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Updated: 2018-04-26T00:00:00-04:00


Brickbat: Bazooka Joe


(image) In California, the Berkeley Unified School District has placed on leave history teacher Alex Angell for bringing a deactivated bazooka to school. Video shot by a student shows Angell, who teaches advanced placement United States and world history at Berkeley High School, with the device, explaining how it was used.


Tennessee Decides It's Not Actually Dangerous for a Cosmetologist to Do House Calls


(image) Lawmakers in Tennessee passed a bill this week that would permit licensed cosmetologists to practice outside of salons, opening the door for on-demand services that connect makeup artists and hair stylists with clients who want service in their own homes.

This is common sense. Someone licensed by the state as a cosmetologist doesn't suddenly lose that knowledge and training—a lot of training, since becoming a cosmetologist in Tennessee requires 2,000 hours of classes—the moment he or she steps outside a salon. But such common sense didn't factor into the Tennessee Board of Cosmetology and Barber Examiners decision, nearly two years ago, to order a brand new on-demand beauty service to immediately shut down and pay a $500 fine.

The board targeted that business, Project Belle, after a brick-and-mortar salon in Nashville complained about its online ads. "I find this type of competition highly disturbing," the salon's owner wrote to the board.

Although the board eventually backed down from pursuing Project Belle, formally legalizing on-demand cosmetology services ensures that other startups won't face the same legal pressure over something as silly as competing with salons.

The bill passed the state Senate unanimously and cleared the state House with an 81–6 vote. Gov. Bill Haslam, a Republican, is expected to sign it.

"Tennesseans will now have the right to enjoy concierge cosmetology services just like many other Americans," said Armand Lauzon, CEO of Belle, in a statement. "Beyond that, it grants tens of thousands of cosmetologists access to the American dream by legalizing entrepreneurship in the industry."

The convenience of something like Project Belle is the obvious selling point for customers, but Lauzon told Reason in 2016 that cosmologists using his service benefit too. They can set their own schedules, they don't have to pay fees to rent space in a salon or spa, and they determine their own pricing. Project Belle takes 15 percent off the top, similar to how Airbnb operates.

"This important reform," says Daniel Horwitz, an attorney who represented Lauzon in his dealings with the state board, "ensures that the Board of Cosmetology will be prevented from engaging in such lawless behavior ever again."


The War on Waze


From coast to coast, prickly local residents are up in arms about commuters clogging their once-quiet neighborhood streets with bumper-to-bumper traffic, all to shave a few minutes off their daily commute. This white-hot rage has largely fallen on Waze, a navigation app that alerts motorists to alternative routes on residential roads, away from the clogged and congested highways. The media have been quick to play up this angle. "Navigation Apps Are Turning Quiet Neighborhoods Into Traffic Nightmares," cried one New York Times headline from last year. "Waze, please stop ruining Los Angeles," implored GQ in 2016. Similar stories have popped up in USA Today, CityLab, and countless local papers. Capitalizing on this resentment are local politicians, who are happy to shift the blame for traffic congestion onto Waze's shoulders and are now experimenting with strategies for blunting the app's effectiveness and punishing its users. The epicenter of this fight is the nightmarishly congested Los Angeles, where the city government is mulling a lawsuit against Waze. Last week City Councilmember David Ryu imploring the city's attorney to take some form of unspecified legal action against the app. "Waze has upended our City's traffic plans, residential neighborhoods, and public safety for far too long," he thundered in a press release. "If we do nothing, Waze will lead us on a race to the bottom—where traffic plans are ignored and every street is gridlocked." It is true that it is inefficient to shift large amounts of traffic from L.A.'s highways and boulevards to neighborhood streets not designed to carry that kind of flow. But Adrian Moore, a transportation expert at the Reason Foundation (the nonprofit that publishes this website), points out that these criticisms are a remarkable exercise in blame-shifting. Rather than causing traffic jams, Waze is giving drivers some opportunity to escape worsening congestion on city highways that planners and politicians have proven ineffective at addressing. "Cities and states are not adequately managing their transportation systems and so they experience severe congestion, things don't work the way they're supposed to, including neighborhood streets," says Moore. "It's not really the app's fault, it's the congestion's fault." The cause of worsening congestion, says Moore, is pretty simple: more people wanting to drive on the same amount of road. This description fits Los Angeles pretty well. In 2001, Los Angeles County boasted 21,085 lane miles of maintained highways. In 2016, that number had not budged much, growing to only 21,826 lane miles. In the same period of time, the number of vehicle-miles traveled by Los Angeles commuters rose by some 10 million per day. Consequently, congestion has gone nowhere but up. The TomTom Traffic Index estimates that congestion made Angelenos' commute times 45 percent longer in 2016, up from 31 percent in 2008. In 2017, the average L.A. commuter spent 102 hours in rush hour traffic, making it the most congested city in the world. Prior to the rise of smartphones and navigation apps, commuters were more or less resigned to a fate of long, slow slogs on clogged highways. Now more and more commuters are being directed down previously unknown short cuts through neighborhood streets. The predictable result has been a backlash of neighborhood residents against the commuters and their apps. At first this resistance was a purely grassroots phenomenon. One Los Angeles woman put up an angry sign aiming to shame commuters passing through her neighborhood. App users in places as diverse as Takoma Park, Maryland, and Tel Aviv, Israel, have reported fake accidents and speed traps in an attempt to fool Waze into redirecting traffic. This has proven an ineffective strategy. Erroneous information reported to Waze is quickly contradicted by other app users finding free-flowing conditions, and the offending user is then suspended from the system. But where private individuals have failed, the government is n[...]

