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Updated: 2017-07-23T00:00:00-04:00

 



"People use information however they like. It's confirmation bias": Humans of FreedomFest 6

2017-07-23T08:00:00-04:00

Editor's note: FreedomFest, held every July in Las Vegas, is the largest annual gathering of libertarians in the country. Today is the first day of the four-day long conference, which is being headlined in its 10th year by William Shatner, John Stossel, Greg Gutfeld, and others. Taking inspiration from the site Humans of New York, Reason is happy to offer Humans of FreedomFest, a series of portraits and brief interviews with various attendees. To read previous installments, go here.

Avens O'Brien

(image)

"I was on a panel and a question came up about abortion and it was interesting because there were four panelists. One person didn't let their opinion be known. Two were extremely pro-life. And then there was me, who was not only pro-choice but had had an abortion. We didn't have a knockdown, drag-out fight about it, but it was clear that we were all in our spaces about what we believe and none of us were moving."

Did your informing of the audience about your abortion add to your credibility or take it away?

"The pro-choicers were like, Yes, this lends legitimacy to the issue. She can speak from experience. And then the pro lifers, who are not gonna be moved, are like, Oh she's extremely biased. People use information however they like. It's confirmation bias."

Larry Sharpe

(image)

"Do you wanna hear the weird story?"

I want to hear the weird story.

"I'm adopted. When I was born in 1968, New York state, being the progressive state it is, wouldn't allow you to be adopted unless you had the right racial match. Since I was biracial, they had to find a biracial family. That was the law back then. New York, again the progressive state that it is, would not allow me to find my parents because, well, because. We fought many times, lost every time. The judges kept saying, 'We made a promise to those people and we can't break it.' It was 50 years ago and we now know genetics matter in health. So this is now life and death. And you think some promise to someone 50 years ago matters? What is wrong with you?... When I'm governor I'm going to change that."

Editor's Note: Sharpe has announced his intention to run for governor of New York on the Libertarian ticket.

John Stagliano

(image)

"There were talks about [Attorney General Jeff] Sessions initiating prosecutions against the porn industry. And I could be a target as one of the few remaining big producers of porn in Los Angeles.... I'm a target."

Are you nervous about that?

"No, not really... I don't have that much respect for the federal government. I'm nervous that people will move on, that I'll never become a celebrity again."

"Humans of FreedomFest" is a series. Read previous installments here.




The Surprisingly Long History of Private Space Exploration

2017-07-23T06:00:00-04:00

The Long Space Age: The Economic Origins of Space Exploration from Colonial America to the Cold War, by Alexander MacDonald, Yale University Press, 272 pages, $35 Seventy years ago, the Soviets launched Sputnik and, with it, the space race. For Americans who grew up since then, the exploration of space has always been linked closely with the government. Private space companies such as SpaceX and Blue Origin may have had successes, but they still arouse skepticism from people who cannot imagine anyone other than NASA or its foreign rivals sending people to the cosmos. But in The Long Space Age, the NASA historian and economist Alexander MacDonald uncovers a rich, multi-century history of privately funded space exploration. In the long view, the age of government-funded space travel may be a just a temporary detour from an older tradition. In the beginning, the exploration of space took place from here on Earth, with the astronomical observatories of the late 18th through mid-20th centuries. These were funded by subscriptions from local community boosters, by donations from wealthy patrons, and only occasionally by the government. The resources devoted to these projects were equivalent to those of many modern space missions, often as much as a billion current dollars. The feds did fund some successful projects, such as the Naval Observatory and the Smithsonian. But there were also many failures, including a national astronomical observatory proposed by President John Quincy Adams, an amateur astronomer, who warned of the dangers of falling behind the Russians' large telescope. (Think of that as the first space race.) Congress batted down the idea, with members arguing that this was not a federal responsibility. Space rockets, similarly, were at first a mostly private enterprise. MacDonald recovers the largely forgotten history of Robert Goddard, the American inventor of the liquid rocket, whose work was funded by the Guggenheim Foundation and others. Similarly, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, later absorbed by NASA, started as a student rocket project in the 1930s in an arroyo near the California Institute of Technology. Not until the 1940s was most rocket science conducted on the government's dime. Why did private funders pay for telescopes and rockets? Often, it wasn't about the science so much as the signaling. For example, Charles Yerkes—notorious for monopolizing streetcars in Chicago by means both fair and foul—helped finance the Yerkes Observatory in Wisconsin to signal his fundamental beneficence and to rehabilitate himself in the public eye. Any revised perception of Yerkes' character didn't last long, but the facility itself did, and a great many discoveries were later made there. This motive hasn't disappeared in the age of NASA. The Apollo missions signaled that our space technology was superior to that of the Soviets, a goal that remains a driving force behind publicly funded human spaceflight. For many in Washington it doesn't matter much whether we have actual space accomplishments, as long as we maintain the appearance that we are on our way to achieving things in space. For philanthropists and subscribers to private telescopes, the aim was to signal that their town or college was ahead of its competitors in science and technology. The science itself often took a back seat: It was always easier to raise money to build a monumental observatory with a donor's name on it than to endow astronomers to actually use it for new discoveries. And the subscription model frustrated the scientists, who had to give up observation time to the subscribers who had paid money for the privilege of looking at planets through telescopes. The modern equivalent of that comes when planetary scientists have to divert mission resources—power, mass, bandwidth, money—from scientific instruments to cameras on space probes, so the taxpaying public can view gorgeous pictures. The last great private telescope was the 200-inch reflector that first saw starlight in 1948 on Palomar Mountain in S[...]



"We'd even gone to see if I could legally adopt him so he didn't have to stress being an illegal alien": Humans of FreedomFest 5

2017-07-22T15:10:00-04:00

Editor's note: FreedomFest, held every July in Las Vegas, is the largest annual gathering of libertarians in the country. Today is the first day of the four-day long conference, which is being headlined in its 10th year by William Shatner, John Stossel, Greg Gutfeld, and others. Taking inspiration from the site Humans of New York, Reason is happy to offer Humans of FreedomFest, a series of portraits and brief interviews with various attendees. To read previous installments, go here.

Robert J. Schimenz

(image)

Are any political issues personal for you?

"I could get emotional over a lot of issues. Nick [Gillespie], about a month ago, was in Queens. And he was walking down the street. A guy pulls up and says 'Aren't you Nick Gillespie from Reason?' And he holds up his Reason magazine. And it's one of my former students. Who, when I first met him, was a 10th grader and an illegal alien. Great kid. Baseball player on my team. Editor of my school newspaper. We'd even gone to see if I could legally adopt him so he didn't have to stress being an illegal alien… he's probably one of the best Americans I know, this kid."

Nicole Sanders

(image)

"I went to college in Texas and I started a YAL [Young Americans for Liberty] chapter. And it got shut down. And so I worked with FIRE [Foundation for Individual Rights in Education], we sued, and won. It was kinda my entry into the liberty movement. It was the first time I was on campus as a YAL chapter, I was just recruiting, letting people know there's this libertarian group on campus. A student was offended because I was talking about guns on campus. So they went to the administration. And then they came to me with three armed police officers saying I was not allowed to talk to students without permission. If I wanted to talk about guns, I would need special permission."

