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Updated: 2017-12-10T00:00:00-05:00

 



The Annual Federal Spending Frenzy Is a Terrible Year-End Tradition: New at Reason

2017-12-10T09:30:00-05:00

(image) What do you do if you wind up with a little extra money in your household budget at the end of the year?

Perhaps you pay down your credit card debt or save it for an earlier retirement. Maybe you replace old appliances or go on a much-needed but unplanned vacation. One thing is clear: Because you're spending your own cash, you make sure to get as much out of it as possible.

You might expect our tax dollars to be treated the same way. You would be mistaken. The end of the fiscal yearSeptember 30triggers a spending frenzy in Washington, where the driving order isn't "do something worthwhile" but rather "make sure nothing is left." Because agencies can't carry over any part of their operating budgets into the next fiscal year, politicians and bureaucrats spend to the last dime, knowing that leftover resources will be returned to the Department of the Treasury. They also worry Congress will reward frugal agencies with cuts to their future allotments.

As a result, every October, newspapers brim with shocking stories about wasteful and possibly corrupt spending behaviors. Think military vehicles driving in circles to drain the last pennies of their gas allowances, or hundreds of thousands of dollars for booze and party favors, writes Veronique de Rugy for Reason.

View this article.




Want More Jobs? Fight Occupational Licensing!: New at Reason

2017-12-10T09:00:00-05:00

(image) Getting a cosmetology license in Oregon requires 2,300 hours of classroom instruction, but getting a similar permit in New York requires a mere 1,000 hours of training. Are makeup artists in the Empire State putting the safety and welfare of their customers at risk, or would hairstylists in Portland probably be just fine if they could get certified without spending so much time and money on schooling, writes Reason's Eric Boehm.

View this article.




FBI Handling of Michael Flynn Case Is Disturbing: New at Reason

2017-12-10T08:15:00-05:00

(image) One of the unfortunate ironies of the manufactured "Russiagate" controversy is the perception of the FBI as a friend of liberty and justice. But the FBI has never been a friend of liberty and justice, writes Sheldon Richman. And the Michael Flynn case doesn't seem to be an exception.

Flynn, the retired lieutenant general who spent less than a month as Donald Trump's national-security adviser, has pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI in connection with conversations he had with Russia's then-ambassador to the United States, Sergey Kislyak, between Trump's election and inauguration. But one need not be an admirer of Flynn—and Richman is not—to be disturbed by how the FBI has handled this case.

Government law-enforcement agencies should not be allowed to administer credibility tests to Americans or others, argues Richman. If they have evidence of real offenses against persons and property, bring charges. Otherwise, leave us all alone.

View this article.




The FBI Is No Friend of Liberty and Justice

2017-12-10T08:00:00-05:00

One of the unfortunate ironies of the manufactured "Russiagate" controversy is the perception of the FBI as a friend of liberty and justice. But the FBI has never been a friend of liberty and justice. Rather, as James Bovard writes, it "has a long record of both deceit and incompetence. Five years ago, Americans learned that the FBI was teaching its agents that 'the FBI has the ability to bend or suspend the law to impinge on the freedom of others.' This has practically been the Bureau's motif since its creation in 1908…. The FBI has always used its 'good guy' image to keep a lid on its crimes." (Bovard has made a vocation of cataloging the FBI's many offenses against liberty and justice, for which we are forever in his debt.) Things are certainly not different today. Take the case of Michael Flynn, the retired lieutenant general who spent less than a month as Donald Trump's national-security adviser. Flynn has pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI in connection with conversations he had with Russia's then-ambassador to the United States, Sergey Kislyak, between Trump's election and inauguration. One need not be an admirer of Flynn—and for many reasons I certainly am not—to be disturbed by how the FBI has handled this case. One ought to be immediately suspicious whenever someone is charged with or pleads guilty to lying to the FBI without any underlying crime being charged. Former assistant U.S. attorney Andrew C. McCarthy points out: When a prosecutor has a cooperator who was an accomplice in a major criminal scheme, the cooperator is made to plead guilty to the scheme. This is critical because it proves the existence of the scheme. In his guilty-plea allocution (the part of a plea proceeding in which the defendant admits what he did that makes him guilty), the accomplice explains the scheme and the actions taken by himself and his co-conspirators to carry it out. This goes a long way toward proving the case against all of the subjects of the investigation. That is not happening in Flynn's situation. Instead, like [former Trump foreign-policy "adviser" George] Papadopoulos, he is being permitted to plead guilty to a mere process crime. When the FBI questioned Flynn about his conversations with Kislyak, it already had the transcripts of those conversations—the government eavesdrops on the representatives of foreign governments, among others, and Flynn had been identified, or "unmasked," as the ambassador's conversation partner. The FBI could have simply told Flynn the transcripts contained evidence of a crime (assuming for the sake of argument they did) and charged him with violating the Logan Act or whatever else the FBI had in mind. But that's not what happened. Instead, the FBI asked Flynn about his conversations with Kislyak, apparently to test him. If he lied (which would mean he's pretty stupid since he once ran the Defense Intelligence Agency and must have known about the transcripts!) or had a bad memory, he could have been charged with lying to the FBI. As investigative reporter Robert Parry explains: What is arguably most disturbing about this case is that then-National Security Adviser Flynn was pushed into a perjury trap by Obama administration holdovers at the Justice Department who concocted an unorthodox legal rationale for subjecting Flynn to an FBI interrogation four days after he took office, testing Flynn's recollection of the conversations while the FBI agents had transcripts of the calls intercepted by the National Security Agency. In other words, the Justice Department wasn't seeking information about what Flynn said to Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak–the intelligence agencies already had that information. Instead, Flynn was being quizzed on his precise recollection of the conversations and nailed for lying when his recollections deviated from the transcripts. For Americans who worry about how the pervasive surveillance powers of the U.S. government could be put to use criminalizing otherwise c[...]



The Annual Federal Spending Frenzy Is a Terrible Year-End Tradition

2017-12-10T06:00:00-05:00

What do you do if you wind up with a little extra money in your household budget at the end of the year? Perhaps you pay down your credit card debt or save it for an earlier retirement. Maybe you replace old appliances or go on a much-needed but unplanned vacation. One thing is clear: Because you're spending your own cash, you make sure to get as much out of it as possible. You might expect our tax dollars to be treated the same way. You would be mistaken. The end of the fiscal year—September 30—triggers a spending frenzy in Washington, where the driving order isn't "do something worthwhile" but rather "make sure nothing is left." Because agencies can't carry over any part of their operating budgets into the next fiscal year, politicians and bureaucrats spend to the last dime, knowing that leftover resources will be returned to the Department of the Treasury. They also worry Congress will reward frugal agencies with cuts to their future allotments. As a result, every October, newspapers brim with shocking stories about wasteful and possibly corrupt spending behaviors. Think military vehicles driving in circles to drain the last pennies of their gas allowances, or hundreds of thousands of dollars for booze and party favors. These aren't just anecdotes. Empirical evidence confirms the sharp spike in end-of-year consumption. Jason Fichtner, my colleague at the Mercatus Center, has shown that a remarkably large percentage of federal contract spending occurs near the end of the fiscal calendar. Contracting expenditures represent only 11 percent of the overall budget, but due to their more robust transparency requirements they are the only ones we can easily track. For executive branch departments, Fichtner shows that on average, 16.3 percent of contract expenditures happen in September. This is twice as much as the 8.3 percent of the annual budget you would expect to be spent in a given month if the money were split evenly across the year. The State Department and the Department of Housing and Urban Development are even worse, consistently spending a third of their total contracting budgets in September. This happens regardless of administration, party control of Congress, or type of budget resolution. And it is not new. Back in 1978, the Government Accountability Office sounded the alarm with a report finding that agencies on average spent 21 percent of their budgets in the final two months of the fiscal year. How much money are we talking about? In 2017, federal agencies excluding the Department of Defense spent $11.1 billion in the final week of September. Despite Trump's big promises to find cost savings, the Office of the President alone spent $21.8 million on furniture, electrical hardware, supplies, and flooring—four times as much as Barack Obama spent during the same period a year earlier. OpenBooks.com's Adam Andrzejewski provides some juicy examples of what certainly looks like reckless end-of-year spending in Forbes, such as $7.3 million by nonmilitary agencies on guns, ammo, and related equipment (including $306,617 by the Department of Agriculture on wares from Glock Inc. and $1.5 million by the Department of Health and Human Services). The government also apparently had a sudden furniture shortage requiring $83.4 million in expenditures, not counting the $23 million on office supplies and equipment. Some $18.6 million went to public relations, $11.7 million to market research and public opinion, and $5.5 million to communications—just in the last week of September. But does a spike in and of itself mean the funds were wasted? There is substantial evidence suggesting that the rush to spend leads to less efficient acquisition outcomes than at other points in the fiscal year. A well-known 2010 study of federal information technology (I.T.) expenditures, for instance, shows a correlation between lower-quality I.T. projects and end-of-year spending. In the private sector, entrepreneurs brag a[...]






