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Updated: 2017-09-25T00:00:00-04:00

 



Judge Napolitano on Whether the Trump/NFL Feud Is a First Amendment and/or Free Speech Issue

2017-09-25T18:20:00-04:00

(image) Berkeley's Milo-tastic Free Speech Week might have been a dud on arrival, but that's not going to stop the most libertarian cable news show on television probing both the culture and legality of free speech all damn week. Fox Business Network's Kennedy, the eponymous daily starring Reason's dear old pal, launches its own Free Speech Week tonight with a super-strong effort featuring:

* Judge Andrew Napolitano, expertly picking apart free-speech arguments about the Trump-NFL-anthem kerfuffle that you hadn't even begun thinking about.

* Beloved Reason campus-free-speech correspondent Robby Soave, who describes what he saw at that Berkeley nothingburger, and what that might mean for the college speaking wars.

* A Party Panel of me, Kat Timpf, and Conservatarian Manifesto author Charles C.W. Cooke, discussing Trump's NFL commentary, and also his administration's revised travel ban.

Other Reason guests on Kennedy this week will include Peter Suderman and Katherine Mangu-Ward, so stay tuned all week at 8 p.m. ET! Oh, and read our recent magazine interview with the hostess herself.

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University of California Blows Big Money on Gold-Plated Pensions

2017-09-25T17:15:00-04:00

If there's one thing University of California students hate more than Milo Yiannopoulos, it's tuition increases. Tuition hikes in 2009 touched off demonstrations, with students occupying university buildings, and forcing the cancellation of classes. Last November, after a 2.5 percent tuition increase passed, 80 students barged into a Board of Regents meeting with signs chanting their opposition. It might be tempting to dismiss these protests as yet more entitled foot- stamping by campus activists, but the truth is these youthful radicals have a point—at least when it comes to the cost of their education. Students are being asked to pay more and more into the University of California system. In-state tuition has increased from $3,859 (in 2017 dollars) for the 2000-2001 academic year to $12,630 today. Crucially, this money is not funding better educational opportunities, but rather is going toward covering the gold-plated pension benefits of university employees. According to a Sunday report in the Los Angeles Times, the average pension for 30-year retirees was $88,000 a year. Some 5,400 UC retirees received annual pensions of over $100,000, a 60 percent increase from 2012. Nearly three dozen retirees are pulling down annual pension payouts of over $300,000. That doesn't count the $175 million slush fund UC President Janet Napolitano used to provide additional retirement benefits to key staff, along with hotel stays, theater tickets, and limousine rides. "The university is pushing this whole narrative about income inequality. You think they would practice what they preach," said Marc Joffe, a pension analyst at the Reason Foundation (which publishes this website). Given that these are defined benefit pensions—where employees are typically guaranteed a fixed percentage of their wage at retirement—the university and, by extension, students and taxpayers who shoulder the burden of their retirement costs. According to the California Policy Center—which initiated the public records requests the Times report is based on—the University of California Retirement Plan paid out $3.11 billion in pension benefits for the budget year ending in June 30, 2016. Those costs were offset by $850 million in employee contributions, and another $2.5 billion came from the university. That works out to $9,800 per student for the 2016-2017 academic year, exceeding all the tuition increases of the last seventeen years. "We have all heard demands for free college," Joffe, tells Reason. Without such lavish pension benefits, that prized progressive goal would be far more realistic, he says. The latest UC fee increase—which sparked that most recent round of student protests—will bring in $57 million in new revenue. Rising pension and retiree healthcare costs meanwhile will eat up $26 million, or almost half that fee increase. This problem is not limited to the University of California. Every agency and department in state government is crumpling under the weight of rising pension costs. In April, Californians saw their car registration fees jump $10 to help cover the serially underfunded California Highway Patrol's pension. Meanwhile, the state had to pass a massive gas tax increase to fund basic maintenance (and a few other things). According to one Hoover Institution study, California is looking at $787 billion in unfunded pension liabilities. Without serious reform, the burden of unfunded liabilities will require California's residents—much like their university students—to pay more in taxes and fees, while getting increasingly less in services they demand. For some possible fixes on California's pension crisis, check out this video from Reason TV: src="//www.youtube.com/embed/_eSI4k4o3nY" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" width="560" height="314" frameborder="0"> [...]



Screw Donald Trump—Go Ahead, Sit During the Anthem: Podcast

2017-09-25T17:00:00-04:00

At a rally in Alabama last week, President Trump lambasted NFL players for "disrespect[ing] the flag."

"Wouldn't you love to see one of these NFL owners...say 'get that son of a bitch off the field right now,'" Trump told the crowd. A few days later, he urged football fans to boycott the NFL unless the league takes action against players who refuse to stand during the Pledge of Allegiance.

Has Trump burst the only remaining non-political bubble in American culture? Not at all, says Reason's Nick Gillespie. "Sports is often seen as a kind of redoubt from serious activity, and I think that's wrong....Sports has always been politicized and I think it's a good thing to admit that."

In today's podcast, Gillespie was joined by Katherine Mangu-Ward, Eric Boehm, and Andrew Heaton to talk about Trump's rage against professional football, whether the Graham-Cassidy bill should replace Obamacare, and what Republicans should actually focus on with tax reform.

Subscribe, rate, and review the Reason Podcast at iTunes. Listen at SoundCloud below:

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Weak Merkel Victory Leaves Policy Questions Up in the Air

