2016-10-21T00:01:00-04:00In 1998, I left a small city in Ohio for Southern California, trading one of the nation's lowest-priced housing markets for one of its highest. The trade-off was worth it, but I recall my wife's admonition. She would OK the move if we could buy a single-family house. It didn't have to be fancy, but she wasn't raising our kids without a yard. The first place we saw was in the heart of a trash-strewn, gang-infested area. My wife cried. After difficult searching, we found a handyman's special. We still laugh at the time she asked a neighbor where the "bad" areas were in our new city. "You're in it, honey," was the retort. It turned out to be a great place to live. Our experience goes to the heart of the ongoing problems in the Southern California housing market. Young families want to own a home. They want to put down roots. But prices have been escalating. Much is made of the state's difficult business climate. That's clearly a problem, but surveys show people mainly flee because of home prices. The situation has gotten far worse since my family arrived in California. I checked with Zillow, and the home we bought (we've long since moved away) is valued at nearly three and a half times what we paid for it, so someone in my position these days would probably just stay in Ohio. The primary reason for the hike is that building just hasn't kept up with population growth. We all know how supply and demand works. But Southern California governments have made it costly and cumbersome to build new homes, which should be obvious to the many people who remain perplexed as to why there's an affordability crisis. The Southern California Association of Governments, the planning agency for most of the Southland, just released a new report (and hosted a summit) addressing this "challenge." SCAG does a fabulous job identifying the core issues, even though some of its policy prescriptions would make things worse. "The SCAG region median home price is $507,886, an increase of over 58 percent over the past 20 years," according to the executive summary. "The median rental price in the SCAG region is $1,321, an increase of over 20 percent over the past 20 years." Over the same period, the report explains, "the median household income has actually decreased over 5 percent." "In comparison to the last few decades, housing building has significantly decreased," the report added. "There are several factors contributing to the high cost of housing. The costs from the entitlement and permit approval process can represent up to 19 percent and government regulatory costs can add up to 7 percent." The report calls on local officials to say "yes" to housing. That's exactly right. SCAG details the obvious results of insufficient building. High costs strain families. This leads to a "brain drain," as highly skilled people flee to other states. It creates an enormous burden on working-class and poor people, who often must spend more than half their income on housing. And it means people in small towns that have been devastated by job loss can't move to where the jobs actually are. According to the U.S. Census Bureau's cost-of-living-adjusted poverty measure, California leads the country in poverty rates, largely because of high housing costs. The report might even understate the role of government in driving up prices. The direct regulatory costs are astonishing, but all the NIMBYism (not in my back yard) and resulting growth controls drive up prices of developable, vacant land. Because the price of entry is so high, builders focus on high-priced mini-mansions and luxury condos. If government regulations add, say, $200,000 to the cost of a home, then a builder might as well build something fancy and profitable. SCAG gets the main point right: "We need to increase housing supply and promote affordability in our own communities," according to its president, Michele Martinez. But some "local strategies" detailed in the report are wrongheaded. For instance, SCAG describes rent control and rent stabilization — when government puts a cap on the prices [...]
2016-10-21T00:01:00-04:00Tom Cruise wanders through Jack Reacher: Never Go Back like a man in search of a better movie. Or at least a better character. Cruise's strengths as a screen actor—his easy warmth and cheerful spirit—get no outlet here. As in his last Reacher film—likewise based on one of Lee Child's never-ending series of interchangeable tough-guy novels—Cruise is stuck playing a man who's not a lot more than a cipher. He's a hard-boiled guy traveling aimlessly around the country by bus and thumb. A toothbrush is his only luggage. He fuels up in cheap diners and pancake joints. His preferred mode of communication is a punch in the face. There's not much to play here, and Cruise is reduced to characterizing Reacher mostly via clenched jaw and distracting facial tics. Worse yet, he's been lumbered with a story about family and feelings—which is not and never will be Reacher's thing. This incomprehension results in Cruise and his costar, Cobie Smulders (Maria Hill in the Avengers movies), being trapped in more poky reaction shots than any movie of this sort should have to sustain, allowing a teenage girl—likable wisecracker Danika Yarosh—to sidle away with the film. The movie opens with a scene that has no connection to the rest of the movie, and serves only to establish Reacher's radical lack of people skills. We come upon him sitting in—where else?—a diner, having just dispatched a quartet of thugs out in the parking lot, where they'll soon be gathering up their teeth. "Who are you?" asks a just-arrived lawman. "The guy you didn't count on," Reacher says, in his usual unhelpful manner. He puts in a call to his old outfit in Washington, and gets Major Susan Turner (Smulders) on the line. Turner is a Reacher fangirl ("You're a legend around here," she says). Reacher is intrigued (I think—it's hard to say for sure) and heads for D.C. Upon arriving, he learns that Turner has been arrested on charges of espionage—something about a cock-up in Afghanistan that left two of her investigators dead. Reacher doesn't buy that, and he determines to bust Turner out of an army jail. Together, they overcome her jailers' furious opposition to this plan, and we see that Turner is of course as much of a butt-kicker as Reacher. Next, they start running around Washington. There's a standard-issue car chase, and Turner pulls on a baseball cap as a disguise (although since she's in the company of the urgently sought and undisguised Reacher, you wonder why she bothers). The plot is mildly complicated but never engrossing. Reacher has learned that he may be a father, and soon he and Turner have been joined by his purported offspring, 15-year-old Samantha Dayton (Yarosh). At this point, the two grownups step back and let Sam bring some cute humor to the proceedings. Reacher, upstaged, looks on in wordless befuddlement; Turner bonds with the girl and starts schooling her in the butt-kicking arts. Sam delivers the movie's best lines. ("You're very intense," she informs the perma-smoldering Reacher.) They all decamp for New Orleans, where a shady government contracting outfit called Parasource is headquartered. A top Parasource thug (stubbly Patrick Heusinger, of TV's Quantum Break) is assigned to deal with the interlopers. There's a lot more running around and several bone-crunching beat-downs, none of them rising to the level of setpieces. (Director Edward Zwick's action scenes are encrusted with the by-now-musty trappings of the Bourne movies, right down to composer Henry Jackman's churning string motifs and the nimble cinematography of Oliver Wood, who shot the first three Bourne films.) There's an international conspiracy to be discovered, of course, and Reacher and Turner naturally discover it. We also get to meet the Parasource chieftain who's supposed to be the movie's most hissable bad guy, but who turns out to be instantly forgettable. This isn't a bad movie, but it's flat and unexciting. I know the first Reacher film, while similarly limp, made more than $200-million dollars worldwide. But is th[...]
2016-10-20T14:31:00-04:00Have you noticed that for a few months, President Barack Obama has stopped bragging about how the federal budget deficit is shrinking? That's because it's not. For the first time since 2009, the deficit has gone up rather than down. The Congressional Budget Office recently released its budget review for September 2016. It shows that in fiscal 2016, which ended Sept. 30, the deficit grew by $149 billion, from $439 billion to $588 billion. It now stands at 3.2 percent of gross domestic product, up from 2.5 percent last year. It's also the first increase in the deficit as a share of GDP since 2009. This year's deficit growth has nothing to do with a loss in revenue. Almost all of the $149 billion added to the deficit came from additional spending. The estimated spending increase was $168 billion, and the estimated revenue increase was $19 billion. The CBO notes that $41 billion of that spending was the result of payments that should have been made in fiscal 2017 but weren't because Oct. 1 fell on a weekend. That being said, CBO adds, it did not make much difference. "If not for that shift, the deficit in 2016 would have been about $547 billion, or 3.0 percent of GDP—still considerably higher than the deficit recorded for 2015." Putting the deficit figure in perspective is interesting. A $588 billion deficit is more than we spend on the Department of Defense for the year ($564 billion, excluding war funding) and only slightly less than we spend on health care for non-poor Americans' Medicare ($595 billion). If you add Social Security and Medicaid to the Medicare amount, we spent $1.87 trillion on the three largest mandatory programs, which explains why I always stress that these programs drive our future debt. We are steadily heading back toward a trillion-dollar deficit. CBO projects a deficit of $954 billion by 2022, assuming Congress sticks to the current law and maintains the budget caps, which are supposed to make their comeback in fiscal 2018. But unlike the trillion-dollar deficits we experienced during the Great Recession, this red ink is here to stay—and grow. Of course, the fact that the economy will keep growing at a meek, though steady, 1.9 percent per year will contribute to these worrying trends. Why should we care? First, these numbers show that the government is constantly growing and expanding its size and scope, a move that will lead to future tax increases or slower economic growth. Second, having higher deficits also means having higher public debt. Federal debt is already high relative to its historical levels. But if current policies remain in effect, the debt held by the public will grow from almost 77 percent of GDP at the end of this year to 150 percent by 2046. In the long term, if unaddressed, it will have a damaging impact on American families. Higher sustained debt also makes it harder for the government to respond to real emergencies, such as natural disasters and acts of terrorism. It's frustrating because we know exactly what needs to be done to get off this unsustainable cycle of spending, larger deficits and higher debt levels. Behind the trend is the rising spending on Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and net interest. These programs account for a large share of past deficits and will account for an even larger share of future ones. The only solution as such is to reform these programs. Some will tell you that no reform can be achieved without significant tax increases. However, there are serious side effects from raising taxes in terms of labor productivity and economic growth. It's also very questionable whether Uncle Sam could raise much more revenue with higher tax rates under the current system. The bottom line is that we have a spending problem that should be addressed by reforming these programs. The good news is that over the years, scholars in different institutions have come up with many plans on how to do just that; the solution is already out there. The bad news is that we're in this situation because of [...]