Joy Reid Blames Mystery Hackers for the Anti-Gay Stuff on Her Old Blog


To the extent that I know who MSNBC host Joy Reid is, it's generally due to some really dumb tweets like this one: "Classical liberal" is an accurate term for a person who supports New Deal economics and social modernity but does not identify as socialist — Joy Reid (@JoyAnnReid) November 5, 2017 To be honest, it wasn't until I started getting pulled into libertarianism many years ago that I even heard the term "classical liberal" myself. But I also wouldn't presume to confidently define terms that I'm unfamiliar with. It's not clear if she even knows how wrong she was, despite the reams of responses from people correcting her, and the tweet remains online. But she has deleted some decade-old blog writing from when she was a radio host in Florida, and now it's coming back to haunt her. Mediaite has taken note of some homophobic posts from Reid's blog back around 2005 through 2007. Rather than taking responsibility for the posts and apologizing, Reid, via a cybersecurity consultant, is claiming that the now-defunct site was hacked or somehow manipulated to make it appear that she had written commentary that indicated discomfort with gay affection and gay marriage. Reid has an admitted history of gay-baiting from the left as a way to attack politicians on the right. She apologized back in December when old blog posts were unearthed in which she frequently speculated that Charlie Crist, a former Republican governor from Florida, was gay. She's far from the only person to make such speculations, but she did it in a nasty, sarcastic way to attack those she saw as ideological opposition. Back when those Crist posts were unearthed and exposed, she responded, "It was insensitive, tone deaf and dumb. There is no excusing it—not based on the taste-skewing mores of talk radio or the then-blogosphere, and not based on my intentions." This time, though, she's insisting the newly unearthed homophobic posts were not written by her and that somebody went through the effort to manipulate the history of the site's content—even interfering somehow with the pages archived on the Wayback Machine—in order to "taint [her] character with false information." Here is Mediaite's summary of some of the uncovered blog posts (and there's a Twitter thread by the person who unearthed the content here): A 2006 Reid Report post included a compilation of the top five "totally not gay celebrities of the year," which was a satirical attempt—albeit, a lazy one—at suggesting everyone on the list was secretly gay. Singer Clay Aiken and CNN pundit Anderson Cooper both made the list, which—if the publishing date is correct—was posted years before they had come-out publicly. In another post dated to 2005, the author said Cooper is the "gayest thing on TV" and noted that they have it "on good authority that Cooper is totally gay." He didn't come out publicly until 2012. Other mentions on the list included the stars of Brokeback Mountain, the previously noted film that the author didn't see because "two male characters having sex" was "too out there." I have no way of definitively determining whether these posts are real or fake. I certainly wasn't reading her blog at the time. But if some shadowy force was going through the effort to destroy Reid's reputation, it apparently put in the time to make sure the posts were relevant to the discussions of the time. Who remembers NBA basketball star Tim Hardaway's anti-gay comments from 2007 anymore? At The Intercept, Glenn Greenwald points out that the baiting, attacking language in the posts Reid insists are fabricated resembles the kind of language she had admitted and apologized for. Greenwald also rapped the left for ignoring the story, but that seems to be shifting. Mainstream media outlets are picking it up, particularly because the organization that handles the Wayback Machine put out a statement yesterday that it can find no evidence of tampering with their versions of the post[...]

FDA Investigation of Adolescent Juuling Could Endanger Adult Smokers


Juul, a discreet, streamlined e-cigarette developed by the innovative vaporizer company Pax Labs, is pretty cool. That's a problem for Juul Labs, which spun off from from Pax last year, because teenagers like cool things. Yesterday the Food and Drug Administration, responding to anecdotal reports of students who juul during school, announced that it is investigating whether the company is marketing its products to minors. New York Times reporter Kate Zernike already seems to have made up her mind. She says the FDA wants to "get manufacturers to stop marketing e-cigarettes to young people," which implies that manufacturers are in fact doing that. With respect to Juul, that charge seems pretty implausible. The company's website, which asks visitors to affirm that they are at least 21 (the minimum purchase age for e-cigarettes in some jurisdictions), emphasizes that the rectangular vaping devices, which resemble elongated flash drives and can be charged via USB ports, are "for design," delivering nicotine doses similar to those from conventional cigarettes. "JUUL was created to be a satisfying alternative to cigarettes," the website says. "JUUL was founded by former smokers...with the goal of improving the lives of the one billion adults smokers. We envision a world where fewer people use cigarettes, and where people who smoke cigarettes have the tools to reduce or eliminate their consumption entirely, should they so desire." Juul is clearly positioning its e-cigarettes as harm-reducing alternatives for grownups who smoke, which the FDA itself has recognized as a potential boon for public health. The models on Juul's website are all in their 20s or older, and so are the consumers featured in the video testimonials. The selling points touted by Juul—"simple," "clean," "satisfying"—are consistent with the market the company says it is trying to reach. There is nothing about Juul's pitch that seems geared to adolescents or even adult nonsmokers. "Our ecommerce platform utilizes unique ID match and age verification technology to make sure minors are not able to access and purchase our products online," Juul says. Some of the retailers selling Juul vaporizers have been less punctilious. The FDA says it is conducting "a large-scale, undercover nationwide blitz to crack down on the sale of e-cigarettes—specifically JUUL products—to minors at both brick-and-mortar and online retailers." So far the agency has sent 40 warning letters to retailers, including convenience stores across the country, for selling e-cigarettes to customers younger than 18, the minimum age under FDA regulations. In her Times story, Zernike erroneously reports that the retailers "violated the law preventing sales of vaping devices to anyone under 21." There is no such federal law, although a few states and cities, including California and New York City, have enacted that rule. In most places the minimum purchase age is 18. FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb worries that "e-cigarettes have become wildly popular with kids." Whether that is true depends on your definition of "wildly popular." In 2016, the most recent year for which data from the National Youth Tobacco Survey are available, 11 percent of high school students reported using e-cigarettes during the previous month, down from 16 percent in 2015. Less than 3 percent of high school students use e-cigarettes "frequently," meaning they report use on 20 or more of the previous 30 days. If e-cigarettes did not exist, teenagers would not be using them. In that sense, companies such as Juul are absolutely responsible for underage vaping. (Then again, teenagers who vape might otherwise be smoking, which would expose them to much bigger hazards.) Juul likewise can fairly be charged with making sleek, convenient electronic gadgets that appeal to teenagers as well as adults. The same goes for the flavors of its e-liquid pods. "Juul comes in kid-friendly flavors like mango a[...]

What It’s Like To Be a Workplace Harassment Trainer in the #MeToo Era: New at Reason


(image) Many of the changes brought by #MeToo are long overdue. More vulnerable people now know that they have the right to say "no" forcefully and have a reasonable expectation that they will be taken seriously when they report misconduct. Only now are there finally enough strong, capable women in positions of power—in politics and in the corporate world—to take complaints seriously and make changes stick.