Adam Trexler

(image)

Have you ever changed your mind on an issue?

"Oh sure. Well now I'm gonna upset you. Probably. When I lived in Britain, I was really scared of socialized medicine. But I found that the NHS [National Health System] was more efficient than our hybrid state-private system. So I think we either need a true private system or a true public system."

"Humans of FreedomFest" is a series. Read previous installments here.




Humans of FreedomFest, Part 4: "My father used...'libertarian' as a swear word."

2017-07-22T11:30:00-04:00

Editor's note: FreedomFest, held every July in Las Vegas, is the largest annual gathering of libertarians in the country. Today is the first day of the four-day long conference, which is being headlined in its 10th year by William Shatner, John Stossel, Greg Gutfeld, and others. Taking inspiration from the site Humans of New York, Reason is happy to offer Humans of FreedomFest, a series of portraits and brief interviews with various attendees. To read previous installments, go here.

Deirdre McCloskey

(image)

"My father used the word 'libertarian' as a swear word. 'Oh that's libertarian'... But I was a marxist at the time so I thought, well that's not something I should be. It took me a long time to get over that. I was an anarchist to begin with when I was 15. Then I was a socialist, kind of a Joan Baez socialist. I played the guitar... I know more socialist songs than my socialist colleagues. I wasn't a scholarly Marxist. I read half the Communist Manifesto and I figured that was enough. But the songs were terrific."

Stephen L Mandaro

(image)

"Because I'm pro-choice, among the Republicans sometimes I get into trouble. But I'm a physician. So I leave it to the patient to decide what they want. My feeling, being pro-choice, is that it's a woman's individual decision. Not mine."

Anonymous

(image)

"Back in England, at the London School of Economics, he was a socialist when I met him. When we first met."

So did you turn him into a libertarian?

"No. Buying private property, having rent control slammed on us, is what radicalized us."

...Who are you people?

"We can't decide."

Are those your real names?

"We're coming to a conference on privacy. It would be crazy to register in your own name!"

...Can I take your picture?

Both: "No."

This is part of a series. Read previous installments here.




Reefer Madness at The New York Times: New at Reason

2017-07-22T09:17:00-04:00

(image) "The federal government should repeal the ban on marijuana," The New York Times declared in an editorial published on July 27, 2014. That week, the paper ran a series of essays fleshing out the case for legalization, including a piece in which editorial writer Brent Staples exposed the ugly roots of pot prohibition.

"The federal law that makes possession of marijuana a crime has its origins in legislation that was passed in an atmosphere of hysteria during the 1930s and that was firmly rooted in prejudices against Mexican immigrants and African-Americans, who were associated with marijuana use at the time," Staples wrote. He mentioned "sensationalistic newspaper articles" that tied marijuana to "murder and mayhem" and "depicted pushers hovering by the schoolhouse door turning children into 'addicts.'" He did not mention that many such stories appeared in The New York Times.

In the context of the era, when papers across the country were running news reports with headlines like "Evil Mexican Plants That Drive You Insane" (Richmond Times-Dispatch) and "Smoking Weed Turns Mexicans to Wild Beasts" (Cheyenne State Leader), the Gray Lady's marijuana coverage during the first few decades of the 20th century was not especially egregious. But to modern eyes, it is remarkably naive, alarmist, and racist, writes Jacob Sullum.

View this article.




Italy’s Ruining Its Own Food Culture with Heavy Hand of Regulation: New at Reason

2017-07-22T08:00:00-04:00

(image) Food policy writer Baylen Linniken laments the local governments handing down terrible rules on the lovely restaurants and cafes (and food trucks) of Italy:

Italy is home to some of the best and most memorable meals I've ever eaten. I first visited in 1994, after graduating from college, and have returned on several occasions.

Some of my fondest memories are of sampling wonderful street food in Milan, drinking and dining al fresco amid the lights at night in Rome, and enjoying the amazing aromas of wonderful cooking foods that practically permeate the country.

That's why I'm disheartened to learn that Italy is increasingly cracking down on its food culture—including, specifically, the aforementioned Milanese street food, drinking and dining outdoors in Rome, and the grand aromas of the country's food.

View this article.




Shake Your Head at Italy's Crappy New Food Laws

2017-07-22T08:00:00-04:00

Italy is home to some of the best and most memorable meals I've ever eaten. I first visited in 1994, after graduating from college, and have returned on several occasions. Some of my fondest memories are of sampling wonderful street food in Milan, drinking and dining al fresco amid the lights at night in Rome, and enjoying the amazing aromas of wonderful cooking foods that practically permeate the country. That's why I'm disheartened to learn that Italy is increasingly cracking down on its food culture—including, specifically, the aforementioned Milanese street food, drinking and dining outdoors in Rome, and the grand aromas of the country's food. Earlier this month, Milan banned food trucks from the city. Also in July, reports The Local, Rome imposed a series of bans on food and alcohol. The Roman law prohibits grocers and other stores from selling alcohol after 10 p.m. and bars people from drinking alcohol from a glass in public at that same time. It also prohibits all alcohol consumption outdoors after midnight, and cuts off all alcohol sales after 2 a.m. Rome has also joined other Italian cities—notably Florence—in prohibiting picnicking at popular historic sites. The first Saturday the alcohol ban was in place, Roman police issued more than three dozen tickets, which cost about $200 a pop. Many Romans are aghast. "It limits our freedom as a business, and our free choice as responsible adults to be able to drink after 2 a.m.," the owners of Redrum, a restaurant and bar, told The Local. "[It is] a curfew which recalls decidedly sad periods of our history." At least one U.S. publication doesn't see the big deal. Food & Wine—a magazine devoted to celebrating some of the specific things Rome has banned: food and wine—apparently doesn't see the big deal with the Roman law. "Truthfully, it doesn't sound like the law should be difficult to abide," writes F&W's Elisabeth Sherman. "You'll still be able to enjoy Rome with respect, and a glass of wine in your hand, at least until two in the morning. By then, you should be in bed anyway." This isn't all Italy's getting wrong. This month, the country's highest court ruled that restaurants that serve frozen food to customers without declaring so on their menus are guilty of civil fraud. A restaurateur who'd disputed the charges was fined more than $2,000. "Even the mere availability of frozen food, if not identified as such on the menu, constitutes attempted commercial fraud," said the ruling. (Canned tomatoes are apparently still acceptable.) In April, the same court ruled, the New York Post reports, that "cooking stinky food—like rich pasta sauces and fish—too close to neighbors" constitutes a crime. The court, in upholding a couple's fine of more than $2,000, declared cooking food that produces aromas which are subjectively "beyond the limits of tolerability" amounts to "olfactory molestation." A creeping food xenophobia also appears to be taking hold in the country. Last year, Florence imposed restrictions on so-called "foreign" food from being sold in the historic city center. Fair Verona barred "ethnic" foods. This year, Venice banned new fast food outlets, focusing in part on kebab shops, in order to preserve Italian "decorum and traditions." Add to these recent crackdowns the country's ban on cultivating GMO crops and the creeping takeover of the food sector by the mafia, and Italy's future as a culinary titan would seem to be in jeopardy. It was only last summer that I wrote here about a new food law Italy had gotten right. In that case, Italy took action to combat food waste by rolling back complex government recordkeeping requirements and rules barring food from being shared. But one good law can't stand up to heaps of awful ones, which seems to be about all that's cooking in Italy these days. [...]