Why Jeff Flake Matters: New at Reason

2017-12-09T08:40:00-05:00

(image) "These are challenging times," Sen. Jeff Flake (R–Ariz.) said with a little self-effacing chuckle. "The definition of what it means to be conservative has shifted dramatically over the last year or so."

We were at that most oxymoronic of Washington, D.C., events—a libertarian fundraiser for a major-party elected official. There are only about five people I'd consider doing this for, I have heard almost verbatim from hosts at two separate such gatherings in the grim political year of 2017. Los cincos amigos: Sens. Rand Paul (R–Ky.) and Mike Lee (R–Utah); Reps. Justin Amash (R–Mich.) and Thomas Massie (R–Ky.); and Flake.

And then there were four.

One week after the fundraiser, Flake made his exit from the world of electoral competition, announcing in an emotional Senate speech that he was no longer seeking re-election in 2018. "I will not be complicit," the shaky-voiced senator declared. "We must never meekly accept the daily sundering of our country—the personal attacks, the threats against principles, freedoms, and institutions; the flagrant disregard for truth or decency, the reckless provocations." The headline on his Washington Post op-ed the next day said it all: "Enough", writes Matt Welch.

View this article.




Why Jeff Flake Matters

2017-12-09T08:40:00-05:00

"These are challenging times," Sen. Jeff Flake (R–Ariz.) said with a little self-effacing chuckle. "The definition of what it means to be conservative has shifted dramatically over the last year or so." We were at that most oxymoronic of Washington, D.C., events—a libertarian fundraiser for a major-party elected official. There are only about five people I'd consider doing this for, I have heard almost verbatim from hosts at two separate such gatherings in the grim political year of 2017. Los cincos amigos: Sens. Rand Paul (R–Ky.) and Mike Lee (R–Utah); Reps. Justin Amash (R–Mich.) and Thomas Massie (R–Ky.); and Flake. And then there were four. One week after the fundraiser, Flake made his exit from the world of electoral competition, announcing in an emotional Senate speech that he was no longer seeking re-election in 2018. "I will not be complicit," the shaky-voiced senator declared. "We must never meekly accept the daily sundering of our country—the personal attacks, the threats against principles, freedoms, and institutions; the flagrant disregard for truth or decency, the reckless provocations." The headline on his Washington Post op-ed the next day said it all: "Enough." In the moment, Flake's gesture was hailed as a "historic" rebuke to the president (Mike Barnicle), "the most important speech of 2017" (CNN's Chris Cillizza), and even "a history lesson for the ages" (Forbes' John Baldoni). Then, predictably, a Donald Trump–related bombshell blotted out all competing political stories, when news broke three days later that Special Investigator Robert Mueller would be handing out his first indictments in the Russia probe. Even before that, though, the relentless gears of tribal politics had been busy busting apart Flake's stentorian pretensions and spitting out dismissive bile. "Jeff Flake was just fine with broken Washington until he couldn't win his seat," Pete Kasperowicz scoffed in the Washington Examiner. "Jeff Flake is not a hero, despite what he wants you to think," ThinkProgress cautioned its lefty readers. The critics had some valid points. Flake, like Sen. Bob Corker (R–Tenn.) before him, only turned away from politics in disgust when faced with a stiff challenge in his own primary. (And in increasingly competitive Arizona, the Democrats are putting up a strong Senate candidate in Rep. Kyrsten Sinema.) Flake also declared in his Post piece that "We can no longer remain silent, merely observing this train wreck, passively, as if waiting for someone else to do something"—but what is shying away from a political contest if not passive? And though the former Goldwater Institute executive director may be libertarian by Capitol Hill standards, he still has taken a number of questionable votes. Flake moved to confirm as attorney general Jeff Sessions and, before that, Loretta Lynch. Both are abysmal on civil asset forfeiture, a form of government theft the senator has long decried. He voted in favor of the authorization for use of military force in Iraq, though he later turned against the war. He advocated missile strikes on Syria in September 2013 and again when President Trump lobbed some in April 2017. But Flake also embodies the best and arguably most endangered tenets of modern Republicanism. "It is clear at this moment that a traditional conservative who believes in limited government and free markets, who is devoted to free trade, and who is pro-immigration, has a narrower and narrower path to nomination in the Republican Party," he said on the Senate floor, accurately. "It is also clear to me for the moment we have given in or given up on those core principles in favor of the more viscerally satisfying anger and resentment. To be clear, the anger and resentment that the people feel at the royal mess we have created are justified. But anger and resentment are not a governing philosophy.[...]



Atlanta Takes on Scourge of Good Samaritans Trying to Help the Homeless: New at Reason

2017-12-09T08:00:00-05:00

(image) Police in Atlanta are the latest blunt instrument around the country used to crack down on people sharing food with those in need.

Though the Fulton County permit requirement Atlanta police claim to be enforcing has been on the books for many years, it appears Atlanta's mayor only decided recently to enforce it, just in time for Thanksgiving. Violators face potential fines.

This crackdown is part of a larger, awful, and national trend. Food policy expert Baylen Linnekin explains more.

View this article.




