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Updated: 2017-10-18T00:00:00-04:00


How to End the Fight Over Contraception


Choking on our own rage has replaced baseball as the great American pastime. Earlier this month, the Trump administration gave people a chance to participate in it once again. The topic this time: what do to about birth control. And this time, there might actually be a non-enraging solution. Obamacare requires employers to provide insurance that covers contraception. The administration expanded a conscience exemption to that mandate for those whose religious scruples conflict with contraception. That mandate and exemption have provoked ferocious disagreement; the Supreme Court already has weighed in on the topic once in the Hobby Lobby case, and it may do so again in Zubik v. Burwell, the case that involves the Little Sisters of the Poor. But the administration didn't wait; it said that imposing the mandate on "entities with sincerely held religious objections... does not serve a compelling governmental interest." Cue outrage from secular liberals. However, the next administration could change the rules back—stoking outrage from religious conservatives. Unlike taxes or transportation funding, this issue is hard to resolve because it pits two incompatible beliefs against each other: the belief that government should not force people to violate their religious faith, and the belief that religious faith should not trump women's access to contraception. Fortunately, in the case of contraception there is (pardon the expression) a way to split the baby: Make contraception available over the counter. Sell it without a prescription, like aspirin or condoms. Then women would not need to go through the inconvenience and expense of a doctor's visit, and the devout need not arrange for a service they consider contrary to their religious faith. In most countries, this is already the norm. More than 100 allow over-the-counter (OTC) sales of birth control; fewer than 50 require a prescription (partly, no doubt, because some birth control serves other medical purposes besides preventing pregnancy). And here in the U.S., some states have begun loosening restrictions as well. California and Oregon permit women to obtain hormonal birth control after screening by a pharmacist for potential complications, for instance. Even that might be unnecessary; research indicates that women can accurately self-screen—i.e., they don't need somebody else's help to determine what's in their own best interest. Imagine that. The medical community largely agrees on OTC birth control, too. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists says oral contraception "should be available over-the-counter," and women should be able to screen themselves. Even physicians, who have a modest pecuniary interest in requiring prescriptions for contraception, lopsidedly favor not doing so. Lately, Republicans have been getting on board. Former GOP presidential candidate Carly Fiorina embraced the idea of OTC birth control two years ago. Republican Sen. Corey Gardner of Colorado introduced an OTC bill in 2015 as well, and gained a half-dozen GOP sponsors. Ed Gillespie, currently running for governor of Virginia, endorsed the idea three years ago. But no good deed goes unpunished, and Planned Parenthood promptly blasted Gardner for proposing what it called an "insult to women." The group professed to be concerned about women having to pay more in the absence of insurance coverage. And ideological opposition to OTC birth control still remains. You will not find any support for the notion from the supposedly free-market Heritage Foundation, for instance, even though OTC sales would eliminate the contraception mandate's threat to religious liberty — about which Heritage is extremely concerned. Likewise, some liberals insist that women should not have to pay even a penny for contraception. But those who say so tend to subscribe to the unicorns-and-rainbows school of economics, in which not just birth control but all medical care is both free and unlimited. There's nothing wrong with dreaming a little. More practical obstacles do remain, such as winning FD[...]

DIY Biohackers Are Editing Genes in Garages and Kitchens


"A biohacker for me is somebody who is doing something clever or interesting in biology," says Josiah Zayner, a molecular biophysicist who runs The ODIN, a company that sells do-it-yourself genetic engineering kits. "They're usually these people that have been fucked by the system who are trying to unfuck themselves." Zayner is one of the leading figures in the biohacking movement and is the main organizer of the BioHack the Planet Conference, a yearly gathering of citizen scientists. This year, over 100 members of the biohacking community met in Oakland, California to discuss a wide array of issues from at-home genetic engineering to questions on bioethics. Biohackers have often been compared to computer hackers of the 1980s, but instead of breaking into and manipulating information technology systems, they're focused on hacking living organisms with the hopes of curing illnesses and in some cases obtaining superhuman powers. Their shared mission is to put this technology into the hands of as many people as possible. "People should be able to use all the technologies that science develops," says Zayner. "It shouldn't just be patented and given to companies or exclusively given to certain people." These do-it-yourself biologists say the democratization of science has given them the freedom to do work on projects that are often ignored by larger institutions. They're using gene editing technologies like CRISPR to create personalized treatments for those suffering from rare diseases or cancer, reverse engineering pharmaceuticals like Epi-Pens so people can make their own medicine at home, and even creating glow in the dark beer. "I think this is the most exciting time thus far in the history of the world to be alive with respect to what we can and will do with life forms," says Hank Greely, the director of the Center for Law and the Biosciences at Stanford University. But breakthroughs in the world of biohacking are drawing more scrutiny from federal regulators. Earlier this year, the Food and Drug Administration began placing restrictions on non-human genetic modifications and declared that genetically edited animals must be classified as drugs. This gives the agency broad authority over a number of do-it-yourself genetics tests and requires experiments involving animals to go through the same vetting process as a new drug. "I guess they couldn't call them cosmetics and they couldn't call them foods, so they're like dogs are drugs," states David Ishee, a Mississippi canine breeder who is working on editing out genetic diseases in dogs. "Everybody's worried about what someone could do with this technology and nobody seems to care about the damage that not doing it will cause because these animals are dying." Increasing regulation could undermine biohacking breakthroughs for humans as well. "I'm a huge fan of deregulation because I believe in the inherent goodness of capitalism," says Zayner. "Stuff doesn't progress unless people do useful things with it." Produced by Alexis Garcia and Justin Monticello. Camera by Garcia, Monticello, and Zach Weissmueller. Ascent by Jon Luc Hefferman is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution license ( Source: Artist: Cut and Run - Electronic Hard by Kevin MacLeod is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution license ( Source: Artist: New Dawn by Bensound is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution license ( Source: Artist: Sci-Fi by Bensound is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution license ( Source:[...]

CNN Smears Sensible EPA Decision


Did you happen to catch CNN's latest smear? Anderson Cooper's show recently featured a "two-part exclusive" that claims Donald Trump's EPA director had conspired with the CEO of a mining company to "withdraw environmental restrictions" so the company could dig "the largest open pit mine in the world in an extremely sensitive watershed in wild Alaska." The report was enough to horrify any caring person. CNN showed beautiful pictures of colorful salmon swimming in Bristol Bay, and the reporter intoned dramatically, "EPA staffers were shocked to receive this email obtained exclusively by CNN which says 'we have been directed by the administrator to withdraw restrictions'... Protection of that pristine area was being removed." No! A "pristine" area and gorgeous salmon were about to be obliterated by a mine! I would have believed it, except I happened to report on that mine a couple years ago. I knew that the real scandal was not EPA director Scott Pruitt's decision to "withdraw the restrictions"; it was what President Obama's EPA did to the company's mining proposal in the first place. Zealots at the EPA had conspired with rich environmental activists to kill the mine before its environmental impact statement could even be submitted. This was unprecedented. The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform later concluded: "EPA employees had inappropriate contact with outside groups and failed to conduct an impartial, fact-based review." Now, appropriately, Pruitt undid that censorship of science. But CNN, implying devious secrecy said, "according to multiple sources, he made that decision without a briefing from any of EPA's scientists." Shocking! But Pruitt didn't require opinions from scientists. He didn't approve the mine. He didn't make a science decision. He simply followed the law and allowed a company to submit a proposal. Also, despite CNN's repeated depictions of salmon on Bristol Bay, it turns out that the proposed mine would not even be on the Bay. It would not even be 10 miles away, or 20 miles away, or even 50 miles. The proposed mine would be about 100 miles away. Did CNN mention that? No. Never. We asked CNN why. And why not point out that the mining company is just being allowed to start the EPA's long and arduous environmental review? They didn't get back to us. Of course, explaining that wouldn't fit CNN's theme: Evil Trump appointee ravages environment. Their reporter did at least speak with the mine's CEO, Tom Collier, who tried to explain. "It's not a science—it's a process decision." But the reporter, Drew Griffin, wouldn't budge. He called Collier "a guy who wants to mine gold in an area that many scientists believe will destroy one of the most pristine sockeye salmon sporting grounds in the whole world." By the way, Collier isn't an evil Republican-businessman-nature-destroyer. He's a Democrat who once ran environment policy for President Bill Clinton and Vice President Al Gore. CNN never mentioned that either. Instead the reporter implied evil collusion: "This looks like the head of a gold mine went to a new administrator and got him to reverse what an entire department had worked on for years." Here at least the report was accurate. Obama's environmental department did try to kill that mine for years. They colluded with groups like the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), one of America's wealthiest environment groups. The NRDC is mostly made up of anti-progress lawyers who want no mines built anywhere. Don't believe me? I asked NRDC spokesman Bob Deans: STOSSEL: There are some mines where NRDC says, great, go ahead? DEANS: It's not up to us. STOSSEL: Are there any? DEANS: It's not up to us to green light mines... STOSSEL: Are there any you don't complain about? DEANS: Yeah, sure. So I asked him for some names. He and the NRDC still haven't provided any. If these zealots and their sycophants in the media get their way, America will become a place with no mining, no pipelines, no oil drilling, no new ... anything. The acr[...]

