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Updated: 2017-11-20T00:00:00-05:00

 



Tax Reform Fight Shows Why Subsidies Never Die

2017-11-20T16:10:00-05:00

(image) Chances are fading fast that tax reform will roll back a wasteful energy subsidy.

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, passed by the House last week, promised to save about $12.3 billion over the next decade by scaling back a "production tax credit" mostly used by wind energy producers. It was a tepid but welcome change to a program that has far outlived whatever usefulness it might have had. Sadly, even this marginal reform seems to be too much for Senate Republicans, who have left the credit untouched in their version of the bill.

"This is how government grows," says Veronique de Rugy, a researcher at George Mason University's Mercatus Center and a regular Reason columnist. "It concentrates benefits on a few winners, and it spreads the cost on a large number of losers."

In 1992, the Renewable Electricity Production Tax Credit gave renewable energy producers a 1.5 cent per kilowatt tax break for the first 10 years a facility is online. That tax break was indexed to inflation, and by 2016 it had grown from 1.5 to 2.3 cents.

That might not sound like much, but it costs the federal treasury about $3.4 billion per year in forgone revenue. The vast majority of its benefits go to wind farm producers, who receive up to 80 percent of these tax credits per year and who have eaten up $12.8 billion in production tax credits since 2008.

When it was first created, the program was supposed to expire in 1999, having fulfilled its role in jumpstarting new wind farms. Instead it has been extended 10 times, most recently in 2015. It has even risen from the dead: The credit has expired five times, and each time it was resurrected by wind lobbyists, who insist their industry can't survive without it. They are now howling about the modest rollback the credit would see under the House bill.

"The House tax bill, far from being pro-business, would kill over half of new wind farms planned in the U.S. and undermine one of the country's fastest growing jobs," said Tom Kiernan, CEO of the American Wind Energy Association, on Friday.

The House's bill, mind you, wouldn't even end the tax credit, which is currently set to expire in 2019. It would merely bring it back to the original 1.5 cent subsidy and restrict the types of new construction that the credit could be applied to.

The Senate bill drops these provisions. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), who initially created the credit—and who wields considerable influence from his position as a senior member of the Senate's Finance and Budget committees—has made it clear that he is set against any change to the program.

De Rugy calls programs like the tax credit "a redistribution of wealth from the non-subsidized to the subsidized." But it is that very redistribution, she adds, that keeps such programs around. The small group of beneficiaries, after all, is highly motivated to keep whatever special exemption it receives. And the much larger set of people who pay? "These unseen victims don't even know or understand the cost of these programs," she says. "Even if they understand, they are not incentivized enough to band and organized enough to fight against the subsidies."




What Charles Manson Teaches Us About Harvey Weinstein, Al Franken, and Tax Reform: Podcast

2017-11-20T15:15:00-05:00

On this week's Reason Podcast, Nick Gillespie, Katherine Mangu-Ward, Peter Suderman, and Matt Welch discuss everything that's wrong with the Republican tax reform bill, what it would mean for Obamacare, whether the neverending stream of sexual-assault revelations will turn America into a desert wasteland of fierce Beyoncé woman warriors, gubernatorial candidate and Ohio Supreme Court Justice William O'Neill's announcement that "in the last 50 years" he has been "sexually intimate with approximately 50 very attractive females," and whether Harvey Weinstein is the "Charles Manson" of the 21st century.

Some of the stories referenced in this week's show:

Audio production by Ian Keyser.

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Is Donald Trump, of All Presidents, Devolving Power Back to the Legislative Branch?

2017-11-20T14:13:00-05:00

Donald Trump did not campaign for president as the guy who would reverse the mostly unbroken, century-old trend of the executive power assuming more and more power in the face of an increasingly self-marginalizing Congress. If anything, the imperial presidency looked set to increase given Trump's braggadocious personality and cavalier approach to constitutional restraints. "Nobody knows the system better than me," he famously said during his worryingly authoritarian Republican National Convention speech, "which is why I alone can fix it." You wouldn't know it from viewing policy through the prism of the president's Twitter feed, which is filled with cajoling and insult toward the legislative branch, but Trump has on multiple occasions taken an executive-branch power-grab and kicked the issue back to Congress, where it belongs. As detailed here last month, the president has taken this approach on Iran sanctions, Obamacare subsidies, and the Deferred Action Against Childhood Arrivals program (DACA), at minimum. And notably, his one Supreme Court nominee, Neil Gorsuch, was most famous pre-appointment for rejecting the deference that courts have in recent decades given to executive-branch regulatory agencies interpreting the statutory language of legislators. Are there any other examples? Sure—the 15 regulatory nullifications this year via the Congressional Review Act (14 more than all previous presidents combined) are definitionally power-transfers from the executive to legislative. And certainly, the sharp decreases in the enactment, proposal, and even page-count of regulations amount to the administration declining to exercise as much power as its predecessors. Over at the Wall Street Journal, Chris DeMuth, former president of the American Enterprise Institute, and Reagan-era administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA), points out some of these underappreciated devolutions, and, with qualified enthusiasm, adds another: Regulatory budget-cutting. In an executive order issued shortly after taking office, he directed that unless a statute requires otherwise, agencies may issue new regulations only by rescinding two or more existing regulations, with net costs held to an annual budget. His budget for fiscal 2017 was zero, which was easily met after agencies issued few new rules and lawmakers rescinded many under the Congressional Review Act. Now, an OMB directive from [OIRA administrator Neomi] Rao in September has set a goal of "net reduction in total incremental regulatory costs" in fiscal 2018. […] [A] regulatory budget goes much deeper [than mere cost-benefit analysis of regulations]. It aims not only at restraint but at reforming agency culture. Faced with a two-for-one rule and a requirement to reduce annual costs, regulators will be obliged to monitor the effectiveness of all their rules and to make choices. There will be efforts to game the system, as there always are. But the best game in town may be to shift from maximizing rules to maximizing, within the budget constraint, environmental quality, public health, workplace safety and other regulatory goals. And, in all events, there will be fewer rules! DeMuth adds, archly, "Many readers may be puzzled that our tempestuous president should preside over the principled, calibrated regulatory reform described here." Bottom line? With some exceptions (such as business as usual on ethanol), and putting aside a few heavy-handed tweets (such as raising the idea of revoking broadcast licenses from purveyors of "fake news"), President Trump has proved to be a full-spectrum deregulator. His administration has been punctilious about the institutional prerogatives of Congress and the courts. Today there is a serious prospect of restoring the constitutional status quo ante and reversing what seemed to be an inexorable regulatory expansion. You read it here first. UPDATE: Josh Blackman has a piece on this topic today over at National Review. [...]



L.A. Is Creating Traffic Jams to Push Commuters to Ride Bikes and Rail: New at Reason

2017-11-20T13:40:00-05:00

src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/hUuHivkQ-4o" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" width="560" height="340" frameborder="0">

In July of 2017, Los Angeles imposed a "road diet" in the quiet beach community of Playa del Rey, replacing car lanes with bike lanes and parking spaces. The roads were suddenly jammed with traffic. The community was livid.

"Most of Playa Del Rey didn't know this was happening," says John Russo, a local resident and co-founder of Keep L.A. Moving, a community group formed to fight back against the city's unilateral decision to reconfigure the streets. "It really created havoc for us because we have no other roads to take."

Road diets are part of a strategy known as Vision Zero, in which Los Angeles aims to eliminate all traffic-related fatalities by 2025. It's an idea borrowed from Sweden, which in the '90s started experimenting with reconfiguring the roads to encourage more commuters to bike or take mass transit to work.

