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Weekly Hit & Run Archive 2018 October 8-31

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Don't Blame Karl Marx for 'Cultural Marxism': New at Reason

Political correctness isn't a communist plot.

Karl Marx Saratm/FiverrKarl Marx Saratm/FiverrThe list of developments for which "cultural Marxism" has been blamed includes the following: the LGBT rights movement, especially the legal push to eliminate sodomy laws and legitimize gay marriage; activism for transgender acceptance and recognition; the increase in divorce at the end of the 20th century and a decrease in nuclear family formation; African Americans protesting police abuse; art and music that fails to follow familiar genre conventions; increased depictions of a variety of races, genders, and sexualities in popular media; acceptance of immigrants and the cultural pluralism they bring; a lack of tolerance for nonliberal ideas on college campuses.

This bill of particulars is not new, especially from conservatives. The twist was to begin dragging Karl Marx into it. Here's how the narrative goes: After the horrific deaths of millions, global communism may have been discredited as a viable economic system, but its proponents want to sneak it perniciously through the back door via cultural decadence. Thus, political correctness is part of a lefty long con to take over America.

You have to give the conspiratorial right credit for clever rhetorical deck-stacking, at least. How can you approve of sympathetic gay people appearing in yogurt commercials if it's all a commie plot?

It may be comforting to believe your ideological foes are dupes of manipulative intellectual fiends. But declaring that advocates of multiculturalism, feminism, and gay rights are the pawns of dead Jewish communists is both mistaken as a matter of cultural history and foolish as a way to sell an alternate ideology. You won't win the day by treating people who merely disagree with you as stalking horses for socialist tyranny, writes Brian Doherty.

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California Adopts a Mixed Bag of Food Laws: New at Reason

Governor Jerry Brown, right, reviews legislation in his office on Sept. 30. Renee C. Byer/ZUMA Press/NewscomGovernor Jerry Brown, right, reviews legislation in his office on Sept. 30. Renee C. Byer/ZUMA Press/NewscomA trio of new laws recently passed in California should make life easier for home food entrepreneurs, street vendors, and craft distillers in the state. That's great news for food freedom and the entrepreneurs and consumers who drive its spread. But as with so many bursts of law-signing, there was some awful with the good.

On September 18, the same day he signed the homemade food law, Gov. Jerry Brown also signed a new law that will crack down on people who want to share food with the homeless and others in need. Baylen Linnekin explains how California may have set a troubling new precedent in regulating kindness.

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Freeborn Frank Turner: New at Reason

The British musician brings a libertarian sensibility to his new folk-punk album.

Frank Turner/Ben MorseFrank Turner/Ben MorseBe More Kind is the seventh studio album by the British singer-songwriter Frank Turner. The title is based on a Clive James poem published in The New Yorker, and like many of Turner's previous works, the record blends elaborate folk storytelling with a punk rock attitude, overtly political themes, and pleas for social decency. With song titles like "Make America Great Again" and "21st Century Survival Blues," Be More Kind is an album full of literary, political rock 'n' roll. It has also been a critical and commercial hit, pulling rave reviews at publications such as NME, topping the British charts, and rising to 90th on Billboard's top-200 album list.

Turner has described himself as both a libertarian and a classical liberal—ideological descriptors that are rare in his corner of the music world—and has reportedly received death threats for talking candidly about his politics.

In June, Reason's Nick Gillespie spoke with Turner about his new album, his idiosyncratic politics, punk rock's liberal slant, and why the most important debate isn't between left and right but between authoritarian and libertarian.

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M*A*S*H Goes to the Junkyard

Friday A/V Club: The byproducts of a cultural juggernaut

William Morrow & Co.William Morrow & Co.Fifty years ago this month, William Morrow & Co. published MASH: A Novel About Three Army Doctors. Attributed to "Richard Hooker," the book was actually composed by Richard Hornberger, a doctor who had served in Korea, and W.C. Heinz, a sportswriter who spruced up the doctor's prose. A couple years later, Robert Altman adapted the novel into a movie, and a couple years after that, the movie's success spawned a long-running TV show.

If you're an American born between the beginning of the Cold War and the end of disco, you probably have an opinion or three about the M*A*S*H franchise. In my case, I think the book is fun but unexceptional, the movie is great, and the TV show ranges from very good to terrible, with most of the good episodes concentrated in the period before B.J. grew a mustache. (Credit where it's due: I stole the mustache thesis from Bill Geerhart.) Whether or not you agree about any of that, it's undeniable that Hawkeye Pierce, Trapper John McIntyre, Radar O'Reilly, and the rest of the M*A*S*H crew were a cultural juggernaut.

But you're reading the Friday A/V Club, where we take pleasure in slipping past the juggernauts to peer at the junk left in our cultural attic. If you want a detailed take on the main stream of M*A*S*H history, Howard Fishman wrote a pretty good article about it for The New Yorker this past July. (I especially liked his observation that the M*A*S*H doctors come across as frat boys in the book and as hipsters in the movie; on TV, he could have added, their mixture of progressive politics and serial sexual harassment resembles a certain sort of college professor.) Fishman can handle the M*A*S*H that mattered. We'll look at the detritus—at the sequels to the novel and the spinoffs from the TV show.

First the novels. Two of these, M*A*S*H Goes to Maine and M*A*S*H Mania, were written by Hornberger; they feature the M*A*S*H doctors working at a hospital in Maine in the 1970s. These books may shock people raised on the TV series, since Hawkeye here is a rock-ribbed Republican who throws around racial slurs and at one point declares that you "oughta kick the bejesus out of a liberal now and then just to stay in shape." The Maine books aren't great literature, but they have a sort of lived-in authenticity to them; they're stories about small-town doctors from Maine that were written by a small-town doctor from Maine, and they can't help picking up some texture along the way. If nothing else, I can recommend "Dragons," a chapter of M*A*S*H Mania where Hawkeye, having been dragged before a judge who's in on the joke, spins a tall tale in which the atom bomb wasn't invented until 1950 and it was a dragon named Sid who actually destroyed Hiroshima.

Pocket BooksPocket BooksBut then there are the other books. William Butterworth wrote these, and he churned out around a dozen of them. M*A*S*H Goes to New Orleans. M*A*S*H Goes to Las Vegas. M*A*S*H Goes to Vienna. M*A*S*H Goes to Morocco. In these the swamp doctors still work at that hospital in Maine, but now they're constantly getting drawn into allegedly high-comic adventures around the world, with a recurring cast of guest stars with names like Boris Korsky-Rimsakov, Horsey de la Chevaux, and Wrong-Way Napolitano. Sometimes the book characters' backstories are adjusted to fit the TV series; other times the books go out of their way to contradict the TV series. (Col. Henry Blake, famously killed off on the show, periodically pops in to say hello.) I cannot in good conscience recommend reading two or more of these, but every student of '70s kitsch should try to make it through one.

And the TV spinoffs? There were three of those. Trapper John, M.D. was a standard medical drama set in what was then the present day, with the title character now employed at a hospital in San Francisco. (It must have been a tough commute to work both there and in Maine.) AfterMASH was set in Missouri in the 1950s, with three characters from the old show adjusting to civilian life at yet another hospital.

Finally, there's W*A*L*T*E*R, in which Gary Burghoff reprises his role as Radar O'Reilly and a very young Victoria Jackson plays the ditzy drugstore clerk who befriends him. There was only one episode. It aired in only half the country. It is the most godawful piece of crap ever excreted by the M*A*S*H multiverse—and yes, I've seen the episode of the original show where they spend the whole story organizing a surprise party for Col. Potter. That one is Citizen Kane compared to W*A*L*T*E*R. If the novel published in October 1968 is the place where this franchise was born, then this half-hour of television that aired in July 1984 is where it went to die. (*) Enjoy!

(* I mean "went to die" figuratively, of course. W*A*L*T*E*R was followed by one more season of AfterMASH and two more seasons of Trapper John, M.D. America still has troops in Korea, too. Apparently it's really hard to wind these things down.)

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FDA Threatens E-Cigarette Companies With Product Removal

It's just the latest development in the FDA's war on vaping.

Gawriloff/Dreamstime.comGawriloff/Dreamstime.comThe Food and Drug Administration gave 21 electronic-cigarette companies a choice today: Either prove their products aren't breaking FDA rules, or be forced to stop selling them.

The agency's latest crackdown against vaping manufacturers is not particularly surprising. Rather, it's just the latest development in the FDA's war on vaping.

In a press release, the agency said it sent letters to 21 companies "about whether more than 40 products—including some flavored e-cigarette products—are being illegally marketed and outside the agency's current compliance policy." As CNBC notes, e-cigarette products introduced after August 8, 2016 need FDA approval before they can go on the market. The agency apparently believes some products are being sold without the relevant approval.

FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb has now threatened the companies with enforcement actions. "Companies are on notice—the FDA will not allow the proliferation of e-cigarettes or other tobacco products potentially being marketed illegally and outside of the agency's compliance policy, and we will take swift action when companies are skirting the law," he says. "If products are being unlawfully marketed and outside the FDA's compliance policy, we'll act to remove them."

The companies warned included three major players in the industry: British American Tobacco (BAT), Imperial Brands, and Japan Tobacco. Spokespeople for BAT and Japan Tobacco both tell CNBC that their products are in compliance with FDA rules. An Imperial Brands spokesperson, meanwhile, tells Reuters that its "myblu" e-cigarette products are in compliance as well. Juul Labs Inc., easily the most popular e-cigarette manufacturer in the U.S., did not receive a letter. That's because the FDA recently conducted an "unannounced on-site inspection of its corporate headquarters, which sought similar information about its marketing practices," the agency says.

The FDA has been regulating tobacco products since 2009, but only since 2016 has the agency also had authority over the e-cigarette industry, according to Bloomberg. Gottlieb is particularly worried about the effect of vaping on teenagers. Last month, in fact, his agency threatened to ban vaping products unless manufacturers could figure out how to stop teens from using them. "Given the explosive growth of e-cigarette use by kids, we're committed to taking whatever measures are appropriate to stem these troubling use trends," Gottlieb said Friday.

But Gottlieb's crusade against vaping is misguided. As Reason's Jacob Sullum explained last month, what Gottlieb refers to as an "unfortunate tradeoff" is potentially deadly. Research shows that often it's the various flavors that help adults make the switch from combustible tobacco to e-cigarettes. By impeding adults' access to e-cigarettes in an effort to stop teens from vaping, the FDA is deterring smokers from choosing the safer alternative.

Plus, while teenage use of e-cigarettes among teenagers seems to be on the rise, adolescent smoking rates are actually going down.

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San Francisco Is About to Let Electric Scooters Back on the Streets. But One Scooter Company Isn't Happy.

Scooter giant Lime claims the city's permitting process was biased and arbitrary.

Benoit Tessier/REUTERS/NewscomBenoit Tessier/REUTERS/NewscomAfter months of hostility, harassment, and the outright seizure of their vehicles by city officials, San Francisco may finally allow dockless electric scooter companies back onto city streets. Come Monday, SFMTA—the city's transit agency—plans to allow local scooter start-ups Scoot and Skip to begin operations in the city once again under heavily-conditioned circumstances.

Threatening the return of scooter service however is none other than scooter giant Lime, which was denied a permit and is now suing the city, claiming the process by which these permits were awarded was biased.

"Lime believes that after selecting two other less experienced electric scooter companies and comparatively weaker applications in a process that was riddled with bias, the SFMTA should revisit the decision and employ a fair selection process," said the company in a statement.

Lime had been one of the initial companies to drop its scooters on San Francisco's streets back in March 2018, along with other early entrants Bird and Spin, and thus was on the receiving end of San Francisco's early efforts to quash their permissionless innovation.

Despite their being no prohibition on these dockless e-scooters at the time, San Francisco officials took the view that they were public nuisances, impounding over 500 of the vehicles (including 130 from Lime alone) and sending cease-and-desist letters to the three companies.

What followed was a months-long process by which city hall and SFMTA cobbled together a pilot program that would issue permits to five companies and allow up to 2,500 scooters back onto city streets. At the time Lime, agreed to comply with the new regulations, and along with eleven other scooter companies, applied for a permit.

When permits were finally issued at the end of August, the city inexplicably decided to award them to only two companies—the aforementioned Scoot and Skip—and allow them to only deploy 1,250 scooters.

Neither Lime, nor Bird or Spin, were given permits, in what the company is now claiming is an attempt to unfairly penalize them for operating a lawful, but not explicitly-allowed transit service.

"SFMTA's development of the pilot program and permitting process was biased and flawed from the outset, and aimed to punish companies that lawfully deployed scooters earlier this year," said Lime.

All companies applying for permits to operate in San Francisco were evaluated on a number of categories, including safety, community outreach, plans for low-income and disabled access, and crucially each company's "experience and qualifications" operating scooter programs.

Lime, Bird, and Spin—the three companies to put vehicles out on the street before the city's big scooter crackdown—were all given a 'poor' grade for this last metric, with SFMTA officials claiming that their jumping the gun on providing scooter service meant these companies could not be trusted to follow city regulations going forward.

Also downgraded in this category was ride-sharing company Lyft, a new player in the scooter market, who—despite never having deployed a single scooter on San Francisco's streets—was dinged for the traffic violations its drivers had racked up over the years.

Lyft has also raised complaints about the arbitrary and biased nature of San Francisco's scooter permitting process. In a late September letter sent to San Francisco Mayor London Breed and SFMTA Director Ed Reiskin, Lyft President John Zimmer claimed that initial analysis by city staff ranked his company's application higher, but was then downgraded when the final analysis was released.

"The fact that the final result differed substantially from the initial analysis is indicative of a larger frustration with the process. Scoring criteria was not published in advance, and the scoring analysis that was released afterwards was not tied to the requirements set forth in [permit program regulation]" wrote Zimmer. "This led to what appears to be more arbitrary and inconsistent scoring results."

Zimmer's letter asks the city to reconsider granting only two permits. Lime is going further, demanding that all scooter operations be halted until a fairer appraisal of its application can be conducted.

San Francisco city officials have so far shrugged off Lime's lawsuit, telling the company to work within the system, which they insist was totally above board.

"The SFMTA's permitting process for the pilot program was thoughtful, fair and transparent. It includes an appeal process that Lime should be pursuing instead of wasting everyone's resources by running to court," said City Attorney spokesperson John Cote to the San Francisco Examiner.

While one can quibble with Lime's attempt to temporarily stop scooters' return to San Francisco, one can hardly blame them for not trusting the official appeals process given the continual hostility of city government to scooters.

Indeed, SFMTA's refusal to even issue the maximum number of permits allowed by law shows the degree to which San Francisco officials see e-scooter companies, not as valuable partners offering an innovative new service, but instead as hostile invaders that must be kept at bay.

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'Fight for Justice' With Students for Liberty at Harvard Tomorrow

Come hear students, scholars, activists, and Reason editors talk about ending the drug war and authoritarianism here and abroad.

SFLSFLI'm appearing tomorrow in Boston at Students for Liberty's regional conference at Harvard. The theme is "Fight for Justice," the conference is free and open to the public, and here's the lineup:

9:00 AM – Registration & Breakfast

10:00 AM – 10:45 AM – Opening Keynote / Drug War – Dr. Jeffrey Miron, the Director of Undergraduate Studies in the Department of Economics at Harvard University and the Director of Economics Studies at the Cato Institute

11:00 AM – 11:45 AM – "Freedom from Extremism: How an Ex-Hasidic Jew and the Ex-Wife of Jihadi Fought for Freedom" – Yasmine Mohammed, Founder of Free Hearts Free Minds; and Ari Hershkowitz from the acclaimed Netflix feature documentary, "One of Us"

12:00 PM – 12:45 PM – Group Pic, Lunch & Meet Partner Orgs

1:00 PM – 1:45 PM
Breakout #1 – Criminal Justice Reform Panel – Victor Agbafe from Harvard College; Rachael Rollins, Suffolk DA candidate and board member of the NAACP Boston; and Matthew Allen, Field Director of the ACLU of Massachusetts
Breakout #2 – John Paul, Founder of Grand Opportunity USA

2:00 PM – 2:45 PM
Breakout #1 – Jorge Jraissati, Freedom Fighter from Venezuela
Breakout #2 – Will Creeley, Senior Vice President of Legal and Public Advocacy of FIRE

3:00 PM – 3:45 PM – "Ayn Rand: Hater or Heroine?" – Jennifer Grossman, CEO of Atlas Society

4:00 PM – 4:45 PM – Closing Keynote / "Escaping from Authoritarianism" – Nick Gillespie, the Editor-at-Large at Reason Magazine; Faisal Saeed Al Mutar, CEO and Founder of Ideas Beyond Borders; and Laura Nicolae, President of the Harvard Libertarian Club

5:00 PM – After-Social Dinner at Charlie's Kitchen

For more information on the speakers, panels, and registration, go here.

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Most Libertarians Don't Understand Friedrich Hayek, Says Peter Boettke: Podcast

In a bold new book about Hayek, the George Mason economist says "too much time and effort has been put into repackaging and marketing a fixed doctrine of eternal truths."

With populism on the rise, capitalism under attack, and socialism back in vogue, the work of Austrian economist Friedrich Hayek (1899–1992) is more relevant than ever. Hayek started his career as a wunderkind professor, joining the faculty of the London School of Economics in his early 30s, and was a central figure in the debates that consumed the profession during the Great Depression. He would go on to spend most of his seven-decade-long career as an outsider, his work diverging from the mainstream following the Keynesian revolution of the 1930s and '40s. Eventually the world circled back to Hayek's ideas, and he was one of two recipients of the 1974 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics.

Today, Hayek is best known for his enduring insights on emergent order, for his critique of central planning, and for his argument that all knowledge in society is decentralized and that a modern economy thus relies on the coordinating role of prices and private property. In his final book, The Fatal Conceit, Hayek wrote that "the curious task of economics is to demonstrate to men how little they really know about what they imagine they can design."

Hayek's enormous body of work is the subject of a new book by the George Mason University economist Peter Boettke, which takes a deep dive into Hayek's writing and serves as a rousing call for a serious rethinking of libertarian and classical liberal thought.

"Liberalism is in need of renewal," writes Boettke, who started his career as an expert on post-communist economics in the former Soviet Union. "Too much time and effort has been put into repackaging and marketing a fixed doctrine of eternal truths, rather than rethinking and evolving to meet the new challenges." Even Hayek, Boettke notes, made mistakes late in his career, such as his kind words for the Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet. Hayek's great legacy is his understanding of economics and liberal political theory as a process for creating a world in which individuals and society could become more free, equal, and prosperous over time.