2017-09-25T16:45:00-04:00

Angela Merkel led her party to a fourth consecutive victory in parliamentary elections yesterday, but she doesn't have much to celebrate. Her party, the Conservatives (CDU/CSU), posted their second worst showing since World War II. Her most recent governing coalition partners, the center-left Social Democrats (SPD), posted their worst showing since 1890. A tussle between the CDU/CSU and the SPD, and the complicated horse-trading required for Merkel to form any other governing coalition, threaten an already eroded liberal immigration policy. It also creates more chances for Alternative for Germany (AfD), a right-wing nationalist party founded in 2013, to exploit dissatisfaction with the status quo. SPD leader Martin Schulz responded to the election results by signaling he would not continue the party's coalition with Merkel, who will have to instead turn to the pro-market Free Democrats (FDP) and the eco-leftist Greens. This potential combination is being nicknamed a "Jamaica coalition," after the three parties' colors: black, green, and yellow. AfD gained the most from the CDU/CSU and the SPD's losses. In 2013 it fell short of the threshold required to to send members to Parliament, but this time won 12.6 percent of the vote and earned 94 seats. The appearance of a nationalist party in the country that produced the Nazis is worrying, but the situation isn't necessarily as dire as that sounds. "A majority of their voters have said that voting for the AfD was primarily a way to express their protest and dissatisfaction with the other parties," explains Josefin Graef, communications officer for the German Politics Specialist Group of the United Kingdom Political Studies Association. Writing in The Guardian, Cass Mudde argues that the results show "de-alignment from the mainstream parties, rather than re-alignment to AfD." Graef calls AfD "an extremely heterogeneous and internally divided party whose members represent different shades of a conservative political ideology, stretching from economic-liberal to national-conservative to outright right-wing extremist." Those divisions are not likely to diminish with the party in Parliament. All the same, AfD's success, however limited, could excite far-right parties elsewhere in Europe. And the party has already arguably played a role in pushing German politics away from a liberal immigration policy. "I am not sure Germany's immigration policy, specifically its asylum policy, can actually still be characterized as open and liberal," says Graef, "considering that a number of severe restrictions have been introduced in the past couple of years, not least due to the pressure exerted by the AfD." For now, Germany's immigration policy does remain more open than that of most other EU members, including France and the United Kingdom. The CSU—the Bavarian wing of the CDU/CSU political alliance—wants the next ruling coalition to back a cap on migrants. Merkel has so far resisted this demand, and Graef doesn't think a cap will be part of the next coalition agreement, since it would violate the individual right to asylum in the German constitution. The CSU's push could, however, lead to increased efforts with other EU members to create "reception centers" in North Africa to intercept migrants before they get to Europe . If the Jamaica coalition comes to fruition, Merkel will have to balance the CSU's restrictionist demands with the Greens' pro-immigration agenda. And that won't be her only balancing act. "She will face similar challenges with regards to employment and housing policy, taxation and environmental policy, areas in which especially the FDP and the Greens are opposed in many questions," Graef says. Merkel herself says her goal is to win back AfD voters by offering "good politics." She has been adept as chancellor at offering voters what they say they want. What that, or "good politics," will mean this time remains to be seen. [...]



Weiner Sentenced to Prison, North Korea Threatens to Shoot Down Planes, Violent Crime Up for Second Year: P.M. Links

2017-09-25T16:30:00-04:00

  • (image) North Korea's foreign minister says President Donald Trump's tweets count as a declaration of war, and that means they can shoot down U.S. military planes.
  • Former Democratic Congressman Anthony Weiner has been sentenced to 21 months in federal prison for sexting a teen.
  • Violent crime in the United States rose for the second year in a row, but it's still much, much lower than it used to be.
  • Chelsea Manning has been barred from traveling to Canada due to her conviction for leaking military files to Wikileaks.
  • I have no idea what the state of the health care bill by Sens. Bill Cassidy and Lindsey Graham will be when this goes live, so here's a link that should perhaps indicate its current state. It seems kinda dead though. Deadish? Mostly dead?
  • Sen. John McCain says his cancer diagnosis is "very, very serious" and that his doctors gave him a "very poor prognosis."

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

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How Congress Can Use an Obscure Law From the 1880s to Limit Wasteful Government Contracts

2017-09-25T16:08:00-04:00

When the U.S. Army got caught spending $76 million on video games, recruitment tools, and promotional items instead of spending it on research and development, the only punishment was a written reprimand and a new officer training program. That's small potatoes. In 2001, the Air Force exceeded its obligation in a single year by $300 million on intercontinental ballistic missile replacement without congressional approval. In 2004 the Department of Housing and Urban Development managed to exceed their commitments set by congress by more than $1.5 billion for a variety of projects, according to GAO. The federal government spent more than $477 billion on contractors in the last fiscal year, according to a Bloomberg Government report. As recently as 1984 the feds were only spending $168 billion. With a budget that large it's inevitable that some of it is misused or wasted. But Congress has a tool that could be used to reduce that wasteful spending: The Anti-Deficiency Act, an obscure law that's been on the books for over 130 years. Instead of being a mere afterthought, Congress could give the ADA some teeth and use it to target wasteful contractor spending. The Anti-Deficiency Act in was passed in 1884 to curb inappropriate spending in the Bureau of Indian Affairs. The law made it illegal for bureaucrats in Washington to exceed their budgets by spending money Congress hasn't appropriated, or "employing personal services not authorized by law," except in emergencies. In modern times it's mostly used as an asterisk for wasteful spending that goes on in bureaucracies, like in the examples above. Last amended in 1950, the law provided for potential penalties for violations including termination, a $5,000 fine and up to two years in prison. Unfortunately, it's gone relatively unenforced over the last couple of decades. "The wrong it was intended to correct was federal employees entrusted with appropriated funds using a portion of those funds to hire others to help with their work -- and in some cases do it entirely," says Robert J. Hanrahan of the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a free market think tank, in a new paper that argues Congress should take a more assertive role reining in the power of bureaucracies. Hanrahan points to the National Nuclear Security Administration, where he was formerly employed, as a modern example. The NNSA has spent more than $100 million on contractors on its own, without any congressional approval. This is common in the administrative state. Departments can effectively hire contractors when they run short of employees, outsourcing their own responsibilities to use the budget for program funds. In doing so, the departments can – and do – effectively bill the American taxpayer twice for the same administrative services, and avoid hiring freezes. When the House Armed Service committee in 2014 began to question some of the practices within NNSA, it added in requirements for the agency to report on the use of contractors. This also meant making the Department of Energy include in its budget the number of its contractors and the source of funds used. Hanrahan believes that if this were applied more broadly to all departments of the federal government, it would mean an important first step in enforcing the law and preventing the current misappropriation of taxpayer money. But it shouldn't stop there. "Congress should establish a private civil cause of action for ADA violations, akin to standing provisions of the Sherman Act and Qui Tam provisions of the False Claims Act." Hanrahan writes. If fiscal conservatives are serious about shrinking the size, scope and spending of government then they could use wield the Anti-Deficiency Act as a weapon of choice. Instead of the GAO filing reports every year with a dozen pages or more of Anti-Deficiency Act violations, the bureaucracy keeping track of the bureaucracy would get smaller. And, who knows? In the proce[...]



Oslo Freedom Forum in New York: New at Reason

2017-09-25T15:33:00-04:00

(image) The coexistence of the harrowing and the upbeat, of victory and never-ending battle at devastating cost was a central, if unspoken, theme of the Oslo Freedom Forum conference last week in New York, Cathy Young writes.

Wuilly Arteaga, a slightly built 23-year-old Venezuelan musician who became famous for playing the violin at the recent street protests in Caracas, wowed the audience with his music and his story, told in Spanish through an interpreter.

Raised in a poor family, Arteaga was self-taught before joining El Sistema, the government-funded music education system. State largesse did not buy his obedience. He was near tears recounting his ordeal at the hands of the chavista security forces: arrest, brutal beatings that left him deaf in one ear, his violin smashed. Yet he considers himself "fortunate" compared to fellow protesters who were killed or are still imprisoned.

View this article.