Atlanta Targets Good Samaritans Sharing Food with Homeless

2017-12-09T08:00:00-05:00

Police in Atlanta are the latest blunt instrument around the country used to crack down on people sharing food with those in need. Though the Fulton County permit requirement Atlanta police claim to be enforcing has been on the books for many years, it appears Atlanta's mayor only decided recently to enforce it, just in time for Thanksgiving. Violators face potential fines. This crackdown is part of a larger, awful, and national trend. "Beginning in the mid-2000s... many cities around the country began to crack down on good Samaritans... who provide food to the homeless and less fortunate," I write in my recent book, Biting the Hands that Feed Us: How Fewer, Smarter Laws Would Make Our Food System More Sustainable. An Atlanta Indymedia video, posted on YouTube last month, shows several police officers in and around Hurt Park, which lies at the center of Georgia State University's campus, making vague threats against people who are feeding others or arriving with the intent do so. Early in the video, for example, we see a flabbergasted woman—who says she's a licensed baker and had just driven for an hour to deliver baked goods to the homeless—turned away by the police. The video later shows at least one person holding a ticket she said officers issued her for allegedly violating county health department foodservice regulations. On the video, she describes the ticket as the same one a restaurant might receive for selling food without a permit. Many of the Atlanta good Samaritans belong to a nonprofit group called Food Not Bombs. The group has been sharing food with those in need in Hurt Park for many years. I first wrote about Food Not Bombs in a 2011 Hit & Run blog post that detailed how members of the group had been arrested in Orlando for violating that city's similarly unconstitutional ban on sharing food with that city's homeless. Volunteers who appear in the video say they'll continue to share food with those in need. Adele Mclean, one of the volunteers who was ticketed, has a court date next week. She says she'll back in the park, law or no law. In Houston, another city with an awful feeding ban that I discuss in my book, one man is also fighting back. Earlier this year, Phillip Paul Bryant sued Houston, arguing that the city's ban infringes on his constitutional rights. That follows separate lawsuits against Las Vegas and Philadelphia (both of which I first discussed here) by local ACLU chapters. "What kind of a city—what kind of a human being—would tell others that they couldn't share food with those in need?" I ask in Biting the Hands that Feed Us. Then-New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg famously banned people from donating food to city shelters in 2012 "because the city can't assess their salt, fat and fiber content." In Atlanta, one face of the ban is Georgia State University Police Chief Joseph Spillane. "Efforts to feed the hungry can be a drain on resources when trash is left and security is required," reports Georgia State University's student paper, the Signal, "according to Chief Spillane." Judging by the number of police officers milling about the park and ticketing people in the Indymedia recording, the police themselves are solely responsible for that drain on resources. No one's security appears to be threatened, either, save by police. And what of the alleged trash Spillane cites? Volunteers on the Indymedia video balk at that claim, saying they bring their own trash bags and remove and dispose of any trash generated during the feeding program. Chief Spillane, who says he's grateful for all the support he received after a recent drunk-driving arrest and related suspension, goes on to argue that volunteers who are providing support to the homeless are doing little more than "throwing some food" at those in need. Some critics also co[...]



13 Non-Pedophile Reasons Why You Can Hate Roy Moore: New At Reason

2017-12-08T17:00:00-05:00

src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/K1TGn0UfFpE" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" width="560" height="340" frameborder="0">

Even if you disregard the nine women accusing Roy Moore of sexual assault, there are plenty of reasons to despise him.

Watch above or click here for full text, downloadable versions, and more.

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View this article.




13 Non-Pedophile Reasons Why You Can Hate Roy Moore

2017-12-08T17:00:00-05:00

Even if you disregard the nine women accusing Roy Moore of sexual assault, there are plenty of reasons to despise him. Judicial incompetence, constitutional ignorance, and industrial strength bigotry are just some of the issues with the Alabama judge. In the latest Mostly Weekly Andrew Heaton covers some of the many reasons why Roy Moore sucks:

Mostly Weekly is hosted by Andrew Heaton, with headwriter Sarah Rose Siskind.

Script by Sarah Rose Siskind with writing assistance from Andrew Heaton and Brian Sack.

Edited by Austin Bragg and Siskind.

Produced by Meredith and Austin Bragg.

Theme Song: Frozen by Surfer Blood.

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Ron Swanson Slams Fan Ajit Pai Over ‘Duplicitous Handling of the Net Neutrality Issue’

2017-12-08T16:45:00-05:00

It all started with Michael C. Moynihan, fittingly enough. The former Reasoner and current Vice News correspondent (and Fifth Columnist!) went to the office of Federal Communications Commission Chair Ajit Pai this week to talk about the fallout over last month's highly controversial announcement that the FCC would soon be voting on whether to rescind its 2015 Title II "net neutrality" regulations. Try to ignore the Judge Judy atrocities at the opening, and focus in on the pyramid on the wall beginning at about 0:46:

src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/R8u6Ok9eTxs" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" width="560" height="340" frameborder="0">

That's right, libertarians' very favorite government official is on the wall of one of their least favorite federal agencies; no big surprise, given Pai's ideological inclinations.

(image) But one viewer who didn't enjoy the sight was Nick Offerman, who yesterday fired off a tweet saying:

Dear @AjitPaiFCC , I noticed your Pyramid of Greatness and thought it felt strange in your office, given your stance. So I went to see Ron Swanson to ask if he'd care to weigh in & he dictated the below to me

"I'm flattered that my pyramid of greatness has inspired you. I will remind you that the top category is Honor. Sadly, based on your duplicitous handling of the net neutrality issue, and the way you are willfully ignoring the public you claim to serve, I feel you may need that term defined. Which means, of course, that you don't have it."

Internet regulation is admittedly a complicated issue, but it's hard to square this sentiment with Swanson's stated belief that "all government is a waste of taxpayer money," and that the "perfect government" would be "one guy who sits in a small room at a desk."

Pai has discussed his net neutrality changes at length recently with both Nick Gillespie and The Fifth Column; Reason's work on the issue can be found here. Our Ron Swanson file, too, is as thick as a fine piece of carving wood.

And how is Pai reacting to the actor playing one of his fictional heroes trash-talking him on Twitter? "At this point," a spokesman told me this afternoon, "we don't have any comment."




More Details in the Trent Franks Scandal Emerge, Trump's Travel Ban Has Its Day in Court, and Tim Pawlenty Considers a Run for Senate: P.M. Links

2017-12-08T16:30:00-05:00

  • (image) More details in the Trent Franks scandal emerge.
  • Trump's travel ban had its day in court today. You can read Reason's latest coverage of the legal challenges against it here.
  • Roy Moore accuser Beverly Young Nelson wrote part of the inscription left by the Senate candidate in her year book.
  • Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty mulls running for Al Franken's seat.
  • A young man makes a cogent argument in favor of house parties.



Pressure Builds on Bureau of Prisons to Release Elderly and Sick Inmates

2017-12-08T16:15:00-05:00

A coalition of political advocacy groups, criminal justice reformers, and religious organizations sent a letter Thursday to Federal Bureau of Prisons Director Mark Inch asking him to reform the bureau's compassionate release program. Compassionate release was created by Congress in 1984 to provide an administrative mechanism for shortening the sentences of prisoners in "extraordinary and compelling" circumstances. Since then, BOP has used compassionate very infrequently and only for terminally ill prisoners. But even folks knocking on death's door have been denied early release, or died while waiting for an answer. The letter campaign marks the latest major push in the last four years to get the BOP to help sick and elderly prisoners understand and apply for the program. The agency has ignored similar requests from the Justice Department Office of Inspector General and the U.S. Sentencing Commission. The BOP has also declined to explain to Congress or the public why compassionate release is so seldom used. "The BOP should take steps immediately to ensure that all prisoners and their families are aware of the compassionate release program and its eligibility requirements," reads the letter, which is signed by the American Civil Liberties Union, the Association of Prosecuting Attorneys, the Church of Scientology, FreedomWorks, R Street Institute, Families Against Mandatory Minimums*, and more than a dozen other groups across the ideological spectrum. "The Bureau should give clear guidance for submitting requests and commit to a meaningful and timely review of and response to requests. In addition, the BOP should make sure that all relevant staff, including medical care providers, case managers, and unit teams, are aware of the eligibility criteria." In July, Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) added language to the 2018 appropriations bill requiring the BOP to inform the Senate how many compassionate release requests it granted in the last five years, how many it denied, and how many people died while waiting for an answer. The DOJ Inspector General's Office and the U.S. Sentencing Commission have also called on the BOP to use the program more often due to the explosion of the BOP's elderly population and the fact that federal detention facilities were not designed to serve as nursing homes or hospitals. As a result, sick prisoners receive inadequate medical care. One institution reviewed by the Inspector General's Office did not have enough medical staff to treat its sick population, nor enough correctional officers to lead off-site medical trips. The lack of staffing meant prisoners at the center who needed specialized treatment for cardiology, neurosurgery, pulmonology, and urology had to wait an average of 114 days to see a physician. The OIG also reported that as of 2016, the BOP employed only 36 social workers for an inmate population of nearly 200,000 people, and that despite having an unprecedented number of wheelchair and walker-dependent inmates, the BOP has not conducted an accessibility review of its facilities in more than 20 years. Many of the people serving decades-long sentences at the federal level are drug offenders. While these sentences are disproportionately long for people in their 20s, they are absurd for the elderly. "We know that people age out of crime, especially violent crime," says Kevin Ring, president of Families Against Mandatory Minimums. "Compassionate release allows us to use that knowledge and to target expensive prison space for those who actually threaten public safety." In addition to appealing directly to Inch, FAMM has also released a series of videos highlighting the kinds of cases the BOP either ign[...]



