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Updated: 2017-05-28T00:00:00-04:00

 



Montana Libertarian Mark Wicks, Who Got 6 Percent Against the GOP's Gianforte, Believes the L.P. Must Focus More on State and Local Races

2017-05-27T14:35:00-04:00

It wasn't ultimately surprising that a Republican candidate facing assault charges for allegedly bodyslamming a reporter the day before the election won his House race in Montana anyway. But Greg Gianforte's 6 percent win over Democrat Rob Quist was far lower than most assessments of Montana's relative preference for Republicans would indicate. And Gianforte's winning margin was exactly matched by the unprecedented 6 percent total for a Montana House race for the Libertarian Party's candidate, Mark Wicks. Wicks, a rancher and mailman in Inverness, Montana, thinks the key to his unusually good results for the L.P., for a campaign that could not afford any print, TV, or radio ads and only a few signs, was that the L.P. helped pressure the hosts of a televised debate to include Wicks along with his major party competitors. "When people saw how I handled myself, especially compared to the other two," Wicks said in a phone interview the day after the election, it helped him nearly double the last L.P. House candidate's 3.3 percent. (In Liberty County, next door to his home county, where Wicks says he likely personally known one-quarter of the voters, he pulled 16 percent.) He credits his good showing in the debate not so much to ideology, but to the fact that he was able "to answer questions in a straightforward and honest way. My answers were consistent but [voters] could tell they weren't memorized. I would answer the question asked and not just pivot to a talking point." Wicks expects he'll run for office again, though not sure exactly what office or when. He'd like to have more money, sooner whenever that happens. He's like to be in a better position to hit the ground running with a decent cash pile the way major party candidates usually can. The Libertarian National Committee (LNC) did give him a rare donation of $5,000, but it came too late in the process to do much good, Wicks says. Wicks sees the LNC faced a chicken and egg dilemma--he understands their reluctance to hand over a pile of cash to an untried candidate until after the debate showed he could comport himself well and make a decent run of it, but getting the money within the last couple of weeks before the election gave him no chance to have it serve as seed money for outreach that could have lead to more money. His campaign was able to spend "a couple thousand" on Facebook advertising, he says, but his jobs and the vast sprawl of Montana's one-district state made in-person appearances before crowds of voters also impossible. He lives about 300 miles from any major Montana city. Most of his volunteer support came via the Feldman Foundation, a national organization dedicated to finding and helping liberty-oriented candidates (named after Marc Feldman, a deceased former Libertarian Party activist and presidential aspirant). Wicks credits them with a "tremendous job, it took so much weight off my back." They managed his press releases and phone banks, for which he recalls one activist personally made 3,000 calls. "I've always been a very conservative Republican, very freedom oriented," Wicks says. But "I felt the Republican Party just left me. The Patriot Act, the Military Commissions Act, their budgets...they run on cutting spending and don't cut spending." He won the L.P.'s nomination against seven other candidates at a state Party convention. He knows that many in the Party "are upset that I'm not hardcore libertarian enough for them. But we have to realize we have to start in increments. We can't start with hardcore libertarianism." At least some voters thinking about him, he says, would "read the L.P. platform and decide they didn't want to vote for me because it goes too far, a little too much freedom in it for their comfort." For example, he stresses that while he campaigned on marijuana legalization, he does not support the legalization of harder drugs. "Legalizing all the drugs is not going to fly in Montana." Wicks also thinks it's likely he got votes based on what he found as a widespread hate for Gianforte and Quist partisans attacks on eac[...]



Long Strange Trip: The Grateful Dead's Radical Anti-Authoritarian Streak [New at Reason]

2017-05-27T12:00:00-04:00

src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/273WmMzn8fs" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" height="340" frameborder="0" width="560">

The Grateful Dead, a band forged during the Bay Area Acid Tests of the 1960s that grew to become one of the most popular live acts in American history, is the subject of a new 4-hour documentary by Academy Award-nominated director Amir Bar-Lev. Using a trove of archival images, Long Strange Trip follows the band over three decades, delving into the group's history, music, and anti-authoritarian ethos.

Watch above or click the link below for full text, downloadable versions, and more.

Subscribe to our YouTube channel.

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View this article.

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Civil Religion and U.S. Foreign Policy: New at Reason

2017-05-27T08:45:00-04:00

(image) In the June issue of Reason magazine, Daniel McCarthy critiques The Tragedy of U.S. Foreign Policy: How America's Civil Religion Betrayed the National Interest, by Walter A. McDougall:

Never mind the First Amendment; the United States has an official religion after all. It's a civil religion, and the deity's role is to bestow blessings on the state. The "Supreme Architect," "the Almighty Being," "the Infinite Power," and "the Being Who Regulates the Destiny of Nations" are just a few of the sobriquets that Benjamin Franklin, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison gave to the nation's nondenominational guardian spirit.

For some the civil religion might be mere symbolism; others might conflate it with Christianity. Either way, it helps give the nation a sense of purpose, or so historian Walter McDougall contends.

In The Tragedy of U.S. Foreign Policy, McDougall traces how changes in the American civil religion (or "ACR") have shaped the country's attitudes toward war and peace. From the founding until the Spanish-American War of 1898, what McDougall calls the "Classical ACR" (or "Neo-Classical ACR" after the Civil War) prevailed. It was a faith of national expansion on the North American continent, but it did not, in the words of John Quincy Adams, "go forth in search of monsters to destroy" overseas. A new faith took hold in the last decade of the 19th century: the "Progressive American Civil Religion," which became an even more firmly entrenched "Neo-Progressive ACR" during the Cold War. This was a militant faith that conceived of the nation's mission as being, in George W. Bush's words, to "end tyranny in our world." Today a third faith, the "Millennial ACR," aspires to unite the world through a global economy and regime of universal rights. It too has roots in the Cold War, though McDougall identifies it primarily with presidents Clinton and Obama.

View this article.

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Adding Calorie Counts to Menus No Simple Feat: New at Reason

2017-05-27T08:00:00-04:00

(image) Food policy expert Baylen Linnekin weighs in on the latest complications with mandated calorie counts on restaurant menus and USA Today's breezy misassumption that it's all so easy to implement:

This week, New York City—the first place in America to require chain restaurants to post calorie information on their menus—expanded the reach of its menu-labeling law.

The city is now "the first municipality to require grocery and convenience stores with more than 15 outlets nationwide to clearly display calorie counts for prepared foods and beverages and have additional nutritional information available upon request," reports New York's Fox 5. "The rules will apply to about 1,500 food retailers."

This expansion is a microcosm of a larger, ongoing debate in Washington over the fate of federal menu-labeling rules.

View this article.

