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Updated: 2016-09-29T00:00:00-04:00


Beyond the Presidency, Reasons to Go on Living


Monday's presidential debate probably did not cheer up voters who see the election as a choice between diabetes and terminal cancer—an awful affliction versus a fatal one. But at times like this, it is useful to remember that many things are beyond the control of the person occupying the Oval Office, some of which are welcome. The chief source of alarm today is that one of these two will have many opportunities to interfere with our lives, liberty and pursuit of happiness. But in many ways, citizens are gaining control rather than losing it. On Election Day, voters in four states will decide on medical use of marijuana. Better yet, five, including California, will decide whether to allow, um, nonmedical use. Four states and the District of Columbia have already legalized recreational cannabis. The trend is in keeping with a public that has decided adults should be free to decide for themselves whether to use pot to treat pain or illness or to get high. A Gallup Poll last year found that 58 percent of Americans support full legalization—up from 36 percent a decade ago. None of this affects the federal ban, which will remain in place. But both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump have indicated they would let states do as they please. Their acceptance of change is also on display with regard to same-sex marriage. The Supreme Court granted it constitutional protection in 2015, but Supreme Court rulings sometimes inflame rather than quell controversy. Not this time. At the beginning of Barack Obama's presidency, just 40 percent of Americans supported same-sex marriage—Obama not among them. Today, 61 percent do. The next president will have to contend with a public that is weary of fighting costly wars that don't directly advance our national security. Clinton, whose record has been biased toward military action, got surprisingly little attention a few weeks ago when she steered conspicuously the other way. "We are not putting ground troops into Iraq ever again, and we're not putting ground troops into Syria," she declared. "We're going to defeat ISIS without committing American ground troops." During the debate, Trump faulted her for making public her plan to fight the Islamic State, but not for rejecting the use of ground forces. Though vague on his own plan, he stresses his (fictitious) claim that he opposed the Iraq War before it began, and he says, "I am going to have very few troops on the ground." Fiscal realities will the limit the ambitions of the next president. The profligacy of the past mandates frugality in the future. It will not be easy to find money for the new ventures the candidates have in mind. "By 2022, nearly every dollar of revenue the U.S. collects will have been committed before Congress even takes a vote, according to an analysis by Eugene Steuerle of the Urban Institute," The Wall Street Journal reported. "With more and more federal spending on autopilot, there is 'almost no discretion or flexibility to act to address new challenges without having to renege on past promises to the public,' says Mr. Steuerle, a Treasury official in the Reagan administration." The swollen federal debt will discourage extravagance. Trump's fiscal plan, which the bipartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget says would add more than $5 trillion to the debt, would have trouble getting through Congress. Clinton plans to pay for almost all her new spending with tax increases, which might also be dead on arrival at Capitol Hill. A 2013 poll found that only 20 percent of Americans favor a combination of more government services and higher taxes. The space for personal freedom has expanded in some significant realms. All but two states now have legal gambling. Ride-hailing services like Uber and Lyft enable urbanites to move about more conveniently and less expensively. Life is getting better in ways that even a terrible president is not likely to ruin. Infant mortality has fallen; violent crime is only half as common as it was in the early 1990s; and teens are less likely to drink alcohol, use other dru[...]

Gary Johnson Gets ANGRY Over Foreign Policy And Exclusion From Debates (You Will Too)!


Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson has made being a nice, non-combative guy a central part of his campaign strategy.

But just minutes before Monday's debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, Johnson lashed out at U.S. foreign policy failures, his exclusion by the Commission on Presidential Debates, and the media's fixation on his Aleppo gaffe rather than his larger point that the nation's interventions have "thousands of people dying" while failing to establish peace.

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Approximately 6:30 minutes.

Camera by Matt Welch.


The Debate I Heard


Something's wrong with me. I watched Monday's presidential debate. But what I heard was different from what Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton seemed to say. When Clinton said, "I want us to invest in you," what I heard was, "I will spend your money better than you will." Also, I heard, "I will spend lots of your money!" When Trump said our economic problems are China's fault, what I heard was, "Blaming China wins me votes." When Clinton told Trump, "My father... printed drapery fabrics," what I heard was, "Donald, you are a spoiled rich kid." When Trump replied, "My father gave me a very small loan," I heard Trump saying, "Anything less than $200 million is a pittance." (It's actually not clear what Trump received from his dad. Trump claims it was $1 million; others say $200 million. Anyway, is a million dollars a "small" loan"?) When Clinton said, "I'm going to have a special prosecutor... to enforce the trade deals we have," I heard, "Kiss my ring and pay my foundation if you want your trade deal approved!" When Trump said President Obama has "doubled" our debt, I swear I heard Trump promise, "I'll triple it!" When Clinton said, "I think it's time that the wealthy and corporations paid their fair share," what I heard was, "Good thing Bill and I are 'broke,' because we're going to soak the rich like they've never been soaked before." When Clinton said Trump's taxes "must be something really important, even terrible, that he's trying to hide," what I heard was, "My emails, on the other hand, were just a minor mistake and nothing I'm trying to hide—next question?" When Trump said, "I was the one that got (Obama) to produce the birth certificate, and I think I did a good job," what I heard was, "Since Hillary and her staff spread the lie first, I'm blameless." When Clinton said, "Barack Obama is a man of great dignity," I swear I heard her add quietly, "despite me smearing him in 2008." When Trump said, "I was just endorsed (by 200) admirals and generals," what I heard was, "I wish members of the military supported me the way they support Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson." When Clinton said, "Putin is playing a tough long game here," I swear I heard Hillary say, "I guess my 'reset' with Russia was a bad idea." When Clinton said she'll "do much more with our tech companies" to fight ISIS, what I heard was, "I'll force Facebook and Twitter to shut down parts of the internet." When Clinton said she'll "take out al-Qaeda leadership," what I heard was, "I don't know exactly who they are, but I'll kill a bunch of military-age males." When Trump said, "I did not support the war in Iraq," what I heard was, "... except when I did." When Clinton said, "A man who can be provoked by a tweet should not have his fingers anywhere near the nuclear codes," I heard, "A man provoked by a tweet should not be near the nuclear codes." (Clinton got some things right.) When Trump said, "My strongest asset is my temperament," I heard viewers laughing. When Clinton complained that Trump "said women don't deserve equal pay unless they do as good a job as men," I wondered, "So Hillary believes that women should get equal pay even when they don't do as good a job?" If only there were some way both Clinton and Trump could lose. Oh, right—there is! Governor Gary Johnson's in the race. But the most reliable predictor of future events—the betting odds (see—doesn't give him much of a chance. The bettors don't give Donald Trump a great chance either. As I write, Clinton is favored 68.7 percent to 29.6 percent. During the debate, Trump's odds dropped 5 percent. I didn't think he performed that badly, but I must be wrong. The bettors are generally right. We may as well get used to hearing the title "President Hillary Clinton." COPYRIGHT 2016 BY JFS PRODUCTIONS INC. [...]

Trump's Phony Crime Crisis


Donald Trump, who is modeling himself after Richard Nixon, used the phrase "law and order" seven times during his debate with Hillary Clinton on Monday night. He said blacks and Latinos in America's inner cities "are living in hell because it's so dangerous" and that "some really bad things" are happening in "so many different places." FBI numbers released the day of the debate refute Trump's portrait of a nation besieged by violent criminals. While murders did rise by 11 percent in 2015, that increase was driven mainly by a small number of cities, and the violent crime rate is still much lower than it was in the early 1990s—lower, in fact, than in all but two years since 1971. The homicide rate in 2015 was 4.9 per 100,000, half the rate in 1991. The violent crime rate was 372.6 per 100,000 last year, up 3.1 percent from 2014 but still half the 1991 rate. The property crime rate, which fell 3.4 percent last year, was twice as high in 1991. Of the country's 100 largest cities, 25 saw significant increases in homicides last year, and just seven of them—Baltimore, Chicago, Cleveland, Houston, Milwaukee, Nashville, and Washington, D.C.—accounted for half of the national increase. It's not clear whether violence will continue to rise in those cities, let alone whether it signals a broader trend. Homicides are down so far this year in Baltimore and Washington, for instance, after rising in 2015. While the jump in the murder rate should not be lightly dismissed, it hardly shows that the nation is experiencing "a moment of crisis" caused by "violence in our streets" and "chaos in our communities," as Trump claimed at the Republican National Convention in July, or that "crime is out of control, and rapidly getting worse," as he declared on Twitter around the same time. Judging from the FBI's statistics, crime is less "out of control" than it has been in all but a handful of years during the last half-century. Nor does Trump's favored solution, "stop and frisk," make sense even in the cities where violence is on the rise. Promiscuous use of that tactic, which involves detaining and patting down pedestrians who strike police as suspicious, causes understandable resentment among the young black and Latino men who bear the brunt of it, and there's little evidence that it curtails violent crime. Trump credited the New York Police Department's stop-and-frisk program with reducing the number of homicides in that city from 2,245 in 1990 to 540 in 2005. Yet homicides continued to fall even after the program was sharply curtailed in 2012, and they are down again so far this year after rising in 2015. Meanwhile, the annual number of stops has fallen by 97 percent from the 2011 peak of more than 685,000. Trump does not seem to care about the reason stop-and-frisk encounters fell so dramatically in New York. They were challenged on constitutional grounds, and a federal judge ultimately concluded that police were routinely violating the Fourth Amendment by stopping and frisking people without reasonable suspicion. Trump nevertheless thinks a similar program would do wonders in violence-plagued Chicago, apparently not realizing police there already tried that. In 2014, the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois reports, "Chicagoans were stopped more than four times as often as New Yorkers at the height of New York City's stop and frisk practice." As in New York, stops in Chicago overwhelmingly targeted blacks and often lacked a constitutional basis. Stops in Chicago are down sharply this year in response to criticism and new legislation, but that happened after the city's 2015 increase in homicides. Even if the local police tactics Trump advocates were constitutional and effective, he would have no power as president to implement them. When he promises that "safety will be restored" once he takes office, he offers false assurances about a nonexistent crisis. © Copyright 2016 by Creators Syndicate Inc. [...]