8 States Let You Smoke Weed, But Massachusetts Might Be the First to Make it Easy

2017-12-08T16:00:00-05:00

(image) Eight states have now legalized recreational marijuana. But those same states often leave cannabis consumers with few options for where they can legally smoke. Oregon and Washington prohibit any public pot-smoking, even at dispensaries. California, whose recreational market is set to launch on January 1, lets cities regulate on-site marijuana consumption, but most towns have been slow to embrace the idea.

Massachusetts may take a different path. The state legalized pot by ballot referendum in 2016, and its recreational marijuana market is scheduled to launch this coming April. On Tuesday a subcommittee of the state's Cannabis Advisory Board unveiled draft regulations that would permit the on-site consumption of marijuana in much the same way that alcohol can be served at bars and restaurants.

"This is about consumer choice," says Michael Latulippe of the Patient Advocacy Alliance, who drafted the on-site consumption rules.

Brick-and-motor dispensaries do not service everyone's needs, Latulippe argues. "Tourists come, they want to use marijuana, but they don't necessarily need an eighth of it," he tells Reason. Parents, he adds, might not want to smoke marijuana in their home if they have children around. Then there are just plain lightweights who might not want to buy weed in the same quantities as more regular consumers: "Some people take one hit and are sky high."

On-site consumption will help to diversify the industry, he notes, allowing everyone from restaurants and hotels to health spas and yoga studios to better service their cannabis customers.

Massachusetts' regulations for its recreational marijuana industry will not be finalized until March, but Latulippe is confident that social consumption will be part of final package.

That would give the state the most liberalized recreational marijuana industry.

Denver voted in 2016 to allow for a pilot program of on-site consumption at public businesses. The regulations for this pilot program were unveiled in August, and they include an insane number of bureaucratic hurdles. You cannot smoke marijuana at a business that sells marijuana. They can't sell alcohol there either. It must be at least 1,000 feet from any school, child care establishment, city park, pool, or recreation center, and it must have the backing of a nearby business or neighborhood group.

Maine plans on allowing marijuana "social clubs" by 2019, but it has no plans to make exceptions to its clean air laws to let people smoke inside them. And Oregon altered its clean air laws for the specific purpose of closing down the state's few "cannabis cafés," which had avoided the state's ban on public consumption by operating as private clubs.

If Massachusetts allows on-site consumption, a state will finally treat cannabis consumption as the normal activity it is.




Can You Trust Trump to Use Domestic Terrorism Resources to Go After White Supremacists?

2017-12-08T15:42:00-05:00

If you think Donald Trump coddles white supremacists, would you trust his Department of Justice to go after white supremacist violence? The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) seems to. The same SPLC that has warned of a Trump advisor downplaying white supremacist violence, the same SPLC that says the president is responsible for a resurgence in white supremacism, is pushing the Domestic Terrorism Prevention Act, a bill sponsored by Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Mich.) that would provide more resources for the FBI to investigate domestic terror. The bill's introductory findings refer to a spate of right-wing violence, but by and large the provisions themselves are up to the FBI to interpret. The FBI, meanwhile, seems far more likely to go after "black identity extremists" (BIEs), a term it created this year to cover what it perceives as politically motivated anti-police violence by African Americans. "The problem isn't that the FBI doesn't have enough laws on the books or resources to tackle white supremacist violence, it's that they choose to disproportionately investigate BIEs or eco-terrorists instead," says Michael German, a former FBI agent who is now a fellow at the Brennan Center for Justice. "Therefore this bill might not change the equation as the senators intend, but only provide more resources for abusive and wasteful surveillance and investigations of political dissent and protest activity." There are a few measures in the legislation that could be useful, if the FBI made a good-faith effort to implement them. Its data reporting provisions, for example, could help illuminate how the bureau uses its resources. And the bill would require the feds to assess the threat posed by "White supremacist infiltration and recruitment of law enforcement officers and members of the Armed Forces." Such infiltration is a serious problem: A classified 2015 FBI report found that there were often links between the law enforcement community and white supremacists under terror investigation. But you have to balance those measures against the FBI's long and storied history of targeting dissent under the guise of counterterrorism. German notes that the agency spent years claiming eco-terrorists were the top domestic terror threat, "even though there are no U.S. deaths appropriately attributed" to any environmental activist group. Yet while many Democrats, and even some Republicans, insist they understand the threat President Trump poses to democratic norms, they continue to support measures that accumulate power in the executive branch. Meanwhile, the Senate is trying to make it easier for the feds to spy on Black Lives Matter (or "black identity extremist") activists, teen sexters, and all other kinds of boogeyman. The latest Section 702 "reauthorization" is actually an expansion of warrantless surveillance powers. The bill passed committee by an overwhelming bipartisan majority. Lawmakers worried about how Trump could abuse his authority ought to be limiting, not expanding, the power that makes the person who occupies the presidency so dangerous. And they ought to understand that authoritarianism flourishes in the name of fighting terrorism, abroad as well as at home. [...]