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Libertarian Party Now Has Two Sitting Legislators in New Hampshire

2017-05-26T20:23:00-04:00

Since the 2016 election, the Libertarian Party (L.P.) has gained two sitting state legislators in New Hampshire. Not by having L.P. candidates win in that election, but by having two legislators who won as a Republican and a Democrat switch allegiance to the L.P. The first was former Republican Caleb Dyer (Hillsborough 37, the cities of Hudson and Pelham) in February. This month, a new two-person Libertarian Caucus in the New Hampshire House of Representatives was formed when Democrat Joseph Stallcop (from Cheshire House District 4, representing the city of Keene's Ward 1) also went L.P. Both renegades are 21 years old. Dyer found the Republican House leadership basically trying to scuttle nearly every bill he sponsored or co-sponsored, and began to suspect it wasn't the Party for him. (The bills included one mandating police body cameras and one allowing for easier annulment of arrest records when no conviction followed.) He was told more or less that anything that wasn't a pre-set part of the state Party's platform, he'd be obstructed on. This didn't sit well with Dyer. (The Republicans currently have a strong majority in the House.) In a February Reddit "Ask Me Anything" session, Dyer explained that when he runs for re-election as a Libertarian, he has the chance of appealing to normally Democratic voters: "I am a firm opponent of Republicans on a great many social issues. I support the decriminalization of sex work with Rep. Elizabeth Edwards (D-Manchester). I am a co-sponsor on HB656, the primary bill for the legalization of recreational cannabis. I am also fervently against the death penalty." In that same AMA he complained that the state GOP "do not seem very focused on reducing expenditures but rather focused on finding ways spend a surplus that we realistically don't have. Apart from this I also question the Republican party's commitment to the accountability of executive agents including police." Dyer ran and won last year as a Republican with a reasonably libertarian message: for school choice and constitutional carry of weapons, against income and sales taxes and the drug war, and wanting to reduce business taxes and spending. His handout to voters didn't even mention party affiliation and called him a "young voice of liberty." In his official statement announcing his party switch in February, Dyer warned Republicans that the Libertarian Party in New Hampshire last year winning ballot access for 2018 (with its gubernatorial candidate Max Abramson passing the 4 percent barrier), shows "that [the GOP's] constituency is slowly but surely growing discontent with their increasingly partisan representation. For elected Republicans like myself who have libertarian leanings this is a truly golden opportunity to establish ourselves as a viable alternative to this representation and become advocates for principled, classically liberal policy....We hope that in two years' time our perseverance will inspire hundreds of People across the state to submit themselves to their peers as Libertarian candidates." Stallcop, elected in November running unopposed as a Democrat and as a junior studying political science at Keene State, was inspired into politics from a more left-learning direction; in his press release announcing his defection to the L.P. he credited "Personally witnessing the situation at Standing Rock" as a major impetus to his political awakening, as it "showed me the danger of relinquishing power and authority into an institution." (Stallcop did no fundraising for his unopposed race.) In a phone interview this week, Stallcop says the Standing Rock situation initially disturbed him because of "shocking" scenes of protesters and media being mistreated "for the sake of protecting a subsidized industry," and at one point felt that a policeman was likely to have shot and killed him for walking across a line. Stallcop noted that when he took a version of the libertarian "Nolan test" (which maps yo[...]



DHS Chief Sows More Terrorism Fears to Kick Off Your Holiday Weekend

2017-05-26T17:40:00-04:00

As you're gassing up for your Memorial Day weekend trip, Department of Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly wants to remind you that the world is trying to kill you.

It's all part of his apparent plan to try to get Americans to support the men and women of the DHS (and the domestic security apparatus) by trying to convince us that we would all be dead without them. Kelly appeared on Fox & Friends this morning to tell us all that it's possible we would "never leave the house in the morning" if we knew what he knew about terrorism.

Fox posted a brief clip on Twitter:

Yes, if you listened carefully, you'll have heard Kelly say "It can happen, almost here, at any time." This has been Kelly's shtick after taking over leadership of the DHS. I took note of it back in April in a speech he gave that was deliberately structured to make Americans feel as though our country was under siege in order to justify unthinking compliance with anything DHS demands of us.

Speaking of those DHS demands, note that the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is cranking up airport searches yet again. This time, allegedly because everybody tries to cram everything into their carry-on bags, security teams at several airports are ordering passengers to take more out of their bags than just their laptops—other electronics, books, and other clutter—so they can allegedly scan more effectively. So prepare for that if you're flying anywhere for the weekend.

Perhaps Kelly could tell us what he knows about terrorism and we could decide for ourselves whether to be scared. But given that Americans actually are not at significant risk of being killed by terrorists, and given the fact that many homegrown terror plots that the FBI disrupts are actually helped along by the FBI itself, he might not like the fact that we might not be spending the three-day weekend under our beds hoping the DHS will keep us safe.

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Florida Gov. Rick Scott Won't Let You Buy Booze in Grocery Stores

2017-05-26T16:44:00-04:00

Florida Gov. Rick Scott vetoed a bill that would have allowed grocery stores, gas stations, and other retailers to sell liquor alongside the beer and wine they already offer. The proposal to tear down Florida's so-called "liquor wall" had cleared the state legislature despite opposition from groups that benefit from the mandatory separation of liquor sales, including the liquor stores themselves and a major grocery chain that runs a series of independent liquor stores. The Miami Herald reports that the "winners" from Scott's veto include independent liquor-store owners, ABC Fine Wine & Spirits and Publix Super Markets," all of which opposed the bill as it was making its way through the state legislature. Rory Eggers, president of the Florida Independent Spirits Association, which represents the privately-owned, spirits-only retailers across the state, said in a statement that the group delivered more than 3,000 petitions to Scott urging him to veto the bill. Like a good Republican, Scott claimed the veto was about looking out for the best interests of the business community in Florida—even though the businesses in question only exist because of a protectionist scheme that's been maintained by the state government since the end of Prohibition. "I have heard concerns as to how this bill could affect many small businesses across Florida," Scott wrote in his veto message. "I was a small business owner and many locally owned businesses have told me how this bill will impact their families and their ability to create jobs." Scott's logic doesn't make much sense, though. By his reasoning, Florida should mandate that each and every product sold in grocery stores or Wal-Marts have to be sold by a separate retailer. There should be one store for vegetables, another store for paper goods, a separate one for dairy products, and so on. Imagine how many small businesses that would create! That's nonsense, of course, just like the governor's argument for maintaining Florida's protectionism for liquor stores. Scott can dress it up however he wants, but this veto is very much an anti-consumer move. Retailers that want to make shopping more convenient should be allowed to do that. The claim that he's protecting small businesses is similarly questionable. Under the current law, large grocery stores like Publix benefit from being able to house separate liquor stores within their footprint, while smaller grocery stores that can't afford to do that are not allowed to sell liquor. Most of all, though, this is about maintaining a special government-granted privilege that benefits some businesses at the expense of others. It's another illustration of the relationship between government and booze that I highlighted earlier this month in a feature about the latest efforts to reform Pennsylvania's liquor laws. The only difference is that, in Pennsylvania, the liquor stores are government-run entities and the employees are government workers (and public sector union members), so it's Democrats who typically argue against doing away with the stand-alone liquor stores. When they do, they use pretty much the same reasoning that Scott employed this week in Florida, claiming that allowing other retailers to sell liquor would hurt the workers whose jobs only exist because of government edict. In Florida, the liquor stores are privately run (which is better, I'll grant), so it's Republicans like Scott defending them as small businesses in need of government protection. [...]