But with headway comes the potential for abuse. Without proper protections in place, a minor accusation can cause unnecessarily life-ruining fallout, writes ArLyne Diamond, a workplace harrassment trainer in California.

View this article.


Shocker! American Steel Prices Spiked in April.


In the days and weeks after President Donald Trump slapped 25 percent tariffs on imported steel and aluminum, it was widely reported that American steel-consuming companies were bracing for higher prices. Some said they were already seeing those higher prices reflected in contracts to purchase steel from suppliers, but no one was sure how significant those price increases would turn out to be. Now, a little more than six weeks since the tariff announcement, we have a better picture of the consequences of Trump's trade policy. It looks like this: This chart—published by SteelBenchmarker, a firm that tracks the price of the commodity across different markets—shows the average price (in dollars per metric tonne) of hot-rolled band (HRB), one of the most commonly used types of steel. The dark blue line represents the United States' average price, while the light blue represents the price of steel produced in Western Europe, the red line represents China, and the pink line shows what SteelBenchmarker refers to as the "World Export" market: steel produced in other places, including Japan and South Korea. The chart is notable because it shows how American-made steel has fluctuated in price relative to foreign-made alternative supplies. It's pretty plain that American steel historically has been a bit more expensive than steel made anywhere else in the world, but also that the price of American steel typically follows the same ebbs and flows as other markets. That's because steel is a globally traded commodity and price fluctuations in one place are going to affect pretty much everyone equally. Until the last few weeks. American HRB steel has skyrocketed in price while steel made in other markets has experienced only a slight uptick. The same is true for cold rolled coil (CRC), another common form of raw steel. According to SteelBenchmarkers, American CRC steel has seen a dramatic increase in recent weeks and is now priced more than 50 percent higher than Chinese or European options: Is this good news for American steel manufacturers? Well, they are now able to charge higher prices for their product. But steelmaking is a relatively small part of the American economy. According to 2015 Census data, steel mills employed about 140,000 Americans and added about $36 billion to the economy that year, but steel-consuming industries employed more than 6.5 million Americans and added $1 trillion to the economy. As a result, a large sector of the American economy—businesses that consume steel to make everything from beer kegs to automobiles—are stuck with a difficult choice. Buy cheaper foreign steel and pay 25 percent import taxes to the federal government, or turn to American suppliers and get stuck with a significantly higher purchase price. "We see hot rolled steel up on average 30 percent on foreign and domestic pricing. No one is leaving prices 30 percent below an artificial market price," says Mike Schmitt, CEO of The Metalworking Group, an Ohio-based parts manufacturer. Schmitt says he's also worried about American steel producers being able to keep up with demand. One large order from a domestic mill has been delayed several times already. "We don't even have a firm date," he says, "but it will be at least 6 weeks late." It's not easy to bring additional steel production facilities online, so increasing supply (to reduce prices, or at least to ensure everyone is getting the steel they need) is not a immediately available remedy. It's also worth noting that Trump's steel tariff applies only to steel in a raw or unprocessed form. American businesses that turn raw steel into, say, steel wheels for use on trucks and RVs have to pay higher prices for their supplies, but a foreign competitor that makes steel wheels and ships them to the United States does not. A trade policy that was intended to protect some American businesses from foreign competition[...]

How The Simpsons Fights Fake News: Podcast


In an age of bots, trolls, and "fake news," we need to up our media-literacy game like never before, says Michael Socolow, a journalism professor at University of Maine and the author of Six Minutes in Berlin: Broadcast Spectacle and Rowing Gold at the Nazi Olympics.

In a wide-ranging conversation with Reason's Nick Gillespie, Socolow gives three easy rules that keep "smart people from spreading dumb ideas:" Don't share news that doesn't have substantiating links, be wary of stories that perfectly confirm your pre-existing biases, and (for god's sake!) always ask yourself why you're talking in the first place.

Socolow and Gillespie discuss past eras of moral panic and hysteria over new forms of media, such as the 1990s, when shows such as The Simpsons, Beavis and Butt-head, and Mystery Science Theater 3K, were attacked as anti-social even as they provided viewers new tools to critically process information overload just as cable TV and the internet became ubiquitous.

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This is Your Brain Thinking About the Drug War


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During a rally in New Hampshire last month, President Trump promised that the federal government would "spend a lot of money" on a new anti-drug campaign that would scare kids "from ending up like the people in the commercials."

We'll make them "very, very bad commercials," Trump told the crowd. "We'll make them pretty unsavory situations."

Yet research on the effectiveness of past anti-drug campaigns, including a 2014 meta-analysis of 19 studies, concluded that these efforts had little to no effect on use of illicit substances.

Isn't it time to just say no?

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College Official on Why We Must Believe Alleged Crime Victims: It May Not Be the Truth, 'But It Is That Person's Truth'


(image) The mask slips yet again. When challenged to defend flyers posted around an Oregon campus that warn of a widespread sexual assault problem, a college official said the following: "Believing survivors means let's sit down and understand each other's experience. Let's believe what that person said, he or she has experienced, that we have experienced. It may not be the truth, as has been determined, but it is that person's truth and what they were going through."

Clackamas Community College Dean of Human Resources Patricia Wieck reportedly made the comments during an interview with The College Fix's Autumn Berend, who had been seeking more information about sexual violence prevention flyers that had recently appeared on campus. Wieck did not respond to a request for comment.

The posters call on students to plant 1,201 flags, each representing a survivor of sexual assault at Clackamas. But Clackamas's main campus has just 6,000 female students, and the last reported sexual assault—a fondling—took place in 2014.

The flyers, apparently posted by the Associated Student Government, referenced the oft-cited statistic that 1 in 5 women on college campuses are sexually assaulted. But even if that accurately reflects the average female student's odds of being raped (and there are good reasons to doubt that it does), it probably wouldn't apply to Clackamas, which lacks on-campus housing.

But accuracy doesn't seem to matter much in the eyes of Clackamas's Title IX office, which is responsible for investigating sexual misconduct claims. After all, one person's "truth" is as valid as anybody else's.