In this Reason Podcast, I talk with Boettke about the historical and intellectual context of Hayek's thought, the influence of Hayek's mentor Ludwig von Mises on his work, and how libertarians can follow Hayek's dictum that "we must make the building of a free society once more an intellectual adventure, a deed of courage."

Subscribe, rate, and review our podcast at iTunes. Listen at SoundCloud below:

Audio production by Ian Keyser.

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Libertarian and Police Accountability Pages Deleted in Facebook Purge

Hundreds of pages and accounts have been purged over accusations that they were "inauthentic." The page operators disagree.

"I contributed to Facebook's success and growth!" Jason Bassler said with some frustration this morning, a day after the social media giant unpublished the page for a media site he founded, The Free Thought Project. "I decided to create content day after day. Now they piss on us."

Facebook announced Thursday that it was deleting 559 pages and 251 accounts that it claims were breaking Facebook's rules against spam and "inauthentic" behavior. The Free Thought Project was one of the demolished pages, along with another of Bassler's efforts, Police the Police. Both pages that produced content—stories, memes, and videos—that focused on government behavior and were shared widely among fans, particularly libertarians.

Nathaniel Gleicher, Facebook's head of cybersecurity policy, and Oscar Rodriguez, a Facebook product manager, have explained the purge by writing that they don't think these sites were really trying to engage in political debate but were in fact spam factories trying to make money:

Many were using fake accounts or multiple accounts with the same names and posted massive amounts of content across a network of Groups and Pages to drive traffic to their websites. Many used the same techniques to make their content appear more popular on Facebook than it really was. Others were ad farms using Facebook to mislead people into thinking that they were forums for legitimate political debate.

Bassler says that's not what was happening. Bassler has editing privileges on a bunch of pages that were affected by the ban, and he shared a picture on Facebook on what it looked like to see all these pages depublished:

Unpublish noticeScreenshot courtesy of Jason Bassler


Bassler explains though that this was the result of networking between pages of similar interest, not a handful of people trying to artificially inflate their own popularity. He has made five pages himself, and he was assisting with these others.

"When we first started these pages in 2012, we started networking with different page owners realized we could do more to benefit each other by helping each other," he says. "What we did and what we've done for the past six years is help each other out by giving each other information."

Bassler isn't the only one confused. Over at the Washington Post, James Reader, who runs a progressive site and page called Reverb Reader, complains about Facebook "changing the rules as they went." Many of them, like Bassler, used networking to build a community to reach a larger audience—a normal sort of organizing that Facebook now deems "inauthentic."

The Free Thought Project had 3 million followers and Police the Police nearly 2 million. Some of the stories highlighted and shared on their website will be familiar to Reason readers, like the recent case of the Kansas man handcuffed on his own property by police who had confused him with a burglar. Bassler says he also got stories from people reaching out to them, upset when the general media reported only the police's side of the story. Bassler describes himself as a libertarian anarchist, but he says he's tried hard not to push an ideological agenda onto his pages, focusing instead on government accountability.

But The Free Thought Project also ran afoul of fact-checkers, particularly Snopes, which has accused them of misrepresenting stories on several occasions and which frequently describes them as a conspiracy site. The Free Thought Project provided coverage of veterans group in Arizona that claimed to have found a "bunker" being used for child trafficking. It was actually an abandoned homeless camp, and there's no evidence that there was any sort of human trafficking happening there.

After Snopes and the Associated Press reported that the claims were fake, The Free Thought Project defended itself by saying it never actually said the child trafficking claims were true in the first place. And it has struck back at Snopes for "debunking" claims from The Free Thought Project that it didn't actually make.

Bassler says he's had four stories pulled from Facebook after fact-checkers deemed them inaccurate. He has had two of those decisions reversed. He claims that Snopes has a grudge against them after The Free Thought Project delved into the site's finances. Snopes, meanwhile, has put up a page debunking claims from the Free Thought Project that Snopes is trying to "shut down conversation" about child sex trafficking.

It's all very messy, but even though Facebook is turning to Snopes to assist with fact-checking what gets shared on the platform, Facebook's latest round of page deletions makes no mention of fact-checking problems as a justification. Reason has reached out to both Facebook and Snopes to see if this fact-checking fight played any role the decision to shut down The Free Thought Project's page or any others affected by the purge. We have not yet gotten a response.

In the meantime, Bassler says he's going to "fight tooth and nail" to try to get his Facebook pages restored. The Free Thought Project has officially responded to having its Facebook page deleted here.

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No Charm in This Reboot of Charmed: New at Reason

Fans of Nathan Fillion, though, should enjoy The Rookie.

'Charmed''Charmed,' CWThe newest TV programming axiom seems to be, "Save the weirdest for the last." In the final gasp of the fall broadcast rollout—only a couple of new shows remain to be seen when the upcoming week is over—we have a rookie cop who is also deep in the throes of middle-aged angst; three hyper-woke young witches; and an oddball sitcom about working-class Catholic families that's either sweetly nostalgic or witheringly contemptuous. It's hard to tell.

Television critic Glenn Garvin takes a closer look at The Rookie, The Kids Are Alright, and CW's reboot of Charmed.

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Ohio Will Vote on a Sentencing Reform Bill in November

What you need to know about Issue 1

|||Stefano Ember/Dreamstime.comStefano Ember/Dreamstime.comWhen Ohio voters head to the polls next month, they will have the opportunity to pass or reject Issue 1, a state constitutional amendment. As the Dayton Daily News sums it up, Issue 1 would do the following:

—Convert felony 4 and felony 5 drug possession and drug use crimes to misdemeanors with no jail time for first and second offenses committed within a 24-month period;
— Keep drug trafficking crimes as felonies;
— Prohibit judges from sending people to prison if they violate probation with something other than a new crime, such as missing an appointment;
— Cut prison time for offenders who complete rehabilitation programs, except those convicted of murder, rape or child molestation;
— Put money saved by fewer people going to prison into drug treatment and crime victim programs;
— Allow people convicted of certain drug crimes to petition the court for re-sentencing or release or to have the charge changed.

Travis Irvine, Ohio's Libertarian candidate for governor, has come out for the amendment, saying: "Even though it is far from perfect, I fully support Issue 1 because it moves the needle in the right direction—away from prosecuting and punishing non-violent people for behavior that doesn't harm their neighbors. I want to work steadily toward full legalization and decriminalization of the personal use of marijuana by adults." His Democratic challenger, Richard Cordray, also supports the amendment. His Republican challenger, Mike DeWine, is opposed.

Supporters of the amendment say it will save "tens of millions of dollars" out of the $1.8 billion-plus that Ohio spends on its "revolving prison door." They expect approximately $136 million to be redirected to treatment. Ohio Justice and Policy Center Deputy Director Stephen Johnson Grove, who helped draft the bill, estimates that 2,600 of the state's 50,000 prison population were convicted for lower-level drug offenses. Supporters also note that the relevant data show no correlation between imprisonment and lower drug use.

Opponents, such as the Ohio Prosecuting Attorneys Association and the Ohio Judicial Conference, argue that it is actually a negative to make the punishment for possession lower than the punishment for crimes such as "disorderly conduct and reckless operation." They also cite a state Office of Budget Management report that claims that the suggested savings will be only $1.3 million a year. And they claim the measure will cause children to believe that fentanyl, heroin, and meth are not dangerous.

The measure requires a majority yes vote to pass.

Bonus link: Florida's Amendment 4 seeks to restore the voting rights of ex-felons who have served their time.

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Quebec Nationalists: Teachers Shouldn't Wear 'Religious Signs,' But a Crucifix Hanging in the Legislature Is OK

The Coalition Avenir Quebec claims the crucifix hanging in the National Assembly isn't a religious symbol.

Wikimedia CommonsWikimedia CommonsThe ethnic-nationalist party about to take power in Quebec wants to ban many government employees—including teachers—from wearing religious symbols to work. But the Coalition Avenir Quebec (CAQ) has no problem with one glaring religious symbol currently hanging in the provincial legislature.

The party's platform states that "religious signs will be prohibited for all persons in position of authority, including teachers." Incoming Premier François Legault has echoed that sentiment, saying, "I think if we compare to what's happening in many countries, it's reasonable for neutrality reasons—we want to make sure that a policeman or a policewoman doesn't show a religious sign in case the man or woman in front of him is from another religion."

The proposal's critics argue that it's an unconstitutional violation of freedom of religion. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, for one, says he doesn't want the state to "tell a woman what she can or cannot wear." But if the proposed ban is found unconstitutional, Legault has suggested deploying the notwithstanding clause of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedom, which permits provincial legislatures to override a court's decision on what is and is not constitutional.

Count me with the critics. The CAQ says it wants to ensure "the secularity of the state," and that's a worthy goal: Separation of church and state—and mosque and state, and synogogue and state—is certainly a good thing. But this ban would simply prohibit workers whose religions require them to wear certain clothing (like kippahs for Jewish men and hijabs for Muslim women) from being able to do so.

Plus, the party's stance is more than a little hypocritical.

For more than 80 years, a crucifix has hung above the speaker's chair in Quebec's legislature, the National Assembly. One might think that a party eager to secularize the state would call for the crucifix's removal. But the CAQ insists that this cross is a cultural symbol, not a religious one. "We have to understand our past," Legault told reporters this week. The French Catholics and British Protestants who settled the province "built the values we have in Quebec," he said. "We have to recognize that and not mix that with religious signs." A CAQ spokesperson tells The Globe and Mail that as a "heritage object," the crucifix is "part of our history" and thus shouldn't be removed.

That crucifix may indeed be an important symbol of Quebec's history. But there is no coherent way to claim that it isn't any less religious than the crucifixes, kippahs, and turbans worn by various public employees. And it looks a lot more like an official endorsement.

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Pew Map Shows One Reason a National $15 Minimum Wage Won't Work

The value of $15 varies greatly across the country and even within the same states.

2016 Marilyn Humphries/Newscom2016 Marilyn Humphries/Newscom

Here's a thought: Maybe the federal government shouldn't be in the business of mandating a one-size-fits-all minimum wage.

That's the main takeaway from a Pew Research Center article published Wednesday. "The real value of a $15 minimum wage depends on where you live," the headline notes. The cost of living is much higher in some parts of the United States, such as New York or the San Francisco Bay Area, than it is in other, such as Beckley, West Virginia.

Pew used federal government data to calculate the real purchasing power of a $15/hour minimum wage in hundreds of urban areas:

These estimates are calculated by using data on "regional price parities," or RPPs, for the nation's 382 metropolitan statistical areas. The RPPs, developed by the federal Bureau of Economic Analysis, measure the difference in local price levels of goods and services across the country, relative to the overall national price level (set at 100).

The result was this handy map:

In the San Francisco Bay area, the real purchasing power of $15 is closer to $12. A $15/hour minimum wage would go the farthest in Beckley, where the purchasing power of $15 translates to $19.04.

In some places, raising the minimum wage to $15/hour means workers in low-skill jobs will be making the same money or close to it as trained professionals. Axios notes that in El Centro, California, the median wage for nursing assistants is $15.07. That money goes farther than it seems at first glance, since the purchasing power of $15 is about $16.80 in El Centro. But a $15/hour minimum wage means many nursing assistants will earn roughly the same as fast-food employees.

This isn't just a problem for a federal minimum wage—it's an issue for state governments too. California's minimum wage will reach $15/hour in 2022. This will have a drastically different effect on El Centro than it will on the San Jose metropolitan area, where the cost of living is 42.3 percent higher. Similarly in New York State, a statewide minimum wage of $15/hour (set to take effect over the next few years) will impact NYC residents much differently than workers in the Utica-Rome region. That's because the cost of living is 30.2 percent higher in New York City, according to Pew.

"Fight for $15" might be a catchy motto, but it doesn't take into account cost of living realities. This is just one reason why the federal government—and state and local governments too—should let the free market do its job.

While minimum wage hikes increase workers' hourly earnings, they also reduce the amount of work available. That's partly why, as Reason's Scott Shackford pointed out in December, the Employment Policy Institute predicted that California's $15/hour minimum wage could cost 400,000 jobs. In Seattle, workers' hours at low-wage jobs went down while the minimum wage went up, leading to a decrease in overall earnings.

Bonus link: Reason TV's Jim Epstein takes a look at how minimum wage increases in New York City have turned car wash workers "into black market lawbreakers":

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'Florida's Worst Cop' Is Back on the Job...Again

Three arrests and six firings are not enough to keep Sgt. German Bosque from police work.

|||Joe Sohm/Dreamstime.comJoe Sohm/Dreamstime.com"Florida's Worst Cop" is back on the job again. The infamous Opa-locka police sergeant German Bosque has graced Reason headlines for at least six years now: As we've reported, he's been arrested three times and fired six times over the course of 20 years for "stealing drugs, possessing counterfeit cash, brutalizing suspects and bystanders, lying, insubordination, sexual assault," and more. Now a magistrate has ruled that he can return to work on the Opa-locka police force.

The decision came after a jury acquitted Bosque of a battery charge. In 2011, a youth counselor testified that Bosque punched him while trying to take a baby out of his hands during a domestic-dispute call. After the youth counselor filed a complaint, Bosque reportedly reacted physically, pushing him up against the wall and arresting him. Prosecutors said Bosque acted without "probable cause," and he himself was arrested on battery, witness tampering, and false imprisonment. Though acquitted of the battery charge, Bosque was still convicted on the other two counts, both felonies. A Miami-Dade judge eventually dismissed the false imprisonment charge.

Even when he's off the clock, Bosque is a burden on the taxpayers. In 2012, it came out that he was collecting $60,000 a year essentially to sit at home and do nothing, thanks to back pay following his numerous reinstatements.

Bosque has claimed that his bad reputation is the result of a media conspiracy to get rid of him. But he apparently needn't worry about ever losing his job. As he once told a teenager: "I am the law. If I feel like it right now, I can fuck you up, and no one will say anything about it."

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Donald Trump Defends Medicare, a Socialist Program, from the Threat of Socialism

In a new op-ed attacking single-payer, Trump inadvertently reveals that he's in favor of socialism—as long as it's for his supporters.

Polaris/SIPA/NewscomPolaris/SIPA/NewscomOver the past few months, Donald Trump has staked out an aggressive opposition to "Medicare-for-all," an increasingly popular liberal slogan that has multiple meanings but usually refers to some sort of single-payer health care system.

This is rather rich coming from a candidate who touted single-payer's virtues during the Republican presidential primaries. But Trump's opposition is not merely ironic. It is self-contradicting. The president's primary argument against Medicare-for-all is that it is a socialist scheme that would ruin Medicare, the nation's largest socialist health care program.

That contradiction is apparent in a Trump-bylined op-ed for USA Today in which the president positions himself as defender of Medicare, a $700 billion federal health care entitlement that benefits seniors. Early in the piece, he—or his ghost writer, as it is far too cogent for Trump to have written it himself—writes:

I also made a solemn promise to our great seniors to protect Medicare. That is why I am fighting so hard against the Democrats' plan that would eviscerate Medicare. Democrats have already harmed seniors by slashing Medicare by more than $800 billion over 10 years to pay for Obamacare. Likewise, Democrats would gut Medicare with their planned government takeover of American health care.

Later in the piece, Trump warns that "if Democrats win control of Congress this November, we will come dangerously closer to socialism in America. Government-run health care is just the beginning." Trump does not seem to realize, or at the very least he does not care, that Medicare, the program he swore to protect just a few paragraphs earlier, is a massive government-run health care financing program.

The pro-Medicare framing is hardly unique to Trump; Republicans have argued against expansions of government-run health care by saying they would harm Medicare for the better part of the decade.

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Gov. Jerry Brown Leaves Mixed Legacy As California Lurches Left: New at Reason

Brown wasn't exactly a secret libertarian, but libertarians might end up missing him.

Fred Greaves/REUTERS/NewscomFred Greaves/REUTERS/NewscomCalifornia Gov. Jerry Brown, who just completed his final set of bill signings and vetos before leaving office, probably never had a "secret libertarian" inside him.

In fact, Brown had a well-established political philosophy that generally favored a larger and more muscular state government, rather than the limited variety favored by libertarians.

But Brown had, on some occasions, expressed authentic-sounding skepticism toward government interventions and its many grandiose intentions. "Every year, on average about 1,000 new laws are enacted and most of the laws are solutions to the same problems," the governor said in 2011. "It means that no matter how many solutions are provided every year we have the same number of problems."

But Brown's actions rarely lived up to his rhetoric, at least from a libertarian's point of view. He knows that most new bills do little, but his veto rate averaged only 9-13 percent.

Of course, libertarian ideas are rarely even on the table in Sacramento (or Washington, D.C., for that matter). Judging even by Brown's own fiscally frugal claims, he often disappointed. He'd pull out big charts during regular budget press conferences warning about the evils of excessive spending given that recessions always are around the corner. Then he'd sign a record-setting spending budget, albeit one more responsible than whatever atrocity Democratic legislators had envisioned. And boy did he like to raise taxes to fix budget holes.

But as Brown heads into the sunset and the state paddles further to the left, libertarians might find ourselves missing his time in office, writes Steven Greenhut.

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Jail Time Stripped Out of Nation's Most Controversial Straw Ban

Santa Barbara's new proposal would fine repeat violators up to $250 for handing out prohibited plastic straws and stirrers.

Hanohiki/Dreamstime.comHanohiki/Dreamstime.comAfter several months of delays and amendments, the Santa Barbara City Council is back to banning straws. The new legislation would prohibit more plastic items but impose lesser penalities than the original ban proposed in July.

On Tuesday, the council voted 6–1 to reintroduce a bill prohibiting all food and beverage providers from providing customers with plastic straws or stirrers. Restaurateurs would also be barred from giving out plastic cutlery unless a customer specifically requests it.

Violators of the would be given a warning for a first-time offence, after which they could be subject to administrative fines of $100 to $250 per straw or stirrer. Harsh though that sounds, it is actually less strict that the initial legislation. Under the first version of the bill, repeat offenses would be treated as a code violation and thus a misdemeanor, opening up restaurateurs to potential criminal sanctions of $1,000 in fines and six months in jail.

