It's too little too late that President Donald Trump has finally called out violent white nationalists who marched through the streets of Charlottesville, Virginia over the weekend. One of them deliberately drove his car into a crowd of people, killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer and injuring 20 more.
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A 3D printer company founded by provocateur Cody Wilson, along with the Second Amendment Foundation, has filed for certiorari to the U.S. Supreme Court in a case asking that the company be allowed to post on its website instructions for using a 3D printer to manufacture a plastic gun.
Defense Distributed and the Foundation sued the State Department and other government persons and agencies back in May 2015 after the government threatened the company in May of 2013 for hosting the 3D gun manufacturing files.
The government maintains that such files are essentially armaments in and of themselves and subject to existing laws against the export of such munitions, with posting them in a place where foreigners could access them constituting such an illegal export.
The plaintiffs have sustained a series of losses in lower courts attempting to get a preliminary injunction against the government. Their plaintiffs contends the government has violated the company owners' First, Second, and Fifth Amendment rights with its actions.
Most specifically in this cert petition they have asked the Supreme Court to answer these questions:
1. Whether a court weighing a preliminary injunction must consider a First Amendment plaintiff's likelihood of success on the merits.
2. Whether it is always in the public interest to follow constitutional requirements.
3. Whether the Arms Export Control Act of 1976....and its implementing International Traffic in Arms Regulations ("ITAR")...may be applied as a prior restraint on public speech.
The petition insists that in denying their request for an injunction, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals has taken a dangerous stance in balancing the First Amendment against government's insistence that it has very good reason to violate it.
It is also worth noting the files in question, although no longer hosted by Defense Distributed, are universally available on the internet from many other sources.
Defense Distributed is represented in this case by Alan Gura, who won two previous Second Amendment victories at the Supreme Court in 2008's Heller case and 2010's McDonald. Gura and his co-counsels argue in the petition the Fifth Circuit should not have been allowed to have:
simply declared that the government's asserted interests outweighed the interest in securing constitutional rights....considering the merits of preliminary injunction motions is not optional. Of all contexts, the merits cannot be optional in First Amendment cases. It should ordinarily go without saying—and so it must now be said—that federal
courts cannot dismiss the Constitution's primacy in our legal system...
The government can be relied upon to assert the necessity of every prior restraint. The public must be able to rely on the courts to test these assertions for constitutional compliance.
Gura argues the government's rules defining what falls under ITAR are completely ambiguous and confusing. The process for learning whether or not those rules apply to you is a similar mess of ambiguity and overreach. And the government's ability to stonewall drags out cases like that of Defense Distributed for years, Gura writes.
The petition also details the history of interpretation of ITAR over the past decades in the (proper) direction of not using it as a prior restraint on expression or speech on American citizens when it involves non-classified information.
The Fifth Circuit, in its decision on the appeal of an initial district court loss for Defense Distributed, was pretty blatant in saying the First Amendment doesn't count here because the government says so:
Ordinarily, of course, the protection of constitutional rights would be the highest public interest at issue in a case. That is not necessarily true here, however, because the State Department has asserted a very strong public interest in national defense and national security.
Gura finds that assertion unsatisfying, leaning on a Fifth Circuit dissent from the panel's majority opinion. Dissenter Judge Edith Jones:
noted that "[i]nterference with First Amendment rights for any period of time, even for short periods, constitutes irreparable injury,"...and that "Defense Distributed has been denied publication rights for over three years,"...She then found it "a mystery" why the majority was "unwilling to correct" the district court's "obvious error" in applying only intermediate scrutiny to the content-based prior restraint at issue...
[Judge Jones believes the State Department's censorship of Defense Distributed] "appears to violate the governing statute, represents an irrational interpretation of the regulations, and violates the First Amendment as a content-based regulation and a prior restraint."
Jones also pointed out how weirdly ineffectual is the government's desired power to violate the First Amendment. The government admits stating or publishing that same information at a conference in the U.S., or in a domestic publication or library, would be protected speech if they somehow could insure no foreigners accessed it. Foreigners could, of course, access such information on the Internet, an act considered a blow against national security so severe it trumps the First Amendment. That is, if "foreigners can't hear this speech" is to be held as true and important, the power to restrict speech applies far beyond the Internet.MORE »
"To say 'no free speech for fascists,' which was on many a protest sign this weekend, is [the equivalent of saying] 'no free speech for Muslims,'" says Reason's Katherine Mangu-Ward. That killing someone with a car means "everybody loses their speech rights" is "the exact same argument as saying if you are a big group of people and one of you is a suicide bomber, you all lose your speech rights."
On today's podcast, Reason's Nick Gillespie, Katherine Mangu-Ward, Peter Suderman, and Andrew Heaton discuss the recent violence in Charlottesville, Trump's initial response (Note: the podcast was recorded before Trump's press conference today), and the anti-free speech backlash that followed.
Last week, Google's James Damore was fired for an internal memo questioning the company's diversity policies. Justified or not?
Finally, how worried should we be about nuclear war with North Korea?
Audio post production by Ian Keyser.
Subscribe, rate, and review the Reason Podcast at iTunes. Listen at SoundCloud below:
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- by name after being a little vague in his condemnations over the weekend. President Donald Trump today finally formally denounced white supremacist groups
- The denunciation came on the heels of the CEO of pharmaceutical company Merck quitting Trump's manufacturing advisory council because he didn't like the way Trump reacted to the weekend's violence. Trump responded by attacking him and Merck on Twitter.
- James Alex Fields Jr., the 20-year-old Ohio man accused of driving the car in the Charlottesville, Virginia, attack on Saturday, has been denied bail. He's accused of second-degree murder and other charges.
- A libertarian hot dog shop has fired a worker who was identified among as being among the white nationalist protesters in Charlottesville. Surprising detail: The hot dog shop is in Berkeley, California.
- Trump told Fox News he's considering a pardon for former Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio, convicted of criminal contempt for defying judge's orders to stop doing patrols looking for illegal immigrants.
- Bitcoin's value is skyrocketing again, topping a record of $4,300 today.
Just because Congress can't fix health care doesn't mean it can't be done.
That's the message from the Health Transformation Alliance, 41 big American companies that have banded together to try to save money and lives on their own, without waiting for Congress to pass a new law.
But if these savings are such a great idea and so easily achievable, why isn't the federal government doing these things?
One big difference, notes Ira Stoll, is that what the private sector hails as "savings," in the public sector gets demagogued as "cuts." Another big difference is the influence of interest groups, and their effect on incentives.View this article
Medical marijuana advocates have claimed for years that cannabis is an effective and safe alternative to prescription opioids for the treatment of pain. But no one put up the money to prove it until last week.
On Tuesday, the Albert Einstein College of Medicine and Montefiore Health System announced a forthcoming study to ascertain whether medical marijuana can alleviate the need for opioids in both HIV-positive and HIV-free patients who suffer from chronic pain. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) is putting $3.5 million towards the investigation.
A study published last year suggests the Albert Einstein College of Medicine is on the right track.
In 2016, researchers at the University of Michigan published two years' worth of survey results collected from 185 medical marijuana patients suffering from various ailments. Patients reported a 45 percent improvement in quality of life and a 64 percent reduction in the use of prescription opioids.
"We would caution against rushing to change current clinical practice towards cannabis," said Michigan study leader Kevin Boehnke, "but note that this study suggests that cannabis is an effective pain medication and agent to prevent opioid overuse."
The Albert Einstein College of Medicine is right to point out that we have far less data than one might expect, considering the first state to legalize medical marijuana did so 21 years ago. Most research into Schedule I drugs is paid for by the federal government, which has historically underwritten only those studies that either show the harms of such substances or explain their mechanism of action. The federal monopoly on research marijuana, meanwhile, makes studying the drug's therapeutic qualities an exercise in bureaucratic kowtowing.
But we do know there is a correlation between medical marijuana legalization and opioid use. A 2014 study that looked at 11 years of overdose data found that death rates from opioids increased in both states with liberalized marijuana laws and those without, but that "medical cannabis laws were associated with lower rates of opioid analgesic overdose mortality."
When University of Georgia economist David Bradford looked at Medicare prescribing rates, he found that physicians in medical marijuana states prescribed "1,826 fewer doses of conventional pain medication each year."
In addition to receiving funding from NIH—itself a noteworthy development—the Albert Einstein College of Medicine will conduct its study using marijuana provided by New York medical marijuana dispensaries, rather than the moldy ditchweed provided to researchers by the Drug Enforcement Administration's operation at the University of Mississippi.
Cannabis research has turned another corner.
tweeted that the killing was "domestic terrorism" and urged President Donald Trump to "call evil by its name"; former Attorney General Eric Holder declared that had "ISIS rammed a car into a crowd this would be labeled quickly."The deadly car attack in Charlottesville, Virginia, has led some prominent politicians and former federal officials to label the assault an act of domestic terrorism. Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Col.)
That's true: It would. But after 16 years of a war on terror that has eroded civil liberties, we should be trying to roll back the broad use of the term terrorism to describe any sort of ideologically motivated violence, not expanding it.
Holder was sometimes more appropriately cautious when he was actually attorney general, resisting calls to label various criminal acts terrorism before an investigation could even be started. Most prominently, the Department of Justice's approach to the Fort Hood shooting was criticized by those who wanted it labeled a terrorist attack.
The FBI has specific legal criteria it uses to define international terrorism, domestic terrorism, and the federal crime of terrorism. To be terrorist, an act must appear to intend to "intimidate or coerce a civilian population; to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion; or to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination, or kidnapping." The federal offense is defined as a criminal act "calculated to influence or affect the conduct of government by intimidation or coercion, or to retaliate against government conduct."
In political rhetoric, by contrast, the word is frequently deployed as a thought-terminating cliché—a way to promote the idea that some military or police activity should be permitted to occur outside of the constraints of the Constitution, particularly against certain classes of people. In the last few decades, and particularly since 9/11, those classes of people have tended to be Muslim.
Republicans have made a lot of hay about Democrats refusing to "name the enemy" in the war on terror, but this misses the point spectacularly, conflating rhetoric and word choice with the policies they are meant to prop up.
Similarly, when word spread earlier this year that the Trump administration might rename the federal government's Countering Violent Extremism program to something like "Countering Radical Islamic Extremism," some on the left complained that this represented a victory for far-right extremists. Those critiques ignored the more salient point—that the program was ineffective, for much the same reason many counter-terrorism initiatives are. It aims its fire at "radicalization," leading to a kind of soft surveillance that former FBI agent Michael German told Reason's Jesse Walker was "intended to suppress ideas, which is likely to cause more problems than solve them. It encourages the identification, reporting, and 'treatment' of people with bad ideas, which will only lead to misuse of security resources and deprivation of civil liberties."
increase in domestic "lone wolf" attacks, all at a great cost in blood and treasure—and decide that what America needs is a broader definition of the term. Since 2001 the militarization of domestic police has been accelerated. Constitutionally dubious law enforcement tools like the ones packaged in the PATRIOT Act have been systematically abused far beyond their originally declared scope. Drones have blurred the rules of war. The U.S. regularly launches "signature strikes," where the exact identity of the targets is unclear to the officials ordering the strikes. The U.S. has targeted and killed American citizens overseas without so much as indicting them in a federal court. This is the wages of terror.It's hard to understand the kind of person that would look at the extent of failures in the "war on terror"—a loss of civil liberties, a proliferation of terrorist safe havens around the world, and an
As Glenn Greenwald noted after the Charleston shooting, the refusal by many politicians and pundits to call the attack "terrorism" revealed that the term was ultimately meaningless propaganda. (Holder did call the attack an act of domestic terrorism, but its perpetrator, white supremacist Dylan Roof, ultimately faced different charges.) Greenwald argued the term could be applied to the shooting, but he was not out "to seek an expansion of the term 'terrorism' beyond its current application" or the abuses and manipulations the term enables. "But what I also don't want," he wrote, "is for non-Muslims to rest in their privileged nest, satisfied that the term and its accompanying abuses is only for that marginalized group."
He has a point. So let's be more reluctant to use it in either case.
At the beginning of his term as attorney general, Holder sought to treat terrorism as a law enforcement issue. This was the right instinct. Terrorists are criminals with political ideas, but they are still criminals. The term terrorism is used to strip those criminals—and many noncriminals—of longstanding legal protections. And its ultimate effect has been to make it politically harder to defend the idea of treating "terrorism" as a law enforcement issue, often while creating the space for even more terrorism.
have come under criticism for not quelling violence at Saturday's deadly white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, but Gov. Terry McAuliffe said in an interview with The New York Times that militia members at the rally were better equipped than state police.Virginia police
The Virginia Democrat told the Times that law enforcement arrived to find a line of militia members who "had better equipment than our State Police had." In longer comments that were later edited out of the Times' story, McAuliffe said that up to 80 percent of the rally attendees were carrying semi-automatic weapons. "You saw the militia walking down the street, you would have thought they were an army," he said.
McAuliffe claimed today on Pod Save the People, a podcast by Black Lives Matter activist Deray Mckesson, that the militiamen "had better armor than my state police and national guard had."
McAuliffe's statements were credulously repeated by many, including Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN), who warned in a tweet that armed militias were "rivaling state power."
McAuliffe, a former Democratic National Committee chairman with no previous executive experience, speaks as though state and local police have have not received large amount of military equipment. The notion that police are outgunned by heavily armed private citizens is a common trope among gun-control advocates, but it bears little resemblance to reality.MORE »
deadly violence on Saturday, tried to hold a press conference at City Hall. As Ron Bailey reported here, the event was shut down by "an angry crowd" that "surged in and grabbed" Kessler. Here is how Jeff Winder, a protester who punched Kessler, justified his violence in an interview with The New York Times:Yesterday Jason Kessler, who organized the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, that ended in
Jason Kessler has been bringing hate to our town for months and has been endangering the lives of people of color and endangering other lives in my community. Free speech does not protect hate speech.
Thus we see the logical consequences of the idea that Howard Dean, former chairman of the Democratic National Committee, endorsed last spring by way of explaining why a public university's decision to cancel a speech by conservative commentator Ann Coulter did not raise any constitutional issues. If, as Dean claimed, "hate speech is not protected by the First Amendment," anyone who is deemed to be engaging in it can be censored by the government or even forcibly silenced by concerned citizens. If Kessler has no right to say what he wants to say and his message endangers people's lives, he can hardly expect the police to protect him when someone like Winder takes direct action to neutralize the threat.
It cannot be said too often that Winder, like Dean, is simply wrong as a matter of law. In the United States, "hate speech" is not a legally defined or constitutionally relevant category. Time and again, the U.S. Supreme Court has made it clear that even the most repugnant bigotry is protected by the First Amendment.
The idea that "the Government has an interest in preventing speech expressing ideas that offend...strikes at the heart of the First Amendment," Justice Samuel Alito noted last January in Matal v. Tam, which overturned the federal ban on registration of disparaging trademarks. "Speech that demeans on the basis of race, ethnicity, gender, religion, age, disability, or any other similar ground is hateful; but the proudest boast of our free speech jurisprudence is that we protect the freedom to express 'the thought that we hate.'"