Ariana Grande Will Return to Manchester, Hillary Criticizes Trump: P.M. Links

2017-05-26T16:29:00-04:00

  • (image) Ariana Grande will return to Manchester to play at a benefit concert for victims of the bombing.
  • Hillary Clinton criticizes President Trump in her commencement speech at Wellesley College.
  • John Boehner says Trump has been "a complete disaster."
  • The Obamacare repeal bill faces a divided Republican Senate.
  • Game of Thrones Season 7 trailer earns 61 million views in 24 hours.
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Trump’s Repeal of a Welfare Drug-Testing Regulation Backfires (Thankfully)

2017-05-26T16:13:00-04:00

The 1996 Congressional Review Act, which gives Congress a limited time window after a regulation is implemented to repeal it, was successfully used just once in its first two decades in existence. That all changed in the first half of 2017, as a GOP-led Congress took advantage of a new, actively deregulatory Republican president to roll back a total of 14 late Obama-era rules. Eyeballing the list (and also consulting Reason's work on the specific bills; on which see more below), only one of the CRA repeals stuck out at me as facially unfortunate: the rollback of a 2016 Labor Department rule defining which occupations that states can drug-test for (as authorized by the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012) when disbursing federal unemployment insurance. The qualifying jobs, according to Bloomberg, were mostly "limited to the transportation and pipeline industries, as well as jobs that require carrying a gun or were already legally mandated to have drug tests, such as nuclear plant staff." Republicans like Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) found the list too limiting, and therefore "yet another instance of executive overreach by the Obama administration." Republicans do love their drug-testing of welfare cases (individual welfare, mind you, never the corporate variety), regardless of the constitutionality or efficiency. Why, just look at how much fun it is! Another one heads to President Trump's desk. This legislation allows states to have drug testing to receive federal unemployment benefits. pic.twitter.com/cFnvdeQqX1 — Paul Ryan (@SpeakerRyan) March 19, 2017 Or maybe not. According to a perceptive and somewhat complicated piece by Bloomberg's Josh Eidelson, the CRA repeal actually "takes away some limited [drug-testing] authority states already had." How? Because the 2012 law let states test people suited for jobs specified by federal regulations, now that those regulations have been scrapped, there are no jobs for which states are able to test for drugs. Before Congress revoked Obama's rules, states could have tested aspiring pipeline operators and commercial drivers; now they can't. In other words, congressional Republicans went after the enacting interpretation, while kinda-sorta forgetting the underlying legislation that they themselves wrote. If you don't want the Labor Department making rules, don't pass in your laws language like "an individual for whom suitable work (as defined under the State law) is only available in an occupation that regularly conducts drug testing (as determined under regulations issued by the Secretary of Labor)." There's a lesson here, one that's shot through my June cover story on Trump's deregulatory efforts. The executive branch can do (and already has done) quite a bit of regulatory rollback on its own, but the whole reason you have not just regulations but the agencies writing and enforcing them is that Congress has made laws instructing the federal bureaucracy to do stuff. You can eliminate the Department of Education, but that won't stop the federal government from sloshing money toward public schools in the absence of rewriting legislation from the 1960s. It's easy for a legislator to throw stones at an out-of-control bureaucracy (or more fruitful yet, nobly guide his or her constituents through all the red tape); much harder to undo what Congress has already done. So what's next on drug-testing unemployment recipients? Unless Congress gets off its duff, "States will get to impose broader testing requirements only if the Labor Department goes through its own formal rule-making process to issue stricter regulations," Bloomberg concludes. That process takes roughly one to three years. But even then, there's a catch that likely few people in the Trump administration had thought through: [T]he 1996 review act bans an agency whose regulation has b[...]



Denis Johnson, Chronicler of Outsiders

2017-05-26T15:28:00-04:00

(image) Denis Johnson, a writer with an unmatched ability to bring alive settings as disparate as Afghanistan and Texas, has died at age 67.

Johnson was my favorite living author. (Seek, a collection of his nonfiction pieces, was the book that first attracted me to the practice of journalism.) He began his literary career with poetry, moved on to narrative journalism, and ended in fiction. He also wrote three plays. He brought a lyrical touch to everything he wrote, be it poetry or straight reporting. "To me the writing is all one thing," he told the Los Angeles Times in a rare 2014 interview, "or maybe I should say it's all nothing. The truth is, I just write sentences."

Johnson's most famous work is Jesus' Son, a 1992 collection of linked short stories narrated by a semi-autobiographical drifter known only as "Fuckhead." His other novels and novellas range from The Name of the World, about an adjunct history professor dealing with the death of his wife and daughter, to Fiskadoro, featuring one of the most realistic depictions of a post-apocalyptic society in contemporary literature. (It's set in post-WWIII Florida.) Train Dreams, a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in fiction, followed the life of a day laborer across the first half of the 20th century, providing a history of the United States by telling a history of people.

In the first chapter of Jesus' Son, Johnson describes hearing a scream of anguish. "It felt wonderful to be alive to hear it!" he wrote. "I've gone looking for that feeling everywhere." I feel the same way about his writing.

Johnson's poem "Our Sadness" seems appropriate for the occasion. Read it here. Read an obituary by author Christian Kiefer, a friend of Johnson's, here.

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Still Star-Crossed Would Not Have Impressed Shakespeare: New at Reason

2017-05-26T15:00:00-04:00

(image) Television critic Glenn Garvin watched Shonda Rhimes project Still Star-Crossed and doubts it will be joining her other ABC hits as must-watch TV over the summer:

The network once considered this Shonda Rhimes project the spearhead of its mid-season replacement corps; instead, it's being dumped out of the car during Memorial Day week, when Neilson ratings sweeps are safely in the past and a good percentage of America is on vacation. If Still Star-Crossed was taken hostage by a hacker the way the way the new Pirates of the Caribbean film reportedly had been, ABC and Disney would probably break out into delighted giggles and spend the promo budget on a karaoke party for the staff.

The conceit of Still Star-Crossed is that after Romeo and Juliet kill themselves (oops, spoiler alert), Verona is reeling with political jitters, not to mention murderous swordfights between the warring Capulet and Montague families that erupt about every seven minutes. The local pols decide this can only be cured by an arranged marriage between the two families, notwithstanding that the last wedding involving the two clans ended in a mutual suicide and—well, we get this entire mess.