Abortion Is the Get-out-of-Jail-Free Card of Republican Politics

2017-12-08T15:17:00-05:00

Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Nebraska), the telegenic bestselling author and near-Millennial darling of the Trump-averse conservative crowd, is no fan of accused sexual-abuser-of-minors Roy Moore. "This is a bad decision and very sad day," Sasse tweeted Wednesday, in response to news that the Republican National Committee had reversed itself and decided to send money to Moore's troubled Senate campaign. "I believe the women--and RNC previously did too. What's changed? Or is the party just indifferent?" Later that day, Sasse threatened: "If the political committee that I'm a part of (the [National Republican Senate Committee]) decides to contribute here, I will no longer be a donor to or fund-raiser for it." Yet after the similarly-sentimented Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Arizona) tweeted this... Country over Party pic.twitter.com/JZMTaEYdxQ — Jeff Flake (@JeffFlake) December 5, 2017 ...Sasse shot back: "This donation is a bad idea. It's possible to be against BOTH partial birth abortion AND child molestation. Happily, most Americans are." Does Democratic Senate challenger Doug Jones really support "partial birth abortion"? No, he does not. The basis of that claim is the following exchange Jones had with Chuck Todd in September on Meet the Press Daily: "So you wouldn't be in favor of legislation that said, ban abortion after 20 weeks or something like that?" Todd asked. "I'm not in favor of anything that is going to infringe on a woman's right and her freedom to choose. That's just the position that I've had for many years. It's a position I continue to have[.]" In the hands of pro-Moore super PACs, this boundless answer to a limited question was translated into "Jones supports abortion in even the most extreme circumstances, including gruesome late-term and partial-birth abortions that are banned in countries across the world." In an attempt to quell the controversy, Jones gave an interview with AL.com clarifying his position. Relevant portions: [Jones] said he supports Alabama's abortion laws as they are, saying that people are "fairly comfortable" with the current law. [...] ["]the law for decades has been that late-term procedures are generally restricted except in the case of medical necessity. That's what I support. I don't see any changes in that.["] [...] Jones said his position would be to leave abortion laws unchanged. "I think people are fairly comfortable with where the law has been for decades and that is that a woman has that right to choose because it is intensely personal and I don't think me or Roy Moore or the state of Alabama or the United States government should take that right away," Jones said. Supporting current law means opposing partial-birth abortion, since intact dilation and extraction (the medical term for the procedure) has been illegal in the United States since the Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act was enacted in 2003. Still, anti-abortion activists know a morally unfit extremist when they see one. "No reasonable person," Alexandra Desanctis concluded in National Review three weeks after the clarification interview, "could consider Jones anything other than a zealot in this area." In 2016, my colleague Elizabeth Nolan Brown wrote a piece titled, "Late-Term Abortions Are Rare and 'Partial Birth Abortions' Illegal. Why Do They Keep Dominating the Reproductive-Rights Debate?," and I think we have at least one possible answer to the question: because framing the issue in the most graphically awful terms makes for a galvanizing politics. But as Republicans prepare to line up behind a lawless jurist and culture-war troll who collectively demoni[...]



Final Vision Offers One More Look at the Jeffrey MacDonald Case: New at Reason

2017-12-08T15:00:00-05:00

(image) Television critic Glenn Garvin reviews a final, rather lackluster look at the famous 1969 murder of the MacDonald family and the prosecution of Jeffrey MacDonald in Final Vision:

In 1969, when MacDonald was the sole survivor of a savage attack on his family by what he reported as a band of kids chanting "Acid is groovy, kill the pigs," barely a year after the Manson Family murders, the case seemed like the second chapter of Helter Skelter, further evidence that the 1960s counterculture was coming unhinged. (The fact that MacDonald was a Green Beret doctor who lived on a military base at a time when anti-war feelings were peaking only reinforced the political framework.)

Then, when first military police and then civilian cops changed their minds and charged MacDonald with the murder of his pregnant wife and two little daughters, the case turned into an episode of Perry Mason, with melodramatic twists upending the plot.

Not only did the accuser become the accused, but a journalist named Joe McGinniss—who was given full access to MacDonald's defense team—switched sides, declaring the doctor a drug-addled sociopath who slaughtered his entire family because one of the kids wet the bed. (And enhanced the television metaphor when his book became a wildly popular TV miniseries.)

View this article.




Final Vision Fails to Shed New Light on a Famous Family Murder Case

2017-12-08T15:00:00-05:00

Final Vision. Investigation Discovery. Sunday, December 10, 8 p.m. The Jeffrey MacDonald case poses powerful arguments in favor of reincarnation. It has lived more lives, in more guises, than any Hindu priest. In 1969, when MacDonald was the sole survivor of a savage attack on his family by what he reported as a band of kids chanting "Acid is groovy, kill the pigs," barely a year after the Manson Family murders, the case seemed like the second chapter of Helter Skelter, further evidence that the 1960s counterculture was coming unhinged. (The fact that MacDonald was a Green Beret doctor who lived on a military base at a time when anti-war feelings were peaking only reinforced the political framework.) Then, when first military police and then civilian cops changed their minds and charged MacDonald with the murder of his pregnant wife and two little daughters, the case turned into an episode of Perry Mason, with melodramatic twists upending the plot. Not only did the accuser become the accused, but a journalist named Joe McGinniss—who was given full access to MacDonald's defense team—switched sides, declaring the doctor a drug-addled sociopath who slaughtered his entire family because one of the kids wet the bed. (And enhanced the television metaphor when his book became a wildly popular TV miniseries.) By the 1990s, the case had become a centerpiece for a growing skepticism about the motives and ethics of mainstream media reporters. In a searing two-part New Yorker story that evolved into a book, writer Janet Malcolm declared that journalists—and in particular, McGinniss—were nothing more than "a kind of confidence man, preying on people's vanity, ignorance or loneliness, gaining their trust and betraying them without remorse." Other books argued that McGinniss, in pursuit of a best-seller, had helped put an innocent man in jail. Investigation Discovery's Final Vision is, perhaps, the MacDonald case's last manifestation: As a tattered wraith, a ghost of American cultural obsessions past, still capable of inflicting some chills but mostly beaming the subliminal message, "What was that all about?" Final Vision is not based on McGinniss' original book, Fatal Vision, or the 1984 miniseries it spawned, both of which were true-crime whodunnits. Rather, it's adapted from a wan essay-length e-book McGinniss published in 2012 as he was dying of cancer that rebuts various theories of the crime advanced in MacDonald's endless appeals of his conviction. The result is that McGinniss himself becomes a character in this TV version, which is as much about the relationship between the journalist and the doctor as it is the crime itself. The scenario, the gumshoe reporter vs. the charismatic celebrity doctor, is not unpromising. And the two principal actors, Dave Annable (Brothers & Sisters, 666 Park Avenue) as McGinniss, Scott Foley (Scandal, The Unit) as MacDonald, are both capable. The script, however, isn't. The 1980s miniseries had four hours of screen time to tell its story, while Final Vision must make do with half that. The result is a teleplay that often feels cramped and talky. Screenwriter Denis O'Neill (The River Wild) does a reasonably good job at following the meandering path of the basic story—MacDonald goes back and forth from victim to perpetrator several times as first military and then civilian courts delve into the case—but he lacks the time to really develop the characters. The screenwriter gets a lot of help when it comes to MacDonald. Foley is dazzling as MacDonald, whose breezy [...]



These Three Cases Define This Month at the Supreme Court Term: Podcast

2017-12-08T14:45:00-05:00

The Supreme Court's docket is jammed with important cases if you care about individual liberty and limited government, none more so than Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado, which pits religious expression against anti-discrimination laws, Carpenter v. United States, a case with massive implications for warrantless surveillance and tracking, and Christie v. NCAA, which challenges the ability of the federal government to "commandeer" state officials. In the latest Reason Podcast, Nick Gillespie talks with Senior Editor Damon Root, the author of the widely praised Overruled: The Long War for Control of the U.S. Supreme Court, about significance of these cases and their likely outcomes based on recent oral arguments. Root also analyzes how new Associate Justice Neil Gorsuch is likely to influence the decisions and how Donald Trump's picks for the federal judiciary are shaping up. Audio production by Ian Keyser. Subscribe, rate, and review the Reason Podcast at iTunes. Listen at SoundCloud below: src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/366796454%3Fsecret_token%3Ds-NihVq&color=%23f37021&auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_comments=true&show_user=true&show_reposts=false&show_teaser=true&visual=true" width="100%" height="300" frameborder="0"> Don't miss a single Reason podcast! (Archive here.) Subscribe at iTunes. Follow us at SoundCloud. Subscribe at YouTube. Like us on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter. This is a rush transcript—check all quotes against the audio for accuracy. Nick Gillespie: Today we're talking with Damon Root. He is a senior editor at Reason and he is also the author of Overruled: The Long War for Control of the US Supreme Court. And we're going to be talking with Damon today about the Supreme Court. The cases that are in front of it right now. And what is the likelihood that Neil Gorsuch, the newest associate justice is going to change the balance of power or maintain the status quo. Damon, thanks for talking. Damon Root: Thank you. Gillespie: So, what are the biggest and most important cases that you're tracking this season? Root: Well, I'd say the three biggest that are in front of the court right now, we have the gay marriage wedding cake case, we've got a case called Carpenter v. United States, which is about the Fourth Amendment and the warrantless acquisition of cellphone data by the government. The ability of the government to basically track your whereabouts with historical cellphone data, using records from cell towers and whether or not that's a Fourth Amendment violation. And then this case out of New Jersey, Christie versus NCAA, which is a 10th Amendment federalism case dealing with a federal law that basically makes it illegal for the states to legalize or in this case partially legalize, sports gambling. Gillespie: All right. Well, let's let's start with the gay wedding cake, and the baker. Should, as I think it was Austin Petersen the libertarian who is running for the Libertarian nomination, Libertarian Party nomination for president put it, should a Jewish baker have to bake, I guess, a homophobic Jewish baker have to bake a gay Nazi wedding cake? What is going on there? What are the basic facts of the case? And where do you see it going? And we just heard oral arguments about that as well. Root: The basic dispute is that this baker, his argument is that by being forced to create a custom wedding cake for a same sex marriage, that the government and the state, in this case the state of Colorado, is com[...]