The First Presidential Debate in 3 Minutes


Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump met for the first presidential debate last night at Hofstra University in New York. The major party candidates hoped to make their case to the record number of American voters expected to watch. Meanwhile, third party candidates Gary Johnson and Jill Stein, despite pulling a combined double digits in national polls, were locked out.

The lack of an alternative viewpoint to the Republican-Democrat status quo led to some familiar discussions. On security, Trump emphasized his support for bringing back and expanding New York City's defunct stop-and-frisk policy while Clinton focused on the need for more restrictions on gun ownership. Trump's failure to acknowledge that stop-and-frisk was both unconstitutional and ineffective in reducing crime was only matched by Clinton's failure to mention that gun violence is at historic lows despite soaring gun sales.

For libertarians in particular, the most egregious parts of the debate may not have been the disagreements, but the times when the candidates were aligned. They nodded in agreement when it came to opposing free trade accords, increasing spending and debt, and denying gun rights to people placed on government lists without due process.

Also, NBC's Lester Holt made a brief appearance as moderator.

Reason TV boiled down 90 minutes of agony to give you the three minutes that count. Watch the video above to see the candidates discuss these issues and more, along with some of the more egregious consultant-crafted zingers they delivered.

Produced by Zach Weissmueller and Justin Monticello. Music by Polyrhythmics.

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Rising Prosperity Means Getting to Eat More Meat and Seafood


One of the interesting side effects of rising prosperity around the world has been the change in eating habits in formerly poor countries. In China, for example, people historically relied on cereals, such as rice, for nutrition. Following economic liberalization and increased living standards—Chinese income per capita adjusted for inflation and purchasing power parity rose by an astonishing 1,300 percent between 1978 and 2015—consumption of cereals decreased. Conversely, consumption of animal products skyrocketed.


Consumption of fish and seafood, specifically, has been rising meteorically since the early 1980s. Today, a typical Chinese consumes more seafood than a typical American. And that, of course, has led to many an article about the imminent depletion of global fish stocks and subsequent environmental catastrophe.

But people who worry about the new and more expensive eating habits of people in formerly poor countries need not worry too much. Human ingenuity and free markets have a way of satisfying demand in affordable and environmentally sustainable ways.

Consider aquaculture. According to a recent Bloomberg story, scientists in Australia "are attempting to unlock the genome of the Black Tiger prawn to make a super invertebrate that will grow faster, fight disease more effectively and taste better than its free-roaming brethren… The prawns will grow on a 10,000 hectare… slice of the Legune cattle ranch, near the border of the Northern Territory and Western Australia."


If successful, "The first offspring from the project could be ready for sale at the end of 2018, and the site is targeting full output of 162,000 tons of prawns a year. That's more than four times Australia's current annual prawn consumption."

According to Chris Mitchell, director of the Seafarms Group, which plans to spend $1.5 billion building what will be the largest shrimp farm in the developed world, "the goal is to breed such hardy and tasty prawns that the project will never have to catch wild ones again."

Somewhere out there Julian Simon and Norman Borlaug must be smiling.


Spending Other People's Money Makes Trump a Perfect Fit for Washington


If you're looking for a silver lining on the mushroom cloud of Donald Trump's presidential campaign, consider the way it has exposed the phoniness of certain commonplace pieties. Last week, in comments about getting other countries to pay for safe zones in Syria, Trump boasted of using other people's money: "It's called OPM. I do that all the time in business. It's called other people's money. There's nothing like doing things with other people's money." The comment rocketed around the news-osphere, and quickly became part of a Clinton campaign ad, in no small part because he made it the same day it was reported that he used money from his charitable foundation to settle lawsuits against him. But it also got plenty of traction because it reinforces the dominant (and correct) narrative about Trump: that he's an unscrupulous, chiseling swindler. People of good character put their own money where their mouths are. Really? Somebody better tell Washington, then. In the nation's capital, spending OPM is S.O.P.—to the tune of trillions of dollars every year. It's the chief political pursuit, in fact. Most of the arm-twisting in D.C. gets done for the purpose of taking a nickel from one person's pocket to put in somebody else's. A great deal of that happens through social-welfare programs. Granted, the recipients usually spend the money on food, medical care, shelter, and other necessities—and the desire to keep people from dying in the streets is a noble one. But that doesn't change the fact that social-welfare programs cannot exist without a constant, huge supply of OPM. And many people think it's a national sin that the supply isn't even bigger. The same holds true for a vast array of federal programs—from Amtrak to the National Institutes of Health to the Voice of America. That's how most government programs and policies work: Somebody comes up with a bright idea, and then decides it is so worthy everyone else should be forced to pay for it. Modern presidential campaigns are largely built around this: Candidates appeal to the voters by promising things to Smith—rural broadband! Universal pre-K! Free college! A giant border wall!—that Jones will have to pay for. Of course, Washington can't afford to pay for everything directly. Hence much effort also is expended finding indirect ways to use OPM. These are nearly limitless. Should low-skilled workers be paid more? Support candidates like Hillary Clinton, who will raise the minimum wage. Do we need to bring back American manufacturing? Support candidates like Trump, who threatens to impose huge tariffs on Chinese imports. Should employees get paid family leave? Support either Clinton or Trump, since they both promise to make companies provide it. Some people will benefit. Others will get stuck with the bills. A few days before Trump made his "other people's money" comment, The Washington Post ran an exposé on "How Donald Trump Retooled His Charity to Spend Other People's Money." Rather than use his own personal funds for worthy causes, Trump convinced others to donate money to his foundation—money he then passes out, often leaving the impression it had come from him. "Trump," the article grimly reports, "had found a way to give away somebody else's money and claim the credit for himself." Imagine! This is exactly what politicians do all the time. "Congressman Storpingoiter Proud to Announce $15 Million Federal Housing Grant for District," goes the typical press release. Often there will be a little ceremony so local officials can stand around and applaud the congressman. That Storpingoiter sure is a swell guy, bringing home other people's money like that. Isn't he? The story on Trump's charity is full of sentences that apply just as well to elected officials. "Nearly all of its money comes from people other than Trump," it notes. "Trump then takes that money and generally does with it as he p[...]

Even Donald Trump Wants Gary Johnson in the Debates


So when it comes to the first presidential debate, only Hillary Clinton and Donald J Trump, the two most-hated candidates in recorded history, will be allowed to participate. Here are four good reasons why Gary Johnson, the Libertarian candidate for president who is a former two-term governor of New Mexico, should be allowed to participate. And here's a bone for supporters of the Green Party's candidate, Jill Stein: At least some apply to her as well. 1. 15 percent makes no sense. The Commission on Public Debates, which was created by the Republican and Democratic Parties in 1987, says participants must average 15 percent in five polls they choose. But why 15 percent? If you're going to insist on a poll-driven number, 5 percent makes far more sense. That's the number you need to hit to receive federal matching funds and it's also the level that most states insist on for a party to receive "major-party status" and thus not have to jump through a bunch of ballot-access hoops every election. FWIW, according to RealClearPolitics' latest roundup of national polls, Johnson was at 8.6 percent just after the commission turned him down, which was higher than what independent candidate Ross Perot was at in 1992 when he was invited to the debate. 2. He's on the ballot in all 50 states. Johnson is on the ballot in all 50 states, so he can theoretically win the election but more realistically, he will totally influence the outcome. In fact, a recent state-by-state poll had the guy in double digits in 42 states and at 15 percent or better in 15 of those. What the hell is going on when a figure who will be on every American's ballot isn't given a shot to make his case on the same stage as the Republican and Democrat? 3. Americans want more choices at the ballot box. According to Gallup, 60 percent of us say the Democrats and Republicans do such a poor job that a third major party is needed" to represent our views at the ballot box. Just 38 percent say the Dems and the Reps are getting the job done. And get this: A Suffolk University/USA Today poll found that 76 percent of likely voters believe "a third-party candidate who is certified on a majority of state ballots should be included." 4. Donald Trump wants third parties included (or at least he did in 2000). Here's a charming bit of video from 2000, when the debate commission announced its 15 percent rule for the first time. Donald Trump himself argued forcefully that the Reform Party candidate, Pat Buchanan, and the Green Party candidate, Ralph Nader, and others should participate in the presidential debates and the only reason they were being excluded was that Republican George W. Bush and Democrat Al Gore were scared of competition. Minnesota's then-Gov. Jesse Ventura introduces Trump by calling the exclusion of third parties "despicable" and noting that if he hadn't been allowed to debate Democrat Humbert Humphrey III and Republican Norm Coleman, he never would have become governor. Produced by Todd Krainin. Written and narrated by Nick Gillespie. Scroll down for downloadable versions and subscribe to ReasonTV's YouTube Channel to receive notification when new material goes live. [...]