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Hey, Congress: If You Really Want to Help Puerto Rico Recover, Dump the Jones Act

2017-09-25T14:35:00-04:00

Puerto Rico is in a dire state after Hurricane Maria. The island has lost all power even as a heat wave bakes it—and it may be months, not days or weeks, before electricity and services are restored. Meanwhile, the place's agriculture industry has been decimated. Recovery will require the island to import everything from lumber to food to fuel to medical supplies. Unfortunately, a protectionist law may get in the way. The Jones Act—technically, the Merchant Marine Act of 1920—has had nasty financial impacts on trade to Puerto Rico and many other port cities and islands within the United States and its territories. The Jones Act requires that all ships traveling between U.S. ports be made, owned, and crewed by Americans. So a ship from another country, or whose owners are from another country, cannot travel from port to port within the United States delivering or picking up goods. Fortunately the Department of Homeland Security has recognized this problem and has waived the Jones Act for fuel shipping for the time being. But given the tremendous amount of devastation Puerto Rico faces, the costs that are going to be involved in recovering, and the already poor financial state of the island, there has never been a better time to dump the Jones Act entirely. The Jones Act exists to boost the American shipping industry. It has long contributed to the dramatic costs of shipping to Puerto Rico. A New York Fed report from 2012 shows that it costs twice as much to ship something from a port in the U.S. mainland to Puerto Rico as it does to ship to Jamaica and the Dominican Republic nearby. There are only a handful of Jones Act–compliant options, and that lack of competition allows U.S. shippers to charge much higher prices. People who think the government should intervene to stop price-gouging during a disaster should know the Jones Act practically facilitates it and makes recovery all the more expensive. Cato Institute Adjunct Scholar Scott Lincicome warned about the consequences in 2015: During the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, the government...refused to issue Jones Act waivers so foreign vessels could aid in the cleanup and containment. Despite several offers for foreign assistance during an ongoing ecological disaster, the government cited the Jones Act to justify turning them away. Many suspect that the Obama administration was reluctant to go against the pro-Jones Act labor unions (tr. every labor union) he needed to cement his re-election. It's not a leap to say that such cronyism may have delayed the eventual resolution of the spill. In response to Puerto Rico's current crisis, Lincicome tells Reason if a complete repeal is not in the works, then at the very least its rules should be waived for all shipping to Puerto Rico for the foreseeable future, not just for shipping fuel. "You're looking at a clear and avoidable economic burden being placed on the people of Puerto Rico," he says. He adds that the island's citizens suffer this economic burden every day as it is. It's only being temporarily halted due to the crisis. "We're alleviating that burden because they're a sympathetic group right now and there's a spotlight on the tragedy," Lincicome says. "In the good times or normal times, those costs are considered OK. It's a really sad state of affairs." Lincicome has seen no evidence that the disaster might cause Congress to rethink the law. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) periodically attempts to get the Jones Act repealed, but nothing comes of it. And opening America's ports to foreign competition certainly doesn't seem like something President Donald Trump is likely to embrace. "In this political environment it's going to be pretty darned tough to get Republicans on board," Lincicome says. "Politicians are convinced that protectionism is good politics." [...]



Violent Crime Rose in 2016 for the Second Year in a Row

2017-09-25T14:17:00-04:00

Violent crime in the U.S. rose again in 2016 for the second year in a row, according to national crime statistics released by the FBI today. The FBI's Uniform Crime Report program, which collects crime data from police departments across the country, found that violent crime increased by 4.1 percent in 2016, along with an 8.6 percent increase in homicides. Those numbers come after a 3.9 percent and 10.8 percent rise in violent crime and homicides in 2015, respectively. Property crime, meanwhile, fell for the 14th year in a row, dropping by 1.4 percent. Violent crime, like crime in general, had been steadily trending downward since the early 1990s, but Monday's report marks the first time since 2005 and 2006 that the U.S. has experienced a consecutive year-to-year rise in violent crime. Warnings of out-of-control crime and violent criminals roaming the streets were a staple of Donald Trump's populist campaign rhetoric last year, and Attorney General Jeff Sessions has warned of rising crime in many of his public speeches. The Trump administration has pushed back against a growing bipartisan consensus that disfavors the so-called "tough-on-crime" policies that dominated the 1980s and '90s, instead vowing to give police and prosecutors the maximum possible leeway to fight crime. "For the sake of all Americans, we must confront and turn back the rising tide of violent crime. And we must do it together," Sessions said in a statement on the new crime numbers. "The Department of Justice is committed to working with our state, local, and tribal partners across the country to deter violent crime, dismantle criminal organizations and gangs, stop the scourge of drug trafficking, and send a strong message to criminals that we will not surrender our communities to lawlessness and violence." On a conference call with reporters Monday, several criminal experts said that, while the continued increase in violent crime was significant and worrisome, current violent crime rates are still below those of 2008 and far below the peak rate of 1991. Adam Gelb, director of the Public Safety Performance Project at the Pew Charitable Trusts, pointed out that only five years since 1971 have had lower violent crime rates than 2016. In 2005 and 2006, the U.S. also experienced a similar two-year rise in violent crime. "There were dire warnings from police, only to have crime then continue to drop," Gelb said. The Brennan Center for Justice released a report this month predicting that, if current preliminary numbers hold steady, 2017 will indeed see a decrease in both overall and violent crime. John Pfaff, a professor at Fordham University Law School, cautioned that crime is a complex, geographically concentrated phenomena, and that it can't simply be attributed to how many people are or aren't being sent to prison. He noted that Chicago, which has been experiencing an unprecedented spike in murders over the past several years, was responsible for about 20 percent of the national net increase in homicides. However, half of Chicago's rise in murders were confined to five neighborhoods with 9 percent of the city's population. "So in other words," Pfaff said, "five neighborhoods in Chicago explain 10 percent of the national increase in homicide rates." "Crime is not just a function of policing and prisons," Pfaff continued. "Over half of the drop in prison populations nationwide since 2010 has just happened in California, and in California, while they're home to 12 percent of the population, they only contributed to 5 percent of the increase in murders this year." Likewise, New York City's violent crime rate has continued to hold steady or drop, even though it has overhauled many of its more aggressive policing practices in recent years, leading Sessions to call the city "soft on crime." In a statement, New York City Police Commi[...]



Why We Need Less Debt, and Fast: New at Reason

2017-09-25T14:01:00-04:00

src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/fpEocyWcNZ8" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" width="560" height="340" frameborder="0">

It was big news when our national debt recently passed the $20 trillion mark. What's less understood is exactly why having such a massive debt is a bad thing. The short answer is that too much debt slows economic growth, reducing living standards.

Barack Obama, and George W. Bush were leaders who lacked the integrity to do what's best for the country by keeping spending and debt in line. President Donald Trump also shows no interest in explaining to the public how runaway debt chokes off the future. That's a failure which we'll all be paying for for a very long time to come.

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Is Minnesota's Indefinite Detention of Sex Offenders Punitive or Therapeutic?