Today, everyone will be talking about about rigged elections, leaked emails, and puppets in the wake of the final presidential debate of the 2016 election. But one much-overlooked aspect of last night's debate was that moderator Chris Wallace finally brought up, in the final ten minutes, a topic no previous moderator bothered to touch: a little thing called "the national debt."
Both candidates were predictably disappointing, with Trump wanting to cut taxes and raise spending while ignoring that it would explode the debt, and Clinton wanting to raise spending and raise taxes while denying any negative effects on job growth. Debt denialists in both parties tend to ignore the belief of mainstream economists that a high threshold of government debt correlates with low economic growth.
Watch the video above for Reason TV's recap of the final presidential debate.
Produced by Zach Weissmueller.
Reason TV caught up with Libertarian Party presidential nominee Gary Johnson soon after his Jimmy Kimmel Live appearance to get his reaction to the final presidential debate between Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and Republican nominee Donald Trump. Johnson responded to Trump's assertion that the election is rigged and would hold out accepting the result of the election, saying "I will look at it at the time."
"That's just not right," said Johnson. "First of all elections are a state-by-state issue so to think that some sort of conspiracy exists that elections can be rigged, that's not good for the system when in fact that's not happening."
Watch for more on topics Johnson thought should have been covered more thoroughly in the debates, what he thought of the WikiLeaks revelations for the Clinton campaign, and why he's still optimistic about winning the election.
Produced by Paul Detrick and Alex Manning.
Approximately 3 minutes.
2016-10-20T00:01:00-04:00A couple of months ago, I had a nasty chore that I have to perform every so often. I had misquoted what a politician said in 1992, and a co-worker noticed the discrepancy. I wrote a correction, which my employer, the Chicago Tribune, promptly published. Does making a mistake like that cause me pain? Well, yes, sort of like the pain I'd get from being bitten by a wolverine and then dousing the wound with Tabasco. But sometimes mistakes happen, and when they do, the Tribune makes a point of letting our readers know. It's not hard to get a correction when a reputable newspaper gets something wrong. Wednesday's edition of The New York Times included 13. The Wall Street Journal had four. The Tribune had none, but it prominently featured a phone number and an email address, inviting readers to report errors. Donald Trump tells voters the news media do not provide honest information. "They will attack you. They will slander you. They will seek to destroy your career and your family," he insists. "They will lie, lie, lie, and then again they will do worse than that." Funny thing. As an opinion columnist, I've written dozens of columns disputing, contradicting, rebutting and even ridiculing him. I've met him and his campaign spokeswoman, Hope Hicks, and emailed with her. Yet neither of them nor anyone else associated with his campaign has ever asked for a correction of anything I've written. If I'm one of the journalists lying about him, why don't they point out my false claims and force the newspapers that publish my columns to set the record straight? Maybe they've been too busy meeting with his attorneys about the lawsuits he's planning. After The New York Times ran a story about two women who said he had sexually assaulted them, Trump threatened to sue for libel. His wife, Melania, threatened to sue People magazine after one of the alleged victims, a People writer, recalled a chat with her on the street. Neither lawsuit will ever come to pass. If he were to sue the Times, Trump would have to undergo interrogation about these and other accusations. His ex-wives and girlfriends could be deposed. So could his children, his friends, his enemies and his employees, past and present. From those depositions, the Times' lawyers might learn a lot of things that Trump would rather they didn't. In spite of all his bluster, Reuters reports, he hasn't sued a newspaper for libel since 1984—when he took the Chicago Tribune and its architecture critic to court for disparaging a skyscraper he had proposed. Trump lost and apparently learned a lesson. It's harder for a public figure to win a libel suit than it is for a private individual, because the legal requirements are different. But even a famous person has only to prove that the newspaper published a false story that harmed his or her reputation and knew or should have known the story was false. (Melania Trump would have no chance suing People, because the offending passage, true or not, wasn't damaging.) Such lawsuits rarely get file –and even more rarely succeed—because news organizations hardly ever do what the defamation laws punish. Trump's fulminations against the coverage of his campaign are equally hollow. He doesn't ask for corrections because, as a rule, there is nothing to correct. Newspapers routinely acknowledge when they get facts wrong, because their credibility is all they have. Trump doesn't admit or retract falsehoods, because his falsehoods are deliberate. PolitiFact has documented that 53 percent of his statements are entirely false and only 4 percent are entirely true. (For Hillary Clinton, the figures are 12 percent entirely false and 24 percent entirely true.) He thinks the news media are biased against him. What they are really biased against is his flagrant, incessant lying about matters large and small. Clinton has told her share of lies—which the news media have exposed. The difference is that her misstatemen[...]
2016-10-20T00:01:00-04:00What if the Declaration of Independence states that the purpose of government is to protect our natural rights? What if natural rights are the freedoms we enjoy without neighbors or strangers or government interfering? What if those freedoms are listed in part in the Bill of Rights? What if the government is supposed to keep its hands off those freedoms because they are ours, we have not surrendered them and we have hired the government to protect them? What if the reason some of our rights are listed in the Bill of Rights was the fear the colonists had after the American Revolution that the new government here might become as destructive of freedom as the British king and Parliament — whose government they had just kicked out — were before the Revolution? What if it is impossible to list completely the freedoms that all people enjoy by reason of our humanity? What if the Framers — who wrote the Constitution and the Bill of Rights — understood that? What if, in order to address the impossibility of listing all rights, the Framers ratified the Ninth Amendment? What if the Ninth Amendment declares that the enumeration of certain rights in the Constitution shall not be construed to deny or disparage other rights retained by the people? What if this amendment was the Framers' way of recognizing the inherent attachment of our personal liberties to our individual humanity? What if the government is supposed to protect those liberties — the ones that are enumerated in the Bill of Rights and the others that are too numerous to enumerate and are covered by the Ninth Amendment? What if the government — no matter which party controls the White House or Congress — always claims that it is protecting personal freedoms? What if this is just an empty boast? What if there is a government within the government that never changes, never shrinks, answers only to itself, hates and fears personal freedoms, and is largely unrecognized by the Constitution? What if that government, because of its secrecy, is largely unaccountable to the voters? What if it resides in the Federal Reserve, the military, federal law enforcement and intelligence establishments, and an enormous federal bureaucracy that regulates and spends in secret to a greater extent every year, no matter which party is in control? What if the secret government commands the loyalty of the elected government by sharing secrets with it? What if the law requires those shared secrets to be kept secret? What if the elected government knows what the secret government is up to but cannot legally reveal it? What if members of Congress know why Hillary Clinton was not indicted but they learned it in secret and so cannot legally reveal it? What if members of Congress know the extent of the Donald Trump financial shell game but they learned that in secret and so cannot reveal it? What if some personal courage has broken this mold? What if Edward Snowden revealed massive secret government spying on all Americans after the government had denied it? What if Sen. Dianne Feinstein revealed horrific torture by the federal government after the government had denied it? What if the elected government knew about the spying and the torture but was legally prevented from revealing it? What if Hillary Clinton was largely right when she said politicians have a public persona and a private persona? What if President Barack Obama has demonstrated his two sides by killing people in secret, with his undeclared wars, and denying it in public? What if the interest rate you pay on your home mortgage or car loan is not established by the free market — or even reached by bankers looking for your business — but is fixed in private by the secret government? What if the secret government has decided that it prefers Clinton to succeed President Obama and so its agents in law enforcement will overlook all evidence of Clinton's l[...]