The NRA’s Dangerous Alternative to a Bump Stock Ban


Thomas Massie, the Kentucky Republican who leads the Congressional Second Amendment Caucus, and Dianne Feinstein, the California Democrat who is one of the Senate's most persistent gun controllers, do not agree on much. But the congressman and the senator both see the folly of the National Rifle Association's position on bump stocks, the firearm accessories that Stephen Paddock used in his deadly October 1 attack on country music fans in Las Vegas. The NRA opposes a legislative ban on bump stocks but wants the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) to reconsider the question of whether they are legal. The administrative approach favored by the NRA invites unelected bureaucrats to rewrite a statute for political purposes, undermining the rule of law and the separation of powers. A bump stock increases a semiautomatic rifle's rate of fire by harnessing recoil energy to help the shooter slide the weapon back and forth against his trigger finger. Since this technique is notoriously inaccurate and prone to misfiring, it is not clear that bump stocks made the Las Vegas shooting any deadlier than it otherwise would have been. Previous mass shooters have not needed bump stocks to kill dozens of people, and there is no reason to think future mass shooters will be deterred if the government takes them off the market. Banning bump stocks is nevertheless the go-to response for people who insist that Congress "do something" in response to the Las Vegas massacre. The NRA has tried to divert that response by urging the ATF to "immediately review whether these devices comply with federal law." On Face the Nation last week, NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre noted that "it's illegal to convert a semiautomatic to a fully automatic," adding, "We think ATF ought to do its job, look at this, and draw a bright line." But the ATF already has "drawn a bright line." To be more precise, it has applied the bright line drawn by Congress in the National Firearms Act, which defines a "machinegun" as a weapon that fires more than once "by a single function of the trigger." A rifle equipped with a bump stock does not fit that definition, since it still fires just once per trigger pull. The ATF has repeatedly affirmed the legality of bump stocks—in a 2010 letter to Slide Fire Solutions, which makes one version; a 2012 letter to a competing company, Bump Fire Systems; and a 2013 response to an inquiry from Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-Colo.). As the agency explained to Perlmutter, "Bump-fire stocks (such as the Slide Fire Solutions stock) that ATF determined to be unable to convert a weapon to shoot automatically were not classified as machineguns." Asking the ATF to revisit this question means asking it to ignore the law. Last week House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), following the NRA's lead, claimed "the regulatory fix is the smartest, quickest fix." But as Feinstein noted, "The ATF lacks authority under the law to ban bump-fire stocks." Massie agrees. "It is the height of legislative malpractice to ask the executive branch to legislate," he tells me. "We're asking the ATF and the president to do our job." That does not mean Massie supports Feinstein's proposed ban or the House version, which he thinks would have "zero effect" on mass shootings. Both bills would cover a wide, vaguely defined range of products and turn innocent people into felons if they failed to surrender retroactively banned accessories or tinkered with their guns in newly prohibited ways. Massie nevertheless argues that consistent constitutionalists cannot support the supposed regulatory alternative. "I think it's a well-intended but ill-advised strategy to keep this out of the political realm and to save members of Congress from having to weigh in on this," he says. "But it will come back to bite us, and it erodes the system of government that the Founding Fathers intended to set up." © Copyright 2017 by Creators Syndicte Inc. [...]

Stossel: Hurricane Reconstruction


The recent hurricanes took a heavy toll. The cost of rebuilding will be significant.

Politicians from the areas hit now want tens of billions of dollars in aid.

When disaster strikes, the federal government definitely has a role because the feds control resources like the military and other first responders. After Hurricane Harvey, FEMA housed 42,000 people in 692 shelters. After Irma, 13,000 National Guard soldiers helped rescue and evacuate people. That's the kind of emergency response we expect from the federal government.

But why is rebuilding afterwards the federal government's responsibility? Until recently, businesses and charities handled most disaster response.

In 1906, the massive San Francisco earthquake and fire that followed destroyed 80 percent of the city. The city was rapidly rebuilt because it was done by the private sector, not cumbersome bureaucracies. Companies like Johnson and Johnson shipped in rail cars full of donated medical supplies.

After the great flood of 1916, again, businesses immediately stepped in. The federal government did very little. The midwest recovered.

When massive tornadoes swept through Oklahoma a few years ago, volunteers from a charity, Oklahoma Baptist Disaster Relief, used bulldozers to clear tornado debris from more than a thousand homes. The charity's director, Sam Porter, said "I don't think there's any kind of disaster that can take place that the non-profit and faith-based groups cannot take care of."

Whether that's true or not, there's no doubt that the private sector does a better job than government. Federal rebuilding creates moral hazards that lead to expectations of even more government help.

Produced by Naomi Brockwell. Edited by Joshua Swain.


Nativists in the Trump Administration Are Demanding Ransom for Dreamers


It was too much to hope for that President Trump would actually honor the informal deal that he cut with congressional Democrats to offer permanent legal status to DREAMers (named after the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act) in exchange for some "reasonable" immigration enforcement measures. After all, these are immigrants who, through no fault of their own, were brought to this country without proper authorization as children. But the White House's 70-odd list of demands released over the weekend under the influence of ultra-restrictionist White House aide Stephen Miller reads more like a ransom note than a good-faith opening bid for an eventual compromise. It'll criminalize far more immigrants than it'll legalize DREAMers, defeating the whole purpose of the exercise. Should President Trump not back down, Democrats will have little reason to continue to negotiate. Last month, President Trump abruptly ended the Obama-era DACA (Deferred Action Against Childhood Arrivals) program that gave qualified DREAMers a reprieve from deportation and told Congress that it had six months to legalize them permanently before he starts deporting them in March when the first round of DACA protection expires. Basically, he set up a ticking time bomb to extract maximum leverage to negotiate tough border security measures. But the failure of Republicans to repeal and replace ObamaCare has made Trump desperate for a legislative victory so he had been showing a new willingness to negotiate with Democrats. But Miller—the White House's sole remaining nativist after Breitbart chief Stephen Bannon was booted out—wants not just enhanced border security but to stop immigration of every kind: legal and illegal, employment and family-based, refugees and asylum seekers. The Daily Beast reports that he worked with Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), a fellow ultra-restrictionist, to put Trump on the spot by working up a sweeping anti-immigration demand list. Expectedly, this list, that the White House had no choice but to embrace to avoid losing face with its nativist base, doubles down on the standard restrictionist demands such as more funding for a border wall—which Trump had indicated to Democratic leaders Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) and Chuck Schumer (N.Y.) he'd be willing to skip—and 10,000 more border patrol agents. In addition, Miller and Cotton want more "interior enforcement"—which includes not just hunting down and deporting unauthorized aliens in the country—but also mandatory E-verify that would require employers to check the work authorization status of every new employee, citizen and non-citizen, against a federal database. But the big poison pill is this: Of the 11 million unauthorized aliens in the country, about two million are DREAMers and 4.5 million are visa overstays who entered the country legally but whose visas expired (the rest entered the country without proper papers). Currently, these latter folks are guilty of a civil infraction akin to an unpaid parking ticket. They can be deported for it but can't be thrown in jail, which is a good thing since it is very easy for people to fall out of status given America's slow and screwed up immigration bureaucracy that makes the DMV look like a picture of efficiency. But Miller and Cotton would make overstaying a visa a criminal offense and disbar visa overstays from any immigration "benefit" for three years if they overstayed for 180 days and 10 years if one year. This means that if these folks marry, say, an American citizen, they would still be barred from applying for a green card or even a fiancé or spouse visa. Ditto for a student, investor, or any other kind of visa. Basically, in exchange for legalizing two million DREAMers, Miller and Cotton would consign twice as many visa overstays to permanent illegality by taking away practically every option for regaining their legal status, exacerbating the very problem t[...]