"In order to achieve zero deaths, public officials have been doing some odd things," says Baruch Feigenbaum, the assistant director of transportation policy at the Reason Foundation, the 501(c)(3) that publishes this website. Road diets aren't "based on science" or any "empirical findings."

"After the road diets were put in, we actually saw traffic accidents go through the roof," says Russo. "We had an average of 11.6 accidents per year on these roads in Playa Del Rey. We've had 52 accidents in the last four months."

According to data from the U.S. Census Bureau's 2013 American Community Survey, about one percent of Los Angeles' commuters bike to work. Sixty-seven percent drive.

"You're taking something from a whole bunch of people just to benefit a few people," says Feigenbaum. "That's not a good cost-benefit analysis."

Produced by Alexis Garcia. Camera by Garcia, Alex Manning, Todd Krainin, and Paul Detrick.

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Nebraska Regulators Approve Keystone XL Pipeline

2017-11-20T13:20:00-05:00

The Nebraska Public Service Commission has voted 3–2 to allow TransCanada to route the Keystone XL pipeline through the Cornhusker State. The 1,200-mile pipeline will transport more than 800,000 barrels of crude daily from Canada's oilsands in Alberta to refineries on the U.S. Gulf Coast. The pipeline was approved by the NPSC despite the fact that 5,000 barrels of oil leaked just last week from the older Keystone pipeline in South Dakota. The commissioners did revise the pipeline's path, moving it further east from the Ogallala aquifer that underlies the Sand Hills region of the state. The pipeline has long been opposed by environmentalists worried about climate change, landowners who don't want the pipeline to cross their property, and Native American tribes concerned that spills could contaminate their water supplies. After the U.S. State Department kept sending draft environmental assessments of the project back to reviewers until they came up with the right answer, President Barack Obama denied TransCanada a border-crossing permit in 2015 by ruling that the construction the pipeline was not in the national interest. In March, President Donald Trump reversed Obama's decision. In 2012, climatologist Chip Knappenberger, who works with the libertarian Cato Institute, calculated that keeping crude from Canada's oilsands would reduce the annual increase in global temperatures due to carbon emissions by "one ten thousandths of a degree Celsius of temperature rise from the Canadian tar sands oil delivered by the Keystone XL pipeline each year." Considering that TransCanada first proposed the pipeline in 2008, when the price of oil was about double what it is today, is the project still an economically viable proposition? In statement released earlier this month, the company claimed that "commercial support for the project" will "be substantially similar to that which existed when we first applied for a Keystone XL pipeline permit." Despite the commission's approval, construction is not a done deal. Some 90 Nebraska landowners are expected to fight construction of the pipeline through their property in the courts, according to The New York Times. But the legal precedents for preventing the use of eminent domain to obtain rights-of-way for "public use" projects like pipelines is not promising. Disclosure: Back in 2011, I took a junket to the Canadian oilsands that was sponsored by the American Petroleum Institute. The institute neither asked for nor had any editorial control over my reporting of that trip. For more background, see my articles "The Man-Made Miracle of Oil from Sand" and "Conflict Oil or Canadian Oil?" [...]



L.A. Is Creating Traffic Jams to Push Commuters to Ride Bikes and Rail

2017-11-20T13:15:00-05:00

In July of 2017, Los Angeles imposed a "road diet" in the quiet beach community of Playa del Rey, replacing car lanes with bike lanes and parking spaces. The roads were suddenly jammed with traffic. The community was livid. "Most of Playa Del Rey didn't know this was happening," says John Russo, a local resident and co-founder of Keep L.A. Moving, a community group formed to fight back against the city's unilateral decision to reconfigure the streets. "It really created havoc for us because we have no other roads to take." Road diets are part of a strategy known as Vision Zero, in which Los Angeles aims to eliminate all traffic-related fatalities by 2025. It's an idea borrowed from Sweden, which in the '90s started experimenting with reconfiguring the roads to encourage more commuters to bike or take mass transit to work. "In order to achieve zero deaths, public officials have been doing some odd things," says Baruch Feigenbaum, the assistant director of transportation policy at the Reason Foundation, the 501(c)(3) that publishes this website. Road diets aren't "based on science" or any "empirical findings." "After the road diets were put in, we actually saw traffic accidents go through the roof," says Russo. "We had an average of 11.6 accidents per year on these roads in Playa Del Rey. We've had 52 accidents in the last four months." According to data from the U.S. Census Bureau's 2013 American Community Survey, about one percent of Los Angeles' commuters bike to work. Sixty-seven percent drive. "You're taking something from a whole bunch of people just to benefit a few people," says Feigenbaum. "That's not a good cost-benefit analysis." City planners also want to incentivize residents to move closer to their jobs. Or, if they do have to commute, to ride the city's public transit system. Los Angeles has the third largest transit network in the country, yet only 10 percent of commuters use it to get to work. "In Los Angeles, a majority of the folks simply cannot get from their homes to their jobs in a short period of time using transit," Feigenbaum explains. "Trying to force people into one type of behavior doesn't tend to work and it's why, even in Los Angeles, the vast majority of people are still commuting by automobile." In October, the Los Angeles City Council reversed itself in Playa del Rey after community members filed two lawsuits against the city and launched a recall election of local Councilman Mike Bonin (D), who had backed the plan. But the city is still planning to implement over 40 road diet projects in other areas of Los Angeles, and major cities like Chicago, Minneapolis, New York, and Atlanta are pursuing similar policies. "In the 1960s we were building interstate highways, freeways through downtown areas, which was definitely the wrong approach," says Feigenbaum. "Now we don't want to build any roads at all. We just want to build bike paths. We want to narrow lanes. We're saying that transit is going to solve everybody's needs. Neither extreme is what we need." "It's not about cyclists versus drivers," says Russo. "These are all of our roads and they should be safe for all users. And the road diet didn't make our roads safer and they're not making it better for the cyclists." Produced by Alexis Garcia. Camera by Garcia, Alex Manning, Todd Krainin, and Paul Detrick. CLIMAX by Soft and Furious is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution license (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/) Source: http://freemusicarchive.org/music/Soft_and_Furious/Shine_Burst/Soft_and_Furious_-_Shine_Burst_-_07_C_L_I_M_A_X Artist: http://freemusicarchive.org/music/Soft_and_Furious/ Cooperation Road by Unicorn Heads is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution license (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/) Source: https://www.youtube.com/audiolibrary/music Artist: http://www.unicornheads.com/ Ether by Silent Partner is licensed under a Creative Commons Attr[...]



Is Donald Trump Responsible for the Attack on Rand Paul?