Santa Barbara's straw ban attracted national attention when it was first considered, with everyone from the San Francisco Chronicle and Fox News to Donald Trump Jr. highlighting the severe nature of the sanctions. In an attempt to quell the controversy, city officials insisted that the criminal penalties were boilerplate language and would be employed only in the most extreme instances of providing people with straws.

Assistant City Attorney Scot Vincent told Reason in July that criminal charges would only be pursued after multiple violations and if there were aggravating circumstances. Bryan Latchford, Santa Barbara's outreach coordinator for environmental services, took the same line, saying that "the intention was never to issue fines or jail time."

Nevertheless, when the bill was kicked back to committee—so that plastic stirrers could added to the list of prohibited items—Santa Barbara officials also decided to strip out any potential for jail time. At the time, City Attorney Ariel Calonne argued for keeping criminal penalties for major violators. "The point I tried to make was we don't know whether we're going to be dealing with an innocent vendor who gives out one straw, or we're going to have Lime Bikes dumping 10,000 straws," said Calonne at Tuesday's city council meeting.

Calonne's suggestion fell on deaf ears. The new bill says plainly that the ban "shall not be criminally enforceable." More explicit protections for the disabled community were also included, making clear that food and beverage providers can still give out plastic straws on an on-demand basis for those who have difficulty drinking without them.

Disability activists still came out against the ban, arguing that it would deter restaurants from keeping straws on hand even for people who need them.

"It is our concern that food and beverage providers will just simply stop buying straws, and will therefore not have them available for individuals with disabilities when requested," said Dani Anderson, executive director of Santa Barbara's Independent Living Resource Center, at Tuesday's city council meeting. Anderson recommended amending the bill to penalize businesses that did not keep straws on hand.

The lone elected official opposing the straw ban was Councilman Randy Rowse, who, while stressing that "no one on either side of the argument thinks that straws are a good thing," argued that the amended straw ban was confusing and a waste of city resources.

"We've complicated things. We've complicated to the point of where we've used an amazing amount, an embarrassing amount of staff time and resources," said Rowse during Tuesday's hearing. "Today, after all the readings, after all we've come back to, we're still asking questions. The disabled community has some serious questions."

Rowse argued for a voluntary approach to cutting back on straws, but was ultimately overruled by proponents who saw in their straw ban bill an opportunity to change the world.

"The more we connect the dots from straws, to food waste, to transportation, the easier it will be for people to make the necessary changes," said Kathi King of Santa Barbara's Community Environmental Council.

"The straw is unique, and it is symbolic in many instances," said Councilman Eric Friedman, saying he hoped other communities would follow his city's example. "We are Santa Barbara, we pride ourselves on our legacy of environmental stewardship and policy, and when we act, others listen."

Tuesday's meeting introduced the amended straw ban for consideration, but the city council will have to vote again to officially adopt it. If passed, it will go into effect in July 2019.

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Writer Stephen Elliott Sues Over 'Shitty Media Men' Spreadsheet: Reason Roundup

Plus: libertarian accounts purged from Facebook?

Wikimedia CommonsWikimedia CommonsGoogle spreadsheet "whisper network" spawns lawsuit. Author and editor Stephen Elliott, founder of The Rumpus, is suing over his inclusion on a Google spreadsheet that started circulating around this time last year. Dubbed the "shitty media men" list, it was created by a woman named Moira Donegan, who urged female friends and fellow writers to anonymously out male journalists, pundits, and literary types who were known to take sexual liberties. The list wound up with allegations against more than 70 named men, ranging from making unappreciated advances on women colleagues to serial sexual assault and rape.

Elliot was anonymously accused of conduct from rape to "unsolicited invitations to his apartment." In a lawsuit filed Wednesday in federal court, Elliott is seeking at least $1.5 million in damages.

In the suit, Elliott asks for details—names, addresses, etc.—on those who contributed to the list, which had straddled the line between public and private. Anyone who had a link could see it and contribute, and even after Donegan took it down, screenshots and PDFs of the page persisted.

Donegan took down the document not long after Buzzfeed published an article about it. She said she hadn't been trying to publicize the names of alleged shitty men, simply to create a digital "whisper network" that allowed women in media to warn one another—more like an email forward of yore than a Facebook post.

But according to Elliott (and some of the other men named on the list), this still had the power to have "derailed" his life. His lawsuit said he will subpoena Google for metadata that can help him figure out who specifically made the allegations against him.

Some of the other men whose names were on the list questioned his strategy. "If the problem was that his reputation was affected, this is going to make it infinitely worse," one told The Cut. "And that would be true for me if I were to join him, if I were to make myself part of the public face of this thing. Like, what would I do that for? Money? I've tried to clear my name individually, but I would never join a lawsuit. That just wouldn't help."

FREE MINDS

Facebook purges political "spam." More than 800 pages and accounts were booted by Facebook yesterday. The company said it's because these accounts and pages were spreading spam. Some trafficked in ads appearing to link to political news that actually went to marketing content. Others used different accounts to push the same political posts, memes, and news out more widely, in violation of Facebook policies.

"Unlike previous sweeps of pages in recent years, which have included hundreds of pages and accounts from Russian and Iranian actors attempting to muddle the United States' political conversation, the pages and accounts removed on Thursday all originated domestically," notes Slate.

Some of the accounts that were removed include such libertarian favorites as Cop Block, the Free Thought Project, and Police the Police.

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'An Almond Doesn't Lactate': New at Reason

The coming war over nut milks

Joanna AndreassonJoanna AndreassonThe increasing availability of plant-based alternatives to products that were traditionally derived from animals has been a blessing for vegans, vegetarians, and others who—for reasons biological or ideological—simply don't enjoy animal-based fare. If milk makes you gassy, you can buy a white, milk-like substance made from almonds, cashews, or coconuts. If you love the texture of beef but not the idea of eating something that once had a face, you can get patties with a meaty texture that bleed beet juice.

Although most of these products borrow terminology from the animal realm, American consumers don't seem particularly confused about what makes them different. The ingredients in almond, soy, and coconut "milks," for instance, are prominently featured on the packaging. Nearly all of these products are explicitly marketed as "nondairy," and the lighting in most grocery stores is adequate for distinguishing between the item types, writes Mike Riggs in the latest issue of Reason.

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Brickbat: Big Phony

Fake newsW.scott Mcgill / Dreamstime.comSouth Korean Prime Minister Lee Nak-yon has ordered police, prosecutors and the Korea Communications Commission to punish those who "generate fake news with malicious intent and systemically spread it." Lee was apparently angered by online criticism he received after visiting Vietnam for the funeral of its president, Tran Dai Quang, where he wrote in the visitors' book at the home of Ho Chi Minh that he felt "humble" before the "great" leader.

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University of Michigan Punished a Professor for Refusing to Write a Recommendation Letter for a Student Studying in Israel

Trying to compel this sort of speech violates the rights of professors.

UMichPhoebelb / Wikimedia CommonsJohn Cheney-Lippold, a tenured professor at the University of Michigan, was denied a raise and sabbatical privileges as punishment for refusing to write a letter of recommendation for a student to participate in study abroad. Cheney-Lippold had objected to the student's destination: Israel.

"Your behavior in this circumstance was inappropriate and will not be tolerated," wrote Interim Dean Elizabeth Cole in a letter to Cheney-Lippold, according to The Detroit News.

A second teacher at the university, Lucy Peterson, also declined to write a letter of recommendation for a student planning to study in Israel, according to Inside Higher Ed. It's not clear whether Peterson will face disciplinary action as well.

Peterson and Cheney-Lippold are participants in the Boycott, Divest, Sanctions (BDS) movement, a protest against Israel's mistreatment of Palestinians. Anti-discrimination law would prohibit a professor from refusing to write a letter of recommendation because of a student's ethnicity. But students who want to study in a particular country do not constitute a protected category, so the professors' actions are legal.

University of Michigan officials argue that adhering to BDS tactics is incompatible with professors' obligations to their students, Inside Higher Ed reports:

In a statement published in Michigan's University Record email this morning, Mark S. Schlissel, Michigan's president, and Martin A. Philbert, the provost, had strong words.

"Withholding letters of recommendation based on personal views does not meet our university's expectations for supporting the academic aspirations of our students. Conduct that violates this expectation and harms students will not be tolerated and will be addressed with serious consequences. Such actions interfere with our students' opportunities, violate their academic freedom and betray our university's educational mission," they wrote.

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education's Robert Shibley thinks this is a "thorny" issue from a free speech perspective. He writes:

As always, FIRE takes no position on the main issues that underlie the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. However, FIRE has long been concerned about the effects that the effort to academically boycott institutions in Israel cannot help but have on academic freedom for students and faculty members right here in the United States.…

While the immediate negative effect on students denied recommendations is easy to see, this type of application of the boycott movement risks doing serious, though less obvious, damage to faculty freedom of speech, including the right not to speak. Faculty recommendation letters are, of course, a type of speech. (They are, after all, letters.) Whether or not to write them on behalf of a particular student is also traditionally, and necessarily, left to the discretion of the individual faculty member, as it would be entirely nonsensical to require faculty members to write recommendation letters for students they simply can't or don't recommend. Yes, writing such letters is an expected part of the job, but generally speaking, no student has a "right" to a recommendation letter.

I tend to think academic freedom means that professors should be able to write and say what they think, even if what they think is offensive to some students. A letter of recommendation is a kind of speech: an endorsement of the student for whom it is written. If a university is obligating professors to write these letters against their will, they are essentially forcing the professors to engage in compelled speech.

It's easy to see how this could cause problems. Would a pro-life professor have to write a letter of recommendation for a student taking a job at Planned Parenthood? Should a gay professor be forced to recommend a student seeking a transfer to a conservative religious college? What if the professor's objections aren't political? Is it permissible to deny a letter to a student who wants to visit a particularly dangerous or unstable country?

It seems the best policy here is to leave these decisions in the hands of the faculty. I'm not a supporter of the BDS movement—I tend to think boycotts are hypocritical—but I would be hard-pressed to say that professors who object to Israel's policies should be forced to violate their consciences in order to keep their jobs. Anyone who has a problem with these professors' anti-Israel stances should feel free to criticize them, but disciplinary measures are unwarranted and a threat to the faculty's free speech rights.

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State AGs in Michael's Path Agree to Stop the Flow of Needed Goods

Price gouging is not the evil many officials make it out to be.

ZUMA Press/NewscomZUMA Press/NewscomWith Hurricane Michael tearing through the Southeast this week, state attorneys general are predictably inveighing against price gouging. In doing so, they are inadvertently discouraging suppliers from bringing in the goods that storm victims need.

In many states, price gouging laws go into effect when the governor declares a state of emergency. Florida, for instance, "bans unconscionable increases in prices in the rental or sale of essential commodities," according to Attorney General Pam Bondi's office. Bondi told Fox Business Network that several gas stations have been caught "trying to jack their prices up." She also mentioned a convenience store that had raised the price of water. "We're not going to tolerate that," she warned.

Bondi has been on a crusade against price gouging for some time. After Hurricane Irma hit Florida last year, she said it was "sickening and disgusting" that vendors were "trying to trick people." She particularly took issue with reports of a $100 delivery charge for a case of water. But while Bondi is vocal about her distaste for price gouging, she is apparently not very good at fighting it; roughly three months after Irma hit, her office had settled just one price gouging case, despite thousands of complaints.

Other states in Michael's path are also pre-emptively condemning disaster-sensitive pricing. Alabama's price gouging law went into effect after Gov. Kate Ivey declared a state of emergency. "Alabamians should be cautious of those who would seek to prey upon them through crimes such as price gouging and home repair fraud," Attorney General Steve Marshall said in a statement. Vendors who don't listen can be fined up to $1,000 per violation.

In Oklahoma, it's illegal to raise prices by 10 percent or more when a state of emergency has been declared. Violators can face a $10,000 fine. Attorney General Mike Hunter says the statute is meant to "protect Oklahomans who are at their most vulnerable after a storm."

Georgia punishes price gougers with fines between $2,000 and $15,000. Georgia's "Consumer Protection Division is at work to protect [consumers] from scammers and price gougers," Attorney General Chris Carr said.

North Carolina is dealing with its second major storm in as many months. The state's attorney general, Josh Stein, received at least 500 complaints about price gouging after Hurricane Florence. The latest state of emergency signed by Gov. Roy Cooper, encompassing 66 counties, means the price gouging law is again in effect.

Overlooked amid all this outrage is the fact that price gouging laws do more harm than good. That's because when prices go up during a disaster, it's usually a sign of supply and demand at work.

Natural disasters spell scarcity for many goods and services. How, then, can consumers get the supplies they need? Capitalism, of course. Rising prices during disasters tell suppliers which goods people need most. Then they can balance the potential profits against the risks of providing those goods. As Reason Editor in Chief Katherine Mangu-Ward noted last year:

Many of the folks who take on the risk of heading into an unstable area do so because they are driven by the twin motivations of fellow-feeling and greed. These people are often the fastest and most effective at getting supplies where they are most needed, because that's also where they can get the best price. This is just as true for Walmart as it is for the guy who fills his pickup with Poland Spring and batteries.

The story of John Shepperson, as summarized last year by Reason TV's John Stossel, illustrates what happens when the government gets in the way. After Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005, Shepperson realized people needed generators. So he bought 19 of them and drove 600 miles in a rented U-Haul truck from his home in Kentucky to Mississippi. He started selling the generators for about twice what he had paid for them, only to be arrested. The unsold generators, meanwhile, went to waste.

Price gouging also acts as a deterrent against hoarding, particularly in the days leading up to a disaster. To be on the safe side, many consumers are probably inclined to buy more than enough of whatever they think they'll need. But the more expensive those goods are, the less they'll buy, meaning more will be available for everyone else.

Price gouging laws keep prices artificially low, so those in a position to help have no motivation to do so. While prices might stay low, there's no guarantee supplies will be adequate.

In a column last year on "government barriers to private solutions," Veronique de Rugy cited a 2003 commentary piece by the Cato Institute's Jerry Taylor and Peter Van Doren. More than 15 years later, one line from their piece stands out: "Price gouging—like spinach—may be unappealing at first bite, but it's good for everyone in the long run."

As Michael tears through the southeastern coast, state officials should hope their warnings against raising prices don't come back to haunt them.

Bonus link: Reason TV's Jim Epstein explained back in 2012 why keeping gas prices artificially low means nobody gets fuel.

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Jamie Lee Curtis: "I Fully Support the Second Amendment."

After being trolled by Fox News, the Halloween actress ends up echoing Reagan when it comes to waiting periods and assault-weapon bans.

FacebookFacebookDoes anyone else remember the 1990s, when conservatives and Republicans such as Sen. Bob Dole (R-Kansas) would attack Hollywood for making violent movies that he claimed caused violence in the real world? He also was happy to criticize movies he admitted he hadn't watched. To make matters worse, he also exempted the violent movies of Arnold Schwarzenegger from his opprobrium, because, well, Arnold was one of the few public Republicans in show biz.

Fast-forward a few decades and now conservatives are attacking Hollywood actors for playing characters who use guns in movies but call for gun control in real life. That's just what happened to Jamie Lee Curtis, whose new film is the latest installment in the Halloween franchise that helped make her a star. Writing at Fox News, Louis Casiano trolled Curtis because her character uses a gun in the movie.

Curtis's on-screen actions stand in contrast to her real-life persona as an advocate for gun control—one of several Hollywood actors who use firearms in their films while preaching against them away from the set....

For the "Halloween" reboot, Curtis tweeted a photo of a paper shooting target and said: First shot. 357. Feels good to have Laurie back on set for @halloweenmovie. #halloweenmovie."

The conundrum applies to other Hollywood A-listers like George Clooney, Matt Damon, Don Cheadle, Julianne Moore, Sally Field and Jim Carey, who have all made their living portraying gun-toting characters while calling for stricter gun reform.

Casiano posted a bunch of past tweets in which Curtis calls for a ban on "assault weapons." And then he goes here:

Some politicians have seized on the issue to call out what they perceive is Hollywood's hypocrisy.

"Hollywood liberals on gun control is akin to Hollywood liberals on global warming," U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, told TMZ. "Which is they fly their private jets to a conference, step out and say, 'Global warming is terrible. Let's take away everything from the working men and women.' And then they get back on their private jet and fly back. Same thing on gun control. If you have a bevy of armed security officers protecting you, maybe you shouldn't be trying to strip Second Amendment rights from law-abiding citizens."

OK, fair enough, right. Absolutely. Curtis tells USA Today that she is indeed in favor of some forms of gun control, but...

"I am vocal about common-sense gun safety and gun laws," she says. "For instance, I fully support an assault weapon ban, I fully support a bump stock ban."

That doesn't make her anti-gun, she clarifies. "I fully support the Bill of Rights. And fully support the Second Amendment. And have absolutely no problem with people owning firearms if they have been trained, licensed, a background check has been conducted, a pause button has been pushed to give time for that process to take place. And they have to renew their license just like we do with automobiles – which are weapons also."

Read more here.

I don't agree with Jamie Lee Curtis on the effectiveness or sagacity of bump-stock bans or an assault-weapon ban (in fact, a ban has been tried and had no effect on gun-violence). But I actually kind of like the fact that she's willing to say she supports the Second Amendment. You can argue with her, but she's not saying private gun ownership should be banned or anything like that. Is she bullshitting when she supports the Second Amendment fully? I don't know, but her gun-control suggestions are kind of in line with Ronald Reagan's (he supported waiting periods and a ban on assault weapons too).

The lessons here? We really shouldn't look to celebrities for too much guidance when it comes to policy. Probably we shouldn't look to politicians, either. And our lives would be more interesting if we weren't constantly on the hunt for hypocrisy, too.

Watch "5 Facts About Guns, Schools, & Violence."

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Michael Bloomberg Is No Defender of the Constitution

The former New York mayor's authoritarian record shows he has no real love for America's founding document.

Michael BloombergSHANNON STAPLETON/REUTERS/NewscomNew York City's biggest fan of "stop and frisk" has registered (re-registered, really) as a member of the Democratic Party.

No, not President Donald Trump. Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg on Wednesday formally registered as a Democrat, a gesture that may presage a presidential run in 2020. Bloomberg documented his registration with an Instagram picture that included the following statement:

At key points in U.S. history, one of the two parties has served as a bulwark against those who threaten our Constitution. Two years ago at the Democratic Convention, I warned of those threats. Today, I have re-registered as a Democrat—I had been a member for most of my life—because we need Democrats to provide the checks and balance our nation so badly needs.