View this article.

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Twin Peaks and the Moment TV Changed

2017-05-26T14:44:00-04:00

When Twin Peaks came back to television this week, the critics agreed on one thing: It was a hell of a lot weirder than the show's first incarnation. That's an impressive accomplishment, given how strange the original series seemed at the time. In May of 1990, just a month after the program debuted, a Time writer marveled that "such a 'difficult' show could achieve prime-time success." You can give credit for that to cable TV, even though the old Twin Peaks wasn't a cable show. As that same Time piece noted, when the networks accounted for 90% of TV viewing, a series needed mass-audience numbers to survive. Today, with the networks attracting less than two-thirds of the audience, an 18% or 19% share is a passing grade. A show of limited appeal like Twin Peaks can make it; the art-house audience has become a marketing niche. In retrospect, that 1989-90 season was full of signs that a new TV era was beginning. The Simpsons became a weekly series, sparking a sometimes wildly creative wave of adult-oriented animation. Seinfeld debuted, bringing with it a style of humor that paved the way for a radically different sort of sitcom. And we were just a couple years away from Homicide: Life on the Street, a direct progenitor of both Oz and The Wire. Television was getting more inventive, and it was getting more inventive because of consumer choice. More choices meant more niches, more risk-taking, more artistic successes, and more entertainingly odd artistic failures. (1990 was the year of Cop Rock too.) This shift has been an ongoing process, one that began before that season started and is still continuing today. But if I had to pick a single moment that encapsulated the change, it would be a sequence in the third episode of Twin Peaks—the scene where it became firmly clear that David Lynch's show was not merely "quirky" or "unusual" but flat-out weird. An FBI agent investigating a murder brings a crew from the local sheriff's department out to the woods, and there he launches into this spiel: src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/emEu2-_jjfk" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" width="560" height="315" frameborder="0"> And then this happens: src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/GOw8JwfrQfQ" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" width="560" height="315" frameborder="0"> I know I'm not the only person who got hooked on the series when I saw that. I suspect that the exact same scene convinced a lot of people never to watch the damn show again. But that's OK. That's how choice and niches work. My favorite take on the original Twin Peaks, by the way, came from the Seattle-based writer Clark Humphrey. While most critics were calling the show the most surreal thing they'd ever seen on TV, Humphrey kept insisting that this was simply what the Pacific Northwest was like. "Having grown up in a Washington sawmill town," he reiterated recently, "I loved the series as a mostly-realistic portrayal of power and frustration in such a place." Not having grown up in a Washington sawmill town myself, I can't judge whether he's right. For all I know those spots are just crawling with log ladies and backwards-talking dwarves. Whether Humphrey was right was beside the point: I liked his take because it was eccentric, and that's what such an eccentric program deserved. (For past editions of the Friday A/V Club, go here.) [...]



Mass. Teacher's Union Snubs First Charter School Teacher of the Year

2017-05-26T13:40:00-04:00

(image) This year Sydney Chaffee, a humanities teacher at Codman Academy, became the first charter school employee to win National Teacher of the Year, one of her profession's highest honors. This displeased the Massachusetts Teachers Association (MTA), which just voted down a motion to commend their fellow Massachusetts teacher.

The motion to honor her was proposed by a retired public school teacher, Peter Mili, who insists his desire to see Chaffee honored was not about supporting charter schools. (Mili opposed a failed ballot initiative that would've expanded Massachusetts' charter schools.) "I was disappointed that, as an organization of educators, we couldn't for the moment put aside the charter school issue and national politics and just recognize this individual for her accomplishments and her work with children," Mili told CommonWealth magazine.

Mili seems to have fallen for a common line advanced by teachers unions: that their organizations put children first. In fact, teachers unions put their members first. That is the point of unions. And while there's certainly nothing wrong with looking out for your own interests, it gets dangerous in the public sector, where government agencies don't face the kind of competitive pressures that theoretically keep private unions from making demands that would drive their employers out of business. Government officials are also often captured by public sector unions, and thus do not represent the public's interest very vigorously when negotiating with the unions' representatives. The result is rules that protect bad actors by design.

The "children's first" mantra is an attempt to cloak such agendas in the rhetoric of the greater good. When the MTA voted down the motion to honor Chaffee, they inadvertently exposed the duplicity.

Charter schools have grown tremendously since the first one opened in Minnesota in 1991, as parents, especially in underperforming and mismanaged urban school districts, have embraced school choice as a way to improve their children's education. That growth continues: Last week two school choice advocates won school-board seats in the Los Angeles Unified School District, the second largest school district in the country. Teachers unions are losing the long war over parental choice. Petty moves like the MTA's only re-inforce that development.

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Should the Government Limit What Women Can Learn from Non-Invasive Prenatal Testing?

2017-05-26T13:15:00-04:00

As they develop, fetuses shed their DNA into the bloodstreams of pregnant women. Several companies now offer a blood test that can provide genetic information about a fetus nine weeks into a pregnancy, when it is the size of a grape. The process is called non-invasive prenatal testing (NIPT) because—unlike earlier tests, such as chorionic villus sampling or amniocentesis—cells are not taken directly from the placenta or the amniotic fluid surrounding the fetus. NIPT is used to identify genetic abnormalities, such as those involved with Downs Syndrome and Klinefelter Syndrome. The test can also identify the sex of a fetus. Researchers are now working on ways to sequence entire fetal genomes, so in the future NIPT will be able to identify genetic variations, such as those that confer a greater risk for cancers and neurological diseases. Whenever a new fetal test technology comes along, bioethicists always feel compelled to call for restrictions on women's access to information about their fetuses. Take the Nuffield Council on Bioethics, which in March issued a report called Non-invasive prenatal testing: ethical issues. To its credit, the report states that women should be able to access testing for "significant" medical conditions or impairments in the fetus. But it also concludes that NIPT "should not be used to reveal information about a fetus relating to less significant medical conditions or impairments, adult onset conditions, carrier status, sex or other non-medical traits, and [that] whole genome or exome sequencing normally should not be offered. Any restrictions on access to information about the fetus would also need to apply to whole genome or exome sequencing, otherwise these restrictions could be by-passed." Consequently, the council urged the British government to put a moratorium on whole genome NIPT. It also recommended that the government prohibit NIPT providers from telling women the sex of their fetuses. Why? Because it worried that women might then be tempted to have sex-selective abortions. Unfortunately, attempts to limit what women are allowed to learn from advanced prenatal testing are not confined to Britain. In January, Rep. Trent Franks (R-Arizona) introduced the Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act, which aims to outlaw "discrimination against the unborn on the basis of race or sex." During a congressional hearing last year on an earlier version of the bill, Miriam Yeung of the National Asian Pacific American Women's Forum called that "duplicitous," because it frames itself as an "attempt to address racial and gender discrimination while actually intending to chip away at abortion rights." For now the U.S. has no legal restrictions on what women can learn about their fetuses from genetic testing. Let's keep it that way. [...]



