry 12-month 30% premium surcharge.

For example, a person paying $5,000 for health insurance would pay a one-time total $1,500 penalty! A family paying $10,000 in annual premium would pay only a $3,000 penalty for any late enrollment!

Obamacare is so poorly constructed it is literally an anti-selection machine. The Republican proposal is worse.

Health policy experts have found evidence that Obamacare's mandate penalties are not particularly powerful motivators. The GOP's provision isn't just weak. It encourages the opposite behavior of what is intended.

The reason that Republicans included the provision is because the House health care bill leaves Obamacare's key insurance regulations in place.

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That Time They Tried to Film Finnegans Wake

Friday A/V Club: If you're looking for a highbrow way to celebrate St. Patrick's Day...

Happy St. Patrick's Day. Did you know someone once decided to make a movie of Finnegans Wake? Or parts of it, anyway: The film's full title is Passages from James Joyce's Finnegans Wake, presumably because no one is so insane as to try to fit all 628 densely packed Irish pages into an hour and a half. If you're curious to see the results—and if you've ever so much as attempted to read Finnegans Wake, you must be at least a little curious—then pour yourself a green beer, or maybe take something a little more psychedelic, and behold:

This was made in the mid-'60s by Mary Ellen Bute, who is better known for her animations. Not long afterward, someone tried to turn Ulysses into a movie too. I don't know when the word "unfilmable" was coined but I'll bet it wasn't the 1960s.

Bonus political content: James Joyce, writing in the third person, describes his ideological influences:

Among the many whose works he had read may be mentioned Most, Malatesta, Stirner, Bakunin, Kropotkin, Elisée Reclus, Spencer, and Benjamin Tucker, whose Instead of a Book proclaimed the liberty of the non-invasive individual. He never read anything by Karl Marx except the first sentence of Das Kapital and he found it so absurd that he immediately returned the book to the lender.

For those of you who don't know your old-time anarchists and/or libertarians by surname, he means Johann Most, Errico Malatesta, Max Stirner, Mikhail Bakunin, Peter Kropotkin, and Herbert Spencer. Here's another Joyce quote:

As an artist I am against every state. Of course I must recognize it, since indeed in all my dealings I come into contact with its institutions. The state is concentric, man eccentric. Thence arises an eternal struggle. The monk, the bachelor, and the anarchist are in the same category. Naturally I can't approve of the act of the revolutionary who tosses a bomb in a theatre to destroy the King and his children. On the other hand, have these states behaved any better which have drowned the world in a bloodbath?

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

Chuck Schumer's Indecent Attacks on Neil Gorsuch: New at Reason

nnwo/flickrnnwo/flickrWhile Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer is free to reject Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch for any reason he wants, or even none at all, his current argument is that judges should ignore the Constitution.

David Harsanyi writes:

If Democrats want to filibuster President Donald Trump's Supreme Court nominee, they're entitled to do it. In fact, Democrats are free to try and stop federal appeals court Judge Neil Gorsuch's confirmation for any reason they desire, whether ideological or personal, or even no particular reason at all. There is nothing in the Constitution that compels senators to vote on judicial nominees the president forwards.

Make no mistake, though: Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) now opposes a potential SCOTUS justice because he promises to be impartial when upholding the Constitution.
Since Gorsuch's confirmation hearing starts Monday in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee and opponents have found "little to latch onto," according to Politico (which means they've found nothing to spin into accusations of misogyny or racism), Schumer and his allies have launched a ham-fisted effort to paint Gorsuch as a corporate stooge.

This argument includes a preposterous New York Times piece headlined "Neil Gorsuch Has Web of Ties to Secretive Colorado Billionaire." Who is this mysterious tycoon? Philip Anschutz, who is probably one the most familiar names in Colorado. He's so secretive, in fact, that one of the largest medical facilities in the state is named after him. That's just one of the many buildings that bears his name. If it's disqualifying for one of the state's leading lawyers to have a relationship with one of its leading businessmen, then nearly every Coloradan in Washington, D.C., will have to pack up and head home—including Schumer's colleague Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.).

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U.S. Carbon Dioxide Emissions Fall 3 Percent

Global emissions flat for 3rd year in a row despite strong economic growth

CarbonDioxideEmissionsLasseKristensenDreamtimesLasse Kristensen/DreamtimesThe International Energy Agency is reporting data showing that economic growth is being increasingly decoupled from carbon dioxide emissions. Basically, human beings are using less carbon dioxide intensive fuels to produce more goods and services. The IEA attributes the relatively steep drop in U.S. emissions largely to the ongoing switch by electric generating companies from coal to cheap natural gas produced using fracking from shale deposits. Renewals also contributed a bit to the decline. From the IEA:

Global energy-related carbon dioxide emissions were flat for a third straight year in 2016 even as the global economy grew, according to the International Energy Agency, signaling a continuing decoupling of emissions and economic activity. This was the result of growing renewable power generation, switches from coal to natural gas, improvements in energy efficiency, as well as structural changes in the global economy.