2017-11-20T12:25:00-05:00

Trump Derangement Syndrome (TDS) has taken hold at The New Yorker. Hence, this idiotic story, which is advertised in a tweet from the magazine's official feed: The attack on Rand Paul by his neighbor reveals a sinister banality of American life that, these days, is often emanating from Donald Trump. https://t.co/tTIPkEe9Ja — The New Yorker (@NewYorker) November 20, 2017 The actual story, written by Jeffrey Frank, is a minor classic of snide political-violence tourism, noting that Paul, the libertarian-leaning Republican senator, lives in a gated community in Kentucky and that his attacker, a liberal Democrat, is supposedly a "near-perfect" neighbor, according to a (Republican!) resident. Near-perfect, of course, except for his violent attack on an unsuspecting Paul while he was mowing his lawn. The attack busted the senator's ribs and is, to put it mildly, fucked up. But, says Frank, Although [Jim] Skaggs was once the chairman of the Warren County Republican Party, he seemed to side with Boucher, whom he called a "near-perfect" neighbor, as opposed to Paul, who, he said, was less willing to go along with the regulations of the homeowners association "because he has a strong belief in property rights."... The Times reported that Paul grows pumpkins, and composts. Pumpkins and compost may well be at the root of things. This fall has been unusually warm in Kentucky, and the heat may affect decomposing organic matter in unpleasant, olfactory ways. Paul, who leans toward libertarianism, could well have considered the compost of a private gardener, on private property, to be an inalienable right, and one can sympathize with that view. Haw haw haw! Frank then dredges up a 1980 novel by Thomas Berger, Neighbors, that was "the basis of an unfunny movie starring John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd," because, well, you know, it's important to remind New Yorker readers that novels exist and are usually better than the movie version, right? But the real point, of course, is that somehow Donald Trump is responsible for all that is baffling in this world, including an indefensible attack by a "near-perfect" neighbor who is a Democrat against a libertarianish Republican. Frank again: Berger told the critic Richard Schickel what he'd learned from Kafka: "That at any moment banality might turn sinister, for existence was not meant to be unfailingly genial." The sinister banality of American life periodically moves into view, with a lot of it these days emanating from Donald J. Trump, the person who was elected President, a year ago. Yeah, sure. Forget that maybe, just maybe, Boucher is responsible for his own sinister banality, whether his reported "feud" with Rand Paul had more to do with lawn-care issues than political ones. Then again, Boucher did post at Facebook his wish, "May Robert Mueller fry Trump's gonads." But isn't that how all doctors—Boucher is an anesthesiologist—talk? I think there's a real problem with throwing violence perpetrated by individuals onto broad zeitgeist-y forces, partly because doing so minimizes the responsibility we all have for the choices we make and partly because it's so often wrong (remember how all that "right-wing" hate and paranoia in Dallas drove communist-sympathizer Lee Harvey Oswald to plug JFK?). It's a small step from such atrributions to start blaming all sorts of things—books! movies! video games! Trump!—on whatever you happen to find objectionable. Donald Trump does this all the time, blaming immigrants, antifa, you name it for a phantom crime wave, job losses, and more. Do liberals at publications need to join him in such efforts? Of course not, but they're already blaming Trump not only for his misdeeds, but their own as well. [...]



Twitter Cracking Down on Promoting Violence—With a Major Exception

2017-11-20T12:12:00-05:00

(image) Twitter has announced new policies on hate speech and violence that will judge users by their behavior off as well as on the social media site. The rules go into effect December 18.

"You may not make specific threats of violence or wish for the serious physical harm, death, or disease of an individual or group of people. This includes, but is not limited to, threatening or promoting terrorism," the re-written section reads. "You also may not affiliate with organizations that—whether by their own statements or activity both on and off the platform—use or promote violence against civilians to further their causes."

The rule is apparently aimed at neo-Nazis and other racists. Government-affiliated accounts will presumably remain safe, even though those rewritten rules describe a lot of them as well.

Governments, at their root, promote violence against civilians. Not just autocratic regimes that rely on brute force to maintain their power: all governments. They may try make violence a last resort, but it's always lurking behind the law. So far this year, for example, 874 people have been shot and killed by police. Twitter is highly unlikely to deverify or suspend any accounts operated by the various police departments and police associations that defend these killings.

Limiting its policy to "unlawful" or "unofficial" violence would explicitly exclude government accounts, but too often respectable society insists on excluding government and government actions from the accepted meaning of violence altogether. Our collective blind spot to the fact that governments are organizations that "use or promote violence against civilians to further their causes" has real-life consequences beyond social media policies.

Earlier this month, the first case to be taken up by New York's attorney general of a police officer charged with unlawfully killing someone came to an end—with an acquittal. This should've been an easy case: It involved an off-duty police officer who killed another man during a road rage incident, and who provided a statement on what happened that was contradicted by video evidence. But the jury still let him off. Apparently, uch of the general population defers to the police even in a case like this.

That deference is sustained by this inability to accept that government is violent. So long as state-sponsored violence is sanitized and excluded from the popular conception of violence, it will continue largely unabated.




Fearing 'Terrorism,' Middle School Cancels D.C. Trip

2017-11-20T10:15:00-05:00

A middle school in Ohio has cancelled its 3-day student trip to Washington, D.C. Why? Because of terrorism, say school officials.

What the officials don't mention is their own inability to process the idea that just because the world is not perfectly safe does not mean that it is terribly dangerous. Not to mention their misguided sense that adults can control the entire world in all of its complexity simply by clutching kids closer.

As The Washington Post reports:

School officials told parents of the 320 eighth-graders at the beginning of the year that the trip would be canceled "if at any point we felt that the safety of our students and staff may be compromised," according to the letter sent Nov. 8 by North Ridgeville Academic Center Principal Amy Peck, trip adviser Brittany Cioffoletti and Jim Powell, the school district's superintendent.

"Sadly, we have reached that point," the letter continued. "Since our parent meeting, we have mourned with many across the country at the loss of lives in Las Vegas, Manhattan and Texas. [Recently,] a man was arrested near the White House after he made threats to the lives of our capital's police force. All of these incidents at 'soft targets' and public places have led to our difficult decision to cancel this year's trip . . . As you know, the safety of our students and staff is our main priority, and we feel that the risk of travel to Washington, D.C., is not worth the potential for tragedy."

Is allowing parents to drive their kids to and from school worth the potential for tragedy? Because the number one way that kids die is as car passengers, not as terrorism victims. As one Washington Post commenter asked, "Are there no math teachers at this school?" The odds of dying in a terrorist attack are astronomically low. So are the odds of being able to predict where the next "soft target" will be. What if the administrators cancelled the D.C. trip and said, "Instead, we're going someplace really safe: a small church in Texas"? We cannot predict everything that is going to happen.

It is not prudence at work here; it is the feeling that if anything terrible did happen, it would be the school's fault. Many parents can relate to that feeling. As the Post story continues:

"As a superintendent, every time we send kids on these kind of trips, I worry about it the whole time they're gone," [Powell] said. "It's a lot of responsibility."

But worry and responsibility are two different things. Responsibility is what you take to make the variables under your control safer. As superintendent, you put a stop sign in front of the school. You run some fire drills.

But it is not any human's responsibility—or ability—to predict and avoid the rarest and most random of fates.

Nonetheless, when something bad happens to a child outside the home, it is often framed as negligence—Why did the parents allow it?—though if a child falls down the stairs at home, it is usually framed as an accident.

That's why so many people are so scared to let their kids do anything, from playing outside to visiting D.C. They know that if something should go wrong, however unpredictable it may be, they are likely to be blamed.