His DACA Dismantling Rejected, Trump's Travel Ban Now Faces the Court: Reason Roundup


DACA down, travel ban on trial. Calling the Trump administration's moves "arbitrary and capricious," a federal judge yesterday blocked the White House's plans to deport young immigrants who had been allowed to stay here under the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) initiative. U.S. District Judge John D. Bates said the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) didn't adequately justify its declaration that DACA is illegal, and he gave the agency 90 days to "better explain its view." If it can't, DHS "must accept and process new as well as renewal DACA applications," ruled Bates. Now another signature part of Donald Trump's anti-immigration scheme faces a judicial test. Today the Supreme Court will consider Trump's ban on travel to the U.S. by people in a handful of majority-Muslim countries. "Lower courts have struck down each of the three iterations of the president's proclamation, the first of which was issued just a week after he took office in January 2017," notes The Washington Post. "But the conservative-leaning Supreme Court may be Trump's best hope, and it gave the administration a boost by allowing the ban to go into effect in December while considering the challenges to it." This is the third iterations of Trump's travel ban. Issued last fall, it originally banned visitors or immigrants from six majority-Muslim countries (Syria, Lybia, Iran, Yemen, Chad, Somalia) and two others, North Korea and Venezuela. Chad has since been removed the ban list, and North Korea and Venezuela are not part of the challenge to the ban. As Reason's Shikha Dalmia points out, immigrants from these countries "have killed precisely zero Americans in terrorist attacks on U.S. soil between 1975 and 2015. And countries that have sent terrorists—most notably Saudi Arabia, the home of many 9/11 hijackers—aren't on the list." But Dalmia also notes that the Supreme Court isn't tasked with deciding "whether the ban is sound policy but whether it is legally valid and constitutionally permissible," and "there is a pretty good chance that it will find that it is." Some are summing up the case as being about more than just immigration policy. "The travel-ban case is uniquely tied up with Trump's haphazard policymaking process, and with the tug of war between the president and his administration," says Axios. "The justices will even have to decide how much they care about Trump's tweets." "In many ways, litigation arising out of the travel ban has been the biggest test case for the courts in the Trump age," suggests Texas law professor Steve Vladeck: There are still powerful statutory, constitutional and moral arguments against even this third version of the travel ban (David Cole, the ACLU's legal director, offers a concise summary). But, unlike the first two versions, the ban is now plausibly—if superficially—defensible. Outside of Trump's fan club, there's been surprisingly diverse antipathy to the bans—a reaction "astounding in terms of both numbers and gravitas," says NPR's Nina Totenberg. "Among those lending their expertise to three friend-of-the-court briefs are more than 55 former officials from Republican and Democratic administrations, including CIA directors, national intelligence and counterterrorism chiefs, top diplomats with long records working in the Middle East, secretaries of state, some two dozen top-ranked retired admirals and generals, a former Republican attorney general and even the Republican chairman of the 9/11 Commission." FREE MINDS Slavery-referencing 'promposal' sparks free-speech lesson for high schoolers (and media). A high school student in Florida apparently sought to secure a prom date with a homemade sign, posted to Snapchat, reading: "If I was black I'd be picking cotton, but I'm white so I'm picking [...]

Why All Libertarians Should Hope that the Supreme Court Throws Out Trump's Travel Ban


The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in Trump vs. Hawaii, the Trump "Muslim" travel ban 3.0 case today. If it were to rule solely on the basis of whether the ban is good policy, it would be an easy call: "Nyet." Indeed, not even the uber-hawkish Wall Street Journal editorial page believes that the ban will do zilch to keep America safe from terrorist attacks. "We've disagreed with the need for the sweeping travel restrictions," the Journal's august editors opined. "The post 9/11 screening process for the most part has been effective in keeping out foreigners with jihadist links and sympathies. Most immigrants who have committed terrorist acts in the U.S. were radicalized after admission." That is completely true. As I've noted in the past, immigrants from the seven banned countries have killed precisely zero Americans in terrorist attacks on U.S. soil between 1975 and 2015. And countries that have sent terrorists—most notably Saudi Arabia, the home of many 9/11 hijackers—aren't on the list. But the Supreme Court will consider not whether the ban is sound policy but whether it is legally valid and constitutionally permissible. There is a pretty good chance that it will find that it is given that it overturned a lower court injunction preventing the ban from going into effect by a 7-2 vote pending a final ruling. As South College of Texas Law Professor Josh Blackman has pointed out, in the Roberts court, only once in the more-than-a-decade have the justices granted a stay without later reversing the opinion of the lower court. Still, there are really strong arguments for nixing the ban, especially if the court were inclined to uphold individual liberty while strictly limiting state power—in other words, engaging in the kind of principled judicial activism that my Reason colleague Damon Root has advocated rather than slavishly deferring to the will of the elected branches. The main argument why the Supreme Court cannot nullify the ban is that it's not its place to do so. Keeping the country safe is constitutionally an executive function and therefore actions taken by the president in the name of national security are not subject to judicial review. Furthermore, the thinking goes, he has "plenary power" to keep out foreigners—even entire classes of them—who he thinks might pose a threat to the country. But, as I have noted before, the problem is that the plenary power doctrine as it applies to immigration has its basis not in the Constitution but very flawed 19th Century case law. The underlying rationale for this doctrine is that, in order to protect itself, the government of a sovereign nation like America must be able to exclude any foreigner from its soil without constitutional objections from courts. The only "rights" foreigners are entitled to when it comes to their ability to enter or stay in the country are those that the elected branches decide to extend to them. So, actions that might be illicit when applied to citizens may be unobjectionable when it comes to foreigners. But there are several problems with this argument. For starters, few outside ultra-restrictionist circles would grant that the government has carte blanche to restrict any foreigner without a really good reason. At the very least, it matters what kind of a connection the foreigner in question has with the United States. So, for example, it cannot stop legal permanent residents or green card holders from re-entering the country except in some very limited circumstances like if they have been involved in terrorist activity while away. That's why the original Trump order, which stopped even green card holders from Muslim countries, would never have been able to withstand judicial scrutiny and had to be scrapped. Why is that? N[...]