Free Markets Make the World a Better Place


Last Friday, the Cato Institute hosted a forum on a new book, Neil Monnery's Architect of Prosperity: Sir John Cowperthwaite and the Making of Hong Kong. Sir John Cowperthwaite was the financial secretary of Hong Kong between 1961 and 1971, as well its financial under-secretary between 1951 and 1961. As such he has contributed to establishing the policies—small government, low taxes, fiscal probity and free trade—which are credited for turning a poor backwater of the British Empire into one of the richest places on earth. When I asked Monnery, the British author of the book, to put Hong Kong's success in context, he noted that in the years following the end of World War II, Hong Kong's per capita income was one third of that in Britain. By the time of the British transfer of the territory to China in 1997, incomes in the two countries were the same. Today, the average inhabitant of Hong Kong is over 30 percent richer than the average Briton. As late as 1960, people in Hong Kong enjoyed lives that were four years shorter than those in Britain. Today, they live four years longer than their British counterparts. Economic growth, we concluded during our discussion, is key not only to rising standards of living, but also to health and life expectancy. Put plainly, the richer the country is, the better the hospitals and higher the quality of care and the environment that it can afford to buy. That got me thinking about the region I came from and the changes that Central Europe underwent since the fall of the Berlin Wall, the 28th anniversary of which we will commemorate on November 9. Following the end of the communist period, the region went into an economic recession, as unproductive industries shut down and millions of people lost their jobs. Life expectancy started to decline, which opponents of market reforms saw as proof positive of capitalism's deleterious consequences for people's welfare. Revisiting the life expectancy statistics some three decades later, a different picture emerges. Between 1960, the first year for which World Bank data is available, and 1989 (i.e., a period of 29 years), life expectancy in the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia rose by 1.33, 1.46, 3.36 and 1.05 years respectively. Between 1989 and 2015 (i.e., a period of 26 years), it increased by 7.1, 5.68, 6.44 and 5.24 years respectively. The post-communist dip in life expectancy, such as it was, proved to be small and temporary. Further afield, post-communist depression was much more pronounced in the Baltic countries, which is, in retrospect, unsurprising. These economies, being parts of the Soviet Union, were much more heavily distorted than their neighbors to the west. In other words, a deeper restructuring was necessary. Yet, the relationship between economic growth and life expectancy still holds. In the 31 years between 1960 and 1991 (i.e., the year of the dissolution of the U.S.S.R.), life expectancy in Estonia and Lithuania, rose by 1.47 and 0.52 years respectively, while in Latvia it fell by .75 years. Between 1991 and 2015 (i.e., a period of 24 years), life expectancy rose by 7.33 years in Estonia, 2.97 years in Lithuania, and 5.02 years in Latvia. All in all, a switch from socialism to capitalism appears to be good for the health and longevity of the citizenry. [...]

Dead Commandos in Niger a Bipartisan Failure of Strategy and Accountability


When news broke that four U.S. Army commandos were killed by hostile fire in Niger last week, Americans might be forgiven if their first response was, "Where?" While Afghanistan is often dubbed our "forgotten war," U.S. military intervention in Niger was never on our national radar in the first place. There's a good reason for that: American troops' presence in Niger now spans three presidential administrations, but their mission has never been subject to congressional authorization or public consideration of the prudence and necessity of such an intervention. The tragedy of this ambush invites us to correct that deficiency, starting with a review of the facts. U.S. troops, active in Niger since 2005, were first deployed by President George W. Bush to train local forces and support Paris' counter-terrorism efforts in the former French colony and in nearby nations including Mali. In 2007, the mission was put under the umbrella of African Command, or AFRICOM, the Pentagon's newest continental command center. President Obama sent additional American soldiers to Niger in 2013, to "provide support for intelligence collection and [would] also facilitate intelligence sharing with French forces conducting operations in Mali, and with other partners in the region." One year later, Obama expanded drone operations to Niger. Today, President Trump seems content to stay the course of under-the-radar escalation. A major U.S. base is under construction to serve as a hub for drone activity throughout the region, while American boots on the ground in Niger are significantly occupied with the arrival of extremists from neighboring Libya, which remains in chaos since the U.S.-facilitated ouster of strongman Moammar Gadhafi in 2011. The use of Special Forces is key to Washington's misleading claim that this is a minor project unworthy of civilian scrutiny. The attack which left four Americans and an unknown number of Nigerien troops dead last week reveals that is not the case. "America is not at war in Africa," U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Donald C. Bolduc said after visiting the continent in 2016, "but its partner forces are." The ambush in Niger shows this is a distinction without difference. Our partnership is clearly significant enough that Americans are in the line of fire. And to that we must ask, why is Washington engaged in an unaccountable, costly, and dangerous intervention in Niger? What vital U.S. national security interests are at stake in this African country? Would we really be measurably less safe without this mission? How much are we spending on this endeavor, and for how long will it take? Why must American troops risk their lives to supplement a far larger French intervention? What does Washington expect to achieve? And if this intervention is so vital to our existential security, why is it kept so quiet? More broadly, as military historian Ret. Col. Andrew Bacevich has asked, "Under what circumstances can Americans expect nations [like Niger] to assume responsibility for managing their own affairs? To put it another way, when (if ever) might U.S. forces actually come home?" Is it "incumbent upon the United States to police vast swaths of the planet in perpetuity," and, if so, "What sequence of planned actions or steps is expected to yield success?" All of these are questions I suspect the Trump administration, like the Obama and Bush administrations before it, could not answer about Niger to the public's satisfaction—and so it has elected, like its predecessors, not to speak of Niger at all. This is a sorry excuse for strategy and accountability in a deeply important policy arena where, as we have sadly learned from experience this month, lives are at stake. Congress should demand answers to these critically important questions from the executive branch before another life is sacrificed or dollar appropriated. [...]

Not Even Lincoln Is Spared the Wrath of the Statue Topplers


It began with Confederate monuments, but it was only a matter of time before the history of everyone ever commemorated in America was in dispute. Even Abraham Lincoln. The statue of the 16th president and liberator of slaves at the top of Bascom Hill is one of the most beloved sites on the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus. Graduating students and their families wait in line for hours in the spring to have their pictures taken in Lincoln's lap. Wunk Sheek, an indigenous student group, does not share this sentiment. The group has charged that a statue of Lincoln has no place on campus. "Everyone thinks of Lincoln as the great, you know, freer of slaves, but let's be real: He owned slaves, and as natives, we want people to know that he ordered the execution of native men," Misha Johnson, co-president of fiscal relations for Wunk Sheek told the Daily Cardinal, one of the student newspapers. "Just to have him here at the top of Bascom is just really belittling." It is wrong to say Lincoln ever owned slaves, but he was president during the Dakota War of 1862 and he did authorize the execution on December 26, 1862 of 38 Dakota men out of more than 300 convicted of war crimes in military tribunals. According to College Fix, university administration has said it has no intention of moving Lincoln anywhere. But the school is planning on putting up a handful of signs around campus to "interpret the 12,000 year history" of those who inhabited the land upon which the university was built. Madison's Lincoln has been under siege for a while now. Two years ago, during the height of Black Lives Matter protests, a group, "About Race UW," proposed removing the statue, but the idea never gained traction. Since then the Lincoln statue has been subjected to graffiti decrying all white people as racist and draped in a black tarp after the 2016 election. The UW student government this past Spring approved a resolution to educate the community about Lincoln's oppression of Native Americans, a resolution the administration never took up. Pressure to address racism and white supremacy after the terrible events at Charlottesville, where Neo-Nazis marched in the streets and one counter protester was killed, likely prompted UW Madison students and administrators to renew efforts to address the campus' history, including the Lincoln statue. Week Shunk insists the focus not be turned from Lincoln's part in the Dakota War punishment. The history, like all history, is more complicated than it has been portrayed by the activists. Between 400 and 800 U.S. citizens, 77 U.S. soldiers and more than 150 Dakota Native Americans died, although definitive numbers are hard to find. "Anxious to not act with so much clemency as to encourage another outbreak on the one hand, nor with so much severity as to be real cruelty on the other, I caused a careful examination of the records of trials to be made," Lincoln reportedly told the U.S. Senate after reviewing each trial of the over 300 Dakota men accused of war crimes. The causes leading up to a terrible and bloody war, the treatment of Native Americans after the war, and the fairness of the military tribunals are all valid parts of a larger historical discussion. Portraying Lincoln as a white supremacist who signed off on the execution of Native Americans distorts the discussion. Demanding the Lincoln statue be removed is demanding the discussion be silenced. Answering the demands of activists without any certainty that the complexities and nuances of history will be included reflects a troubling trend. Whether Christopher Columbus, Thomas Jefferson, or Lincoln, people need to be exposed to and learn to navigate the complexity of their shared history. Not enough history is required of students. Revising how history is taught in schools and universities is a possible solution to the co[...]

These Doctors Got Fed Up With Insurance. Now They Treat Their Patients Like Valued Customers.