What about the argument, made explicitly by Dean and implicitly by Winder, that hate speech is not protected because it incites violence? The Court has addressed that issue as well. In the 1969 case Brandenburg v. Ohio, the Court rejected criminal charges against a Ku Klux Klan leader, Clarence Brandenburg, who was accused of advocating violence in the service of a political cause and participating in a gathering aimed at promoting "the doctrines of criminal syndicalism."
The charges stemmed from a KKK rally that featured weapons, hoods and robes, a cross burning, and racist and anti-Semitic rhetoric. "Personally," Brandenburg said, "I believe the nigger should be returned to Africa, the Jew returned to Israel." He also alluded vaguely to the possibility of violent resistance. "We're not a revengent organization," he said, "but if our president, our Congress, our Supreme Court, continues to suppress the white, Caucasian race, it's possible that there might have to be some revengeance taken." The Court ruled that such speech is protected by the First Amendment unless it is aimed at inciting "imminent lawless action" and is likely to have that effect.
When people like Dean and Winder say that hate speech isn't legally protected, perhaps what they mean is that hate speech shouldn't be legally protected. If so, they should explain how that would work in practice: How would hate speech be defined, and who would define it?
As Katherine Mangu-Ward observed this morning, these are not details that can be safely worked out later once we all agree that hate speech does not deserve constitutional protection. Unless we can clearly say what hate speech is and is not, that proposition is not just impractical but incomprehensible. The phrase means different things to different people, whose opinions are bound to be colored by their ideologies and political allegiances. Not to put too fine a point on it, but not everyone will agree with Howard Dean that Ann Coulter's jokes qualify as hate speech, or with Rush Limbaugh that the rhetoric of Black Lives Matter activists does. The difficulty of reaching agreement on a workable definition suggests how dangerous it would be to carve out a new exception to the First Amendment.
In a tweet over the weekend, subsequently confirmed as accurate, GoDaddy told the site to go find a new host for their white nationalist content. A Daily Stormer post about Heyer's death insulted her and said people are "glad she is dead"; the host company ruled that this violated its terms. A spokesman told The Washington Post that the article, coming right on the heels of the protests, could "incite additional violence."
GoDaddy has been under pressure to stop hosting sites that spout "hate speech," but it had resisted the idea, citing the First Amendment as a reason to keep hosting racist content. But since GoDaddy is a private company, it doesn't have to use the First Amendment as a guidepost. The First Amendment restricts government censorship, not media or Internet hosting site censorship. Invoking the First Amendment here is a way for the company to establish that it's going to attempt to take all comers and to serve as many people as it can, as long as they're willing to pay.
But if GoDaddy does not want to play host to these hateful messages, it's absolutely the company's right to say no. That's what freedom of association is all about. GoDaddy should not have to play host to content it finds offensive or abhorrent.
That's one good reason to keep web hosting in the hands of private companies and not turn the internet into a government-managed utility. If, for example, GoDaddy had to operate as though it were a government agency, it might be required to prove that Daily Stormer's piece insulting Heyer meets a legal threshold for incitement. As a private company, GoDaddy can decide for itself what counts as instigation.
And if freedom of association is a right for GoDaddy, then it's a right for everybody. GoDaddy shouldn't have to host Nazis. T-shirt companies shouldn't be required by the government to print gay pride messages if they don't approve. Office Depot shouldn't be required to make photocopies of anti-abortion fliers.
It's not a perfect solution. In fact, it's a very messy solution, one where people often use social pressure and public outrage as a way to try to influence company behavior. GoDaddy's decision came after people tweeted at them to ask whether they would do anything about the Daily Stormer's postings. At other times people have tried to get other people fired for expressing opinions they don't like, as we saw with Google.
It's nevertheless preferable to solutions that involve the government, because once the government is involved, resolving the conflict becomes a matter of using force, not influence and social pressure. Police in the United Kingdom and Germany have responded to hate speech by raiding people's homes and arresting them. That's not a better solution. Not only does this create the extremely obvious problem that a person's speech limits will be determined by whoever is in control of the government (spoiler: It's not you), but it also increases the likelihood that somebody will be injured or killed by police during these interactions.
So regardless of whether any particular person agrees that GoDaddy made the right choice to dump these guys, we should support their right to do so. And we should perhaps keep that in mind when other businesses don't want to play a role in producing or carrying messages with which they do not agree.
UPDATE: Daily Stormer attempted to move its hosting to Google, but now Google is also rejecting them on the grounds of the site violating their terms of service.
Hospitals in the U.S. throw away $800 million worth of unused medicine every year, and pharmacies and consumers trash uncounted millions more, all because they didn't use or sell those medicines prior to the date printed on the bottle.
But according to a new report from ProPublica, most of those drugs are safe and effective for years after the expiration date. And the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) knows it.
"It turns out that the FDA, the agency that helps set the dates, has long known the shelf life of some drugs can be extended, sometimes by years," writes ProPublica's Marshall Allen. "In fact, the federal government has saved a fortune by doing this."
For decades, the federal government has stockpiled massive stashes of medication, antidotes and vaccines in secure locations throughout the country. The drugs are worth tens of billions of dollars and would provide a first line of defense in case of a large-scale emergency.
Each year, drugs from the stockpiles are selected based on their value and pending expiration and analyzed in batches to determine whether their end dates could be safely extended. For several decades, the program has found that the actual shelf life of many drugs is well beyond the original expiration dates.
A 2006 study of 122 drugs tested by the program showed that two-thirds of the expired medications were stable every time a lot was tested. Each of them had their expiration dates extended, on average, by more than four years, according to research published in the Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences.
An official with the Department of Defense, which maintains about $13.6 billion worth of drugs in its stockpile, says that in 2016 it cost $3.1 million to run the extension program, but it saved the department from replacing $2.1 billion in expired drugs. To put the magnitude of that return on investment into everyday terms: It's like spending a dollar to save $677.
I suggest reading ProPublica's entire report, which provides one stunning example after another of bureaucratic cautiousness fueling rational but egregiously wasteful behavior. Hospitals don't dispense perfectly safe but expired drugs because that may expose them to regulatory penalties or lawsuits. Pharmaceutical companies don't push back against the FDA "because regulations make it expensive and time-consuming for manufacturers to extend expiration date." And the FDA won't do anything, because...well, ProPublica doesn't really provide a good explanation. The simplest explanation is that regulatory structures are like weeds: They don't uproot themselves.
There is no top-down fix in sight. The American Medical Association has apparently been drawing attention to this issue for over a decade now, but the FDA has made exceptions only in the case of medicine shortages. But that doesn't mean consumers have to comply.
Mike Tang, the California father convicted of child endangerment after making his 8-year-old son walk a mile home alone, has lost his appeal.
Tang left his son outside a local grocery store as punishment for cutting corners on his homework. He told the boy he had to walk home. The child was familiar with the route. "I just wanted to reinforce that money is hard to earn and that, if he doesn't do a good job at school, he could end up sleeping...[with] the homeless" outside grocery stores, Tang told Reason.tv.
In his appeal, Tang challenged a provision in California law that criminalizes placing a child "in a situation where his or her person or health may be endangered." (Emphasis added.) That vague and sweeping language, Tang argued, effectively means that a parent could be arrested simply if "there was a crack in the sidewalk where the child could trip and fall."
But the appellate court saw no problem with the broad language of the law and rejected Tang's appeal.
David DeLugas, the executive director of the National Association of Parents, a non-profit whose mission includes fighting for the rights of parents to raise their kids as they see fit (so long as the kids are not harmed), told me that the California law at issue in the Tang case is unconstitutional.
It is unconstitutional, DeLugas says, because the law takes the decision-making rights from parents and gives them to the state, permitting the authorities to charge any parent, at any time, under almost any circumstances. For instance, DeLugas points out, "a parent who permits a child to play tackle football is subject to being charged under this same statute because the child 'may' be injured."
DeLugas has experience fighting these sorts of overreaching laws. He previously took up the case of Susan Terrillion, the Maryland woman who was arrested while on vacation in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, after she went out to pick up dinner, leaving her kids, ages eight and nine, home alone. In Delaware, DeLugas notes, child endangerment charges kick in only when a child is "likely" to be hurt, not when they "may" be hurt, as is the case in California. DeLugas gathered enough evidence on Terrillion's behalf to make it obvious that the children were not "likely" to be hurt, and the prosecutor ultimately dismissed the charges.
When the law allows the state to prosecute parents who trust their kids, DeLugas warns, "every parent should be concerned."
Unfortunately for parents like Mike Tang, the law remains against them.
Charlottesville devolved into violence and tragedy, the gathering's ostensible goal was to preserve a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee. Earlier this year, city officials announced plans to remove the statue, erected in 1924, from the park once named in Lee's honor and recently rechristened Emancipation Park. An ongoing lawsuit has left the future of Charlottesville's Lee statue unclear at the moment.Before last weekend's "Unite the Right" rally in
But this weekend's rally was hardly a boon for the statute-keepers' cause more broadly. The only thing the U.S. right seems to have united on is condemnation of protesters playing "patriots" while wearing the insignia of two entities—the Confederacy and Nazi Germany—that declared war on the United States. Meanwhile, mayors of several Southern cities have declared an intent to remove memorials to Confederate generals from their city centers.
On Monday, Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh said she has reached out to contractors about removing four Confederate-era monuments from central Baltimore and transferring them to Confederate soldier cemeteries around Maryland.
In Lexington, Kentucky, Mayor Jim Gray has announced plans to move two Confederate monuments from an area on the city's Main Street to a cemetery for Confederate veterans.
Another Kentucky mayor, Louisville's Greg Fischer*, said Sunday that the city's Commission on Public Art would review pieces throughout the city that could be interpreted as honoring racism and slavery. "I recognize that some people say all these monuments should be left alone, because they are part of our history," said Fischer. "But we need to discuss and interpret our history from multiple perspectives and from different viewpoints. That's why a community conversation is crucial."
Commenting on a statue of Confederate officer John B. Castleman that was vandalized Saturday, Fischer added that, "for many, this statue is a beloved neighborhood landmark, but for others, it's a symbol of a painful, tragic and divisive time in our history—which gets at the complexity of this conversation. I believe this is community conversation worth having."
In the wake of this weekend's events in Charlottesville, even some prominent GOP figureheads have spoken out in support of plans to remove Confederate monuments.
"We are the Party of Lincoln and a party that stands against divisive and hurtful symbols," Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel told BuzzFeed yesterday. "As Americans we can find ways to preserve our history but only if we are working toward an inclusive future that separates us from a hateful past."
Critics of moves like these tend to warn of slippery slopes—once we start judging historical figures by today's moral standards, most will come up wanting. Where does the call to remove relics of racism, sexism, and bigotry end? Many of the founding fathers were slaveowners, after all. Generations of Very Important Dudes didn't have such great views of women. And so on.
But we should also beware reflexively embracing the status quo just because there may be some merit to slippery-slope fears. It's not an all or nothing proposition here—one can support, say, Charlottesville removing this statue in this instance and still oppose broader calls to censor historical monuments or artifacts. One can support removing a particular figure's statue from a particular place of honor while still believing there is some place for the display of that work, such as a museum or a cemetery.
And one can oppose the social-justice-ification of popular politics while remembering that cities are dynamic places, which can and should evolve to meet the demands and preferences of their populaces.
Those calling for blanket bans on removing Confederate monuments are guilty of exactly the kind of authoritarianism they accuse their opponents of promoting. Ultimately, these decisions should be left to the people and elected officials of the individual places affected by such controversies.
Correction: Greg Fischer is the mayor of Louisville, not Lexington, Kentucky.
The Justice Department is forming a new working group to create uniform standards for forensic science evidence used in trials, but criminal defense organizations worry the new in-house group will lack independence.
"The Department of Justice believes that when the adversarial American legal system functions as intended—including through the support of trained forensic examiners and legal practitioners educated on best forensics practices—justice is advanced," Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein said in a statement last Monday. "The Department is fully committed to examining and strengthening forensic science despite efforts in the courtroom and elsewhere to reject reliable and admissible forensic evidence."
In April, the Justice Department chose not to renew the charter of the National Commission on Forensic Science (NCFS), an independent review group formed by the Obama administration. The commission grew out of the challenge nationally to the validity of common forensic methods such as bite-mark and hair analysis used to convict defendants. The FBI revealed in 2015 that two dozen investigators in its hair analysis unit had given flawed testimony in hundreds of cases.
The NCFS—made up of career prosecutors, forensics experts, and criminal defense groups—made recommendations on discovery practices and professional conduct codes that were later adopted by local, state, and federal crime labs. After the NCFS ended, the Justice Department solicited public comment on how to continue advancing forensic science. The department received more than 250 comments from academics, scientists, and forensic groups, many of them urging the department to continue the NCFS' work.MORE »
- White House defended President Trump's remarks in response to violence at a white nationalist rally Charlottesville, where a suspected white nationalist rammed into a group of counter-protesters with his car. The
- At least 17 people were killed when suspected Islamist extremist gunmen opened fire in a restaurant in the capital of Burkina Faso.
- An American tourist in Germany was beaten up after allegedly starting to give the Nazi salute outside a café.
- A deputy prime minister in Australia has found out he may be a citizen of New Zealand, making him the fifth lawmaker in a month to face trouble over potential dual citizenship, which the Constitution prohibits elected officials from holding.
- A hacker has released the first few episodes of Curb Your Enthusiasm as well as other shows in a continuing effort to extort HBO.
- A bot from Open AI, an Elon Musk initiative, defeated one of the best video game players in the world. Musk tweeted over the weekend.
- Antarctica has more volcanoes than geologists previously suspected, according to a new study.
violence and death in Charlottesville, Virginia, this weekend. Paired with a flood of invective against the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) for the group's support of Unite the Right's right to stage a rally at the city's statue of Robert E. Lee in the first place, they make for a troubling trend."No Free Speech for Fascists!" It's a motto you see on pre-printed signs at protests, including at yesterday's rallies in reaction to the
Support for the ACLU has been on the uptick from the left of late, thanks to Executive Director Anthony Romero's decisive legal maneuvering and online sass in response to President Donald Trump's misguided attempts to restrict immigration from several Muslim-dominated countries. But perhaps these new supporters didn't fully understood what they were buying into? Sure, they might have heard about the group's commitment to stick up for intersectional Muslim activists. But were they fully aware of the ACLU's long history of litigating in favor of KKK marches and other exercises in speech and assembly by unpopular minorities? (Or that time they defended NAMBLA, even!) Along came the defense of Milo Yiannopoulos (along with several others, including PETA and a women's health clinic) in a suit against Washington's transit system, and some of the Trump-era donors started getting nervous. Then, Charlottesville happened.