Chicago Is Trying to Pay Down Its Debt By Impounding Innocent People’s Cars: New at Reason


(image) On June 21, 2016, Chicago police pulled Spencer Byrd over for a broken turn signal. Byrd says his signal wasn't broken, but that detail would soon be the least of his worries. Ever since, Byrd has been trapped in one of the city's most confusing bureaucratic mazes, deprived of his car and his ability to work. He now owes the city thousands of dollars for the pleasure.

Byrd, 50, lives in Harvey, Illinois, a corrupt, crime-ridden town south of Chicago where more than 35 percent of the populace lives below the poverty line. He's a carpenter by trade, but until the traffic stop, he had a side gig as an auto mechanic. Byrd says he's been fixing cars "ever since I was 16 years old and blew my first motor." Sometimes he did service calls and would give clients rides when he couldn't repair their cars on the spot.

On this early summer night, Byrd was giving a client, a man he says he had never met before, a ride in his Cadillac DeVille. Police pulled both of them out of the car and searched them. Byrd was clean, but in his passenger's pocket was a bag of heroin the size of a tennis ball.

The two were hauled off to the precinct house. Police released Byrd after a short stint in an interrogation room without charging him with a crime. But when Byrd went to retrieve his car, he found out the Chicago Police Department had seized and impounded it.

Byrd had run afoul of Chicago's aggressive vehicle impound program, which seizes cars and fines owners thousands of dollars for dozens of different offenses. The program impounds cars when the owner beats a criminal case or isn't charged with a crime in the first place. It impounds cars even when the owner isn't even driving, like when a child is borrowing a parent's car.

View this article.


Are Cop-Assisted Promposals Charming or Alarming? New at Reason


(image) After a police officer pulls over a teenaged girl without any legal justification and frightens her to the verge of tears, the local press portrays the incident as charming rather than alarming. You know what that means: Prom season is upon us.

The cop-assisted promposal, in which police help a teenager carry out a prank that ends with an invitation to the big dance, has become a familiar springtime ritual, documented in online videos and feel-good newspaper stories. But beneath the warm and fuzzy images of adolescent couples, Jacob Sullum sees a disturbing willingness to tolerate abuses of power by police officers as long as their motives are pure.

View this article


Teachers With Guns: New at Reason


(image) What should be done about school shootings?

After the horrible shooting in Parkland, Florida, President Trump suggested that some teachers carry guns. "We need to let people know, you come in to our schools—you're gonna be dead."

Anti-gun activists were horrified. But as John Stossel observes, many teachers have brought guns to work with them for years. Some teachers at the Keene Independent School District in Texas, for example, carry concealed weapons at school.

View this article.


Brickbat: A Teaching Opportunity


(image) New Jersey's Brookdale Community College says it is investigating after sociology professor Howard Finkelstein was caught on video shouting the f-word at a student in class.The student he was shouting at, Christopher Lyle, says it was one of many times Finkelstein has attacked him in class for expressing conservative ideas. The student who shot the video, Joey Smith, says he was tired of Finkelstein singling out Lyle for abuse. "He is basically just lecturing this one student for the whole period," Smith said.


Global Warming Likely to Be 30 to 45 Percent Lower Than Climate Models Project


(image) Climate researchers have spent decades trying to pin down the planet's equilibrium climate sensitivity. Also known by the initials ECS, that figure represents how much it would ultimately increase global average temperatures if the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere doubles above the pre-industrial level.

Figuring out the ECS has huge implications for policy. If future warming is at the low end, humanity has more time to adapt and to shift energy production away from the fossil fuels that are loading up the atmosphere with extra carbon dioxide. If at the high end, efforts to adapt and shift energy production to low-carbon sources would need to be speeded up. The current assessment of the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) states that ECS is likely to be in the range of 1.5°C to 4.5°C, extremely unlikely to be less than 1°C, and very unlikely to be greater than 6°C.

But a new study in the Journal of Climate suggests that the IPCC's estimates are much too high. In calculating their rival figures, authors Nicholas Lewis and Judith Curry take into account historical atmospheric and ocean temperature trends since the mid-19th century. Their estimates also draw on new findings since 1990 of how atmospheric ozone and aerosols are likely to affect global temperature trends. (They also address other researchers' concerns about an earlier ECS study that they published in 2015.)

"Our results imply that, for any future emissions scenario, future warming is likely to be substantially lower than the central computer model-simulated level projected by the IPCC, and highly unlikely to exceed that level," Lewis says in a press release from the Global Warming Policy Forum.

How much lower? Their median ECS estimate of 1.66°C (5–95% uncertainty range: 1.15–2.7°C) is derived using globally complete temperature data. The comparable estimate for 31 current generation computer climate simulation models cited by the IPCC is 3.1°C. In other words, the models are running almost two times hotter than the analysis of historical data suggests that future temperatures will be.

In addition, the high-end estimate of Lewis and Curry's uncertainty range is 1.8°C below the IPCC's high-end estimate.

Lewis and Curry's estimates are in line with the similarly low estimates reported by climatologists Thorsten Mauritsen of the Max Planck Institute for Meteorology and Robert Pincus of the University of Colorado in the July 2017 issue of Nature Climate Change. Using historical temperature data, those two researchers calculated an ECS of 1.5°C (0.9–3.6°C, 5th–95th percentile).

If these two studies turn out to be right, that will be good news for humanity.


Toronto Van Attack Reminds Us Weapons Are Just Tools. It's People Who Are Dangerous: New at Reason


(image) As Toronto cleans up the bloody mess caused by Monday's van attack, J.D. Tuccille notes that Alek Minassian, who has been charged in the attack, seems to be a very dangerous person. The attacker drove for two kilometers along Toronto's Yonge Street, killing 10 people and injuring another 15.

The van was only a tool the murderer used to fulfill his malevolent intent, notes Tuccille. Once he decided to harm other people, he then chose the van as a means of achieving that goal. The van was effective in accomplishing harm, but it was only a tool—it's the person who used it who is at fault.

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Kid Sues Over First Amendment Right to Second Amendment Shirt: New at Reason


(image) A Nevada school district unlawfully required a student not to wear a gun rights T-shirt, according to a First Amendment lawsuit filed today in federal court.