2017-09-25T13:45:00-04:00

Since 1994 the Minnesota Sex Offender Program (MSOP) has confined more than 700 people who were deemed too "sexually dangerous" to release after completing their prison sentences. Ostensibly they are no longer inmates but patients, undergoing treatment aimed at reducing their risk of recidivism. Yet in more than two decades, only one of these involuntary "patients" has been declared well enough to be released, and that did not happen until August 2016. Today the U.S. Supreme Court is considering whether to hear a challenge to this system of indefinite preventive detention, which effectively imposes life sentences on people who have already been punished for their crimes. The plaintiffs in the case, Karsjens v. Piper, include MSOP detainees who have completed their treatment yet remain behind bars because the program does not conduct regular assessments to determine whether offenders still meet the criteria for commitment. "In effect, Minnesota's failure to implement adequate periodic reviews establishes a death-in-confinement sentence without any of the safeguards of the criminal legal system," says the petition asking the Supreme Court to hear the case. "Hundreds of civilly committed people in Minnesota have never received a risk assessment, and hundreds more have risk assessments that are outdated and therefore invalid....The MSOP knows, for some of the people in custody, that they in fact satisfy discharge criteria, but the MSOP takes no action to facilitate their discharge." As one of the plaintiffs put it in 2015, "The only way to get out is to die." The Supreme Court has upheld post-prison commitment of sex offenders, accepting the pseudoscientific claim that a propensity to commit a certain type of crime is an illness that mental health professionals can cure (in this case, an illness defined by state legislators rather than psychiatrists). But the Court has warned that imposing punishment in the guise of treatment is a violation of due process. "If the civil system is used simply to impose punishment after the State makes an improvident plea bargain on the criminal side, then it is not performing its proper function," Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote for the majority in the 1997 case Kansas v. Hendricks. "[If] civil confinement were to become a mechanism for retribution or general deterrence...our precedents would not suffice to validate it." In a brief supporting the Karsjens plaintiffs, the Cato Insitute and the Reason Foundation (which publishes this website) argue that the MSOP's track record and lack of systematic assessments show it is punitive rather than therapeutic. "The MSOP is a regime of indefinite detention that provides no hope of release," the Cato/Reason brief says. "The most powerful proof that the MSOP's treatment approach is not meaningful is the fact that some individuals who successfully completed treatment never earned release and were never discharged....It is functionally impossible to distinguish between Minnesota's civil commitment for sex offenders and imprisonment....If any SOCC [sex offender civil commitment] scheme is punitive, Minnesota's is." U.S. District Judge Donovan Frank agreed with this critique in 2015, but last year his decision was overturned by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit. Remarkably, the 8th Circuit declared that Frank had erred in assuming that freedom from confinement qualifies as a fundamental right, saying that is not true for "persons who pose a significant danger to themselves or others." Yet the main issue in this case is Minnesota's lack of interest in whether the plaintiffs actually fall into that category. In fact, the state admits that at least some of them don't. As the plaintiffs note in their petition, the 8th Circuit conflated two distinct questions: whether t[...]



Florida Town Booted Food Truck Offering Meals to Hurricane Survivors After Nearby Restaurant Complained

2017-09-25T13:05:00-04:00

A few days after Hurricane Irma blasted through the town of Green Cove Springs, Florida, Jack Roundtree drove his Triple J's BBQ truck downtown to give residents a hot lunch and hand out free bar-be-que to utility workers trying to get the power restored. It didn't take long for the cops to show up. According to Clay Today, a news website for the community south of Jacksonville, the cops told Roundtree his food truck had to go. City manager's orders. Roundtree didn't have a permit to operate in Green Cove Springs, and not even the aftermath of a devastating hurricane was going to stop the city government from enforcing that law. Local resident Bettie Tune witnessed the incident and later posted on Facebook about it. src="https://www.facebook.com/plugins/post.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2Fbettie.tune%2Fposts%2F1647528628632354&width=500" width="500" height="278" frameborder="0"> Brandi Acres, a spokeswoman for the Green Cove Springs Police Department, confirmed to Reason that a food truck was sent away on the day after Irma struck, but Acres said she could not provide any additional details on the incident or confirm the name of the food truck. An employee at Triple J's BBQ confirmed the incident occured but declined to answer any questions or comment. Green Cove Springs Mayor Mitch Timberlake this morning says he did not consider Roundtree's gesture "a Good Samaritan situation." Had the operators of the food truck come to city officials and asked for permission, Timberlake says, officials would have been happy to direct the food truck to where utility workers were in need of food. "That didn't happen," he said. A local restaurant complained to city officials about the rogue food truck set up along U.S. Route 17 near downtown, Timberlake said. The city licenses food trucks only a few days per year for festivals or celebrations, like Memorial Day, the mayor says. "He is a commercial food truck operator, and he knows the local ordinances for food truck operation and had a responsibility to reach to the city to get a permit for what he wanted to do," Timberlake says. "We don't prohibit food trucks. There are times and places where we welcome them." The aftermath of a devastating hurricane is not one of those times. Timberlake spoke of the "tremendous debris" in the wake of the storm, and 90 percent of the city was without power. More than 100 trees were down across the city and extensive property damage to homes along the St. James River, which flows past the city. Half of the city was still without power Wednesday when the Triple J's food truck got the boot. With all of those challenges, it was remarkable city officials and police could maintain their focus on rules protecting unsuspecting hurricane victims from a hot meal on wheels. And quite a feat for a restaurateur to look past the devastating damage to track down city officials (city hall was closed; they operating from an emergency management shelter) and rat out one lousy food truck. Ari Bargil, an attorney with the Institute for Justice, a national libertarian law firm, said the incident in Green Cove Springs illustrates the problems that food truck entrepreneurs can face in many localities around the country. "This guy was trying to feed people who had few other options in the aftermath of a hurricane," Bargil says. "This is a perfect example of how overblown regulations burden entrepreneurs." Bargil is the lead attorney on a lawsuit challenging food truck regulations in Baltimore, where city officials have banned food trucks from operating within 300 feet of an brick-and-mortar restaurant. The case will go to trial next week in Maryland state court. Timberlake says he doesn't see his city's policies as discriminatory towards food trucks or[...]