When people live in low-trust societies—that is, when citizens broadly believe that corruption is rampant and the powerful cannot be relied upon to follow the rules—they paradoxically tend to call for more regulation and other types of government action. That impulse was on full display in the anti-speech reaction to the cold-blooded murder of Heather Heyer. Many observers looked at what happened in Charlottesville and decided that not only were the neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and alt-righters who gathered in Virginia culpable for egging on those who physically lashed out, the legal and political institutions that defended their speech rights were as well. These are not just angry or grieving laymen; Waldo Jaquith, a member of the board of the ACLU of Virginia, resigned after the protest turned violent, characterizing the group's support for the right to gather as "a fig leaf for the Nazis."
But if fascists are to lose their free speech rights, someone must take them. And if you believe, as many of the counter-protesters do, that the white nationalists and their brethren were emboldened by the presence of a man in the White House who sees them as part of his coalition, then why on God's good green earth would you want to turn around and hand that very man the right to censor anyone whom he labels fascists? Because I can tell you right now, the list of folks that Trump and the restive-but-still-Republican Congress would like to silence sure won't look like the list those sign-wavers have in mind.
The people wielding "No Free Speech for Fascists" placards might as well be holding up signs saying "No Free Speech for Muslims." And in fact, many on the right have been making just that argument against the ACLU for years now, arguing that exceptions to our free speech principles should be made to curtail extreme speech by Muslim religious figures or activists in the name of security, or even (in the stupidest variant of the idea) that the ACLU is part of a radical Islamic conspiracy. But if the justification for restrictions on the speech of one man is violence committed by another, there can be no end to list of people who may be silenced in the name of order.
I have my beefs with ACLU too. I wish they'd see the importance of defending free speech even in situations where money is changing hands—to my way of thinking, the group has lately been on the wrong side of a few debates over freedom of conscience and association in the commercial realm. But the ACLU's work on speech in the public sphere is unbeatable. They did the right thing to let Unite the Right gather in Charlottesville. Sticking up for free speech for fascists doesn't mean you love fascists, it means you love free speech.
For more, check out Glenn Greenwald's humongous defense of the ACLU's habit of defending unpopular speech at The Intercept.
By virtue of a 10-page rumination on his workplace culture, James Damore is perhaps the most famous former Google employee in the world. Damore, who describes himself as "Generally, centrist/classical liberal/libertarian in philosophy," had a Google Hangouts text chat with Reason contributing editor Cathy Young, discussing his now notorious memo, his motivation for writing it and the reaction to its having gone public.
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CY: What were the negative responses you received?
JD: Most were just name-calling or public shaming. I did get a few personal threats, though.
CY: Of violence, or retaliation within the workplace?
JD: There were some threats of violence and many public displays of retaliation within the workplace—i.e. internally public posts stating that they will never work with me and will sabotage my projects.
CY: Even before the memo went public?
CY: Did anyone speak out in your support when those threats were made?
JD: Some brave souls did.
CY: Both men and women?
JD: Yes. But no one in upper management, because it would have been career suicide to defend me.
CY: Did you start feeling even then that your days with Google might be numbered?
JD:No, I was honestly surprised when they called to fire me. I thought that we had a right to discuss and try to improve the terms and conditions of working environment, especially when bringing up the possible illegality of some of our practices.
Chinese tourists for photographing each other outside the Reichstag building giving the "Heil Hitler" salute. The gesture is illegal in Germany, and those found guilty of performing it face up to three years in prison.German police have arrested two
Kessler, white nationalist Richard Spencer and other would-be rally speakers, have said they will schedule a press conference for tomorrow in Washington, DC.
Police escorted Kessler from the scene after he managed to break free, calling for police help. A line of state police had been standing behind Kessler as journalists approached to take close-up photographs of him. Seeing no reaction from the police when the media got near Kessler, some members of the crowd saw that as an opportunity to rush in and grab him.
As many as 50 video crews and several hundred people gathered as the time for the event drew near. Before Kessler arrived several women had created a memorial for the two officers, Lt. H. Jay Cullen and Trooper Berke M.M. Bates, who died yesterday when the helicopter they were flying for rally surveillance crashed.
As Kessler, who was dressed in suit approached the microphones and began speaking, he was loudly booed by the crowd. If he had any supporters at the event they kept a decorous silence.
Drowning out Kessler, the crowd shouted, "Shame, shame, shame," "Accomplice" and "Blood on your hands." The chants apparently referred to the death of Heather Heyer, killed when an alleged alt-right protest participant rammed his car into two cars and as many as twenty people on the downtown mall.
James Fields Jr. of Ohio was charged with second-degree murder in connection with the incident.
Local TV news managed to get audio of some of Kessler's comments before the Sunday fracas. Kessler said police were responsible for failing to prevent the outbreak of violence yesterday. "The hate that you hear around you; that is the anti-white hate that fueled what happened yesterday," is how Kessler characterized the heckling at the press conference.
"I would like to condemn any of the violence that happened yesterday," he is caught saying on the audio. "I disavow anything that led to folks getting hurt. It really is a sad day in our constitutional democracy when we are not able to have civil liberties like the First Amendment. That's what leads to rational discussion and ideas breaking down and people resorting to violence."
Although some downtown streets remain closed, the chaos of the past two days is abating. Unfortunately, Richard Spencer has vowed that his cohorts of white nationalists intend to return to Charlottesville many, many times in the future.
One final thought: I despise the white nationalists who came to my town. My interpretation of what is happening is there is an ongoing clash between two groups of identity politics collectivists - extremists on both the left and the right, valorizing and defending their tribes, not individual liberty. As history all too amply proves, us versus them politics leads almost inevitably to violence.
a modestly successful minor league soccer team, FC Cincinnati, which shares a stadium with the University of Cincinnati football team.Cincinnati, Ohio, has
Within the next two years, though, the club hopes to join Major League Soccer, the top tier professional league in the United States. To get there, FC Cincinnati will have to beat out 11 other cities that have applied for the MLS expansion in 2020.
Winning the bidding process will likely require taxpayers to agree to fund a new soccer-only stadium for FC Cincinnati. The price tag: about $200 million, at least half of it coming from public sources, the Cincinnati Business Courier reports.
But before Cincinnati—or Charlotte, Detroit, Nashville, Phoenix, or any of the other cities bidding to join MLS—agrees to put-up public financing for a new stadium, officials there might want to take a good, hard look at the financial health of the league they are attempting to join. Because, right now, MLS resembles something a little like a Ponzi scheme.
The league is losing money every year, Commissioner Don Garber acknowledges, even though he's declined to provide specifics. Meanwhile, weirdly, the value of individual franchises is climbing fast. The most recent Forbes' analysis of MLS teams found that the average franchise is now worth $185 million, a 400 percent increase over the average value of a team in 2008.
"That business model and this financial trajectory suggests that MLS's sea of red ink is either a loss leader or a Ponzi scheme," Neil deMause, author of the book Field of Schemes, writes at Deadspin this week, "and it's not always easy to tell the difference between the two until it's too late. Several sports economists, though, aren't optimistic."
DeMause suggests a big part of the explanation might be MLS' rapid expansion.
From its formation in 1996 through 2004, MLS had somewhere between eight and 12 teams scattered around the country. By 2010 membership had jumped to 16, and four more teams were added by 2015. With the addition of Atlanta United and Minnesota United (soccer desperately needs a wider selection of team names) this year, there are now 22 franchises in MLS.
The league reportedly has plans to expand to 26 teams by 2020—that's where Cincinnati, Charlotte, and the other bidders come in. Each new team pays an "expansion fee" of $150 million to the league, to be split among the other owners. And each new team is supposed to bring its own soccer-specific stadium with it, meaning taxpayers are generally part of the transaction, whether they want to be or not.
Since MLS continues to struggle with TV ratings—which drive advertising, which allow other major professional sports leagues to make big money today—and with attracting high-level footballing talent, the long-term viability of the league is questionable, deMause writes.
"If you can't make money either of the old-fashioned or sustainable ways, you might as well recruit a new batch of suckers to boost your bottom line in the short run," says deMause. "It also helps to explain MLS's otherwise puzzling insistence on making a brand-new, soccer-only stadium a primary condition for anointing new franchises."
Even compared to other American professional sports leagues, Major League Soccer operates with a stunning degree of socialism. While other leagues use salary caps or luxury taxes to impose parity, and all leagues use some form of revenue-sharing to balance smaller and bigger market teams, they at least allow the franchises to negotiate salaries directly with players and try to offer the most money to a prospective free agent.
In MLS, players sign contracts with the league and are then allocated to each of the different franchises.
No surprise, then, that the best players end up in New York and Los Angeles, or in places like Seattle and Toronto where soccer is weirdly super-popular. All the teams are supposedly equal before MLS. Some teams are just more equal than others.
It happens in other sports too. It might be unfair the New York Yankees and Los Angeles Dodgers can spend more money than other professional baseball teams. It's a whole different sort of unfair when the league is deciding which teams get the best talent and which don't.
If you're a fan of your MLS team in Minnesota, and you're being taxed to support a stadium project for a new or existing MLS franchise, you'd probably like to know that your team has a chance of competing with a New York. That will never happen because the league is structured so it will never happen.
The league contends once soccer is better established in America and MLS takes its rightful place among the top tier professional leagues in the rest of the world, there will be enough talent for all teams to get some superstar players. There's no reason to believe that day is coming anytime soon. The average team in the English Premier League paid $121 million in salaries last year, while the entire MLS paid just $99 million to its players.
And if everything goes belly-up before MLS claws its way to the top, guess who gets left with nothing?
"For most big-market teams and early adopters, even if the expand-o-ganza goes south, it's a fair bet they'll be left with a chair when the music stops—franchises like New York and Los Angeles should be safe and potentially profitable, even if the likes of Raleigh or Nashville might be screwed," deMause says.
No city should build a new soccer stadium for an MLS franchise until the league is more up-front about its long-term financial plans—and until it agrees to allow franchises to compete with one another, rather than serving as subordinate parts of the whole.
Heather Heyer, a 32-year-old paralegal, has been identified as the woman killed Saturday when a car slammed into another vehicle and a group of pedestrians on streets crowded with protesters in Charlottesville, Virginia.
According to police, at least 20 people were injured in Saturday's attack, which appeared to be directed at a group of counter-protesters marching against the white supremacists, white nationalists, and Nazis gathered in Charlottesville over the weekend.
Video of the attack shows a silver Dodge Challenger being driven at high speed down a crowded street, sending pedestrians jumping out of the way. The car slammed into the rear of two other vehicles, sending cars and bodies flying. The driver of the car quickly reversed course, driving backwards up the same street. Police later found the car abandoned and arrested James Alex Fields, a 20-year-old Ohio man who attended the alt-right rally and appeared to march with a fascist group.
"The crash impact left Heyer lying on the pavement alongside another bloodied victim who was wearing a black shirt emblazoned with words of protest," the New York Daily News reported Sunday morning. The paper confirmed Heyer as the lone victim of the attack (two police officers died Saturday in a helicopter crash near Charlottesville that appears to be only tangentially related to the protests and violence), citing friends and relatives who identified her in-person and via social media, though police have yet to officially release her name. Friends have set-up a Go Fund Me account in Heyer's name to collect donations for her family.
It is fortunate there were not more casualties, but that does not lessen the tragedy of Heyer's death. Though there have been numerous clashes between pro-Trump, white nationalist forces and anti-Trump, anti-fascists in recent months, this is the first time someone has died during one of those (mostly peaceful) protests. It is a shocking event, but sadly not a wholly unexpected one, given the spiraling levels of dehumanizing rhetoric and political violence on display between the far right and far left, with each escalation being used to justify additional ones.
To be clear, Fields—or whomever was driving the car that careened down Charlottesville's Fourth Street on Saturday afternoon—is singularly responsible for the carnage he caused, and he should be held criminally accountable. He was charged with second degree murder, according to multiple media reports, and other charges are likely to follow.
Still, Charlottesville fits into a disturbing cycle. Beginning with protests at Donald Trump's campaign rallies last year, continuing through and beyond the inauguration the far left has met the violent rhetoric of the alt-right by glorifying political violence. The reaction has only reaffirmed and escalated the very fascist tendencies the left supposedly opposes.
As Robby Soave wrote shortly after alt-right ringleader Richard Spencer was punched in the face on Inauguration Day, "Striking Spencer isn't just morally wrong—it's tactically foolish."
Punching Nazis in the public square might make you feel good but it puts you a half-step closer to accepting that it's all right to run down the Nazi-punchers in the public square. What happened Saturday was not inevitable. I hope Heyer's death will generate a massive backlash against the alt-right. I hope it will cause the far-left to reconsider how they engage with fascists, white nationalists, and other enemies of freedom.
Maybe this is the event that brings an end to the rage and give both sides reason to explore the more effective option of non-violent civil resistance.
But I fear that isn't the case. I worry there will be violent reprisals and further escalation. If 2017 has taught us anything, it is that things can always get worse.
Reacting to events Saturday, Jeffrey Tucker concludes that the alt-right/anti-fascist conflict is really socialist-on-socialist violence. Both sides see their identities as collectives, rather than as individuals. That makes it easier, perhaps, for members to justify ever-increasing levels of violence against their opponents.
Ultimately, though, individuals are responsible for their actions. Saturday's tragedy should be a reminder to each of us to reconsider the dark places socialism—on the right and the left—can take us.
With his approval rating sinking, President Trump has decided his problem is that he has too many allies. So he set out to rid of himself of an important one: Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell.
The taciturn Kentuckian managed to inspire rage by suggesting that, being new to Washington, Trump had "excessive expectations about how quickly things happen in the democratic process." The president responded by tweeting angrily, "Can you believe that Mitch McConnell, who has screamed Repeal & Replace for 7 years, couldn't get it done. Must Repeal & Replace ObamaCare!"
As if that weren't enough, Trump followed up in an interview by indicating he might favor McConnell's resignation as Republican leader if he couldn't get Trump's agenda enacted.
A president under investigation by a special counsel has to consider the prospect of impeachment, notes Steve Chapman. All Trump has to do to avoid it is keep Republicans aligned with him. But instead of striving to ingratiate himself with those who hold his fate in their hands, he seems determined to antagonize them.View this article
U.S. Defense Secretary James "Mad Dog" Mattis warned that the Kim Jong-un regime's actions risk the "destruction of its people" President Trump promised "fire and fury" against North Korea "like the world has never seen." But of course the North Korean people have seen their share of fire and fury at the hands of the U.S military. It happened almost 70 years ago, when Harry Truman, another president who went ga-ga over generals, unleashed America's savage vengeance during the Korean War.
It's called the "forgotten war," but even when it wasn't forgotten, few Americans realized how brutally the United States treated people that posed no threat whatever to Americans, writes Sheldon Richman. This devastation was wreaked by so-called conventional weapons. No nuclear weapons were used, as they had been only a few years earlier in nearby Japan. But this is not to say their use was not contemplated. The Truman war council discussed using atomic bombs just two weeks after the war started, and later publicly threatened to use all weapons at America's disposal.View this article
Charlottesville, Va. - The white nationalist Unite the Right rally in my home town was dispersed after Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe declared a state of emergency in the wake of violent clashes between the neo-nazis, white supremacists, and other assorted alt-righters and Black Lives Matter, anti-fascist, and other counter-protesters. The white nationalists were attracted to Charlottesville as protest site after the city council's vote to sell memorial statues of confederate generals Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson.