Reefer Madness at The New York Times

2017-07-22T06:00:00-04:00

"The federal government should repeal the ban on marijuana," The New York Times declared in an editorial published on July 27, 2014. That week, the paper ran a series of essays fleshing out the case for legalization, including a piece in which editorial writer Brent Staples exposed the ugly roots of pot prohibition. "The federal law that makes possession of marijuana a crime has its origins in legislation that was passed in an atmosphere of hysteria during the 1930s and that was firmly rooted in prejudices against Mexican immigrants and African-Americans, who were associated with marijuana use at the time," Staples wrote. He mentioned "sensationalistic newspaper articles" that tied marijuana to "murder and mayhem" and "depicted pushers hovering by the schoolhouse door turning children into 'addicts.'" He did not mention that many such stories appeared in The New York Times. In the context of the era, when papers across the country were running news reports with headlines like "Evil Mexican Plants That Drive You Insane" (Richmond Times-Dispatch) and "Smoking Weed Turns Mexicans to Wild Beasts" (Cheyenne State Leader), the Gray Lady's marijuana coverage during the first few decades of the 20th century was not especially egregious. But to modern eyes, it is remarkably naive, alarmist, and racist. There were occasional bursts of skepticism, but in general the paper eagerly echoed the fantastical fearmongering of anti-drug crusaders such as Harry J. Anslinger, who ran the Federal Bureau of Narcotics (FBN) from 1930 to 1962. The path the Times traveled from promoter to opponent of pot prohibition parallels the journey of Americans generally, most of whom supported legalization by the time the paper's editorial board came around on the issue. In both cases, the single most powerful explanation for the reversal is growing familiarity with marijuana, which discredited the government's claims about its hazards. Since exotic intoxicants tend to be scarier than the ones you and your friends use, it is not surprising that fear of marijuana receded as direct or indirect experience with it became a normal part of adolescence and young adulthood. Conversely, people are much more inclined to accept outlandish claims about drugs they have never personally encountered. In that respect, the supposedly sophisticated and empirically grounded journalists employed by The News York Times are no different from their fellow citizens. 'Mexican, Crazed by Marihuana, Runs Amuck With Butcher Knife' On the face of it, the fact that marijuana seemed exotic to Americans at the turn of the 20th century is puzzling, since it was a common ingredient in patent medicines during the 19th century. Elixirs containing cannabis were sold as treatments for a wide range of maladies, including coughs, colds, corns, cholera, and consumption. An 1857 letter to what was then known as the New-York Daily Times even recommended "Cannabis Indica, the East Indian hemp, known most widely as Hesheesh," as "a sure counteractive to the poison of rabies." The letter cited "that famous benefactor to medical science," Irish physician William O'Shaughnessy, who encountered cannabis as a folk cure in India and introduced it as a medicine to Europeans in the early 1840s. By 1876, a Times story (reprinted from The Boston Globe) was describing cannabis as a medicine that "has been used by the faculty here with great success in cases of dropsy." But that was cannabis, a.k.a. Indian hemp. The first reference to "the Marihuana" in the Times, in a 1901 story with a Mexico City dateline, described it as "a harmless-looking plant" that "sends its victims running amuck when they awaken from the long, deathlike sleep it produces." The origin of the word marijuana (also spelled marihuana and mariguana) is uncertain. A quarter-century after the term first appeared in the Times, the paper's Latin [...]






Sean Spicer Resigns, Sean Hannity Has an Award Taken Away, and Minneapolis Officials Offer Regrets on Shooting of Unarmed Australian Woman: P.M. Links

2017-07-21T16:30:00-04:00

  • (image) Sean Spicer has resigned as White House press secretary. The New York Times was the first to report on the news, and Spicer himself confirmed it over Twitter. He will remain in his post for another month, after which he will be replaced by Sarah Huckabee Sanders.
  • Sean Hannity has had his William F. Buckley Award for Media Excellence snatched away from him. The award was supposed to be presented to the Fox News host by the Media Research Center at their September Gala. Politico reports that Christopher Buckley, the late National Review founder's son, objected to Hannity receiving the award. Hannity and the MRC have said that the change is the result of a "scheduling conflict."
  • Several Canadian members of the travelling equestrian show Cavalia have been arrested in China for smoking weed. Two Canadians remain in prison in China, however both the Canadian government and Cavalia are working to get them released.
  • Justine Damond, the unarmed Australian woman shot by Minneapolis police Saturday, "did not have to die" according to Minneapolis Police Chief Janee Harteau said. Mayor Betsy Hodges has made similar statements, although both have stopped short of calling the shooting illegal. Read Reason's coverage of the story here.
  • The BBC reports on Rob Spence, a filmmaker with one human eye and one robot eye!



Michigan Activist Sentenced to Jail for Distributing Pamphlet About Juror Rights

2017-07-21T16:05:00-04:00

(image) Today a Michigan judge sentenced a local activist to eight weekends in jail, plus $545 in fines, 120 hours of community service, and six months of probation, for passing out jury nullification pamphlets in front of the Mecosta County courthouse. Keith Wood, a former pastor and father of eight, was arrested in November 2015 and convicted last month of jury tampering, a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail.

Wood, who distributed a pamphlet published by the Fully Informed Jury Association (FIJA), was initially charged with obstruction of justice, a felony punishable by up to five years in prison, and held on $150,000 bail. The felony charge was dismissed in March 2016.

The remaining charge applies when someone "willfully attempts to influence the decision of a juror in any case by argument or persuasion, other than as part of the proceedings in open court in the trial of the case." The only case pending on the day Wood was arrested involved an Amish man named Andy Yoder who was accused of illegally filling a wetland on his own property. Yoder ended up pleading guilty, so no jury was ever chosen for his trial. But Wood testified that he had taken an interest in the case and ordered the FIJA pamphlets after hearing about it.

Wood's lawyer, David Kallman, who plans to appeal the conviction, argued that distributing the pamphlets, which contained general information about jurors' rights, was protected by the First Amendment. He emphasized that Wood never discussed Yoder's case with passers-by at the courthouse.

At Wood's sentencing, Kallman argued that jail time was inappropriate, while the prosecution recommended a sentence of 45 days. After Wood's arrest, Mecosta County Prosecutor Brian Thiede said the FIJA pamphlet is dangerous because "we would have a lawless nation if people were to vote their conscience."

FIJA has more on the Wood case here.