One of the most profound changes brought about by the Affordable Care Act is that it drove thousands of independent doctors to throw in the towel and join large hospital networks. This is particularly true of primary care doctors. As the rules involving medical records, billing codes, and prior authorizations have gotten more complex, physicians find they can't survive without joining large health care networks. And they're becoming increasingly demoralized. Today there's a small but growing movement of doctors who are opting out of the traditional health care system by no longer accepting insurance. This new approach is is called "direct primary care," but it's essentially a throwback to an era before insurance companies were responsible for covering routine services like ear infections or strep cultures. When companies like Aetna, Blue Cross, and Oxford started signing the checks for even minor health care expense, it had a destructive impact on the doctor-patient relationship. The direct primary care movement is an attempt to reverse the damage. Dr. Ryan Neuhofel, who's been running his own direct primary care practice in Lawrence, Kansas since 2011, has a page on his website that lists the cost of each procedure, which the patient, not the insurance company, actually pays. Need an x-ray? That's $25 to 40, along with a monthly subscription fee that runs from $35 for minors to $130 for a family of four. Most direct primary care practices charge a monthly subscription fee. It allows them to offer other services, like answering patient phone calls, text messages, or even having appointments over Skype—services that our insurance-dominated system doesn't allow for. "Because I'm membership supported if someone calls me and says, 'hey, I have a rash,' they can send a picture," Neuhofel says. Removing the interference of third parties changes the dynamic between patients and their doctors. "We're able to be creative in meeting their needs," Neuhofel says. "[We are] able to give them transparency in pricing, and redesign the entire health care experience around what patients really need." Direct primary care physicians are able to charge less than traditional practices because the lack of coding and billing means they don't need to hire support staff. The direct primary care movement is a way of opting out of an industry that's dominated by a cartel of hospital and insurance companies, thus insulating doctors and patients from policies crafted on Capitol Hill. But there are some changes to the tax code that could speed adoption. The IRS doesn't allow patients to use their tax-deductible Health Savings Accounts to pay direct primary care doctors. In fact, just having a direct primary care subscription disqualifies individuals from contributing to an HSA at all. Dr. Neu and others have been meeting with lawmakers and proposing legislation that would change this. "We're not living off the reservation just because we're cowboys," Neuhofel says. "We're doing it so we can provide great care, but at the same time we need to figure out how we integrate with the larger health care system." Shot and produced by Mark McDaniel. Music by Candlegravity, Podington Bear, and Nine Inch Nails. All music is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share Alike license. Subscribe to our YouTube channel. Like us on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter. Subscribe to our podcast at iTunes. [...]

American Companies' Bad Tax Deal


(image) The United States' corporate income tax needs a makeover.

It's not just that Uncle Sam tries to take a piece of all corporate income, including money earned (and therefore taxed) in other nations. It's not just that America's top statutory rate is higher than in all other countries in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). (According to the Congressional Budget Office, it currently stands at 39.2 percent including state levies; Trump has proposed a significant reduction in the federal rate, but prospects look weak.) It's that over the years, American companies have seen other governments reform their tax systems while the U.S. has done almost nothing to fix ours.

This chart shows the evolution of top statutory corporate tax rates (combining taxes at all levels of government) from 2003 through 2012 in the so-called Group of 20—some 19 developed countries plus the government of the European Union. At the start of that period, a few places had higher rates than the United States. Not anymore.

The consequence is that U.S. companies must compete against foreign entities that enjoy a lower cost of doing business. Those earning income elsewhere can avoid being double-taxed by keeping that income overseas. But this reduces their freedom to make business decisions on the merits, forces them to spend money on tax avoidance techniques rather than investing it, and keeps those dollars out of the pockets of American consumers.


Make America Not So Nauseating


'It's frankly disgusting the way the press is able to write whatever they want to write," said President Trump on Wednesday, "and people should look into it." Amen, brother! It's downright abominable that people in the media can just spout off the first thing that comes into their heads with no concern for veracity or the potential for harm. What do they think this is, a personal Twitter account? The president also is repulsed by those jerks in the National Football League who have different opinions than he does about certain issues, and who show it by not standing up for the national anthem the way they have been required to do since way back in 2009. Trump deserves to have epic songs sung about him for demanding investigations into reporters and for suggesting that people he considers less patriotic than him should be fired. They say it's a free country and all that, but come on. You have to draw the line somewhere. The president shouldn't stop there, though. Many other things are not just frankly disgusting, but honestly nauseating, and Trump should use his bully pulpit to draw more attention to them, too. And not just women's suffrage or this business about the "right" to a fair trial, either. For example: While we're on the topic of football, it's genuinely revolting when televised games that last beyond the usual 37.5 hours are allowed to run over, pre-empting programs that are not just endless committee meetings interrupted by brief spurts of big men pushing each other and are, therefore, actually entertaining to watch. Somebody ought to ask why that's allowed. In all sincerity, it's totally putrescent when you let someone merge into traffic ahead of you and they don't give you the thank-you wave. Why don't these so-called "journalists" write a story about that, is what I'd like to know. It's truly appalling that hot dogs come in packages of 10, but hot dog buns come in packages of eight. Somebody needs to go to jail for that, and it ain't gonna be me. Candidly, the Honda CRV is so ugly it makes you want to retch, but the darn thing is everywhere. Who's going to fix that? You? Truthfully, when I see someone wearing brown shoes with a blue suit I throw up so hard and so long the muscles around my stomach start to cramp, and I can't breathe, and I stomp my foot on the floor for no discernible reason, it just kind of happens. Why isn't the Senate Intel Committee looking into this? Bob Corker and, um, something about IQ tests or something—that's why. Yea verily, people have started using "to include" in place of "including" (as in, "Applicants should have working knowledge of computer operating systems, to include Windows and Linux")—as if we were living in some kind of hippie commune where you could just swap infinitives and participles willy-nilly any time you wished. Do you know how gross that is? Imagine eating a large plate of cow's eyes and fish guts and washing them down with the smelly juice that collects at the bottom of a Dumpster after a light rain. That's how gross it is. Why doesn't the Fake News Network investigate THAT? To state it plainly, it's ghastly beyond words the way some people put so many bumper-stickers on their cars, especially the ones with many words in small print that you can't read anyway unless you're, like, two inches behind them. Congress needs to set a limit of three bumper-stickers per vehicle, or the terrorists have already won. Honestly, what is up with can openers these days? Half the time they hardly even work, leaving these big uncut spaces at odd intervals so you can't get the stuff out of the can, so you stick a spoon under the top to pry it open some, but that just bends the can into odd shapes, which is the greatest crime against humanity ever, believe me. Whoev[...]

'Egypt's Jon Stewart' in Exile


Bassem Youssef, known as the Jon Stewart of Egypt, hosted the most popular television show in the history of the Arab world. A heart surgeon by training, he was inspired by the Daily Show frontman to start a weekly YouTube series in 2011, just as the Arab Spring was getting underway. He taped it from his laundry room. Called Al-Bernameg, which means The Show, its audience grew to 30 million per episode. The "value of satire," Youssef says, "is that it humanizes people in power"—those "considered holy." Youssef's downfall began with a viral segment mocking President Mohamed Morsi's hat in 2013. In March, a warrant was issued for his arrest for insulting the president and Islam. So Youssef offered to turn himself in—wearing his Morsi hat. Though he was released on bail, it was the beginning of the end. Three months later, the military deposed and jailed Morsi, dissolved the constitution, and silenced the critical press. General Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi became the new ruler of Egypt, and his regime didn't take kindly to mockery. What followed is the subject of Youssef's new memoir, Revolution for Dummies (HarperCollins), and the documentary Tickling Giants by Daily Show Senior Producer Sara Taksler, which is available online. The Show lasted just one episode after Sisi became president. Youssef was slapped with the largest fine in the history of Egyptian media. Sensing that he might soon be arrested and prevented from leaving the country, he threw a few personal belongings into a suitcase and rushed to the airport. This summer, Youssef sat down with Reason's Justin Monticello in Los Angeles, where they discussed political correctness, comedy on college campuses, Donald Trump, the limits of satire, and more. Reason: What inspired you to start The Show? Bassem Youssef: What really inspired me was the discrepancy between what you saw in the street and what you saw on television. There was a very deliberate method of brainwashing and fooling the public and giving them alternative facts or fake news. And that angered me. I wanted to do something about it. So I started these shows in my laundry room. I didn't think it would mean anything or go anywhere. But a few weeks later I was signing my first TV deal. You're often called the Jon Stewart of Egypt. But Jon Stewart reached 2 million people. You reached 30 million. It's not a question of numbers. He really has a lot of competition. [In America] you have a saturated medium, a huge industry. When we did it, we were the only ones. I think the value that Jon Stewart left [is that he] inspired millions of people, not just in the United States but outside, to follow in his footsteps. About 18 months after you started The Show, you criticized then-President Mohamed Morsi and a warrant was issued for your arrest. They have to [claim] you are insulting certain sacred ideologies, whether religion or military. It's the same thing that the Muslim Brotherhood did, and the military did later. They want to divert the attention of me criticizing someone's policy [by saying I'm] insulting the faith, or our troops. You describe in your book this really amazing sketch where you satirized Morsi's enormous, peculiar hat. Yeah. And it's like, it's just a hat. People are too sensitive. I didn't call him names. I didn't talk about his family. It's just like how the Islamists react in a violent way, because they're not used to being criticized, so to kind of break that mold and make fun of them—they couldn't handle it. So you showed up at the courthouse wearing a comically oversized hat. I was spiting them. But you describe how you went in and the police officers and court employees and prosecutor's employees were asking to take selfies with you. At the end of the da[...]