2016-10-19T12:01:00-04:00Over the weekend, Donald Trump suggested giving presidential candidates a drug test. This is a marvelous idea, if only because it would force candidates to be honest. According to a recent Gallup survey, one in eight American adults say they smoke marijuana. This means that at least one in eight American adults are honest. The rest are either liars or nerds. According to the survey, 13% of U.S. adults say they use marijuana regularly—up from 7% in 2013. Forty-three percent say they've tried it—up from 38% in 2013 and 4% in 1969. Recreational marijuana use is more prevalent on the West Coast, where it is also more legal. Of the four states that have legalized it—Colorado, Washington, Alaska, and Oregon—three are on the West Coast and the fourth is in the Western part of the country. Fourteen percent of Westerners say they consume marijuana regularly; 47% say they have tried it. Both numbers are above the national average and trending in the right direction. With increasing legal and social tolerance of marijuana comes increasing honesty about it. When certain activities are no longer criminal or taboo, people are more apt to admit to engaging in them. Prohibition turns otherwise decent, law-abiding citizens into liars and criminals. It breeds dishonesty among the citizenry, corruption among law enforcement, and hypocrisy among politicians. Some prominent examples: Bill Clinton admitted to smoking (but not inhaling) marijuana. Al Gore said his marijuana use was "infrequent and rare." (A friend of Gore's, John Warnecke, disputed this, saying he and Gore smoked marijuana "a lot.") George W. Bush confessed to making "mistakes" in his youth but refused to elaborate on his youthful indiscretions because, as he said, "I don't want some little kid doing what I tried." The idea, presumably, is that confessing sin creates sinners. Barack Obama admitted to smoking (and inhaling) marijuana, thereby—if Bush's logic is correct—prompting the recent uptick in marijuana use. The White House's website says that using marijuana can lead to "very real consequences," which is true. If you smoke pot, you might become president. Libertarian Party presidential candidate Gary Johnson is refreshingly candid on the subject of drugs. During his first campaign for governor of New Mexico in 1994, Johnson said he used both marijuana and cocaine in college. Why did he smoke pot? For the same reason that most people do—"because it was fun," he said. Not only does Johnson admit to using marijuana in his youth. He admits to using it as an adult and even as a presidential candidate—as recently as this April. He would flunk a drug test and pass a lie-detector test, which is better than the reverse. Johnson cautions against using marijuana. "It's a bad choice," he says. For some people, and in certain situations, it surely is. But it's relative. Compared to a healthy diet, a strict exercise regimen, and a productive day at work, marijuana probably isn't the best option. But if the alternatives are crystal meth, migraine headaches, and boredom, marijuana has its advantages. A report by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration found that in 2014 only 34.3% of Americans "perceived great risk from smoking marijuana once or twice a week—down from 51.3 percent in 2002." During that timespan, the percentage of current marijuana users rose from 6.2% to 8.4%. The numbers suggest that as more people use marijuana, fewer are scared of it. Evidently, marijuana makes you less paranoid the more you use it. As marijuana use has increased, so has public support for its legalization. Last year, 58% of Americans supported legalization. In 1969, only 12% did. What happened over those years? Millions of Americans used marijuana and, in so doing, learned that it's not a big deal. It's actually safer and less addictive than alcohol an[...]
2016-10-19T09:05:00-04:00Hillary Clinton is a manipulative, power-mad liar. Donald Trump is a selfish, sexist, narcissistic bully. These are our choices Nov. 8? The leading candidates' avarice is bad enough. Their ideas are worse. Clinton wants to micro-regulate America into poverty and stagnation. Trump would start a trade war, if not an actual war. While America is going bankrupt, both candidates brag that they will spend more—Trump on the military and his pointless wall, Clinton mostly on social programs. Both promise a new child care entitlement: paid maternity leave. I'd think a Republican presidential candidate would resist promising more "free" stuff. But Trump, with daughter Ivanka standing behind him, offers Clintoncare "lite": paid leave for six weeks instead of 12. Naturally, the Clinton media want more. Socialist cheerleaders at Fortune complain that Trump's proposal is stingy compared to Clinton's and very stingy compared to real family leave, offered by civilized nations in Europe—especially Greece. Hello? Have you not noticed how Greece suffers largely because of "generous benefits" like that? You think it's a coincidence that Greece's unemployment rate is 25 percent? Why would employers hire workers if they must later give them 12 weeks of pay not to work? I'd think Fortune writers and Democratic and Republican presidential candidates would understand that "free" benefits come with nasty costs. But they don't understand. Or if they do, they just ignore it. Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson doesn't ignore these problems. He promises to avert America's bankruptcy by cutting spending 43 percent. But the candidate of the third party (I should call Libertarians the first party, since they respect the Constitution) is in a tough spot. He must both convince voters that he has better ideas—and that he's not strange. That's tough to do when you're a politician who stumbles over words and the RepubliDems won't allow you into the debates. Recent polls show that almost 40 percent of Americans don't even know that Johnson's running. That's too bad. If there were ever a year for a third party to thrive, this was it. Most voters—from both major parties—are unhappy with their party's nominee. Sadly, they are not unhappy enough to vote for Gary Johnson. I have to respect the betting; bettors give Johnson just a .1 percent chance. The bettors also say Clinton is favored 84 percent to 15 percent over Trump. Get ready for President Clinton. Sigh. Polls suggest about 6 percent of Americans will vote Libertarian. Some will be Bernie Sanders supporters. How can that be? Sanders is a socialist! He's an economic illiterate who wants government to control more! But on civil liberties, Sanders is better than Trump and Clinton. Both Sanders and Johnson are sympathetic to immigrants. Johnson knows that most become workers, customers and entrepreneurs who boost economic opportunities for everyone. Like Sanders, Johnson wants to avoid getting bogged down in foreign wars. Like Sanders, Johnson has long been in favor of marriage equality, whereas Clinton only recently decided it was politically safe to endorse it. Like Sanders, Johnson knows that some complaints from the Black Lives Matter movement are valid and that the drug war does more harm than good. Obviously, those positions upset some conservatives, but Johnson still has plenty to offer Republicans. He's more sensible than Donald Trump. Unlike Trump, Johnson knows that free trade decreases poverty and makes the world a better, happier place. He understands that the minimum wage makes most people poorer and that free speech is a good thing. Like Trump, Johnson opposes gun control, Obamacare and increasing regulation. A vote for Johnson will give Americans more choices and freedom in the future. Johnson getting 6 percent of the vote this election means easier bal[...]
2016-10-19T08:00:00-04:00You've likely heard about the death of Philando Castile in Falcon Heights, Minn., a suburb of St. Paul. Castile was shot by St. Anthony police officer Jeronimo Yanez, July 6, 2016, in the middle of a traffic stop. The aftermath was captured on Facebook Live by Castile's girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds, and the video went on to be viewed more than a million times. "I wanted to put it on Facebook and go viral so that the people could see. I want the people to determine who was right and who was wrong," said Reynolds in a Facebook Live video quoted by The New York Times. What you may not know is that that video represents a new and dynamic shift in power from media and police to citizens. "We see so many aspects of government, rehearsed," says Jarret Lovell, professor and author of the book, Good Cop/Bad Cop: Mass Media and the Cycle of Police Reform. "And when you can see police, who are our most visible agents of government, performing something in real time, it's a sense that you are really getting at who the police are or what the police do." The video Reynolds filmed begins after Castile has already been shot and contains no editing. She narrates as Officer Yanez points his gun inside the car where she and her young daughter are sitting as Castile lays bloodied. The video stands apart from police videos we've seen before—ranging from 1960s news coverage of police using water cannons and dogs on civil rights protesters, to the 1991 Rodney King beating in Los Angeles, to the recent killing of Walter Scott by former South Carolina officer Michael Slager. "All of the other videos that we see are taken from a distance, they're grainy, there may not be audio, there's certainly no narration. And it is up to a whole host of Monday morning quarterbacks to try to figure out how to make sense of these images. The Castile video was narrated by someone who was there and she brings us in the car with her," says Lovell. The act of using live video that day did something more than show us the gruesome details of a police encounter gone horrifically wrong, it extended and expanded the viewer's reality. Lovell points to the late media philosopher Marshall McCluhan who once talked about the mediums in which we watch media being an "extension of the senses." "Mass media bring government behavior and bring police behavior that may be taking place far away and at another time, directly to us in the here and now." This means that video may extend the senses of people who don't have habitual interactions with the police to a place where they might get a glimpse of a world where people do. And because live video is unfiltered, unedited, and unscripted, there is a sense that you are getting once step closer to the truth. Jim Pasco, the executive director of the National Fraternal Order of Police, told The New York Times that videos don't always tell the full story. "Any recording can ultimately be helpful," Pasco says, "but at the same time, it can't be viewed as D.N.A." It's something Lovell cautions against as well, saying it would be a mistake to believe that these videos provide enough information. "We don't want videos to be used to draw conclusions about suspects and we don't want the videos to be enough to draw conclusions about police officers." Lovell adds, "While we want to be careful with the use of these videos, more information is always a good thing." Charges have not been brought against Officer Yanez at this time, but the state has completed an investigation and has submitted it to a county attorney who will decide to bring charges or present them to a grand jury. Written and produced by Paul Detrick. Shot by Alex Manning. Approximately 7 min. [...]