Tampa Bathhouses Become Latest Target of Sex-Trafficking Panic

2017-12-08T13:42:00-05:00

Three sex-trafficking victims told their stories in a dramatic Tampa City Council meeting yesterday. The purpose of the testimony was to get support for a new city ordinance on bathhouses—a mammoth package of new occupational licensing requirements, record-keeping mandates, limits on hours of operation, and other rules. Problem: None of the victims who testified said they'd been exploited at a bathhouse. Indeed, local lawmakers failed to offer any evidence at all that sex trafficking is an issue at Tampa's bathhouses. In saner times, people might point out that this testimony amounts to an emotional ploy to conflate these establishments with horrific violence. But "sex trafficking" has become such a magic invocation that politicians can use it to pass just about anything, no matter how unrelated to the law's professed purposes. In this case, the city is using the specter of sex trafficking to collect new fees, take more control over local entrepreneurs, and make it much easier to shut down businesses they don't like. And they had ample help from the D.C.-based Polaris Project, which receives massive amounts of federal funding to undertake questionably beneficial trafficking projects. "Polaris has been working with the City of Tampa on this draft ordinance to figure out what needs to be updated," reported 10 News Tampa. "They've also been flying in from Washington for the past eight months to attend each city council meeting on cracking down on these parlors." "Rochelle Kahoon with Polaris...says this updated ordinance will no doubt run these parlors off," 10 News continued. "Members of Polaris also brought the website 'Rub-maps' to the attention of Tampa council members. It's a website where users can share feedback on massage parlors that offer sex." Again, it's unclear how the evidence presented—reviews of erotic massage parlors—relates to bathhouses in Tampa, other than that Polaris is trying to make that link. Tampa has entirely separate regulations regarding massage therapists and parlors. While the new ordinance could target some ambiguous area "spas" by counting them as bathhouses, the regulations would mainly apply to the combination sauna, gym, and social clubs that are a fixture of Tampa's gay scene. Complying with all the new rules would be a huge burden on these small businesses. Even if they manage to stay afloat under the new regime, setting up so many hoops all but ensures that city authorities can find some code violation if they go looking for one—while giving them a new mandate to go looking all they want. Enforcement of the rules would fall to Tampa police, the Department of Planning and Development, and the Department of Neighborhood Empowerment, with violations punishable by a fine of up to $500 and/or imprisonment for up to 60 days. Enforcers could drop by for random inspections up to four times per year. Among other things, bathhouses would be forbidden from staying open past 10 p.m., keeping signs lit after closing, or allowing customers to enter through more than one front-facing entrance. Managers and owners at bathhouses would have to take a "human trafficking and prostitution awareness course" and apply for a new permit every year, subject to police and city approval and a clean criminal record. Any employee who was present in a room where customers were dressing or undressing would be guilty of sexual misconduct. Tampa's original bathhouse regulations were written in the 1980s. The new draft regulations were [...]



Paul Ryan Will Start Work on Legislation to Reduce the Deficit After He Finishes Passing Legislation to Increase the Deficit

2017-12-08T12:43:00-05:00

If there is a single issue that has defined Speaker of the House Paul Ryan's career in Congress, it is debt reduction—and in particular, debt reduction through entitlement reform. So it was not exactly a shock when Ryan said this week in a radio interview that after passing tax legislation, Republicans would move on to overhauling Medicare and other entitlements. "We're going to have to get back next year at entitlement reform," he said. He added, "Frankly, it's the health care entitlements that are the big drivers of our debt, so we spend more time on the health care entitlements, because that's really where the problem lies, fiscally speaking." Ryan noted, however, that this will have to wait until next year, after Republicans finish work on tax legislation. I suspect it will wait much longer than that. That Medicare and other big entitlements are the largest drivers of the federal debt is uncontroversially true. On several occasions, President Obama made roughly the same argument, and was given nods of approval by the fact checkers of the world. The Congressional Budget Office's (CBO) numerous reports on the nation's long-term fiscal health are exceedingly clear about the source of our current debt load and the reason why it is expected to increase. Just to pick a recent example, in a long-term budget outlook released in March of this year, the CBO said that deficits are expected to rise over the next 30 years "because spending growth is projected to outpace growth in revenues....In particular, spending as a share of GDP increases for Social Security, the major health care programs (primarily Medicare), and interest on the government's debt." It is that simple: The debt will rise because the federal government will spend more than it takes in, and that spending will be concentrated on entitlements. Ryan has pitched fiscal responsibility through entitlement reform for practically his entire career in Congress, so in some ways it is not much of a surprise to hear him return to what has long been a signature issue. Still, it is at least a little—and maybe much more than a little—jarring to hear him hype a forthcoming debt reduction plan at the exact same time that he is helping to lead the charge on tax legislation that would almost certainly add $1 trillion or more to the debt if it is enacted exactly as planned, and much more if it is not, which Ryan himself has suggested is likely. Paul Ryan is basically promising to start working on legislation to reduce the debt—that is, right after he finishes working on legislation to increase the debt. To be sure, deficit reduction is mostly a matter of spending reductions. But successful debt and deficit reduction efforts in Canada and the United States have typically paired large spending cuts with modest tax hikes. The disconnect between Ryan's stated objectives and his current legislative efforts is not exactly lost on his critics across the aisle. After hearing Ryan tout entitlement reform, Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-Vt.) griped that "Paul Ryan just admitted that after providing $1 trillion in tax breaks to the top 1 percent and large corporations, Republicans will try to cut Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and help for the most vulnerable Americans." Somehow I doubt Sanders has much to worry about. Republicans have an opportunity to reduce Medicare spending as part of the tax bill, and they are planning to skip it. One of the side effects of the tax legislation that [...]