Is Secession by Referendum Libertarian?


I have concerns about secession by referendum. Individual secession, of course, is no problem; that's simply libertarianism. Before I get into my reasons, let me stipulate that smaller political jurisdictions are on net preferable to larger ones if for no other reason than the lower cost of exit. That in itself may constrain government impositions. Competition is good, and a race to reduce oppression would obviously be laudable by libertarian standards. But governments of any kind may find ways to collude with one another to minimize the effects of competition. Governments today cooperate with one another to catch tax evaders. Let me also put on the record my conviction that nation-states have no right to use force to stop any component from seceding. They have no legitimate claim on anyone's allegiance. However, let's not forget that smaller, more local governments can be oppressive too, possibly more so than larger centralized ones. Many things factor into this. At any rate, Little Nationalism can be as destructive of human flourishing as Big Nationalism. My concerns about group (not individual) secession are over the process of peaceful separation, namely, the referendum. Libertarians have long criticized political democracy—that is, the settling of "public" matters by majority vote either directly or through so-called representatives—as inherently violative of individual rights. By what authority does a majority lord it over a minority? Well, doesn't this critique apply to referenda on secession? The chance of unanimity is tiny in any particular case, so why should the individuals who constitute a numerical minority be forced to dissociate from a nation-state and be subjugated by a new nation-state simply because the majority decreed it? A dissenting minority might not be concentrated in one area that could easily secede from the newly seceded territory and remain with the original country or form its own country. What then? True, dissenting individuals would presumably be free to relocate, but why should people have to abandon their homes because of a majority's preference? That hardly seems fair. It sounds like "love it or leave it." In the recent referendum in Catalonia, over 177,000 people—nearly 8 percent of the 43 percent of registered voters who cast ballots—voted against secession. A lot of people don't want to split from Spain. Of course, this does not justify the central government's violent interference with the referendum or the separation. There's is nothing sacred about today's nation-states, which were all built from conquest, myth, and historical contingency. But the rights of the members of a minority in a secessionist community still ought not to be ignored by advocates of individual liberty. Too often libertarian defenders of particular acts of secession talk as if the population unanimously favored the spit. Individualists shouldn't overlook individuals. The case of the Southern secession from the United States is even clearer than the one in Catalonia. No public referendum was held. Instead, so-called representatives did the voting. But even if a public referendum had been held, slaves would not have been allowed to vote—and they were the reason for the secession in the first place (at least in the lower South). Again, this doesn't justify Lincoln's war, but it certainly cast a shadow over secession as a libertarian act. Some of the best criticism of democratic decision-making came from the legal scholar Bruno Leoni, whose collection of papers, Freedom and the Law (expanded third edition), deserves more attention than it gets. In the final chapter of the expanded edition (but not in the original), "Voting versus the Market," [...]

The Long, Frustrating Fight to Get an Iraqi Interpreter Out of Baghdad and Into the U.S.


He called to say that he'd be murdered if he couldn't get out. As an interpreter—my interpreter, actually—working for coalition forces in Iraq, Bandar had already lost several friends and colleagues, including his 15- and 10-year-old cousins, to insurgents determined to exact revenge on anyone perceived to be aiding an occupying military force. From 7,000 miles away, he phoned me to ask for help. When he was a teenager, Bandar reconnected with an uncle who had been an opposition leader against Saddam Hussein's authoritarian regime. After fleeing the country and spending nearly a decade in the United States as a political asylee, his uncle returned to Iraq."When my uncle came back in 2003, he told me all about America, and he supported my plan to work with the U.S. military," Bandar told me. Bandar had always maintained an idealized vision of the United States, having consumed as a child whatever bootleg American movies and television he could get his hands on. (He believed then, as he does now, that The Tyra Banks Show is America's greatest export.) "I used to always dream that one day when I get older I'll go to America," he said. In 2004, at age 17, Bandar became an interpreter. When he called me from the other side of the world, I was a 25-year-old college student, back in Oregon after a yearlong deployment to Iraq as a sergeant in a U.S. Army cavalry unit. I had been stationed at a base 50 miles from Baghdad within the Sunni triangle, just a couple of miles from Bandar's home. Our mission was to be a Quick Reaction Force for the base. Essentially, we were a 911 for soldiers operating in the surrounding area. On good days, this meant providing convoy security and area patrols. On bad days, it meant responding to unforeseen emergencies and backing up units that found themselves in precarious situations. Whatever the day's agenda, our job required constant talk with Iraqi civilians. We couldn't have done it without help from local translators. I first met Bandar after he'd joined the rotation of Iraqi interpreters working with our unit. He was 18, and he'd been assigned to join my platoon on patrols of several villages within our area of operations. This was a fraught assignment for Bandar: He'd spent his entire life a couple of miles from the fence line and might easily have been recognized. Neither the State Department nor their contractors kept close records of the number of local translators employed during the war. Estimates vary widely, but several thousand Iraqis may have been enlisted to aid the American cause. To secure these jobs, Bandar and other interpreters underwent a rigorous security screening, which was repeated every six months. The interpreters worked with combat and support soldiers, and even in field hospitals. Depending on the situation, they often filled the role of intelligence officer, diplomat, etiquette coach, soldier, or peacekeeper. In a war zone, where misunderstandings can end in bloodshed, they're crucial in keeping both U.S. soldiers and Iraqi civilians safe. Translators put themselves in extreme danger—arguably more so, and for much longer, than many soldiers. They are "outside the wire" on dangerous patrols, facing the same danger as troops but without weapons to defend themselves. And they must keep their identities secret, for fear of retaliation against themselves or their families. Of course, the job doesn't last forever. When U.S. forces finally withdrew from Iraq, local contractors were on their own again. This has left many of them in a precarious—and often life-threatening—position. In fact, the U.S. military is still deployed in Iraq, and continues to employ Iraqi contractors. E[...]

It's OK to Edit Your Kids' Genes


This summer, American scientists reported successfully editing out a harmful gene from the genomes of human embryos. Researchers led by Shoukhrat Mitalipov—a reproductive biology specialist at the Oregon Health and Science University—used CRISPR gene editing to achieve this result. The process enables biologists to precisely cut out and replace bits of the DNA that make up the genes of microbes, plants, and animals. In this case, the researchers mended a deleterious gene variant that causes enlarged hearts and often results in sudden death early in life. Unlike earlier research in China, the Oregon team reported getting the repaired genes into every cell in 42 out of the 58 embryos they edited. In most of the cases, the process did not create new off-target mutations. Since Congress has banned the National Institutes of Health from funding research using gene-editing technologies in human embryos, this proof-of-concept research was underwritten by private foundations and universities. The embryos developed for three days and were never intended to be used to create pregnancies. Other researchers a month later challenged the results, suggesting that they need further validation. But for now Mitalipov stands by his findings. "We've always said in the past gene editing shouldn't be done, mostly because it couldn't be done safely," Massachusetts Institute of Technology researcher Richard Hynes told The New York Times. "Now it looks like it's going to be done safely soon." If the technique does prove harmless, such gene-edited embryos could be allowed to develop into people who would no longer pass down their familial genetic afflictions to subsequent generations. Naturally, this advance displeases the anti–"designer baby" claque of bioethicists. "I think it's extraordinarily disturbing," Marcy Darnovsky, who directs the Berkeley-based Center for Genetics and Society, told NPR. "It's a flagrant disregard of calls for a broad societal consensus in decisions about a really momentous technology that could be used [for] good, but in this case is being used in preparation for an extraordinarily risky application." "If irresponsible scientists are not stopped, the world may soon be presented with a fait accompli of the first [genetically modified, or G.M.] baby," David King said in the same NPR report. King, who heads the U.K.-based group Human Genetics Alert, wants "governments and international organizations to wake up and pass an immediate global ban on creating cloned or G.M. babies, before it is too late." But in February, a panel of 22 scientists and other experts convened by the National Academy of Sciences issued Human Genome Editing: Science, Ethics, and Governance, which refused to call for a ban on gene-editing embryos. The panel concluded that "heritable germline genome editing trials must be approached with caution, but caution does not mean that they must be prohibited." Germline refers to genetic material being passed from generation to generation through the sperm and egg. In August, the American Society of Human Genetics and 10 other reproductive medicine organizations concurred with a statement saying that there's no reason to prohibit the sort of embryo-editing research undertaken by the Oregon team. That said, given safety and ethical issues, the statement also argued that at this time it is still "inappropriate to perform germline gene editing that culminates in human pregnancy." Ultimately, the gene-editing skeptics are calling for something akin to state-imposed eugenics. Early 20th century Progressive Era eugenicists used government power to forcibly prevent parents, via nonconsensual steril[...]