Earlier this week, the city government revoked the permit for the rally to take place in the newly renamed Emancipation Park where the Lee statue stands. The city issued another permit for the rally at the larger McIntire park which is about one mile away from downtown. The rally organizers backed by the American Civil Liberties Union sued and the federal court district ruled that the rally could take place in the downtown park.
Last night, the alt-righters marched with tiki torches through the grounds of the University of Virginia reportedly shouting ""You will not replace us!," "Blood and soil!," and "Jews will not replace us!" Shouting the last slogan while standing in front of the statue of Thomas Jefferson created by Virginia Jewish scupltor and confederate VMI combatant Moses Ezekiel is a bit ironic.
unlawful assembly. I was not close enough to see that fight, but I did watch as perhaps a 500 Unite the Righters carrying confederate and nazi banners dispersed from the closed park by marching down Market Street. Counter-protesters shouting for them go away let them past for the most part unmolested. White nationalist Richard Spencer with a phalanx of Proud Boys* brought up the rear, clearly reveling in the chaos the rally had caused.Some of the alt-righters came attired in militia regalia carrying clubs and shields. The clubs were used to bash some counter-protesters before the rally could even get started, prompting the governor's declaration that the rally had become an
After the alt-righters marched away, many apparently put down their banners and are now mingling with residents and counter-protesters around downtown. Naturally, there are rumors that the alt-righters are planning to regroup for further protests and mayhem.
Now the bad news: Apparently two people are being treated for injuries from the earlier fight and a car has hit and injured some folks on the downtown mall (where I was standing not an hour ago). I am going to head back out to see what else may be happening.
For more background, here is what I think about how confederate monuments and memorials should be handled: Old Times There Are Best Forgotten.
Update: It is very sad to report that at least one person has died from the car ramming on the downtown Mall.
Update: In televised remarks, President Donald Trump said: "We're closely following the terrible events unfolding in Charlottesville, Virginia. We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence, on many sides."
It worth noting that many of the white nationalists gathered here think rightly or wrongly that Trump is on their side. Former KKKer David Duke who is in Charlottesville for the rally declared, "We are going to fulfill the promises of Donald Trump. That's what we believed in, that's why we voted for Donald Trump." In response to Trump's earlier tweet in which the president condemned "hate" and violence," Duke tweeted, "I would recommend you take a good look in the mirror & remember it was White Americans who put you in the presidency, not radical leftists."
*Correction: Apparently my observations and the inferences I made with regard to the regalia worn by the guys surrounding Spencer were wrong. Proud Boys founder Gavin McInnes informs me in colorful language that the group was not participating in the rally in any official capacity. It is nevertheless worth noting that the chief organizer of the Unite the Right rally in my town is Jason Kessler who claims to be a member of the Proud Boys. I regret any errors in my reporting with regard to the participation of Proud Boys in the Unite the Right fiasco today in Charlottesville.
On Friday, a group of tiki torch–wielding white nationalists converged on a statue of Robert E. Lee in Charlottesville, Virginia, waving Confederate flags and chanting. Today that exercise in free speech—for and against the vile, wildly wrongheaded notion that America's greatness is in any way related to the supremacy of the white race—escalated to violence, with numerous scuffles between protesters and counter-protesters, and finally a car plowing through the crowd:
Video of car hitting anti-racist protestors. Let there be no confusion: this was deliberate terrorism. My prayers with victims. Stay home. pic.twitter.com/MUOZs71Pf4— Brennan Gilmore (@brennanmgilmore) August 12, 2017
In a time when a surprising number of Americans believe that hate speech is against the law, this is a good moment to remember that while (very nearly) all speech is legal, assault is not. Charlottesville was right to let the protest go on, and local law enforcement is right to take legal action to stop the violence now.
Lots of questions on this today:
"Hate speech" isn't a legal term, but the law is clear— speech expressing hateful feelings is protected.— ACLU National (@ACLU) August 9, 2017
If the government gets to decide which speech is hate speech, the powers that be may later feel free to censor any speech they don't like.— ACLU National (@ACLU) August 9, 2017
Restricting any group or individual's speech jeopardizes everyone's rights. The same laws used to silence bigots can be used to silence you.— ACLU National (@ACLU) August 9, 2017
Reason's Ronald Bailey wrote about the fight over Confederate monuments in Charlottesville earlier this year, and will have a dispatch live from the scene shortly.
a Department of Justice letter to the U.S. Sentencing Commission from July 31 provides some troubling clarity. In addition to asking for longer sentences for immigration and gun offenses, the Department insists that the commissioners change federal sentencing guidelines so "that defendants who distribute seemingly small quantities of fentanyl face prison time."If there was any question that Attorney General Jeff Sessions has little patience for treating opioid addiction as a public health issue,
Distribution of any amount of fentanyl up to four grams, or one gram of a fentanyl analog, is currently a level 12 offense, punishable by 10-to-16 months in federal prison for people with little to no criminal history, all the way up to 30-to-37 months for someone with considerable criminal history.
But because fentanyl can be lethal in doses as small as two milligrams and because four grams is "sufficient to kill 2,000 persons," according to the DOJ, "a base offense level of 12 is wholly inadequate for a person who has placed that many deadly doses of fentanyl onto our streets."
There are problems with this approach. For one thing, quantity does not equal culpability. Many of the people who move fentanyl-laced heroin at the street level do not know how much fentanyl is contained in the bags they sell. In fact, powdered fentanyl is often marketed as pure heroin or pressed into pills and marketed as some other opioid. That a street level dealer wouldn't exactly know the ratio shouldn't come as a surprise. Fentanyl is imported into the U.S. by the kilogram. As the quantities get smaller, so do the operators.
The other issue is that the street level dealers most likely to sell the smallest amount of fentanyl--intentionally or not--are also the dealers most likely to be fentanyl-laced heroin users themselves. Increasing the sentence lengths at the low end would likely mean imprisoning addicts.
The DOJ knows this. In a footnote, the department points out a rule under consideration by the USSC that would allow level-12 defendants who plead guilty to receive a level reduction that would result in probation in lieu of prison time. That rule is intended to separate small fish from big fish and divert defendants into rehabilitation programs. For the DOJ to cite that rule suggests the department knows imprisoning small-time fentanyl dealers belies its claim that federal prosecutors only target major dealers.
The USSC is an obscure agency in the federal criminal justice system. Commissioners don't try or hear criminal cases and they lack the authority to change federal statutes (such as mandatory minimums). But they nevertheless play a major role in determining sentence lengths by creating sentencing guidelines used by federal judges, probation officers, prosecutors, and public defenders.
Increasing the base offense level for the smallest quantities of fentanyl would undermine the spirit of every reform they've passed in the last decade. What it says about the DOJ is even more troubling: Sessions thinks incarceration can fix this crisis. He's wrong, and poor Americans will continue to pay the price.
Earlier this summer, Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-Calif.) introduced a bill that could dramatically change the ways states tax and regulate interstate commerce, including commerce in agriculture and food.
The bill is intended to rein in "certain State impositions on interstate commerce." It declares "a State may tax or regulate a person's activity in interstate commerce only when such person is physically present in the State during the period in which the tax or regulation is imposed."
The law is intended to stop regulatory practices like what farmers have seen in Massachusetts, where voters in November adopted Question 3. The law, which won't take effect for at least a couple years, bans "the sale of eggs, veal, or pork of a farm animal confined in spaces that prevent the animal from lying down, standing up, extending its limbs, or turning around." The law applies not just to farms in Massachusetts but also to "farms located in other states," notes one recent report. Food policy expert Baylen Linnekin takes a closer look.View this article
"Many outsiders look at a firing-over-speech and say it's just a private firm's decision. No public policy or First Amendment implications, right?," writes Walter Olson for USA Today. A longtime contributor to Reason, Olson is a senior fellow at the Cato Institute who blogs at Overlawyered.com and Cato At Liberty. He stresses that "hostile-environment law is not content-neutral. It plays favorites on topics and it takes sides in debates."
In the latest Reason Podcast, Nick Gillespie talks with Olson about the "Google Memo" case, in which employee James Damore was fired after circulating his opinions about diversity efforts at the search behemoth, and the debate it has started over free speech on the job, political correctness, and workplace diversity.
Audio post production by Ian Keyser.
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- sent back to the Middle East to restart peace talks between Israel and Palestine. No doubt he will be able to bring this long conflict to a quick and satisfying end. Jared Kushner is being
- A D.C. neighborhood wants to block a Safeway from selling wine and beer until it starts selling more fresh fruit and sugar-free foods. These are the costal elites we all labor under.
- Ginger-haired emoji scheduled for a 2018 roll out. Now if we could only get one with freckles too.
- Move over "manspreading"; welcome to prime-time "beach-spreading." According to The New York Times, New Jersey's beaches are being taken over by tent-toting "maximalists" who are taking up more than their allotted space with barbeque grills, volleyball nets, and sprawling games of Uno.
- Campaigning is getting underway for elections to Germany's Bundestag, to be held on September 24. The Economist has a helpful breakdown of the parties and their positions.
The fidget spinner: harmless fad that suffered a cultural backlash almost as soon as we became aware they existed? Or deadly killer?
It's a harmless fad, but months after we've all grown tired of even thinking about the things, the federal government is here to make sure you don't kill yourself, kill everyone around you, and burn down your neighborhood with a small spinning toy.
Guys, there's a Fidget Spinner Safety Information Center. The United States Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) has a new "guidance" out with a page explaining how to safely spin a toy.
The commission's acting chair, Anne Marie Buerkle, even put out a press release encouraging people to let them know about unsafe fidget spinners and "help our agency stay on top of this emerging hazard."
The agency's efforts have prompted a CNN piece about the not-terribly-hidden dangers of the toy. Primarily, fidget spinners have small parts that children can choke on. That's a consumer product warning so typical that it's almost meaningless. There was one notable choking incident in May that resulted in a 10-year-old having to get surgery to remove part of a spinner. As CNN notes, manufacturers already warn that the spinners are potentially a choking hazard.
Some fidget spinners also have batteries in them to operate little lights, so if you have one of those, go make sure your smoke detectors are in working order right this minute! I'm not exaggerating: One of the CPSC's safety tips is to check that you have working smoke detectors if you have fidget spinners with batteries in your house. And don't charge it overnight while you're sleeping!
Disappointingly, the CPSC does not warn against attempting to sharpen the edges of the fidget spinner so it becomes a ninja star. That seems like the kind of thing certain types of kids would try to do.
The CPSC also warns that there are all sorts of regulations fidget spinner manufacturers must adhere to in order to legally sell their product in the market.
Well, at least they actually get to sell their wares on the marketplace. Readers may recall the fate of small magnet toys like Buckyballs and Zen Magnets, which the CPSC intimidated out of the market out of exaggerated fear of their risks. Watch ReasonTV on Buckballs vs. the CPSC back in 2012 below. Buckyballs are, by the way, back for sale! (And Zen Magnets are available here.)
Politicians and the public have come to think of the U.S. dropping bombs as just another foreign policy stratagem, Bonnie Kristian writes.
View this article
What we ignore at our peril is that airstrikes are war, as is evident with a moment's reflection. Dropping bombs on foreign territory is warfare whether we talk about it in those terms or not.
This defining statement is not as pedantic as it may seem. Washington has a well-established history of using sloppy language in civic conversation to pull fast ones on the public. Former President Obama was a master where airstrikes were concerned: By prioritizing air war over ground troops, Obama was able to pay lip service to his campaign-era promises of reform and restraint while, in reality, maintaining and in some cases escalating the very interventionist foreign policy he was elected to repudiate.
Autistic characters are nothing new on TV. There was young Max Braverman on NBC's Parenthood, who once asked his parents with genuine curiosity, "Why do all the other kids hate me? Is it because I'm weird?" Or homicide detective Sonya Cross of FX's The Bridge, who apologized when her questioning brought a murder victim's wife to tears: "Am I not showing empathy?"
But Atypical is the first time in which autism and its effects have been at a show's center instead of its periphery. Keir Gilchrist (so good as the emotionally whipsawed gay son on United States of Tara, and even better here) as the autistic Sam, trying to negotiate the emotional shoals of adolescence without a chart or even a clue. Television critic Glenn Garvin takes a closer look.View this article
A federal subsidy of $15 per ton of Appalachian coal is West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice's bright idea for bringing back his state's hard hit coal mining industry.
Justice, a Republican, proposes using taxpayer funds to bribe electric power generation companies to burn coal instead of cheap and abundant natural gas. As a result of the fracking boom, the supply of natural gas has soared and its price fallen. Consequently, the price of gas used in utility plants fell last year as low as $16 per megawatt hour (a million watts generated continuously over an hour) compared to around $22 for coal.
In 2008, almost 50 percent of electricity in the United States was generated by burning coal and just over 20 percent was generated using natural gas. In 2016, coal was the fuel for just over 30 percent of generation, compared to nearly 34 percent from natural gas.
Although clean air regulations played a role, the switch by utilities from coal to natural gas was largely the result of market forces. So what do politicians do when they don't like what markets are telling them? Fix them so that they come out "right."
Apparently, Justice proposed his coal subsidy plan when he appeared with President Donald Trump at the Boy Scout Jamboree. The governor told Bloomberg News the president is "really interested. He likes the idea." In addition, he justified the subsidy proposal as a matter of national security. As Bloomberg reports:
Justice rejects the notion that his plan amounts to a "bailout" or "subsidy" for Appalachian coal. Rather, it's a matter of national security, he said, because terrorists could easily blow up important gas pipelines or derail freight trains shipping coal to the east, leaving large swaths of the country lacking power-plant fuel.
Of course, national security is the last refuge of a scoundrel, to paraphrase Samuel Johnson, and proposing fossil fuel subsidies is a particularly scoundrelly idea. But Justice might ask, why shouldn't coal get a subsidy? After all solar, wind, biofuels and now even nuclear power get subsidies.
How about this idea: Let's get rid of all energy subsidies.* As I explained in my book, The End of Doom:
Those of us who appreciate the power of competition and market incentives to call forth new technologies and drive down prices must recognize that governments have been massively meddling in energy markets for more than a century. Consequently, it's really impossible to know what the actual price of energy supplies would be in a free market. ... [Another] result is retarded innovation in the technologies of energy generation. A big first step toward renovating our energy supply systems would be to eliminate those impediments to understanding the real comparative benefits and costs of the production and use of energy.
Justice's proposal to subsidize coal mining in his state is just another such impediment. Surely President Trump is not crazy enough to propose a federal coal subsidy, right?
*Actually, just eliminate all subsidies.
The Anaheim school district resisted an effort by parents to convert their failing public school into a charter tooth and nail.