L.A. Times Obtains Secret List of Bad Cops

2017-12-08T12:30:00-05:00

California is the only state in the country that blocks prosecutors from seeing entire police personnel files. It's also one of 22 that keeps information on officer discipline from the public. But now a list compiled by the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department of about 300 deputies with histories of dishonesty and misconduct has been obtained by the Los Angeles Times. The document is dated 2014, the year it was first put together by the then-sheriff, John Scott. The Times cross-checked the list with court records and news reports to find out why the officers on it were placed there. The roster includes an officer who pepper-sprayed an elderly man, another who forced a woman he pulled over to perform oral sex on him, and one who doused a shirt with taco sauce to replace a bloodied shirt that went missing as evidence. According to the Times, 69 percent of the officers were on the list for dishonesty. The top reasons after that were family violence, "immoral conduct," stealing, and sex. The sheriff's department wanted to share the list with prosecutors to warn them of potentially problematic witnesses. Were the list shared with prosecutors, prosecutors would be obliged to share it with defense attorneys too. A police union—the Association for Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs—sued to keep the list private. According to the Times, the officers on the list were potential witnesses in more than 62,000 felony cases since 2000. That represents a gross miscarriage of justice if even a small fraction of those cases actually saw these problem cops serve as witnesses. There's an argument to be made that many of these officers shouldn't even be allowed to hold on to their jobs. One of the most effective ways to reduce police brutality is to remove problem cops as soon as they present themselves instead of waiting until they commit an unnecessary act of violence and then get defended anyway. Instead, layer upon layer of protection—state civil service rules, union contract provisions, and so on—often inoculate officers from any real consequences for their actions. "Do we go back and overturn every conviction now?" Elizabeth Gibbons, an attorney who has represented the police union, asked the Times. "That's a can of worms that gets opened if the court adopts the department's argument in this case." Well, yes: If the convictions are wrongful, they ought to be overturned. The criminal justice system should be centered on justice, not convenience. And if police misbehavior makes justice less convenient, that's an argument for removing bad cops sooner rather than later. The police union thinks the list should be secret because it could harm bad cops' careers or threaten prosecutions in which they participated. But dishonest and abusive officers should see their careers harmed. [...]



Bitcoin Confuses Alan Greenspan

2017-12-08T12:00:00-05:00

Bitcoin is valuable—its price has roughly doubled in the last month—because it's a technically superior form of money that governments and other institutions can't control. Mainstream economists, however, were trained to believe that currencies need to be managed by government-controlled central banks. So this new form of free-market money is proving...hard to grasp. Alan Greenspan hasn't bothered to learn even the basic facts about bitcoin. On Wednesday, the former Federal Reserve chairman compared it to the "Continental" currency issued at the outset of the Revolutionary War, which ultimately lost all of its value because the government kept printing more of it. "The amount of fiat currency kept rising," Greenspan said on CNBC, "and it's very difficult to tell to what extent bitcoin is fundamentally different from that, but I will say there are very considerable similarities." When asked if bitcoin will eventually be worthless, Greenspan responded, "It depends on how they handle the issue of the quantity that's being put into the market." (psst...Chairman Greenspan...the supply of bitcoins is capped at 21 million.) pic.twitter.com/RjDZkvErYl — Jim Epstein (@jimepstein) December 7, 2017 Wasn't there a CNBC producer on hand who could shout something into the economist's earpiece about how the supply of bitcoin is capped at 21 million, and that about 80 percent of all bitcoins that will ever exist are already in circulation? The Yale economist Stephen Roach appeared on CNBC on Tuesday to alert us to his view that bitcoin is a "toxic concept" and a "dangerous, speculative bubble." Roach asked rhetorically, "Have you yet to see anybody with a bitcoin in their pocket?" It's true that bitcoin isn't widely used as a currency (except as a way to circumvent capital controls and high import taxes). But Roach seems unaware of the reasons for that. For one thing, bitcoin is still in an early stage of development. Sending or receiving bitcoin today involves publishing the transaction to a shared public database called a blockchain, which is an extremely limited resource. (There are just 1mb of data available to record bitcoin transcactions roughly every 10 minutes.) Using this data to post a transaction means paying a significant fee, which makes it prohibitive presently to use bitcoins as pocket money. But there's a new technology in development, called the lightning network, that promises to solve this problem by letting users trade bitcoins in a peer-to-peer fashion without publishing to the blockchain. On Wednesday, lightning's developers released the first version of the protocol and did the first test transaction on the bitcoin network. Roach is right that buying bitcon is "speculation" that the technology will function as promised and gain widescale adoption. But that doesn't make it "toxic." A partial exception to the mainstream confusion over bitcoin is the Hoover Institution economist John Cochrane, who argues in a recent blog post that it has value because of its "convenience yield"—i.e., it has unique features as money. Like cash, it's hard to detect, so it provides users with a way around "aspirational laws that if enforced would bring the economy to a halt." It also "facilitates ransomware," "laundering money," and "getting money out of China." Overall, bitcoin is a tool to "avoid both the beneficial and destructive attempts of governments to control econ[...]



Arizona Cop Acquitted for Killing Man Crawling Down Hotel Hallway While Begging for His Life

2017-12-08T11:40:00-05:00

Arizona jurors watched the video below, which shows former Mesa, Arizona, police officer Philip Mitchell Brailsford shooting and killing a man who was begging for his life and attempting to follow the officer's orders to crawl down a hotel hallway. Yesterday, the jurors found Brailsford not guilty of second-degree murder and reckless manslaughter. Do you agree? (Warning: The video is pretty graphic.) src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/M62Va6Ft2cw" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" width="560" height="340" frameborder="0"> The incident occurred in January 2016. Daniel Shaver apparently was showing off a pellet gun, and it was visible through the hotel room window. This promped somebody to call to the hotel front desk, which prompted a call to the police. So it wasn't unreasonable for police to approach the hotel room thinking the encounter might be dangerous. They knew there was a gun there, and they didn't know it was a pellet gun. But that video shows some truly baffling decisions by Brailsford that escalated the situation to make it even scarier, not the least of which was that Brailsford's bluster and open threats of violence made him appear as terrified as Shaver. (CORRECTION: The orders being barked out in the video are not from Brailsford but by Sgt. Charles Langley, who retired four months after the shooting and defended Brailsford's actions in court.) The contents of the body camera footage had been described to the public before, when Brailsford was first charged, but the video itself was withheld until this morning. NBC notes: The detective investigating the shooting had agreed Shaver's movement was similar to reaching for a pistol, but has said it also looked as though Shaver was pulling up his loose-fitting basketball shorts that had fallen down as he was ordered to crawl. The investigator noted he did not see anything that would have prevented officers from simply handcuffing Shaver as he was on the floor. Forcing Shaver to crawl toward the police like this increased the likelihood that Shaver would lose balance and make wild movements, and Langley's bizarre orders were probably confusing even to a sober person. Oh, and here's an interesting detail from the Arizona Republic: The judge did not allow jurors to hear about an etching on the dust cover of the rifle Brailsford used to shoot Shaver, which said "You're f--ked," because he felt it was prejudicial. Shaver's parents have filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the city of Mesa. Brailsford was fired for poor performance two months after the shooting. Would anybody care to bet that he tries either to get his job back in Mesa or to get a job with another law enforcement agency elsewhere? This post has been corrected to properly identify that Brailsford was not the officer giving orders in the video. [...]