Global emissions from the energy sector stood at 32.1 gigatonnes last year, the same as the previous two years, while the global economy grew 3.1%, according to estimates from the IEA. Carbon dioxide emissions declined in the United States and China, the world's two-largest energy users and emitters, and were stable in Europe, offsetting increases in most of the rest of the world.

The biggest drop came from the United States, where carbon dioxide emissions fell 3%, or 160 million tonnes, while the economy grew by 1.6%. The decline was driven by a surge in shale gas supplies and more attractive renewable power that displaced coal. Emissions in the United States last year were at their lowest level since 1992, a period during which the economy grew by 80%.

"These three years of flat emissions in a growing global economy signal an emerging trend and that is certainly a cause for optimism, even if it is too soon to say that global emissions have definitely peaked," said Dr Fatih Birol, the IEA's executive director. "They are also a sign that market dynamics and technological improvements matter. This is especially true in the United States, where abundant shale gas supplies have become a cheap power source."

In 2016, renewables supplied more than half the global electricity demand growth, with hydro accounting for half of that share. The overall increase in the world's nuclear net capacity last year was the highest since 1993, with new reactors coming online in China, the United States, South Korea, India, Russia and Pakistan. Coal demand fell worldwide but the drop was particularly sharp in the United States, where demand was down 11% in 2016. For the first time, electricity generation from natural gas was higher than from coal last year in the United States.

IEACabonEmissionsIEA

In addition, China's emissions fell by one percent, suggesting that its use of coal to generate electricity may be close to peaking. This is good news for those who think that man-made global warming could become a signifcant problem later in this century. In any case, whatever else the Trump administration may say, domestic coal use ain't never coming back.

Gender 'Injustice' Behind Call to Reduce Taxes on Tampons: New at Reason

quinn.anya/flickrquinn.anya/flickrDemocrats in California are looking to cover a reduction in sales taxes on baby diapers and feminine products with a tax hike on hard liquor.

Steven Greenhut writes:

In his veto message of a series of tax-reduction bills last September, California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) explained that "tax breaks are the same as new spending—they both cost the general fund money." He said such measures should be on the table during budget negotiations, "so that all spending proposals are weighed against each other at the same time."

Among the bills that were vetoed at that time were two that would have repealed sales taxes on diapers and tampons. Both measures passed unanimously, but the governor wanted to assure that new spending-related measures didn't lead to deficits. So the authors of those two measures are back again this year—but this time they are addressing the revenue issue.

The Common Cents Tax Reform Act, Assembly Bill 479, would "exempt diapers, tampons, pads and other basic necessities from California's sales tax," according to a statement last week from its authors. The February version of the bill would have exempted sales taxes from the sale, storage and use of various physician-prescribed medicines, but was amended to target diapers and feminine products.

To deal with the governor's concerns, its co-authors (Assembly members Cristina Garcia, D-Bell Gardens, and Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher, D-San Diego) want to raise taxes to offset the tax cut. The bill would increase the excise tax by $1.20 per gallon on hard liquor that is 100 proof and and by $2.40 a gallon for liquors that are more than 100 proof.

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Louisiana Imprisons People at an Astounding Rate. That May be About to Change

Facing a huge human and fiscal cost, a Louisiana task force is recommending major changes to how the state’s criminal justice system.

Jack Kurtz/ZUMA Press/NewscomJack Kurtz/ZUMA Press/NewscomLouisiana dwarfs the rest of the country when it comes to putting people in prison, but now state officials say they have a plan to reduce the state's staggering incarceration rate and save hundreds of millions of dollars over the next decade.

The Louisiana Justice Reinvestment Task Force—composed of state legislators, corrections officials, public defenders, judges, law enforcement, and district attorneys—finalized a report Thursday to overhaul the state's criminal justice system.

"Louisiana is not only the incarceration capital of the country, we are the incarceration capital of the world," Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards said in a statement Thursday. "For too long this has been a stain on our reputation and a drain on our communities. It's not a reflection of who we are and what we stand for. We now have a roadmap that will allow us to keep our streets safe while shrinking our bloated prisons."