Steven Greenhut writes:
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Years ago, during a debate with a public school superintendent over the issue of educational choice, I suggested that we shut down the public schools in their entirety. Then we could "buy" education the way we buy other crucial things. We don't expect government to build our houses (think housing projects) or our cars (think Yugo), so why our schools?
It was a thought experiment, meant to stir up discussion. Most of the audience then—like readers today—find this idea to be insane. Rather than debate the merits of a radical concept, I wanted to use today's column to point out the absurdity of the current way we purchase education for the young, with a recent Anaheim dispute serving as a case in point.
Anaheim Elementary School Board trustees voted in late July to allow parents to convert the ill-performing Palm Lane Elementary School into a charter school. School officials have spent more than $800,000 in taxpayer money and two years battling mostly low-income parents over their effort to become the first Orange County school to use the so-called "parent trigger" law. The district had little choice but to relent after a recent comeuppance from the courts.
The law, officially known as the Parent Empowerment Act, "creates a process which allows parents of students in low-performing schools to sign a petition to implement one of the intervention models," according to the California Department of Education. Those models include replacing staff, turning the school into a charter, adding new programs or closing it down.
claimed to have discovered the real reason for the National Rifle Association's reluctance to take a stand on the 2016 shooting of Philando Castile, a Minnesota man with a concealed-carry permit who was killed after announcing to the cop who pulled him over that he was armed. The sticking point for the NRA, according to the Examiner, was not, as many critics on the left have alleged, that Castile was black but that he was a cannabis consumer. The Examiner report, which was quickly echoed by outlets such as The Raw Story, Salon, and Newsmax, was based on an ambiguous tweet by NRA spokesperson Dana Loesch that does not bear the weight these stories place on it but nevertheless raises some interesting questions about anti-pot prejudice and the right to bear arms.Yesterday the Washington Examiner
The context of Loesch's tweet was a thread begun by Colion Noir, an NRA-TV host who has been sharply critical of Jeronimo Yanez, the officer who shot Castile and was acquitted of manslaughter in June. Noir was responding to an August 9 tweet that reiterated the familiar (and demonstrably false) allegation that the NRA only cares about the Second Amendment rights of white people. "How much the NRA cares about your legal right to own a gun is directly related to the color of your skin," wrote a woman named Laura Weatherspoon. Noir, who is black, posted a link to that tweet with the comment, "Good God (forgive me father) enough w/ this lame argument." When another Twitter user asked Weatherspoon for evidence to support her contention, she replied, "Philando Castile followed the safety rules he was taught and he was shot to death. NRA said nothing. They are usually quick to speak up." That is where Loesch chimed in, saying, "He was also in possession of a controlled substance and a firearm simultaneously, which is illegal. Stop lying."
Loesch's comment could be read as a response to Weatherspoon's complaint that the "NRA said nothing," which is how the Examiner et al. interpreted it. But it was more likely a response to Weatherspoon's assertion that "Philando Castile followed the safety rules he was taught." Later in the same thread, someone asked, "Why can't you just say 'Philando Castile should not have been killed for legally possessing a gun?'" Loesch replied that "it wasn't legal possession due to controlled substance present." Loesch, who has avoided taking a position on whether Yanez should have been acquitted, insisted she was not defending the shooting, which she has called "a terrible tragedy that could have been avoided" (by whom or how, she did not say). On Twitter she said she was "remarking specifically on someone's language," i.e., Witherspoon's claim that "Philando Castile followed the safety rules."
So it's true that Loesch brought up Castile's marijuana use, although she did not say it was the reason the NRA, which the day after the shooting said it would "have more to say once all the facts are known," has not criticized Yanez or commented on his acquittal. But she obviously thinks Castile's pot smoking is relevant in some way. It is hard to figure out why.
Although "possession of a controlled substance while armed" is a distinct offense in some states, Minnesota does not seem to be one of them. But Minnesota law, like federal law, does prohibit "an unlawful user of any controlled substance" from possessing a gun in any setting or circumstance. Yanez testified that he smelled marijuana when he approached Castile's car, and police later found six grams inside an uncovered Mason jar wrapped in a plastic bag. Castile's girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds, who was in the passenger seat at the time of the shooting, said she regularly smoked pot with him. If so, Castile was not legally allowed to own a gun, let alone carry it in public. According to the state of Minnesota and the federal government, none of the 36 million or so Americans who consume cannabis each year, even in states where it's legal, has any Second Amendment rights.
You might expect that an organization dedicated to defending the Second Amendment would object to such an irrational, unfair, and arguably unconstitutional rule. When it comes to other restrictions on the right to arms, the NRA does not take the position that "the law is the law" and leave it at that. To the contrary, the NRA criticizes gun laws that it believes unjustifiably impinge on that right, such as "assault weapon" bans, limits on magazine capacity, and restrictive carry-permit policies. Just yesterday, Loesch went on Fox News to criticize a Michigan law that bars foster parents from carrying concealed weapons, saying, "It is the right of an American citizen to be able to bear arms." On Tuesday, Loesch retweeted a Reason TV video in which John Stossel castigates police and prosecutors in New York for arresting and jailing gun owners from other states who unknowingly violate local law when they fly into the city with their weapons. She apparently does not take the attitude that the gun owners should have known better and have only themselves to blame. But when it comes to the arbitrary ban on gun possession by cannabis consumers, neither the NRA nor Loesch raises any objections.
Castile's cannabis consumption is in any case irrelevant to the question of whether Yanez's decision to shoot him was justified in the circumstances, unless you not only believe the officer's bizarre claim that the whiff of marijuana made him fear for his life but also think such a reaction would have been reasonable. Bringing marijuana up, as Yanez's defenders frequently do, is a way of glossing over the officer's inept, panicky handling of the traffic stop, which is the main reason Castile is dead. Loesch and the NRA have been carefully avoiding that issue, and I suspect their reticence has less to do with race or anti-pot prejudice than with fear of offending cops by seeming to side with their critics on the left.
I reached out to Loesch, who complained that Washington Examiner reporter Kelly Cohen did not try to interview her, via Twitter and the NRA, but I have not heard back yet. I will update this post if and when I do.
It's been a bad year for patent trolls, from a Supreme Court decision squelching their ability to funnel lawsuits to East Texas, to this week's ruling that Personal Audio LLC can't claim it owns a patent on the entirety of podcasting. In the latest Mostly Weekly, Reason's Andrew Heaton explores what patent trolls are, the damage they do, and the next step in driving them out of courtrooms and back into dank caves.
Trolls camp out on piles of weak and frivolous patents, hoping to one day sue inventors and businesses. Many of the patents they register or buy are vague, representing novel ideas only insofar as trolls are innovative at finding things they didn't invent to claim legal ownership of. It doesn't matter that these patents wouldn't hold up in court, because a business is more likely to pay off a troll than to hire an expensive attorney to fight them. Trolls suck more than twenty billion dollars out of the economy each year.
The parasitical nature of "non-practicing entities" (the PC term for trolls) has raised questions about whether the modern patent system helps or hinders innovation, and if the best solution is for comprehensive reform or just to burn the whole thing down.
Heaton has an idea to hinder patent trolls. It may not be a silver bullet, but it will definitely piss them off.
Watch above or click below for full text, links, and downloadable versions.View this article
It's a conclusion that almost seems too obvious. Communities with greater access to dental care have fewer children and adults with serious dental problems.
That's the main take-away from a newly released University of Washington study comparing Native American communities in Alaska. Researchers from the Pew Charitable Trusts, the Rasmussen Foundation and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation collaborated on the project, which tracked the number of preventative services and invasive procedures performed on members of 58 tribes of Alaska Natives between 2006 and 2015.
In native communities where dental therapists are working, children and adults had more access to preventative care (things like dental exams, fluoride treatments, and cleanings) and a lower incidence of serious dental issues requiring invasive procedures like tooth extractions.
"These proven, tangible and dramatic shifts in improved access and care for children of color is a game changer as we seek to advance racial equity and tackle health disparities for children of color," said La June Montgomery Tabron, president and CEO of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, in a statement announcing the study's release.
Alaska is one of only a handful of states to have legalized the practice of dental therapy—a mid-level health profession, similar to nurse practitioners and physician assistants. The study suggests other states should consider doing the same.
Oregon and Washington have passed similar laws allowing dental therapists to treat members of Native American tribes. Only Maine, Minnesota and Vermont have legalized dental therapy in a broader way, but the effects there have been similar to what happened in Alaska. A 2012 study by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation found that dental therapists in Minnesota increased access to care while providing "competent, safe and effective" treatment.
As I wrote in The Wall Street Journal last year, dental therapists in Minnesota are serving the northern and western reaches of the state—where patients used to drive more than an hour to the nearest dentist— and also provide additional access to care for the poorer, minority neighborhoods in the Twin Cities.
These are the places most likely to be without adequate dental care. Dentists tend to cluster in suburbs because that's where the highest concentrations of people who can afford regular care live.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services considers a dental shortage any more than 5,000 people per dental provider. As of December 2016, 5,400 places with a combined population of more than 51 million people in the U.S. fit the bill.
Dental therapists are perfect for these under-served populations, but the dentists' lobby sees dental therapy as a threat to its control of the market.
That's why the Michigan Dental Association is fighting a dental therapy bill, despite the fact that more than 200 communities in Michigan lack access to basic dental care. In Texas, a trade group of dentists helped defeat a similar bill in 2015. The American Dental Association has spent millions of dollars trying to block those bills and others in Ohio, Massachusetts, and Kansas; it also filed multiple lawsuits trying to stop the Alaska program.
Against therapy we now know with this study is an unqualified success.
The Federal Trade Commission has urged dental school accreditors to make way for mid-level professionals like therapists, arguing that they can "increase the output of basic dental services, enhance competition, reduce costs, and expand access."
Maureen Ohlhausen, acting chairman of the FTC, spoke earlier this week at the Federalist Society about some of benefits of expanding access to care in health professions, noting that states should view mid-level licensees like dental therapists and nurse practitioners as part of the overall effort to reform licensing laws.
Legalizing mid-level dental professionals is a practical, commonsense way for state governments to deal with a tangible health care problem. Self-interested special interests should not be allowed to block ideas that are proven to improve outcomes for children and adults.
The response to the Google memo flap has fallen along predictable lines. The right is valorizing James Damore for honestly acknowledging that sexualdifferences are bound to doom Google's diversity efforts. And the left is condemning him for downplaying that sexism is a major cause of the gender gap in high-tech.
Both have it half right, I note in my column at The Week. But of course that doesn't mean that they'll see that. No, given that they are in a perennial and increasingly ugly culture war, they will dig in their heels and call each other names.
"The dilemma of the Google memo is that all sides have a point."
Go here to read the whole piece.
P.S.: Nick Gillespie and I disagree on whether Google was right to fire the memo bro. But you won't hear us cursing each other out :) Actually, I agree quite a bit with his general point that the libertarian tendency to refrain from passing judgement on the decisions of market actors causes us to look the other way when companies engage in gross injustices, which erodes the broader cultural foundation one needs to build a free and open society.
Donald Trump's refusal to release his tax returns on the campaign trail didn't block his presidential aspirations. But now, nearly seven months after his inauguration, Trump's tax chickens have finally come home to roost.
This week a giant inflatable chicken bearing a striking similarity to the 45th president has appeared in Washington, D.C., and it is not happy about Trump's lack of personal tax transparency, nor about the possibility of cuts to individual and corporate tax rates.
On Wednesday the chicken and a clutch of supporting activists from the Tax March Coalition nested outside the White House. When those same activists and their inflated avian mascot migrated over to DuPont Circle—a couple of blocks from Reason's office—we decided to check out the bird and his message for ourselves.
Nicole Gill, executive director of the coalition and spokesperson for "Chicken Don," said the bird had served as the group's mascot since the April 15 anti-Trump Tax March in D.C. "We are gearing up for an intense fight in the fall to stop what the Republicans in Congress want to do, which is pass devastating tax cuts for millionaires, billionaires, and wealthy corporations," she tells Reason, adding that "the chicken doesn't support tax cuts for rich people."
Whatever tax reform plan Republicans finally cobble together will likely include tax cuts for high income earners, and possibly corporations (an idea with bipartisan support). Why is Chicken Don so opposed to letting the wealthy keep a few more of their golden eggs?
"The rich and wealthy and wealthy corporations are already gaming the tax system to their advantage. There are a number of corporations that don't even pay any taxes whatsoever," says Gill. "Donald Trump himself actually tweeted that corporate profits are at a record high. If that's true, those companies should pay more in taxes. They should pay their fair share."
A Tax Foundation report found that the top 10 percent of income earners paid 70 percent of all income taxes, despite earning only 47 percent of all taxable income.
"High income earners have ways of getting around paying their taxes. The hard-working people of America are not afforded that luxury," she responds. "They deserve to have access to the services that our taxes go toward. Things like Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, and education funding."
The United States already spends a bundle on the programs Gill listed. Combined Medicare and Medicaid spending inked out to $1.19 trillion in 2015. Does Gill think that these programs need to be funded more?
"What we're witnessing right now is historic lows for funding for those programs," she replies, adding that she might have to double-check those numbers, but "any tax cuts that are passed by the Republicans will have to be paid for somehow, and they will end up cutting those programs in order to pay for them."
For the record, the United States does not spend a historic low on anything. Federal government spending as a percentage of GDP has been hovering around the 20 percent mark since the end of World War II. Entitlement spending of the type Gill referenced takes up about 15 percent of GDP, well over the 5 percent it was at in 1962.
And while its every libertarian's fever dream that tax cuts might actually be paid for with cuts to spending, that is rarely the case, instead being financed by more debt and deficit spending.
Aside from some Tax March staffers and a few other reporters, Chicken Don did not seem to be attracting many pro-tax passers-by to the cause. Reason interviewed a few bystanders happily taking pictures of the mascot. None wanted to go on record, but several sources close to the chicken said their attendance was driven by curiosity, not politics.
Brain-Washing in Red China, whose cover declared that "an entire nation" was under "hypnotic control," the word's popularity exploded when the public learned that the American POWs who had recorded propaganda messages for North Korea had been subjected to intense indoctrination sessions. The idea took hold that the Communists had actually reprogrammed their captives' brains, perhaps permanently.It was the Korean War—I mean the war they fought in the '50s, not the nuclear holocaust that various idiots are proposing now—that brought the word "brainwashing" into the common lexicon. Introduced in Edward Hunter's 1951 book
As science, this turned out to be false—the mind is not so malleable. As fuel for pop culture, on the other hand, it has given us everything from The Manchurian Candidate to the record I've embedded below. Eddie Hill's "I Changed My Mind," released in 1954, may well be the only country song ever written about brainwashing. In this particular spin on the subject, the cure for mind control turns out to be prayer; that isn't quite as exciting as the end of The Manchurian Candidate, but I suppose it was better suited for radio airplay.