People Who Called Snowden a Traitor Shocked to Learn About All This Domestic Surveillance

2017-05-26T13:00:00-04:00

There's this whole "Life comes at you fast" shtick that folks on Twitter use to point out people's hypocrisy. Suddenly Democrats care about federalism when it comes to immigration law enforcement! Suddenly Republicans don't care about federalism when it comes to immigration law enforcement! I try not to engage in the shtick too much, because it feels more like point-scoring than actual debate. But I can't help but bring it up right now. Yesterday, a story about federal surveillance abuses made the rounds in the conservative parts of Twitter I pay attention to, not the tech-security circles where I usually see such discussions. The story, via a media outlet called Circa, documents a recently released report from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISA Court). The report features examples of the FBI passing along private data it collected without warrants to people who should not be seeing it. It's an important story, and it's great that it's getting attention. But what it reveals is well-known to anybody who has been paying attention to the surveillance disclosures and FISA Court document releases that have slowly been surfacing since Edward Snowden started leaking. The federal government is accessing and spreading around more information about U.S. citizens than we realize. That's what Snowden's disclosures were about, right? So here's a March tweet from conservative TownHall.com contributor Kurt Schilchter calling Snowden a traitor: Fuck him. He's a traitor. @NehemiahGraham @Snowden @KamVTV — Kurt Schlichter (@KurtSchlichter) March 8, 2017 Here's an outraged Schlichter today, sharing a link to the Circa story: Tell me more about Trump https://t.co/WCVJf1RCXw — Kurt Schlichter (@KurtSchlichter) May 26, 2017 I selected Schlichter because he's pretty prominent (and isn't going to be bothered by me pointing this out), but I've seen several tweets of the "Why isn't the MSM covering this?" variety from other conservative tweeters, acting as though the press is giving former President Barack Obama cover for setting up a surveillance system that they now think is being used to attack President Donald Trump. The reality is that these surveillance problems do get reported to an American public that has largely, unfortunately, stopped paying much attention. (As a guy who has been covering surveillance for Reason for years, I can easily map out the decline in readership of these pieces, and I suspect other sites can as well.) If you think the intelligence community and the deep state is abusing its powers to go after Trump and his allies for political reasons, guess what: This is exactly the consequence that Snowden himself warned of! A major criticism of the expansive surveillance state has always, always, been its potential for abusive snooping on citizens, whether it's Black Lives Matter or a militia. The problem cuts across the political spectrum. Perhaps people shouldn't have been so quick to call Snowden a traitor. Perhaps they could have spent more time thinking about the actual consequences of the powerful surveillance state, and maybe all those previously reported FISA Court disclosures that helped inform the very story they're passing around now. But regardless of how folks like Schlichter got here, welcome to the surveillance skeptic club! Now that you're here, you should know that there's a very important congressional vote coming up. Section 702 of the FISA authorizations sunsets this year, and Congress has to act. Right now, tech companies are lobbying for changes that would provide more oversight on the National Security Agency and limit the feds' ability to collect information without warrants within in the U.S. [...]



School Cop Tries to Arrest Teenage Girl for Violating the Dress Code

2017-05-26T12:01:00-04:00

(image) Summer, a high school senior in Harrisburg, North Carolina, was suspended for 10 days and barred from attending her graduation ceremony because her shirt revealed a little too much shoulder.

What's more, the school resource officer actually threatened to arrest the girl, she told a local news station.

The officer "was within five feet of me, he had his hand on his gun," Summer told NBC-Charlotte. At that point, Summer reports, the principal said, "I'm gonna give you an ultimatum. We have tried to call your mother. You either come with me to the control room to change your shirt or we will arrest you."

Hickory Ridge High School described Summer's actions as "insubordination," even though she complied with the initial demand to cover up by borrowing a friend's jacket.

Glamour describes the incident as example of dress-code sexism in schools, where girls are often expected to make unreasonable wardrobe alterations because administrators worry that bare arms and tight leggings will distract the boys. But the most worrisome aspect of Summer's story has to the police involvement. Is this what cops in schools are for? Threatening teenagers who were insufficiently deferential to an administrator's overbearing puritanism?

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Teachers Unions Losing Long War Over Parental Choice: New at Reason

2017-05-26T11:50:00-04:00

(image) Choice advocates won two seats on the school board for the Los Angeles Unified School District, just the latest indication that powerful teachers unions are losing the long war against school choice.

Steven Greenhut writes:

Supporters of charter schools, homeschooling and other forms of school choice are so used to fighting in the trenches against the state's muscular teachers unions that they often forget how much progress they've made in the last decade or so. Recent events have shown the degree of progress, even if they still face an uphill—and increasingly costly—battle.

The big news came from a local school-district race, although it wasn't just any school district but the second-largest one in the nation. Charter-school supporters won two school board seats (there's still some vote counting in one of them) in the massive Los Angeles Unified School District, and handily disposed of the union-allied board president. The race was followed nationally, and set the record for the most money spent on a school-board race in the United States, ever.

The total cost was estimated at $15 million, with charter supporters spending $9.7 million, according to estimates from the Los Angeles Times. Typically, choice supporters get eaten alive by the teachers'-union spending juggernaut. It's usually good news if our side can at least raise enough money to get the message out, but it's a shocker—in a pleasant way—to find the charter folks nearly doubled the spending of the union candidates.

Various reformers, including Netflix cofounder and Democrat Reed Hastings, invested serious money in the race. He donated $7 million to one charter group, the Times reported. Another top donor was former Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan, a moderate Republican, who spent more than $2 million. Once again, we saw that this was not some right-wing attack on unions. Victory didn't come cheap, but it's hard to understate the importance, from a reform perspective, of having a major school board run by a pro-charter majority.

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The Fifth Column Branches Out to Sirius XM POTUS!

2017-05-26T11:05:00-04:00

(image) Some news: The Fifth Column, the 13-month-old, occasionally bleary-eyed politics/media/bad-accents podcast co-hosted by Kmele Foster, Michael C. Moynihan and myself, is expanding to Sirius XM's POTUS (stands for "Politics of the United States") channel, beginning this weekend. You can find POTUS, which bills itself as "Non-Partisan Political Talk," at number 124 on your channel-thingie. The hour-long broadcasts will sometimes be edited versions of the longer podcasts, bonus interview sessions, or live call-in shows. Here's how we're described on the site:

From their enclave in midtown Manhattan, hosts Michael Moynihan, Matt Welch, and Kmele Foster dissect the news, interrogate guests, and question just about everything. The topics are broad, the insights are deep, and the jokes are off color.

Tune in Saturday, May 27, at 11 a.m. ET; and Sunday, May 28, at 1 a.m. ET & again at 3 p.m.