I actually laughed when I read the statement. The very idea that Bloomberg is a protector of our constitutional rights is comical. Bloomberg is the archetype of the "Nanny knows best" authoritarian who will happily deprive you of your rights and your freedoms in the name of protecting you. In Reason's 45th anniversary issue, we highlighted him as one of our "45 Enemies of Freedom."

How does Bloomberg hate your freedoms? Let us count the ways.

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Strip Club Staffers Arrested With Stormy Daniels Sue, Claiming Cops Lied As Republican Retaliation

Police initially said the arrests were part of "a long-term investigation into...human trafficking" and prostitution.

Ingram Publishing/NewscomIngram Publishing/NewscomOhio police spent $768 on strip club tickets, tips, and booze during a July sting that ended in the arrest of Stormy Daniels, the adult star who is suing the president and whose new memoir just reached the New York Times bestseller list. The undercover excursion could wind up costing cops a whole lot more than that.

The charges filed against Daniels and two other women arrested that night, Miranda Panda and Brittany Walters, were quickly dismissed. Now Panda and Walters have sued several Columbus police officers in federal court, arguing that the arrests were politically motivated.

As a result of this alleged conspiracy, Panda and Walters say, they suffered reputational harm and exposure to harassment. Someone painted the word whore across the door of Panda's home, for example, and reporters outed Walters as a stripper to her immediate family. The women are seeking at least $50,000 in compensatory and punitive damages, plus attorneys' fees.

The arrests took place on July 11 after undercover vice officers, including detectives Mary Praither, Shana Keckley, and Steven Rosser and Lieutenant Whitney Lancaster, spent several hours at Sirens Gentleman Club, where Daniels was making a guest appearance as part of a nationwide tour. That night, Panda was working her second-ever shift as a Sirens cocktail waitress and Walters was working as a dancer.

All three women were arrested for alleged violations of a contentious Columbus law regulating conduct at "sexually oriented businesses." Under the law, anyone who regularly appears nude or semi-nude at such establishments may not touch patrons or other workers.

The morning after the arrests, Columbus police tweeted a statement saying they were made "as part of a long-term investigation into allegations of human trafficking, prostitution, along with other vice related violations."

But lawyers for Panda and Walters say the cops went to Sirens that night not as part of some ongoing mission but with a specific and discrete plan to bust Daniels. When asked afterward about the alleged human trafficking and prostitution investigation, police produced one citizen complaint, made more than a month before the arrests, about possible prostitution taking place three and a half miles from Sirens Gentleman's Club, according to the lawsuit.

The night before the arrests, Keckley sent colleagues information about Daniels, her relationship with Trump, and her upcoming performance at Sirens. On the night of the performance, the lawsuit says, "Defendant Officers were drinking alcoholic beverages while on the job, spending a total of one-hundred and twenty-nine dollars ($129) of taxpayer money on such beverages, and six-hundred and thirty-nine dollars ($639) of taxpayer money on tips and cover charges." Here is how Panda's lawyers describe her interaction with the officers:

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Trump Fact-Checks Kanye West on the Foxconn Deal, but There's More West Might Want to Know

"We could bring Foxconn to set up a factory in, I think, Minnesota," West said of the manufacturing plant being built in Wisconsin.

President Trump, who honed the skill of silently sitting across from rambling celebrities during years of hosting NBC's The Apprentice, met with hip-hop artist Kanye West in the Oval Office today to discuss a variety of issues, ranging from the "male energy" of MAGA hats to West's idea of replacing Air Force One with a hydrogen-powered iPlane manufactured by Apple. Reason's Zuri Davis covered the meeting in more detail here.

One peculiar moment of many unfolded when West referred to Taiwanese manufacturing giant Foxconn in the context of bringing jobs back to America. "We can empower our industries," West said. "We can empower our factories. We can bring not only Adidas onshore. We could bring Foxconn to set up a factory in, I think, Minnesota." Trump quickly corrected West, pointing out that the Foxconn plant is being built in Wisconsin.

West can perhaps be forgiven for being vague on the project's details. A more embarrassing series of gaffes came out of the mouth of Wisconsin governor Scott Walker during a July 2017 press conference announcing the deal. As Reason previously reported, Walker repeatedly referred to the company as "Foxcom," mixed up millions with billions when projecting revenue, and at one point misidentified Sony as a key partner (the plant will manufacture Sharp LCD screens).

While broad pronouncements about bringing jobs back to America are understandably appealing to Trump supporters like West, the details are indeed important. Here are some of them: In exchange for a promised 13,000 jobs, Wisconsin has offered $4.5 billion in state and local subsidies and tax breaks, including more than 1,000 acres of free land. The local government obtained that land by issuing millions of dollars in bonds and seizing several family homes via eminent domain.

I covered the eminent domain battle in great detail in the video below. At the time it was produced, eminent domain was merely a threat. The government of Mt. Pleasant has now made good on that threat, obtaining several properties against the owners' will.

I encourage Kanye West, and anyone else hyping the Foxconn deal, to look a little closer. This video is a good place to start.

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President Trump and Kanye West Talk Prisons, Flyness, and Stop and Frisk

The pair discussed reforms at the White House.

|||Ron Sachs - CNP / MEGA / NewscomRon Sachs - CNP / MEGA / Newscom

President Trump and Kanye West met at the White House on Thursday. An earlier statement from White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the pair was scheduled to discuss topics such as prison reform, manufacturing jobs, jobs for former convicts, and reducing gun violence in Chicago, West's home city, over lunch.

Televised portions of the meeting gave viewers some insight on the discussion. Much of the time was spent on compliments between the two and West's much-talked about support for the president. At one point, West even told reporters that wearing his red Make America Great Again (MAGA) hat gave him a certain power.

When it seemed as though the remainder of the time would be spent this way, West's observations turned toward the prison system, manufacturing, and community relationships.

West said he spoke with advocates who believe that stop-and-frisk programs, in which police detain and pat down pedestrians without probable cause, harm relationships between city governments and residents. Trump supports the policy and recently praised it as a solution to gun violence in Chicago. Stop and frisk not only has proven more harmful than effective at reducing crime; it has been ruled unconstitutional.

The rapper asserted that because so many products are manufactured in China, many Americans seek alternative ways to make money, even those deemed illegal. Then they end up in American prisons, "the cheapest factory ever."

This is the second time West and Trump have met. In December 2016, West was one of the many faces to appear at Trump Tower in New York City for an audience with the president-elect. At the time, West explained in a series of tweets that the pair spoke about "multicultural issues" and "bullying, supporting teachers, modernizing curriculums, and violence in Chicago."

West's wife, reality TV star Kim Kardashian West, met with Trump in May to ask him to grant clemency to Alice Marie Johnson, a woman who was sentenced in the 1990s to life without the possibility of parole for a nonviolent drug offense. Weeks after their meeting, Trump commuted Johnson's sentence. When asked how she felt about her husband's meeting with Trump today, Kardashian West said she was "proud."

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Washington State Supreme Court Strikes Down Death Penalty

According to the court, "The death penalty is invalid because it is imposed in an arbitrary and racially biased manner."

TCJD/ MEGA / NewscomTCJD/ MEGA / NewscomThe Supreme Court of Washington struck down the state's death penalty law today, ruling that the it violates the state constitution "because it is imposed in an arbitrary and racially biased manner."

"The underlying issues that underpin our holding are rooted in the arbitrary manner in which the death penalty is generally administered," the court said. "As noted by appellant, the use of the death penalty is unequally applied—sometimes by where the crime took place, or the county of residence, or the available budgetary resources at any given point in time, or the race of the defendant. The death penalty, as administered in our state, fails to serve any legitimate penological goal; thus, it violates [...] our state constitution."

The ruling came in the case of Allen Gregory, who was sentenced to death in 2001 for first-degree murder and three counts of first-degree rape. In 2006, the Washington Supreme Court reversed his death sentence due to prosecutor misconduct during closing arguments; it also reversed his rape convictions. At resentencing, a new jury again sentenced Gregory to death. The state dismissed the rape charges and dropped its attempt at a retrial.

Today's ruling relies extensively on a 2014 report by two University of Washington sociologists, the first to comprehensively study the application of the death penalty in Washington. The report found that black defendants were four-and-a-half times more likely to be sentenced to death than similarly situated white defendants.

The report found significant county-by-county variation in decisions to seek or impose the death penalty. The differences were partly a function of each county's black population and could not be explained by differences in population density or political orientation.

"We have been researching this issue for more than five years, and the evidence is clear and compelling that black defendants are far more likely to be sentenced to death than other similarly situated defendants in Washington's capital cases," UW sociology professor Katherine Beckett, one of the study's authors, says in an email. "We are gratified that the Court has recognized the strength of this evidence and the importance of ensuring equality under the law."

In a concurring opinion, Associate Chief Justice Charles W. Johnson noted the increasing concentration of death penalty sentences in a small cluster of counties. Since 1981, despite approximately 300 aggravated murder convictions, prosecutors have sought the death sentence in only about 80 cases. A jury imposed the death penalty in about 30 of those cases. The death sentences were overturned in 19 cases, and only five executions were actually carried out. Thus, Johnson says, whether a defendant is executed largely depends on where he is tried, not the crime he committed.

"Based on a current review of the administration and processing of capital cases in this state, what is proved is obvious," Johnson wrote. "A death sentence has become more randomly and arbitrarily sought and imposed, and fraught with uncertainty and unreliability, and it fails state constitutional examination."

Washington's current governor, Jay Inslee, declared a moratorium on the death penalty in 2014. The state has not carried out an execution since 2010, and no death sentence has been imposed since 2011. In a statement to the Bellingham Herald, Inslee called the ruling "a hugely important moment in our pursuit for equal and fair application of justice."

As the Washington Supreme Court noted, this is the fourth time that Washington's death penalty law has been declared unconstitutional. Washington is now the 20th state in the country to outlaw the death penalty, and the third where a supreme court has struck it down on grounds of racial bias.

In a press release, the American Civil Liberties Union, which filed an amicus brief on behalf of Gregory, also applauded the court decision. "Racial bias, conscious or unconscious, plays a role in the death penalty decisions across America, influencing who faces this ultimate punishment, who sits on the jury, what kind of victim impact and mitigation evidence is used, and who is given life or death," said Jeff Robinson, director of the ACLU's Trone Center for Justice. "That disparity can be described by many words—but justice is not one of them. Washington's Supreme Court showed courage in refusing to allow racism to infect life and death decisions. Let's hope that courage is contagious."

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The Supreme Court Will Hear Two Big Criminal Justice Cases Later This Year

The Court could strike a major blow for civil asset forfeiture reforms in the states and finally do away with an awful double jeopardy loophole.

World History Archive/NewscomWorld History Archive/NewscomLater this year, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in two important criminal justice cases with the potential to limit abuses of civil asset forfeiture and close a loophole in the constitutional prohibition of double jeopardy. Here are the important details.

Timbs (and a 2012 Land Rover) v. Indiana

Oral argument: November 28

What's at stake: Does the Eighth Amendment's prohibition against "excessive fines" apply to the states as well as the federal government?

The story: Tyson Timbs was arrested in 2015 after selling heroin to undercover police officers. He pleaded guilty to one count of dealing a controlled substance and one count of conspiracy to commit theft, and he was sentenced to one year of house arrest followed by five years of probation. He was also required to pay investigatory fees and court courts. On top of that, the state of Indiana seized his 2012 Land Rover—which he had purchased with money received from his late father's life insurance payout, not with the proceeds of drug sales—on the ground that it had been used to commit a crime.

Timbs appealed the forfeiture of his vehicle, arguing that he was already being punished for his crime and that seizing the truck, valued at $40,000, violated the Eighth Amendment's ban on excessive fines. An appeals court found that the forfeiture of the Land Rover was "grossly disproportional" because it amounted to a penalty "approximately four times the maximum monetary fine" for the crimes Timbs had committed. The Indiana Supreme Court overturned that decision on the ground that the ban on excessive fines does not apply to the states.

Legal background: The Supreme Court has a long track record of ruling that limits imposed by the Bill of Rights on the federal government also apply to the states via the 14th Amendment's Due Process Clause. In 1962, for example, the Court ruled that the Eighth Amendment's ban on cruel and unusual punishment applies to the states, and in 2015 it reached the same conclusion regarding the amendment's ban on excessive bail. But the Court has never explicitly stated that states are constrained by the amendment's prohibition of excessive fines.

Why it matters: A decision applying the Excessive Fines Clause to the states would make it far easier to challenge unreasonable fines and fees, including not just forfeiture but cases where local governments hit homeowners with massive civil penalties for offenses such as unapproved paint jobs or Halloween decorations.

The fact that some local governments use fines and fees as a means to raise revenue has created a perverse incentive to target residents. After the 2014 shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, a federal investigation into the city government found that 20 percent of its general fund came from criminal fines. And Ferguson is not alone in relying heavily on revenue from fines. A victory for Timbs would be an important step toward curbing this sort of abuse.

Gamble v. U.S.

Oral argument: December 5

What's at stake: Should the "separate sovereigns" loophole in the Fifth Amendment be closed? In other words, does getting convicted of the same crime by the state and the feds count as a violation of the amendment's ban on double jeopardy?

The story: Terrance Martez Gamble was convicted of second-degree robbery in 2008. As a result of that conviction, he was prohibited from owning a firearm under both state and federal law.

In 2015, Gamble was stopped by the cops, who found a handgun in his car. He was convicted of unlawfully possessing a firearm by both the state of Alabama and the federal government. He will not be released from prison until February 2020—three years later than if he had been convicted only at the state level. Gamble appealed his federal conviction on the ground that he was being punished twice for the same crime, which the Fifth Amendment explicitly forbids.

Legal background: Unfortunately for Gamble, the Supreme Court has ruled that the same behavior can be punished under both state and federal law without violating the ban on double jeopardy because the state and the federal government are two distinct "sovereigns." This "dual sovereignty" doctrine has a dubious history. It first arose in an 1852 case (Moore v. Illinois) dealing with fugitive slaves and was confirmed in a Prohibition era case (U.S. v. Lanza).

Why it matters: The federalization of many crimes in recent decades means there is now significant overlap between state and federal offenses, creating more opportunities for multiple convictions based on the same actions. That redundancy seems to conflict with the intent of the Double Jeopardy Clause and makes it harder for states and the federal government to set appropriate penalties, since neither knows when the other will seek an additional conviction. A victory for Gamble could mean tossing out a longstanding but poorly conceived precedent (or at least limiting its use), protecting defendants from serial prosecutions for the same crime.

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Hillary Clinton Says Democrats Can't Be Civil Until They're Back in Power

According to the former Democratic presidential nominee, "you cannot be civil with a political party that wants to destroy what you stand for."

CNNCNNDonald Trump seems to think civility is for losers. The candidate he defeated in the 2016 presidential election, by contrast, argues that civility is for winners.

"I would love to see us return to civility," Hillary Clinton told CNN's Christiane Amanpour on Tuesday. Unfortunately, she added, that won't be possible until the Democrats return to power. "You cannot be civil with a political party that wants to destroy what you stand for, what you care about," she said. "That's why I believe, if we are fortunate enough to win back the House and/or the Senate, that's when civility can start again."

The problem, Clinton explained, is that Republicans in Congress have abused their power and treated Democrats shabbily, which is something Democrats would never do to Republicans. Unlike the Democrats, you see, the Republicans are "an ideological party that is driven by the lust for power." Trump may be comically lacking in self-awareness, but Clinton gives him a run for his money in her own drearily self-righteous way.

Clinton's comments drew a rebuke from Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.). "That's ridiculous," she told CNN's Anderson Cooper on Tuesday evening. "I can't imagine how you get anything done if you don't bring civility back into politics, and that goes for both sides." Maybe Heitkamp is just a nicer person than Clinton, but I suspect her evenhandedness has something to do with the fact that she is up for re-election in a state that went for Trump by a margin of more than 2 to 1.

If incivility prevents Congress from getting things done, that may count in its favor, since most of what Congress does—especially when it attracts broad, bipartisan support—is either not worth doing or positively pernicious. Then again, there is a case to be made that some worthwhile projects, such as spending cuts and entitlement reform, can be accomplished only with a certain amount of interparty trust.

But the case for civility goes beyond getting bills passed. Treating political opponents as mortal enemies is a recipe for constant rancor and strife. It invites people to view themselves as morally superior, to abandon principle when it benefits the other side, and to automatically dismiss ideas espoused by members of the wrong tribe. Ultimately, if people take seriously the idea that everything they care about is on the line, it invites violence.

Clinton's idea of civility—the grace that good people with power deign to grant their defeated and benighted opponents—reminds me of Nira Cain-N'Degeocello, the smug Sacha Baron Cohen character who sees his mission as "listening respectfully, without prejudice, to Republicans, with the hope of changing their racist and childish views." But when she says "you cannot be civil with a political party that wants to destroy what you stand for," she demonstrates an even more disturbing failure of empathy, since she denies the possibility that people may sincerely disagree with her for what they take to be good reasons and may therefore think she is trying to destroy what they stand for. If civility is out of the question in that situation, peaceful and rational debate is impossible.

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NYPD Cop Caught on Video Punching, Tasing 85-Pound Man With Health Problems

It's pretty obvious that the 4'8" William Colon didn't pose a serious threat to any of the 8 cops on-scene.

YouTube Screenshot via Staten Island AdvanceYouTube Screenshot via Staten Island Advance

Newly released cellphone video shows a New York Police Department (NYPD) officer punching and tasing an 85-pound man with health issues.

In the video, it's obvious that 24-year-old William Colon does not want to be arrested. But it's hard to believe that the 4'8" man posed a serious threat to the cops who had entered his Staten Island apartment. Making matters worse, there seems to be a good chance Colon didn't do anything wrong in the first place.

The incident in question occurred on September 28—Colon's birthday. Colon told the New York Daily News he had been arguing with his girlfriend of 4 years, Lissette Torres, over some birthday gifts she gave him. A neighbor heard the argument and called 911, but by the time police arrived, Colon's brother Jazz had walked Torres out.

Cellphone video taken by Jazz and released by the Legal Aid Society, which is representing Colon, shows what happened next:

Several police officers can be seen entering the apartment, despite both brothers' protests. One of the officers pushes Colon onto a bed and attempts to restrain him, even as Jazz warns that his brother has "medical issues." Colon, for his part, repeatedly claims he "didn't do nothing."