Colorado State Pueblo Settles With Student It Falsely Accused of Rape

2017-07-21T15:15:00-04:00

Colorado State University-Pueblo has reached a settlement in a lawsuit brought by Grant Neal. Neal is the athlete who the university expelled for allegedly raping a fellow student, even though that student told school officials, "I'm fine and I wasn't raped." The settlement comes as the Department of Education is considering reforms of Title IX sexual assault investigations, which Reason and others have taken to task for numerous violations of due process. In an emailed statement to Reason, Neal's attorney Andrew Miltenberg says his client "is pleased that this matter has been resolved and is looking forward to moving on with his life." Neal's troubles began in the fall of 2015, when he and a fellow student and athletic trainer—identified only as "Jane Doe"—had repeated consensual sexual encounters. Relationships between trainers and athletes were frowned upon (though not prohibited), so the couple tried to keep their encounters covert. News of their relationship eventually leaked out, however, and quickly escalated into a probe by the school's Title IX investigator, Roosevelt Wilson. Wilson, who interviewed Neal multiple times, never advised Neal to seek legal counsel, gave contradictory instructions on contacting Doe, and refused to hear from witnesses who supported Neal's version of the events. None of this, unfortunately, is out of the ordinary for Title IX investigations. What was out of the ordinary was the alleged victim's repeated statements that their sexual encounters were consensual. At one point she told a college administrator, "Our stories are the same and he's a good guy. He's not a rapist, he's not a criminal, it's not even worth any of this hoopla!" Nevertheless, Neal was expelledfor his alleged misconduct in December 2015, an event that cost him numerous scholarships and has prevented him from being accepted to other schools. "One day I woke up and I had all my dreams in front of me," Neal told Reason's Robby Soave back in February. "For that to be yanked away from me for no justifiable reason...that's hard to cope with." The university has agreed to pay an unspecified monetary amount in exchange for Neal dropping his lawsuit. Nonmonetary terms of the settlement are still being negotiated. The school admits no wrong-doing. No one settlement will produce sweeping change to Title IX investigations overnight, says Justin Dillon, a lawyer who specializes in campus discipline cases. But he thinks Neal's case sends a message. "If schools don't treat both sides fairly they're going to pay a price," Dillon tells Reason, saying he would like to see a number of changes to how campuses handle sexual assault cases, including legal rights to counsel for the accused and the ability to cross-examine witnesses. You know: basic due-process stuff. He might get what he wants: Candice Jackson, the top civil rights official at the Department of Education, has said the way current Title IX investigations treat the accused is "a red flag that something's not right." What reforms will eventually come down the pike remains to be seen, but Neal's case illustrates how much the current Title IX system is an affront to due process and equal treatment under the law. [...]



Vampires and Spies Darken Summer Television’s Doorstep: New at Reason

2017-07-21T15:01:00-04:00

(image) It's the time of the television year, safely past the May upfronts where all of next season's advertising is sold and just before the big promotional push for the fall shows begins, when all the TV bosses flee for a few weeks to Malibu or the Hamptons or wherever it is that wealthy, imperious swine go to exchange tips on the most satisfying ways to whip the household help. And while the cat's away, the junior programmers will play, unleashing hordes of vampires, spies and what-have-you who would never see the airwaves if the grownups were around.

The result is usually shows that are kind of fun if not necessarily any good. Which is a pretty fair summary of the week's premieres: NBC's pleasingly trashy spook opera Midnight, Texas; and the CNN spy documentary Declassified: Untold Stories of American Spies, which is either a carefully coded revelation about American espionage or mammothly incompetent documentary filmmaking, take your pick. Television critic Glenn Garvin reviews both.

View this article.




Vampires and Spies Dominate Frothy Fun Television Choices

2017-07-21T15:01:00-04:00

Declassified: Untold Stories of American Spies. CNN. Saturday, July 22, 9 p.m. Midnight, Texas. NBC. Monday, July 24, 10 p.m. It's the time of the television year, safely past the May upfronts where all of next season's advertising is sold and just before the big promotional push for the fall shows begins, when all the TV bosses flee for a few weeks to Malibu or the Hamptons or wherever it is that wealthy, imperious swine go to exchange tips on the most satisfying ways to whip the household help. And while the cat's away, the junior programmers will play, unleashing hordes of vampires, spies and what-have-you who would never see the airwaves if the grownups were around. The result is usually shows that are kind of fun if not necessarily any good. Which is a pretty fair summary of the week's premieres: NBC's pleasingly trashy spook opera Midnight, Texas; and the CNN spy documentary Declassified: Untold Stories of American Spies, which is either a carefully coded revelation about American espionage or mammothly incompetent documentary filmmaking, take your pick. Midnight, Texas, is based on a series of books by Charlaine Harris, who authored the vampire novels that became HBO's epic True Blood. But if you're expecting a True Blood clone, you're going to be wildly disappointed; the two series of books are completely different. True Blood was about life in a creepy little Louisiana town populated mostly by vampires, werewolves, and telepathic fairies. Whereas Midnight, Texas, is about a creepy little Texas town populated mostly by vampires, werewolves, and telepathic gypsy psychics. So, we're on, like, different sides of the moon here, or at least different sides of the Sabine River. Actually, the major difference in the two is the absence this time around of executive producer Alan Ball, who picked up one of the True Blood novels to pass the time after showing up early for a dentist's appointment and somehow divined in its pulpy goth confusion a tool with which to slice and dice culture, theology, sexuality, identity politics, and gender migration. Whereas Midnight, Texas, is about biting people. Just as the mind-reading waitress Sookie Stackhouse turned the ignition key in True Blood, ghost-whispering medium Manfred (François Arnaud, The Borgias) sets off the sparks in Midnight, Texas. Manfred's act is mostly fake, though he does occasionally hook up with a real spirit, almost always with disastrous results. Under pursuit by somebody he conned, he heads for tiny middle-of-nowhere Midnight, a place his grandmother—she's dead, but still full of the bad ideas that got her killed—tells him would make a good hideout. It turns out Grandma wasn't the first one to have the idea. Most of Midnight's population share allergies to garlic, wolfsbane, and silver bullets. The preacher (Yul Vazquez, Captain Phillips) gets a bit growly during full moons. The nightshift clerk at the pawnshop (Peter Mensah, True Blood) is friendly, but never seems to be around during the daytime. And then there's that mysterious shopkeeper Fiji (Parisa Fitz-Henley, Luke Cage). "Some people say she's a witch," a local cop warns Manfred. "Or a lesbian." Even the town cat has a lot more on his mind than mice. Midnight's unusual demographics are due in part to its metaphysical geography. "The veil between the living and the dead is awful thin here," one local explains to Manfred. (Go ahead, insert your own George Bush/Ted Cruz punchline here.) Not only that, they turn out to be an unruly lot, popping the veil at the slightest provocation, to drip (no, you don't want to know what) on the carpet, introduce their pet demons, and so forth. Add to that the problems with the town's non-metabolically-cha[...]