The lawsuit says that an 8th-grade student at Kendyl Depoali Middle School in Reno was prohibited from wearing a Firearms Policy Coalition t-shirt, which included the words "Don't Tread On Me" and a coiled rattlesnake—a reference to the Revolution-era Gadsden flag—but no actual depiction of a firearm. It also included the letters "2A," meaning the Second Amendment.

Brooke May, a teacher at the school, claimed last month that the shirt violated the dress code and said the 8th-grader could have his "Second Amendment rights when [he] turns[s] eighteen," according to the complaint. The dress code prohibits "obscene" language, anything that "may be deemed a safety issue," and "anything that promotes weapons."

The student, who is named by the initials G.M. in the complaint because he is a minor, responded by covering the shirt with a sweatshirt. He has not worn it to school again, writes Declan McCullagh.

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Oops! Amtrak Trains Don't Fit in Miami's $2 Billion Train Station


(image) When the $2 billion Miami Intermodal Center (MIC) started construction in 2011, the plan was to have its central station serviced by long-distance Amtrak trains.

Construction finished in 2013 and while three different rail services currently operate at the station, Amtrak is nowhere to be found. The reason? The platform built for Amtrak is 200 feet too short for Amtrak's long-distance trains.

The problem was first discovered shortly after construction began, but who exactly is to blame for the multi-million-dollar mishap, or what is to be done about it now, remain open questions.

The Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) claims that it was only informed of the platform length issue months after construction started. Amtrak insists that it kept FDOT fully informed of its needs throughout the pre-construction design and review stage.

Whoever is at fault, the problem is not easily remedied. Extending the platform an additional 200 feet would put it smack dab in the middle of the city's bustling 25th Street. In other words, extending the platform wold mean new construction in and around a busy thoroughfare.

FDOT initially considered this solution but has since rejected it. Instead, transportation planners have kicked around the idea of just having Amtrak trains temporarily jut out into traffic while they service the station.

An Amtrak spokesperson told the real estate blog The Next Miami that it is still in discussions about serving the MIC, but that it has no immediate plans to do so.

The Miami Herald listed the cost of the central train station—referred to as the "crown jewel" of the whole MIC complex—at some $88 million. Even on a $2 billion project, which also includes a massive rental car facility and bus station, that is not chump change.

FDOT planners realized this themselves. A 2008 presentation outlaying financial risks for the project ranked spending on Amtrak "high cost risk" given the money required and the uncertainly at the time about whether Amtrak would actually run trains to the station.

Of course, even if the platform did function as intended, it would still not be a win for taxpayers. The kind of long distance trains Amtrak was planning on running to the MIC are notorious money losers that are in large part responsible for the service's $227 million losses last year.

President Trump's latest budget proposal called for ending subsidies for Amtrak's long-distance service, but Congress chose not to make the cut.


Bernie Sanders Has a Jobs Plan. It's Called 'Socialism.'


Hey, there, displaced factory worker! Looking for work? Bernie Sanders has a job for you. How would you like to make $15 an hour cleaning up park trails for your municipal government? What, you say that sounds like something an employee of the city's parks department already does, or is supposed to do? What about repainting school playgrounds? Oh, the unionized school district employees gave you a stern look? Um. Hang on, he'll get back to you. Sanders has announced a new plan to make sure everybody who is unemployed gets a job. His plan is just to invent a bunch of new government jobs and pay $15 an hour with benefits! Ta-Da! Problem solved. No, really. That's kind of the plan. According to The Washington Post, which reported the proposal yesterday, Sanders' office doesn't have a cost estimate or any idea how it will be funded yet. Post policy writer Jeff Stein turned to a study by a pack of "left-leaning economists" for the Levy Economics Institute of Bard College, who seem to think only good things will happen with the creation of millions of government-funded jobs, and hardly any bad things. Klein notes: Job guarantee advocates say their plan would drive up wages by significantly increasing competition for workers, ensuring that corporations have to offer more generous salaries and benefits if they want to keep their employees from working for the government. Of course, they might have to lay off some employees in order to pay for these increased wages and benefits. Or they could increase the speed by which they're automating to get rid of jobs to save money. But that's okay! There's going to be all these government jobs to replace them! Paid for with tax revenue from…from…wait. If everybody goes to work for the government, where will the revenue come from? I'm sure they'll figure out something. So what sort of government work is there that would provide $15 an hour plus benefits to millions of unemployed Americans? The Levy Economics Institute study provides several examples of how these guaranteed jobs might play out at the local level. Here's one: A local artist collective employs painters, actors, musicians, and stage hands to run year-round productions for the community. They organize school outreach programs, run summer camps, and offer free art, music, and literacy classes for disadvantaged/special needs youths. They collaborate with local schools in offering art enrichment programs. You might think to yourself, "These seem like the kinds of jobs that certain people with certain types of interests have been begging for the government to fund for years." Indeed, much of the examples in the Levy study seem like descriptions of programs that certain types of local government-connected people with very particular ideas would like to see the government doing. Their plan leans heavily on the assumption that all these unemployed or underemployed people would happily do the grunt work that aligns with left-leaning environmental and public policy project goals. The report openly uses the Works Progress Administration of the New Deal as a model to support it. Perhaps you're wondering, "Is there even any widespread demand for these kinds of jobs that aren't already being filled?" That may sound like some sort of reference to marketplace capitalism! But that's not the point! The point is jobs. The study declares: It separates the offer of employment from the profitability of employment. Projects are created to serve community needs, rather than prioritizing whethe[...]

Armed Teachers: New at Reason


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President Trump says one solution to school shootings is to allow teachers to be armed.

He was mocked for that, but John Stossel says it's a reasonable idea. Hundreds of schools already allow it.

Keene Independent School District in Texas embraces the idea. Its superintendent, Ricky Stephens, tells Stossel: "We know our staff and our teachers are gonna go [to a shooting] -- do we want them to go with a pencil or go with a pistol?"

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The views expressed in this video are solely those of John Stossel, his independent production company, Stossel Productions, and the people he interviews. The claims and opinions set forth in the video and accompanying text are not necessarily those of Reason.