At one point, the officer pulls out his Taser, prompting Jazz to say that "if you tase him, he will get hurt." Jazz tells his brother to "put your hands behind your back," but Colon won't comply, instead saying again that he "didn't do nothing."

Several officers are finally able to restrain Colon and hold his hands behind his back. But as Colon is pinned facedown on the bed, the officer who had previously pulled out the Taser starts punching him. The cop, who the Legal Aid Center identified as Vincenzo Trabolse, then tases Colon.

Colon says his health issues made the experience even worse. According to the Daily News:

Colon is afflicted with a range of health issues that he claims have made him frail. He says he has Mauriac Syndrome, an illness related to diabetes that causes dwarfism. He is also asthmatic, has curvature of the spine and has an intestinal disorder.

"When they tased me, my blood sugar skyrocketed," Colon told the newspaper. "I was very nauseous and pale and vomiting. They thought I was going to go into a diabetic coma. I had to go for X-rays. My body was sore and bruised."

A police official, however, said a scratch on the shoulder was the only real physical injury Colon suffered. "The majority of the time he was in the hospital was for psychiatric observation because he had a history [of psychiatric issues]," the official told the Daily News. "We have eight body-worn camera videos which support our report."

The Staten Island District Attorney's Office said in a statement to Patch that Colon had called one of the officers a "pig" and a "p---y." Both the district attorney's office and the NYPD said they will investigate the officers' conduct.

Colon, meanwhile, has been charged with assault and resisting arrest. Torres "suffered clear and obvious injuries to her face," a spokesperson for the district attorney told WPIX. According to a criminal complaint, Colon punched her in the face.

But that's not what happened, says Colon. His lawyers told the Daily News that Torres fell while she was leaving the apartment.

And Torres herself denies that Colon hit her. "She stated to me that Mr. Colon did not hit her, and she did not call the police," her lawyer, Lou Gelormino, told WNBC.

According to Gelormino, that's not what the cops wanted to hear. "She further stated that she was taken to the police station under the false pretense that they were going to drive her home," Gelormino said. "When she got to the station the police threatened to charge her with various crimes unless she made a statement attesting to the fact that Mr. Colon hit her and then said the police officers told her exactly what to write."

Obviously, all the facts have yet to come out. But the conduct of the officers, particularly Trabolse, is troubling. For one thing, Colon clearly didn't pose a threat to the eight officers in the room. Punching and tasing him was almost certainly unnecessary, especially after the cops had been warned about his medical problems. And even if Colon insulted the officers, that doesn't justify violence. Hurting him because he insulted police officers is a form of extrajudicial punishment, which cops are not and should not be authorized to carry out.

Hopefully, internal affairs will also look into officers' interactions with Torres. If what her lawyer says is true, then the cops tried to force her to lie, possibly so their treatment of Colon would appear justified.

It's worth noting that the NYPD doesn't exactly have a great track record when it comes to treating innocent people like criminals. Consider the officers who raided the wrong house and arrested the family inside (before posting pictures of the raid to Snapchat), as well as the Coney Island cop who assaulted a man over a dropped drink.

The NYPD needs to build trust within the community. Incidents like these don't help.

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The $15 Minimum Wage Is Turning Hard Workers Into Black Market Lawbreakers: New at Reason

An in-depth look at New York's car wash industry, and the real world consequences of politicians interfering with a complex industry they don’t understand.

On March 4, 2015, a group of union leaders, activists, and elected officials were arrested for blocking traffic during a protest in front of a Vegas Auto Spa, a small car wash in Park Slope, Brooklyn. Chanting "No contract, no peace!" and "Si se puede!," they had come in support of striking workers, who had walked out demanding a union contract after allegedly being subjected to dismal working conditions.

For David Mertz, the New York City director and a vice president at the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU), it was an inspirational moment in an ambitious six-year campaign to unionize the city's car washes industry.

"These workers were willing to stand out there during one of the coldest winters...literally in decades to fight for their rights and for basic human dignity," says Mertz, who was also arrested that day. "You have the ability to make change by coming together, and when you do that sometimes you find that you've got some friends on your side."

In the past six years, the car wash industry, which employs low-skilled, mostly immigrant workers, has also been the target of lawsuits for alleged underpayment of wages, including a handful of cases spearheaded by the New York State Attorney General's office. Working conditions in the industry were also cited as a raison d'être in the successful campaign to raise the state minimum wage to $15 per hour, which takes full effect at New York City car washes in January of 2019.

As Reason chronicled in a feature story in our July 2016 issue, the real world impact of the unionization drive, the lawsuits, and the $15 minimum wage has been mainly to push car washes to automate and to close down.

Two years later, there are more unintended consequences. The $15 minimum wage is fostering a growing black market—workers increasingly have no choice but to ply their trade out of illegal vans parked on the street, because the minimum wage has made it illegal for anyone to hire them at the market rate.

The minimum wage is also cartelizing the industry: Businesses that have chosen to automate are benefiting from the $15 wage floor because outlawing cheap labor makes it harder for new competitors to undercut them on price and service.

As a sequel to the 2016 article, this video takes an in-depth look at the real world consequences that result when politicians interfere with a complex industry they don't understand, enabled by media coverage that rarely questions the overly simplistic tale of exploited workers in need of protection.

Click here for full text and downloadable versions.

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Study: 80% of Americans Believe Political Correctness Is a Problem

"Most members of the ‘exhausted majority,’ and then some, dislike political correctness."

DTMartin H. Simon - CNP / MEGA / NewscomExcept among a tiny minority of far-left Americans, political correctness (P.C.) is deeply unpopular. Some 80 percent of people said they viewed P.C. excess as a problem.

That's according to a fascinating survey conducted by More in Common, an international research initiative. The researchers asked respondents dozens of questions about race, immigration, sexism, free speech, and other hot button issues, and then sorted them into seven different categories: progressive activists, traditional liberals, passive liberals, the apathetic, moderates, traditional conservatives, and devoted conservatives. The two conservative categories constituted 25 percent of the total; the progressives, just 8 percent.

Everyone else, according to the researchers, form an "exhausted majority" whose views are not so different from one another, even across racial and gender lines.

"Most members of the 'exhausted majority,' and then some, dislike political correctness," wrote The Atlantic's Yascha Mounk in a terrific write-up of the survey. "Among the general population, a full 80 percent believe that 'political correctness is a problem in our country.' Even young people are uncomfortable with it, including 74 percent ages 24 to 29, and 79 percent under age 24. On this particular issue, the woke are in a clear minority across all ages."

"Youth isn't a good proxy for support of political correctness—and it turns out race isn't, either," Mounk observes.

The best proxies are education level and income: the most highly educated Americans are more likely to think hate speech is a big problem, but political correctness is not.

I've written several articles for Reason about political correctness and the extent to which a backlash against it may have helped Donald Trump win the presidency. Voters who cited political correctness as a top issue were particularly smitten with the tell-it-like-it-is candidate, and being angry about PC-run-amok was a top indicator of whether a person voted Republican in 2016. Tons of people who wrote to me about political correctness said they voted for Trump specifically because they feel the language is moving away from them too quickly—that everyone is always offended all of the time, and the humble Trump voter simply doesn't know what to say in order to survive in our newly woke culture.

It's always tempting to make too much of this, because many of the people who were most upset about political correctness were probably going to vote for the Republican candidate regardless. But More in Common's findings add credence to my sense that downplaying the concerns of the anti-PC supermajority is a bad campaign strategy for any would-be Trump challenger. "Progressive activists" have a lot of cultural cachet, but there just aren't very many of them. As Mounk put it:

The gap between the progressive perception and the reality of public views on this issue could do damage to the institutions that the woke elite collectively run. A publication whose editors think they represent the views of a majority of Americans when they actually speak to a small minority of the country may eventually see its influence wane and its readership decline. And a political candidate who believes she is speaking for half of the population when she is actually voicing the opinions of one-fifth is likely to lose the next election.

In a democracy, it is difficult to win fellow citizens over to your own side, or to build public support to remedy injustices that remain all too real, when you fundamentally misunderstand how they see the world.

Take a look at the full survey here.

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How Big of a Deal Is an Extra Half Degree of Global Warming?

New report declares world must be off fossil fuels entirely by 2050.

IPCCHalfDegreeIPCCEarlier this week the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issued its special report: Global Warming of 1.5 °C. The alarmed reaction of United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres was typical. "This report by the world's leading climate scientists is an ear-splitting wake-up call to the world," said Guterres in a statement. It confirms that climate change is running faster than we are—and we are running out of time."

Under the Paris Climate Agreement reached in 2015, the nations of the world committed to the goal of "holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, recognizing that this would significantly reduce the risks and impacts of climate change." In order to achieve this goal, the IPCC report concludes that humanity must cut greenhouse gas emissions—chiefly carbon dioxide emitted by the burning of fossil fuels—in half by 2030, and reach net zero emissions by 2050.

In evaluating the report, let's discuss global temperature trends, extreme weather trends, energy technology transitions, and money.

The new report finds that the observed global mean surface temperature trend has increased by about 0.87°C above the average during the 1850–1900 period. The report then estimates that anthropogenic global warming is currently increasing at 0.2°C (likely between 0.1°C and 0.3°C) per decade due to past and ongoing emissions. That rate implies that average global temperatures will reach the 1.5°C threshold by around 2050.

The IPCC report relies upon six long-term surface temperature datasets to come up with the 0.2°C per decade rate of increase. Interestingly, the report does not cite the two global temperature datasets derived from satellites: the University of Alabama in Huntsville reports that global average temperatures are rising at a rate of 0.13°C per decade, and Remote Sensing Systems reports the rate of increase at 0.18°C per decade. At the UAH rate of warming, the 1.5°C threshold would not be exceeded until around 2070. (Note in passing, recent research suggests that without anthropogenic warming, the planet would already be headed well down the path toward a new ice age.)

The IPCC report argues that limiting future temperature increase to 1.5°C is urgent because the "temperature rise to date has already resulted in profound alterations to human and natural systems, bringing increases in some types of extreme weather, droughts, floods, sea level rise and biodiversity loss, and causing unprecedented risks to vulnerable persons and populations."

Given that it is generally agreed that the world has warmed over the past century, it is not surprising that the frequency of heat waves is up. University of Colorado Roger Pielke, Jr., offers a succinct roundup of the new report's rather modest assertions about global trends in other types of extreme weather. For example, the new report acknowledges that the IPCC's earlier Fifth Assessment Report (AR5), released in 2014, noted that "there was low confidence in the sign of drought trends since 1950 at global scale" and that "the recent literature does not suggest a necessary revision of this assessment."

The new report further notes that global "streamflow trends are mostly non-statistically significant" and confirms the AR5's finding that "there is low confidence due to limited evidence … that anthropogenic climate change has affected the frequency and the magnitude of floods." What about hurricanes and typhoons? "Numerous studies towards and beyond AR5 have reported a decreasing trend in the global number of tropical cyclones and/or the globally accumulated cyclonic energy," the new report says. In fact, the 40-year trend in accumulated cyclonic energy (roughly, the amount of energy released by all tropical cyclones each year) is downward. Noting the proliferation of contradictory studies, the report also observes that there is low confidence in the studies reporting increasing trends in the global number of very intense cyclones.

Melting ice from the polar regions and mountain glaciers is expected to boost the rate of sea level rise increasing the risks of coastal flooding. A recent study evaluating 25 years of satellite altimeter data suggested that sea rise has been accelerating. If such acceleration is sustained, sea level will rise about 25 inches instead of 12 inches by 2100.

Although climate change is projected to become a significant factor in species extinction, a recent study found that most extinctions to date are the result of habitat loss, introduced species, and hunting. Climate change might well pose unprecedented risks to vulnerable populations in the future, but the fact is that the chance of dying from a natural disaster including extreme weather has fallen by more than 90 percent since the 1920s.

On to money and technology. The IPCC report finds that the only way keep the planet from warming more than 1.5°C is to totally replace by 2050 all fossil fuel energy by building lots of wind and solar power generation and vastly improving energy efficiency. The IPCC report gives short shrift to the one low-carbon energy technology that could technically be deployed with fair rapidity: nuclear power.

The report does acknowledge that France took just 25 years to deploy enough nuclear power plants to generate 80 percent of its electricity.

The report then, however, goes on to observe that "[t]he current deployment pace of nuclear energy is constrained by social acceptability in many countries due to concerns over risks of accidents and radioactive waste management." This is obtuse. If environmental activists who are now worried about man-made global warming hadn't spent decades irrationally demonizing nuclear power, the world would already have been well on the way toward relative energy decarbonization. The report does at least also note that for nuclear power "comparative risk assessment shows health risks are low per unit of electricity production." Please take note, environmental activists.

So what, according the IPCC report, will it cost to transition from fossil fuels to wind and solar? "Global model pathways limiting global warming to 1.5°C are projected to involve the annual average investment needs in the energy system of around $2.4 trillion [in 2010 U.S. dollars] between 2016 and 2035 representing about 2.5% of the world GDP," states the report. For comparison, the International Energy Agency recently observed that "total energy investment worldwide in 2016 was just over $1.7 trillion, accounting for 2.2 percent of global GDP." Of that, only $297 billion was spent on renewable energy sources.

So how much economic damage will pursuing the IPCC's fast transition to a no-carbon energy system spare us? The report asserts that if no policies aimed specifically at reducing carbon dioxide emissions are adopted, then average global temperature is projected to rise by 3.66°C by 2100, resulting in global GDP loss of 2.6 percent from what it would otherwise have been. Comparatively speaking, in the 2°C and 1.5°C scenarios, global GDP would only be reduced by 0.5 percent or 0.3 percent respectively.

Concretely, the global GDP of $80 trillion, growing at 3 percent annually, would rise to $903 trillion by 2100. A 2.6 percent reduction means that it would only be $880 trillion by 2100. A 0.3 percent decrease implies a loss of $2.7 trillion resulting in a global GDP of $900 trillion. Note that the IPCC is recommending that the world spend between now and 2035 more than $45 trillion in order to endow $2.7 trillion more in annual income on people living three generations hence. Assuming the worst case loss of 2.6 percent of GDP in world with a population of 10 billion that would mean that they would have to scrape by on an average income of just $88,000 per year (the average global GDP per capita now is $10,500.)

There is no denying that man-made global warming could become a significant problem for humanity over the course of this century. In addition, the projections of the climate and econometric models could be way underestimated. Consequently, hedge fund manager Bob Litterman sensibly argues that climate change is an undiversifiable risk that would command a higher risk premium. Litterman likens climate change risk to the systemic risk that investors face in the stock market. It is hard to hedge when unknown unknowns can cause the prices of all assets to decline at once. While Litterman's analysis strongly suggests that some investments toward mitigating climate risk should be made, it is not unreasonable to question the expensive and rushed decarbonization schemes proposed in the IPCC report.

In any case, given that all national commitments to address climate change are voluntary under the Paris Agreement, it seems unlikely that many (any?) of its signatories will accede to the IPCC's steep and expensive decarbonization recommendations.

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First Man Is an Intimate, Epic Movie About Death, Risk, Ambition, and Space Exploration

It’s a reminder that space exploration is anything but safe.

First Man/Universal PicturesFirst Man/Universal PicturesHistory likes to remember the moonshot in mystical terms, as a matter of national will and individual courage, a triumph of the human spirit and American character. It was all of those things—or at least it has become them in retrospect. But many of those involved with the project at the time viewed it on more practical terms, as a complex engineering challenge: How do you lift human beings out of Earth's gravity well, land them on a big rock orbiting the planet 240,000 miles away, and then return them safely?

The answer, it turned out, was to strap a tin can to a rocket, blow it up, connect with a yet another tin can already orbiting in space—and hope everything works out. Which it very well might not.

No one knew this better than Neil Armstrong, the first human to set foot on the surface of the moon, and the subject of Damien Chazelle's intimate, majestic new film, First Man. The movie is a deeply moving, painstakingly detailed, and altogether wondrous reminder that the first voyage to the moon was a feat of brilliant but essentially low-tech engineering where the downside outcome was certain death.

Chazelle captures Armstrong's journey and the years leading up to it with a rough and remarkable physicality, from the sound design, which emphasizes the groaning, rickety construction of early space vessels, to the claustrophobic close-ups and perspective shots that, more than any film I've ever seen, offer a tactile sense of what it was like to be stuffed into a tiny cockpit, spinning out of control, surrounded by inscrutable analog dials, desperately trying to coax an unwilling machine into going where you want while keeping you alive.

The film creates this sensation partly through a series of bravura flight sequences, all of which are shot primarily from the pilot's perspective, and partly through the accumulation of small details—a fly on a flight panel just before takeoff, a mission-tech calling for a Swiss army knife to "fix" a malfunctioning cockpit component minutes before blastoff. First Man never lets you forget that humans traveled to space in objects—objects that were constructed by other humans, sometimes imperfectly. Even when they worked, they offered little more than a thin barrier between the humans inside and the cold abyss beyond.

Chazelle, for his part, treats the film as a kind of cinematic engineering challenge: He shot the film with no green screen and minimal computer generated imagery; some of the rocket launch sequences use historical footage; the bulk of the movie was shot on 16mm film, giving it a period-appropriate grit, texture, and intimacy; the finale was shot in IMAX 70mm, which gives the moon landing a vast and mysterious grandeur, allowing the film, in some of its best moments, to dwell on the black and empty depths of outer space. (In this he follows closely in the footsteps of director Christopher Nolan, whose insistence on practical effects work and large-format photography has helped spark a backlash against filmmaking that relies too heavily on computer-generated imagery.)

The result is a film that offers such a tangible, material sense of all the stuff humans built and used for the moon landing that it almost seems to have physical weight. It's a audio-visual experience, but I remember it almost like something I could reach out and touch.

Yet for all its hard-headed realism, its emphasis on the machinery of spaceflight, First Man is not an unfeeling or inhuman film. Quite the opposite.

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Jamal Khashoggi Disappearance Doesn't Seem to Faze White House: Reason Roundup

Plus: Kavanaugh and Gorsuch differ during immigration case.

Stopping arms sales to Saudis would be a "very tough pill to swallow for our country" says Trump. Evidence suggests that Mohammed bin Salman, a recent darling of the D.C. foreign policy crowd and the young crown prince of Saudi Arabia, ordered the capture of Jamal Khashoggi, a self-exiled Saudi writer and regular Washington Post contributor, who went missing in Turkey. Cameras outside the Saudi consulate in Instanbul show Khashoggi arriving there on October 2, but do not show him leaving.