Chicago's Soda Tax Fizzles


Chicago's controversial soda tax is dead. Lawmakers in Cook County, Il., which includes Chicago and more than 100 surrounding cities, towns, and villages, including Evanston (where I went to grad school) and Des Plaines, voted this week to repeal the tax. It was big news when lawmakers in the second largest county in the United States voted last year to adopt the soda tax. Supporters hailed it as "the biggest deal yet." But guess what? It's an even bigger deal that the tax has been repealed. The short-lived tax, passed in November 2016, was a disaster. Billed as a way to raise revenue and improve residents' health, instead it spurred lawsuits and threats from the federal government. Retailers complained beverage sales had plummeted by nearly half, thanks in part to wealthier consumers avoiding the tax by driving outside the county to buy soda. Chicago learned soda taxes aren't the panacea their supporters claim. I oppose them for many reasons. For example, they're regressive, promote layoffs, don't reduce obesity, and could be the foot in the door that's used to further erode food freedom, I wrote last year in a Sun-Times op-ed. Chicago's two main newspapers, the Tribune and the Sun-Times, published strongly worded editorials and columns in recent days blasting the tax and celebrating its looming demise. "Crack open that can of soda with gusto, taxpayers," the Tribune editorial board wrote. "You won." The Tribune's editors used words like "deceit" and "a lie" to describe the tax. They'd used similar language just last month in another scathing editorial blasting the tax. The county had billed the tax as a health measure. But, as criticism mounted, even supporters on the council were forced to admit the obvious: the tax was nothing but a money grab. Sun-Times columnist Neil Steinberg labeled the tax "a bald cash grab" that "was never about battling obesity or diabetes." "That penny-per-ounce soda tax had nothing to do with our health," wrote Tribune columnist Dahleen Glanton. "It was only about the money." Glanton dubbed a flurry of pro-tax ads targeting African American and Latino voters "insulting," "condescending," and "insincere." Those ads were bankrolled by former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg, a longtime soda foe, in an effort to rescue the tax in the face of what Glanton and others rightly painted as an "angry backlash" from consumers. If all this sounds kinda familiar, then you've been paying attention. Like Chicago's reviled foie gras ban—passed by the city council in 2006 and repealed by the same council 2008—the county soda tax was voted in and then out largely by many of the same lawmakers who'd passed the law. In 2016, a decade after its passage, the Tribune dubbed the short-lived foie gras ban a "fiasco." In 2027, I have no doubt, if newspapers still exist in some form, that a post-mortem of the soda tax might use similar language. Though recent ballot measures have seen some victories for soda taxes, this repeal is further evidence that the tide may be turning. Philadelphia's tax, already facing a legal challenge, has seen collections fall short of lofty revenue projections. A similar repeal move by lawmakers in Philadelphia isn't looming, but it's also not out of the question. Still, the fact lawmakers and pundits in Cook County came to their senses doesn't mean soda taxes are verboten. Last month, the Des Moines Register editorial board urged the state—home to highly subsidized corn farmers who raise crops that are turned into the high fructose corn syrup that commonly sweetens soda—to adopt a soda tax. I flew into Chicago's O'Hare airport yesterd[...]

Delaware's Odd, Beautiful, Contentious, Private Utopia


They held a town pageant in Arden, Delaware, on September 5, 1910: a medieval procession with performers dressed as knights, troubadours, pages, and squires. One Ardenite, an anarchist shoemaker named George Brown, played a beggar. This annoyed some of the other players, because no such role had actually been written. But Brown decided to add it to the program anyway, so he dressed in rags, caked himself with mud, and invaded the proceedings, taunting the other characters and demanding alms from the audience. Many "onlookers needed assurance," The Single Tax Review reported, that Brown "was only 'part of the show.'" This was a pattern: Brown liked to talk, and not everyone liked to listen to him. According to the novelist Upton Sinclair, who lived at the time in a little Arden house that his neighbors had dubbed the Jungalow, Brown insisted on "discussing sex questions" at the Arden Economic Club. When the club asked him to cut it out, Brown declared his free-speech right to continue and kept talking until he'd broken up the meeting. He broke up the next meeting too, and finally, Sinclair wrote, "declared it his intention to break up all future meetings." At this point some of the locals wanted to have him arrested for disturbing the peace. But that required outside help, because the town of Arden did not have a police force. In fact, the town of Arden didn't have a government at all. Not, at least, in the usual sense of the word. I should back up and explain a few things. Arden's origins go back to the Delaware Invasion of 1895 and '96, when the Single Tax movement tried to take over the state. The Single Taxers were followers of Henry George, a 19th century economist who argued that government should be financed solely by a tax on land values. No income tax, no sales tax, no tax on the improvements to a property—just one tax on land. The campaigners crisscrossed the state in armbands, knapsacks, and Union Army uniforms, delivering streetcorner speeches and singing Single Tax songs ("Get the landlords off your backs/With our little Single Tax/And there's lots of fun ahead for Delaware!"). More than a few got tossed in jail for their efforts. The invasion was a flop. A disaster, really. Not only did their gubernatorial candidate get only 2.4 percent of the vote, but within a year the movement's foes would insert a provision into the state constitution that made a George-style tax impossible. Unable to achieve their ideas at the ballot box, a group of Georgists decided to take another approach. In 1900 they acquired some farmland outside Wilmington, created what amounted to a community land trust, leased out plots to anyone who wanted to move in, levied rents based on the value of the unimproved land, and used the rent money to pay for public goods. In other words, they set up a private town and enacted the Single Tax program contractually. And with that double experiment in communalism and privatization, Arden was born. I just called Arden a "town," but for its first few years it was essentially a summer resort. (Or a summer camp—many of the part-time residents slept in tents.) But by the end of the decade, particularly after the founders made some tweaks to the lease agreement in 1908, a year-round community had formed. It was a largely lower-middle-class crowd, with a high number of artists and craftsmen; it attracted not just Georgists but other sorts of nonconformists, from socialists to vegetarians. And anarchists, like our sexually explicit friend George Brown, who kept a cottage there with his common-law wife. The Ardenfolk had institutions[...]

Stossel: Baby Salmon Threatened?


CNN just released a two-part "exclusive" on the potential disaster about to befall Alaska: EPA Chief Scott Pruitt is planning to let a mining company destroy pristine Bristol Bay.

The network repoted that after a secret meeting took place between Pruitt and Pebble Mining CEO Tom Collier, the agency approved a mine that previously had been rejected by the Obama administration for being too destructive.

In fact, Obama's EPA denied the application to build Pebble Mine before it even saw an environmental impact statement. Pruitt is simply allowing the normal review process to move forward.

CNN made that look like a scandal. The real scandal is CNN's smear.

Produced and edited by Naomi Brockwell.

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White Famous Hilariously Tackles the Racial Tensions of Comedy