2016-10-19T00:01:00-04:00One of the few appealing aspects of Donald Trump's presidential campaign has been his criticism of Hillary Clinton's reckless interventionism. But the bellicose billionaire combines that criticism with promises of a gratuitous military buildup, a casual attitude toward the use of American weapons, and a disturbing tendency to view trade and immigration as acts of war. To get a sense of what a more disciplined, consistent, and thoughtful critique of Clintonian warmongering sounds like, listen to Gary Johnson, the Libertarian nominee for president. Notwithstanding the popular portrayal of Johnson as a foreign policy ignoramus based on his embarrassing "Aleppo moments," the former New Mexico governor offers a bracing alternative to Clinton's supposedly sophisticated yet consistently careless embrace of violence as a tool for reshaping the world. Again and again as first lady, senator, and secretary of state, from Serbia to Syria, Clinton has supported military interventions that had nothing to do with national defense. Mindful of the damage done by the promiscuous use of America's armed forces, Johnson promises a different approach: When in doubt, stay out. "As president," Johnson said in a recent speech at the University of Chicago, "I would not need to be talked out of dropping bombs and sending young men and women into harm's way. I would be the president who would have to be convinced it is absolutely necessary to protect the American people or clear U.S. interests. I will be the skeptic in the room." Like Trump, Johnson bemoans the disastrous consequences, in squandered lives and resources as well as instability conducive to terrorism, of the Clinton-supported war in Iraq. The fact that Clinton voted for that war and took more than a decade to admit it was a mistake—a mistake from which she apparently learned nothing, given her subsequent support for regime change in Libya and Syria—demonstrates that foreign policy knowledge is not synonymous with wisdom. Johnson's criticism of unnecessary foreign entanglements goes beyond Trump's by highlighting the folly of the never-ending war in Afghanistan. "We were attacked, and we attacked back," he says. "But seven months after we sent our troops to Afghanistan, Al Qaeda had scattered to the winds and the Taliban had been removed from power. Al Qaeda was gone, but we stayed." Fourteen years later, thousands of U.S. troops remain in Afghanistan. While Trump thinks the U.S. should be reimbursed for the cost of defending other countries, Johnson argues that defending other countries is not the U.S. military's job. "The U.S. military exists, first and foremost, to defend the United States and U.S. vital interests," he says. "We should expect other countries to defend themselves and their interests." Unlike Trump, Johnson does not think the U.S. government spends too little on the military. "U.S. military spending accounts for roughly one-third of total military spending of the entire world, exceeding the combined total of the next seven largest military budgets," he notes. That bloated budget, which Johnson wants to cut, reflects and reinforces an excessively broad vision of the U.S. military's role in the world. "Our foreign policy and military actions must support clear U.S. interests," Johnson says, as opposed to "a desire to shape the world in our own image or to pick winners and losers in civil wars on the other side of the globe." Congress encourages intervention not only by keeping so-called defense spending unjustifiably high but by abdicating its constitutional responsibility to decide when the use of military force is appropriate. "As president," Johnson says, "I will honor the War Powers Act without hiding behind dubious legal opinions from my own lawyers." That's a reference to Preside[...]
Running "someone sane and honest is different," says Nicholas Sarwark, the national chair of the Libertarian Party in explaining the "unique selling proposition" of the "party of principle" in the 2016 presidential election.
Bolstered by a presidential ticket led Gary Johnson and Bill Weld, two former two-term governors, the LP has received an unprecedented amount of news coverage and popular interest, says Sarwark, who talks about how the systems is indeed rigged against third-party candidates. Between ever-changing ballot-access rules and patently ridiculous exclusions from presidential debates, he says, the one thing Republicans and Democrats agree on is keeping other parties at arm's length. And yet, Sarwark notes, the duopoly is faltering because it no longer is fielding "authentic" and "honest" candidates.
Reason's Nick Gillespie talks with Sarwark about what the "party of principle" is up to in the final weeks of the 2016 race and the LP's bold new strategy of running electable, pragmatic candidates who are also committed to maximum freedom and minimal government.
Produced by Jim Epstein with Ian Keyes.
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My colleague, Johan Norberg, has come out with a new book called Progress: Ten Reasons to Look Forward to the Future. Along with Ronald Bailey's The End of Doom: Environmental Renewal in the Twenty-first Century, which came out last year, it is a must-read for anyone interested in a realistic picture of the state of humanity. In fact, the two authors offered their insights on the scope and speed of improvements in human well-being during a Cato Institute book forum last week.
Norberg, whose previous work includes the highly successful In Defense of Global Capitalism, looked at the global food supply, sanitation, life expectancy, poverty, violence, environmental quality, literacy, political freedom and child labor. He found that:
Despite what we hear on the news and from many authorities, the great story of our era is that we are witnessing the greatest improvement in global living standards ever to take place. Poverty, malnutrition, illiteracy, child labor and infant mortality are falling faster than at any other time in human history. Life expectancy at birth has increased more than twice as much in the last century as it did in the previous 200,000 years. The risk that any individual will be exposed to war, die in a natural disaster, or be subject to dictatorship has become smaller than in any other epoch. A child born today is more likely to reach retirement age than his forbearers were to live to their fifth birthday.
Norberg suggests three reasons for the massive improvements in global standards of living. First, he credits the intellectual Enlightenment, which replaced traditions and superstitions with reason and empiricism. Second, he points to the ideas of classical liberalism, which replaced serfdom and authoritarianism with individual liberty and liberal democracy. Third, he notes the role played by the Industrial Revolution in replacing hunger and poverty with prosperity and abundance.
As we near the culmination of an election season that sees the ideas of classical liberalism, the Enlightenment and free enterprise in retreat, and demagoguery, authoritarianism and protectionism in ascendency, it is good to remind ourselves of the progress that humanity has made thanks to economic and civil freedoms. As such, I include Norberg's chart showing the extraordinary global decline in child mortality, hunger, illiteracy, pollution and poverty since the fall of communism and rise of globalization in 1990.
2016-10-18T06:00:00-04:00DIY Detroit, by Kimberley Kinder, University of Minnesota Press, 248 pages, $24.95 In 1950, roughly 1.9 million people lived in Detroit. Fewer than 700,000 are left there today. In the bankrupt, crime-ridden city, the government has largely lost the ability to provide the services it once promised. And so residents have taken to plowing streets, picking up trash, and maintaining public facilities on their own. "When public schools performed poorly, parents looked to homeschooling alternatives," Kimberley Kinder writes in DIY Detroit. "When public libraries closed, residents set up mobile book shares. When ambulances were unreliable, neighbors organized dial-a-ride phone trees to get people to hospitals." And when streetlights failed, a computer programmer named Ellison tells Kinder, people started to "leave their porch lights on all night." DIY Detroit is filled with these simultaneously inspiring and heartbreaking tales of perseverance and innovation. Unfortunately, to learn about these residents' struggles to keep their community habitable, you have to dig your way through layers of Kinder's tendentious take on why Detroit declined. But the effort is worthwhile. Kinder, an assistant professor of urban planning at the University of Michigan, documents dozens of examples of "self-provisioning"—that is, of Detroiters doing for themselves in a city from which much of the population has fled. "You have to take matters into your own hands," Elena, a young mother, tells Kinder. "'Cause if not, if you wait, then you wait, and wait, and wait. You're going to end up frustrated, and it's probably not going to get done." How Detroit residents take matters into their own hands depends on their time, resources, and willingness to commit themselves. Those efforts range from disguising vacant homes to demolishing abandoned structures, from creating unofficial parks to standing in for a shrinking police department. In a city where one in four housing units was empty by 2010 and much of the area is being claimed by an "urban prairie" of returning plants and wildlife, matching potential residents with abandoned but still-livable homes has become an important activity. Empty houses are ripe for picking by "scrappers" who strip anything of value and leave the gutted shell uninhabitable. The best defense is for residents to actively seek new neighbors who will maintain the homes and protect the community from further decline. "Among these recruits," Kinder tells us, "some became official owners or renters, and others lived informally as squatters." When people are wary of new neighbors who move illegally into abandoned homes, squatters demonstrate their worthiness with public displays of responsibility, such as trimming bushes and openly making repairs. About half of the 73 residents Kinder interviewed described acting as volunteer realtors. But with so many homes empty, it's impossible to match every dwelling with an inhabitant. That's when remaining residents make efforts to camouflage abandoned structures or render them inaccessible to scrappers and drug dealers. "Residents used disguises, caretaking, booby traps, and sabotage to self-provision a public order the underfunded police department could not provide," Kinder explains. Their efforts might be as simple as keeping the lawns mowed, or they could become more elaborate exercises in illusion, such as putting up seasonal decorations. In worst-case scenarios, residents demolished abandoned structures that had become problems—sometimes legally, sometimes not. "The headaches and expenses of by-the-book demolition," Kinder writes, "encouraged residents to find informal alternatives." Those informal alternatives enjoy some de[...]