Trivia: Joan Javits, co-composer of the song, made more of a mark when she co-wrote "Santa Baby." She was also the niece of Sen. Jacob Javits, which I guess makes this record the lost bridge between Nashville and the Rockefeller Republicans.
(For past editions of the Friday A/V Club, go here.)
The vast majority of the histrionic reactions on social media and elsewhere to a memo by a now ex-Google employee about diversity have misrepresented not only what the memo says but also its purpose.
David Harsanyi writes:
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Most of the mainstream media refers to the former Google engineer's leaked internal memo as the "anti-diversity memo." Recode calls it "sexist." And Google fired James Damore for "perpetuating gender stereotypes." But in reality, the problem isn't diversity; it's that a senior software engineer admitted, perhaps unwittingly, to pondering three of the most scandalous thought crimes of contemporary American society.
The first crime is proposing that a meritocracy might be healthier for a company than bean-counting race, ethnicity and sex. The second is pointing out that ideological diversity matters. The third and most grievous of all is suggesting that men and women are, in general, physiologically and psychologically different, and thus they tend to excel at different things.
"On average," asserts Damore, "men and women biologically differ in many ways." He then has the temerity to accuse women of generally displaying a "stronger interest in people rather than things," of having empathy and "openness directed towards feelings and aesthetics," and of being less pushy and having less interest in status than male colleagues. Women, this guy says, are "more cooperative" than men and search out better "work-life balance."
There's much more, but I don't want to further upset any female readers.
After 13 years on the job at Long Beach Airport in California, Kelly Lewis was taken aback when he was stopped by a Transportation Security Agency official last week and told he had to submit to a random pat-down before reporting for work.
"I am being called an internal threat," Lewis told Reason this week. "In the 13-1/2 years I have been at this airline (JetBlue) my first task each morning is to enter a closed aircraft, often alone, and do a security check."
Lewis says that he's never been searched by TSA prior to doing that task. Kelly and his fellow baggage handlers are on the front lines of the effort to secure America's jets, searching for drugs, stowaways, and anything else that might be improperly stashed in the plane's baggage and passenger compartments before the jets can be loaded with suitcases and people.
The TSA's sudden change—from Lewis' perspective, at least—isn't much of a change at all, according to the TSA. Random pat-downs for baggage handlers and other members of the ground crew at airports is part of its commitment to security theater, even if the targeted airport and airline employees (Lewis and most other baggage handlers are employed by airlines, not the airports where they work) have been working for more than a decade without raising any red flags.
After being subjected to the unwanted pat-down by a TSA officer last week, Lewis submitted a complaint to the TSA and to his employers. In a meeting Monday, Lewis says his supervisors told him they agreed the situation was not ideal but would not back his complaint against the TSA. Lewis says a representative from Long Beach Airport's security department told him the airport was acting in compliance with federal rules.
But those federal rules are broken, Lewis argues.
"The policy is being enforced against a set of individuals entrusted to secure aircraft each morning," he told Reason. "We should not be subjected to an obviously non-security molestation as a condition of doing our chosen line of work in this airport."
JetBlue declined comment in response to a question about Lewis' complaints and directed inquiries to the TSA's public affairs team. Similar queries submitted to the security department at Long Beach Airport were also redirected to the TSA.
"Screening policies for badged airport employees haven't changed, we continue to address the insider threat as we have for some time," said Nico Melendez, a spokesman for the TSA. "For more than a decade TSA has employed random screening techniques of airport employees, and would make perfect sense if this employee had never experienced it before, because it's random."
The so-called "insider threat" at American airports gained some public attention in 2014 after cops busted a baggage handler at New York City's LaGuardia Airport for removing a backpack filled with illegal guns from a passenger plane. The backpack was ultimately traced back to a gun-running ring based at Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport.
In the summer of 2016 it was suspected a bomb that brought down a passenger jet and blamed on ISIS-affiliated terrorists operating out of Egypt may have been placed in the plane's cargo hold by an airport employee.
At a congressional hearing last year, officials from the Department of Homeland Security and the TSA said they were working to "beef up" security for airport workers and airline employees.
"TSA does have a robust insider threat program," said Richard McComb, chief security officer at DHS. "That will be, you know, a very prominent part of what they monitor as we continue to roll out and mature the insider threat program within the Department of Homeland Security." Pressed for specifics, McComb said he could not talk about the insider threat program in an open hearing.
Lewis says he's been told there's no chance random screenings for baggage handlers will stop without congressional action. That isn't likely to be at the top of Congress' agenda anytime soon, but a top-to-bottom review of the TSA is overdue.
From wasteful spending and surveillance strategies based on pseudo-science (and others based on outright fear-mongering), to detaining kids with serious medical conditions and giving full-body cavity searches to grandmothers, there is no boundary too private to cross and no security effort too silly to try for the TSA.
And still they fail to stop most of the actual threats—and commit a whole bunch of other crimes in the process.
The TSA's make-everything-a-priority strategy is the problem. Not everything can be a priority. Securing anything is about choosing the right trade-offs. For too long, DHS and TSA have shown they don't properly understand that equation. Does it make sense to force a long-time, trusted airline employee to a "random" pat-down? For what purpose, aside from proving that everyone is subject to your random screenings?
- probably not on the brink of nuclear war. Happy Friday! We are
- "It was when the boomers insinuated that I was bringing back the monocle (?!?!) that I snapped. I killed their precious wine cork without a second thought."
- Venezuelan leader Nicolas Maduro says he wants to talk to President Trump.
- A former D.C. police officer appears in federal court today on sex trafficking charges.
- Around 200 people have changed the gender identification on their Oregon driver's license to an X since state policy began allowing it on July 3.
- "I was pregnant while addicted to heroin. Methadone saved my baby's life."
- The 13th tweet Trump has favorited is a about sex trafficking conspiracy involving him.
- A reminder that "being exasperated by young people is an age-old pastime."
Robert Pattinson does his best work to date in Good Time, a raw, roaring new movie from the Safdie brothers. Seeing him tricked out in cheap rhinestone ear studs and a poorly administered platinum dye job, and hearing him mumble baffling non-sequiturs like "I think I was a dog in a previous life," we realize that we've never met this actor before—where has he been?
Pattinson plays Constantine "Connie" Nikas, a small-time thief scrounging around the outer boroughs of New York City in search of a score, and he holds our attention with a new, scuzzy charisma. Connie's latest scheme is a bank heist, for which he wants the assistance of his mentally impaired brother Nick, who spends most of his time in clinical therapy. Hulking and confused, Nick operates at a very low level of cognition, and as we watch Connie awkwardly hustling him out of a therapy session in order to execute the bank job, we can see that nothing to come is likely to go well, writes Kurt Loder in his latest review for Reason.View this article
Tasered 40 times while in in the county jail, including when he was in restraints.The Cheatham County, Tennessee, sheriff's office has placed three deputies on leave following an excessive force lawsuit against the agency. Jordan Elias Norris was
reports, including "magazine clippings of celebrities" as well as "erotic and pornographic pictures that appeared to be printed off websites." The "vast majority" of the images "appeared legal and depicted adults and transgender individuals." Some of the photos showed "young men clothed and unclothed," some of whom "appeared to be in their late teens." One of those pictures was ultimately determined to qualify as child pornography under Virginia law, meaning that it was a "sexually explicit" image of "an identifiable minor," i.e., someone younger than 18. As a result, Korte, a former film studies professor at the University of Virginia with no criminal record, faces up to a year in jail and registration as a sex offender under a plea agreement a judge is considering.Police dug through Walter Korte's trash four times. They searched his car, his office, and his home. They found thousands of pictures, the Richmond Times-Dispatch
According to the proposed plea deal, Korte "knowingly possess[ed] child pornography," a felony punishable by up to five years in prison. The "knowingly" part is a bit puzzling, since even the police did not know that the single purportedly illegal image, showing a boy in his "late teens," was child pornography until they consulted experts at the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. It also is not clear why prosecutors, who noted that "police did not find evidence of any hands-on crimes against minors" and that a "psychosexual evaluation" indicated Korte "would not be a risk for hands-on offending," are insisting that he register as a sex offender, which is not required by statute for possession of child pornography unless it is a second offense. The whole point of registration is supposed to be protecting people from "hands-on crimes." When prosecutors admit a defendant poses no such risk but want him to register anyway, they reinforce the impression that registration is actually punishment in the guise of regulation.
The local CBS station reports that the sentencing judge, Cheryl Higgins, "expressed some concerns about the plea deal and said she would prefer to hold a pre-sentencing hearing before accepting Korte's plea." Higgins also asked that the single image on which the case against Korte is based "be filed with the court under seal so it could be used to determine Korte's sentence." I can't tell whether Higgins is worried that the plea deal is too hard on Korte or too easy on him. But I can't see what is gained by locking up a 73-year-old man who poses no threat to public safety or by branding him as a dangerous predator.
Campus police at the University of Virginia began the investigation that led to Korte's arrest in July 2016 based on a tip that someone had left child pornography in a trash bin near the school. According to the Times-Dispatch, the caller also mentioned that "several faculty members in nearby buildings recently had been cleaning out their offices." That tip about child pornography was almost certainly wrong, since just one of the thousands of pictures that police eventually seized was deemed illegal, and chances are it was not lying on top of the bin the first time they came by. The desperate searches that followed were aimed at validating the original, spurious report, all for the sake of sending a harmless old man to jail over a piece of paper. When I say "pedophilia panic," this is the sort of thing I have in mind.
new book, Conscience of a Conservative, in which he laments that "Never has a party so quickly or easily abandoned its core principles as my party did in the course of the 2016 campaign." In the process Flake has predictably drawn heavy fire from Trumpworld, and perhaps less intuitively from certain quarters on the left.Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) has been all over the airwaves this month promoting his
For instance on Monday, in a segment shared with the inevitable social-media headline "Lawrence O'Donnell Shreds Jeff Flake for Being Six Years Late on Trump, GOP Criticisms," the MSNBC host played a clip of this recent exchange between the senator and Chuck Todd:
Flake: I wish that we as a party would have stood up, for example, when the birtherism thing was going on. A lot of people did stand up, but not enough.
Todd: Did you do enough? […]
Flake: On that? I think I did.
To which O'Donnell retorted, "Oh, no, no, no, no, you did not. You definitely did not do enough."
What was the evidence for O'Donnell's confidently dismissive assertion? This: "The first time we can find Jeff Flake saying something negative about Donald Trump's lies about Barack Obama's birth was in June of last year after Donald Trump had already locked up the Republican Presidential nomination."
But there's a problem with that particular search string. Birtherism—the subject of Chuck Todd's query—long predates Donald Trump's involvement in it. And Jeff Flake was out there condemning the conspiracy theory over Barack Obama's alleged lack of U.S. citizenship as far back as 2009, both legislatively and in the media. Including on MSNBC.MORE »
almost certainly illegal" income tax, passed last month, is already the subject of three separate lawsuits charging that it is, well, illegal.Seattle's "
The latest was filed yesterday by the Freedom Foundation—a conservative think tank in Washington state—and Seattle law firm Lane Powell PC, who say the new city-level 2.25 percent levy on high income earners clearly violates state law and the state constitution.
"The first issue with it," Freedom Foundation attorney David Dewhirst says, "is that it's plainly illegal. I think it's a major problem when politicians don't feel bound by the law they know exists."
The Seattle income tax violates a 1980 statute passed by the Washington Legislature which says, "a county, city, or city-county shall not levy a tax on net income," Dewhirst says.
The Seattle City Council has tried to skirt this prohibition by taxing total income rather than net income as described on various IRS forms. The Seattle income tax ordinance points to line 15 on IRS form 1040, which is a figure calculated after one has already deducted business, capital, and farming losses.
The problem with that, says Dewhirst, is the "total income" figure in the federal tax code is a net income measurement.
Truly taxing total, or "gross", income would mean taxing one's income prior to any deductions or exemptions. One's net income is what is left to be taxed following those deductions and exemptions, he says.
"It's a net number because its assessed after you've already taken some deductions out," Dewhirst says. "You've already reduced your gross amount at that point."
His lawsuit also charges Seattle's income tax violates the state constitution's uniformity clause, which requires all taxes in the same category of property to be uniform. Three separate state supreme court decisions from the 1930s onward have ruled income is property and must be taxed uniformly.
Seattle's progressive income tax violates that clause. The Seattle City Councilmembers who voted for the tax acknowledge as much, and are banking on the State Supreme Court ignoring past precedent and plain constitutional language for sake of justice.
"History shows that unjust laws need to be overturned," said council member Kshama Sawant, when asked about the constitutionality of the income tax ordinance.
Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes struck a similar chord. "We think we have a good opportunity to present facts to the Supreme Court about the problems facing modern cities, which are much different from the problems facing cities in the 1930s. Taxing is a lightning rod issue, and it's something right-wing groups continue to mine for political advantage"
Holmes tells Reason, he thinks Seattle's ordinance has "a reasonable shot" of being upheld.
Dewhirst, for his part, is optimistic that Seattle's income tax will be struck down, saying that the Washington Constitution included a uniformity clause to prevent the kind of progressive and redistributive taxation the City of Seattle is currently pushing.
The framers of the Washington Constitution, he says "had a very acute interest in being left alone. They had strong libertarian impulses, so they felt like everybody has to share the tax burden to some extent."
Washington state currently has no income tax, and Washington residents have continually rejected attempts to impose one at the ballot box.
Fifty two percent of Olympia residents said no to a proposed city income tax in 2016. A state-wide income tax on the 2010 ballot was crushed, with 64 percent voting no. Nine ballot initiatives proposing some form of progressive income tax have gone before Washington voters since 1934, and all have been voted down.
Ultimately, says Dewhirst, Seattle's decision to go ahead with an income tax in the face of state law, the state constitution, and the state's historical anti-tax sentiment is extremely worrying.
"We find this lawless behavior on behalf of any elected politician is really troubling, and a bad indication for the rule of law."
- on the cover as President Donald Trump's "last best hope," which is kind of funny for anybody who was following Kelly's overt Trumpian fearmongering when he was leading the Department of Homeland Security. Time is putting White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly
- Trump tells North Korea to "get their act together." I'm not sure we actually want them to be more competent?
- A judge is ordering the State Department to look for more emails from Hillary Clinton from her days as secretary of state regarding the terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya.
- Trump is moving toward declaring a "national emergency" over opioid addiction, even though administration officials said just yesterday they would not.
- Yeah, here's a recipe for better public health: Thanks to Chicago's soda tax, it's actually cheaper to buy beer instead.
- For the second time in two days, hundreds of migrants from Somalia and Ethiopia were forced off a boat near Yemen by smugglers, leading to several drowning deaths.
- Everybody still hates Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Florida). Her latest scandal with an IT aide arrested under accusations of mortgage fraud isn't helping.
- Today's manufactured outrage: Walmart is apologizing over a "back to school" marketing sign being placed over a gun display at one of their stores.