Greg Gutfeld: Trump Turned Liberals Into Dean Wormer [Podcast]

2017-07-21T14:45:00-04:00

"Conservatives and libertarians were always portrayed as the shrill and unhappy guys, and the left and liberals were always the people who are having fun," says Greg Gutfeld, host of Fox News' The Greg Gutfeld Show, co-host of The Five, former host of Red Eye, bestselling author, and Reason magazine intern reject. "What you're seeing now is a lot more fun on the libertarian and right side than you've ever seen on the left." Gutfeld sat down with Reason's Nick Gillespie to discuss his "ugly libertarianism," Donald Trump's love of Red Eye, why he was excited about the U.S. withdrawal from the Paris Agreement, and why Trump's comments on the campaign trail were best understood in the context of a Comedy Central roast. The interview took place on stage at Freedom Fest 2017, an annual gathering for libertarians in Las Vegas. Subscribe, rate, and review the Reason Podcast at iTunes. Listen at SoundCloud below: src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/334210691%3Fsecret_token%3Ds-SGr3v&auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_comments=true&show_user=true&show_reposts=false&visual=true" width="100%" height="450" frameborder="0"> Don't miss a single Reason podcast! (Archive here.) Subscribe at iTunes. Follow us at SoundCloud. Subscribe at YouTube. Like us on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter. Audio post-production by Ian Keyser. This is a rush transcript—check all quotes against the audio for accuracy. Nick Gillespie: Hi everybody, I'm Nick Gillespie with Reason. Thanks for coming out. We're talking with Greg Gutfeld who most of you know as a ubiquitous presence on Fox News and the author of many best-selling books. I know him though and will open with this, we're going to talk for a little bit about various things but so you know Greg Gutfeld as the host of the opotamus Greg Gutfeld show. He's on the Five, he's the creator and the host of Red Eye. Greg Gutfeld: Awe, a Red Eye fan. Gillespie: Late invented Red Eye for sure, but I know you mostly as a failed intern at Reason Magazine. Can you tell us that story? Gutfeld: Well, I don't think you can call me a failed intern because you actually never gave me the job, but I think when I got out of college one of the first places I applied to, I applied to maybe a thousand places and one of them was reason. I think it was, I'm trying to remember the name of the person on the rejection letter but I think it was Virginia. Gillespie: Yeah, it was Virginia Postrel. This was, I think, even before I was in there. Gutfeld: You were like 13 but you still have the same hair. It's insane. You can see Nick coming for like two days with that hair. It arrives first, but yeah, it was a nice form letter, very pleasant, very polite. Basically saying thank you for the letter, but no. I got used to that and by the way, this was back before you had the internet so when you applied for a job, as most of you know, you had a dot matrix printer and you had the newspaper and you just would sit there and go through the newspaper and it was a sign of desperation on how wide you would spread out the options. I'm going to be a novelist but I could be a copy editor or I could be a temp then all of a sudden you're at some place repairing lawn sprinklers, which is what I ended up doing for a while one day actually. Gillespie: Is that the last honest job that you had? Gutfeld: I'm trying to think the last, you mean outside of media? Gillespie: You were also at Prevention Magazine, pushing pills, drug pusher. Gutfeld: No, actually I was the Fitness editor at Prevention magazine. Gillespie: Any Prevention readers out there? Just shout because I know you can't lift your arms above your shoulders[...]



Sessions Boosts Forfeiture and Mandatory Minimums but Lets Pot Prohibition Collapse

2017-07-21T14:25:00-04:00

If you were familiar with Attorney General Jeff Sessions' history as an unreconstructed drug warrior, you probably were not surprised that he quickly moved to reverse the modest restraints that Eric Holder imposed on the use of mandatory minimum sentences and civil asset forfeiture. By contrast, while Sessions has been openly displeased by the ongoing collapse of marijuana prohibition, he has so far done nothing to stop it, even though he could easily cause a lot of trouble for the newly legal cannabis industry. As implausible as it might seem, the difference may actually have something to do with his boss's policy preferences. Donald Trump is not known for detailed or carefully considered policy positions. But the memo that Sessions sent to federal prosecutors on May 10, which urges them to bring the most serious provable charge except in extraordinary cases, is consistent with Trump's tough-on-crime campaign rhetoric. "Decades of progress made in bringing down crime are now being reversed by this administration's rollback of criminal enforcement," Trump complained in his speech at the Republican National Convention last July. "Homicides last year increased by 17 percent in America's 50 largest cities. That's the largest increase in 25 years." Sessions attributes the 2015 increase in violent crime to the charging policy he reversed, which was aimed at helping low-level, nonviolent drug offenders avoid mandatory minimums. That claim is logically impossible, since Holder's policy was not established until August 2013 and could not have had as big and as fast an impact as Sessions suggests. But the important point is that Trump and Sessions see eye to eye when it comes to blaming the uptick in violent crime on the Obama administration's prosecutorial laxity. Trump and Sessions likewise agree that Holder's elimination of federal "adoption" as a way for local law enforcement agencies to avoid state restrictions on forfeiture imposed a baffling and indefensible limit on the use of a crucial law enforcement tool. During a meeting with county sheriffs in February, Trump made two things abundantly clear: He does not really understand what civil forfeiture is, and he wants to see more of it. "There's no reason for that," the president said, referring to restrictions on forfeiture. "So asset forfeiture, we're going to go back on, OK? I mean, how simple can anything be?" Like most things, civil forfeiture, which allows police to take property allegedly linked to crime without charging the owner, is not quite as simple as Trump thinks. But he could not have given Sessions a greener light for undoing Holder's reform (which in any case did not affect most of the forfeiture revenue flowing to state and local agencies through the Justice Department's Equitable Sharing Program). "President Trump has directed this Department of Justice to reduce crime in this country, and we will use every lawful tool that we have to do that," Sessions said on Wednesday. "We will continue to encourage civil asset forfeiture whenever appropriate in order to hit organized crime in the wallet." The signal for interfering with state legalization of marijuana, by contrast, has been yellow at best. While running for president, Trump repeatedly said he thought medical use of marijuana should be allowed and, while he had his doubts about broader legalization, believed the decision should be left to the states. It would be politically awkward to reverse that position, especially now that 29 states allow medical use and one in five Americans lives in a state where recreational use is legal. So far Trump has not tried to renounce marijuana federalism. [...]



Chicago to Give Back Millions in Traffic Camera Fines

2017-07-21T13:55:00-04:00

Chicago's use of red light cameras to shake every possible cent out of its citizens took a hit this week. The city has agreed to a $38.75 million settlement to end a class action suit by people who say they hadn't been given adequate notice of violations to respond to them. The Chicago Tribune reports that as many as 1.2 million people may get refunded half of what they paid to the city. The plaintiffs contend that the city didn't send second notices to people who had gotten red light tickets before declaring them guilty, as the regulations required. The suit also says the city was doubling the fines for late payments before it was supposed to. The city's response to the complaint was pretty telling: It changed the ordinance so that the city didn't have to send a second notice at all. Then, to cover their asses, Chicago lawmakers passed an ordinance giving those who had gotten tickets prior to 2015 permission to challenge them. The city took in nearly $300 million from traffic camera citations in 2015; they didn't want to give up that money without a fight. This suit was rather limited, considering the many, many problems Chicago has had with its red light and speed camera systems. The Tribune has been on top of these problems: Zolna's suit was among half a dozen cases that followed a Chicago Tribune investigation of corruption and mismanagement within the city's $600 million red light program. The series exposed a $2 million City Hall bribery scheme that brought the traffic cameras to Chicago as well as tens of thousands of tickets that were unfairly issued to drivers. The investigation found malfunctioning cameras, inconsistent enforcement and millions of dollars in tickets issued purposely by City Hall even after transportation officials knew that yellow light times were dropping below the federal minimum guidelines. Throughout the scandal, the Emanuel administration has been reluctant to issue refunds, in some cases forcing drivers to file paperwork and apply for a rehearing process some critics have called onerous. A former city official has even gone to prison for bribery over the implementation of the system. $10 million of the money that will pay for the settlement will come from the cash the city itself will get from the private red light camera company Redflex, in a completely different settlement over the bribery scandal. The Tribune previously researched what the cameras actually accomplished for drivers. The safety results turned out to be terrible. The city actually saw a 22 percent increase in rear-end crashes, and many of the cameras had been implemented in intersections with no notable history of problems with collisions. Chicago's implementation of red light cameras makes it abundantly clear—if it's not already—that the purpose of these programs is not public safety but raising money for the city by sucking it out of the pockets of its citizens. Or at least the citizens it has left. The Chicago area has been bleeding population for the past two years, losing more residents than any other major city in the country. [...]