Senate Republicans Resort to Outright Bribery In Hopes of Overhauling Obamacare

2017-09-25T12:36:00-04:00

With less than one full week to go before a key procedural deadline, Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Bill Cassidy (R-La.) have resorted to outright legislative bribery in hopes of winning enough votes to pass a bill that would overhaul Obamacare. A new version of the legislation, which would convert Obamacare into a system of state-managed block grants, began circulating yesterday. The revision includes increased $500 million in extra funding for states that have already implemented an Obamacare waiver program—which would include Alaska. The legislation also includes additional Medicaid funding for low-density states, and for states deemed high poverty, which would boost funding for Alaska too. Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski, who was one of three GOP senators to vote against a previous Obamacare overhaul in July, is considered a key target for Graham and Cassidy. These add-ons don't quite amount to the wholesale exemption for Alaska that was rumored last week. But at this point, it's hard to see them as anything but blatant legislative bribes. This is an attempt to win over Murkowski—not by making an argument for the legislation on the merits, but by topping up federal funding for her state in order to bring her on board. Alaska isn't the only state that would receive boosted funding under the new legislation. Hawaii would also benefit from the increased federal funding to high poverty states. There's also a somewhat curious addition in the form of an additional $750 million between 2023 and 2026 for states that were late to expand Medicaid under Obamacare. The very last state to expand Medicaid was Louisiana—home of Sen. Bill Cassidy. One of the sponsors of the legislation, in other words, appears to be padding his own state's budget. He's practically bribing himself. There's nothing new about hiding bribes and handouts in major legislation. The version of Obamacare that passed in the Senate included hundreds of millions in funding boosts for states represented by holdout legislators, including Louisiana. Critics of Obamacare complained bitterly about these bribes. Now Graham and Cassidy are attempting to use similar tactics—arguably in even more blatant form—in order to overhaul Obamacare. Graham and Cassidy aren't trying to win the argument. Indeed, with a legislative timeline this rushed, there is barely time to have an argument. GOP senators, when asked, do not demonstrate a strong grasp of how the bill would work, and speaking about the bill, a White House official admitted to Politico last week, "we aren't really sure what the impact will be." Early analyses have found what appear to be inconsistencies and contradictions in the revised draft. This is not exactly a sign of thoughtfully crafted, well designed legislation. Even with the newly added bribes, however, it's unclear whether Graham and Cassidy can find the necessary votes for passage. The reconciliation rules that would allow Senate Republicans to pass the bill with a simple majority expire at the end of the month, so there isn't a lot of time. In theory, Republicans could write new reconciliation instructions allowing them to take up health care again, but that's a step they haven't taken yet, and it could complicate the tax reform push. If anything, at this point, support for the legislation seems to be dwindling. Last week, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said he could not support the plan because it could not be debated and passed under regular order—which isn't going to happen between now and September 30. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) has been the most outspoken Republican opponent of the plan, and he signaled this morning that the revision still doesn't satisfy him. Meanwhile, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tx.), who many had assu[...]



To Commemorate Constitution Day, Princeton Professor Says 'F%*# Free Speech': New at Reason

2017-09-25T12:25:00-04:00

(image) The academy, the director of the African Studies program at Princeton contends, has never considered speech a central value.

Lindsay Marchello writes:

Every year, Princeton University holds a Constitution Day to honor one of the most important documents in human history. This year's was was a little different, with lectures on search and seizure policies in the Snowden era, and another on slavery and the Constitution. And then there was a lecture called "F%*# Free Speech: An Anthropologist's Take on Campus Speech Debate."

Professor Carolyn Rouse, the chair of the Department of Anthropology and director of the program in African Studies asserted, "the way which free speech is being celebrated in the media makes little to no sense anthropologically," according to Campus Reform.

Free speech absolutism doesn't exist because people self-censor themselves in ways society deems appropriate, Rouse told her audience. Culture is the prime determiner of what speech is permissible and what speech is rejected, she said.

"Language is partial," Rouse argued. "It relies on context for comprehensibility, and can have implications that go far beyond simply hurting somebody's feelings. Put simply, speech is costly. So, contrary to the ACLU's statement on their website regarding the role of free speech on college campuses, the academy has never promoted free speech as its central value."

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What I Saw at Milo Yiannopoulos's Sad, Aborted Free Speech Week Disaster at Berkeley

2017-09-25T11:29:00-04:00

BERKELEY—A wall of police barricades surrounded the near-empty Sproul Plaza where Milo Yiannopoulos had intended to kick-off "free speech week." Half a century earlier, radical students had launched the Free Speech Movement from those same steps. Speaking for just a few moments to a crowd of perhaps 30 people—security was so tight that at least a hundred others were still stuck in line—Yiannopoulos vowed to return to Berkeley again one day, and then signed autographs—and at least one fidget spinner—before beating a hasty retreat. Elsewhere, pockets of antifa-sympathizers and alt-right irritants marched down the streets of Berkeley, hurling insults, and occasionally fists, at each other. This event Sunday—formally cancelled by Milo in his incredibly brief remarks—was a disaster in every sense of the word, and a sad reflection on the current state of free speech on university campuses. All parties involved are at fault: primarily the organizers, but also the university, and Berkeley's frustratingly illiberal community. The Berkeley Patriots, the conservative student group working with Yiannopoulos to host a series of right-wing speakers at the campus this week, screwed up so badly that one wonders if they ever intended the event to actually take place. Even Lucian Wintrich, a writer for Gateway Pundit and notorious pro-Trump troll, thinks the whole thing was a setup. The organizers only made a half-hearted attempt to engage speakers for the event; many who were billed as participating never agreed to do so. Berkeley administrators, unlike those at other campuses, have maintained they are committed to protecting free speech on campus, and deserve praise for it. Organizers claimed the administration tied their hands, but offered no evidence that campus officials were anything but accommodating in the weeks leading up to the event. That said, the security measures taken by the university on Sunday were incredibly restrictive, making it impossible for the planned rally to proceed. All of Sproul Plaza was blocked off, and the only access point had a metal detector. No one was allowed through with a bag, purse, or backpack, and the process was so time-consuming that only about 20 or 30 people had cleared security by the time Yiannopoulos appeared. At least a hundred students, and possibly more, were still in line. These security measures seemed excessive to me. But if they were necessary, it was because of the threat of heckling and violence from left-leaning protesters—which brings us to the Berkeley community. Yiannopoulos, or anyone else, should be able to give a speech on the steps of Sproul Plaza without the protection of police barricades and one hundred cops. He couldn't, and that's the fault of people who have vowed to shut down everyone, violently if need be, with whom they disagree. After Yiannopoulos's departure, I followed demonstrators and counter-demonstrators as they marched. The left chanted "No Trump, No KKK, No Fascist USA," while the right chanted "Move, cucks, get out the way, get out the way cucks get out the way." Several tense moments necessitated police intervention. I saw police tackle and arrest a member of antifa who had gotten physical with a conservative. Later, the alt-right surrounded a communist book store and made threatening advances toward the door until police forced them away. Never before had it seemed so obvious to me that antifa and the alt-right were two sides of the same illiberal coin. A pox on both their houses, and a big fat middle finger to everyone who had a hand in either sabotaging free speech, or shackling it behind a wall of police barricades. [...]