Against Democracy and Elitism


Whenever we libertarians point out democracy's perverse incentives (as I do here) we risk being accused of elitism. However, those who assume that the only alternative to rule by the people is rule by an aristocracy reveal a tragically incomplete awareness of the choices before us. Rather than choose among rulers, we should ask why anyone at all must rule. But even if we don't go quite that far, we could entertain the idea that radically reducing the scale and scope of government, which essentially is the threat of violence, would also drastically reduce the harm produced by those perverse incentives. Elitism isn't the only available alternative to democracy—and it certainly is not the most desirable one. Unfortunately, some libertarian critiques of democracy encourage nonlibertarians to believe some form of elitism is the only alternative. Take Georgetown University professor Jason Brennan's recent op-ed, "Can epistocracy, or knowledge-based voting, fix democracy?" in the Los Angeles Times, which is drawn from his book Against Democracy. Brennan begins by citing democracy's systemic flaw: "The median voter wields great power over what politicians ultimately do. But—and here's the problem—the median voter would fail economics or Political Science 101." "For 60 years, political scientists have studied what voters actually know," Brennan continues. The results are depressing. Hundreds of different surveys, such as the American National Election Studies, find that the median voter is ignorant or misinformed not only about the social sciences needed to evaluate candidates' policy proposals, but even of basic facts and trends, such as what the unemployment rate is and whether it's going up or down. This isn't because public schools fail us. It's not because Fox News or MSNBC (take your pick) bamboozles poor voters with well-crafted lies. It's not because people are inherently stupid or unable to think for themselves. It's because democracy gives us the wrong incentives. How we vote matters, but how any one of us votes does not. The chance an individual vote will make a difference is vanishingly small. Thus, we have little incentive to gather relevant information so that we can cast our votes in careful, thoughtful ways.... While not everything governments do is decided by voters — bureaucracies, parties and officials have significant independence — what voters want makes a difference. And since voters are generally uninformed, we get worse policies that we would with a better-informed electorate. I'll leave for another time Brennan's debatable contention that this "better-informed electorate" is really better informed where it counts. (When this electorate says it favors "free trade," does it actually mean neoliberal managed trade through government agreements, which may be what some of the supposedly lesser informed electorate fears?) Instead, I'll focus on Brennan's "alternative to democracy called epistocracy." He explains: "In a democracy, every citizen gets an equal right to vote. In an epistocracy, voting power is widespread, but votes are weighted: More knowledgeable citizens' votes count more." Brennan lays out several ways to implement epistocracy, insisting that "epistocracies should keep some things—like our basic rights—off the bargaining table. They should make power widespread because concentrating power among the few invites abuse. Epistocracies should have constitutional limits on power, judicial review, checks and balances and a bill of rights—just like representative democracies." That's a relief, but can we really trust the informed elite to understand basic rights? (Did the framers of the Constitution get it right? I argue otherwise in America's Counter-Revolution: The Constitution Revisited.) Even with his caveat, Brennan's proposal leaves him open to the charg[...]

Medical Marijuana Replaces More Dangerous Drugs


Insys Therapeutics, the Arizona-based pharmaceutical company that recently became the biggest financial supporter of the campaign against marijuana legalization in that state, makes an oral spray that delivers the opioid painkiller fentanyl and plans to market another one that contains dronabinol, a synthetic version of THC. Insys says it gave $500,000 to the main group opposing Arizona's legalization initiative because the measure "fails to protect the safety of Arizona's citizens, and particularly its children." But one needn't be terribly cynical to surmise that Insys also worries about the impact that legalization might have on its bottom line, since marijuana could compete with its products. A new study suggests Insys has good reason to worry. In an article published last week by the American Journal of Public Health, Columbia University epidemiologist June Kim and her colleagues report that fatally injured drivers are less likely to test positive for opioids in states that allow medical use of marijuana. That finding, together with the results of earlier studies, indicates that making marijuana legally available to patients saves lives by reducing their consumption of more dangerous medications. Kim et al. collected data from the Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) for 1999 through 2013, focusing on 18 states that drug-tested at least 80% of drivers who died in crashes. They found that drivers between the ages of 21 and 40 were half as likely to test positive for opioids in states that had implemented medical marijuana laws (MMLs) as in states that had not. "Among 21-to-40-year-old deceased drivers, crashing in states with an operational MML was associated with lower odds of testing positive for opioids than crashing in MML states before these laws were operational," the researchers write. "Although we found a significant association only among drivers aged 21 to 40 years, the age specificity of this finding coheres with what we know about MMLs: a minimum age requirement restricts access to medical marijuana for most patients younger than 21 years, and most surveyed medical marijuana patients are younger than 45 years." The fact that a driver tested positive for opioids does not necessarily mean the painkillers he took contributed to the crash, so it is not safe to draw any conclusions about medical marijuana's impact on traffic safety from this study. But the FARS data are an indirect way of measuring the extent of opioid consumption in a given state. Kim et al. note that "severe or chronic pain is among the most common indications cited by medical marijuana patients." It therefore makes sense that opioid use would decline (or rise less) in states that recognize cannabis as a medicine. The FARS numbers reinforce the results of another recent study, published last July in the journal Health Affairs, that looked at prescriptions covered by Medicare from 2010 through 2013. Ashley Bradford, a graduate student in public policy at the University of Georgia, and her father, W. David Bradford, an economist at the same school, found that "the use of prescription drugs for which marijuana could serve as a clinical alternative fell significantly once a medical marijuana law was implemented." The most dramatic decline was in painkiller prescriptions, which fell by 3,645 daily doses per physician after medical marijuana laws were implemented. There were also statistically significant drops in prescriptions for drugs used to treat seizures (down 1,370 daily doses per doctor), depression (1,280), psychosis (1,123), anxiety (1,106), nausea (1,028), and sleep disorders (615). Meanwhile, Bradford and Bradford "found no changes after implementation of a medical marijuana law in the number of daily doses filled in condition categories with no medical marijuana indication," [...]

The Real Threat to the Constitution Is Trump


For a Republican presidential nominee, Donald Trump has shown an unprecedented aptitude for alienating Republicans. Mitt Romney isn't voting for him. George W. Bush has declined to endorse him. George H.W. Bush reportedly will vote for Hillary Clinton. Many people in his party have repudiated Trump's comments on race, immigration, Vladimir Putin and more. But among those who support him, there is one decisive, last-resort justification: Trump would appoint conservative Supreme Court justices who would uphold the Constitution, and Hillary Clinton would not. What makes them so sure? If there is anything clear from his tweets and speeches, it's that he has no more regard for the Constitution than he does for the creditors he stiffed in his many bankruptcies. The evidence is abundant for anyone paying attention. He provided more in calling for the use of "stop and frisk" by police in Chicago, citing the "incredible" results the practice yielded in New York. But the tactic is no longer in use in New York, thanks to a federal court decision ruling it a violation of the Fourth Amendment ban on "unreasonable searches and seizures." The court said New York cops were stopping and searching people "without a legal basis" and doing it in a racially discriminatory way. Nor does Trump have much use for the Fifth Amendment, which says no one may "be deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law." He insists that undocumented immigrants could be deported without a court hearing. The Supreme Court, however, has long held that the guarantee is not limited to citizens. "All persons within the territory of the United States are entitled to the protection" of due process, it said in 1896. His promise to inflict torture on alleged terrorists is also at odds with the Fifth Amendment, which protects suspects from being forced to incriminate themselves, as well as the Eighth Amendment, which forbids "cruel and unusual punishments." The United States has signed an international treaty banning torture, and the Constitution states that "all treaties" are "the supreme law of the land." Trump exhibits a comprehensive contempt for the First Amendment, which guarantees freedom of religion and the press. Trump wants to set up a national database of Muslims and endorsed Ted Cruz's idea of police patrols of Muslim neighborhoods—either of which would violate religious rights by singling out one faith for special burdens. He also wants to curtail the freedom of the press, an institution he reviles. "We're going to open up those libel laws," Trump vows, "so that when The New York Times writes a hit piece which is a total disgrace or when The Washington Post, which is there for other reasons, writes a hit piece, we can sue them and win money." He hopes to use the threat of financial ruin to deter news organizations from candidly assessing him. The chief protection against this sinister ambition is the Supreme Court, which says the First Amendment protects those who resort "to exaggeration, to vilification ... and even to false statement." Libel actions may not be used by public figures to suppress criticism, even if it's inaccurate. Trump's problem, of course, is not criticism that is factually inaccurate but criticism that is factually true. Trump wants to foil "anchor babies" by repealing birthright citizenship, which is granted by the 14th Amendment. It says, "All persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States." To focus on specific provisions of the Constitution that offend Trump, however, gives him too much credit. He knows as much about the Constitution as he does about taxidermy. The real problem is his disdain for the notion that it should hinder him from doing whatever he w[...]

The Haunted House That Guns Built


The Gunning of America: Business and the Making of American Gun Culture, by Pamela Haag, Basic Books, 528 pages, $29.99 Sarah Winchester was the widow of William Winchester, and William's father Oliver was the pater familias of the Winchester gun company. Oliver died in December 1880, and William succumbed to tuberculosis four months later. Two months after that, Sarah's mother died. By mid-1881, Sarah was essentially alone. But she also held 48 percent of the stock for the Winchester Repeating Arms Company. And the stock paid dividends, between 21 and 79 percent of profits every year from 1869 to 1914. Upon William's death, his wealthy widow got on a train in New Haven and went west until she couldn't go further. She ended up in San Jose, then a burgeoning town still feeling the aftereffects of the gold rush. She bought some land and began building a house—and kept building, and building, and building. When she died in 1922, the house was still under construction: a confusing, ad hoc, and immense mansion of 160 rooms filled with inscrutable architectural choices. Doors open onto walls; staircases go nowhere; halls wind back and forth; rooms are built within rooms. The whole disorienting, labyrinthine mess is now dubbed the Winchester Mystery House. Why did Sarah build it? Well, there's the legend and there's the truth. Here's the legend: Distraught by the deaths of the people closest to her, Sarah became heavily involved with spiritualism. A medium told her the family was cursed by everyone who had been killed by Winchester guns, and that she should go west to build a house for the spirits. If construction ever stopped, the medium said, Sarah would die as well. The house is built in a convoluted fashion in order to throw off the spirits, who apparently were easily confused by switchback hallways and oddly placed doors. The truth? No one knows. Sarah left no journals, she was obsessively reclusive, and very few records exist. But for Pamela Haag, the legend in some sense is the truth. In The Gunning of America, her contentious and aggravating but still ultimately interesting book, the Yale-educated historian traces the stories of American "gun capitalists," most prominently the Winchester family, and the businesses they built. "We hear a great deal about gun owners, but what do we know about their makers?" she asks. Haag tells Sarah's story because "Oliver Winchester produced the rifles that contributed to many a gun legend; and, through her creation, Sarah became a counter-legend to the gun legends.…Oliver's mad ambition and Sarah's mad conscience belong to the same story and culture." More bluntly, she tells the legend because it fits her narrative. Haag believes that companies like Winchester did not merely manufacture guns but manufactured the demand for them; if this created a crisis of conscience for Sarah, Haag feels, so should it now for the nation. Although Haag often papers over the factual lacunae in Sarah's tale with words like "may have" and "perhaps" and "probably," she doesn't always do so. Readers have to be astute to differentiate between solid facts and Haag's guesswork, as during a bizarre multi-page foray into what Sarah's visit to a Boston medium "may have" looked like. And even when she includes such caveats, she can really lay it on: "Sarah may have heard the cogs of justice click into place. The spirits had exacted retribution against Sarah—and the Winchester name—by taking Will's life, and Annie's, and the lives of all her babies, to atone for those killed by their rifles." She should have added, "or at least that's what some unsubstantiated and biased sources say." Hundreds of passages could have used a similar disclaimer. Haag's book is not an anti-gun diatribe. But from the outs[...]