White Famous. Showtime. Sunday, October 15, 10 p.m. Young black comedian Floyd Mooney is unfamiliar with the concept of "white famous," so his agent explains it for him: a fame so singular that the name alone obliterates all ethnic boundaries: "Obama. Tiger Woods. Will Smith before the Jada shit." And it is within Floyd's grasp, the agent cheerily adds: "All you gotta do is be willing to wrap your lips around a little white dick now and then." That exchange pretty much sums up White Famous, a scathingly funny cocktail of hardball racial humor, caustic Hollywood self-lampoon and general filthy talk. It hits gender and race hot-buttons like Ali and Frazier hit each other—fast, hard and bloody—and if you're interested, you might want to see it soon, because even on premium cable, its life span may be short. Jay Pharoah (whose impressions of Barack Obama, Kanye West, Chris Rock and others have been a staple of Saturday Night Live the past few years) plays Floyd, an Eddie Murphy-ish stand-up comedian who's popular in Los Angeles' black clubs but hasn't had much crossover success. Still, with a steady income, a little son he loves like crazy and a pretty ex-girlfriend (Cleopatra Coleman, The Last Man On Earth) he can talk back into bed on a semi-routine basis, Floyd's life rolls along on a pleasant-enough track. His biggest challenge seems to be deadpan during his regular encounters with white Hollywood big kahunas who cringingly try to show how woke they are by saying "motherfucker" a lot and botching attempts at giving dap. When a tape of a particularly surreal exchange with a director finds its way onto the Internet, Floyd quickly becomes a viral sensation and even gets a movie offer. The catch: He has to play the role in drag, a prospect that horrifies him. "Every time there's a funny black brother in Hollywood, they try to emasculate him," Floyd complains to his sharkish agent Malcolm (Utkarsh Ambudkar, The Mindy Project), who responds with his definition of "white famous" and his prescription for what's required to attain it. Floyd doesn't buy it, and the ensuing argument—like virtually every frame of White Famous—is drenched in profound obscenity and scorched-earth racial invective until it ends with Floyd firing his agent in the middle of a posh restaurant while screaming, "Go ride a carpet!" (Malcolm's shrieked rejoinder: "How is that insulting? You know how dope it would be to have a carpet that flies?") White Famous was created by Tom Kapinos, and it embraces ethnic obloquy with the same manic zeal his show Californication did sexual depravity. Likewise with its gloriously cascading tides of obscenities, embedded in even the most mundane dialogue ("The heart wants what the heart wants, motherfucker") with such frequency that it may revive the fucks-per-minute meters that many websites used to monitor the old HBO Western Deadwood. Another meter may be necessary to track—or even identify—the political agenda of White Famous. Some gender warriors, for instance, have already identified Floyd's complaint about having to cross-dress to get a role as hetero-norming fascism. Others may think it's a shot at Tyler Perry's crotchety grandma character Madea, who's either an appalling modern incarnation of the mammy stereotype or the heroic, politically incorrect voice of the black working class, depending on which side of the debate you fall on. Actually, though, there's a tradition of male black comedians in cross-dressing roles going back at least half a century to Flip Wilson's Geraldine. Wh[...]

Movie Review: The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected)


This is not your father's Woody Allen movie. In The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected), writer-director Noah Baumbach surveys vintage Allen territory—the artsy highlands of New York's Jewish upper middle class—and finds new comic moves to try, new kinds of laughs to mine. Dustin Hoffman contributes a deadpan comic turn that's pure old-pro, Ben Stiller is seriously good, and Adam Sandler gives the most moving performance of his career. Yes, Adam Sandler. Hoffman's Harold Meyerowitz is a retired sculptor who's been eclipsed in old age by his longtime rival, L.J. Shapiro (Judd Hirsch, also in old-pro mode, however briefly). Harold, who maintains the dramatically swept-back hair of a lion-of-the-arts, is annoyed by this fact, and is thus even more annoying than ever to his three middle-aged children: Danny (Sandler), a failed musician now returned to his father's house following a divorce; Jean (Elizabeth Marvel), a mousy drudge who has stifled her sizable sorrows for decades; and Matthew (Ben Stiller), Danny and Jean's half brother, who hopped off the exhausting family hamster wheel years ago to move to Los Angeles and become a very successful business manager. Baumbach (Frances Ha and the must-see While We're Young) gets right to work introducing these and various satellite characters with crisp dialogue and an editing style so sharp it sometimes cuts off the actors' lines in mid-sentence. He whips things along with admirable economy. We ride through downtown Manhattan with Danny and his college-bound daughter Eliza (Grace Van Patten, in breakthrough mode), with Danny pointing out the long-gone venues of his '80s youth. (That used to be the fabled Danceteria, he tells Eliza; now it's just another building.) Danny's trying to take an upbeat view of his forced return to the family home: maybe now he and his father can have that together time that never seemed to materialize during Danny's childhood, when he really needed it. Arriving at Dad's house, they're glumly greeted by the downbeat Jean ("Thanks for being late"), and by Harold's current wife Maureen (Emma Thompson), a slurry drinker and terrible cook. Harold doesn't greet them because he doesn't really talk to anyone—he talks past people, not caring how they respond or how much his words might hurt. (To the loyal and loving Danny: "You've essentially never worked in your life.") Before long, Matthew arrives, fresh off a redeye from LA. He's in town to consult with a client (Adam Driver, don't blink) and to break the news to Harold that his financial situation is dire, and will require painful adjustments. It's like talking to a wall. Matthew thinks he's past being driven crazy by the old man, but after a disastrous (hilarious) lunch, he realizes he is, in fact, being driven crazy. ("I see you and I get suckered into your shit all over again!") Things could be worse, though: Matthew and his whipped-puppy brother could have wound up like Jean, who has no real life and no prospects for one. In a poignant scene set in a copse of woods, Jean tells her brothers a disturbing story from her childhood that she's never shared before. "You guys will never realize what it's like to be me in this family," she says. The movie is structured as a series of "stories," one for each of the now-grown siblings. These narrative chapters shift around in time. (Two similar-looking hospital sequences turn out to be unrelated.) We also witness a very funny meltdown at a MoMA art show and brief snippets of video brought back from school [...]

Conservatives Pose New Threat to Free Markets and Tech Economy


It almost goes without saying that liberal Democrats are hostile to private industry and entrepreneurship, as they introduce tax-raising, regulation-laden, job-killing bills that earn the ire of the hard-pressed business community. In California, the anti-business rhetoric has gotten particularly vicious, especially regarding tech firms. Guess which far-out-there leftist made the following statements: "Well, size matters, and Silicon Valley's giants are just too darn big. Time to chop them up like old Ma Bell." He also argued that "no corporation should be too big to fail—or to nail" and called for the government to "regulate Google and all of Silicon Valley into submission." This was a trick question. It wasn't a leftist Democrat who called for nailing businesses. It was conservative writer Kurt Schlichter, in an August column on the conservative Townhall. Since then, other conservatives have touted that idea and that column. For instance, Mark Pulliam, writing on the "pro-Trumpism" American Greatness site, called for the kind of "trust busting" that went on during the Progressive Era. Pulliam described the top-five tech firms (Apple, Google, Microsoft, Facebook and Amazon) as the new Robber Barons that are "de facto public utilities, with an obligation to operate fairly, responsibly and without viewpoint discrimination." He argued that they have "fallen appallingly short of this ideal" in some of their treatment of conservative websites and noted that they "share a progressive political agenda, as reflected by Apple's $1 million donation" to the Southern Poverty Law Center. It's ironic that some modern conservatives want to use progressive policies to punish private companies because of their progressive politics. If that's the new standard, then there's nothing wrong with leftists using the iron hand of regulation to harass conservative-oriented companies such as Hobby Lobby and Chick-fil-A—or that bakery that refused to bake a cake for a gay wedding. Nailing companies for anything other than law-breaking is a grievous misuse of power. Customers are free to patronize firms that best reflect their preferences and ideals, but none of this is the government's business. Specific problems with how tech companies may have behaved — the firing of an employee who advocated conservative views or any alleged misuse of web-based information — can be handled by existing workplace and privacy laws. Allegations of censorship can be dealt with through public pressure or competition. The monopoly shtick is laughable. These are indeed massive companies with huge amounts of market power … right now. But they are not monopolies. Competitors are free to take a run at them. Remember when MySpace and the Yahoo search engine reigned supreme? Ten years from now, who knows what companies will be on top? Some conservatives want to use the public-utility model to bust trusts, yet public utilities are among the few true monopolies because the government has granted them franchises. That's the only path to monopoly these days — when government outlaws the competition. And how would conservatives like it if the "fairness doctrine" approach, by which the government forces media companies to provide alternative views, were applied to their publications? The conservative movement has long been associated with free markets, but anti-capitalism has also simmered within it. In "The Coming War on Business," the New York Times' columnist David Brooks pointed to the pre[...]