You can listen to an expanded version of what you'll hear there right the hell here. Recorded on Wednesday morning, this show is perhaps blissfully free of all things Bodyslamgate, and instead focuses on the Manchester terrorist attack, debates over "root causes," President Donald Trump's Mideast swing, commemorative drug paraphernalia, #MAGA-hashtag Twitter feeds, the mesmerizing lure of Jewish holidays, and the even more tempting prospects of shotgunning Negro Modelos in the morning. It's all here:

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In addition to LISTENING TO US ON SIRIUS XM POTUS CHANNEL 124, you can fulfill your bonus Fifth Column needs at iTunes, Stitcher, Google Play, wethefifth.com, @wethefifth, and Facebook.

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City-Owned Fiber Networks Are a Terrible Idea

2017-05-26T10:50:00-04:00

When the Minnesota city of Monticello established a municipal fiber network in 2009, the business leaders who pushed the plan projected that it would make money. Instead, the network—dubbed FiberNet—faced acute financial woes from day one, losing millions in its first years of operation and even suspending payments to bondholders in 2012. By 2014 officials had given up on the service ever being in the black, with one councilmember telling the Monticello Times, "I don't believe, at this juncture, that FiberNet will ever be a profitable entity. Just like the Monticello Community Center, baseball, soccer fields, bike paths, parks..." Since then the government has kept FiberNet afloat by raiding funds from the city's only profitable business (a liquor store) and from the street light budget. But the service is still operating at a loss, running a $100,000 operational deficit in the last half of 2016 alone. Today the network costs $5,549 per household, or $16,875 per subscriber. That makes it the most expensive project per capita in a new study from the University of Pennsylvania, which examined the 20 city-owned broadband networks around the country whose profitability could be gauged. (Most municipal fiber networks are run through local electrical ulitlities who only report aggregated financial data on the whole of their operations.) Given how badly most of the networks examined in the study have failed, one can see why these utilities aren't more transparent about their costs. Eleven of the 20 are operating at a loss, and all but two will fail to pay back the costs their installation by the time the projects become obsolete. The Taxpayer Protection Alliance Foundation has put together an interactive map of more than 200 municipal networks, color-coded for their level of indebtedness. Fourteen of these services have failed completely, while another 50 remain mired in over $1 million in debt. About half the projects on the map are colored gray, because their indebtedness levels are unclear. (In those cases, requests for public documents are in progess.) Sometimes, as with Monticello, these networks are a wholly local initiative. But often they are spurred on by investments from the federal government. In 2009 the Obama administration established the Broadband Technology Opportunity Program, allotting $4.7 billion in grants to 277 state and local projects as part of the president's promise to bring "true broadband to every community in America." Predictably, much of this money was squandered on needless projects, undocumented expenditures, and simple graft. A New York Times investigation found that a contractor for one of the grants ended up using federal funds to route fiber through its employees' neighborhood. $594 million of the program's funds were ultimately suspended. Yet the dream of a city-owned broadband network won't die. In 2017, bills enabling or encouraging municipal governments to establish their own fiber networks were introduced in a several Southern states, and last year 26 communities in Colorado voted to opt out of a state-level ban on municipal broadband investment. Several of those Colorado towns are now mulling proposals for their own networks. They should take a close look at Monticello's experience before they take the plunge. [...]



4th Circuit Exaggerates the Ambiguous Evidence Against Trump's Travel Ban

2017-05-26T10:15:00-04:00

Yesterday the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit upheld a preliminary injunction against President Trump's revised travel ban, concluding that the facially neutral executive order probably amounts to an unconstitutional "establishment of religion" because it was motivated primarily by anti-Muslim sentiment. The order "in text speaks with vague words of national security," says the majority opinion by Chief Judge Roger Gregory, "but in context drips with religious intolerance, animus, and discrimination." That context is much more ambiguous than Gregory suggests. Ten judges, all appointed by Democrats, agreed that the injunction should stand. The three dissenting judges, all Republican appointees, argue that the majority improperly went beyond the text of the order, which suspends travel to the United States by citizens of six Muslim-majority countries, to consider statements made by Trump and his associates during and after his presidential campaign. "The danger of the majority's new rule is that it will enable any court to justify its decision to strike down any executive action with which it disagrees," says the dissent by Judge Paul Niemeyer. "It need only find one statement that contradicts the stated reasons for a subsequent executive action and thereby pronounce that reasons for the executive action are a pretext." I find myself disagreeing with both sides in this case, which was brought by six U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents with relatives in the targeted countries and three organizations that serve Muslims who want to visit or live in the United States. Niemeyer exaggerates the danger of considering a president's public statements about his own policies, while Gregory exaggerates the strength of the evidence provided by those statements. The president has broad authority to decide which foreign nationals may enter the country. The Supreme Court has said an executive-branch decision to exclude a would-be visitor or immigrant should be upheld as long as it is based on "a facially legitimate and bona fide reason." The 4th Circuit reads "facially" as modifying "legitimate" but not "bona fide." Although Trump's travel ban is facially legitimate, the majority says, it is not bona fide, because there's "ample evidence" that Trump acted in "bad faith," that the national security rationale is a cover for religious discrimination. The dissenters read "facially" as modifying "bona fide" as well as "legitimate," meaning the courts have no business considering the evidence that the majority finds persuasive. Either way, it seems unlikely that the plaintiffs will prevail when this case gets to the Supreme Court. Even if the justices agree to look beyond the text of the order, the evidence cited by the 4th Circuit is not enough to establish either that the reason for Trump's order is not bona fide or that the travel ban unconstitutionally discriminates against Muslims (two propositions that amount to essentially the same thing in the appeals court's analysis). As a presidential candidate, Trump openly and repeatedly recommended "a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States," suggesting that "Islam hates us" and "we can't allow people coming into the country who have this hatred." According to the plaintiffs challenging the travel ban, Trump never really abandoned the idea of using religion to screen travelers. Instead he recast his ban based on religion as a ban based on national origin, at first vaguely referring to countries "compromised by terrorism" and eventua[...]



Are You Ready for the "Intimacy Economy"?