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What To Do With Kids Who Are Wards of the State: Podcast


"You go into family court and it's the same experience as at the DMV, only there are children's lives on the line," says Naomi Schaefer Riley in today's Reason Podcast. Riley is a visiting scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, where she studies the foster system, adoption, and religious liberty. In today's podcast, we talk about parenting, policy, and what happens when the state gets entangled in the business of raising children.

"There's a lot of evidence that pouring money into the system is not improving things" is a line you might hear in many Reason Podcasts, but Riley digs into the complex problem of what to do with kids who don't have parents—or have been taken from their parents—and how to deal with the complications that arise around religious freedom, voluntary association, private charity, drug prohibition, and welfare.

Riley is a former columnist for the New York Post and The Wall Street Journal as well as the author of quite a few books, including an attack on university tenure, an investigation into interfaith marriage, and book about the modern federal government's mistreatment of Native Americans. In "Can Big Data Help Save Abused Kids?," a feature for Reason's February issue, Riley applies the insights of data-driven predictive analysis to the child welfare system.

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Selfie-Taking Monkey Loses Federal Copyright Case: Reason Roundup


Monkey photographer loses federal copyright case. Good news, fellow humans: We won't have to pay licensing fees to any damn dirty apes anytime soon. Nor to any animals with an artistic streak. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit just held that copyright infringement claims can only be brought on behalf of humans. The case was brought by the provocateurs at People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). The group sued on behalf of a crested macaque monkey who had taken a series of selfies in 2011. The photos were published by wildlife photographer David Slate (whose phone the monkey had used to express itself), in what PETA claimed was an infringement on monkey Naruto's intellectual property rights. "Naruto should be considered the author and copyright owner, and he shouldn't be treated any differently from any other creator simply because he happens to not be human," said PETA lawyer Jeff Kerr. But in its April 23 decision, the three-judge circuit court panel dismissed PETA's claim, upholding a lower court ruling. The panel found "that the animal had constitutional standing but lacked statutory standing to claim copyright infringement of photographs known as the 'Monkey Selfies.'" According to the ruling, "the monkey lacked statutory standing because the Copyright Act does not expressly authorize animals to file copyright infringement suits." FREE MINDS Major success for criminal justice reforms in Philly. Recent reform in Philadelphia has cut the city's jail population by a third—with no increase in crime. In July 2015, there were 8,082 people imprisoned in Philly jails; last week, it was 5,394 people. Mayor Jim Kenney credits two changes in particular: bail reform and a new approach to drug-related offenses. The city implemented an "early bail review" system after five days for those in jail with bonds of under $50,000, reports The Washington Post. "Kenney said 84 percent of those reviewed were released within five days, and more than 92 percent had shown up for their subsequent hearings." A program to divert drug addicts to treatment rather than jail has also been successful. Since December, "no one who's been in the program has been rearrested," said the mayor at a press conference, promising to close one of the city's nearly century-old jails by 2020. "Reaching the point where we can shutter this facility once and for all, without needing to build a new prison, this is a milestone." FREE MARKETS Feds crippling bankers with nonsensical marijuana policy. In the U.S., banks are supposed to file a report with the federal government anytime anyone deposits money "derived from illegal activity." As Brookings fellow Aaron Klein points out, this means that "banks must also file a report when a state government deposits tax revenue paid by marijuana firms into the state's bank account. The result is banks telling Uncle Sam that Oregon is a possible money launderer," which is absurd. From Klein: Not only does it not make sense to consider a state government a money launderer, there is no reason for banks to be the ones reporting to the U.S. Treasury that Colorado, Washington, Oregon, Alaska, California, Massachusetts, Maine and Nevada are profiting from the sale of marijuana. Voters and state legislators did not exactly make it a secret this was their plan. Going down this rabbit hole, regulations technically require banks to report every transaction that involves funds derived [...]

British Politicians Declare War on Knives: New at Reason


(image) It turns out that when you pass laws disarming people in an attempt to prevent violence, criminals who habitually disregard all laws don't make exceptions for the new rules. In London, crime still thrives despite the U.K.'s tight gun controls and the British political class is now desperately turning its attention to restricting knives.

British politicians propose banning home delivery of knives and police promote street-corner bins for the surrender of knives while also conducting stings against knife vendors. Their goal is to "target not only those who carry and use knives, but also the supply, access and importation of weapons."

Rather than a race to ban dangerous objects that can only end with the criminalization of rocks and pointed sticks, J.D. Tuccille suggests that it's time politicians stopped pushing laws that are ignored by criminals and annoying and inconvenient to the rest of us.

View this article.


Brickbat: Honoring Those Who Serve


(image) Jacksonville, Florida, code enforcement officer Melinda Power posted an apology on Facebook for being "unprofessional and disrespectful" while issuing a warning to a local business for flying military flags. According to staff at Jaguar Power Sports, Power issued the firm a warning for flying the flags of the different branches of the U.S. military on the roof and told them they could be prosecuted if the flags weren't removed. A customer who is a veteran overheard her remarks and told her he almost lost his life serving in the military. "She gets in his face this close and says, 'You did nothing for this country,'" store employee Katie Klasse said. Power said she remembered the incident differently but apologized. She later removed the apology.


Actually, Rand Paul Will Support Mike Pompeo for Secretary of State


After weeks of suggesting he would vote against the appointment of CIA Director Mike Pompeo as secretary of state, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) flipped on Monday afternoon and now says he will support Pompeo's appointment. The reversal likely smooths Pompeo's path to confirmation in the Senate, where Paul and Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) were two crucial GOP hold-outs. Paul, on Twitter, said he was convinced to support Pompeo's appointment after several conversations with President Donald Trump. Paul wrote that he "received confirmation the Director Pompeo agrees" with the president that "the Iraq war was a mistake, and that it is time to leave Afghanistan." With those assurances from the president, who has never changed mind or gone back on a promise, Paul said he was ready to deliver an affirmative vote for Pompeo. Having received assurances from President Trump and Director Pompeo that he agrees with the President on these important issues, I have decided to support his nomination to be our next Secretary of State. — Senator Rand Paul (@RandPaul) April 23, 2018 Paul had pressed Pompeo on Afghanistan during a confirmation hearing in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee earlier this month. Pompeo said at the time that he "shared the president's view" that it was not yet time for the military to leave the Central Asian nation where the United States has been engaged since shortly after the 9/11 attacks, more than 16 years ago. But Paul faced significant political pressure from the White House to back Pompeo's confirmation. "I still think it's hard for Rand Paul to explain to Kentucky voters how he voted 'yes' for John Kerry for Secretary of State and 'no' for Mike Pompeo," Marc Short, a top legislative liaison for the White House, told Axios' Jonathan Swan over the weekend. Paul had opposed Pompeo's appointment to run the CIA last year, saying in January 2017 that Pompeo's "desire for security will trump his defense of liberty." He was the lone GOP vote against Pompeo's appointment. Paul's position on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee put him in a critical spot. If the committee's 10 Democratic members oppose him, Paul could be the swing vote on the 21-member committee. A committee vote is expected later this month. With Paul falling in line, it seems like Pompeo is on a glide path to being the next secretary of state. And America's longest war continues. [...]