Manson's Death One More Milepost in Waning Significance of Baby Boom Generation

2017-11-20T10:00:00-05:00

So Charles Manson, the murderous, violent, demented cult killer, is dead at the age of 83. Buried with him is, likely, a cottage industry devoted to "the Family" that included best-selling books such as Helter Skelter, campy admirers of some of Charlie's girls such as filmmaker John Waters, and low-rated, quick-canceled TV police procedurals. For all but true-crime enthusiasts and the few remaining Beach Boys fans, Manson had long ago effectively ceased to exist. Such it is and always will be: Notorious criminals whose foul acts might help explain their times get tapped out of meaning like a mine being played out of ore. Whatever wider significance one might have possibly gleaned from paying close attention to Manson's racist, paranoid delusions and the reaction of the square and countercultural America stopped mattering long ago. His death, like the pending sale of Rolling Stone and a hagiographic HBO documentary about that same magazine, is just one more sign that the baby boom generation's long turn in the spotlight is drawing to a close. The 1969 killings that Manson masterminded were brutal, insane, unmotivated, and thus somehow perfectly of their time. Even more so was the trial of Manson, during which the defendant acted as his own attorney and repeatedly threatened the presiding judge before being condemned to death (a sentence ultimately overturned when the California Supreme Court banned executions). For me, the essential take on Manson remains Ed Sanders' The Family (1972), "the first complete, authoritative account of the career of Charles Manson," in the words of rock critic Robert Christgau. A poet and accidental (if short-lived) rock star by trade, Sanders casts Manson's bloody cult as "one of the culminations of America's public romance with the hippies." That Sanders was himself a card-carrying member of the cultural avant-garde makes his dogged shoe-leather reporting and moralizing far more powerful than that of the grandstanding prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi in Helter Skelter. If you pick up an old copy of The Family, make sure to get the first edition, before he was forced to redact information about The Process Church, a once-notorious New Age group originally suspected of the crimes (and which got a slight second wind when another insane killer, David Berkowitz, who committed the Son of Sam murders in the late 1970s, claimed that The Process Church was actually behind his own homicides). But if you were "into" Manson or are a baby boomer, you probably know all this, right? Being versed in Mansonania is as much a boomer birthright as a deeper-than-average immersion in JFK assassination plots and residual belief in Erich von Daniken's Chariots of the Gods series. These are things that mattered greatly once to many, maybe most, people. They no longer do and will continue to matter less and less as time goes by. Such it is with Rolling Stone, another cultural artifact of the late '60s, which is being sold by its founder, Jann Wenner, amid slumping interest not just in that particular magazine but in everything that baby boomers once cared about. (The indefensibly wrong 2014 story about a brutal gang rape at University of Virginia certainly helped push along the current sale by demolishing the publication's credibility.) The subject of Sticky Fingers, an immensely entertaining and negative new biography, Wenner is far more representative of leading edge baby boomers than Manson ever could be. "At one time," [author Joe] Hagan writes, picking up a copy of Rolling Stone was "like holding a piece of hot shrapnel from the cultural explosion of the 1960s while it still glowed with feeling and meaning." Rolling Stone hasn't been "hot" in years, of course, and picking the exact moment when it lost the pulse of America is a fun parlor game among longtime rea[...]



Film Subsides Are Real Losers: New at Reason

2017-11-20T09:45:00-05:00

(image) Virginia has doubled its film subsides in the last 5 years, but a new watchdog report finds they are nearly useless.

A. Barton Hinkle writes:

Put a question to any two economists and you will get three answers back. That old joke is not very funny, and it is even less accurate. On some topics economic analysts are, if not unanimous, at least largely in accord.

Example: sports stadiums. As the St. Louis Fed pointed out earlier this year, 86 percent of economists agree that state and local governments "should eliminate subsidies to professional sports franchises." Study after study has found that giving public money to pro sports teams brings little to no return on the investment—and sometimes actually induces negative effects on the local economy.

Another example: film subsidies, which get close scrutiny in a new report by Virginia's legislative watchdog agency. According to the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission: Virginia's "film tax exemption has little effect on film location decisions, a negligible benefit to the Virginia economy, and provides a negligible return on the state's investment." The film tax credit provides a return of 20 cents on the dollar; direct grants return 30 cents on the dollar.

View this article.




Film Subsidies Are Real Losers

2017-11-20T09:45:00-05:00

Put a question to any two economists and you will get three answers back. That old joke is not very funny, and it is even less accurate. On some topics economic analysts are, if not unanimous, at least largely in accord. Example: sports stadiums. As the St. Louis Fed pointed out earlier this year, 86 percent of economists agree that state and local governments "should eliminate subsidies to professional sports franchises." Study after study has found that giving public money to pro sports teams brings little to no return on the investment—and sometimes actually induces negative effects on the local economy. Another example: film subsidies, which get close scrutiny in a new report by Virginia's legislative watchdog agency. According to the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission: Virginia's "film tax exemption has little effect on film location decisions, a negligible benefit to the Virginia economy, and provides a negligible return on the state's investment." The film tax credit provides a return of 20 cents on the dollar; direct grants return 30 cents on the dollar. Yet in five years, the commonwealth has more than doubled its film subsidies, from $5.8 million in 2012 to $14.3 million last year. The idea—as with so many other subsidies—is to lure economic activity. But JLARC points out that this hasn't worked—not for Virginia, and not for the many other states that have engaged in a bidding war over Hollywood during the past couple of decades: "The percentage of nationwide film production employment located in California and New York (67 percent) in 2016 has barely changed since 2001 (69 percent)... Georgia, which offers one of the most generous film tax credits in terms of the rate, ranks third after California and New York, but its share of national film production employment is only four percent (12,500 workers)." The JLARC report adds useful data specific to Virginia. But its overall point hardly breaks new ground. Massachusetts has been fighting over its film subsidy since 2008, when the state issued its first critical review of the program. According to the Massachusetts Department of Revenue, each job ostensibly created by the subsidy costs the state $118,000. "State Film Subsidies: Not Much Bang for Too Many Bucks," was the title of a 2010 study by the liberal Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. The report noted that "subsidies reward companies for production that they might have done anyway." And because most people outside California and New York don't have the requisite skills, "the best jobs go to non-residents." And "subsidies don't pay for themselves. The revenue generated by economic activity induced by film subsidies falls far short of the subsidies' direct costs to the state." Two years later, the conservative Tax Foundation reported similar findings: "Surveying the literature, we found that aside from studies paid for by economic development authorities and the Motion Picture Association of America, an industry trade association, almost every other study has found film tax credits generate less than 30 cents for every $1 of spending." "Film Tax Incentives Are a Giant Waste of Money, New Study Finds," ran a headline in Variety last year. The story reported on a study by the University of Southern California Price School of Public Policy's Michael Thom. He found that tax credits produced zero to minimal employment gains and zero to only short-term gains in wages. Sales tax and lodging tax breaks also accomplished bupkes, and "none of the incentives had a measurable effect on the share of the motion picture business located in each state." To be fair, having a major motion picture filming on location in your hometown brings non-monetary benefits, just like having a pro sports team[...]



Texas Rangers Want Apple to Unlock Mass Shooter's Phone, Charles Manson Dead, More Earthquakes Expected in 2018: A.M. Links

2017-11-20T09:00:00-05:00

  • (image) President Trump renewed his calls for a border wall with Mexico after a border patrol agent was shot and killed in Texas.
  • Authorities in Texas have served a search warrant on Apple, looking to have the phone of the Sutherland Springs mass shooter unlocked.
  • The ruling party in Zimbabwe has moved to impeach Robert Mugabe after their Monday deadline for his resignation came and went.
  • Talks to form a three-party coalition government run by Angela Merkel in Germany have collapsed.
  • Accused of sexual harrassment by two transgender colleagues, actor Jeffrey Tambor signaled he would not be returning to Transparent, claiming the on-set atmosphere had been "politicized" in recent weeks.
  • Charles Manson died in prison, aged 83.
  • The slowing of the rotation of the Earth is expected to lead to an uptick in earthquakes, according to scientists.