2016-10-18T00:01:00-04:00Valve is best known as the developer of popular games like Counter-Strike: Global Offensive and its Steam gaming platform. But to Washington state regulators, the company is a rogue outfit, enabling illegal games of chance through the nefarious means of… well… making its software user-friendly. As in many American states, gambling is legal in Washington if overseen by politicians' friends and if the house—the government—gets its cut. The state hosts tribal casinos, raffles, card rooms, bingo, fund-raising casino nights, amusement games, and a state lottery. But state residents can't legally wager online because "Internet gambling has never been authorized and is illegal in Washington State," according to the Washington State Gambling Commission. Strictly speaking, regulators aren't accusing Valve of actually operating games of chance. They're not even accused of offering a venue for gaming. Instead, the company is allegedly "guilty," if that's the right word, of letting players exchange in-game items—known as "skins"—with one another. This is somehow a violation because players and third-party companies working independently of Valve found a way of using those skins as markers in betting on other platforms that have nothing to do with Valve. Basically, players discovered they could use the neato stuff they acquired in the game as poker chips. "The Gambling Commission expects Valve to take whatever actions are necessary to stop third party websites from using 'skins' for gambling through its Steam Platform system, including preventing these sites from using their accounts and 'bots' to facilitate gambling transactions," according to a press release issued October 5. The Commission was quite cross that skins continued to be used in gambling months after it first "contacted Valve Corporation in February 2016" about the issue. Actually, the Gambling Commission was a bit late to the issue—Valve itself was there first. "In 2011, we added a feature to Steam that enabled users to trade in-game items as a way to make it easier for people to get the items they wanted in games featuring in-game economies. Since then a number of gambling sites started leveraging the Steam trading system, and there's been some false assumptions about our involvement with these sites. We'd like to clarify that we have no business relationships with any of these sites," the company noted in July 2013. "Using the OpenID API and making the same web calls as Steam users to run a gambling business is not allowed by our API nor our user agreements. We are going to start sending notices to these sites requesting they cease operations through Steam, and further pursue the matter as necessary." And Valve did just that. But as the Seattle Times reported, some of the gambling companies "found a workaround: They began taking bets in virtual coins, which could be traded for skins, which could then be traded for cash, adding a layer of abstraction while allowing the basic activity to carry on." So the Washington State Gambling Commission is essentially complaining that Valve has been no more successful than playing card manufacturers in preventing the use of its products in ways that violate stupid and presumptuous local laws. The company acted, but it couldn't predict the innovative ways players and gambling sites would react to keep their fun going. "The Washington State Gambling Commission has notified Valve Corporation that it must immediately stop allowing the transfer of virtual weapons known as 'skins' for gambling activities through the company's Steam Platform," the October press release adds, though it offers no ideas for how to do that promising greater[...]
"Every rule that gets written has a cost," explains Abby Schachter, author of the new book No Child Left Alone: Getting the Government Out of Parenting. "I don't know if parents [understand] that under the headline 'we're going to keep your children safe' [or] 'we're going to protect the kids' that that is really code for 'we're taking your rights away.'"
Schachter credits a personal experience with Pennsylvania's restrictive regulations over swaddling in daycare to her interest in documenting how the government is getting more involved in raising children and restricting parents' choices. "I had to go find the people who made up this rule about swaddling and they weren't in my state and they weren't even accountable," Schachter says.
Reason TV's Nick Gillespie sat down with Schachter to talk about her book, her fight to have her youngest child swaddled (0:57), how government officials take obese children from their parents (2:52), the loss of unsupervised play among kids (4:01), warning labels (8:06), and the connection between her work and college students' demand for safe spaces (11:03).
Edited by Joshua Swain and Ian Keyser. Camera by Todd Krainin and Austin Bragg. Music by Podington Bear.
2016-10-16T06:00:00-04:00Since its launch in 1966, Star Trek has inspired creativity among its fans. Besides the soon-to-be six live-action television series and 13 feature films that make up the official canon, outsiders have invested time and treasure to produce myriad unofficial creations. Early on it was mostly short stories, comic books, and art. But those outlets soon evolved into fan-made film and video productions. In 1974 a carpet layer from Michigan spent $2,000 to build a replica of the Starship Enterprise bridge and made Paragon's Paragon, one of the first serious Star Trek fan movies. In 1985, a fan convinced George Takei, who played Sulu on the original series, to reprise the role in Yorktown: A Time to Heal. In subsequent years, putting original cast members in fan productions became increasingly common, with Walter Koenig (Chekov) and Nichelle Nichols (Uhura) starring in the feature-length Star Trek: Of Gods and Men in 2007. For decades these efforts were largely welcome. "It is now a source of great joy for me to see [fans'] view of Star Trek," wrote creator Gene Roddenberry in the foreword to Star Trek: The New Voyages, a compilation of fan-written stories. "I want to thank these writers, congratulate them on their efforts, and wish them good fortune on these and further of their voyages into other times and dimensions." Paramount and CBS, the Star Trek rights holders, took a hands-off approach so long as the fans' products didn't portray the franchise in a negative or obscene light. That all changed with Prelude to Axanar, a professionally shot, produced, and acted short fan film that received almost 2.5 million views on YouTube. That success allowed writer/producer Alec Peters to raise more than $1 million through crowdfunding sites Kickstarter and Indiegogo to move forward with a feature film. He snagged Richard Hatch, who played Captain Apollo in the original Battlestar Galactica, to be his antagonist, and Takei plugged the project on social media. Suddenly, Axanar looked less like fan fiction and more like competition. CBS and Paramount sprung into action, alleging copyright infringement and demanding an immediate stop to production. Peters and his team claim that Axanar is covered by the fair use doctrine, which allows for incorporation of copyrighted work when that use is "transformative." But lawyer Dean Cheley—whose firm has made fair use claims against such powerful forces as Disney and Yoko Ono—says it's "unlikely" that fan films like Axanar fall within the doctrine's protections. Nonetheless, he adds that "while legally I believe that CBS may have a legitimate claim on its hands, I don't think it's in their best interests to pursue it. You don't want to police this sort of fanzine to such extent that you're disenfranchising your audience." Battlestar Galactica veteran Hatch agrees. "Fan films can bring us stories that the studios aren't interested in doing, explore characters that the studios don't put a lot of energy on, and in a sense flesh out the world and build even more interest," he says. "So that when the movies from the studios come out, it actually generates more money, more fan interest, and the fan community is enlarged as a result of these really quality fan films." With the lawsuit pending, production on Axanar has ground to a halt for now. But Peters and his team think technology and history are on their side. After all, in the wise words of Spock, "Change is the essential process of all existence." [...]
2016-10-15T09:30:00-04:00New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio touts his commitment to improving New Yorkers' access to affordable housing. His new plan, dubbed the most aggressive in the nation, requires developers building in certain areas to set aside a portion of units that will be available below market price for lower-income residents. The mayor's desire to take action is warranted, as New Yorkers spend nearly two-thirds of their income on housing. While de Blasio has identified a real problem, his preferred solutions will not work. His commitment to failed policies and rejection of new solutions will only exacerbate the housing crises. One example of this misguided approach is de Blasio's promise to spend $10 million on enforcement of a 2010 amendment to the city's Multiple Dwelling Law that bans short-term rentals on platforms such as AirBnb if the tenant is absent. City officials claim that these rentals are being used to set up "illegal hotels" that limit the supply of affordable housing for residents. Outrageous rent in New York City is nothing new, but the alleged culprit—AirBnb—did not launch until 2008, though the city's rent problem can be dated back to the 1980s. How exactly has AirBnb been squeezing housing options for New Yorkers since before its creation? The short answer is that it has not. In a mind-boggling case of government dishonesty, the mayor and city council are blaming problems created by years of government overreach on the new guy in town. Consider a 2003 National Bureau of Economic Research study by Harvard University professor Ed Glaeser on rent prices in Manhattan. The study found that land use regulations, such as "quantity controls, myriad zoning rules, or taxes and fees" heavily limit and increase the costs of new construction. Back in 2002, this created a regulatory burden for the median condo in Manhattan that accounted for 56 percent of the construction price. The study also concluded that for half of Manhattan condo dwellers, regulations cost at least $5,500 a year. For others, the cost was even higher. Land use regulations prevent denser construction and building more units onto existing buildings. Construction regulations have increased in scale and scope and are now so overreaching that 40 percent of the buildings in Manhattan could not have been built today. With today's high level of restrictions on how builders can meet New York's housing demand, it is no wonder that rents are high. Land use regulations are not the only devastating housing policies on the books in New York City. Rent control and rent stabilization both increase rents for those who are not lucky enough to access an eligible apartment. Not only are these tenants harder to evict, but they are also more likely not to move. On one street in Manhattan with controlled and uncontrolled units, 35 percent of controlled units had the same tenant for over 20 years while less than 3 percent of tenants paying the market rate had been there that long. Tenants who are able to stay in subsidized homes that they may not need only exacerbate the housing shortage. De Blasio's plan would drive up rents in the same way as does rent control. His plan recommends that the rent for a two-bedroom apartment be set at $775, while the median market rent for a comparable apartment is $4,700. Developers will not simply cut their losses on the portion of units that must be made available at a lower rate. Instead, they will pass their costs along to tenants in uncontrolled units. Rents go up, market forces are distorted, and the crisis continues. Furthermore, AirBnb is simply not a large enough op[...]