The Irony of Socialists Calling for Abolishing Prisons: New at Reason


(image) Some self-described socialist candidates running within the Democratic Party "advocate more extreme changes, such as abolishing the prison system," The New York Times reports.

Sure enough, the Boston Chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America has a "Prison Abolition Working Group" that meets monthly. The national DSA Twitter account has tweeted "we need to abolish the prison system." A resolution favoring the abolition of prisons reportedly passed last year at the DSA's annual convention.

The Times report, which came in the form of a news article about increasing numbers of Democratic candidates embracing the socialist label, made me chuckle.

How can one imagine a socialist state without prisons? Socialist countries without prisons turn out to be scarce verging on nonexistent—as rare as a McDonald's without arches, writes Ira Stoll.

Read the whole thing.


The Coming Century of Environmental Renewal


Modern environmentalism preaches unrelenting gloom and doom both for people and for the planet. A typical example is this Guardian headline last month: "Collapse of civilization is a near certainty within decades." The article reported the reliably wrong population doomster Paul Ehrlich's latest predictions of global ecological disaster. But while doom remains the dominant worldview among environmentalists, some vanguard thinkers are beginning to take notice of the strong trends toward environmental renewal that the increasing wealth produced by markets and technological innovation are making possible. In the latest issue of the journal BioScience, three researchers from the Wildlife Conservation Society argue that over the course of this century increasing wealth and urbanization will enable the global restoration of wild nature. From the article: For the first time in the Anthropocene, the global demographic and economic trends that have resulted in unprecedented destruction of the environment are now creating the necessary conditions for a possible renaissance of nature. Drawing reasonable inferences from current patterns, we can predict that 100 years from now, the Earth could be inhabited by between 6 and 8 billion people, with very few remaining in extreme poverty, most living in towns and cities, and nearly all participating in a technologically driven, interconnected market economy. Building on the scholarship of others in demography, economics, sociology, and conservation biology, here, we articulate a theory of social–environmental change that describes the simultaneous and interacting effects of urban lifestyles on fertility, poverty alleviation, and ideation. By recognizing the shifting dynamics of these macrodrivers, conservation practice has the potential to transform itself from a discipline managing declines ("bottleneck") to a transformative movement of recovery ("breakthrough"). These predictions are nearly identical those I made in my 2015 book, The End of Doom: Environmental Renewal in the Twenty-First Century: THE END OF THE WORLD IS NOT NIGH. Far from it. Humanity does face big environmental challenges over the course of the coming century, but the bulk of the scientific and economic evidence shows that most of the trends are positive or can be turned in a positive direction by further enhancing human ingenuity. Let's briefly review that evidence and those trends. Human population growth is slowing and will very likely peak at around 8 to 9 billion in this century and begin falling. This virtuous trajectory is the result of a combination of happy developments, not the least of which is expanding education and oppportunities for girls and women around the world. The process of economic growth reduces child mortality, which in turn encourages parents to have fewer children and invest more in their health and education. Increasing agricultural productivity ameliorates hunger and liberates people from the fields to seek better opportunities in cities. Rising agricultural yields that result from the application and spread of modern farming technologies, most especially including biotechnology, also means that the amount of land devoted to crops and pasturage is shrinking. Humanity has already likely reached "peak farmland," which means [...]

Penn State Lets Students Keep Their Scuba Club, But Only After They Swear Never to Host Scuba Trips Again


No one at Pennsylvania State University has ever drowned on a scuba-diving trip, so why does the school suddenly think the activity is too dangerous? Penn State recently decreed that three student-led outdoor adventure groups—the hiking club, the cave exploration club, and the scuba club—would have to disband due to safety liability concerns, even though none of the long-running clubs had ever reported a problem. Reason's Lenore Skenazy bemoaned this joy-killing paranoia in a recent post here at Hit & Run. Now the scuba club has been granted a reprieve—but with a significant caveat: Nittany Divers Scuba is no longer allowed to organize scuba-diving trips. "We will just serve as a special interest organization for scuba divers and people interested in scuba diving," group leader Alex Pulice tells Reason. Members of the club will still be able to discuss and celebrate scuba, according to an announcement on the Nittany Divers' Facebook page. But they can never act on their feelings in any official, formal capacity. Pulice tells me that Penn State's recreation department has promised to organize scuba trips on behalf of interested students. These trips would happen under administrative supervision. It's tough to understand why exactly Penn State needs to take on the responsibility of chaperoning its scuba divers. A Penn State spokesperson claims that certain outdoor activities exceed the university's "acceptable risk threshold," partly because they take place in areas of poor cell phone coverage, where it would be difficult to contact emergency services. Obviously, you can't use a phone underwater. But Pulice tells me that the Nittany Divers club has existed for 50 years and has never had a safety issue. "We have an impeccable safety track record," he says. The other two "risky" groups—the Outing Club and Grotto Caving Club—have been around even longer: 98 years and 70 years, respectively. Caving Club President Michael Lacey tells the Centre Daily Times that even if the outdoor trips continue under university direction, "It definitely loses a little bit of the adventure aspect." I can easily imagine these trips losing some of their excitement and appeal after the administration has stripped away the students' autonomy. That would be a terrible shame: Spending time outdoors is normal and healthy. There are certainly worse—and far riskier—ways for Penn State students to spend their weekends. [...]