America's Other World War II Internment Camps


The Train to Crystal City: FDR's Secret Prisoner Exchange Program and America's Only Family Internment Camp During World War II, by Jan Jarboe Russell, Scribner, 432 pages, $18 Most Americans are aware of the War Relocation Authority camps established after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. That program rounded up and interned 120,000 people of Japanese ancestry, more than half of them born in the United States. Less well known is the Alien Enemy Control Unit program, which scooped up other Japanese Americans, along with German and Italian Americans that the Justice Department considered national security threats, often on the flimsiest of evidence. The Alien Enemy Control Unit camp in Crystal City, Texas, was the program's only detention center specifically designed to accommodate families. It is the focus of The Train to Crystal City, the Texas-based journalist Jan Jarboe Russell's painful account of the Americans held in captivity and used as hostages to recover other Americans held abroad during World War II. Like so much else associated with overweening government, the family relocations were launched with something resembling good intentions: to let family members live with their already detained parents and spouses. But the incarcerations of sons, daughters, and wives simply added to the human toll of what was already an unjust and unjustifiable system. In the days immediately after Pearl Harbor, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt set in motion a chain of events that would wreck tens of thousands of lives while providing scant return in terms of national security. Attorney General Francis Biddle later wrote, "I do not think Roosevelt was much concerned with the gravity or implications of this step." In fact, the president had been contemplating such a step for years, long before the United States entered World War II. On September 1, 1939, the day Germany invaded Poland, Roosevelt ordered the creation of a top secret Special Division within the State Department. Its task: to catalog important Americans living in Germany and Japan. A few months later, he authorized the Special War Problems Division to identify Japanese and Germans in the United States and Latin America who could be used as trade bait for those Americans. The government was therefore able, within days of Pearl Harbor, to take 1,212 Japanese, 620 Germans, and 98 Italians into custody. Many, many more would follow. When FDR asked Biddle how many Germans were in the country, Biddle told him there were about 600,000. "And you're going to intern all of them," Roosevelt replied. They didn't intern all of them. But on February 19, 1942—just 74 days after Pearl Harbor—FDR signed the notorious Executive Order 9006, condemning Japanese, Germans, and Italians to forced removals from "military zones." The legal underpinning for the human disaster that followed was now in place. The War Relocation Authority, formed on March 18, 1942, operated in regions designated Military Areas 1 and 2, covering California, Oregon, Washington, and Arizona. The Alien Enemy Control Unit, created soon after in the Department of Justice, ran Crystal City and operated branches in each federal judicial district, where Alien Enemy Hearing Boards determined who would be interned. While tens of thousands of Americans were sent to the camps, the reach of the program extended beyond the U.S. border via the Emergency Advisory Committee for Political Defense, a multi-national arrangement run by the State Department that worked with Latin American nations to find and detain enemy aliens. Peru, for example, deported 1,799 Japanese, 702 Germans, and 49 Italians to the United States. In total, 4,058 Germans, 2,264 Japanese, and 288 Italians from 13 Lati[...]

The Exorcist and MacGyver Are Back with Reboots


MacGyver. CBS. Friday, September 23, 8 p.m. The Exorcist. Fox. Friday, September 23, 9 p.m. Watching new TV shows, I often wish I could have been in the pitch meetings in which network executives bought them. "Hey, Dave, when The Exorcist first came out, people in the audience puked right in their seats! Wouldn't it be great if we had some of that?" Or: "Really, Mr. Geller, the original MacGyver was so profoundly stupid that Saturday Night Live is still making fun of it 30 years later! It's a natural for us!" These examples are not, as you have surmised, hypothetical. As the broadcast nets pass the midway point in the rollout of their new fall season, they're offering up two remakes of resurrected video corpses on a single night. All you need is to throw in a frozen Swanson turkey dinner for a complete National TV Archeological Dig Day. One of these, surprisingly, is not half-bad. I was never a fan of even the original Exorcist, much less its various klunky sequels and prequels. It always seemed to me to be a passel of gloppy special effects wrapped around a meager plot, going for cheap gross-outs rather than genuine scares. This new television version certainly has its share of projectilized pea soup. But the characters and story, at least in the pilot, are much more finely honed and much less predictable. The show's surprises are all the more striking because this Exorcist follows, at least in a general way, the framework of its 1973 cinematic ancestor. Alfonso Herrera (Sens8) plays a charismatic young priest in a decaying Chicago neighborhood where his principal duty is raising money to keep his dilapidated church from falling to pieces. The closest he gets to actual theological work is absolving the cats of his aging parishioners for their sins against birds and mice. One day, though, he's visited by a frazzled member of his flock (Geena Davis), the de facto head of a troubled family. She cites the usual complaints—bitchy teenage daughter, noises in the wall, moving furniture, an unquenchable thirst for the blood of virgin goats (okay, I made that one up, but you know it's coming sooner or later—and then sums up: "It's a demon, and it's trying to take my daughter." Replies the blithely post-Vatican II Father Tomas: "Demons are metaphors." And it's not just the existence of demons Father Tomas doubts; he's wondering about the whole foundation of his faith. "If you talk to other priests," he confides in an unguarded moment, "they will tell you they heard God's voice. ... I never had that." What he does have are haunting nightmares about a disastrously unsuccessful exorcism attempt by another priest. And when he learns that the dreams are true, he thinks he may be hearing God's voice after all. He doesn't consider the possibility that someone else, much darker, is going to do the talking. The Exorcist's pilot was directed by Rupert Wyatt, of Rise of the Planet of the Apes fame, and it's photographed in dim tones and silhouettes that lend the show an atmosphere of foreboding and desolation. (Including a couple of shots of priests peering up at the demon's lair from the shadows of the streets below that are definitely an homage to the work of cinematographer Owen Roizman on the original film.) So do the performances of Herrera, note-perfect as the priest whose handsome, friendly mien masks so many crippling incertitudes about his calling, and Davis as the mother holding onto sanity by a frayed thread. The most interesting thing of all about The Exorcist is that it shares the hardball theology of Fox's Lucifer, AMC's Preacher and Cinemax's exorcism show Outcast. One renegade priest in The Exorcist even resolves his doctrinal disputes with Rome not with an enc[...]

Richard Epstein: Why Obamacare Is Collapsing and He's Not Voting for Trump, Hillary, *or* Johnson


The architects of Obamacare could have foreseen today's crisis, says NYU Law Professor Richard Epstein, except they were intellectual "super jocks" with a "superior Ivy-League sneer," who knew so much better than anyone else "how to run this Rube Goldberg contraption" designed to "defeat the law of gravity." Epstein speaks as an insider to elite circles. A graduate of Columbia, Oxford, and Yale Law School, he's the Laurence A. Tisch Professor of Law at New York University, a senior fellow at the Hoover Institute, and a professor emeritus at the University of Chicago. A towering figure in his field, Epstein has had a profound impact on libertarian legal theory, especially with his 1985 book, Takings: Private Property and the Power of Eminent Domain. Throughout his career, Epstein says, he's been surrounded by "people cleverer than myself putting up schemes that are dumber than you can imagine." Reason's Nick Gillespie sat down with Epstein for an extended discussion about the collapse of the Obamacare exchanges (0:43); why cigarette companies don't owe smokers a dime (15:49); the recent legal campaign against Exxon Mobile related to global warming (27:00); Obama's dismal record (35:23); where the U.S. went wrong in Iraq (45:00); why he thinks Gary Johnson is a weak candidate (57:00); Hillary Clinton's criminal offenses (58:26); whether he favors Hillary or Trump (1:04:51); and why he's planning to sit out this election (1:05:34). A transcript of the conversation is below. Camera by Jim Epstein and Kevin Alexander; edited by Epstein. Subscribe to our YouTube channel. Like us on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter. Subscribe to our podcast at iTunes. This is a rush transcript that has not been checked for accuracy and punctuation. Check any quotes against the video. Nick Gillespie: You were among the people who predicted that Obamacare would fail not simply because it was a bad idea but the implementation would be virtually impossible to do. In the Obamacare exchanges, now we are seeing basically some sort of death spiral or some kind of predictable outcome. Talk a little about that and what is happening and why didn't more people see it come Richard Epstein: Well, I think we start the second question first. Why didn't more people see it coming? I think the explanation really is that these were all the kinds of Ivy League super jocks. And what they always believe is that they can defeat the law of gravity by the ingenious schemes that they could put into place in order to keep things under control. So when this thing was actively debated in 2008 and 2009 there were two approaches to the problem. People like myself said look you know health care insurance is not really special. What you have to understand about all insurance schemes is the greatest chance of conniving is typically with the insured and not with the insurer. And I said the way in which we kind of know this is you go back to the history of marine insurance and you start to see that the insurance companies were always given the options to pull out because they understood that the concealment of information by the insured would have very adverse effects on what they did and it was also clear that the people who would come for insurance were those who had private information which made it more likely than average that they would be the ones who would need the stuff Nick Gillespie: You know you are at NYU and Chicago, not at an Ivy League school. We fixed that because you have to buy insurance. Richard Epstein: Well we didn't fix it because of that. First of all what we do is we say you have to buy it but the mandates were extremely unpopular and the idea that you were going to run [...]