2016-10-15T08:00:00-04:00Earlier this week, the World Health Organization (WHO) released a report, "Fiscal Policies for Diet and Prevention of Noncommunicable Diseases," that suggests countries around the world should enact exorbitant taxes on soda—as high as 50 percent—"and other foods and beverages high in sugar, salt and fat" as a means of combating obesity and other diet-related diseases. The report also urges governments to adopt subsidies to make fruit and vegetables less expensive to purchase. The WHO report suggests these subsidies and taxes can "create incentives for behaviours associated with improved health outcomes and discourage the consumption of less healthy options." Similar, far smaller taxes are on the books in a growing number of local and international jurisdictions. Berkeley, Calif. was the first U.S. city to pass such a tax. Philadelphia adopted a soda tax earlier this year, though that tax, a cash grab on the part of the city—and one for which the city's been sued by beverage makers and distributors—was intended to add to the city's coffers rather than to combat obesity. San Francisco, Boulder, Colo., and several other cities around the U.S. will vote on local soda taxes next month. Globally, Mexico is one of several countries that has enacted a soda tax. The regulatory momentum, it seems, is on the side of soda taxes. Why, though? A Los Angeles Times piece this week on the new WHO report notes several popular and on-point critiques of soda taxes, including issues of "fairness (consumption taxes are a bigger burden for poor than rich people), freedom (the government shouldn't interfere with your personal choice of what to drink), trust (officials won't spend the tax revenue the way they say they will) and economics (small business will be harmed if taxes discourage sales)." Earlier this year, in an April bulletin, the WHO seemed far less certain of the impact of soda taxes on obesity, arguing that "pricing policies can influence purchasing patterns and have an impact on dietary behaviour," without claiming that such taxes could or would lessen obesity rates. "Time will tell whether the tax helps to reduce obesity prevalence as well," the WHO wrote at the time, of Mexico's tax. It could be a long time. One of Mexico's chief soda tax proponents, Dr. Juan Rivera Dommarco, director of the Mexican Research Centre in Nutrition at the National Institute of Public Health, admitted that soda taxes—even if they work—won't be impacting eating habits or health anytime soon. "The results in terms of a real reduction in obesity and increase in healthy consumption habits will not show immediately," he said. A WHO expert, Dr. Gojka Roglic, WHO medical officer, said it could take "five years or more" for any potential changes in obesity rates to appear. These less-than-impactful predictions about the impact of soda taxes on obesity occurred as data showed soda consumption in Mexico had fallen in the wake of the tax. But, as I wrote earlier this year, if soda consumption fell after Mexico's law took effect, it began to rise again shortly afterwards. That's not what a successful policy looks like. What's more, while the new WHO report calls for "economic tools that are justified by evidence," the report admits there's "[l]imited evidence"—or what the report charitably characterizes as an "evidence gap"—that "target[ing] sugar-sweetened beverages" will impact non-communicable disease outcomes. So just what did the WHO recommend, earlier this year, as an effective strategy to combat obesity? It wasn't soda taxes. "WHO recommends othe[...]
2016-10-15T06:00:00-04:00"Less Marx, More Mises" read signs held by some of the protesters who filled the streets of Brazil's cities on March 15, 2015. With a headcount estimated at more than a million, the demonstrators were calling for an end to Dilma Rousseff's disastrous populist presidency. An organization of libertarian millennials called Movimiento Brasil Libre, or the Free Brazil Movement, led the charge. With the country crippled by recession and a corruption scandal dominating the headlines, the demonstrators expressed their anger in explicitly libertarian terms. The Free Brazil Movement is the activist wing of the country's surging libertarian movement. Founded in 2013, the group played a key role in ending 13 years of left-wing Workers' Party control. Two months after the first massive protest, the Free Brazil Movement led a 33-day, 750-mile march from São Paulo to the federal capital of Brasilia while carrying an impeachment bill to deliver to Congress. Following another year of protests and behind-the-scenes maneuvering, lawmakers took action. On May 12, 2016, Rousseff was forced to step down on charges of secretly borrowing money from state-owned banks to paper over the government's fiscal problems. The Free Brazil Movement's primary focus, however, is changing politics through culture. With a leadership composed mostly of filmmakers and musicians, the group operates on the theory that most people pick their political views based on a desire to fit in. Thus, the way to change the country's politics is to create a new libertarian cultural identity that allows young Brazilians to be cool without fashioning themselves lefty revolutionaries. The group functions in part as a media outlet, feeding content to its 1.4 million Facebook followers. ("Without Facebook," says 32-year-old Co-Chief Strategist Renan Santos, "we would still have Dilma.") It regularly produces viral videos heavy on satire, scoring a major hit with a 2014 political advertisement featuring a candidate with "privatizing" laser beams shooting out of his eyes that instantaneously turned poorly run government services modern and efficient. The Free Brazil Movement's chief spokesperson is 20-year-old Kim Kataguiri, a part-time law student who wears his hair long and clothes loose—a look that in no way resembles the "bow tie libertarians" who he says will "never convince anyone here in Brazil." Pedro Ferreira, 32, the group's other chief strategist, started his career working in marketing for the music industry. He believes the libertarian movement can learn a lot from Justin Bieber about expanding its fan base. What follows are excerpts from interviews with Kataguiri, Santos, and Ferreira. Conducted in English, the interviews have been edited for clarity. Santos and Kataguiri were also featured in a Reason TV documentary, "How Brazil's Libertarian Movement Helped Bring Down a President," which can be found at reason.com. Becoming Libertarians KIM KATAGUIRI: When I was in high school, my history teacher started a debate about welfare in Brazil. He said that it was the reason behind the economic growth...and I said, "Wow, welfare really works!" And then I started searching the internet and I found the Brazilian Mises Institute [Instituto Ludwig von Mises Brasil] and the Brazilian Liberal Institute [Instituto Liberal], and I found it was not really like what my teacher was saying. So I made a YouTube video for my teacher and my classmates to show that it was not really welfare that brought prosperity to Brazil. But this video ended up spreading on the[...]
2016-10-14T15:00:00-04:00Berlin Station. Epix. Sunday, October 16, 9 p.m. Eyewitness. USA. Sunday, October 16, 10 p.m. Looking at the schedule this week, it's hard not to see a metaphor for the roiling changes in television. The broadcast networks take a break in their anachronistic fall rollout, on which they spent hundreds of millions of dollars and drove dozens of marketing focus groups insane—and cable quickly steps in with a pair of high-impact dramas which, though cheaper and lacking any big name stars, are at least as good as anything the broadcasters have offered up this fall. And one of them you can watch for free on-line! (For a couple of episodes, anyway.) USA's Eyewitness and Epix's Berlin Station share little but their high quality. Eyewitness is a conventional if extraordinarily well-executed crime thriller that grabs you almost from the first frame. Berlin Station is more of a slow burn, a grim, complex tale of spies on an existential treadmill who no longer remember why they got on but lack any idea of how to get off. Eyewitness is adapted from the Norwegian series Øyevitne, but its premise—teenagers on an illicit rendezvous witness a crime, but can't report it without giving themselves away—is as old as, well, teenagers. (My favorite example is Pat Frank's exquisitely paranoid Cold War novel, Forbidden Area, subsequently adapted for TV, in which a couple making out on the beach spot the arrival of a Soviet saboteur but don't tell anybody, which nearly leads to nuclear holocaust. Talk about the wages of sin!) Eyewitness gives the premise a very modern twist: The teenagers are gay. Lukas (James Paxton, Term Life) is a high school in-crowder who doesn't think his popularity would survive coming out of the closet. ("I don't wanna be that guy...nobody wants me to be that guy.") Philip (Tyler Young, When We Rise) is less uncomfortable on that score, but as a socially marginal foster kid, newly arrived at the small-town school from a drug-addled household in the city, feels he's in no position to argue. So when they witness a drug shootout in the woods that ends with four bodies on the ground, their lips stay sealed. Yet the complications are many. One of the supposed drug dealers was an undercover FBI agent, which brings federal interest. The local police chief (Julianne Nicholson) is not only Philip's foster mother (which allows him to surreptitiously monitor her investigation, but also stokes his paranoia) but also a former big-city homicide detective with a harrowing secret in her past. Worst of all, one of those drug dealers wasn't really dead—and now he's searching for the boys. Eyewitness is written and produced by Dutch-born Adi Hasak, who also created Øyevitne. His Hollywood resume is thin but nonetheless impressive; he's collaborated with Luc Bresson on a couple of thrillers (Three Days To Kill and Shadow Conspiracy) and created Shades of Blue, the startlingly good corrupt-cop crime drama that NBC used as late-in-the-year filler last season. Eyewitness gives every reason to think Hasak's got a promising career ahead of him. His script for the pilot episode is a model of expositional economy that lays down a complicated premise in just a few minutes, then adds complicating elements one by one. He has also somehow managed to capture the Nordic-noir feel of Øyevitne without the by-now cliched use of bleak weather. The intrusion of urban mayhem into the pastoral small-town setting gives Eyewitness an unsettlingly claustrophobic sense of a villa[...]