Before he went missing, U.S. intelligence agents "intercepted communications of Saudi officials discussing a plan to capture him," the Post reported yesterday. Since Khashoggi's disappearance, "Turkey's government says it has seen no evidence supporting the Saudi claim that Khashoggi ever left the consulate alive."

The U.S. and many other countries generally ignore what the Saudi government does to Saudi Arabians while they're in Saudi Arabia. But the Saudi government possibly abducting and harming a dissident writer living in Istanbul is a different thing altogether. This move could rile Turkish authorities, sour Saudi ties with allies outside the Middle East, and shift relations with some neighbors.

"Confirmation of any state-sponsored violence against Khashoggi would make it even harder for Saudi leadership to portray Iran as the ultimate villain of the region," writes Maysam Behravesh at Reuters. It would also "increase international pressure on the Trump administration, which has thrown its weight behind the young prince to execute his so-called reforms and helped set the stage for his ascension to the throne," as well as "backed the controversial Saudi-led intervention in Yemen with advanced weapons and political cover in international institutions." As Behravesh notes,

An airstrike by the Saudi-led coalition on a school bus in north Yemen left 40 children and 11 adults dead on August 9 and wounded 79 others, 56 of them children. CNN later reported that the weapon used in the deadly attack was a 500-pound laser-guided bomb made by Lockheed Martin and supplied by the United States.

Khashoggi had been critical of Prince Mohammed and Saudi-led actions in Yemen. "He lamented that Saudi Arabia's repression was becoming unbearable to the point of his decision to leave the country and live in exile in Washington," his editor at the Post, Karen Attiah, wrote yesterday.

Like way too many in U.S. politics, "Trump's foreign policy toward Saudi Arabia is compromised by deep financial conflicts of interest," points out Post contributor Brian Klaas.

In 1991, when Trump was $900 million in debt, he was bailed out by a member of the Saudi royal family, who purchased his 281-foot yacht, Trump Princess. Trump's other princess, Ivanka, is married to Jared Kushner, who has deep ties to the crown prince. In 2015, when asked about his relationship with the Saudis, Trump said: "I get along great with all of them. They buy apartments from me. They spend $40 million, $50 million. Am I supposed to dislike them? I like them very much."

Asked yesterday about cutting of arms sales to Saudi Arabia, President Trump told Fox News' Shannon Bream that "what we are doing with our defense systems" meant "everybody is wanting them and, frankly, I think that would be a very, very tough pill to swallow for our country." Asked about Khaskoggi's disappearance on Monday, he had told White House reporters:

I am concerned about that. I don't like hearing about it and hopefully that will sort itself out. Right now, nobody knows anything about it.

FREE MARKETS

Greetings from D.C.

FOLLOW-UP

Kavanaugh and Gorsuch differ during Wednesday immigration arguments.

Read more on the immigrant detention case and gun-crime cases argued before SCOTUS in Tuesday's Roundup.

QUICK HITS

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Think Your State Is Fiscally Sound? Think Again: New at Reason

Tallent Show / Foter.comTallent Show / Foter.comIt's that time of the year again when we find out how deep in the red our country is thanks to the 2018 edition of the Mercatus Center State Fiscal Rankings. The study authors, Eileen Norcross and Olivia Gonzalez, find that when you rank states by their fiscal health, you can identify the best and worst state. But the scariest finding, observes Veronique de Rugy, is that no state is really fiscally healthy.

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Publicly Traded Companies Are Still Private Property: New at Reason

No matter what California legislators or Elizabeth Warren think

Cheryl Gerber/ZUMA Press/NewscomCheryl Gerber/ZUMA Press/NewscomThe first week of September saw the heads of tech companies hauled to Capitol Hill yet again to explain themselves to a bunch of grumpy senators. Whenever this happens, the hearing inevitably begins with hours of bloviation about "the public interest" before someone raises the idea that social media sites should be treated "like public utilities." Rep. Steve King (R–Iowa) is a big fan of this line of questioning, raising it in the previous go-round with Google in July: "What about converting the large behemoth organizations that we're talking about here into public utilities?"

The notion that Twitter or Google are as vital to American citizens as water and electricity—and therefore must be subject to a much higher level of government scrutiny and regulation, or perhaps even government ownership—is misbegotten on several fronts. But at the root of the whole debate is a conflation of different definitions of the word public, writes Katherine Mangu-Ward.

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Making Amends for Korematsu: New at Reason

The current Supreme Court undoes a wrong from a past one.

Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty ImagesMandel Ngan/AFP/Getty ImagesIf there is a silver lining to the Supreme Court's summer ruling in Trump v. Hawaii, which upheld President Donald Trump's ban on travel from predominantly Muslim countries, it's that the Court finally denounced its own error in Korematsu v. United States. That 1944 ruling validated Franklin Delano Roosevelt's order to relocate and imprison 120,000 Japanese Americans and Japanese immigrants during World War II. It has been a blight on the Supreme Court's record ever since, writes Mike Riggs in the latest issue of Reason.

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Brickbat: Don't Put Shetland in a Box

ShetlandMarc-andré Le Tourneux / Dreamstime.comA new Scottish law bars government agencies from putting the Shetland Islands in a box on maps. The islands are about 150 miles from the Scottish mainland. Mapmakers say putting the islands in a box allow them to create maps that don't waste space representing water. Shetland residents complain the practice minimizes the difficulties they face living so far from the mainland.

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Cops Stop Teen for Suspected 'Truancy,' End Up Pepper-Spraying Him

"He did absolutely nothing wrong," one witness said.

Facebook Screenshot via Shiba TynesFacebook Screenshot via Shiba TynesVirginia police are investigating the conduct of two officers after a 16-year-old boy was pepper-sprayed and arrested this week. While police claim the officers thought he might be skipping school, the teen's family and a witness who saw the entire encounter say he did nothing wrong.

The Norfolk Police Department said in a statement that two officers saw the teen "walking in the roadway" at about 12:50 p.m. on Monday. "The officers stopped the 16-year-old under the suspicion of truancy, not being in school during school hours," the statement said, adding that at some point, "one of the officers utilized" pepper spray. The incident is now under investigation, while the "officers involved," who the department has not identified, "remain on duty."

Michael Muhammad, a non-attorney spokesperson for the boy's family, detailed what happened from the perspective of "Tariq," whose last name was not provided.

Having received permission from both his mother and Granby High School, Tariq went home early on Monday, Muhammad tells Reason. Tariq travelled part of the way on public transit, then got off and started walking, at which point a "police car pulled up beside him," Muhammad says. The officers said something to him, but Tariq ignored them. "Young Tariq did not feel as if he had to respond and so he didn't within his constitutional rights," Muhammad adds, explaining that this "is the posture that he developed from interactions with the police in his community."

Tariq kept walking. Then, "one of the officers got out of the car and put his hands on him," Muhammad says. But Tariq still wasn't interested in engaging. "I don't have to talk to you all," he told the cop, according to Muhammad. The other officer got out of the car and "maced him," Muhammad says.

Larry Ricks, a market analyst who works in the area, told The Virginian-Pilot he witnessed the whole incident. "[Tariq] did absolutely nothing wrong," Ricks said.

Several videos posted to social media show what happened after Tariq was pepper-sprayed. In one video, the officers, both of whom are white, try to untangle Tariq's backpack as his hands are behind his back. "All I seen was a young man walking across the street looking like he was coming from school," a woman says in the video. "What did he do for them to do all this to him?"

In another video, the officers are holding Tariq up against the police car as they search him. Tariq tells the officers that they're "pulling me to the ground." He asks: "How am I supposed to stand up straight if you got pressure on me?"

As Tariq was being arrested, Ricks spoke with one of the officers in an effort to figure out what the teen had done wrong. The Pilot reports:

[The officer] offered different explanations for stopping the teen. At first, he told Ricks they just wanted to talk with him, but he "gave us attitude." Later, he mentioned a string of break-ins in the area.

At one point, the officer pulled a pencil out of Tariq's pocket. "See, he could've stabbed me in the face with this pencil," Ricks recalled the officer saying.

The officer also discovered an ankle monitor on Tariq's leg. "You think he might be in trouble before?" he told Ricks.

Paramedics soon arrived on the scene, and Tariq was eventually taken home to his mother. "They didn't charge him, they didn't take him to juvenile [detention]," Muhammad says. Still, one of the officers allegedly told Tariq's mother: "Be thankful that it wasn't worse" and "don't make excuses for your child's behavior."

The mother plans to file a complaint with internal affairs. And the family has retained legal counsel due to what Muhammad referred to as the "threatening" statement from police. In the statement, police said "charges for [the] teen will be determined at the conclusion of the internal investigation."

That doesn't sound like the correct procedure, Muhammad says. "Generally, if he were to be charged with anything, it would be a misdemeanor for that type of interaction, and that would be determined by the field investigating officer or the arresting officer. It wouldn't be done via an internal panel," he explains. "We saw the need to secure legal counsel for the young man so as to not have him arrested unsuspectingly or to be charged with a crime when in fact he was observing his constitutional rights and able to move about freely as a citizen."

Muhammad thinks Tariq's experience represents a larger problem in the area.

Chief Larry Boone, he says, "is touting" Norfolk as a good example of "community policing." But "in truth, there is no real penetration in the relationship between police and citizens," Muhammad says, particularly between cops and African Americans. "As citizens, we should have the same rights, privileges and responsibilities as any other citizen. But apparently we don't have that."

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Child Separation Policy at Border Led to Procedural, Personal Chaos, Says Inspector General Report

Children imprisoned longer than legal limit, resources directed away from actual border security, misleading statements about databases all surround the "zero tolerance" border policy

The practice of separating children from their parents during border-crossing arrests left border officials "not fully prepared to implement the Administration's Zero Tolerance Policy or to deal with some of its after-effects," according to a recent report from the Department of Homeland Security's Inspector General (IG). "The Zero Tolerance Policy...fundamentally changed DHS' approach to immigration enforcement," the IG concluded.

Fibonacci Blue on Foter.com / CC BYFibonacci Blue on Foter.com / CC BY

"Detaining unaccompanied alien children for extended periods resulted in some CBP [Customs and Border Patrol] employees being less able to focus on their primary mission," the IG report says. "Instead of patrolling and securing the border, officers had to supervise and take care of children."

As the Washington Post reported on the study, federal authorities had a hard time following their own rules for this heinous practice, with "at least 860 migrant children...left in Border Patrol holding cells longer than the 72-hour limit mandated by U.S. courts, with one minor confined for 12 days and another for 25." The chain-link holding pens for kids in southern Texas lacked beds or showers.

The IG report, sums up the Post,

"describe[s] a poorly coordinated interagency process that left distraught parents with little or no knowledge of their children's whereabouts.....U.S. officials were forced to share minors' files on Microsoft Word documents sent as email attachments because the government's internal systems couldn't communicate...Based on observations conducted by DHS inspectors at multiple facilities along the border in late June, agents separated children too young to talk from their parents in a way that courted disaster, the report says."

The IG report also reveals that a DHS announcement in June, after the child separation practice was halted, about an alleged "central database" regarding the location of separated children turned out to be untrue.

In a Senate hearing Wednesday before the Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee, DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen was asked about the IG report and admitted, "[W]e do not have detention facilities at DHS for 10,000 children who were sent here unaccompanied." She blamed this not on government policy, but on the fact that "their parents chose to do that." The Committee believes as of last week that 104 separated children who should have been returned this summer based on court order are still not reunited with their parents.

Sen. James Lackford (R–Okla.) praised Nielsen at today's hearing, saying her agency is "putting a positive face forward for America to be able to help provide care for kids who are in a vulnerable moment. I appreciate that."

The child-detention policy the IG report focused on continues to effect lives of would-be immigrants and the practice of border security. The Post reports this week that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), facing an overload of arrests on the Arizona border, "can no longer conduct basic reviews of migrants' case files and travel plans without running the risk of exceeding court-imposed limits on how long children can be held in immigration jails." The agency has thus taken to "dropping off busloads of families at church shelters and charities, some with ankle monitoring bracelets...."

The ICE spokeswoman blamed circumstances other than the agency's mission, which is largely to violently halt the free movement of people: "After decades of inaction by Congress, the government remains severely constrained in its ability to detain and promptly remove families that have no legal basis to remain in the United States," the ICE statement said. Most of the current influx in Arizona is thought to be from Guatemala in what an unnamed ICE official called "a well-orchestrated smuggling venture" (of the sort that's only necessary because would-be migrants can't legally come in via, say, a bus ticket).

As of last month, The New York Times reported that "[p]opulation levels at federally contracted shelters for migrant children ha[d] quietly shot up more than fivefold since last summer...reaching a total of 12,800 this month. There were 2,400 such children in custody in May 2017."

And what might the eventual fate of children thus separated from their parents by U.S. border law enforcement be? As the Associated Press reported this week, in some cases it can result in the children being permanently kept from their parents via adoption to American families:

More than 300 parents were deported to Central America without their children this summer, many of whom allege they were coerced into signing paperwork they didn't understand, affecting their rights to reunify with their children. Some parents also contended that U.S. officials told them their children would be given up for adoption.

"And the reality is that for every parent who is not located, there will be a permanent orphaned child, and that is 100 percent the responsibility of the administration," U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw said in August while overseeing a lawsuit to stop family separations.

The AP asked the State Department, as well as embassy officials in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, whether they were working with deported parents to find their children in the U.S.

The State Department deferred to the Department of Homeland Security, which said in a statement: "DHS is not aware of anyone contacting embassy or consulate in a foreign country to be reunified with a child. This is unsurprising given the fact that these parents made a knowing decision to leave their child in a foreign country."

This is not just a mess, but a travesty.

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U.S. Prisons Held At Lest 61,000 Inmates in Solitary Confinement Last Year

Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor: “Keeping prisoners in ‘near-total isolation’ from the living world [...] comes perilously close to a penal tomb.”

Erwin Wodicka - wodicka@aon.at/NewscomErwin Wodicka - wodicka@aon.at/NewscomThe number of U.S. prison inmates held in solitary confinement has dropped over the past five years, according to a new report, but an estimated 61,000 people last year still faced imprisonment in tiny cells for up to 22 hours a day in conditions that many former inmates, mental health professionals, and at least one sitting U.S. Supreme Court justice say amount to torture.

A longitudinal survey co-authored by the Association of State Correctional Administrators (ASCA) and the Arthur Liman Center for Public Interest Law at Yale Law School found that, in the federal prison system and 43 state prison systems that provided data, 49,000 inmates in the fall of 2017 were confined to what is commonly known as "solitary." Extrapolating for the remaining states, the study estimates the total number to be 61,000.

The census asked jurisdictions to report, as of the fall of 2017, both their total prison populations and the number of prisoners held in restrictive housing. It includes federal and state inmates placed in any form of "restricted housing" for at least 22 hours a day for more than 15 consecutive days. In 2011, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on torture concluded that solitary confinement beyond 15 days constituted cruel and inhumane punishment.

Nationally, the use of solitary confinement appears to be dropping. In 2016, there were at least 67,000 inmates in solitary, according to the survey, and in 2014, there were 80,000 to 100,000. Those numbers are all self-reported by jails and prisons—there are no mandatory nationwide reporting requirements on solitary—and are very likely an undercount.

The study's authors attribute the reduction to stricter state requirements for when inmates can be sent to solitary and how long they may be kept there. Colorado, for instance, has almost completely eliminated its use of solitary confinement. The Obama administration also banned the use of solitary confinement for juveniles in the federal prison system and limited the amount of time adults can spend in solitary.

"But the picture is not uniform," the ASCA warned in a press release. "In more than two dozen states, the numbers of prisoners in restrictive housing decreased from 2016 to 2018, but in eleven states, the numbers went up."

Other concerns identified in the report include the continued use of solitary confinement for long periods, and its deployment against prisoners suffering from mental illness. The report found 4,000 people placed in solitary who were identified by their jurisdiction as seriously mentally ill. It also found 2,000 inmates who had been in solitary for six or more years.

"It's a snapshot of decline, but also a snapshot of the unfortunately enormity of mentally ill people in solitary confinement, which is one of the numbers that shocked me," says Amy Fettig, deputy director for the ACLU National Prison Project.

"It has now been decades since federal courts started ruling that placing people with serious mental illness in solitary confinement is a violation of the Eighth Amendment prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment," Fettig continues. "The law has been clear for years that corrections is not supposed to do this, and yet we've got prison and jails across the country that are continuing to violate the law and continuing to place really vulnerable people at serious risk of harm."

Civil liberties advocates, prison reform organizations, and inmates themselves have put pressure on states to limit the use of solitary, citing the unsurprising evidence that locking human beings in tiny boxes alone for years at a time has negative psychological effects. For people already suffering from mental illness, the effects of solitary confinement, combined with the overall poor health services in U.S. prisons, can be catastrophic.

"Not only do they not get better, but they get worse," Fettig says. "When you go into these units—and I've been to many of them—you find people screaming uncontrollably, people losing their minds, people cutting off pieces of themselves, trying to kill themselves. These units very much resemble the worst idea we might have of bedlam."

In 2013, about 30,000 California inmates went on hunger strike to protest the state's draconian use of solitary. As a result of a lawsuit settlement in 2015, California's prisons no longer use indefinite solitary confinement.

Criticisms of solitary confinement also recently popped up in the nation's highest court. In a dissent Tuesday, Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote that the "clear constitutional problems" with solitary confinement have long been recognized and characterized long term isolation as being "perilously close to a penal tomb."

Sotomayor cited Charles Dickens' 1842 visit to Eastern State Penitentiary in Pennsylvania. Afterwards, the novelist wrote that the "immense amount of torture and agony" inflicted by solitary confinement was largely hidden from public view, and he denounced the practice as "a secret punishment which slumbering humanity is not roused up to stay."

"We are no longer so unaware," Sotomayor wrote. "Courts and corrections officials must accordingly remain alert to the clear constitutional problems raised by keeping prisoners [....] in 'near-total isolation' from the living world in what comes perilously close to a penal tomb."

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Pennsylvania's New $4 Million Prison Mail System Brings Privacy Concerns

Civil liberties lawyers worry that sensitive documents could end up in the wrong hands.

|||MARK MAKELA/REUTERS/NewscomMARK MAKELA/REUTERS/NewscomRather than allow inmates to receive personal letters, drawings from their children, photographs, birthday cards, and other kinds of mail directly, the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections will use a new service that will cost taxpayers at least $376,000 a month, or well over $4 million a year.