Burn-It-All-Down Political Antinomianism Is Not Libertarian


"With Donald Trump, you're either going to get something very good or very bad," former Democratic presidential hopeful Jim Webb said back in March. "But with Hillary Clinton were going to get more of the same thing. Do you want the same thing?" Silicon Valley entrepreneur Peter Thiel had a similar thought in a Washington Post op-ed this month: Supporting Trump, is a way to say "to the incompetent elites who feel entitled to govern: 'You're fired.'" Rifle through the internet and you'll find the sentiment—even among some* frustrated Reason commenters—distilled crudely to "burn it all down." The burn-it-all-down Trump supporter (or potential supporter, in Webb's case) is engaged in what I call political antinomianism. In Christian theology, an antinomian is a person who believes the moral law is of no use or obligation because faith alone is necessary to salvation. In the current electoral context, voters disgusted with how corrupted our political system has become are attracted to the lawlessness at the heart of Trump's personalized theory of governance. "Nobody knows the system better than me, which is why I alone can fix it," declared Trump at the Republican National Convention. Supporters have faith in Trump the Great Man and therefore are political antinomians. Yet the rule of law is the bulwark of liberty, as Friedrich Hayek argued. The rule of law is embodied in the principles of generality, equality, certainty, and justice. That is, laws must apply to all, including government officials; they should be equally applied, so legal privileges are prohibited; they should be clear and consistent and not arbitrarily changed; and they should aim solely to prevent the infringement of individuals' protected domains. Trump embodies the spirit of lawlessness. He showed how little respect he has for the First Amendment when he suggested he'd like to "open up" the libel laws to make it easier for aggrieved celebrities and politicians to sue the media. Even more egregiously, Trump threatened to use the IRS to go after Jeff Bezos, the owner of the Washington Post, because he disliked what the paper had reported about him. With regard to Fourth Amendment guarantees of privacy, Trump has said that "security is going to rule" and that therefore "we're going to have to do certain things that were frankly unthinkable a year ago." Trump has also said he'd be "fine" with restoring the NSA's authority to bulk-collect telecommunications data on to whom every American speaks, when, where, and for how long; back in 2013, he called NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden a "traitor" and hinted that he should be executed. The Fifth Amendment provides that private property shall not be taken for public use without just compensation. Yet Trump is a huge fan of using government eminent domain power to take private property and then turn it over to developers like him. He hailed the infamous Kelo decision, in which a Connecticut woman was forced out of her house so the city could turn her property over to Pfizer to build a business campus for the company. "I happen to agree with it 100%," Trump declared. "If you have a person living in an area that's not even necessarily a good area, and...government wants to build a tremendous economic development, where a lot of people are going to be put to work and...create thousands upon thousands of jobs and beautification and lots of other things, I think it happens to be good." Indeed, he tried to do the same thing to a woman in Atlantic City whose property he wanted for building a limousine parking lot. And this week he bemoaned the fact that the accused New York City bomber has, like all U.S.[...]

Movie Reviews: The Magnificent Seven and Chicken People


The Magnificent Seven is of course a remake of John Sturges's famous 1960 Western, and of course it's been brought earnestly up to date. Now, instead of the marauding bandido who harried the defenseless villagers in the first film, we have a rapacious gringo (the words "robber baron" are actually uttered) who cites the tenets of capitalism and religion to justify his appropriation of the townsfolk's land. The Seven themselves are more ethnically diverse, too: there's an Asian knife fighter named Billy Rocks (Byung-hun Lee), a Mexican outlaw named Vasquez (Manuel Garcia-Rulfo), and a Native American arrow-master called Red Harvest (Martin Sensmeier). There's even a woman—a feisty widow named Emma (Haley Bennett)—who's a match for any of the men, bravery-wise, and might have been included among their number had it not been necessary for her to shed tears at one point, and to serve the guys dinner at another. The story, set in the Old West of 1879, is familiar. Denzel Washington is an itinerant lawman named Chisolm, who is persuaded to come to the aid of some timorous citizens whose homesteads are about to be taken over by that evil robber baron, Bartholomew Bogue (Peter Sarsgaard), and his gunslinging henchmen. Chisolm knows he'll need help, so in addition to the above-noted roughnecks he recruits a Confederate war hero improbably named Goodnight Robicheaux (Ethan Hawke), a fat Indian-fighter named Horne (Vincent D'Onofrio), and a wise-cracking cardsharp named Faraday (Chris Pratt). Together, they amass a heaping cache of weapons and set about booby-trapping the town in anticipation of Bogue's arrival. Washington, dressed all in black from his hat to his boots, is an instant icon of frontier badassery, and it's a pleasure to watch him work. And Hawke and Byung-hun conjure up easy rhythms of longtime compadres. But Pratt, starved of sharp lines, isn't always as much fun as you would hope; and the portly-plus D'Onofrio seems to be playing a Wild West version of Orson Wells. The rest of the Seven have their moments, but otherwise register minimally, some of them outshone by Bennett, whose distinctively sweet face and squint of steely determination add spine to a role that might have been little more than a genre cliché. Unfortunately, Sarsgaard's squirmy, over-underacted Bogue is a problem: he's too much of a worm to be truly dastardly, and after a while he mainly serves as wan comic relief. Director Antoine Fuqua, who also directed Washington and Hawke in the 2001 Training Day (for which Washington won an Oscar), clearly loves Western movies, and he occasionally alludes to the grand tradition. There's a passing shot of a bad guy's corpse propped up in a coffin for public display that seems borrowed from Clint Eastwood's Unforgiven; and Fuqua's penchant for tight, circling close-ups of tense faces is pure Sergio Leone. (More novel is a death-by-many-arrows that strongly recalls a well-known scene in the first Lord of the Rings movie.) Fuqua is also an unstinting action man, and while the movie is slow to get started, by the end, when a Gatling gun begins to chatter and bodies fly and all kinds of stuff starts blowing up, it finally delivers what you've come to see. (Well, mostly: the picture is rated PG-13, so there's not a lot of blood, and no sex at all, or even romance.) Like the first Magnificent Seven, Fuqua's movie is derived from Akira Kurosawa's 1954 Seven Samurai, and I'd recommend either of those previous films over this one, which can't quite answer the question asked of all remakes: Why? It's not bad, but that's pretty much all it is. Chicken People If Errol Morris had[...]

Cities Embrace Surveillance State


On Tuesday, Anaheim became the latest in a growing list of California cities to install police-monitored cameras in public places—in this case, three public parks. The impetus: Two years ago, a 9-year-old girl was tragically shot to death near Brookhurst Community Park after getting caught in the crossfire between rival gangs. Locals understandably want safer parks. The Register's account of the vote quotes critics who refer to George Orwell's 1984, about a dystopian future where "Big Brother is watching you." That's a legitimate fear, as cities embrace cameras virtually everywhere. Some localities, such as San Diego County, employ facial-recognition software to identify crime suspects, which is even creepier than anything in that famous novel. Big Brother—some big, all-knowing leader—might not be watching us. But Little Brothers and Sisters—police officials, as they sip coffee in some headquarters monitoring room—certainly are watching. How free can we be if we're constantly under surveillance? Another quotation jumps to mind: "Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?" It's Latin from poet Juvenal: "Who will guard the guards themselves?" That's the biggest problem with these systems. "Experts studying how the camera systems in Britain are operated have also found that the mostly male (and probably bored) operators frequently use the cameras to voyeuristically spy on women," according to an American Civil Liberties Union analysis of nationwide public video surveillance. There's little oversight of how the cameras and databases are used, although Anaheim has sought input from civil libertarian groups. Law enforcement scandals are disturbingly common. The Orange County District Attorney's Office is dealing with a "snitch" scandal. The Santa Ana Police Department received bad publicity recently from the state auditor for improperly entering people into its gang database. The Sheriff's Department has had black eyes, too, including a past sheriff sent to prison. Then there was the release of a shocking report in 2007 about the department's handling of a jailhouse beating death. These are not related to videos per se, but a reminder of that Latin quotation. If the public needs to be monitored, who monitors the monitors? And who monitors the monitors overseeing the monitors? That latter question is not rhetorical flourish—the aforementioned report revealed disturbing facts about the people in charge of overseeing the police. That's not to dismiss all uses of cameras. Body cameras worn by patrol officers have been amazingly effective at cutting down on abusive behavior by police and by the people with whom they interact. Cameras have ensnared cops whose stories don't jibe with the facts and they've also exonerated cops facing false accusations. These cameras, however, are a far cry from the general monitoring of our public spaces. They involve the specific monitoring of interactions between police and the public. In those cases, it's entirely appropriate for the incidents to be caught on camera. Of course, surveillance cameras have helped catch criminals. We're used to being on camera when we go into privately owned public venues, such as stores, hotels, bars and concert halls. So it's not an entirely clear-cut situation. Anaheim Mayor Tom Tait, also concerned about a slippery slope toward excessive public monitoring, reminded me that some of the city's parks are out of control. He pointed to the Hawthorne Effect, where people behave differently when they know they are being monitored. There's little expectation for privacy in a city park. I'm not sure about [...]

#LetGaryDebate! Johnson Supporters Push To Get LP Nominee in Debates


(image) "The polls were not correct!"

"Polls have underrepresented 35-and-younger [voters] and other polls have underrepresented independents!"

"He's on all 50 ballots plus the District of Columbia and I think it's imperative for the American people to really know what their choice is!"

Those are some of the reasons why supporters of Gary Johnson, the former two-term governor of New Mexico who is the Libertarian nominee for president, believe he should be on the debate stage with Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. Polling around 9 percent nationally, Johnson didn't reach the 15 percent cut-off that the Commission on Public Debates (CPD), a nonprofit created in 1987 by the Republican and Democratic Parties, set as a threshold for participation. For more information on CPD and Johnson's bid to participate in the debates, go here.