2017-05-26T10:00:00-04:00

We've all heard of the "sharing economy" and the "gig economy," app-driven services such as Uber and Airbnb that have radically altered transportation, travel, and an infinite number of other business sectors. But are you ready for the "intimacy economy"? That's economist and media-studies professor Glenn Platt's term for the ways in which the internet and connectivity are shrinking the distance between performer and audience, producer and consumer, and celebrity and fan. "When I talk about the intimacy economy, I'm talking about this growing category of successful business models that are built on one-to-one relationships and experiences that are personal, authentic, and unscripted," explains Platt, the founder and director of the Armstrong Institute for Interactive Media Studies (AIMS) at Miami University of Ohio. He points to an example involving Craig Finn, best-known as the frontman for the indie rock band The Hold Steady. As a way to raise money for his latest album and tour, Finn set up a crowd-funded pledge drive through which fans could sign up to download the album or have it shipped early. The really interesting thing, though, were the higher-level offerings for funders, says Platt. These included paying a couple of hundred dollars to go record shopping with him in New York. "Here you are, a music fan," he says, "and [Finn] is willing to go record-shopping with you. You're getting to do the equivalent of going to church with one of your rock-and-roll heroes....It's different than saying, If you pay extra, you're going to get an autographed picture." In a wide-ranging conversation about technology and disruption, Platt tells Reason's Nick Gillespie how the intimacy economy will revolutionize not only business but also political and cultural practices. In a world where mass personalization and individualization is the new normal, the intimacy economy provides a bold new way of thinking about the future of interactive media. Produced by Ian Keyser. Subscribe, rate, and review the Reason Podcast at iTunes. Listen at SoundCloud below: src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/324529279%3Fsecret_token%3Ds-QZ6Aa&auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_comments=true&show_user=true&show_reposts=false&visual=true" width="100%" height="450" frameborder="0"> Don't miss a single Reason podcast! (Archive here.) Subscribe at iTunes. Follow us at SoundCloud. Subscribe at YouTube. Like us on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter. This is a rush transcript—check all quotes against the audio for accuracy. Nick Gillespie: Hi, this is Nick Gillespie and this is the Reason podcast. Please Subscribe to us at iTunes and rate and review us while you're there. Today we're talking with Glenn Platt. He's the C. Michael Armstrong professor of interactive media studies and the founding director of the Armstrong Institute for Interactive Media Studies at Miami University. Glenn thanks for joining us. Glenn Platt: Hey Nick. Nick Gillespie: Let's talk about this concept of the intimacy economy that you've talked about. I've actually used it in a couple of articles that I've written at Reason and elsewhere. What do you mean when you talk about the intimacy economy and why is it so important? Glenn Platt: Sure, when I talk about the intimacy economy what I'm talking about is this is a growing category of successful business models that are built on one to one relationships and experiences, that are personal. authentic and unscripted. And so we're starting to see m[...]



We've Killed 44 Children in Syria This Month, Trump to Talk Climate Change With World Leaders, Texas Allows Balloon-Based Hunting of Feral Pigs: A.M. Links

2017-05-26T09:02:00-04:00

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Movie Review: Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales: New at Reason

2017-05-26T08:00:00-04:00

(image) Can it really be said that dead men tell no tales? Even the long-deceased might have an indignant response to the latest entry in the never-frickin'-ending Pirates of the Caribbean franchise. Well, the news isn't all bad, I suppose: English actress Kaya Scodelario, an ornament of the Maze Runner films, here lends her tilted smile and twinkly spirit to a colorless love story undeserving of her lively presence. As good news goes, though, she's about it.

A serious problem for Dead Men Tell No Tales is the number of key Pirates personnel who have jumped ship. Founding director Gore Verbinski is long gone, of course, now replaced by Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg, Norwegian helmers of the Oscar-nominated Kon-Tiki. Cinematographer Dariusz Wolski is absent for the first time, as are screenwriters Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio. (Rossio did take a first pass at the script, but it was judged inadequate, and he was replaced by veteran script-doctor Jeff Nathanson.)

Also among the missing, it might be said, is series star Johnny Depp – Captain Jack Sparrow himself – who over the course of 14 years of playing this character has run out of new things to do with his performance, and is now pretty much emailing it in, writes Kurt Loder.

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Friday Funnies: Trump Transparency

2017-05-26T07:00:00-04:00

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Brickbat: Stop Resisting!

2017-05-26T04:00:00-04:00

(image) Los Angeles County sheriff's deputies shoved a 76-year-old woman's head into the wooden arm rest of the chair she was sitting in at a train station when she didn't comply with their orders quickly enough. The woman was sitting in reserved seating when the officers told her to move. She told them she needed her cane to stand up, but they refused to allow her to have it. They then handcuffed the woman and took her to jail, where she was charged with obstruction.

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Republican Gianforte Wins Montana House Race Despite Assault Charge; Libertarian Mark Wicks Pulls 6 Percent

2017-05-26T02:58:00-04:00

Despite being cited for misdemeanor assault on a reporter yesterday (which leaves him open to a possible six months in jail), Republican Greg Gianforte won handily in Montana's special House election today over Democrat Rob Quist. As of posting time, Gianforte has a 50-44 lead. As FiveThirtyEight pointed out, despite this apparent huge win for the Republicans, in comparison with the weighted average win for the GOP in the last two presidential elections which would lead one to predict a 21 percent win, and with former Rep. Ryan Zinke's last victory of 16 percent, this 6 percent win isn't the best news Republicans could hope for looking forward to 2018 and first national election in the age of Trump. Gianforte also has a $5 million lead in outside spending against Quist. The 53 percent turnout today was very close to this decade's general pattern for non-presidential elections for Montana. Libertarian Mark Wicks, a rancher, came in with 6 percent, his raw vote total (21,332 as of time of posting) nearly beating the spread between them. Since the Republican won, Wicks will likely not be accused of "spoiling" the race for the loser. Wicks' total, says Libertarian National Committee chair Nicholas Sarwark via email tonight, means "that there's a solid block of Libertarian voters who control the balance of power in elections." Wicks beat the result for the L.P.'s 2016 presidential candidate Gary Johnson in the state in percentage terms (though not in raw votes, given smaller turnout). Wicks spent less than a dollar per vote, Sarwark says. (Wicks' campaign got a rare $5,000 donation from the LNC.) In the last three Montana House elections, no Libertarian got more than 4.2 percent. In 2012, Libertarian Dan Cox in Montana's federal Senate race got over 6 percent, far wider than the spread between winning Democrat Jon Tester and losing Republican Danny Rehberg. Wicks had the rare distinction for an L.P. candidate of appearing in a televised debate with his major party opponents. In it, he seemed to be trying to appeal more as a change agent for those dissatisfied with major party sclerosis in general rather than a hardcore freedom guy, though he tipped his hat to the Constitution. He was solid on gun rights, but made sure the viewer knew that though he supported marijuana legalization he did not feel the same about harder drugs. He said he believed in a border wall in certain places, and spoke out twice against sanctuary cities and expressed a fear that unmanaged immigration could lead to another 9/11. His solution for medical drug price inflation was suggesting a law forbidding American drug makers from selling their drugs overseas for any less than they sold them here (rather than, say, allowing Americans to buy them at cheaper overseas prices and import them). As the Libertarian he was of course asked if a vote for him was "wasted." Wicks replied that "we've been doing the same thing over and over and getting the same results," that "the people in Washington are not doing what they are supposed to" and are "beholden to special interests and taking lobbyist money and not doing what's best for Montana" while criticizing the media for ignoring him. He called on Montana's historical distinction as the first state to send a woman, Jeanette Rankin, as a representative to Washington in 1916 and asked them to do the same for the first Libertarian. That di[...]