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Sex, Jobs, and Smoking: What's Legal for Teens in Your State?: New at Reason

2017-11-20T07:50:00-05:00

(image) The age of majority in the United States is 18—that's when you can join the military, register to vote, and be convicted of crimes as an adult. But in individual states can't resist drawing their own bright lines of law regarding many adult activities, thereby creating awkward juxtapositions of permission and prohibition, writes Eric Boehm. Check out Reason's handy infographic on what's legal for teens to do in your state.

View this article.







Brickbat: For Services Rendered

2017-11-20T04:00:00-05:00

(image) When drivers get into an accident in Newburgh Heights, Ohio, the city bills them or their insurance company hundreds of dollars for police services, even if the cops never respond. And the city continues to send them bills until they pay. It's all quite official looking, and there's no indication that there's no legal obligation for them to pay. But there isn't. The city calls it "soft billing." The town has population of just over 2,000, so most of the people billed are not residents.




Making History Modern: New at Reason

2017-11-19T09:45:00-05:00

(image) She is an icon of 1920s modernity: an independent woman with bobbed hair and a short skirt, walking with her streamlined Borzoi, the quintessential Art Deco dog. Behind her is a New York City street. But instead of skyscrapers and neon lights, it's lined with old-fashioned chimneyed houses.

This image, with its up-to-the-minute foreground character and historic background tableau, is from a series of 1929 ads promoting the new season's print fabrics from H.R. Mallinson & Co., a major silk-textile manufacturer. In a second ad, the modern woman, hand on hip, twirls her long pearl necklace in a stereotypical flapper gesture. In the background is a monument featuring the Mayflower and a hopeful-looking Pilgrim couple. A third ad shows the woman standing with her hand on a ledge, gazing thoughtfully in a pose that mirrors the bust of Abraham Lincoln looking down at her, writes Virginia Postrel.

View this article.




The Cops Were Chasing a Shoplifter. They Ended Up Destroying an Innocent Man's Home: New at Reason

2017-11-19T09:12:00-05:00

(image) Leo Lech owns a property parcel at 4219 South Alton Street in Greenwood Village, a sleepy suburban enclave tucked between Denver's bustling Tech Center and the scenic reservoir of Cherry Creek State Park. His quarter-acre plot rests near the end of a quaint cul-de-sac that fits every idyllic American stereotype: two-car garages, well-manicured lawns, the stars and stripes waving in front of each home.

While most houses on this block were built in the 1970s, Lech's is brand new: It received a certificate of occupancy in August after two years of construction.

It isn't the first building to have occupied the lot.

Over the course of June 3 and 4, 2015, a devastating police raid systematically destroyed Lech's old home. The cops were responding to a crime that Lech had nothing to do with: A suspected shoplifter had barricaded himself inside the house after a chase, sparking a 19-hour standoff with a multi-jurisdictional SWAT team. Unleashing a display of force commonly reserved for the battlefield, the tactical team bombarded the building with high-caliber rifles, chemical agents, flash-bang grenades, remote-controlled robots, armored vehicles, and breaching rams—all to extract a petty thief with a handgun.

When it was over, Lech's house was completely unlivable. The City of Greenwood Village condemned it, forcing Lech to topple the wrecked structure. Making matters worse, the municipality refused to pay fair market value for the destruction.

Now Lech is suing for compensation. The outcome of his case may bring clarity to the property rights of Americans living in the shadow of police militarization, writes Jay Stooksberry.

View this article.




The Cops Were Chasing a Shoplifter. They Ended Up Destroying an Innocent Man's Home.

2017-11-19T07:00:00-05:00

Leo Lech owns a property parcel at 4219 South Alton Street in Greenwood Village, a sleepy suburban enclave tucked between Denver's bustling Tech Center and the scenic reservoir of Cherry Creek State Park. His quarter-acre plot rests near the end of a quaint cul-de-sac that fits every idyllic American stereotype: two-car garages, well-manicured lawns, the stars and stripes waving in front of each home. While most houses on this block were built in the 1970s, Lech's is brand new: It received a certificate of occupancy in August after two years of construction. It isn't the first building to have occupied the lot. Over the course of June 3 and 4, 2015, a devastating police raid systematically destroyed Lech's old home. The cops were responding to a crime that Lech had nothing to do with: A suspected shoplifter had barricaded himself inside the house after a chase, sparking a 19-hour standoff with a multi-jurisdictional SWAT team. Unleashing a display of force commonly reserved for the battlefield, the tactical team bombarded the building with high-caliber rifles, chemical agents, flash-bang grenades, remote-controlled robots, armored vehicles, and breaching rams—all to extract a petty thief with a handgun. When it was over, Lech's house was completely unlivable. The City of Greenwood Village condemned it, forcing Lech to topple the wrecked structure. Making matters worse, the municipality refused to pay fair market value for the destruction. Now Lech is suing for compensation. The outcome of his case may bring clarity to the property rights of Americans living in the shadow of police militarization. The Destruction The story starts in a Walmart parking lot. At 1:22 p.m. on June 3, Aurora police officer John Reiter was dispatched to the store after a security camera caught a man stealing a shirt and two belts. The official police affidavit described the thief as "a white male approximately in his thirties, 6'5" with a muscular build, short blond hair, clean shaven and lots of tattoos on his arms and shoulders"; he was wearing blue jean shorts and a red backpack. His name was Robert Jonathan Seacat. Seacat ran to his gold-colored 1999 Lexus. As he was fleeing the scene, he nearly assaulted Reiter with the vehicle. The car was later discovered abandoned at a light rail station less than a mile away. Police found drugs, brass knuckles, and some cash inside the trunk. In the ensuing pursuit, Seacat—now on foot—crossed a pedestrian bridge, a fence, one of Denver's busiest highways, another fence, and Village Greens Park, which backs up directly to the 4200 block of South Alton Street. The suspect broke into Lech's property by entering through the back door, tripping one alarm. While inside, he attempted to open the garage door, tripping a second alarm. At 1:54, the City of Greenwood Village Police received a report that the alarms had gone off. The house was rented at the time to John Lech (Leo's son), Anna Mumzhiyan (John's girlfriend), and Anna's 9-year-old son. At the time of the incident, the boy was alone in the home while Anna was out running errands. The Greenwood Village cops called Anna, who informed the police that her son was inside. The frightened boy quickly managed to escape unharmed and was reunited with his mother by 2:17. The child reported that Seacat was armed, telling police that he clearly saw a gun in Seacat's right hand when the intruder walked upstairs. A witness at the train station had also reported seeing Seacat conceal a "black compact semi-automatic pistol into the front of his pants." And at 2:23, wh[...]