Under the banner of #LetGaryDebate, about raucous 150 protesters gathered outside the Washington, D.C. offices of the commission on Wednesday, September 21 to make their case (Reason attempted to get the commission's point of view but was not allowed to enter the building.)

Beyond raising questions about polling methodology, the protesters stressed Johnson, whose running mate is Bill Weld, another former two-term governor, is a "sane centrist" in a race dominated by two divisive extremists. "He's the only one who can unite us," said one protester.

Interviews by Nick Gillespie. Produced by Josh Swain.

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The European Union and the U.S. Both Want to Tax Apple


I'm slow to defend corporations these days because so many of them have built their business models around government-granted privileges and are free markets' worst enemies. However, for all the perks they get from governments, they also fall victim to their own government. And sometimes the shakedown is done by multiple governing authorities. A few weeks ago, the European Union's antitrust regulator demanded that Ireland get back $14.5 billion in taxes from Apple Inc. At the heart of the issue are legal tax arrangements between Ireland and Apple passed in 1991 and 2007, which allow the company to pay an annual tax rate of roughly 1 percent on its European profits channeled to Ireland. According to the European commission, if a country doesn't tax a company as much as the bureaucrats in Brussels want it to be taxed, somehow that's equivalent to giving the company a subsidy or a handout. So even though Apple followed the rules in Ireland and what it did is legal in both Ireland and the United States, the EU retroactively changed the rules and is now demanding lavish sums of cash from the company. Forget about the Irish government's right to set its own taxes; when the EU wants your cash, tax sovereignty goes out the window. As you can imagine, the Irish government isn't pleased. It said it would appeal the decision in order "to defend the integrity" of its tax system. Good luck with that, says Dan Mitchell of the Cato Institute. An appeal requires that Ireland persuade one group of European officials to overturn the decision of another. He explains, "Given the long-standing hostility in Brussels to Ireland's tax system, that's an uphill climb—particularly since European bureaucrats have set themselves up to be judge, jury and executioner on these issues." Also, considering the amount at stake through this Apple tax grab and the tax grab looming over other American multinational corporations, the EU is unlikely to change its mind. Now enter the United States. U.S. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew complained in The Wall Street Journal about the EU's behavior—calling the move "unfair" and "contrary to well established legal principles" and noting that the move "threatens to undermine the overall business climate in Europe." True. But don't be fooled; the only reason Lew has opposed this EU move is that he would rather be the one grabbing that money. Under the current punishing system, U.S. companies doing business abroad and repatriating their foreign earnings home get tax credits for the taxes paid to other governments before being hammered with a ridiculously high 35 percent tax rate. The more taxes companies pay offshore the less is left for Uncle Sam to grab. So if the tax payments to the EU qualify as a tax credit, that's potentially $14.5 billion less tax revenue in the U.S. tax chest. The EU shakedown of Apple will soon become the EU shakedown of, McDonald's, and many other U.S. companies, so the U.S. Treasury proceeded to put in place its own shakedown mechanism. It's issuing new rules to restrict how corporations can use tax credits on their foreign tax payments to reduce their U.S. tax bills. The explicit goal of these rules is to avoid suffering a huge tax loss as a consequence of U.S. multinationals having to pay billions of dollars in taxes to the EU version of the Soprano family. In other words, no matter how you look at it, U.S. corporations are in for a large shakedown from the EU and from the United States. It's sad, considering that the best solution to this mess would be for [...]

Don't Abandon Due Process, Not Even For Terrorism


"No person deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law..." — Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution The clash in American history between liberty and safety is as old as the republic itself. As far back as 1798, notwithstanding the lofty goals and individualistic values of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, the same generation — in some cases the same human beings — that wrote in the First Amendment that "Congress shall make no law...abridging the freedom of speech" enacted the Alien and Sedition Acts, which punished speech critical of the government. Similarly, the Fifth Amendment's guarantee of due process has been ignored by those in government charged with enforcing it when they deal with a criminal defendant whom they perceive the public hates or fears. So it should come as no surprise that no sooner had the suspect in the recent New Jersey and New York City bombings been arrested than public calls came to strip him of his rights, send him to Gitmo and extract information from him. This is more Vladimir Putin than James Madison. I have often argued that it is in times of fear — whether generated by outside forces or by the government itself — when we need to be most vigilant about protecting our liberties. I make this argument because when people are afraid, it is human nature for them to accept curtailment of their liberties — whether it be speech or travel or privacy or due process — if they become convinced that the curtailment will keep them safe. But these liberties are natural rights, integral to all rational people and not subject to the government's whim. I can sacrifice my liberties, and you can sacrifice yours, but I cannot sacrifice yours; neither can a majority in Congress sacrifice yours or mine. The idea that sacrificing liberty actually enhances safety enjoys widespread acceptance but is erroneous. The Fort Hood massacre, the Boston Marathon killings, the slaughters in San Bernardino and Orlando, and now the bombings in New Jersey and New York all demonstrate that the loss of liberty does not bring about more safety. The loss of liberty gives folks the false impression that the government is doing something — anything — to keep us safe. That impression is a false one because in fact it is making us less safe, since a government intent on monitoring our every move and communication loses sight of the moves and communications of the bad guys. As well, liberty lost is rarely returned. The Patriot Act, which permits federal agents to bypass the courts and issue their own search warrants, has had three sunsets since 2001, only to be re-enacted just prior to the onset of each — and re-enacted in a more oppressive version, giving the government more power to interfere with liberty, and for a longer period of time each time. We know from the Edward Snowden revelations and the National Security Agency's own admissions that the NSA has the digital versions — in real time — of all telephone calls, text messages and emails made, sent or received in the U.S. So if the right person is under arrest for the bombings last weekend, why didn't the feds catch this radicalized U.S. citizen and longtime New Jersey resident before he set off his homemade bombs? Because the government suffers from, among other ailments, information overload. It is spread too thin. It is more concerned with gathering everything it can about everyone — "collect it all," one NSA email instructed agents — than it is[...]

Are Speechless, Designated Survivor, Notorious, or Pitch Worth Your Time?


Speechless. ABC. Wednesday, September 21, 8:30 p.m. Designated Survivor. ABC. Wednesday, September 21, 10 p.m. Notorious. ABC. Thursday, September 22, 9 p.m. Pitch. Fox. Thursday, September 22, 9 p.m. As the big rollout week of the fall TV season reaches midpoint, it's a wonderful life for female baseball players, chiefs of dorky cabinet departments, wheelchair kids, sleazebucket pols and the parasitic reporters attached to their veins—and especially TV viewers. The latest batch of new broadcast shows offers a lot of pleasures, even if some of them are guilty—very guilty. Those are plentiful with ABC's Notorious, which—spoiler alert—has nothing to with do either rap music or Nazi spies. But don't worry, there's enough social deviance for everybody. Piper Perabo (Covert Affairs) plays Julia George, the icy producer of America's top cable-news show. "She decides what the country cares about," murmurs a breathlessly awed assistant. "She creates heroes and monsters, victims and villains." Her secret accomplice in this is Los Angeles power lawyer Jake Gregorian (Daniel Sunjata, Graceland), who publicly pretends to feud with Julia while secretly slipping her secrets that make him, if not always necessarily his clients, look good. Their sleazy good times, however, are interrupted when one of Julia's ex-hooker staffers discovers that Julia's federal-judge fiance is a gourmet consumer of call girls, while a client of Jake's is murdered just before she's scheduled to appear on the show. Homicidal hijinks ensue, including lots of lovably sordid stunts by the show's voracious cougar anchor (Kate Jenning Grant, Frost/Nixon) and its stalkerazzi intern (Ryan Guzman, Pretty Little Liars). There's probably no single thing here you haven't seen in one TV show or another. What makes Notorious different is that they all happen at once in a 42-minute package. In practically every frame, somebody is suppressing a news story or submarining a client or engaging in gleeful sexual predation, often all at the same time. It's hard to say which comes off as worse or more priapic in Notorious, journalism or the law; or what the reporters and lawyers enjoy more, extortion or squalid sex. The exuberant and universal cynicism of Notorious makes it a lot of fun to watch, even as your concept of morality shrivels up like a vampire in the sun. Not that the show won't force you to ask some searching questions. For instance: Notorious is supposedly based on the relationship between attorney Mark Geragos (of Gary Condit and Scott Peterson fame) and former Larry King Live producer Wendy Walker, both of whom get producer credits. Even in a confessional age when murderers post their kills on Facebook, you can only wonder if the lure of television celebrity has done so much damage to the human genetic code that we're on the verge of species suicide when people are willing—even anxious—to make a show celebrating their own feral treachery. If that's too existential for you, then count up all the dressing-room couplings at Notorious' notional network and try to guess how the number stacks up against one of Roger Ailes' wet dreams. The appeal of ABC's new sitcom Speechless is less sketchy, if somewhat more surprising, unless you're among the avant-garde TV audience that's been longing for the networks to take that long-overdue comic look at cerebral palsy. But ABC has become increasingly adept in making comedies on hot-button issues ranging from race (Black-ish and Fresh Off the B[...]