Dawn of the Dead Malls

2017-07-21T13:30:00-04:00

George Romero, the Pittsburgh filmmaker who died last weekend, was best known for two of his horror movies. One of them, 1968's Night of the Living Dead, completely reinvented the zombie genre. The other, 1978's Dawn of the Dead, set his zombies loose in a shopping center.

The spectacle of those appetites on autopilot shuffling mindlessly through a mall has inevitably sparked arguments that Dawn is a critique of consumerism. The picture definitely has a strain of that, but its script is far too sly to stop there. When our heroes hole up in the abandoned Monroeville Mall, the place feels like a cornucopian playground; one sequence in the film may well be the most appealing portrait of mall life ever set to celluloid:

src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/dyucU5rtIu8" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" width="560" height="315" frameborder="0">

It might not be so cornucopian in the long run, of course, given that we don't know whether anyone's still producing the goods that fill those shelves (and even if they are, they don't have any reason to deliver them to the mall anymore). But for this moment, Pittsburgh's post-apocalyptic future feels more utopian than dystopian—at least until the end of the sequence, when we see the zombie hordes outside trying to push their way in. And then yet another layer of meaning presents itself, one where most of the world is locked out of the wealth that a lucky few get to enjoy. At that point you might be tempted to sympathize with the zombies. (Indeed, when you get to the next picture in Romero's series, Day of the Dead, you're pretty much obliged to sympathize with the zombies. But that's another story.)

Dawn works perfectly well as an entertainment—it's suspenseful, exciting, and at times quite funny. But it's something more as well: a social satire that doesn't merely mock an institution but shows its appeal. Watching that four-minute sequence in 2017, a time when abandoned malls litter the landscape, I feel...nostalgic. It's an unusual emotion to have while watching a zombie movie, but Romero was always an unusual filmmaker.

Bonus argument-starter: The top five Romero movies:

1. Dawn of the Dead (1978)
2. Martin (1978)
3. Night of the Living Dead (1968)
4. Day of the Dead (1985)
5. Knightriders (1981)

Yes, Knightriders. We're all poorer for the fact that Knightriders didn't spawn an entire genre of Arthurian biker flicks.

(For past editions of the Friday A/V Club, go here. For another installment that says a bit about zombie movies, go here.)




Senate Republicans Aim to Block New Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Rule

2017-07-21T13:10:00-04:00

Congress has used the Congressional Review Act to repeal a variety of Obama-era rules this year. Senate Republicans now plan to use it to strike a blow against the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) and its director, Richard Cordray. Cordray's bureau filed a new rule on July 10 that would stop banks, credit card companies, and payday lenders from using arbitration to settle disputes with customers, thus making it easier for consumers to take financial institutions to court. The regulation is set to take effect next March, Bloomberg reports. But only if Congress allows it. Twenty-four Republican members of the U.S. Senate filed a Congressional Review Act (CRA) resolution yesterday that would block the rule. "Members of Congress previously expressed concerns with the proposed version of the rulemaking—concerns that were not addressed in the final rule," Sen. Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), chairman of the Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee explained in a statement announcing the resolution. "By ignoring requests from Congress to reexamine the rule and develop alternatives between the status quo and effectively eliminating arbitration, the CFPB has once again proven a lack of accountability." Some activists have jumped to defend the regulation. The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights said today that the rule "helps consumers hold big banks and other financial companies accountable"; the group accused members of Congress of being in a "desperate rush" to undo it so consumers can be ripped off by financial institutions. Such reactions ignore how the federal government is supposed to operate. It's the duly elected members of Congress who should get the final say on laws, not unelected (and potentially unconstitutionally appointed) heads of executive branch agencies who are unaccountable to the people or to other branches of government. "Congress, not King Richard Cordray, writes the laws," said Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Nebraska) in a statement supporting the CRA resolution. "This resolution is a good place for Congress to start reining in one of Washington's most powerful bureaucracies." The CFPB's regulation was pitched as a way to level the playing field for consumers, but the justification for the new rule is based on a single study that has been widely criticized for failing to fully consider the consequences of such a shift. It did not address, for example, whether consumers would in fact collect larger settlements after attorneys' fees were deducted from the outcome. Switching to a system that relies more heavily on the courts instead of arbitration may deliver a big payday to trial lawyers, but it would leave consumers worse off in the long term, Republican senators argue. Under the Congressional Review Act, a simple majority of both houses of Congress can block any executive branch regulation or rulemaking within 60 days of its announcement. As Reason's Matt Welch has detailed, the Trump administration and congressional Republicans have used the act this year to wipe at least 14 Obama-era rules off the books, including: The "Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces" rule, which barred companies from receiving federal contracts if they had a history of violating wage, labor, or workplace safety laws. That regulation, derided by critics as "blacklisting," was already held up in court. A Bureau of Land Management rule, known as "Planning 2.0," that gave the federal government a bigger role in land use decisions. The rule was opposed by the energy industry. Two regulations on measuring school performance and teacher[...]



Putting the Kibosh on Police Reform in California: New at Reason

2017-07-21T11:01:00-04:00

(image) Assembly Bill 284 in California had little chance of passage because it dealt with an actual problem and was getting pushback from some muscular lobbies.

Steven Greenhut writes:

There are two rules of thumb to keep in mind when following the California legislature.

First, lawmakers love to prattle about pie-in-the-sky issues, such as halting global warming, but steadfastly avoid tackling nuts-and-bolts issues (pension liabilities, infrastructure repairs) that cry out for attention but run up against powerful special-interest groups.

Second, you always know it's a cop-out when legislators promise to "study" something.

The gutting of a police-reform bill last week combined both of those realities.

View this article.