A Brief History of Politicians Body-Slamming Journalists [New at Reason]

2017-05-25T19:30:00-04:00

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In the twilight hours of a special election to replace Montana's lone congressman, Republican hopeful Greg Gianforte reportedly "body-slammed" and punched a Guardian reporter after the journalist tried to ferret out an answer about GOP health care plans. In this video Reason TV imagines a world in which other, high profile politicians give into violent impulses when confronted by the press.

Polls opened in Montana less than twenty-four hours after Gianforte's confrontation with Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs, and his subsequent assault charge. In the event that Mr. Gianforte is elected to Congress there is a reasonable chance he will interact with more journalists in the future, and possibly even have to formulate responses to Republican legislation at some point.

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Donald Trump Did Not Create the Anti-Media Fervor on the Right

2017-05-25T18:45:00-04:00

Predictably, the alleged criminal assault of Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs last night by Montana congressional candidate Greg Gianforte has turned into a pin-the-blame-on-Donald-Trump exercise. And not just from a journalistic class ever eager to seize any club with which to whack the 45th president—here's Rep. Mark Sanford (R-S.C.), admittedly a persistent thorn in Trump's side (the distaste is mutual), but still very much a Republican: Here's @RepSanfordSC on Gianforte and politics in the age of Trump: 'There is total weirdness out there.' pic.twitter.com/Le48yCAksk — Mike DeBonis (@mikedebonis) May 25, 2017 There is certainly much more connective tissue and surface similarity between Trump and Gianforte than Sarah Palin and Jared Loughner, though I suppose most any number is larger than zero. Trump did make several cavalier statements during the campaign about knocking the crap out of protesters, and his treatment of the media as an "enemy" has been continuous. But I'm against the Transitive Property of Incitement here for the same reason I always am—it robs violent aggressors of their own hard-won agency, and it gives statist politicians an excuse to tighten the expressive noose. It's possible/probable that I lack sufficient dot-connecting imagination, but until shown otherwise I'm going to stick with the wild theory that Greg Gianforte is an unusually rageaholic asshole. Because our tribal stupidity and disingenuous blame-shifting comes in two main flavors in this country, let us not forget that an even more strained contextual explanation for the Montana bodyslam has been percolating, most notably by Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.): "The left," Franks told MSNBC, "has precipitated this tense, confrontational, approach throughout the country in recent months." What this has to do with a political reporter asking a congressional candidate about a Congressional Budget Office score is beyond me. It's true that the recent Nazi-punching debates on the left have been disturbing, and it's also true that Gianforte wasn't exactly confronted last night by a card-carrying member of Antifa. The Trump-made-this-possible theory may be an open-and-shut case for the likes of Don Lemon, but it suffers from a similar fatal flaw that a lot of the withering obituaries for Fox News impresario Roger Ailes did last week: It gave the guys at the top of the (hated) conservative pyramid far too much credit for inventing and then cynically profiting from a pathology, rather than for recognizing and catering to an underserved market segment. To put it plainer, neither Trump nor Ailes conjured up anti-media sentiment from scratch—they knew that their core audience was routinely ignored or disrespected by the gatekeepers of media and culture and politics, so they presented a conspicuous alternative, one that always gives prominence to an anti-media/elite critique. So yes, Trump's anti-media lines were always some of the biggest applause generators at his campaign rallies, from the very beginning. But you know what? The same was true for Ted Cruz. And Ben Carson. Hell, even Jeb Bush and Carly Fiorina were getting their biggest responses by going after the media at the 2016 Conservative Political Action Conference. As Jesse Walker pointed out yesterday, the anti-media element of the political culture war has[...]



Trump Tries to Make NATO Spending Demand Stick

2017-05-25T18:28:00-04:00

At the NATO summit in Brussels today, President Trump reiterated a demand that NATO members increase their defense spending to counter threats presented by terrorism, immigration, Russia, and those on NATO's southern borders. The demand has lost some of its punch since Europe more or less called the President's bluff after Defense Secretary James Mattis first insisted American taxpayers could no longer "carry a disproportionate share of the defense of western values" in February. Trump told NATO leaders at the unveiling of the Article 5 and Berlin Wall memorials in Brussels "23 of the 28 member nations are still not paying what they should be paying and what they're supposed to be paying for their defense." NATO guidelines require members to spend 2 percent of their GDP on defense. "These grave security concerns," Trump said, "are the same reason that I have been very, very direct with [NATO] Secretary [Jens] Stoltenberg and members of the alliance in saying that NATO members must finally contribute their fair share and meet their financial obligations." NATO leaders re-iterated a promise at the NATO summit in 2014 in Wales to work over the next decade to meet the 2 percent guideline. At the time just the U.S. and Estonia met the target. Today, Poland, the United Kingdom, and Greece have been added. Poland and the Baltics countries have incentive to spend more on defense since the Russian invasion of Ukraine in 2014 prompted the Wales declaration. Robert Farley, an assistant professor at the University of Kentucky's Patterson School of Diplomacy and International Commerce, told Reason, "Some countries have made commitments that seem solid, and in Poland's case that seems to include big ticket items." "As long as the NATO countries are going to be committed to a common defense, the burdens also need to be equitably shared," William Ruger, vice president for research and policy at the Charles Koch Institute, told Reason. "Our wealthy European allies have the resources and population base to step up to the plate. However, this will be a challenge given that the U.S. has not credibly insisted upon real burden sharing in the past and has created a significant free-rider problem." But how much Trump's rhetoric may have shifted the winds toward increased defense spending remains to be seen. European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker responded to Mattis' earlier critique, calling on European leaders to resist Trump's demands, arguing that foreign and humanitarian aid counted as spending toward security. Since then, Trump has changed his campaign position, saying he believed NATO was "no longer obsolete." Calculated or not, Ruger said, it was a way for Trump "to put more teeth into calls for greater balance in the relationship." At the same time, Trump proposed massive defense spending increases in his first budget—increases fellow Republicans in Congress say are not enough. Those increases undercut the administration's argument for other NATO members to increase their defense contribution. So long as the U.S., which spends by far more on defense than any other country in the world, appears to guarantee the security of its allies, there will be little incentive for European politicians to call for increased defense spending. And there is still the matter of T[...]



Cory Doctorow on His New Novel 'Walkaway' (New at Reason)

2017-05-25T17:05:00-04:00

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Cory Doctorow, author of Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom, Little Brother, and Makers, is a three-time Prometheus Award winner, an honor bestowed on the best works of libertarian science fiction. In his most recent book, Walkaway, the super rich engineer their own immortality, while everyone else walks away from the post-scarcity utopia to rebuild the dead cities they left behind.

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