Making History Modern

2017-11-19T06:00:00-05:00

She is an icon of 1920s modernity: an independent woman with bobbed hair and a short skirt, walking with her streamlined Borzoi, the quintessential Art Deco dog. Behind her is a New York City street. But instead of skyscrapers and neon lights, it's lined with old-fashioned chimneyed houses. This image, with its up-to-the-minute foreground character and historic background tableau, is from a series of 1929 ads promoting the new season's print fabrics from H.R. Mallinson & Co., a major silk-textile manufacturer. In a second ad, the modern woman, hand on hip, twirls her long pearl necklace in a stereotypical flapper gesture. In the background is a monument featuring the Mayflower and a hopeful-looking Pilgrim couple. A third ad shows the woman standing with her hand on a ledge, gazing thoughtfully in a pose that mirrors the bust of Abraham Lincoln looking down at her. Mallinson sold its silks around the world, but it was a resolutely American company, boasting from the start that it produced "national silk of international fame." It carried its identity into its textile designs. Earlier themes had included state flowers, National Parks, American Indians, and "Wonder Caves of America." The prints were promotional items, offering retailers something splashy for their windows and their newspaper ads—but the goal was to attract customers to the company's basics. "You went in and you bought a yard of an American Indian silk to make a blouse and five yards of navy blue to make a suit, and that's where they made their money," says textile historian Madelyn Shaw. The prints ran $4.50 a yard, or $64.42 in today's dollars, a price point that explains why they tended to sell in smaller quantities. "This was not an inexpensive silk," Shaw says. "You thought about it as an investment." Investing in fabric with pretty pictures of flowers, scenery, or Native American motifs is one thing. But why would someone want to wear "Life of Lincoln," "Mayflower Pilgrims," or "Old New York"? After all, modernity, not history, was exciting and glamorous in the late 1920s. Intoxicated by the promise of a world made new, artists and intellectuals were ready to scrap all that had come before. But Mallinson wasn't selling to artists and intellectuals. It was selling to American women, and in that context, its historical motifs were right on trend. Influenced by old movies, we imagine interiors from the 1920s and '30s with Art Deco furnishings. In real life, Americans who could afford nice things outfitted their homes with Georgian styles: four-poster beds, Wedgwood china, Windsor chairs, chintz fabrics, and pastel colors. This Colonial Revival look was sleeker and lighter than fussy Victorian styles, but traditional enough to seem homey. Everyday Americans wanted to be modern. They wanted automobiles, refrigerators, and washing machines. Women wanted to bob their hair, shorten their skirts, go on dates, and maybe even vote. But they didn't want to start the world from scratch. Few were looking to give up family life, good manners, religious faith, or the Constitution. They sought continuity as well as change. With words and images, Mallinson's prints told customers they could have it all: pride in America's heritage and the best modernity had to offer. Abstracted and collage-like, the designs themselves were au courant. Slanting lines reaching toward the sky through fields of stars dominate "Betsy Ross-Liberty Bell." The play of stripes and stars recalls streamlining and movie-premiere searchlights, not patriotic banners. "The stor[...]



Politically Incorrect Punk: New at Reason

2017-11-18T08:55:00-05:00

(image) In September 1984, the widely read punk zine Maximum Rocknroll published its review of Victim in Pain, the debut album by a New York City band called Agnostic Front.

"I'm approaching this band with caution," it warned. "Unfortunately, much of the narrow-mindedness, fanatical nationalism, and violence that has destroyed the New York punk scene seems to have revolved around AGNOSTIC FRONT."

The author of that review was the publication's founder and editor, Tim Yohannan, a 40-something ex-Yippie who thought punk music should march in lockstep with left-wing politics. As Ray Farrell, a punk veteran who once worked at the independent record label SST (run by Black Flag guitarist Greg Ginn), told Steven Blush, author of American Hardcore: A Tribal History,"there was an ideological development at Maximum RockNRoll, making everything move towards a Socialist bent."

In effect, Yohannan appointed himself as the grand inquisitor of the punk rock thought police, scouring the scene for any signs of deviation from the lefty script. "If it's just 'good sounding' music you want," he admonished readers in the March 1985 issue, "then punk is no alternative at all. For me, what makes punk different is the intelligence and commitment behind it."

Agnostic Front quickly became one of Yohannan's primary targets. In one 1984 column, he claimed "the N.Y. Skins apparently have embraced the British National Front's racist and nationalist attitudes." He rarely missed the opportunity to depict the band's members and their friends as goose-stepping goons.

This August, Agnostic Front singer Roger Miret published a new memoir that tells his side of the story, writes Damon Root.

View this article.




A Push Back Against Wasteful Farm Subsidies: New at Reason

2017-11-18T08:00:00-05:00

(image) As Congress ramps up plans to renew the quinquennial Farm Bill next year, two separate efforts in Washington this month called for cuts to wasteful spending enabled by the stinky current Farm Bill. Both efforts—one a bill introduced last week, the other a report released this week—are making waves.

The Farm Bill, in part, is intended to set federal farm policy for the next five years. While taxpayer-funded payments to farmers—farm subsidies—have under past farm bills always been wasteful, subsidies under the most recent Farm Bill grew by billions of dollars.

Last week, Congress sought to rein in a portion of the out-of-control spending it enabled in 2014 when it passed the latest Farm Bill. A new, bi-partisan bill, dubbed the Harvest Price Subsidy Prohibition Act, was introduced in the Senate by Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) and Sen. Jean Shaheen (D-N.H.). The bill—a companion was also introduced in the House—would eliminate the Harvest Price Option (HPO), a subsidy (tied to already subsidized crop insurance) that guarantees a higher price for farmers at harvest if their crop's price rose after planting. Food policy expert Baylen Linnekin explains more.

View this article.




Current Farm Bill Waste Targeted as Congress Moves Toward Next Farm Bill

2017-11-18T08:00:00-05:00

As Congress ramps up plans to renew the quinquennial Farm Bill next year, two separate efforts in Washington this month called for cuts to wasteful spending enabled by the stinky current Farm Bill. Both efforts—one a bill introduced last week, the other a report released this week—are making waves. The Farm Bill, in part, is intended to set federal farm policy for the next five years. While taxpayer-funded payments to farmers—farm subsidies—have under past farm bills always been wasteful, subsidies under the most recent Farm Bill grew by billions of dollars. Last week, Congress sought to rein in a portion of the out-of-control spending it enabled in 2014 when it passed the latest Farm Bill. A new, bi-partisan bill, dubbed the Harvest Price Subsidy Prohibition Act, was introduced in the Senate by Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) and Sen. Jean Shaheen (D-N.H.). The bill—a companion was also introduced in the House—would eliminate the Harvest Price Option (HPO), a subsidy (tied to already subsidized crop insurance) that guarantees a higher price for farmers at harvest if their crop's price rose after planting. If that sounds needlessly confusing, it is. The short of it is, as Sen. Flake says, is that the HPO acts as "a taxpayer-subsidized profit guarantee." No business—small or large, farm or industrial, rural or urban—should have its profitability guaranteed by the government. Why not? "HPO is like insuring your car for $5,000, and getting a check for $10,000 after it's totaled," says Sen. Flake. "It's the kind of program that only makes sense in Washington." The HPO program has cost taxpayers more than $21 billion. Along similar lines, a report issued Tuesday by the Environmental Working Group, which monitors and criticizes farm subsidies, exposes how two other Farm Bill-enabled programs waste billions more. The EWG report, "Double Dipping: How Taxpayers Subsidize Farmers Twice for Crop Losses," focuses on two Farm Bill programs, known as Agricultural Risk Coverage (ARC) and Price Loss Coverage (PLC). Farmers who receive taxpayer-subsidized crop insurance may still choose to participate in either ARC or PLC, even though "all three programs essentially pay subsidies for exactly the same reasons." According to the EWG report, hundreds of thousands of farmers have taken advantage of the loophole by double dipping. That's put American taxpayers on the hook for nearly $24 billion in unnecessary double payments to farmers. "Farm state politicians sell farm subsidy programs to taxpayers on the premise that they help keep family farmers on the land," said Don Carr, a senior advisor with the Environmental Working Group, in an email to me this week. "But when year after year the same well off mega farms enjoy millions in redundant subsidies while the bruising agriculture economy continues to drive small and mid-sized farmers out of business, it becomes clear that the original intent of these programs has strayed way of course." These out-of-control giveaways are even more galling because the current Farm Bill was touted as the one that would help rein in spending. (To be clear, though, pretty much every Farm Bill is touted by Congress and lobbyists as a cost-saving measure.) Farm Bill critics, including me, predicted growing waste under the current Farm Bill. "During the most recent debates over passage of a Farm Bill, Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) urged support for crop insurance, which he referred to as a set of 'importa[...]