Human-Trafficking Arrests Are Very Rare in Most States

2017-09-25T11:10:00-04:00

Human trafficking arrests are almost nonexistent in most states, according to the FBI's newly released U.S. crime statistics for 2016. Part of the Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) project, the new data on sex and labor trafficking shows that arrests for either offense are rare and that many suspected incidents of trafficking did not ultimately yield results. For instance, Florida reported 105 investigations into human-trafficking offenses in 2016 but zero human trafficking arrests last year. Nevada worked on 140 human-trafficking investigations but made only 40 arrests on trafficking charges. Louisiana looked into 123 potential cases of human trafficking but only arrested 16 people for it. Note that this does not mean "human trafficking" suspects in these cases avoided all charges. They may have still been prosecuted for prostitution or something else—many old-fashioned vice stings start off as "human trafficking investigations" these days. But this report only includes arrests recorded by state and local law enforcement on human trafficking charges, which allows us to look beyond police propaganda about what they're doing and see what it is they're actually doing. Overall, the data do little to support the idea that the U.S. is experiencing unprecedented levels of labor and sex trafficking or that we are in the midst of some sort of "modern slavery" epidemic. This is probably why you don't see UCR trafficking statistics quoted in congressional reports, "awareness" materials, or law enforcement statements to the media on the topic. Instead, you'll see National Human Trafficking Hotline numbers—It's gotten hundreds of thousands of calls since its launch! The number of "cases reported" is skyrocketing each year!—without anyone mentioning that "cases" here means any call, text, or message to the hotline that isn't an immediate hang-up (many "cases" are simple requests for more information, and even those with "tips" about trafficking are entirely unconfirmed). Meanwhile, the year-over-year increase in calls directly coincides to a spike in new state laws that require the hotline number to be posted all over the place. This year, 26 states submitted data on their human trafficking investigations and arrests for 2016.* Between them, there were 56 juveniles and 916 adults arrested on human-trafficking charges. For comparison, 9,374 people were arrested for murder last year in the U.S., 18,606 were arrested for rape, 304,626 were arrested for aggravated assault, 7,767 were arrested for arson, 101,301 were arrested for fraud, and 2,905 for illegal gambling. More than 30,300 people were arrested for "prostitution and commercialized vice" (a category that is separate from illegal gambling or drugs). And 40,292 people were arrested for sex offenses that were not prostitution or rape. In total, UCR data shows 89,220 suspected sex-offenders were arrested last year, of which 881—about 1 percent—were suspected of sex trafficking. While two states—Minnesota and Texas—made more than 100 human-trafficking arrests apiece, most states reported just a few, if any at all. (It's important to remember that these are arrest numbers, not the number of cases that went on to prosecution and/or yielded an actual conviction.) In Alaska, three adult men were arrested for alleged sex trafficking last year. Indiana, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island each reported two adult arrests on sex-trafficking charges; Arkansas, California, Michigan, Montana, and North Dakota each had one. None of these states reported any labor trafficking arrests. Meanwhile, Arizona and Connecticut each reported zero sex-trafficking arrests, with 34 in Ar[...]



White House Expands Travel Ban, Trump vs. the NFL, Merkel Wins in Germany: A.M. Links

2017-09-25T09:00:00-04:00

  • (image) The White House announced an expanded travel ban that includes three additional countries—North Korea, Chad, and Venezuela.
  • President Trump spent the weekend saying NFL players who kneel during the anthem should be fired, leading players across the league to kneel at this week's games.
  • Jared Kushner reportedly used a private e-mail account to conduct some White House business.
  • The FBI is launching a civil rights investigation into a church shooting in Tennessee, where one person was killed before the gunman was shot by a congregant.
  • Angela Merkel emerged victorious in elections in Germany, although she will have to form a coalition with two other parties, while Alternative for Germany will become the first nationalist party in parliament since the Nazis.
  • Nearly 50,000 people in Indonesia have fled their homes over fears of an imminent volcano eruption.
  • Spanish authorities are trying to take control of the regional police in Catalonia ahead of an independence referendum they insist is illegal.
  • Labor unions in France are blocking fuel depots to protest employment law reforms.
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Wearing a Mask in Public Shouldn't Be a Crime: New at Reason

2017-09-25T07:30:00-04:00

(image) In a free society, the default position should be the one that upholds individual liberty, not what makes police work easier.

A. Barton Hinkle writes:

Last weekend's demonstrations on Monument Avenue in Richmond, Va. didn't descend into rioting and mayhem, for which we can all be thankful. Only seven people were arrested—and four of them shouldn't have been.

Three of them are students at Virginia Commonwealth University, and the fourth is a former student. They were on hand to protest the neo-Confederates who had come to town, and were arrested for wearing masks in public. One wore a bandanna over her face; the others wore Halloween masks. In Virginia, wearing a mask or hood to conceal your identity is a felony.

In one of those amusing coincidences of which the universe seems so fond, their trials have been set for Oct. 31—Halloween. In another amusing coincidence, the law they are accused of breaking was passed in 1952, in an effort to stymie the KKK's effort to start a chapter in Richmond.

Actually, that is neither amusing nor a coincidence. Laws passed for the sake of protecting racial minorities or limiting the power of the majority often wind up being used for precisely the opposite purpose.

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Brickbat: Behind the Times

2017-09-25T04:00:00-04:00

(image) The United Kingdom's National Health Service uses 10 percent of all the world's remaining pagers. It uses 130,000 of the devices at an annual cost of 6.6 million pounds ($8.9 million).

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Self-Driving Cars Are Cool, but They're Not for Everyone: New at Reason

2017-09-24T08:30:00-04:00

(image) "I expect human driving to become illegal in the next 25–35 years in developed countries," insisted Rice University's Moshe Vardi in the course of plugging self-driving cars during a 2016 Reddit question-and-answer session. Tesla CEO Elon Musk sounded a similar note at a 2015 developers' conference, saying, "You can't have a person driving a two-ton death machine." It's an interesting perspective from a man who runs a company that manufactures such devices.

Once upon a time, mass transit was the technocrat's preferred method for prying people out of their wasteful, dangerous cars. If only we could subsidize the right combination of buses, trolleys, jitneys, light rail, monorail, and bullet trains—the thinking went—all our problems would be solved. To save the planet, "public transportation should be favored over private automobiles, and the cars heavily taxed," wrote Hugh McDonald of New York City College of Technology in a 2014 book on environmental philosophy. That view is shared by a number of other scholars and policy makers who hope to eliminate traffic deaths, largely by getting rid of cars.

But now there's a new kid on the block: self-driving cars. The trouble is that neither of these approaches takes into account the reality that almost 20 percent of the population of the United States live in the low-population rural areas that make up the majority of the country's land mass, and they're not about to trade in the F-150 for a newfangled robot chariot, writes J.D. Tuccille.

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There's Nothing Funny About Trump's Troubling Policing Edicts: New at Reason

2017-09-24T08:00:00-04:00

(image) Trump, who today called for a boycott of the NFL to punish players who don't stand for the National Anthem in protest of police abuse, has been sending a message that law enforcement has more latitude now to bend and break the rules.

Steven Greenhut writes:

During a July speech to police in Long Island, Donald Trump joked that when officers "put somebody in the car and you're protecting their head" that "you can take the hand away, okay?"

Many of the cops laughed approvingly, but civil liberties groups—and even some law-enforcement officials—were upset that the president made light of police brutality, especially given some troubling nationally publicized incidents.

Trump's defenders argued that he was only joking about the treatment of killers, and that the rest of us need to lighten up. Didn't Ronald Reagan joke about bombing Russia as he prepared for a radio address? Well, yes. But those arguments aren't persuasive given that the administration's actual policing policies seem likely to encourage abusive police behavior in a variety of ways.