2016-10-14T13:30:00-04:00Progress: Ten Reasons to Look Forward to the Future, by Johan Norberg, Oneworld Publications, 256 pp. $27.99 Johan Norberg wrote his excellent new book Progress for three reasons. First, because something important happened. Second, because no one believes it. And third, because it's dangerous that they don't believe it. Norberg's book comprehensively documents the myriad ways the state of humanity has vastly improved over the past couple of centuries. Global life expectancy was just 31 years in 1900. Now it has risen to over 71 years. In 1800, no country on earth had a life expectancy greater than 40 years. Now no country has a life expectancy under 40 years. And people aren't just living longer; they're living longer with fewer disabilities. The World Bank has defined the level of abject poverty at the equivalent of $2 per day. In 1800, when world population was around one billion, 94 percent of our ancestors lived in abject poverty. In 1990, some 37 percent of people still lived below the abject poverty line. Since then, the percentage of people on earth living in abject poverty has fallen below 10 percent. Global GDP increased as much in the past 30 years as it did in the previous 30,000 years. In 1986, global GDP stood (in inflation-adjusted terms) at $33 trillion. It now exceeds $73 trillion. Thirty years ago, global per capita GDP was $6,600. It is $10,000 today. Being healthier has gotten cheaper. In 1900, for example, the infant mortality rate in countries with a per capita income of $1,000 was 20 per 100 live births. Today, in a country with exactly the same per capita income, the infant mortality rate is 7 per 100 births. "So even if a country had not experienced any economic growth in a 100 years, infant mortality would have been reduced by two-thirds," he writes. Spillovers in sanitation and medical knowledge help even the very poorest live longer and healthier lives. We probably live at the most peaceful time in recorded history; your chances of being killed by another human being are far lower than in the past. For example, the annual homicide rate in medieval Europe was 32 people per 100,000. In the late 20th century, that rate dropped to about 1 per 100,000. The death rates of people being killed in wars have also fallen steeply, dropping from 195 people per million in 1950 to 8 per million in 2013. The environments in which people live, especially as countries become wealthy, have dramatically improved. Thanks for modern farming, the world is approaching peak farmland, which means that millions of acres of land will be reverting to nature over the course of this century. Composite air pollution levels in the U.S. are 63 percent lower than they were in 1980. In a recent talk at the Cato Institute, Norberg presented a graph that showed the global progress made on hunger, poverty, illiteracy, child mortality, and U.S. pollution since 1990: Norberg also writes intelligently about tradeoffs in the environmental arena. For example, he points out that spending $10 billion to build natural gas electric generation plants could help lift 90 million people out of poverty. Spending the same amount on renewable sources of electricity would help only 20 to 27 million people, leaving more than 60 million still living and dying in poverty. Norberg also celebrated the progress made on boosting education. In 1800, only 12 percent of adults could read. As late as 1950, the global literacy rate was just 40 percent. It is[...]
Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton take on the zombie apocalypse. They're coming to get you America...
Produced by Austin Bragg
Footage from George A Romero's cult classic, "Night of the Living Dead."
2016-10-14T00:01:00-04:00When Republicans lost the presidential election back at the Republican National Convention in July, many elected GOPers feigned support for the Party's doomed nominee in an effort to placate the base and hold their majority in Congress. After watching Donald Trump's Access Hollywood tape (honestly, does anyone believe this is the last, or most odious, of the October surprises?), some of these candidates have decided the gambit wasn't worth it. So naturally, Trump has targeted down-ballot races in his own party—people like House Speaker Paul Ryan and Sen. John McCain. As it turns out, cult leaders are less concerned about the long-term philosophical aims of your political party than they are about your personal loyalty and subservience. But if the prospects of a Hillary Clinton presidency are truly as apocalyptic as I'm told, shouldn't Republicans be appalled that their nominee is undermining the only institution in Washington, D.C., that has the power to stop her agenda, should he lose the race? After all, it wasn't Ryan who coaxed Trump into vulgarity on a hot mic. I hear this absurd myth every day: "Well, what's the difference? These cowardly Republicans have given President Obama everything he wanted!" Elsewhere, I've gone into great detail, debunking the idea that Congress has enabled Obama's agenda in toto—a belief that is pervasive among Trump supporters. In reality, a GOP Congress spent eight years doing the opposite. Not only did it block dozens of progressive initiatives and reforms but it often sued the president for abusing his executive power (and won a host of cases). These presidential overreaches, incidentally, were necessitated by the GOP's effective "obstructionism"—which is just another way of describing the manifestation of a divided nation's will. Of course this Republican Congress is infuriating. It often fails. It often folds. It creates unrealistic expectations. It struggles to find compelling arguments that appeal to its base. It picks mediocre candidates and is often paralyzed by risk-aversion. Yet it's also true that an uncompromising legislative branch stymied an uncompromising ideologue in the White House. I note the former with admiration because, despite the assertions of our political class, the most crucial task of those elected to Congress isn't to pass minimum-wage laws but to check the power of the executive branch. They did it better than most. This time around, both of our big-government candidates deserve to grapple with gridlock for the next four years. There's simply no better antidote to the authoritarianism and corruption that has infected our political causes. In fact, if Republicans somehow hold the Senate, they should also have the spine to preserve the even 4-4 split in the Supreme Court, to stop a potentially progressive judicial branch from further empowering the state. For those who believe stopping runaway government is a political liability, remember that despite the incessant warnings from Democrats, the GOP was not punished for its obstinacy. It has won two wave elections and more than 900 state seats during the Obama years. Imagine what it could have done with competent leadership. Moreover, despite more incessant warnings about economic Armageddon, the country did not collapse. Just ask Democrats—because these days they make the most persuasive case for obstruction. "Real hourly wages have grown faster o[...]
2016-10-14T00:01:00-04:00Director Antonio Campos's Christine tells the story—or as much of it as possible—of Christine Chubbuck, the first person to commit suicide on live TV. There's no uncertainty about how the movie will end—with a sudden gunshot and a spray of blood—but it doesn't feast on that final scene. The picture's main intent is to probe what little is known about its subject and her sad, conflicted life. This might have been an even grimmer exercise than it is—and be advised, it really is grim—were it not for a carefully detailed script by first-time screenwriter Craig Shilowich and a powerful, self-effacing lead performance by Rebecca Hall, who disappears into the role of an obscurely tormented woman who's disintegrating before our eyes. Hall's Chubbuck is a person who has never been at home in her own skin. She's slumpy and sardonic, and communicates mostly in sour wisecracks. Her pale face seems to be peering out at us from some terrible murk. The year is 1974, and she's a reporter for a small ABC affiliate in Sarasota, Florida. We can't help noticing that she's not especially distinguished at what she does—her on-camera standups are flat and her early-morning "community news" show, Suncoast Digest, is drably earnest. But Christine is nevertheless ambitious. She longs to break out of Sarasota and into a bigger market—possibly at a new station that's starting up in Baltimore. Her own station, WXLT, is getting slaughtered in the ratings, and her boss (Tracy Letts) has decreed an editorial pivot toward sex and violence. "We need juicier stories," he says. Christine gives this a shot ("I just need to show the darker side of Sarasota," she decides), but she's not really good at it. The station's news anchor, a lacquered TV natural named George (Michael C. Hall), tries to be her friend, and maybe more; but although Christine has a secret crush on him, she can't muster an emotional response. "I have a lot of work," she says, awkwardly brushing him off. The movie lays out the few facts that are known about Chubbuck's private life in melancholy procession. She's about to turn 30 and still lives with her mother. She has never had a romantic relationship and is still a virgin. A doctor tells her she needs to have an ovary removed, which could preclude her ever having children. There's also some sort of mental breakdown in her past, and for a while she was on anti-depressant medication, which she has unwisely stopped taking. Hall is at her complex best in a long scene in which she pays a late-night visit to the home of station owner Bob Anderson (John Cullum), and tries to mute her desperation in pleading for a transfer to the new Baltimore station, which he also owns. (He tells her he has already selected two WXLT staffers for promotion to the big time: news anchor George and a young sports girl, whom George recommended.) And Michael C. Hall, who skillfully sidesteps mere smarminess throughout, manages to march only up to the edge of creepiness in a long sequence in which George finally takes Christine out to dinner—but only to maneuver her afterward into attending a meeting of a cult-like self-actualization group of which he's a member. The movie is impressive in its willingness to sink deeply into this dark material—even a pair of scenes in a sunny restaurant seem ringed by shadows. But Christine's story, unsurprisingly, lacks depth—she[...]