As explained on its website, the department implemented the new policy after staff members were reportedly sickened by an unknown substance, which prompted the announcement of a statewide lockdown in August. Mail will first go through a Florida-based service called Smart Communications. The company will scan the mail and then send black and white digital copies to inmates. The original mail, including photographs, will then be held for 45 days and subsequently destroyed. The electronic mail will only be saved for seven years. Mail related to legal matters and other official documents will be forwarded to the institutions, opened in front of the inmate, copied, and the originals will be destroyed after a 15-day retention period. Inmates will not be able to keep the originals.

The department maintains that the process will help cut down on a the amount of drugs smuggled into state prisons, even documenting drug finds on various inmates. It's also a good business opportunity for private companies seeking to contract with prisons. Smart Communications already provides limited email technology and a teleconferencing system to prisons, and now touts its mail system as completely eliminating postal mail. Bloomberg quotes Corrections Accountability Project Director Bianca Tylek, who believes digitized mail services could earn private contractors "more than $180 million annually."

But if cost is of little concern, perhaps privacy should be. The Pennsylvania chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, the Pennsylvania Institutional Law Project, and lawyers at private firms allege that the new system will threaten the confidentiality of sensitive legal documents. Prior to the new system, prison staff opened mail in front of prisoners, searched for contraband, and then handed the documents over. Now, the added steps of photocopying documents and retaining the originals for an amount of time have the possibility to impact cases. Some lawyers have already complained about legal documents sitting on desks and being thrown in the trash. Some have even voiced concerns that the documents could end up in the hands of a legal opponent or prison staffers who named in an inmate's case.

To no one's surprise, the service has already been criticized for giving inmates copies that are either unreadable or incomplete. Inmates have also voiced their own privacy concerns as even more strangers will now have intimate access to their personal lives.

Per the department's own finds, drugs like synthetic cannabinoids (K2), suboxone, and tobacco were found on 15 inmates between September 28 and October 3. If the rate of drug finds were to remain consistent each week over the course of a year, it would appear that the state of Pennsylvania has decided to implement a multi-million dollar service that affects the privacy of over 50,000 inmates due to the actions of less than one percent of the state prison population.

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Booming Construction and Falling Rents in Seattle and Portland Show Laws of Supply and Demand Still Apply to Housing

Despite the claims of NIMBY activists, cities can build their way out of a housing crunch

Gino Rigucci/Dreamstime.comGino Rigucci/Dreamstime.comRents are mercifully beginning to decline in the high-cost, high-growth cities of the Pacific Northwest, thanks to urban construction booms that are adding new units at a rapid pace. Though places like Seattle and Portland remain expensive places to live, the trends show that the rules of supply and demand still apply to the housing market—despite the claims of NIMBY activists.

Portland and Seattle "are sort of the prototypical examples of basic economics in action in the housing market," says Igor Popov, chief housing economist for Apartment List. "In the last few years, they've had this record number of units come onto the market and it's finally giving price relief."

Portland added 4,419 unit of completed housing in 2016, a slight increase from the roughly 4,365 it added in 2015, which combined is more than all the housing units added in the five years prior to 2014, according to the Portland Housing Bureau's 2017 annual report.

Seattle, meanwhile, added some 8,400 units of new housing between 2016 to 2017, up from about 7,600 a year prior, and about double the amount of housing units the city added in 2012, according to data compiled by Washington State's Office of Financial Management. Seattle is tied with Denver for per capita construction spending on multifamily housing units, according to Apartment List.

As the number of apartment units being built has gone up, average rent across these cities has actually started to decrease.

Year-over-year average rents declined by a full 1.2 percent in the city of Portland, with average rents dropping to $1,140 per month for a median one-bedroom apartment, according to the yearly rent report from Apartment List. It's a similar story in Seattle, with Apartment List data showing rents declining 1.6 percent from where they were in 2017. The median monthly rent for a one-bedroom apartment in Seattle is $1,346.

These price declines may not even capture the entire picture, as landlords feeling squeezed by falling prices and rising vacancy rates are starting to offer sweeteners to potential tenants.

A June Seattle Times story found some 112 apartment buildings offering periods of free rent to new renters, with the average offer being a one-month pass. Other buildings were offering Uber Eats credits, Amazon gift cards, and memberships at nearby gyms to any tenants willing to move in, with some of these gift card deals reaching as high as $2,500.

It's the same thing in Portland, with some developers offering as much as eight weeks of free rent, along with $1,000 Amazon gift certificates and health club memberships.

It is important to note that these concessions and price declines are appearing at the top of the market first. Prices for newly-built, expensive apartments are starting to fall, while the prices for many units on the lower end of the market are still increasing.

Data from the economic consultancy ECONorthwest show rents declining by 2.4 percent between June 2017 to June 2018 in buildings where units are priced at over $2,000 a month, but rising 2.3 percent in buildings with units priced below $1,000.

There's still good reason to assume that the additional supply is arresting the growth of lower rents, even if prices are still increasing. Every renter accepting an Amazon gift card to move into an expensive, newly-constructed unit is one not competing for—and thus driving up the cost of—older, more moderately priced housing stock.

Prices for those new units will come down over time too, says Popov. "What often happens is new construction is geared toward the high end and then as it ages it becomes more affordable," he tells Reason.

This trend of rising supply and declining rents provides a clear lesson for high-cost, high-growth cities like Seattle and Portland, as they struggle with the issue of housing affordability: that more housing supply is needed to start bringing rents down for everyone, not just the upper crust of renters.

There has been a tepid acceptance of this fact over the past several years. Seattle has been upzoning some areas around its downtown at a snail's pace, allowing for the construction boom we are seeing today. A rising tide of YIMBY activism in Portland too is starting to have an effect. In September the city's Planning Commission recommended loosening zoning regulations to allow for more triplexes and duplexes where now only single-family housing is allowed. (YIMBY is an acronym for "Yes, in my backyard," and represents a very different way of thinking about zoning and new construction than NIMBY, or "not in my backyard.")

Yet for every policy that encourages more housing construction, these cities have also passed a series of laws that discourage housing production, and some of them might even push smaller landlords out of the market.

In 2016, Portland passed a strict inclusionary zoning ordinance, which sets affordability requirements for a certain percentage of new units in new housing developments. Applications for new building permits slowed considerably the law went into effect.

Seattle has banned landlords from using criminal background checks to vet tenants. Earlier this year, the city also reversed it's recent upzoning of a plot of downtown land to try and save an iconic music venue. The move prompted a $40 million lawsuit against the city, and undermines the developer confidence that the city won't try to hamstring other controversial projects. Homeowners have also fought tooth and nail against proposals to allowing more dense housing in the city's single-family neighborhoods.

The specter of rent control looms large in the politics of both cities.

Yet if housing affordability is the goal, the cities of the Pacific Northwest should embrace the laws of supply and demand—and not to mention property rights—and let people build what they want, where they want.

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Desperate to Keep His Seat, Ted Cruz Gets Dumber and Dumber on Criminal Justice

The Texas senator's authoritarian attacks on Beto O'Rourke short-circuit rational discussion of police shootings, drug policy, and sentencing reform.

C-SPANC-SPANWhen Ted Cruz ran for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination, he executed a striking about-face on sentencing reform, opposing legislation that was less ambitious than a bill he had cosponsored just eight months before. The Texas senator's explanation, which featured the sort of tough-on-crime demagoguery he had previously resisted, was utterly illogical but made political sense as part of an effort to attract conservative primary voters. Now that he is running a surprisingly close re-election campaign against Texas congressman Beto O'Rourke, who supports marijuana legalization as well as sentencing reform, Cruz is doubling down on the dumb authoritarian rhetoric in the hope of motivating his supporters to vote by painting O'Rourke as a dangerous radical.

Last month Cruz, who boasts about his support among cops, claimed on Twitter that O'Rourke "sides against the police" at every opportunity. Nine minutes later, Cruz posted a video of O'Rourke speaking at a Dallas church after the September 6 shooting of Botham Shem Jean. Amber Guyger, the off-duty Dallas police officer who shot Jean, said she mistook him for a burglar after mistaking his apartment for hers. Here is what O'Rourke had to say about the incident:

How can it be, in this day and age, in this very year, in this community, that a young man, African American, in his own apartment is shot and killed by a police officer? And when we all want justice and the facts and the information to make an informed decision, what is released to the public? That he had a small amount of marijuana in his kitchen. How can that be just in this country? How can we continue to lose the lives of unarmed black men in the United States of America at the hands of white police officers? That is not justice. That is not us. That can and must change. Are you with me on this?

Cruz, who captioned the video "In Beto O'Rourke's own words," clearly was presenting it as evidence of his opponent's anti-cop bias. That's absolutely bonkers, given that Guyger's shooting of Jean was so egregious that it was condemned by commentators across the political spectrum. Even if you take her account of the shooting at face value, she was guilty of deadly carelessness at the very least.

Cruz's tweet about the Jean shooting cannot be dismissed as a one-time gaffe.

MORE »
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U.K.’s Top Court Sides with Baker in Gay Cake Case

No, a baker cannot be compelled to “support gay marriage” with frosting.

Bert and ErnieEverett Collection/NewscomThe United Kingdom's highest court ruled Wednesday that a baker cannot be forced to bake a cake with a pro-gay message on it.

The U.K. doesn't have the First Amendment speech protections familiar to United States citizens, but it does have many protections for freedom of expression under the European Convention of Human Rights. Citing those protections, the five judges on the U.K. Supreme Court ruled unanimously that a baker cannot be forced to sell a cake that included a message he or she found objectionable.

The case revolved around a bakery in Belfast, Ireland, and the religious couple who owned it. A customer came to them in 2014 asking them to make a cake that said "support gay marriage," and included a picture of Bert and Ernie from Sesame Street. The owners did not support gay marriage for religious reasons and therefore declined to make the cake.

The customer complained to the Equality Commission of Northern Ireland, claiming discrimination on the basis of his sexual orientation, religious belief, or political opinion. Lower courts found for the customer, concluding that the bakers had discriminated against him.

Not so, says the U.K. Supreme court in its ruling. The bakery did not refuse to serve the customer on the basis of him being gay. The bakery refused to add a message onto the cake that they objected to. They would have rejected the cake regardless of the sexual orientation of the customer. The U.K.'s free speech protections, much like ours in the United States, also protect a person's right to refuse to communicate a message they oppose. The ruling even makes note of the recent Masterpiece Cakeshop Supreme Court decision from the United States:

The important message from the Masterpiece Bakery case is that there is a clear distinction between refusing to produce a cake conveying a particular message, for any customer who wants such a cake, and refusing to produce a cake for the particular customer who wants it because of that customer's characteristics. One can debate which side of the line particular factual scenarios fall. But in our case there can be no doubt. The bakery would have refused to supply this particular cake to anyone, whatever their personal characteristics. So there was no discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation.

The reason for the ruling has, as has been typical, falling on the deaf ears of the "Just bake me a cake!" crowd. In The Guardian, the customer in the case complains, "I'm very confused about what this actually means. We need certainty when you go to a business. I'm concerned that this has implications for myself and for every single person."

This isn't confusing at all, and this is pretty much how free speech has generally been applied. Admittedly I'm not familiar with all of the relevant precedents in U.K.'s courts, but in the United States there are a number of court cases that prohibit the government from compelling most forms of speech or expression.

In other words, you don't get certainty. Doing business with your fellow humans does not require that every other human do whatever you ask of them. The great thing about a robust free market is that it's easy to find alternatives when a baker or printer doesn't want to say what you want them to.

Read the court ruling here.

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Tom Woods: The Making of an Anti-War Libertarian: New at Reason

Reason's Matt Welch sat down with the popular libertarian writer and podcaster to discuss his ideological journey, his LP plans, and his controversial past associations.

Tom Woods stands accused of many things, but laziness is not one of them.

A senior fellow at the Ludwig von Mises Institute, Woods is the author of a dozen books, including The Politically Incorrect Guide to American History. He's written curricula for the Ron Paul homeschool program; he co-hosts, along with economist Robert Murphy, the weekly Contra-Krugman podcast, which dissects columns by New York Times Nobel laureate Paul Krugman; and he posts a new episode of the popular Tom Woods Show every day.

I sat down with Woods recently to talk about his ideological journey, his plans with the Libertarian Party, his past associations with such controversial entities as the League of the South, and his assessment of Donald Trump, among many other topics.

Click here for full text and downloadable versions.

Subscribe to our YouTube channel.

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Detroit Cops Charged With Home Invasion Thanks to Body Cam Footage

This is how the system is supposed to work.

Ehrlif/Dreamstime.comEhrlif/Dreamstime.comTwo Detroit Police officers are facing home invasion charges after they allegedly stormed into a man's home without a warrant and hauled him off to jail.

The cops' alleged actions are horrifying, but their case is an example of the system working the way it should, or at least close to that, thanks to body cameras.

The home invasion occurred this past January, when Sgt. Paul Glaza and Officer Bradley Clark—both members of a burglary task force—knocked on 28-year-old Tashar Cornelius's door. "I was in my house making a sandwich and the police came to my house searching for a suspect" named "Mike," Cornelius told reporters, according to WJBK.

Cornelius is a convicted felon, but he wasn't who the cops were looking for. He told them there was no "Mike" in the house, but officers didn't change their minds. "They couldn't provide me with a valid search warrant. They didn't have my permission to enter my property," Cornelius said.

He closed the door on them. Then, "they kicked in the door and came in with their weapons drawn," he recalled, according to The Detroit News. "One handcuffed me right away and they ransacked the house," Cornelius added.

The officers had noticed a Taser lying on the table and allegedly used that to justify taking him to jail, where Cornelius said he was held for 36 hours. "My lawyer assured me there were no charges against me. Finally they just released me and I walked out of there," he said.

Cornelius said he plans to sue. But his claims might have been difficult to prove if the cops' alleged actions hadn't been caught on camera. Detroit Police Assistant Chief James White said at a press conference yesterday that the officers' supervisor conducted a random review of their body camera footage. That "random" review led to an internal affairs investigation.

The officers have been placed on paid administrative leave. Last week, things got a whole lot worse for them. Per The Detroit News:

[Glaza and Clark] were charged Friday in 36th District Court with second-degree home invasion, misconduct in office, malicious destruction of property under $200, and entering without a homeowner's permission in connection with the alleged incident Jan. 22.

Both officers were released on bond.

A statement from Assistant Wayne County Prosecutor Maria Miller seems to corroborate Cornelius's recollection of how events transpired. The officers "entered a home without a search warrant," Miller said. She added: "They also did not have an arrest warrant for the person they were searching for, who was not in the house. They instead detained and arrested the homeowner."

This case highlights the importance of police body cameras. Yes, it took eight months for the officers to be charged, which is probably too long. But ultimately, the system worked: Two cops allegedly did a bad thing, and instead of getting off scot-free, they were caught.

Detroit Police Department policy requires all officers who regularly interact with the public to wear body cameras. Those cameras are supposed to improve transparency and keep the powerful accountable. It looks like that's exactly what happened here.

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The Trump Administration’s Border War Is Actually Catching Fewer Drug Traffickers

This is what happens when “zero tolerance” meets the limitations of government resources.

Border wallJOSE LUIS GONZALEZ/REUTERS/NewscomPresident Donald Trump's administration may want to terrify us all with warnings about drug cartels invading the states from Mexico, but ironically enough, their attempt to fight it with an overwhelming crusade against any and all illegal immigration is backfiring.

USA Today reports that federal drug-trafficking prosecutions along the border are plunging, and dropped to their lowest point in two decades this summer. And the likely culprit is the federal government's obsession with prosecuting any immigrant caught in the country illegally:

The decision to prosecute everyone caught entering the USA illegally flooded federal courts with thousands of cases, most of them involving minor immigration violations that resulted in no jail time and a $10 fee. As prosecutors and border agents raced to bring those immigrants to court, the number of people they charged under drug-trafficking laws dropped by 30 percent along the border – and in some places far more steeply than that, a USA TODAY review of court dockets and Justice Department records found.

In June and July, federal prosecutors charged fewer people with drug-trafficking violations than in any month since at least 2001, when the United States began a border security buildup. The numbers rebounded in August but remained lower than the previous summer.

A helpful graph shows that federal drug prosecutions along the border states have been plunging through the length of Trump's administration. USA Today notes that as this "no tolerance" crackdown hit, prosecutors who had been handling drug-trafficking cases found themselves reassigned to handle all these misdemeanor border-crossing cases. Criminal cases doubled and even tripled in some places, but these were mainly minor arrests. Actual drug-trafficking cases declined significantly.

To be very, very clear: I'm not complaining about the drop in drug arrests. The federal drug war is harsh and ridiculous. USA Today notes that more of these drug-trafficking cases are being handled by the states instead—which often hand down lighter sentences—and suggests that this is a bad consequence. It is not.

Really, the point here is to call bullshit on the claim that this cruel treatment of immigrant families protects Americans. The redeployment of Justice Department resources away from felony offenses involving cartels to misdeamonor offenses committed by people seeking work or fleeing cartel violence reveals that claim to be hot garbage.

The outcome was entirely predictable entirely because we've actually seen it before. The exact same thing happened under the regime of disgraced Maricopa County, Arizona, Sheriff Joe Arpaio, and it didn't affect just drug-trafficking arrests. His obsession with hunting down illegal immigrants taxed county resources so much that they dropped the ball on dozens of violent crime investigations. Detectives were being deployed to tracking down illegal immigrants while reports of sexual assaults were not properly investigated. Two journalists won Pulitzer Prizes in 2009 for a series showing how Arpaio's immigration crackdown drained the county's resources while catching mostly low-level crooks. And for many of the department's immigration arrests, being in the country illegally was their only crime.

Sound familiar? Since Trump's a big fan of Arpaio, it's worth observing that the same stupid trade-offs are happening again. The administration's war on immigration is not a war on drug cartels, but on poor immigrant families.

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A D.C. Metro Track Inspector Was Fired for Filing False Reports. The Union Just Got His Job Back.

But wait, it's even worse than that.

JOSHUA ROBERTS/REUTERS/NewscomJOSHUA ROBERTS/REUTERS/NewscomA track inspector fired by the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority after getting caught falsifying track inspection reports could soon be back on the job.