Michigan Gets Money to Help Homeowners, Uses it to Demolish Homes Instead

2017-07-21T10:10:00-04:00

Detroit has foreclosed on a remarkably large number of private homes for failure to pay property taxes. The tax bills in question may have been unconstitutionally high, and federal funds intended to prevent the foreclosures have been spent demolishing the houses instead. Since 2002, 143,958 properties in Detroit—more than 37 percent of the properties in the city—have gone through tax foreclosure auctions, according to data compiled by Detroit-based mapping and data company Loveland Technologies. More than 100,000 of those auctions have taken place since the Great Recession hit in 2008. "Something that has really followed on the mortgage foreclosure crisis is the tax foreclosure crisis," says Loveland CEO Jerry Paffendorf. Many of those foreclosures may have been illegal. "People are losing their home for inability to pay taxes that they never should have had to pay in the first place," says Michael Steinberg of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). Under the Michigan Constitution, Steinberg points out, property taxes must be assessed on the actual cash value of a property. The recession caused housing prices to plummet in Detroit, but there was no corresponding reassessment of property taxes. "Homes are sold in the tax foreclosure auction for $500 or $1,000 when at least a few years ago it was being taxed as if it were worth $50,000 or $60,000," he says. As part of the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), the federal government provided the State of Michigan with $761 million to prevent these foreclosures. But less than half of that money ever got into the hands of financially distressed homeowners. A TARP report released earlier this year notes that Michigan is "among the states that have the most TARP dollars set aside," but it also has one "of the highest percentage of people turned down for the Hardest Hit Fund" (HHF). The state rejected 52 percent of those who applied for mortgage assistance through the HHF. A majority of the rejected applicants—71 percent across the state, more than 80 percent in Detroit—earned less than $30,000 a year. Where did the money go instead? Since 2013, Michigan officials have spent $381 million out of that $761 million demolishing vacant buildings. Some 11,249 homes have been destroyed with HHF funds, 7,119 of them in Detroit. "The properties that need to be demolished, 95 percent of them, have gone through tax foreclosure in the past," notes Paffendorf. "It doesn't seem like as an effective use of those funds to spend $13,000 or $15,000 on a demolition later on when someone might have been $2,000 or $3,000 behind on their taxes and the funds were there to work on that." Meanwhile, another TARP report faults the Michigan authorities for insufficient safeguards on how the HHF money was spent, leaving them "vulnerable to the risk of unfair competitive practices such as bid rigging, contract steering, and other closed door contracting processes." Indeed, contractor costs for demolitions rose 90 percent in Michigan after HHF funds were made available, from $9,266 per building in January 2014 to $17,643 per building in June 2016. The City of Detroit is now the subject of a federal grand jury investigation over its use of the HHF funds. And the Michigan ACLU and the NAACP Legal Defense Fund are suing Wayne County and the City of Detroit over illegally collected taxes and illegally seized houses. But in the meantime, the seizures and demolitions will continue. Roughly 8,000 homes are going to property tax auction in September, accor[...]



Be Worried About the Future of Free Expression: New at Reason

2017-07-21T09:50:00-04:00

(image) There's a growing, and troubling, acceptance of speech restrictions among millennials and Democrats.

David Harsanyi writes:

"Ads That Perpetuate Gender Stereotypes Will Be Banned in U.K., but Not in the Good Ol' USA!" reads a recent headline on the website Jezebel. Yay to the good ol' USA for continuing to value the fundamental right of free expression, you might say. Or maybe not.

Why would a feminist—or anyone, for that matter—celebrate the idea of empowering bureaucrats to decide how we talk about gender stereotypes? Because these days, foundational values mean increasingly little to those who believe hearing something disagreeable is the worst thing that could happen to them.

Sometimes you need a censor, this Jezebel writer points out, because nefarious conglomerates like "Big Yogurt" have been "targeting women for decades." She, and the British, apparently, don't believe that women have the capacity to make consumer choices or the inner strength to ignore ads peddling probiotic yogurts.

This is why the U.K. Committee of Advertising Practice (and, boy, it takes a lot of willpower not to use the cliche "Orwellian" to describe a group that hits it on the nose with this kind of ferocity) is such a smart idea. It will ban, among others, commercials in which family members "create a mess, while a woman has sole responsibility for cleaning it up," ones that suggest that "an activity is inappropriate for a girl because it is stereotypically associated with boys, or vice versa," and ones in which "a man tries and fails to perform simple parental or household tasks."

View this article.




DOJ Seizes Online Marketplace AlphaBay, Exxon Mobil Sues U.S. Treasury, Laptop Ban Lifted: A.M. Links

2017-07-21T09:00:00-04:00

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Movie Review: Dunkirk: New at Reason

2017-07-21T08:01:00-04:00

(image) There are a few familiar faces blinking through the tumult of Dunkirk: Tom Hardy, Mark Rylance, Kenneth Branagh, even teen-pop singer Harry Styles (who's very good in his first film role, as a young soldier). But their performances aren't the point. The movie's true star is its writer and director, Christopher Nolan, whose commitment to thunderous widescreen action and smashing IMAX cinematography is a wonder to behold.

In recounting the famous story of how more than 300,000 British and Allied troops were desperately evacuated off a French beach as the German army bore down on them in the spring of 1940, Nolan has produced a radical distillation of the traditional war movie. The picture is a loosely linked procession of incident and imagery; dialogue is minimal and there's virtually no exposition, writes Kurt Loder.

View this article.




Friday Funnies: Who Owns What?

2017-07-21T07:00:00-04:00

(image)




Brickbat: I'll Tell You Where You Can Go

2017-07-21T04:00:00-04:00

(image) The state of Hawaii is now forcing faith-based pregnancy centers to give women information on where they can obtain an abortion. Those who violate the law face a $1,000 fine for each violation.




Gutting of Oversight Bill Puts Kibosh on Police Reform in California

2017-07-21T00:30:00-04:00

There are two rules of thumb to keep in mind when following the California legislature. First, lawmakers love to prattle about pie-in-the-sky issues, such as halting global warming, but steadfastly avoid tackling nuts-and-bolts issues (pension liabilities, infrastructure repairs) that cry out for attention but run up against powerful special-interest groups. Second, you always know it's a cop-out when legislators promise to "study" something. The gutting of a police-reform bill last week combined both of those realities. Assembly Bill 284 had little chance of passage because it dealt with an actual problem and was getting pushback from some muscular lobbies. Instead of killing the measure and getting a bad rap among their minority constituents, legislators turned it into a meaningless study bill. The bill was introduced by Assemblyman Kevin McCarty (D-Sacramento) following an incident captured on a disturbing video. Last July, Sacramento police tried to run over a knife-wielding, mentally ill man with their police cruiser, then fired 18 shots and killed him. The city in February settled a lawsuit with the man's family for $719,000, but the district attorney cleared the officers of wrongdoing. Police said the man was a danger to the neighborhood. Obviously, several "use of force" incidents have been in the news, so the Sacramento situation wasn't unusual. What was unusual is that a legislator proposed something substantive in response. The legislation would have created statewide teams to investigate officer-involved shootings. This would provide outside involvement in the currently incestuous oversight system. The revised bill now merely requires the state Department of Justice to produce a report of times officers shoot people or when people shoot them. Let's deal with a few little-discussed realities. No matter how egregious any killing appears, officers are cleared by their own departments and district attorneys, who work closely with the same police departments they oversee. In the rare instance they do prosecute an officer, a jury will side with the cop. Police unions shield even the worst officers, who always claim their lives were in danger. I've covered a number of these cases, and the result is usually the same. Here are some more realities. Liberals see these police killings through an entirely racial lens. There is, of course, a strong racial element to many of them, but most of the ones I've covered have had white people as the victims. It's more a policing problem that centers on an insular paramilitary culture that downplays the value of "civilian" lives. Conservatives—you know, the folks who prattle about government overreach—instinctively side with the government's agents. Would they be OK with letting the IRS or the Environmental Protection Agency or the California Air Resources Board investigate themselves when there are accusations of abusive behavior? Should we always side with government because, well, it's responsible for protecting us and its employees often have tough jobs? The gutting of AB284 also reminds us of this reality: Union-allied Democrats are as hostile to police reforms as Republicans. Democratic state Attorney General Xavier Becerra, for instance, opposed the bill in its original state but backed it after it was watered down into meaninglessness. I'm glad that civil-rights[...]