2016-10-14T00:01:00-04:00At first glance, high-profile police controversies each generally present themselves as isolated events. Various police shootings have been in the news, and have sparked angry protests. The Associated Press reported recently that officers use confidential "databases to get information on romantic partners, business associates, neighbors, journalists and others for reasons that have nothing to do with daily police work." Then there are myriad misbehavior and corruption scandals. It's hard to draw conclusions about disconnected events. But there are common and obvious threads among them all. Lord Acton was right when he said, "Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely." Some people misuse power, which speaks to the need for independent checks and balances. The public gets upset, too, when police descriptions of events don't jibe with what we later see on the video; such examples raise concerns about whether departments can be trusted to level with the public in any type of scandal. And it feels that we rarely see justice done when powerful people—police included—do bad things. The problem in policing comes from union protections, the Peace Officers' Bill of Rights, the code of silence within police culture, and the camaraderie that exists between district attorneys and police agencies. I've covered many cases from beginning to end, and the public is right to be skeptical about the level of accountability within any government agency, police agencies included. The idea that justice might be done is what's heartening about the latest news from a disturbing law-enforcement-related case in Costa Mesa. Private detective Christopher Joseph Lanzillo, a former Riverside police officer, pleaded guilty last week (reversing his previous not-guilty plea) to four felony counts, including false imprisonment related to a 2012 scheme allegedly to set up City Councilman Jim Righeimer and Mayor Stephen Mensinger. A second detective, Scott Impola, awaits trial. He has pleaded not guilty to the same charges. At the time, the Costa Mesa Police Association was involved in a nasty political battle with the City Council's majority, which was trying to reform Costa Mesa's overburdened pension system and outsource some public services. Righeimer and Mensinger were leaders of the reform movement. On Aug. 22, Righeimer had just spoken to a community meeting and then headed to a pub owned by another political ally, Councilman Gary Monahan. Righeimer had a couple of diet sodas and drove home. After he got there, he said he received a knock on the door from a Costa Mesa police officer asking him to step outside for a DUI test. Righeimer, who wasn't drunk, was detained for a while and released. According to prosecutors and news reports, the police response was sparked by a 911 call from Lanzillo. The call reportedly claimed Righeimer stumbled out of the bar and was "just swerving all over the road." Surveillance video showed no such thing. Lanzillo worked for a law firm that was then employed by the local police union. Prosecutors say Lanzillo was trying to catch the union's political foes in an embarrassing situation. The scheme also included allegations of placing a GPS tracking device on Mensinger's car. The Costa Mesa Police Association admits hiring the law firm that employed the private detectives to do "candidate re[...]
Nobel Prize winner Bob Dylan (let that sink in for a bit) has been on "a never ending tour" since 1988. For nearly 30 years, the man behind "Like a Rolling Stone," "All Along the Watch Tower," "Tangled Up in Blue," and dozens of other classic tunes has stayed on the road, playing concerts all over the planet.
Nick Gillespie is joined by his Reason colleague Brian Doherty and The Daily Beast's Andrew Kirell to talk the influence and meaning of Dylan, who has resisted all political and cultural categorization. What are the politics of Bob Dylan (which is different than Bob Dylan's politics), who made his early bones by writing protest songs but also claimed kinship to Lee Harvey Oswald? Admired for his authenticity, Dylan is a cultural escape artist who has regularly changed his persona and style and alienated his most-loyal fans by going electric, disappearing from view, becoming a born-again Christian, and more.
If Dylan is the "Shakespeare of our time," what does he for an encore now that he has joined the ranks of Eugene O'Neill, Saul Bellow, and Toni Morrison as a Nobelist?
Each participant also names his favorite Dylan record and defends his choice.
Click below to listen. About 40 minutes. Produced by Ian Keyser.
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2016-10-13T12:00:00-04:00When a jury sentenced Kenneth Clair to death in 1987 for the assault and murder of a 25-year-old nanny named Linda Faye Rodgers, the case appeared open-and-shut. Clair, a homeless man with a criminal record, a week earlier had burglarized the same house where the murder occurred. A secret recording appeared to capture statements from Clair amounting to a confession. A witness claimed to see blood on Clair's hand the night of the murder. But as the decades rolled by, many of the seemingly solid facts undergirding the case eroded, and new facts casting doubt onto Clair's guilt have emerged. For instance, a 5-year-old eye witness to the crime told first responders that a white man killed "Aunt Linda." Clair is black, and investigators administered tests that confirmed the young witness was indeed able to distinguish between races. Later, under the possible influence of his parents, the boy changed his story, and the jury never heard about any of it. "On the one hand, he had his perception, his vision, telling him that this was a white male," says Robert Shomer, a psychologist and eye witness expert who believes the jury should have heard the boy's testimony. "And then he had adults in his life, important people--his mother and his mother's boyfriend--who believed it was a black male... I believe that he incorporated the information from the adult witnesses." Brenda Garcia, a juror on the trial, told Reason TV that she considers the child's statements to police to be important evidence. "If I'd known that the child actually said that the person was white, that this child had actually seen the crime being committed, I think that would have affected my decision," she says. The witness who claimed to see blood on Clair's hand the night of the murder was Pauline Flores, Clair's on-again, off-again love interest. She was recovering from a serious head injury at the time of the murder that may have affected her ability to recount details from the time period, something confirmed by statements from her caretakers. And she in fact recanted her testimony years later and claimed that police manipulated her to get the answers they wanted. The jury never heard about these extenuating circumstances nor about the tumultuous and sometimes abusive nature of Clair and Flores' relationship that might have influenced the nature of her testimony. Flores also provided the recordings by wearing a wire at the behest of the police a couple months after the murder. She later admitted she did so in return for them taking care of an outstanding warrant and possibly a cash payment, facts never disclosed to the jury. There were several apparently damning statements that prosecutors played several times during the trial: CLAIR: "They can't prove a motherfucking thing, not unless you open your motherfucking mouth." CLAIR, in response to Flores stating that she had seen blood on him the night of the murder: "Ain't on me no more." CLAIR, in response to Flores accusing him of murdering Rodgers: "Will you leave that alone, please? You don't have to rub that in my motherfuckin' soul." CLAIR: "Baby what you fail to realize, how the motherf*****s they gonna prove I was there? . . . There ain't no motherf*****' fingerprints, ain't no f*****' where in there, and ain't no f*****' body seen me go in the[...]
2016-10-13T06:00:00-04:00It's Dangerous to Believe: Religious Freedom and Its Enemies, by Mary Eberstadt, HarperCollins, 192 pages, $25.99 In December 2015, the state of Oregon seized the contents of Melissa Klein's checking and savings accounts. A judge had ordered the bakery owner to pay $135,000 as punishment for declining, on the basis of her religious beliefs, to make a cake for a same-sex wedding. She objected, pledging to appeal the ruling to the Supreme Court if necessary, so the state's labor commissioner took the money by force. One month earlier, a black teacher named Madeline Kirksey lost her job at a Texas day care center, allegedly for refusing to call an anatomically female 6-year-old student by a boy's name. Question: What do these two incidents have in common? Answer: It depends entirely on your ideological persuasion. For progressives, both are social justice victories. In each case, this view goes, a religious bigot attempted to impose her beliefs about morality on other people and the authorities slapped her down for it. For conservatives, both show a heavy-handed secularism working to stamp out traditional mores. Descriptions of these incidents appear together, in fact, in the introduction of It's Dangerous to Believe, a new book by the Catholic writer Mary Eberstadt, as commensurate examples of the "soft persecution" that increasingly befalls Christians in the West. For libertarians, the two are really not alike at all. To follow the latter logic, you need to distinguish between public and private behaviors. Where the state can use coercion and compulsion, private actors must turn to persuasion and negotiation. Because private individuals operate in the realm of voluntary interactions, they have to accept that sometimes they won't get their way. (To the demand "Work for my company!" a person can say "No!" To the demand "Pay your taxes!" there is no legal right of refusal.) So what happened to Melissa Klein, who was punished by the state, and what happened to Madeline Kirksey, who was punished by her employer, are different not just in degree but in kind. The core weakness of It's Dangerous to Believe is a failure to draw this conceptual distinction between governmental oppression and mere social stricture. Truly egregious violations of people's rights (a campus police officer shutting down a street preacher by falsely claiming it's illegal "to offend the students") are listed alongside nonviolent pressure (former Mozilla CEO Brendan Eich resigning after the internet masses learned he supported an anti-gay marriage initiative). "Consider today's unprecedented legal and other attacks on Christian colleges, Christian associations and clubs on campuses and elsewhere, and Christian homeschooling," Eberstadt writes. Then, without a beat: "Or the range of tactics of intimidation, shunning, and smearing now deployed against religious traditionalists." There is, to be sure, a case to be made even against the latter form of punishment. Most lists of libertarian virtues would include the acceptance of unpopular beliefs and lifestyles, after all. And Eberstadt compiles a damning catalog of evidence that the left has indeed abandoned its own "secular-progressive standards of tolerance, diversity, and freedom for all" in a single-minded drive to pen[...]