Amalgamated Transit Union Local 689 went to bat for Christopher Bell after he was fired in 2016 (along with several other inspectors) for faking track reports. An arbitration agreement reached this week would see Bell reinstated to his job with back pay and benefits, according to D.C. area television station WTOP, which first reported the deal on Tuesday.

But this isn't the typical story of public sector unions fighting to keep government workers from being fired for incompetence or downright awful performance. According to the arbitration report, Bell was bad at his job because the people who were supposed to be supervising him were actually even worse at theirs.

There was a "significant disconnect" between the standards for track inspections and the "actual practices" widely used by D.C. Metro track workers, according to the arbitration agreement.

Among other things, track inspections are supposed to check the gaps between rail segments, measuring incremental shifts that occur as hundreds of trains roll along them each month. Bell and the other track inspectors were fired in 2016 after it was discovered that they had copied the same numbers for the same locations for weeks and months at a time.

But when the WMATA claimed Bell and other track inspectors were falsifying reports, they were merely doing inspections "just the way that they were taught to do it," Raymond Jackson, an ATU union official, told WTOP.

Both the Federal Transit Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board came to similar conclusions: that the fired inspectors had never been properly trained and were not given enough time to do the inspections.

Regardless of who is to blame, it's clear that Metro has a track record of poor track inspections, which can have disastrous consequences. A cracked rail was blamed for the January derailment of a Red Line train near the Farragut North station in downtown Washington.

All of which leaves Metro riders with two bad possibilities: Either this is is a case of a public sector union fighting to get incompetent workers back on the job—a job that is directly connected to the safety of Metro riders—or it's another sign that WMATA is horribly mismanaged to the point where officials are scapegoating employees they themselves failed to properly train.

Regardless, the report seems to indicate you'd be expecting too much if you expect the D.C. Metro to have accurate track inspections completed by competent employees overseen by thorough managers.

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Libertarian Party Chair: 'The two old parties cheat with both hands. Always have, always will'

Nicholas Sarwark, who's also running for mayor of Phoenix, explains how Democrats and Republicans write their own rules when it comes to political competition.

Nick Sarwark and Libertarian at the Texas Tribune Festival ||| alfpac.comalfpac.comYesterday, Eric Boehm wrote about how the League of Women Voters and Philadelphia's ABC affiliate pulled the old Lucy-yanking-the-football trick over debate-inclusion criteria for Pennsylvania Libertarian Senate candidate Dale Kerns. You can find variations of that story literally every day in an October of an election year—"Gov Kim Reynolds excludes opponent from debate, Iowa media complicit," for example. Or, "Libertarian candidate to file complaints for exclusion from 16th District debate."

One key reason why the gales of competition haven't swept away our 19th-century political parties the way they have our 19th-century business empires is that Democrats and Republicans generally write the rules governing (and constricting) any and all would-be competitors. Or as Libertarian Party National Chair and Phoenix mayoral candidate Nicholas Sarwark told me at the Texas Tribune Festival on September 27, "The two old parties cheat with both hands. Always have, always will."

In Sarwark's Arizona, for example, Republicans rammed through a law requiring third parties to collect signatures not just from a given percentage of their own members, but from political independents as well. "The Republicans, to get their candidates on the ballot, would have to get about 10 percent more signatures than they used to," Sarwark explained. "The Libertarians, to get their candidates on the ballot, would have to get about like 20 times more signatures than we used to. They basically changed the denominator."

Not only that, but the law was changed in a way that comparatively hurt Libertarians while helping Greens. Richard Winger of Ballot Access News summed it up in a headline last month: "Arizona Releases Write-in Results from August 28 Primaries; Results Show Extreme Injustice Toward Libertarian Party."

L.P. Texas gubernatorial candidate Mark Tippetts, who was also on our Texas Tribune panel, said that his exclusion from televised debates came in part from allegedly failing to achieve enough media coverage. "'Wait a minute,'" Tippetts recounted of his conversation with a debate gatekeeper. "'I've received press coverage from…' and I started listing all the stations. And I said, 'And I've received press coverage from Univision and Telemundo!' And he said, 'Mark, I can stop you right there. The Spanish press coverage does not count." In Texas!

Also in our panel discussion was Indiana Senate candidate Lucy Brenton, who was on the debate stage this week (where it sounds like she did pretty well). Of the 17 L.P. candidates for U.S. Senate, Brenton has been polling the second-highest, and beating the point-spread between the two major-party candidates by the most. You can watch our whole conversation below:

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Most ICE Detainees Aren't Criminals, Report Reveals

As if we needed any more evidence that the vast majority of undocumented immigrants aren't bringing crime into the country.

Tina Burch/ZUMA Press/NewscomTina Burch/ZUMA Press/Newscom

Immigration hardliners would have us believe that letting undocumented immigrants into the country leads to more crime.

Democrats "want to have illegal immigrants pouring into our country, bringing with them crime, tremendous amounts of crime," President Donald Trump said in January. That claim was nothing new. Announcing his candidacy in June 2015, he infamously asserted that Mexican immigrants are "bringing drugs" and "crime" into the nation.

But there's little evidence to suggest that undocumented immigrants are more prone to crime. In fact, according to a report released Tuesday by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) at Syracuse University, the majority of individuals detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) have never been convicted of a crime. And even the ones who have are mostly low-level offenders.

TRAC's report, which is based off ICE data, notes that 44,435 people were in ICE custody at the end of June. (For comparison, that's up about 14 percent from 39,082 at the end of the 2015 fiscal year.)

Fifty-eight percent—25,920—of ICE's 44,435 detainees had never been convicted of a crime. An additional 21 percent, or 9,358, had Level 3 convictions on their record. According to ICE's standard operating procedures, Level 3 is the lowest classification of crime.

TRAC also noted which types of convictions were the most common:

For those who had been convicted, the most frequent crime was illegal entry (a misdemeanor), followed by driving under the influence of alcohol. Conviction for a miscellaneous assault was third, and a simple traffic offense was the fourth most frequent offense.

Less than 16 percent of ICE detainees—9,358—had ever been convicted of Level 1 offenses (homicide, kidnapping, sexual assault, weapons-related crimes, etc.). Five percent—2,253—of detainees were convicted of Level 2 crimes like burglary, larceny, fraud, and traffic violations.

The new data is not particularly surprising. ICE deported more than 220,000 people in the 2017 fiscal year, most of whom were not exactly hardened criminals. According to TRAC, 79,270 had no criminal convictions. Illegal entry or reentry into the U.S. was the most serious offense for an additional 35,000.

Trump, for his part, has pledged to go after the "bad hombres." But while he and other conservatives focus on high-profile crimes committed by illegal immigrants (like the murder of Mollie Tibbetts), these sorts of tragedies do not represent the behavior of most undocument immigrants.

As Reason's Ronald Bailey has pointed out on several occasions, research shows that immigrants, including those in the country illegally, are actually less likely to commit crimes than American citizens. Plus, the benefits of both legal and illegal immigration generally far outweigh the costs.

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This Is How Sex-Trafficking Panic Gets Made: Reason Roundup

Plus: fight against FOSTA continues and Tennessee trooper reports Democrat for visiting falafel restaurant.

David Herraez Calzada Westend61/NewscomDavid Herraez Calzada Westend61/NewscomAnother "human trafficking operation" that wasn't. One hundred and twenty-three missing Michigan minors were found during a one-day "sex trafficking operation," the New York Post reported yesterday. Similar statements showed up in other news headlines across national and international news. What the associated articles fail to mention for multiple paragraphs is that only three of the minors are even suspected of having been involved in prostitution.

Officials said the operation—a joint effort of the U.S. Marshals Service, the FBI, Michigan State Police, and multiple local Michigan police departments—identified three "possible sex-trafficking cases" among the 123 minors that were located on September 26, according to a press release.

What's more, all but four of the "missing children" were not actually missing. In the remaining cases, minors were listed in a police database as missing but had since been found or returned home on their own. "Many were (homeschooled)," Lt. Michael Shaw told The Detroit News. "Some were runaways as well."

The one-day "rescue" sweep was a long-time in the making, with police beforehand "investigating their whereabouts by visiting last known addresses, friend's homes and schools."

Nothing in the U.S. Marshals report on the operation makes mention of any arrested kidnappers, "traffickers," or other adults involved in endangering or exploiting any of the missing minors that were identified. Which makes sense—very few missing children are actually abducted. And when runaway teens do engage in sex for money, the vast majority do not have "pimps."

FREE MINDS

Falafel Watch List? Tennessee state trooper Anthony Bull thought he had Democratic gubernatorial candidate Karl Dean good when he caught Dean attending "a Muslim event" while assigned to the Tennessee candidate's security detail. Bull reported this information to the campaign of Dean's Republican opponent, Bill Lee.

But it turns out the "Muslim event" was a falafel restaurant, where Dean held a meet and greet. A Tennessee Department of Safety & Homeland Security investigation revealed the mix-up and Bull was removed from security duty.

FREE MARKETS

Fight against FOSTA continues. Electronic Frontier Foundation and Woodhull Freedom Foundation are appealing a dismissal of their lawsuit challenging the feds' attempt to hold online publishers responsible for "facilitating prostitution."

QUICK HITS

  • Former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg announced via Instagram this morning that he's registered as a Democrat.
  • The gender gap in main-party polling continues to grow.

* This post has been updated to add recent statements from Michigan State Police about the "missing children" it helped recover.

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Why the Executive Branch Shouldn’t Legislate: New at Reason

Progressives appreciate the separation of powers—up to a point.

SCOTUSSCOTUSBrett Kavanaugh, who joined the Supreme Court this week, and Neil Gorsuch, who was appointed last year, share a commitment to maintaining the separation of powers between Congress and the executive branch. Although leftish opponents of both nominations portrayed that commitment as a threat to enlightened federal regulation, it can also produce results that progressives welcome, as illustrated by a case the Court heard last week.

At issue was the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA), which prescribes up to 10 years in prison for sex offenders who do not register with the states where they live or fail to keep their information up to date. SORNA lets the attorney general decide whether and how sex offenders convicted before the law was enacted must comply, which Gorsuch sees as an unconstitutional transfer of legislative power to the executive branch.

While progressives tend to agree with that conclusion, they worry that the same principle could endanger regulations they like. But if it's dangerous to let the attorney general write the laws he enforces, Jacob Sullum says, the same thing true of regulators, especially when breaking their rules carries criminal penalties.

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Socialism Destroys: New at Reason

Public DomainPublic DomainSocialism is hot. Famous actors recently made a commercial proclaiming that "democratic socialism" creates some of the best parts of America. It's "your kids' public school" (says Susan Sarandon), the "interstate highway system" (Rosario Dawson), "public libraries" (Jay Ferguson), "EMTs" (Ethan Embry), "workers who plow our streets" (Max Carver), and "scientists" (Danny DeVito).

In reality, writes John Stossel, increased government control wrecks economies and ruins lives. Socialism destroys.

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Partisans United Against Free Speech: New at Reason

The culture of free speech has been deteriorating for long enough that politics, sadly and predictably, is catching up.

dane_mark/iStockdane_mark/iStockThe Supreme Court this June expanded First Amendment protections to cover public employees who don't want the state extracting union dues, voters who seek to wear political clothing or paraphernalia at the polls, and some businesses that chafe at being told by the government that they must display certain information. This has been, The Volokh Conspiracy's Jonathan H. Adler concluded, "the most speech-protective Supreme Court in our nation's history."

The citizenry, meanwhile, was moving in the opposite direction, writes Matt Welch.

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Brickbat: You Gonna Eat That?

Food wasteMariusika11 / Dreamstime.comOfficials in Austin, Texas, have banned restaurants and other businesses selling food from throwing away any uneaten food. Food businesses must now compost such waste or donate it as food for animals or people.

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James Gunn, Fired by Disney Over Stupid Tweets, Is Now Working on a Sequel to the Awful Suicide Squad

Not that. Anything but that.

GunnSthanlee Mirador/Sipa USA/NewscomPoor James Gunn. First, Disney fired the director of Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy films after conservative trolls dug up some offensive tweets he had written years ago. Now he has to make Suicide Squad 2.

As I wrote back in July, when Gunn was booted from the Guardians of the Galaxy franchise, the campaign to get him fired was pure political retaliation: Gunn had criticized Ben Shapiro (while defending liberal actor Mark Duplass for saying Shapiro was someone with whom liberals should bother to engage), and in response, right-wing Twitter personalities Mike Cernovich and Jack Posobiec decided to search his archive for thoughtcrimes. They uncovered some gross jokes about children and sexual violence, and this was enough for Disney to can him. The Guardians of the Galaxy cast came to Gunn's support, but apparently to no avail.

Now Deadline reports that Warner Bros. is hiring Gunn to write for the (vastly inferior) D.C. cinematic universe. His job: to write, and possibly direct, the sequel to Suicide Squad, one of the worst big-budget films in recent memory.

This is a complete waste of Gunn's talents. Suicide Squad is beyond rehabilitation—there was so much wrong with it that no sequel could possibly work under any circumstance. (Seriously, this 30-second teaser trailer for Joaquin Phoenix's Joker film is vastly more interesting than Jared Leto's obnoxious, one-dimensional take on the character in Suicide Squad.)

I had given up hope that the injustice of firing Gunn over stupid tweets would be remedied, but this is truly adding insult to injury.

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Rand Paul Says He'll Try to Block Saudi Arms Sales Over Khashoggi Disappearance

Paul has long opposed U.S. arms sales to Saudi Arabia.

Sen. Rand Paul (R–Ky.) told a radio station today that he intends to try, once again, to block U.S. arms sales to Saudi Arabia. While the particular news hook this week is the Saudi government's possible complicity in the disappearance of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, Paul has long been opposed to the U.S. role in helping support, among other things, the corrupt and repressive regime's highly destructive war in Yemen.

Sen. Bob Menendez (D–N.J.) has also, Bloomberg reports, "notified the Trump administration he would use an informal procedure to block sales to Saudi Arabia because of his concern about the Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen."

Paul told the Louisville station WHAS that he knows his position on this currently differs from the Trump administration's, "but who knows, the president may come around on this if there is any evidence they killed this journalist."

The Saudis insist that Khashoggi left their consulate in Turkey, where he is presumed by many to have been killed after entering to get a legal document related to his planned wedding.

Back in June 2017, Paul was a main sponsor of a symbolic Senate resolution opposing that year's $510 million weapons deal with Saudi Arabia. (The bill failed by a vote of 47–53.) The Senate has the power, via the 1976 Arms Export Control Act, to force a vote on presidential arms sales decisions within a 10-day period.

The Bloomberg story today notes that Sens. Bob Corker (R–Tenn.) and Lindsey Graham (R–S.C.) have also made noises that suggest they might be willing to rethink aspects of our support for Saudi Arabia over the Khashoggi matter.

The Saudi-led war on Yemen, with active cooperation from the U.S., has killed over 5,000 civilians, may be starving many millions more, has helped prop up Al Qaeda, and has generally damaged the nation in ways that could make it a cauldron of chaos for decades to come. Regardless of Khashoggi's fate, Paul is correct to do everything he can to stop the U.S. from enabling the mayhem there.

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A Florida Man Faces Prison for Making Grills Without a License

Allen Turner didn't know his business was illegal until it was too late.

|||JaCrispy/Dreamstime.comJaCrispy/Dreamstime.comDental grills have been around for thousands of years—Vice reports that rich Etruscan women were fitting their teeth with gold as early as the seventh century B.C. The service was not carried out by a dentist but by a goldsmith. But in 2018, a Florida man faces charges for doing something similar without a dental license.

Allen Turner, 26, of Leesburg tells WFTV that he used to charge customers several hundred dollars to make custom grills. His business came to a screeching halt when he was visited by a Leesburg police officer and an investigator from the state Department of Health, who informed him that what he was doing was illegal. Florida's definition of dentistry practices includes the "taking of an impression of the human tooth, teeth, or jaws directly or indirectly and by any means or method," and so the molds Turner made to create his grills were unlicensed dentistry. He was fined $1,000 and ordered to stop.

He stopped, as ordered, but it was already too late. In September, the state attorney's office charged him with one felony count of practicing dentistry without a license and one misdemeanor count of public nuisance, saying that he turned his home into a "dental laboratory."

Turner says he was unaware that his actions were illegal: He had seen others doing the same thing and did not realize that a license was needed for the process. Police Lt. Joe Iozzi appeared to understand the confusion, saying, "I think people make assumptions when things are just cosmetic in nature—that it doesn't necessarily require licensing."

Turner was arrested and taken to the Lake County Jail, where he was later released on bail. He will have to appear in court October 22.

From the felony charge alone, Turner faces up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine. Ignorance of the law may be no excuse, as the saying goes, but it seems absurdly disproportionate that he might have to spend years among violent criminals for a nonviolent crime. And it's overzealous to punish him as though he had been attempting to diagnose patients or perform surgeries, cleanings, and other practices typical of a licensed dentist.

Civil liberties lawyer Harvey Silverglate famously estimated that the average working professional unwittingly commits an average of three felonies a day. I'm sure Turner can relate.

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Kavanaugh's Elevation to the Supreme Court Is a Moment of Worrying Instability

His true impact may be less about transforming the Court’s ideology, and more about altering its status in political life.

Christy Bowe/Polaris/NewscomChristy Bowe/Polaris/NewscomBrett Kavanaugh's confirmation to the Supreme Court leaves us with more questions than answers. For starters, what effect will it have on the upcoming midterm elections—or, for that matter, on 2020? How will this alter political discourse and party tactics, especially where the court is concerned? And, perhaps overlooked during the last few weeks, how will Kavanaugh, and the Roberts Court he is now part of, rule?

My suspicion, and my worry, is that he will have a smaller direct impact than many seem to think, but that the partisan entrenchment surrounding his nomination will shake the Court to its core.

The answer to the first question seems to be that the Kavanaugh fight will boost Republicans in the Senate and Democrats in the House, probably dividing control of Congress in the process. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said that Kavanaugh's confirmation will fuel Republican enthusiasm in November. "This has energized our base like nothing we've been able" to do, he told Bloomberg. Midterms have lower turnout than elections in presidential years; Republicans are counting on Kavanaugh to help them maintain, and perhaps expand, control of the upper chamber. Democrats, meanwhile, see Kavanaugh's confirmation as helping them in key House races, many of which are in suburban swing districts—adding to the likelihood that they regain a majority.

Kavanugh's confirmation, in other words, is likely to sharpen the partisan divide. Which brings us to the second question: How will the major parties alter their tactics and strategies going forward?

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