- Today's culture war: A gym owner in Atlanta banned police and active military from his facility, and people have so many feelings about it. (My culture war math puzzle for the day: What if a bakery refused to make a wedding cake for a gay couple, but it was because they were both police officers?)
The breakthrough might one day soon allow for the use of pig organs for human transplant. What a fantastic time to be alive!
About 22 Americans die each day waiting for a transplant. Making human-compatible pig organs could go a long way toward alleviating the shortage of transplant organs.
Pig organs are essentially the right size for transplantation to replace damaged organs in humans. Unfortunately, there are two problems standing in the way. First, human immune systems speedily reject transplated pig organs. And second, the genomes of pigs are loaded up with endogenous retroviruses (PERV) that might become activated and cause diseases after organs have been transplanted.
Rejection occurs because pig organs are decorated with carbohydrate molecules that human antibodies recognize as foreign and then attack. Today the New York Times notes that other researchers have already had some success in using gene-editing to clone pigs without the tell-tale porcine carbohydrates. They have successfully transplanted hearts and kidneys taken from their gene-edited pigs into monkeys and baboons who have so far lived more than year. eGenesis says that it is working to combine the two advances.
The inactivation of PERV prevents cross-species viral transmission. This breakthrough in producing the first PERV-free pigs is an important milestone for xenotransplantation. The team used the precise CRISPR genome-editing technique to eradicate all PERV activity in pig skin cells which were then used to clone PERV-free pigs.
The researchers next aim to overcome the problem of immune rejection.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is suing the D.C.'s dysfunctional and much-loathed transit authority for rejecting subway ads the government deemed too controversial, including one that contained the text of the First Amendment.
The ACLU announced Wednesday that it was filing suit against the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) on behalf of four plaintiffs, including itself, who were denied advertising space by the government agency. The other plaintiffs are People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), a local abortion provider, and noted troll Milo Yiannopoulos. (Something for everyone to hate!)
All of the groups had ads rejected by Metro for running afoul of its policy against advertisements that are "issues-oriented" or "intended to influence members of the public regarding an issue on which there are varying opinions." Metro rejected several ACLU ads in 2016 and 2017, for example, that displayed the text of the First Amendment in several languages. In Yiannopoulos' case, Metro placed ads for his recent simulacrum of book, but took them down after it received complaints.
The ACLU argues the rules are unconstitutionally vague and restrictive, violating the First Amendment.
"The four plaintiffs in this case perfectly illustrate the indivisibility of the First Amendment," Lee Rowland, a senior staff attorney with the ACLU, said in a statement. "In its zeal to avoid hosting offensive and hateful speech, the government has eliminated speech that makes us think, including the text of the First Amendment itself. The ACLU could not more strongly disagree with the values that Milo Yiannopoulos espouses, but we can't allow the government to pick and choose which viewpoints are acceptable."MORE »
The collapse of Venezuela's economy is both horrifying and predictable, and the world needs to understand why.
Click below for full text, links, and downloadable versions.View this article
Blackwater founder Erik Prince says the Trump administration has been considering a plan he pitched to "privatize" the war in Afghanistan, an approach he claims could save the U.S. upwards of $30 billion a year.
Under the Prince plan, we would no longer have more than 8,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan. Instead, more than 5,000 private contractors, mostly Special Ops veterans, would advise Afghan forces. A private air force made up of 90 planes would replace U.S. air support. The cost would be $10 billion a year rather than the $40 billion we pay annually now.
"At what point do you say a conventional military approach in Afghanistan is not working?" Prince asked USA Today.
Opponents of the war have been asking that for more than a decade. But the deeper issue here isn't what kind of military approach Washington should take; it's what "working" means in the first place.
The Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) for Afghanistan, passed in 2001, targeted the perpetrators of the September 11 attacks and their "associated forces."
Yet the core of Al Qaeda, the terror group responsible for 9/11, has been defeated in Afghanistan. The Taliban government, which provided Al Qaeda with a safe haven, was toppled within weeks of the American invasion. For years, the U.S. war in Afghanistan has been more a nation-building exercise than a counter-terrorism operation. The radical Islamist extremists most often currently targeted by U.S. forces don't bear much resemblance to the perpetrators of 9/11—an entire generation has passed.
Further, in 2001 Afghanistan was virtually the only safe haven for groups like Al Qaeda. Today such havens exist across the Muslim world. Most recently, U.S. forces have been sent to the Philippines to assist in the fight against ISIS there. (ISIS and Al Qaeda, for those keeping track at home, are bitter rivals.)
The debate over Afghanistan has largely centered on which "strategy" could be successful, but the fundamental problem is that success has never been clearly defined.
A proposal to privatize the fighting could spur Congress to renew the authorization for the war in less expansive terms. Ron Paul has suggested the use of letters of marque and reprisal, a constitutionally prescribed instrument, for counter-terrorism. This would authorize private individuals and organizations to go after Al Qaeda or other enemies of the country. Such letters offers a far narrower framework than an AUMF, and thus are less likely to fuel a virtually endless worldwide war against an ill-defined ideology (extremism) and tactic (terror).
According to USA Today, National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster and Defense Secretary James Mattis are skeptical of Prince's plan. They want Trump to order a surge in Afghanistan, something the president appears skeptical of. Congress has offered little input outside of "it's time to win," allowing a deleterious status quo to continue in Afghanistan.
Privatization sounds better than that. But if there's no reason to stay in Afghanistan in the first place, then there's no reason to privatize a war that shouldn't be continuing at all. End it, don't mend it.
Despite what you may have heard about Mexico and its cartels, the global drug war's biggest Whac-A-Mole hole for nearly two decades has been China.
The bath salts and "spice" that dominated American drug headlines in recent years? Those came from Chinese chemical factories. The Mexican cartels that have made most of our meth since regulators snuffed out America's artisanal speed industry? They buy their precursor chemicals from China. Nearly every synthetic drug you can buy in the U.S.—legally or illegally, from cathinones to steroids to the heart medication your doctor prescribed—probably came from China. And if it wasn't made in China, it was made in India, which is a good place to make illegal things for the same reasons: It's massive, loosely regulated, increasingly population-dense, and home to hundreds of millions of people looking to turn a buck.
In what is now becoming a full-fledged drug reporting genre, MSNBC published a short video from Jacob Soboroff explaining just how easy it is to order fentanyl—a growing cause of overdose deaths in the U.S.—through Chinese websites accessible on the open internet:
In a New York Times piece from 2015, reporter Dan Levin did something similar, calling up a Chinese chemical factory and running through an incomplete list of drugs available for purchase through Chinese websites: spice, bath salts, precursors for meth, the stimulant "flakka" (remember when that was popular for 10 minutes or so?), and an entire universe of "research chemicals" that mimic banned substances but technically aren't illegal. "We're seeing cases nationwide and ground zero always seems to be China," an assistant district attorney from New York told Levin.
On top of that, a 2016 study from the Office of the US Trade Representative reported that 97 percent of the counterfeit prescription drugs intercepted at U.S. points of entry came from China, Hong Kong, India, or Singapore.
Soboroff seems genuinely shocked that it's so easy to order drugs this way. I will confess to also being rather surprised when a Chinese chemical factory representative reached out to me after Reason published my recent feature on steroids. The rep sent me links to a reddit thread featuring reviews of his factory and a list of illegal compounds they could make in whatever quantity I desired. He also offered to send me free samples and guaranteed free re-shipping in the event my package was intercepted by U.S. Customs. (I did not take him up on his offer.) A few of the underground lab operators I've spoken to here in the U.S. say that ordering from China is a relatively safe, hassle-free, and common way to do business. Many nutritional supplement companies, meanwhile, order their research chemicals from vendors on Alibaba, which is like the Chinese version of Amazon, if Amazon were also a B2B hub.
This is the 21st century drug trade. Global supply chains work nearly as well for illegal goods as they do for legal ones. Research chemists are producing very effective analogs faster than anyone can regulate them. The sheer import volume of first-world countries all but guarantees vast amount of banned goods will escape detection.
We will hear more in the coming months and possibly years about the threat posed by drug makers in China and India. Law enforcement bodies will claim they're taking the necessary steps to curtail the practice. China has added more than 100 new substances to its list of illegal compounds and promised to crack down on factories that sell opioids through unapproved channels. The U.S. Justice Department, meanwhile, has asked the U.S. Sentencing Commission to rewrite federal sentencing guidelines in such a way that prosecutors would no longer be tasked with explaining the relationship between a banned compound and a grey market analog.
The current process, the Justice Department wrote in a July 31 letter, "is cumbersome, inefficient, and resource-intensive. It turns sentencing hearings into lengthy chemistry and pharmacology lectures, often complete with dueling experts." The department is asking the Sentencing Commission to adopt a "class approach" that would allow judges to forgo determining a synthetic drug's potency and harm relative to a banned substance, and simply to treat all similar analogs the same.
None of these maneuvers will drastically change the landscape. "Even if you could stop all manufacture of these substances in China today, there is a chance that someone in the U.S. or Canada could pick up the manufacturing," a U.N. synthetic drug expert told STAT News last year. The Food and Drug Administration, meanwhile, can't keep up with U.S. supplement manufacturers who are incorporating Chinese-made research chemicals into their product lines. The agency's latest target is an anabolic steroid mimetic called ostarine. The effective dose for that drug is roughly 5 milligrams; it goes for about $2 a gram on Alibaba. By the time the FDA has sent letters to every person selling Ostarine in the U.S., manufacturers and consumers will have moved on to the next thing.
This is how global markets work, and they will only get faster and more complex.
broken windows policing," but prosecutors in his town are increasingly ill at ease with the long-term consequences when police constantly cite citizens for low-level, nonviolent crimes.New York Mayor Bill de Blasio may continue to defend "
This week, prosecutors from Brooklyn, Bronx, Manhattan, and Queens announced they were moving to dismiss nearly 650,000 old warrants for unpaid citations from things like public drinking to violating park rules. According to The New York Times, prosecutors have been hammering out this plan for three years.
Surprisingly, de Blasio supports the district attorneys' decision, even though he continues to defend the police practice of issuing citations no matter how small the infraction. But that may be explained by the fact that all of these warrants are at least a decade old. Either the people involved aren't around anymore, or they aren't going to pay the money anyway, or 450 or so reckless spitters have failed to induce apocalyptic anarchy in the Big Apple.
Even though there's no push to go back and track these thousands of people down, there are still potential consequences of having an active warrant out when a citizen ends up interacting with police. Brooklyn D.A. Eric Gonzalez worried about people getting dragged into a jail and booked for an old citation worth $25.
While this has been in the works for years, the officials are also clearly concerned about President Donald Trump's efforts to increase immigration enforcement and push out illegal immigrants. These citations are used as justifications to round up and deport people here illegally if they get they get detained for these warrants. Manhattan D.A. Cyrus Vance Jr. noted the consequences of these warrants remaining active, the Times reports:
"New Yorkers with 10-year-old summons warrants face unnecessary unemployment risk, housing and immigration consequences," Mr. Vance told Criminal Court Judge Tamiko A. Amaker in Manhattan. "And because they fear they will be arrested for the old infraction, they often don't collaborate with law enforcement."
New York can't run afoul of Trump's war on sanctuary cities if they don't go around citing and arresting immigrants, can they? Criminal justice reform advocates have been pushing cities to reconsider low-level enforcement practices for this very reason. Every encounter between a police officer and an immigrant now includes additional risks.
In June Vance announced a concerted effort to reduce low-level criminal prosecutions of minor crimes in Manhattan by 20,000 a year, declining to prosecute subway turnstile jumpers (unless they present some other public safety threat) and focusing on early diversion programs for first-time arrestees for low-level crimes. It's a shame, though, that nobody seems to be interested in considering whether they should wipe some of these laws themselves off the books.
I should note that Staten Island's district attorney declined to join the effort. Offering amnesty for these citations, even though they're a decade old, "sends the wrong message about the importance of respecting our community and our laws," he said in a statement. If you once walked around with an unleashed dog, you'll get no mercy from him.
The GOP's intra-party war continues, with Donald Trump blaming Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell for the failure of the Obamacare repeal effort.
On Twitter, Trump wrote, "Senator Mitch McConnell said I had 'excessive expectations,' but I don't think so. After 7 years of hearing Repeal & Replace, why not done?"
It's a fair question. Part of the answer is that elected Republicans failed for years to seriously engage with the question of how to replace the health care law they campaigned so adamantly against. But it's also an exercise in calculated blame shifting, one that demonstrates how little the president understands about the policy process. In other words, it's the entire party's fault.
Trump's tweet was a response to McConnell's recent statement suggesting that the president may not be realistic about what Congress can do. "Our new president, of course, has not been in this line of work before," McConnell said this week. "And I think he had excessive expectations about how quickly things happen in the democratic process."
Senator Mitch McConnell said I had "excessive expectations," but I don't think so. After 7 years of hearing Repeal & Replace, why not done?— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 9, 2017
Trump's inexperience is a factor here. But the outsider president's expectations were set in large part by seven years of Republican promises to repeal and replace the health care law. And throughout that time, Republicans were never really serious about developing a replacement plan that could pass.
Back in 2013, when Obamacare's exchanges went online, and immediately crashed, it was clear that many Republicans were simply not interested in productive health policy improvements. Instead, they viewed the struggles of the health care law strictly as a political cudgel to wield against political opponents.
To be clear: I am not saying that there were literally zero Republican health care policy proposals.MORE »
A male student suspended for five semesters after a Title IX hearing was decided in his favor is suing the University of Texas at Austin. It's what university President Gregory Fenves did after the decision that prompted the lawsuit, Liz Wolfe writes.
View this article
John Doe is alleging Fenves violated his right to due process protections, and did so because the alleged victim is a daughter of a wealthy UT donor. The lawsuit calls the president's authority to reverse a decision "despotic in scope," decrying how easily the university appeals process can bend to political pressures, reducing legal protections for students.
The suit specifically mentions Fenves' vested interest in deciding this case in favor of Jane Doe, by "maintaining a 'tough-on-sexual-assault' appearance" in a Title IX case so as not to jeopardize the school's federal funding.
[This piece has been edited to correct Peter Singer's ideological orientation. Explanation at end of article.]
The "Google Memo" (read it here) raises at least two big questions from a specifically libertarian perspective: When does an employer have a right to fire an employee and how do social pressures work to shut down speech that makes powerful people uncomfortable?
The answer to the first question is pretty clear-cut, at least when talking about an at-will employee: Google (and other employers) should and do have extremely broad rights to fire any worker at any time. Exceptions rightly exist (and depending on the state one lives in, there may be fewer or more legal exceptions recognized by the courts) but they are narrow. Critics fear that at-will employment will result in chronic job instability, but no firm thrives over time by firing its workers on a regular basis and without good reasons (at-will employment also gives workers the not-insignificant ability to leave a situation without having to explain themselves or negotiate out of contractual obligations). The vast majority of Americans have never signed an employment contract (in nearly three decades of adult work, I know I never have) and are not the worse off for it.