Politically Incorrect Punk

2017-11-18T06:00:00-05:00

In September 1984, the widely read punk zine Maximum Rocknroll published its review of Victim in Pain, the debut album by a New York City band called Agnostic Front. "I'm approaching this band with caution," it warned. "Unfortunately, much of the narrow-mindedness, fanatical nationalism, and violence that has destroyed the New York punk scene seems to have revolved around AGNOSTIC FRONT." The author of that review was the publication's founder and editor, Tim Yohannan, a 40-something ex-Yippie who thought punk music should march in lockstep with left-wing politics. As Ray Farrell, a punk veteran who once worked at the independent record label SST (run by Black Flag guitarist Greg Ginn), told Steven Blush, author of American Hardcore: A Tribal History, "there was an ideological development at Maximum RockNRoll, making everything move towards a Socialist bent." In effect, Yohannan appointed himself as the grand inquisitor of the punk rock thought police, scouring the scene for any signs of deviation from the lefty script. "If it's just 'good sounding' music you want," he admonished readers in the March 1985 issue, "then punk is no alternative at all. For me, what makes punk different is the intelligence and commitment behind it." Agnostic Front quickly became one of Yohannan's primary targets. In one 1984 column, he claimed "the N.Y. Skins apparently have embraced the British National Front's racist and nationalist attitudes." He rarely missed the opportunity to depict the band's members and their friends as goose-stepping goons. This August, Agnostic Front singer Roger Miret published a new memoir that tells his side of the story. "A writer for this crappy but influential fanzine, Maximumrocknroll, started talking shit about us and calling us a bunch of fascist skinheads," Miret writes in My Riot: Agnostic Front, Grits, Guts & Glory (co-authored with journalist Jon Wiederhorn). "The crazy thing about Timmy calling me a fascist is that I was an immigrant Latino kid dating a Jewish girl, and she never accused me of being a Nazi sympathizer." But because his band had the nerve to occasionally dissent from left-wing tenets, it drew the ire of the powers in punk at the time. Nor was Agnostic Front the only band to run afoul of Yohannan's insistence on ideological purity. Born in Cuba in 1964, Miret came to the U.S. as a young child after his parents fled the Castro regime. He grew up rough in "the slums of New Jersey towns like Passaic and Paterson." From there he found his way to Manhattan, where the loud, fast sounds of bands such as the Stimulators, Reagan Youth, and Even Worse were blaring out of clubs such as Max's Kansas City, A7, and CBGB. Miret's life changed forever when he saw the Bad Brains play in 1981. It was an "inspiring" and "absolutely mind-blowing" experience, he writes. "They played faster than anyone and still sounded tight and furious." The aggressive music attracted a wild crowd. John Joseph, the singer for NYC legends the Cro-Mags, once remembered that "at a Black Flag show I was sent flying across the dance floor by none other than the late John Belushi, who was a huge punk/hardcore fan and was at a lot of the early shows." As Joseph explained in his memoir, The Evolution of a Cro-Magnon, Belushi "was a big dude and when he slammed his way across the dance floor you'd just see bodies going airborne." Miret slammed his way around the scene for a couple of years before jo[...]



DEA Raids California Pain Doctor Featured in a Reason TV Video

2017-11-17T18:31:00-05:00

The Drug Enforcement Administration raided the office and home of California pain specialist Forest Tennant on Wednesday. The incident may foretell a new chapter in the federal approach to opioid prescriptions in California, which has a more permissive framework than other states. Tennant, whose West Covina clinic attracts pain patients from across the country who claim they can't get treatment anywhere else, was featured in a Reason TV video in July. The DEA search warrant lists probable cause for distribution and possession with intent to distribute a controlled substance and health care fraud. Agents seized Tennant's medical records, computers, medications, and financial records. The warrant also names United Pharmacy, which has supplied many of Tennant's patients with their medications. The DEA quotes consultants who speculate that he may be running a "pill mill," over prescribing pain medications for profit. The DEA also alleges that Tennant may be taking kickbacks from the pharmaceutical company Insys, which manufactures a fentanyl-based medicine called Subsys. Tennant admits to earning speaking fees from Insys, which recently settled a lawsuit in Massachusetts for similar pay-for-play allegations. But, according to Tennant, his last paid speech for the company was in 2015 and he's prescribed Subys before and since this "short speaking endeavor." Fentanyl is a powerful opioid considered by some to be deadlier than heroin as a street drug, but in a medical context the FDA approved the use of Subsys as a palliative for cancer patients. The warrant singles out two patients prescribed Subsys by Tennant, one of whom doesn't have cancer. Tennant says he was prescribing the drug off-label, or in a way not explicitly approved by the FDA, which is legal. The FDA, however, recently added additional restrictions on fentanyl medications. "Is prescribing off-label or accepting speaking fees a crime?" Tennant said in a statement emailed to Reason. Many opioid overdoses occur from a combination of three drugs: narcotics, benzodiazepines, and the muscle relaxant Soma. A consultant quoted in the warrant says a number of Tennant's patients were prescribed this "holy trinity" and called it a "red flag." Tennant says his clinic is known for accepting difficult patients turned away by other doctors, and that the DEA failed to throughly examine his treatment methods. Tennant says "in recent years" his clinic "has not had an overdose death," something the warrant does not allege. The warrant also makes note of Tennant's outspoken public defense of opioids, noting that he helped draft California's Pain Patient Bill of Rights, which states that "opiates can be an accepted treatment for patients in severe chronic intractable pain who have not obtained relief from any other means of treatment" and that "a patient suffering from severe chronic intractable pain has the option to request or reject the use of any or all modalities to relieve his or her pain." Tennant, who's published scathing critiques of the government's approach to the opioid problem, believes the DEA is failing to recognize the harmful effects persecuting doctors who prescribe opioids is having on legitimate pain patients. "I take the Hippocratic oath seriously, that my job is to relieve pain and suffering," says Tennant. Watch Reason's video profile of Tennant: src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/cR0QJxt5sI4" allowfulls[...]



Ohio Supreme Court Justice Brags on Facebook About Having Sex With 'Very Attractive Females'; The Nazis Loved Decaf; California Unveils New Pot Regulations: P.M. Links

2017-11-17T16:31:00-05:00

  • (image) The Keystone pipeline leaked, spilling 5,000 barrels of oil near the small South Dakota town of Amherst.
  • White House Legislative Director Marc Short assures the nation that there is no hypocrisy involved in President Donald Trump's condemnation of Al Franken for groping a woman.
  • Add to the long list of Nazi atrocities their advocacy of decaf coffee.
  • Ohio Supreme Court Justice and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Bill O'Neil has decided to get out in front of any sexual assault allegations by saying on Facebook that he has had sex with roughly 50 "very attractive females."
  • California has announced emergency regulations for its recreational marijuana market.



Gamers Get Mocked in Time Travel Comedy Future Man: New at Reason

2017-11-17T15:30:00-05:00

(image) Seth Rogen has put together a new comedy for Hulu called Future Man. Would it surprise you at all that it is gleefully and unashamedly sophomoric? Probably not. Television critic Glenn Garvin takes a look:

Once you know that Future Man is written and produced by Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg, Kyle Hunter, and Ariel Shaffir, the team behind the epically uncouth cartoon Sausage Party, further explanation becomes almost totally unnecessary. It's a comic onslaught against video-gamers and their culture of the past 30 years or so, with the occasional random shot at baby boomers so they won't be left out of the fun.