The task force's proposals would introduce a more rigorous felony classification system, which would reduce sentences for nonviolent crimes and expand eligibility for parole and drug courts. It would also increase the amount of "good time" some inmates could use to shave off their sentences, and increase funding for transition and work programs to assist inmates reentering society. Also, those sentenced to life without parole as juveniles would be made eligible for parole, bringing the state in line with a 2012 Supreme Court ruling that declared such sentences unconstitutional.

Overall, the task force estimates that its plan could reduce Louisiana's prison population by 13 percent—more than 4,000 prison beds—and save the state $305 million over the next decade. Half of those savings would be spent on research into reducing recidivism and victim support.

For perspective on just how much of an outlier Louisiana is when it comes to incarceration: Louisiana's rate as of 2015 was 816 incarcerated individuals per 100,000, almost double the national average, which is itself the highest in the world. Louisiana also has the second-highest wrongful conviction rate, according to the National Registry on Exonerations. The task force is blunt in its assessment of why Louisiana's numbers are so high.

"A chief reason Louisiana leads the nation in imprisonment is that it locks up people for nonviolent offenses far more than other states do," the report says. "The Task Force found that the state sent people to prison for drug, property, and other nonviolent offenses at twice the rate of South Carolina and three times the rate of Florida, even though the states had nearly identical crime rates. More than half of those sent to prison in 2015 had failed on community supervision. Among the rest—those sentenced directly to prison rather than probation—the top 10 crimes were all nonviolent, the most common by far being drug possession."

James LeBlanc, the head of the Louisiana Department of Corrections and the chair of the task force, says the numbers alone should be a warning sign to policy makers.

"First of all being a poster-child for locking up twice as many people as the national average is a good sign that, hey, we're not doing something right," LeBlanc says in an interview with Reason. "On top of that, as many people as we're locking up, we still rank in many categories in the top 10 if not top five in the country on crime."

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Tillerson's 'Patience Has Ended' With North Korea, Venezuela Attacks Bread Shortage by Seizing Bakeries, Cincy Cop's Drunk AR-15 Antics Lead to Arrest: A.M. Links

South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se (R) shakes hands with U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in South Korea on March 17Newsis Xinhua News Agency/Newscom

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Movie Review: Beauty and the Beast: New at Reason

Emma Watson helps bring another animated Disney classic to life.

BeastDisneyExperiencing Disney's new live-action Beauty and the Beast is like being held down and force-fed candy for two hours. Candy fans can take this as a recommendation, and lovers of blazingly well-made fantasy films and full-belt Broadway musicals will surely have a good time. I had a good time myself, up to a point. But the movie is possibly overstuffed with Disney's warm artificiality—the cozily cluttered interiors, the bustling village square, the broody castle, the vivid weather—and at the end you may feel bloated.

Like the phenomenally successful live-action Cinderella of two years ago, Beauty is a remake of an earlier Disney animated fairy tale—the Oscar-winning 1991 film of sainted memory. As you may know, that picture was translated straight onto Broadway for a 13-year run, and continues traipsing the world to our very day. Now this.

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Friday Funnies: What Does College Tuition Buy You?

Chip Bok - Creators SyndicateChip Bok - Creators Syndicate

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Brickbat: Harboring a Fugitive

pregnantEvgenyatamanenko / Dreamstime.comWhen Iryna Nohai had stomach cramps, she went to a doctor who discovered she was pregnant. And since she was living in the United Arab Emirates, the doctor also reported to police she'd been having sex outside of marriage, which is illegal in the country. Both Nohai and her fiancee were detained and have been held since January.

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3 Ways the Trump Administration Could Stop Crony Capitalism: New at Reason

Drain the swamp. Please.

TrumpOlivier Douliery/SIPA/NewscomUnfortunately, getting rid of cronyism in the federal government won't be easy, given the deep-rooted and mutually beneficial relationship between politicians and commercial interests. Still, the new administration and Congress could take some action in the coming year to move in that direction.

Before I start detailing how, let me say that abolishing all corporate welfare programs is the right thing to do. Corporate welfare, a practice in which government officials provide preferential treatment (such as loans, subsidies or regulatory preferences) to hand-picked firms or industries, is unfair. It picks winners and losers for no other reason than that they're politically connected or not politically connected. The winners are usually big and able to invest in lobbying on Capitol Hill. The victims are often unseen and usually don't have a press office. Favoritism also slows the economy because entrepreneurs and businesses misdirect their resources. They spend time lobbying for those privileges instead of finding new ways to create value for customers.

Short of terminating programs, the first thing Congress could do is adopt fair-value accounting, writes Veronique de Rugy.

This post has been updated to reflect recent news about Trump's budget.

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