Shortly before the memo's author was fired, Google's vice president of diversity, integrity, and governance wrote
Diversity and inclusion are a fundamental part of our values and the culture we continue to cultivate. We are unequivocal in our belief that diversity and inclusion are critical to our success as a company, and we'll continue to stand for that and be committed to it for the long haul. As Ari Balogh said in his internal G+ post, "Building an open, inclusive environment is core to who we are, and the right thing to do. 'Nuff said."
You might think that such values would have meant that James Damore, who penned the memo, might have been lauded for raising the issues he did, if not necessarily the way he did. Just earlier this year, at a shareholder meeting of Google's parent corporation Alphabet, chairman Eric Schmidt told an audience, "The company was founded under the principles of freedom of expression, diversity, inclusiveness and science-based thinking."
But whether you agree with Google's specific decision in this case, there should be no question that it has the right to fire people. If a company does that consistently for arbitrary and unconvincing reasons (ranging from enforcing ideological consistency in non-ideological organizations to erratic management to whatever), it will have huge trouble attracting and keeping talent. But in a free society, every company should have the right to put itself out fo business through bad management practices.
James Damore says that his most-recent performance review at Google rated him as "superb, which is the top few percentile" at the company. Supporters of the firing say that nobody at the company would want to work with a person who publicly questioned the announced demographic diversity goals at Google, a fact belied by reports that "over half" of Google employees don't think he should have been let go. If his firing causes more morale problems than it solves, that's Google's problem and it shouldn't erode confidence in the system of at-will employment.
The second question raised by the Google Memo—dubbed "an anti-diversity screed" by Gizmodo, the site that posted it in its entirety apparently without reading it—is a more-complicated and interesting topic from a libertarian point of view.MORE »
Another debt ceiling fight is just around the corner. The government's borrowing limit will need to be raised yet again by the end of September to avoid default. Indications suggest that there will be enough support between Democrats and moderate Republicans to pass a "clean" increase, meaning no spending limits or cuts will be attached. However, this fiscal status quo is absolutely unacceptable, especially because it would be easy to take a small step toward much-needed fiscal discipline.
Debt is piling up, and it is doing so at a faster pace than the economy is growing. The gross national debt is already well past 100 percent of gross domestic product. Under very optimistic assumptions, the Congressional Budget Office projects that under current law, the debt will reach 150 percent of GDP in 2047—thanks primarily to an aging population and poorly structured entitlement programs. Significant change is clearly needed if we're to avoid fiscal catastrophe, writes Veronique de Rugy.View this article
It's still illegal to sell flowers in Louisiana without being a licensed florist. You're still not allowed to sell caskets in Virginia without being a licensed funeral director.
Those are outliers inasmuch as most states don't require licenses for those activities. But they're typical in that, like many licensing laws, they don't protect the health and safety of the general public. All they really do is restrict economic freedom by unfairly limiting competition in certain professions.
They are also exactly the types of laws that the Restoring Board Immunity Act, introduced last week by Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), wants to convince states to repeal, or at least reform. Lee's bill would create a limited, conditional exemption shielding licensing boards from federal antitrust lawsuits, but only for states that change how their licensing boards operate and how courts handle disputes between those boards and individuals subjected to their rules.
That sounds complicated, but it's not. The bill gives states a two options for reform; states that choose one of the two will be protected against future lawsuits challenging their licensing boards for behaving like private cartels. It allows states to retain licensing boards that serve legitimate public health and safety interests, but nudges them to change laws that serve no such purpose. If they want, of course, states can choose to do nothing.
Lee has positioned his bill as a federal solution to a state problem, but that opens up a legitimate criticism. Should the federal government play any role in telling states what to do? That rarely works well for states, warns Sarah Allen, a senior deputy attorney general in the state of Virginia. Allen predicted Wednesday that Lee's bill would be "unworkable" at the state level.
"I think this bill highlights a common problem when the federal government tries to mandate state behavior," Allen said at a discussion of licensing issues hosted by the Federalist Society. "It really doesn't have any idea how difficult and time consuming and expensive it is to implement these big ideas into 51 existing and different state governments, and how many revisions to state codes would be required to do so."
She's not wrong to worry. The federal government has a long history of pressuring states to do one thing or another.
Under the terms of Lee's bill, states could face more scrutiny for violating federal antitrust laws if they don't take action to bring rogue licensing boards under greater supervision, or if they don't change state laws that often tip the scales of justice in licensing boards' favor when they are challenged by individuals or businesses harmed by licensing provisions.
One option included in Lee's bill would have states increase the level of judicial scrutiny applied to licensing boards when their rules are challenged in court. Most licensing laws are currently given rational basis review—the lowest level of legal scrutiny, in which a state only has to show a law or rule is "rationally related" to a legitimate government interest. Lee's proposal would push states to impose "intermediate scrutiny" on licensing laws.
Allen says removing the legal deference granted to licensing boards will mean more challenges against their rules; without antitrust immunity, she fears, states could face huge legal bills and settlement costs. "Efforts like this bill that will increase litigation again boards will significantly add to state budgets," she warned, previewing a line of argument that a variety of interest groups are likely to raise against Lee's legislation.
The threat of those costs is very real. But that's a feature, not a bug: It's meant to motivate states to make changes that increase economic freedom.
If state officials believe the changes suggested by Lee's bill are too steep, they are free to ignore it and carry on without immunity from federal antitrust lawsuits. To reverse an argument so often made by governments: If their licensing boards aren't doing anything wrong—in this case, if they're not acting as anticompetitive cartels—then they have nothing to fear. No changes are needed.
"Nothing in the bill forces a state to take any action whatsoever," says Conn Carroll, Lee's spokesman. "In fact, the bill enhances states' freedom of action while also furthering the freedom of workers by offering states incentives to revisit occupational licensing policies that too often lock workers out of the workforce and harm consumers."
It's not improper to worry about the federal-state relationship in situations like this. But there is now an academic and political consensus about the problems created by onerous licensing laws, and about who suffers from them and who benefits.
Research from Morris Kleiner, a labor economist at the University of Minnesota, and the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, shows that American households pay between $400 and $1,500 more annually for goods and services because licensing laws distort prices. Licensing laws take more than 3 million jobs out of the economy, according to the Brookings Institution, a center-left think tank.
While everyone pays for those laws, the benefits flow mostly to politically connected special interests. "Empirical work suggests that licensed professions' degree of political influence is one of the most important factors in determining whether states regulate an occupation," a 2015 White House report on licensing concluded. President Donald Trump's secretary of labor largely agrees with those Obama-era conclusions, and he has promised to work to roll back onerous occupational licensing laws. This is not a partisan debate.
Lee's bill is "a signal of the fact that a lot of people are seeing this is a problem—a problem for consumers, a problem for workers, a problem for the economy," says Maureen Ohlhausen, the acting director of the Federal Trade Commission, who earlier this year opened a new task force to focus on economic liberty issues.
And still these licensing laws persist. That's why the federal government is getting involved. Complying with Lee's legislation may pose some difficulties, as Allen argues. But try telling an unlicensed florist in New Orleans that she can't have a legitimate job because it's too hard for states to change a few lines of their legal code.
decision to drop mandated screenings for sleep apnea—a disorder that can interrupt sleep and contribute to fatigue—among train engineers and truck drivers.Witness the fevered reaction to the Trump administration's
"We don't want train engineers with undiagnosed sleep apnea, who actually hold lives in their hands," thundered Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D–New York) at a hastily convened press conference.
"It's very hard to argue that people aren't being put at risk," fretted former Federal Rail Administration head Sarah Feinberg.
The pearl-clutching continued in the media. "How asleep should truck drivers be on the job?" asked The Atlantic. "Experts: Lives at risk if no sleep tests for train engineers." was the Associated Press headline.
The panic amongst the political class in Washington is standard for even the most minor regulatory rollback proposed by the Trump Administration, underscoring the daunting political difficulty of major reform.
It also points up the ridiculousness of the hysteria.
For starters, Tuesday's decision did not eliminate any regulations. Nor did it eliminate any proposed regulations.
The Department of Transportation under the the Obama Administration had been considering regulations on mandated sleeping disorder screenings for rail and truck operators. The Trump Administration ended that study.
So when Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D–New York) says that "getting rid of this rule takes us backwards for no reason, and it's just plain stupid", he's talking about a rule that doesn't exist.
Maloney also obscures the fact that the problem the non-existent rule is supposed to address is itself nearly non-existent. According to Federal Railway Administration data, there have been 86 rail accidents caused by sleeping employees since 1975—that's 42 years—resulting in two deaths and 80 non-fatal injuries.
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) considers the number slightly higher saying, "sleep apnea has been in the probable cause of 10 highway and rail accidents investigated by the NTSB in the past 17 years," including the 2013 crash of a Metro-North Railroad train in New York, caused by a dozing engineer which killed four people.
The NTSB condemned Tuesday's decision to not go forward with sleep apnea regulation as well.
The NTSB concedes that while sleep apnea might be a "probable cause" in many of these accidents, it is rarely the sole cause. Nor does it make a convincing case that more regulations in the form of mandated sleep apnea screenings by employers would have prevented many of these accidents.
In 2001, for instance, untreated sleep apnea of an engineer and insufficiently treated sleep apnea of a conductor was blamed for a two-train collision in Michigan that resulted in the deaths of two crewmembers.
That the conductor was already being treated for sleep apnea suggests that screening for sleep apnea was not the problem. At the time of the crash, the untreated engineer was working his seventh consecutive 12-hour graveyard shift, something that might have made anyone a little sleepy.
The call for more regulation also ignores the voluntary steps taken by the rail and trucking industries to combat fatigue among their employees. Trucking associations and government regulatory boards from both the U.S. and Canada have created the North American Fatigue Management Program for managers, drivers, and spouses and family members of truck drivers.
Their website includes a return-on-investment calculator for measuring the money saved from implementing anti-fatigue measures.
The rail industry has taken similar measures according to a June 2017 report from the American Association of Railroads, including individual companies encouraging confidential sleep disorder screenings, and increasing minimum off-duty hours for employees.
The same report cautions against one-size-fits-all fatigue regulation, saying "not every countermeasure is appropriate for every railroad, or even for different parts of the same railroad, because circumstances unique to each railroad influence the effectiveness and practicality of specific countermeasures."
This focused, local and voluntary approach does not satisfy regulators like Feinberg, who told the Washington Post, "there is no reason to withdraw a rulemaking like this other than because you don't understand the science or because you've chosen to ignore it."
The Trump White House has shown little patience for Feinberg's reflexive need to regulate industry. A slow but steady stream of deregulatory actions and proposals has been a bright spot from an otherwise unfocused, chaotic administration.
An unholy trinity of politicians, regulators, and media voices is at the ready to fight any reduction of the regulatory state. At the same time, it's hard to know whether the Trump hite House can maintain the energy to fight on to halt something as arcane as sleep apnea overreach.
- New poll: 70 percent of Americans "believe the federal investigation into Russia's efforts to influence the 2016 presidential election in the US should be able to look into President Donald Trump's finances."
- President Trump attacked Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell today on Twitter. "Can you believe that Mitch McConnell, who has screamed Repeal & Replace for 7 years, couldn't get it done," Trump wrote.
- Japanese Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera says that Japan can shoot down a North Korean missile attack against Guam.
- "The Algerian national suspected of ploughing a hire car into a group of soldiers in a wealthy Paris suburb is believed to be unknown to French intelligence services and had no criminal record, a police source said on Thursday."
- Tesla is reportedly close to testing a prototype of a self-driving semi-truck.
- Scientists at the Natural History Museum in London have named a recently discovered species of prehistoric sea crocodile after Motörhead singer and heavy metal icon Lemmy Kilmister. The crocodile will be known as Lemmysuchus obtusidens.
During the 1990s, the number of undocumented immigrants in this country more than doubled. The number of legal immigrants also climbed. But the economy added more than 23 million jobs, and the unemployment rate fell below 4 percent. The earnings of middle-wage workers rose.
In recent years, by contrast, while the number of legal and undocumented immigrants has declined, the economy has grown more slowly. Job growth has fallen well short of the 1990s pace, and wages have been stagnant. First we proved there is no contradiction between welcoming immigrants and improving the fortunes of the average American. Then we showed that reducing the inflow brings no broad benefits.
People who employ farmworkers, housekeepers, landscapers and seasonal employees already know how hard it is to attract native-born Americans to do these types of jobs, notes Steve Chapman. If the government chokes off the supply of foreign labor, American workers may not step in to reap rewards.View this article
big foreign policy speech in Warsaw last month, crafted in part by nationalist Stephen Miller, included the startlingly pessimistic assertion that "The fundamental question of our time is whether the West has the will to survive." Trump, Miller, and populist strategist Steve Bannon often express such existential insecurity when talking about everything from immigration policy to refugee resettlement to bilateral trade deficits. If we don't soon address the latter concern with Mexico, Trump warned Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto in a phone conversation leaked last week, "We will not be the United States anymore."President Donald Trump's
Such fundamental pessimism represents something new in the White House, I argue in today's L.A. Times, telling us something not just about the new populists, but the failures of the managerial class they have supplanted. Excerpt:
It's [the] inward-looking anxiety that distinguishes the blood-and-soil nationalism of Trump, Steve Bannon and Stephen Miller…from the Cold War confidence of Reagan and the us-vs.-them cockiness of post-9/11 George W. Bush. It's hard to imagine a National Security Council strategic planning director of any other modern president write, as the recently fired Rich Higgins did in a memo in May, that a broad section of the American political spectrum has "aligned with Islamist organizations at local, national, and international levels" to form a "counter-state" in which "they seamlessly interoperate through coordinated synchronized interactive narratives."
The apocalyptic style is hardly new to American politics: We're used to such howls from wilderness figures such as Pat Buchanan and 1992-era Jerry Brown. More heretofore successful pols, however, found ways to signal to their friends in the media that populist demagoguery is just a mask to be worn during primary season. Sure, the Hillary Clintons of the world would campaign against free trade, but in our hearts we knew they'd flip-flop. Part of the collective shudder of revulsion you can experience daily from the national press comes from the fact that Trump and the Bannonites appear to actually mean it.
More, including generous swipes at John Kasich and other handmaidens to the last 16 years of crappy public policy, here. I previewed the apocalyptic turn of American politics here back in December 2015.
NASA's hunt for a new planetary protection officer at $187,000 a year has been good for plenty of derisive laughs. It isn't funny when you realize that bureaucrat will be in charge of an agency whose existence threatens the future of a mission to Mars, Robert Zubrin writes.
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If some crank were to destroy the Mona Lisa out of fear that witchcraft might be associated with the painting, most people would consider his action a crime against art. Now we have space agency officials preparing similar irrational vandalism against the Mars Sample Return. Perhaps it is time that NASA rethought its "planetary protection" program. Continuing to lend credence to the irrational could be very costly indeed.
NASA is currently spending around $10 billion per year on a human spaceflight program whose supposed objective is a human mission to Mars. At the same time, it is funding a department whose purpose requires it to prevent such a mission from ever happening.