The plot—which sounds like it could have been lifted from a video game if it weren't already stolen, as the script gleefully acknowledges, from the 1984 teensploitaton film The Last Starfighter—centers around that janitor, Josh Futturman (Josh Hutcherson, The Hunger Games).

Nerd to the very bone, Josh lives in his parents' basement and plays video games 18 hours a day. Well, make that a game, singular; he plays the same one, over and over.

But when an apparently dumb strategy unlocks the game's final level, two of its characters pop out with disconcerting news: The cartridge was really a training and recruitment device to locate the man who could save the future from its enemies. Even if his job is sweeping the floor at a herpes pharmaceutical research facility where the activity seems mainly to consist of jamming cotton swab up the urethras of infected lab animals.

View this article.




Future Man Is Gleefully Sophomoric, and That's Part of the Charm

2017-11-17T15:30:00-05:00

Future Man. Available now on Hulu. I am officially on record as complaining that television relies on time travel just a tad heavily. But then along comes Future Man, in which a mild-mannered and generally witless janitor has been selected by some tough bastards from the future to interrupt a sexual act in 1969 (and yeah, "sexual act" and "1969" are a smirky non-coincidence), which, if performed, will a couple of hundred years later plunge the world into fascism. The janitor has what passes in Future Man as an epiphany. "We cock block him!" he exclaims. One of the tough guys nods in approval: "Okay, rip his cock off, he bleeds out slow. I like it." How is any past or present 13-year-old boy not gonna cackle in joy at that and break out the popcorn to binge-watch the next the next 12 episodes? Sophomorically funny and hormonally twitchy, Future Man is just too stupidly engaging to pass by. Once you know that Future Man is written and produced by Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg, Kyle Hunter, and Ariel Shaffir, the team behind the epically uncouth cartoon Sausage Party, further explanation becomes almost totally unnecessary. It's a comic onslaught against video-gamers and their culture of the past 30 years or so, with the occasional random shot at baby boomers so they won't be left out of the fun. The plot—which sounds like it could have been lifted from a video game if it weren't already stolen, as the script gleefully acknowledges, from the 1984 teensploitaton film The Last Starfighter—centers around that janitor, Josh Futturman (Josh Hutcherson, The Hunger Games). Nerd to the very bone, Josh lives in his parents' basement and plays video games 18 hours a day. Well, make that a game, singular; he plays the same one, over and over. His nerd friends are certain it's because he wants to diddle himself while watching one of the game's female characters. (Not that they judge; in a group harboring unnatural designs on Ms. Pac-Man or Mario's brother Luigi, the gender spectrum is pretty wide.) But when an apparently dumb strategy unlocks the game's final level, two of its characters pop out with disconcerting news: The cartridge was really a training and recruitment device to locate the man who could save the future from its enemies. Even if his job is sweeping the floor at a herpes pharmaceutical research facility where the activity seems mainly to consist of jamming cotton swab up the urethras of infected lab animals. The two warriors who escape from the game, Tiger (Eliza Coupe, Quantico) and Wolf (Derek Wilson, Preacher), come from a future where the veneer of civilization has been pretty much worn away from everything, and their sanguinary work habits—Wolf's favorite plan is "Rip his fucking dick off!"—supply much of Future Man's staple humor. (Bodily effluents, emitted in always surprising but ever disgusting ways, are pretty much the rest.) But it's hard to resist a show a show that so relentlessly mocks its own origins. Future Man is a tapestry of withering allusions to everything from The Terminator movies to the Mortal Kombat video games (can you guess which organ gets ripped out of losing contestants?) to Animal House. Even entire epochs get the shiv. When Josh, Tiger, and Wolf take their time machine back to the Age of Aquarius in hopes of stopping the forbidden sexual act, they [...]



Colorado County Spent $88 a Day Jailing Defendants Who Couldn't Pay $55 Fee

2017-11-17T15:01:00-05:00

(image) Jasmine Still, a 26-year-old woman with a newborn, spent 27 days in a Colorado jail after a judge approved her release on her own recognizance.

Why? Still couldn't pay the $55 "pre-trial services fee," charged by El Paso County, so the county spent nearly $2,400 to keep her in jail, according to a lawsuit filed on her behalf by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Colorado.

Still, arrested in January after her mother reported her to police over a small bag of meth, pleaded guilty so she wouldn't have to stay in jail any longer, her lawsuit says.

In the last year, nearly 300 people in El Paso County had their jail stays extended because of a failure to pay the pre-trial services fee, according to the ACLU. This week, in response to the ACLU lawsuit, El Paso County's top judge, 4th Judicial District Chief Judge William Bain, ordered the county to release defendants who are granted personal recognizance bonds the day the bond is issued.

El Paso County public information officer Dave Rose defended the program in an interview with local KKTV. "Pretrial Services is a way to get people out of jail who are waiting for trial," Rose said, "and it's a way to lessen the impact on the accused and also reduce the cost of overcrowding and reduce the cost of operating the El Paso County Jail."

The county should not have faced a lawsuit to end the practice of keeping people released on their own recognizance in jail at a rate of $88 a day because they can't pay a one-time $55 fee. Common sense, often absent in the criminal justice system, should dictate that.

Too often, the system's driving force is perpetuating itself. Keeping people in jail for failing to pay a fee that's supposed to facilitate their release makes sense only in that context. It keeps the wheels of justice spinning, which keeps a lot of people employed.

It's hard, too, not to think some prosecutors abuse scenarios like this to extract just the kind of resolution that happened in Still's case—a defendant taking a plea deal to get out of the situation of languishing in jail over an unpaid fee.

Guilty or not, defendants pay when prosecutors choose to target them. It's a system with little incentive, outside of lawsuits like the ACLU's, to become less burdensome for defendants. Were prosecutors forced to pay for their lack of common sense, that would quickly change.




Here’s What Happens When You Accuse Michael Moynihan of Being in Denial About NAMBLA Because Maybe He’s Gay

2017-11-17T14:17:00-05:00

By every account I've seen, including his own, Robert Mariani got a bum deal from the Daily Caller, the conservative website that relieved Mariani of his opinion-editor duties after he solicited a column from controversialist Milo Yiannopoulos about Kevin Spacey. So we invited the freshly unemployed young man onto The Fifth Column, the weekly podcast (and Sirius XM POTUS program) featuring Kmele Foster, Michael C. Moynihan and myself, to talk about this specific experience, ruminate on the potential pitfalls of skirting up to the acceptability edges of opinion journalism, and reflect on the values (or lack thereof) of publishing Milo and similar outrage-inducers in the first place.

It was on the latter point that things went pear-shaped. Moynihan asked Mariani what useful perspective Yiannopoulos brings, Mariani asserted that it was worthwhile to note that in "the '70s and '80s, there were NAMBLA floats at every single gay-pride parade," Moynihan disputed that assertion with some vigor, and we were off to the races. Here's the whole clip; fireworks are teased near the top, but the exchange really gets started around the 12-minute mark:

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Some related reading:

* Me, on trolls vs. velvet-ropers

* Robby Soave, on Milo's "Sad, Aborted Free Speech Week Disaster at Berkeley"

* Elliot Kaufman, in National Review, on how "Campus Conservatives Gave the Alt-Right a Platform."

And here's Moynihan doing a Vice News piece on the fading provocateur himself:

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