The NCAA and the ACC Oppose Discrimination, Sometimes


There was something very weird about the decisions by the NCAA and the ACC to pull a number of championship events out of North Carolina. The organizations did so to protest the infamous House Bill 2, which forbids localities to enact equal-protection measures for LGBTQ people and requires transgender individuals to use restrooms that align with their anatomical sex, not their gender identity. The organizations did not want to lend even tacit consent to prejudice. As ACC Commissioner John Swofford put it, "the ACC Council of Presidents made it clear that the core values of this league are of the utmost importance, and the opposition to any form of discrimination is paramount. Today's decision is one of principle." This is commendable, for all the reasons House Bill 2 is not. Targeting transgender people in particular for state-sponsored discrimination is an ignoble enterprise based on ignorance, fear, and disgust. Transgender people do not go down their road lightly; for some the path is so harrowing suicide seems less painful. Treating them with a little respect and common decency hardly seems too much to ask. Still, the coverage of the moves by the athletic bodies was occasionally surreal. Here, for instance, is The New York Times: "Already, the University of Vermont had canceled a women's basketball game to be held at the University of North Carolina, and the State University of New York at Albany had canceled a men's basketball game at Duke. In addition to men's basketball, the affected championships are for women's soccer, women's golf and women's lacrosse in Division I; baseball in Division II; and men's and women's soccer in Division III." Notice anything odd? You should: To protest discrimination, athletic organizations are pulling events that are strictly segregated. The irony is all the richer for the fact that the discrimination being protested—discrimination on the basis of gender identity—is the very sort of discrimination that occurs when schools field separate teams for men and women. If "opposition to any form of discrimination is paramount," then why do the ACC and the NCAA abide a college-sports system that separates players by sex? Sure, society has reasons for the distinction. For instance, having separate teams for men and women provides opportunity for twice as many people to play. But that's not much of a reason, is it? We could increase the number of players even more if schools further divided teams by race, so that schools competed for the white male basketball championship, the white female basketball championship, the Asian male basketball championship, the Asian female basketball championship, and so on. Nobody thinks that is a good idea. Another argument: The average male has more upper-body strength than the agverage female. So what? Sports teams don't field average players—they field extraordinary ones. Two extraordinary women recently graduated from the Army's Ranger course; why shouldn't extraordinary women be permitted to play on men's sports teams, too? A league opposed to "any form of discrimination" should be pushing for—in fact, demanding—such a change, shouldn't it? If you have what you think are valid reasons for separating teams by gender, then you are essentially making the point that some values outweigh the principle of nondiscrimination. But then, supporters of House Bill 2 make the same point: Some things matter more. Once you concede some things matters more, you[...]

Is Political Correctness On Its Way Out On College Campuses?


If you want to see campus political correctness run amuck, look no further than the this front page story in The New York Times describing programs by Clark University in Worcester, Massachusetts, to warn college freshmen against microaggressions. For those living under a mushroom for the last few years, microaggressions, along with trigger warnings, are part of a diversity movement to create "safe spaces" on campuses by eliminating any actions that could be remotely offensive or upsetting to minority (or even majority) groups. As the term suggests, these hurts are considered tantamount to physical assault. But the good news is that Clark, a progressive liberal arts college, may be part of a waning trend. This absurd movement is showing signs of collapsing from the weight of its own internal contradictions. A lot of the advice colleges like Clark are dishing out is either too obvious to be worth mentioning ("You are a credit to your race") or so hypersensitive as to be overwrought, likely to paralyze more than enlighten the uninitiated. Some administrators go so far as to caution against statements like "America is a land of opportunity" or "if you work hard you can succeed" because they "microinvalidate" (yes, an actual word!) the experience of marginalized minorities. Clark even wants to push back against nonverbal microaggressions (such as when white women clutch their purses in the presence of black or Latino men) and environmental ones (like when a science class displays only pictures of white male scientists, making female students feel inferior). These overly idealistic, zealously evangelized "no offense" policies offer a window into the impatience of campus warriors to ferret out every last vestige of sexism, racism, and all other -isms lurking in the deep structures of the human mind. But this progressive push doesn't avoid culture clashes—it heightens them. The growing and ideologically eclectic list of campus speakers who have been disinvited in recent years because some student group found them offensive has become a flashpoint in the culture wars. This is not to say that subconscious bias and bigotry don't exist or should be left unaddressed. But it needs to be tackled by reaching a higher level of mutual understanding, not shutting down speech—and minds. Some colleges are beginning to push back. The University of Chicago got the ball rolling this year when it sent its entering class an "academic freedom letter" noting that it should not expect "trigger warnings" in classes. If individual professors want to alert students to potentially provocative or upsetting course material, they are free to do so. But there is no university policy of creating intellectual "safe spaces" on campus. Columbia, Brown, and Claremont McKenna have also publicly committed to protecting freedom of expression on their campuses. Columbia President Lee Bollinger, who, during his stint as president of the University of Michigan vigorously and successfully defended his school's affirmative action policies before the Supreme Court on diversity grounds, made college censorship the thrust of his remarks to incoming students. He pledged not to ban speech, calling on students instead to use the power of speech to effect change. Or consider Brown President Christina Paxon's recent op-ed in the Washington Post pledging to keep her college a "safe space for freedom of expression." This is even more remarkable t[...]

Future Supreme Court Picks


Hillary Clinton and her fellow progressives shout things like "Health care is a right!" They've also said that education, decent housing and child care are "rights." The United Nations goes further. Its bureaucrats declared that every person has a "right" to rest and leisure, food, clothing, housing, "necessary" social services, free education, periodic holidays with pay and protection from unemployment. Wow. I guess Abe Lincoln, Thomas Edison and Mark Zuckerberg were denied basic human rights. Clinton and the U.N. busybodies are wrong. Health care, housing and food are not "rights." They are "gifts" bestowed by politicians. These "gifts" violate other people's rights because politicians take from people to give to favored groups. When America's founders talked about rights, they had something else in mind. In the Bill of Rights, each right is a right to not be meddled with, a right to be free from government—the right not to have your speech abridged, your religion banned, your guns taken or your property searched without a warrant. The founders were tired of kings and dictators bossing them around. In their new country, they wanted to vote for presidents and other officials. But they also knew that over time even elected officials lust for more power. So they wanted clear limits on what those officials could do. They created three branches of government—to check each other. "Gridlock is a feature, not a bug," says Ilya Shapiro, editor-in-chief of the Cato Institute's Supreme Court Review journal. "The founding system was not to make government more efficient. It was meant to pass policies that have large agreement that's sustained across time." Because presidents think Congress is failing when it doesn't pass legislation they like, they nominate Supreme Court justices who may give them leeway. Franklin Roosevelt tried to increase the size of the Court to squeeze in more justices who supported his programs. George W. Bush nominated his own White House Counsel. The media call President Obama's current nominee, Merrick Garland, "a centrist." But he is "centrist" only in that he sides with Democrats who want to ban guns and Republicans who want government left free to do most anything in Guantanamo Bay. Garland repeatedly supports increased government power—and fewer checks. Shapiro went to Chicago Law School when Obama was a professor there. He says Obama understands the limits the Constitution places on presidents but ignores them. He ignores them so often that the Supreme Court has overruled Obama unanimously more often than any modern president. When Congress rejected Obama's immigration plan, he just imposed it via executive order. The Supreme Court overturned that, but the final vote blocking it was close, 4-4. But what will the next court do? I hope Hillary Clinton doesn't get to replace Justice Scalia because she sounds a lot like President Obama. On her website, she says things like, "If Congress won't act, I will ask the Treasury Department... to use its regulatory authority!" Donald Trump is no better. He says he'll impose the death penalty on anyone who kills a cop. "But the executive has no say over that," points out Shapiro. Presidents cannot pass laws. They execute laws passed by Congress. Congress is supposed to reject legislation it doesn't like. That's its job. Most legislation is bad. Former New Mexico governor Gary Johnson understands that. T[...]

Trump Is Wrong About Terrorism and Immigration


Donald Trump predictably blames "our extremely open immigration system" for Saturday's bomb attacks in New Jersey and New York City. His critique overlooks the details of this particular case as well as the general rarity of terrorism by immigrants. Ahmad Khan Rahami, the 28-year-old man police arrested on Monday in connection with the bombings, is a naturalized U.S. citizen who immigrated to the United States from Afghanistan at the age of 7. He seems to have been radicalized within the last few years, a period when he spent nearly a year in Pakistan and became noticeably more religious and taciturn. It is hard to imagine how the "extreme vetting" Trump advocates for immigrants from "any nation that has been compromised by terrorism" could have kept Rahami out of the country. What questions could have been posed to his parents that would have predicted his violent turn two decades later? Trump faults his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton, for supporting the admission of Syrian refugees, who he says pose an unacceptable risk of terrorism. But according to a recent study by Cato Institute immigration policy analyst Alex Nowrasteh, "the chance of an American being murdered in a terrorist attack caused by a refugee is 1 in 3.64 billion per year." Trump has recommended "a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country's representatives can figure out what is going on"—a plan that his own running mate called "offensive and unconstitutional." More recently Trump has said the moratorium should apply to all visitors from countries "compromised by terrorism," a category that arguably includes most of the world. Some pundits favor a cleaner approach. "Confronted with the threat of Islamic terrorism," Nowrasteh notes, "well-known conservatives like Larry Kudlow, David Bossie, and Ann Coulter have called for a complete moratorium on immigration." A broad moratorium would have the advantage of preventing all terrorist attacks by newly admitted immigrants. But it would also exclude more than 1 million innocent people each year it was in effect, at a huge economic cost. Nowrasteh cites estimates ranging from $35 billion to $229 billion a year. Nowrasteh reports that tourists accounted for 94 percent of deaths caused by foreign-born terrorists in the United States from 1975 through 2015. Including tourists in the moratorium would raise the annual cost by another $194 billion or so. Given the rarity of deaths caused by terrorism, Nowrasteh shows, such costs cannot possibly be justified. Based on a value of $15 million per life, he puts "the combined human, property, business, and economic costs" of attacks by foreign-born terrorists during the 41-year period covered by his study at $5.3 billion annually, which is "far less than the minimum estimated yearly benefit of $229.1 billion from immigration and tourism." Even that calculation overestimates the potential security benefit of cutting off immigration, since it is dominated by the 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, an anomalous event that is unlikely to be replicated. The 9/11 attacks (which were perpetrated not by naturalized citizens or by refugees but by visitors with tourist or student visas) account for 99 percent of the 3,024 deaths caused by foreign-born terrorists from 1975 through 2015. Excluding 9/11, the overwhelming majority of [...]