Even the Republican-controlled House of Representatives seems to understand that point. Last Tuesday, the House overwhelmingly approved amendments to a spending bill that try to limit the U.S. Justice Department's efforts to let police officers expand the use of a policy known as "civil asset forfeiture." Some forms of forfeiture have been around for centuries, but it really ramped up in the early days of the drug war, with policies designed to let police grab property and proceeds from major drug enterprises.

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George Washington's 'Founding War of Conquest': New at Reason

2017-09-24T06:00:00-04:00

(image) The Battle of Little Big Horn may loom larger in popular consciousness, but it is the fray now known as St. Clair's Defeat that marks Native Americans' single largest victory over U.S. forces. In 1791, in what today is Ohio, a pan-tribal force under the direction of Shawnee, Miami, and Delaware leaders served notice to the fledgling American republic that continued incursion into Native lands would come at a dear price. In this case, that price was at least half the soldiers on the U.S. side killed—some sources suggest the number dead was far larger—and nearly 20 percent more badly wounded.

News of the rout caused President George Washington temporarily to lose his legendary cool. (More than one source reportedly heard from Washington's personal secretary, Tobias Lear, how the president raged about General Arthur St. Clair: "To suffer that army to be cut to pieces, hacked, butchered, tomahawked—by a surprise! The very thing I guarded him against! Oh God, oh God, he's worse than a murderer!") Once Washington simmered down, he embarked on a path that would define both his administration and his country: the creation of a standing national army and the pursuit of a war to secure the West for U.S. expansion, writes Amy Sturgis in her review of Autumn of the Black Snake.

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Donald Trump Should Stop Telling NFL To Fire Players for Anthem Protests

2017-09-23T19:05:00-04:00

Another day, another internet-breaking presidential tweet, this time about NFL players who protest racial injustice by refusing to stand at attention during the pre-game playing of the National Anthem. Former 49ers' quarterback Colin Kaepernick started this movement a year when he first took a knee. Kaepernick explicitly said he was doing it as a protest to call attention to police abuse: I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color... To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder. Now there's this from the leader of the land of the free and the home of the brave: If a player wants the privilege of making millions of dollars in the NFL,or other leagues, he or she should not be allowed to disrespect.... — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 23, 2017 ...our Great American Flag (or Country) and should stand for the National Anthem. If not, YOU'RE FIRED. Find something else to do! — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 23, 2017 Trump's tweets create an interesting situation especially for libertarians, who believe in maximum speech rights for everyone. On the one hand, you could argue that, hey, the Donald is simply weighing in as a citizen on a situation of interest to many Americans. Why shouldn't he feel free to do so, right? Then again, Trump is also goddamned president of the United States and has immense power both via law enforcement and the bully pulpit to screw not just with an individual's life but the status of entire industries. As it happens, the NFL's commissioner, Roger Goodell, has articulated a league policy that allows for players to protest during the National Anthem. "It's one of those things where I think we have to understand that there are people that have different viewpoints," Goodell said. "The national anthem is a special moment to me. It's a point of pride. But we also have to understand the other side, that people do have rights and we want to respect those." So if Donald Trump wants to flap his gums about how employees of a (mostly) private-sector entity exercise their speech rights, maybe he ought to be calling out the NFL's owners for allowing such displays. But let's grant the president the right to criticize individual workers for exercising their own rights to free speech. Is his actual argument any good? No, not really. Public workplace (and schoolhouse) protests are as American as apple pie, aren't they now? The idea that someone who is a beneficiary of a given system should not be allowed to criticize aspects of it is the laziest sort of thinking imaginable. Kaepernick and those who are following his lead have indeed made more money than all but a tiny fraction of Americans. Does that mean they can't critique their country, especially from a highly visible platform? Of course not. This goddamned country was built on dissent put forth by beneficiaries of the British colonial system (the signers of the Declaration were, as a group, such rich and privileged bastards after all). To be fair, Donald Trump doesn't do irony. Or history. Or introspection. What he does do is tweet and cause outrage, mostly to deflect attention from more serious issues. As Politico's Jack Shafer has written: Have none of [the president's critics] been paying attention to Trump's T[...]



Health Care Costs Are the Reason You're Not Getting a Raise: New at Reason

2017-09-23T08:45:00-04:00

(image) Every Labor Day you can count on seeing a spate of news stories saying that "real wages" in the United States haven't grown since the 1970s. That's true, more or less, but the reason for the stagnation might surprise you. It's a complex story, but it boils down to this: Blame health care costs.

According to the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, inflation-adjusted wages have grown by just 2.7 percent in the last 40 years. But inflation-adjusted total compensation—wages plus fringe benefits, such as health insurance, disability insurance, and paid vacation, along with employer-paid Social Security and Medicare taxesincreased by more than 60 percent in the same period.

Wages still make up a significant share of your total compensation: 68.3 percent, according to 2017 data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, vs. 31.7 percent that goes to benefits. But that latter piece has grown significantly, in no small part due to the rising cost of health insurance. And that trend is only going to get worse, writes Veronique de Rugy.

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A Federal Court’s Foie Gras Faux Pas: New at Reason

2017-09-23T08:00:00-04:00

(image) Food policy expert Baylen Linnekin looks at the federal court ruling that resurrects California's ban on force-feeding ducks and geese to make foie gras and is not impressed:

Last week, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals overturned a District Court ruling that had struck down California's dumb and unconstitutional foie gras ban. The plaintiffs are already planning their appeal. Technically the ban is back, but the law won't be enforced while the appeal is pending.

"It is unprecedented and unconstitutional that the California legislature can dictate how New York farmers care for their animals, produced in compliance with New York's strict animal welfare laws, and processed under federal inspection," said Marcus Henley, manager of Hudson Valley Foie Gras, a co-plaintiff that's based in New York State, in an email to me this week.

"States have the right to protect their citizens from inhumane and substandard products," said Paul Shapiro, spokesperson for The Humane Society of the United States, which wrote an amicus brief in support of the state law, in an email to me this week. "Rather than continuing to fight a losing battle, foie gras agribusinesses should join the 21st century and accept that the vast majority of Americans find violently force-feeding ducks simply too much cruelty to swallow."

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McCain Disses Graham-Cassidy, Kim Jung-un Disses Trump, and HHS Sec. Tom Price Investigated for Private Jet Use: P.M. Links

2017-09-22T16:30:00-04:00

  • (image) Sen. John McCain (R–Ariz.) announces his opposition to the Graham-Cassidy healthcare reform bill. Read Reason's coverage of the bill's chances here.
  • Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price is being investigated for his frequent use of private jets for HHS business.
  • Portland loses its ranking as America's top airport. Portlanders are a little salty about it.
  • Sick Kim Jung-un burn of Trump grows Americans' vocabulary.
  • San Antonio cop is fired for dating a prostitute.
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The Hillary Clinton School of Literary Criticism

2017-09-22T15:45:00-04:00

(image) The most eye-catching aspect of Hillary Clinton's widely reviewed, reviled, and literally discounted campaign memoir, What Happened, is her take on George Orwell's 1984. Most readers interpret the novel as imploring us all to be skeptical of those in power. Clinton argues that authoritarianism is bad not because it tortures and kills people but, well, because it

sow[s] mistrust towards exactly the people we need to rely on: our leaders, the press, experts who seek to guide public policy.