Mexican Radio in Los Angeles Crashes—And Down With It Comes An Anti-Immigrant Fable

2017-12-08T11:22:00-05:00

"Spanish-Language Broadcasters Take a Fall," read a front-page headline in the December 3 edition of the Los Angeles Business Journal. In just the past year, according to the accompanying article, the audience share of Spanish-language radio stations in the L.A. market fell two points, from 21.6 to 19.4, while their English-language counterparts saw an increase from a 56 to 58 share. It was a "dramatic drop for several outlets that spent years at or near the top," according to the paper. One of the big factors: a "shift in preferences among younger listeners in Spanish-speaking communities for English-speaking media." The story hasn't gotten much traction outside of media circles. But it's a big one in the continued assimilation saga of Mexicans in the United States. And it's one giant chinga tu madre to anti-immigrant types who have spent the last 25 years decrying the Mexican takeover of "American" airwaves in Southern California. One of their main proofs that unassimilable, backwards Mexican culture had taken over the Southland is the continued switchover of crappy pop and adult alternative stations to Latino formats. First they flooded our schools, then they took over welfare. Now their tuba music is all over the dial, and it probably plays hidden messages about how to sacrifice gringos with an obsidian knife! But L.A. radio station owners don't flip formats because of Reconquista, but because it makes business sense. Mexicans, like all people, are consumers. And Mexicans change their tastes as well—you know, like other people. So the industry keeps evolving. This is a story I've had the advantage of growing up in. I remember a January 6, 1993, Los Angeles Times story that reverberated across the country. KLAX-FM 97.9 ("La Equis"—The X) had topped the local Arbitron ratings with a formula used by all stations in the United States for decades: genius marketing, wisecracking on-air personalities, and a hot new genre that set it apart from rivals. Except this time, the language was Español. And the music was Mexican. KLAX's victory was so unexpected that classic rock station KLSX 97.1 "expressed concern" to the Times "that some of their audience may have gotten the call letters mixed up and that those listeners may have been attributed [in the Arbitron ratings] to KLAX." It was a line repeated by Howard Stern, who saw his reign as king of the L.A. airwaves toppled by what he dismissed as "some Mexican station." (KLAX, the Times reported, responded by sending Stern "a funeral wreath with a note reading: 'Thanks for helping us remain No. 1.'") KLAX's win started a good 15 years of Spanish-language domination of the Southern California airwaves, as other stations emerged to take turns at the top. The same began to happen across the United States. Smart programmers took advantage of changing demographics, and Mexican-Americans no longer ashamed of their ethnic background (see: Linda Ronstadt recording a mariachi album in 1987) wanted to listen to genres like banda sinaloense, pasito duranguense, and rock en Español that were previously available in el Norte only live or on pirated CDs. The influence of Spanish-language radio in the United States reached its peak in 2006, when DJs from across the country set aside their rivalries and urged their respective listeners to take to the streets in support of amnesty;[...]



L.A.'s Mexican Radio Crash: New at Reason

2017-12-08T11:21:00-05:00

Spanish-language radio is fading across Southern California, a victim of a shifting preference for "English-speaking media" among young listeners. It's a classic American assimilation story, Gustavo Arellano writes, but it's also "one giant chinga tu madre to anti-immigrant types who have spent the last 25 years decrying the Mexican takeover of "American" airwaves. To anti-immigrant zealots, our choice of music and dress became further proof of the Mexican menace. Their laws drew support from people upset about "Spanish-language radio stations and ballots printed in something other than English," in the words of an aggrieved voter quoted in the Times in 1994. Our favorite DJs were supposed propagandists looking to destroy the United States from within. When noted podcaster Adam Carolla lost his terrestrial radio show in 2009 after KLSX switched formats (not to Latino music but to pop), he predicted that "all you're going to hear on L.A. radio now is ranchera music and Top 40." How would all those people react to the downfall of Spanish-language radio today? They'd make excuses, of course. Yes, us Mexicans tend to keep around our ethnic music longer than other ethnic groups—you don't really hear third-generation Polish-American millennials blast century-old mazurkas and polkas from their cars the way their Mexican-American counterparts sometimes do with rancheras, corridos and other Mexican styles. But it's not as if we do nothing but listen to Spanish-language music at all times. We also love Morrissey. And African-American oldies but goodies. And the Doors. And especially metal. Spanish-language radio in Los Angeles was always just a fad. Nowadays, fewer immigrants are coming to Southern California, and Mexican immigrants are increasingly creating community via CDs, YouTube and mp3s that bypass radio altogether. Besides, the current pickings are slim. Most radio hosts are now syndicated, meaning that the hyperlocalism that made Southern California on-air personalities so electric during the 1990s and 2000s is now gone. Mexican music of today is mostly bad mashups of regional styles with lead singers who lamely try to emulate the harsh, reedy voice of the legendary assassinated singer Chalino Sanchez. View this article. [...]



Should an Old Larceny Conviction Keep a Man from Working as a Nurse?

2017-12-08T10:57:00-05:00

A Michigan judge has ruled that the state's licensing agency cannot block a formerly incarcerated New York man from working as a nurse in his new state. The decision—the first such ruling in the country, according to the attorney who represented the plaintiff—is a small yet significant blow against the state's rules prohibiting former prisoners from obtaining occupational licenses. Michigan is one of 29 states whose licensing regulations include "good character" requirements, which effectively ban people with criminal records from working in a wide range of professions even years after a conviction. That's what could have happened to Laurence Reuben, a New York man convicted of grand larceny in the 4th degree in 2008. Five years later, he received a certificate from that state clearing him "of all disabilities and bars to employment" as a result of his felony conviction, allowing him to obtain a license to work as a nurse. After Reuben moved to Michigan, though, the state Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs refused to recognize the certification he had obtained in New York. In a summary ruling, Judge Christopher Murray rejected the state's arguments and declared that Michigan must respect the New York certification. While the state will still be able to prevent other workers with criminal records from getting jobs in certain professions, anyone who has a similar certificate from New York will be able to use the precedent established by Murray's ruling, says Mike Perry, Reuben's attorney. (Reuben declined to be interviewed.) "People who do something wrong should certainly be punished for it. But does that punishment have to last the rest of their lives? There are millions of people in Michigan with a criminal record; the legislature should give them an opportunity to obtain a license to work," says Jarrett Skorup, director of marketing and strategy for the Mackinac Center, a Michigan-based free market think tank. "When people aren't able to work legally, it encourages them to do so illegally—which isn't good for them or for the rest of society." Reuben's story is similar to the plight of Carlos Romero, who I profiled in a feature about licensing reforms aimed at helping the formerly incarcerated get back to work. Romero was convicted in 1991 for shooting a man in the leg during an altercation on a Chicago street corner. After getting out of prison in 1993, Romero worked hard to turn his life around but found most doors were closed to someone with a criminal record. He finally got licensed, in 2010, as a respiratory therapist—a medical professional who works with patients suffering from a wide range of lung diseases or recovering from injury or surgery. The next year, his license was stripped away when Illinois lawmakers passed a blanket ban on allowing anyone with a felony criminal record to hold a medical license. Even Romero, who had a clean record for nearly 20 years at that point, was not immune. "I was floored, stunned, numb," he told me. "I was not worthy of a second chance, a fresh start. In short, it fucking sucked." More than 600,000 Americans will be released from prison this year. "Stable employment is of central importance to the successful reentry of former inmates into non-institutionalized society," writes the Berkeley public[...]



Jerry Brown Finally Spending Political Capital to Fix Pension Crisis: New at Reason

2017-12-08T09:30:00-05:00

(image) The California governor is starting to take on the public-sector unions he has spent his career empowering.

Steven Greenhut writes:

Gov. Jerry Brown (D) has more political capital than, perhaps, any modern politician has had in California. He's an iconic figure and smarter than almost anyone else in Sacramento, so he can pretty much have his way with the legislature. A lot of us have wondered, though, why—almost seven years into his latest governorship—he has been so unwilling to tap that treasure trove and spend it on something really important.

Until now. Brown recently has weighed in on a state Supreme Court case that—without exaggeration—will determine the fiscal future of California's municipalities. It's a seemingly obscure case about a union benefit known as "airtime," but it's really about the ability of state and local governments to roll back future pension benefits they can no longer afford.

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