New Shows for Your Consideration: Bull, This Is Us, and Lethal Weapon


Bull. CBS. Tuesday, September 20, 9 p.m. This Is Us. NBC. Tuesday, September 20, 10 p.m. Lethal Weapon. Fox. Wednesday, September 21, 8 p.m. If there was any doubt that the Internet, having wreaked havoc on the music and newspaper industries, has now set its sights on television, the new fall broadcast season should quell it. Not only are the networks pulling back on long-term investment by cutting their series orders, filling out their schedules with specials and sports, but they're actually taking programming advice from the business' heirheads-apparent, digital-streaming companies. Last month, Fox executives admitted at an industry event that their network decided to revive the 2005-2009 drama Prison Break after learning old episodes were drawing a lot of traffic on Netflix. That probably wasn't the only conversation Fox bosses had with their counterparts at Netflix, because no network has more profoundly cast its lot with the ghosts of falls past. More than a third of the shows Fox will introduce over the course of the 2016-17 season are remakes of old movies or TV series. (Or, as network suits prefer to call them, reboots: Hey, kids, we speak that Interwebs lingo!) In addition to Prison Break, The Exorcist, 24 and the Lethal Weapon movies will all shamble back onto the scene, proving that there is indeed something shallower than Hollywood's current creative instincts: Its graveyards. That said, the startling but undeniable truth about the new Lethal Weapon, which debuts Tuesday as the nets start rolling their new dramas, is that it's pretty damn good: sharply drawn characters, snappy dialogue, and awesome action sequences. I'm not sure that Clayne Crawford (Rectify) and Damon Wayans Sr. are going to make anybody forget Mel Gibson and Danny Glover, but they'll be more than good enough for the large audience that's never seen the four films, the last of which is nearly two decades old. The show follows the template established in the movies: Crawford plays a brash young military special-ops vet turned cop left suicidally reckless by a family tragedy. Wayans, with 22 years as a policeman, is struggling with health and retirement issues, which aren't exactly clarified by the near-universal greeting of his colleagues on his first day back at work after a heart attack: "I thought you were dead!" Thrust together as partners, their initial relationship ranges from wary to openly hostile. "I'm just in a place in my life where I don't want to be the cowboy anymore," declares Wayans, to which Crawford retorts: "There's plenty of good people in this world who aren't cops. Go be one of them." But they're eventually drawn together by their mutual antipathy toward the criminal-justice system brass, their love of hardball wisecracks and their affinity for truly insane gunplay and car chases. (One of the latter takes place inside a Grand Prix race.) The madcap stunt work and the buddy-cop badinage make Lethal Weapon seem like a throwback to the 1970s or '80s, which of course is exactly what it is—but in a loopy, fun way. NBC's This Is Us, on the other hand, is not a throwback or a remake. If you get the eerie feeling you've seen it before, it's probably because you actually have—on Facebook, where an early release of its two-and-a-half-minute trailer was viewed a remarkable 51 million times in its first week online this [...]

Computers Allow Us To Accomplish More With Less, and It's Only Getting Better


Researchers have just developed a way to fit yet more transistors into less space, creating an even more efficient computer chip. The breakthrough is good news for "Moore's Law," or the idea that the number of transistors per square inch of an integrated circuit board will double every two years. Computers have come a long way since the days of ENIAC. The first computer was a $6-million-dollar giant that stretched eight feet tall and 80 feet long, weighed 30 tons and needed frequent down time to replace failing vacuum tubes. A modern smart phone, in contrast, possesses about 13 hundred times the power of ENIAC and can fit in your pocket. It also costs about 17 thousand times less. (With a deal like that, no wonder that there are now more mobile phone subscriptions than there are people on the planet). The drop-off in the price of computing power is so steep that it's difficult to comprehend. A megabyte of computer memory cost 400 million dollars in 1957. That's a hefty price tag, even before taking inflation into account. In 2013 dollars, that would be 2.6 billion. In 2015, a megabyte of memory cost about one cent. The cost of both RAM (roughly analogous to short-term memory) and hard drive storage (long-term memory) has plummeted. Consider the progress just since 1980. In that time, the cost of a gigabyte of RAM fell from over 6 million dollars to less than five dollars; a gigabyte of hard drive storage fell from over 400 thousand dollars to three cents. Whether you're reading this article on a smart phone, tablet, laptop or desktop computer, please take a moment to appreciate how incredible that device truly is. Ever more powerful, compact and affordable computers make our lives more convenient and connected than our ancestors could have ever imagined. They also enable a process called dematerialization—they allow us to produce and accomplish more with less. The benefits to the economy, the environment and human wellbeing are incalculable. If Moore's Law holds true, regulators stay out of the way, and outdated privacy laws catch up to the current technological realities, then things are only going to get better. [...]

Debt Denialists


It was eight hours before the biggest media opportunity any Libertarian Party candidate had had in decades, and Gary Johnson was in a New York hotel room talking on the phone with Harvard economist Jeffrey Miron about the nuts and bolts of entitlement reform. "When it comes to Social Security," Johnson told his senior economic advisor as they rehearsed for a June 22 CNN town hall that would end up being viewed in more than 900,000 households, "I'm mimicking the lines from four years ago regarding raising the retirement age, fair means-testing, being able to self-direct as many funds as Congress would authorize.…" After wondering aloud whether even these reforms would prevent the Social Security Trust Fund from going "bust," Johnson arrived at his bottom line: The system as currently constituted is fiscally unsustainable. "That's the reality," he said, "and, you know, you can't run for this office and not speak that truth, in my opinion." Johnson, bless his fiscally responsible heart, was confusing can't with shouldn't. Because one of the most ominous and overlooked developments of the head-spinning 2016 presidential election has been that the winning candidates were precisely the ones who steadfastly refused to speak the truth about how rapidly old-age entitlements are scarfing up the pie of federal spending. In fiscal year 2016, $2.47 trillion of the federal government's $3.66 trillion in non-interest expenses came from the "mandatory spending" categories of Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. Within a decade, according to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), those figures are projected to grow to $4.14 trillion out of $5.7 trillion. In its latest Long-Term Budget Outlook, released on July 12, the CBO concluded that even near-term projections show publicly held debt (which is the national debt minus the debt held by government institutions) "growing larger in relation to the economy than ever recorded in U.S. history," from a current debt-to-gross domestic product (GDP) ratio of 75 percent (up from 39 percent as recently as 2008), to 86 percent in 2026 (higher than it has been since World War II), and then 141 percent in 2046 (wheeee!). Debt service alone is on pace to become the third-largest federal spending category during the next president's first term. "Large and growing federal debt over the coming decades would hurt the economy and constrain future budget policy," the CBO warned. "The amount of debt that is projected…would reduce national saving and income in the long term; increase the government's interest costs, putting more pressure on the rest of the budget; limit lawmakers' ability to respond to unforeseen events; and increase the likelihood of a fiscal crisis." That almost sounds like something worth mentioning during a presidential campaign! Yet instead of addressing that reality, Donald Trump has campaigned as the Republican who would protect rather than tweak entitlements. "We're going to save your Social Security without killing it like so many people want to do," he said at a June 18 rally in Phoenix. "And your Medicare." How will the GOP nominee overcome the cruel logic of actuarial tables, which show that the ratio of workers paying into the system to retirees receiving transfers continues to plunge from 16:1 back when Social[...]

With Discipline as With So Much Else in Education, Choice Is the Answer


"It is absolute chaos," former teacher Jasmine Kettler wrote on her blog in the wake of student discipline reforms in western Washington's Highline School District. Voicing a sentiment endorsed by some other local educators, she added, "students feel unsafe at school. I felt unsafe at school. Fighting, harassment, and incited aggression are present during passing periods, after school, and at-lunch." Ketter wasn't alone when she quit. This summer, three years after the school district that until recently employed her eased punitive sanctions and opted for more in-school suspensions over booting kids out, more than 200 teachers resigned. Many of them signed a letter pointing to the discipline changes as their reason for leaving. What's interesting is that the eased discipline policies driving the Highline resignations are themselves being adopted around the country in response to years of complaints about zero tolerance policies and rigid discipline. Parents and students have increasingly protested harsh penalties for kids "guilty" of throwing snowballs, failing to carry ID, and keeping a pocket knife in a car parked on campus. Their experiences made them no happier than Kettler was with hers. It's almost as if one-size-fits-all discipline policies applied across the board to different students in diverse circumstances are as bad an idea as inflicting cookie-cutter curricula and teaching styles on kids with widely varying interests and talents. The Highline School District controversy comes in the midst of a national debate over appropriate discipline policies in schools. Educators, administrators, policy makers, and families can't quite agree on the proper balance between maintaining order in schools and allowing kids to be kids without fear of an officially sanctioned stomping. Everybody has an opinion, and a litany of stories to tell to support their position. "Research and data on school discipline practices are clear," The School Discipline Consensus Report, published by the Council of State Governments Justice Center, announced in 2014. "Millions of students are being removed from their classrooms each year, mostly in middle and high schools, and overwhelmingly for minor misconduct. When suspended, these students are at a significantly higher risk of falling behind academically, dropping out of school, and coming into contact with the juvenile justice system." "Coming into contact with the juvenile justice system" is what the National Education Association [NEA] and others call the "school-to-prison pipeline" with reference to the higher crime rates prevailing among young people who don't earn high school diplomas. "In 2010, more than 3 million students were suspended from school, or double the level of suspensions in the 1970s," noted neaToday. "Meanwhile, more than a quarter-million were 'referred' to police officers for misdemeanor tickets, very often for offenses that once would have elicited a stern talking-to." But Kettler and company weren't just talking about minor pranks. A few months before their resignations hit the news, the Seattle Times reported that "kids from Highline are packing the roster of murder-case prosecutions." None of the crimes occurred on campus, and district officials said kids were removed from cla[...]