Be Worried About the Future of Free Expression

2017-07-21T00:15:00-04:00

"Ads That Perpetuate Gender Stereotypes Will Be Banned in U.K., but Not in the Good Ol' USA!" reads a recent headline on the website Jezebel. Yay to the good ol' USA for continuing to value the fundamental right of free expression, you might say. Or maybe not. Why would a feminist—or anyone, for that matter—celebrate the idea of empowering bureaucrats to decide how we talk about gender stereotypes? Because these days, foundational values mean increasingly little to those who believe hearing something disagreeable is the worst thing that could happen to them. Sometimes you need a censor, this Jezebel writer points out, because nefarious conglomerates like "Big Yogurt" have been "targeting women for decades." She, and the British, apparently, don't believe that women have the capacity to make consumer choices or the inner strength to ignore ads peddling probiotic yogurts. This is why the U.K. Committee of Advertising Practice (and, boy, it takes a lot of willpower not to use the cliche "Orwellian" to describe a group that hits it on the nose with this kind of ferocity) is such a smart idea. It will ban, among others, commercials in which family members "create a mess, while a woman has sole responsibility for cleaning it up," ones that suggest that "an activity is inappropriate for a girl because it is stereotypically associated with boys, or vice versa," and ones in which "a man tries and fails to perform simple parental or household tasks." If you believe this kind of thing is the bailiwick of the state, it's unlikely you have much use for the Constitution. I'm not trying to pick on this one writer. Acceptance of speech restrictions is a growing problem among millennials and Democrats. For them, opaque notions of "fairness" and "tolerance" have risen to overpower freedom of expression in importance. You can see it with TV personalities like Chris Cuomo, former Democratic Party presidential hopeful Howard Dean, mayors of big cities and the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. It is Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) arguing for hecklers' vetoes in public university systems. It's major political candidates arguing that open discourse gives "aid and comfort" to our enemies. If it's not Big Yogurt, it's Big Oil or Big Somethingorother. Democrats have for years campaigned to overturn the First Amendment and ban political speech because of "fairness." This position and its justifications all run on the very same ideological fuel. Believe it or not, though, allowing the state to ban documentaries is a bigger threat to the First Amendment than President Donald Trump's tweets mocking CNN. It's about authoritarians like Laura Beth Nielsen, a professor of sociology at Northwestern University and research professor at the American Bar Foundation, who argues in favor of censorship in a major newspaper like Los Angeles Times. She claims that hate speech should be restricted, and that "Racist hate speech has been linked to cigarette smoking, high blood pressure, anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder, and requires complex coping strategies." Nearly every censor in the history of mankind has argued that speech should be curbed to balance out some harmful consequence. And nearly every censor in history, sooner or later, kept expanding the definition of harm until the rights of their poli[...]



Movie Review: Dunkirk

2017-07-21T00:01:00-04:00

There are a few familiar faces blinking through the tumult of Dunkirk: Tom Hardy, Mark Rylance, Kenneth Branagh, even teen-pop singer Harry Styles (who's very good in his first film role, as a young soldier). But their performances aren't the point. The movie's true star is its writer and director, Christopher Nolan, whose commitment to thunderous widescreen action and smashing IMAX cinematography is a wonder to behold. In recounting the famous story of how more than 300,000 British and Allied troops were desperately evacuated off a French beach as the German army bore down on them in the spring of 1940, Nolan has produced a radical distillation of the traditional war movie. The picture is a loosely linked procession of incident and imagery; dialogue is minimal and there's virtually no exposition. (You might want to read up on the Dunkirk story before seeing the film.) What we get instead is a tale roughly unfurled in three battle arenas: land, sea and sky. On the beach at Dunkerque, a town in the north of France, we see long lines of trapped soldiers awaiting salvation, their faces registering the numbed incomprehension of young men facing extinction before their lives have really gotten underway. Naval destroyers anchored offshore are ready to rescue these soldiers, but can't get close enough to do so because of the shallow waters; smaller boats would be required to ferry the men out to the ships. Back in England, less than 50 miles across the Channel, a flotilla of some 800 civilian craft are being requisitioned for this purpose, and Nolan puts us aboard one of these boats—a motor-yacht owned by a tweedy gentleman named Dawson (Rylance), who's already cutting through the waves on his way to Dunkirk accompanied two teenagers, one of them his son Peter (Tom Glynn-Carney). Meanwhile, high above, two RAF pilots (Tom Hardy and Jack Lowdon) are doing sensational pirouettes across the sky in pursuit of the Luftwaffe planes that are attacking the men on the beach below. (At one point we learn that the best way to determine when an outgoing tide has turned is when all the waterlogged corpses start washing back toward shore.) The movie derives its unusual power in large part from its blunt style. There isn't much in the way of a formal story. Things just happen—we're not always certain exactly what or why, but then that, presumably, is how war would be. At the very beginning, German leaflets flutter down on puzzled soldiers like ominous autumn leaves ("You Are Surrounded"). As bombers howl overhead, a line of explosions marches up the beach practically into our lap. A soldier floating in an oil slick that's just been ignited by a crashing plane faces a choice of whether to die by drowning or burning. A shell-shocked soldier (Cillian Murphy) who's been marooned by a U-boat attack is picked up by Dawson's boat—and is horrified to learn that his rescuer isn't headed home to England, but back to Dunkirk. Throughout all of this—throughout every single minute of all of this—Hans Zimmer's astonishingly apocalyptic score, with its bare-nerve string-wringing and drunken-giant synth-rumbles, sets a new standard for sonic overkill—and then overkills it. I mean this in a good way—without Zimmer's music, the picture would be substantially diminished. What we have h[...]



What Nancy MacLean's Democracy in Chains Gets Wrong in Her Zeal to Condemn James Buchanan: New at Reason

2017-07-20T21:00:00-04:00

(image) In Democracy in Chains, a new book about Nobel Prize–winning economist James Buchanan's role in a sinister conspiracy to undermine democracy, Duke historian Nancy MacLean makes numerous controversial claims, often with little evidence to back them up. Many outlets, from Vox to The Washington Post, have picked apart her sourcing and theorizing, but Reason's Brian Doherty digs in to focus on the core claims she gets wrong.

MacLean fundamentally misunderstands Buchanan's intellectual project, treating his theories about politics as an apologia for the wealthy and powerful. This gives short shrift to a serious body of thought, and it fails to see that his arguments can indict the wealthy as much as anyone else.

She tries to tie Buchanan's work to the segregationist order in the South, even implying that his ideas arose from a desire to preserve it. She essentially invents links along the way.

She paints Buchanan as an important influence on Augusto Pinochet's repressive dictatorship in Chile. Not only does her evidence fail to support this, but she misses an important piece of counterevidence: a 1981 speech, delivered in Chile, in which Buchanan condemned dictatorial rule.

And finally, though Buchanan was neither an orthodox libertarian nor a central influence on the libertarian movement, she puts him at the heart of a Charles Koch–driven conspiracy to impose a radical libertarian agenda on the United States. In the process, she manages to misread both Buchanan and Koch in telling ways.

View this article.