In that vein, we're happy present to you some other, lesser-known interpretations of classic works by Secretary Clinton.

Slideshow

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Feminist Group Loses Fight to Declare Yik Yak App a Civil-Rights Violation

2017-09-22T15:30:00-04:00

A federal court in Virginia shot down one of the sadder displays of anti-speech authoritarianism in recent memory, a demand that the social-media app Yik Yak be declared a civil-rights violation on college campuses. The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia this week dismissed a lawsuit filed against the University of Mary Washington (UMW) by a coalition led by the Feminist Majority Foundation. The suit contended that UMW allowing Yik Yak on campus constituted a violation of Title IX of the Civil Rights Act, which prevents sex discrimination at educational institutions receive federal funding. "As social media has proliferated, cyberbullying has become a national problem," and "solutions are not easy or obvious to anyone," the court noted. "In seeking solutions, however, schools cannot ignore other rights vital to this country, such as the right to free speech." The whole debacle stems from Yik Yak users at UMW harassing members of a campus feminist group (and branch of the Feminist Majority Foundation) in 2015. Yik Yak is now defunct, but at the time it was a popular app on college campuses, allowing users within a certain distance to broadcast their thoughts anonymously in a Twitter-like fashion. The students complained to UMW administrators, who told them they could not ban the app on campus because of free-speech concerns. That's when Feminist Majority Foundation and others asked the Department of Education to intervene. In an administrative complaint against UMW, the groups charged colleges with violating students' civil rights "by failing to adequately address the sexually hostile environment created by persistent online harassment and threats" on Yik Yak—a private platform students could download independently on their own phones or devices. Schools exerted no control over who downloaded the app or what they posted on it. The feminist groups proposed schools get around this by installing software that would block Yik Yak on school computer networks, a "solution" that would both fail on technological grounds (anyone using their phone's network or non-school wifi could still access the app) and First Amendment ones. Feminist Majority Foundation also filed a civil lawsuit against the school, alleging violations of Title IX and the Equal Protection Clause. On Tuesday, the court explained its reasons for granting its motion to dismiss the suit. "To establish a Title IX claim, a plaintiff must show that a [school] acted with deliberate indifference to known acts of sexual harassment so severe, pervasive, and offensive that the harassment deprived the plaintiff of access to educational opportunities or benefits," explains the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia decision. It's a standard that focuses on action or inaction by the school, not third parties, and is limited to situations in which the school has substantial jurisdiction "over both the harasser and the context in which the known harassment occurs." In this case, "the Title IX discrimination claim fails because the harassment took place in a context over which UMW had limited, if any, control—anonymous postings on Yik Yak," the court decided. And in realms where it did have control—like holding student assemblies and having a university police officer investigate a specific threa[...]



'We Own This Property...It's Ours Until We Are Done'

2017-09-22T15:15:00-04:00

The Fourth Amendment requires police to obtain a warrant before searching a private home. It also requires that the home they end up searching is the one they actually have the warrant for. Sheriff's deputies in Van Buren County, Iowa, were golden on that first requirement when they raided Michael Owings' house on June 27 for suspected drug possession. They did indeed have a warrant. Unfortunately for them—and for Owings—their warrant allowed them to search the house of one Gary Shelley, Owings' neighbor. In a suit filed yesterday in U.S. District Court, Owings accuses Van Buren County Sheriff Deputy John Zane and four unnamed deputies of displaying a "gross disregard" for his constitutional rights by conducting "a flagrantly illegal entry of his private residence." The story began on June 26, when Zane carried out a traffic stop. In the course of the stop, he got a tip that illegal drug use and distribution might be going on at Shelley's residence, a two-story farm house on rural Heather Avenue. Police promptly got a warrant for Shelley's house. But they showed up at Owings' mobile home, about a third of a mile up the road. Owings was not home at the time, but his lawsuit says there were several signs that cops had arrived at the wrong house. One was an actual sign prominently listing the address at the gate of the property. Another was a name plate reading "Owings" located next to the front door. Undeterred, the deputies forced their way into the home, where they encountered further evidence that they were in the wrong place, including prescription bottles and bank statements bearing Owings name. To top it all off, Owings' mother and girlfriend arrived while police were still tearing through the place; they flat out told the officers that they had the wrong house. According to the lawsuit, deputies responded by saying, "We own this property...it's ours until we are done." The search turned up no illegal activity, and the police eventually cleared out, though not before removing items from the house and damaging the property. Sadly, wrong-address raids are not unusual in the United States. Many of these cases lead to tragic consequences. Back in July, police in Southaven, Mississippi, killed Ismael Lopez while looking for an assault suspect at the wrong address. In 2015, Miami cops "destroyed" the home of 90-year-old woman while searching for drugs they never found. In 2012, while conducting a wrong-door raid in St. Paul, Minnesota, police killed the family dog and then forced three handcuffed children to sit by their dying pet while officers smashed up their home. Owings is demanding compensation for the damage done to his property, for the violation of his Fourth Amendment rights, and for emotional distress. A court date has not been set. [...]



Are You Ready for Fall’s New Television Shows? New at Reason

2017-09-22T15:01:00-04:00

(image) Monday marks the launch of the new fall television season, but television critic Glenn Garvin is not terribly impressed as yet. For the first of several upcoming columns previewing the new shows, he finds only one show salvageable out of four:

The hell with Charles Dickens. The new fall television season is certainly not the best of times, nor is it the worst of times (mostly, anyway, though CBS' 9JKL certainly gives pause). It is, perhaps, the most mediocre of television times since The Sopranos and Sex and the City established cable TV as a programming force in which a Nielsen rating of 35 could not be reasonably mistaken for the average IQ of the viewing audience.

Nineteen new series will debut on broadcast television between now and November 2. (Well, 18; The Orville, Fox's cartoon send-up of Star Trek, somehow slipped through security a couple of weeks ago, and if you're only learning this now, count yourself lucky.) And they are nothing if not diverse.

There are American Special Forces troops in Syria (NBC's The Brave), American Special Forces troops in Liberia (CBS' Seal Team), and American Special Forces troops in America (The CW's Valor). There are remakes from the 1970s (CBS' S.W.A.T), remakes from the 1980s (The CW's Dynasty) and remakes from the 1990s (NBC's Will & Grace, less a remake than a desiccated zombie clawing its way back out of the grave, since it features the same cast). There are mutants battling a fascist military government (ABC's Marvel's Inhumans) and mutants battling a fascist civilian government (Fox's The Gifted).

View this article.

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