Even If Trump's Threat Against NBC Isn't Serious, It's Still Destructive


After NBC News ran an article that maintained that President Donald Trump had asked for the U.S. nuclear arsenal to be increased nearly tenfold, Trump, as is his wont, tweeted: "With all of the Fake News coming out of NBC and the Networks, at what point is it appropriate to challenge their License? Bad for country!" The answer, of course, is that it's never appropriate for a person sworn to defend the Constitution to threaten to shut down speech, not even if that speech irritates him or undermines his political priorities or happens to be genuinely false news. Trump might have framed his contention in the form of a question, but he's clearly comfortable with regulatory restrictions on speech. This puts in him league with those who support "fairness doctrines," those who want to overturn the Citizens United decision and so on. When I tweeted critical comments about Trump's "license" idea, a follower accused of me practicing "literal-ism." This is not new. As you know, we're not supposed to take everything Trump says seriously. Sure, it's more than likely his threat is nothing more than bluster. There is less of a chance that he'll challenge the "licenses" of networks—whatever that means; networks don't function on licensing tied to the veracity of their reporting, obviously—than there is of the GOP passing any meaningful bill. It's just more fuel for the corrupt symbiotic relationship between the president and the establishment media. Each side can now preen for a cycle. But none of this changes the fact that presidents do have the power to undermine your privacy and destroy your life over free expression. It doesn't change the fact, as we learned over the past eight years, that when presidents play around with authoritarian ideas for political gain, a faction of Americans—always a different faction, depending on who is speaking—are comfortable hearing it or offer rationalizations for it. All the while, we continue to abandon neutral principles for political gain. This is especially true on the issue of speech. A forthcoming Cato Institute poll, as reported by Reason, found that 50 percent of Democrats believe "government should prevent people from engaging in hate speech against certain groups in public." What's more, 53 percent believe defending someone else's right "to say racist things" is tantamount to "holding racist views yourself." It's a position similar to the one that alleges anyone who supports due process for those accused of rape on college campuses is merely defending rape. For that matter, it's reminiscent of the position of Democratic senators who argue that Republicans' demands for due process for gun owners make them no better than terrorists. Recently, about 200 staff members of the American Civil Liberties Union—an organization that bills itself a defender of constitutional rights—complained that the group's "rigid stance" on the First Amendment was undermining its attempts to institute racial justice. Is this really the choice—liberty or "justice"? For progressives, many of whom are abandoning liberalism, it seems the answer is yes. They're not alone. The Cato poll finds that 72 percent of Republicans would support making it illegal to burn or desecrate the American flag. More than 50 percent of them believe, as Trump once suggested, that those who do should be stripped of their U.S. citizenship. Fifty percent of Republicans believe the press has too much freedom in America. Other poll[...]

'Administrative State Is THE Leading Threat to Civil Liberties of Our Era.'


"The administrative state is the leading threat to civil liberties of our era," says Philip Hamburger, the Maurice and Hilda Friedman Professor of Law at Columbia Law School and author of the recent books, Is Administrative Law Unlawful? (2015) and The Administrative Threat (2017). "We have a system of government in which our laws are made by the folks that we elect, and these laws are enforced by judges and juries in the courts, but we have within that an administrative state, a state that acts really by mere command and not through law." Hamburger argues that by reducing the role of elected officials to set policy, the administrative state, which has grown rapidly since World War II, disempowers blacks, women, and other minorities who have only recently gained full voting rights and political power. Before he left the Trump administration, former White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon famously vowed to "deconstruct" the administrative state—the collection of bureaucrats, agencies, and unelected rule-making bodies who decrees and diktats govern more and more of our lives. And many of the president's picks at places such as the FCC, the FDA, the EPA, and the Department of Education seem to be doing just that: cutting regulations and policies that come not directly from Congress but from administrators who decide, say, that the FCC has the ability to regulate the internet as a public utility, and that so-called net neutrality is a good idea. Trump's appointee to the Supreme Court, Neil Gorsuch, is widely understood to be a critic of the administrative and some of best-known ruling challenged the validity of rules laid out by federal bureaucracies. Reason's Nick Gillespie sat down with Hamburger to discuss why the administrative state is unconstitutional, and what, if anything, can be done reduce its power. Edited by Ian Keyser. Introduction produced by Todd Krainin. Cameras by Jim Epstein and Andrew Heaton. Music "Integration Blues" by Javolenus Available at Under CC BY NC license Subscribe to our YouTube channel. Like us on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter. Subscribe to our podcast at iTunes. This is a rush transcript. Check all quotes against the audio for accuracy. Nick Gillespie: Let's start by defining administrative law in the administrative state. What does it do and where does it come from? Philip Hamburger: Administrative power can be administered many different ways. Some people use the phrase to describe all government power in executive, and that's rather too broad. It's indiscriminate. I use the phrase to describe extra-legal rulemaking and adjudication. Exercise of power to bind Americans, to control Americans, not through the pathways set out by the Constitution and acts of Congress and acts of the court, but through other edicts, typically from agencies. Gillespie: In your recent book, Is Administrative Law Unlawful, you liken the practice of administrative law to off-road driving, and you write, 'The problem examined here is thus not where the government is heading, but how it drives. To leave the roads laid out by the Constitution can be exhilarating, at least for those in the driver's seat. All the same, it is unlawful and dangerous.' So, administrative power, it's not that Congress doesn't make a law and then it gets implemented. That's not administrative power. Congres[...]

Tax Reform Should Avoid the Global Minimum Tax


In a town where consensus is rare, an agreement has emerged among Republicans that the main goals of corporate tax reform are economic growth and increased competitiveness. The good news is that given that we have a terribly anti-growth and anti-competition tax system, a few changes would go a long way to achieving the objectives. But they would work only if the Trump administration and Republicans in Congress abandoned their counterproductive proposition of a global minimum tax. First, let's do a little recap about our current system. The United States has a 35 percent corporate income tax rate. It's the highest of all industrialized countries. That means U.S. companies doing business at home or abroad always incur a much higher tax burden than foreign competitors. We also have, unlike most other countries, a worldwide tax system—subjecting companies to taxation on all income, regardless of where it's earned. For example, the profits of U.S.-owned plants based in Germany are subject to U.S. taxes even though these profits have already been taxed by the German authorities. They do receive a credit for foreign income taxes paid, yet that still puts them at a competitive disadvantage. The silver lining is that as long as companies keep their foreign earnings abroad, they don't have to pay the additional U.S. tax. This explains much of the $2.6 trillion in foreign-earned income stored abroad by American companies. While this protects companies from our punishing system, it also creates a disincentive to invest any of that money back into the United States. The high tax rate and the worldwide tax system are big impediments to U.S. competitiveness in foreign markets and account for why, in the past two decades, a growing number of companies have decided to engage in corporate inversion, the practice of acquiring a foreign company and then relocating one's legal headquarters outside the United States for tax purposes. I'm glad the Republican tax reform framework proposes lowering the corporate income tax rate to 20 percent and moving to a territorial tax system—one that doesn't tax foreign-earned income and doesn't penalize companies that want to bring that money back to the United States for investment. But as it happens, the framework also includes this sentence: "To prevent companies from shifting profits to tax havens, the framework includes rules to protect the U.S. tax base by taxing at a reduced rate and on a global basis the foreign profits of U.S. multinational corporations." That's bad news because it means the writers of the framework are ignoring research on the positive impact of lowering the corporate income tax rate on tax avoidance and instead are opting to smack an additional tax rate on foreign profit. If the rate is 15 percent, it means that any profit earned in a country with a lower rate would be taxed at a rate up to the 15 percent level. One thing is clear: Territoriality with a global minimum tax would equal a full worldwide system because the current deferral protection would be effectively gone. Yet we're told not to worry because the rate would be so low that it wouldn't really matter. Not true. First, this bad fiscal policy would simply encourage companies to find ways to escape the system. Second, the minute Democrats are back in power, they could raise that rate, and companies could end up in a worse situation than the one they're alread[...]

Feel Good Remedies Like Gun Control Won't Stop Mass Shootings


In the wake of massacres like the Las Vegas mass shooting, many Americans reflexively demand gun control. The instinct is understandable. But that doesn't mean such initiatives will be effective beyond the margins. So what should we do instead? How about focusing less on preemptively thwarting prospective attackers and instead boosting the defensive capacities of prospective victims. There is no doubt that Stephen Paddock was a gun nut. Police found 23 firearms in his hotel room and 19 more in his home. Even more chilling, he converted his semi-automatic rifles that shoot only once when the trigger is pulled into something resembling automatic guns that shoot multiple times by using a bump stock—a device that uses the recoil energy of the gun to partially reload. (This contraption basically eviscerated the existing laws that make it exceedingly difficult and expensive for private citizens to buy automatic weapons.) All of this is boosting calls for more stringent gun regulations, especially since Paddock, who had no history of mental illness or crime, would have cleared every background check. And even Republicans and the NRA are jumping on board with plans to at least ban bump stocks. No mass killer seems ever to have deployed this device before, but given the danger of copycats, banning their sale may make some difference at the margins. Or it may not. It's hard to predict. But anyone who thinks that this—or similar measures—would significantly deter motivated shooters like Paddock, who meticulously planned his grisly attack, is fooling themselves. There are about 300 million guns in this country—nearly one for every man, woman, and child. Congress can pass all the regulations it wants—and even declare an outright ban on guns. Anyone who wants a gun badly enough would still be able to get one. Substantially reducing America's stockpile of guns might make it more difficult for a potential killer to get a firearm undetected, but accomplishing that won't require a ban on guns, but a war on guns, whose constitutional implications are identical to those of the conservative war on terrorism. Indeed, it won't just require liberals to end their "truce with the Second Amendment"—as The New Yorker's Adam Gopnik wants—but also eviscerate other aspects of the Constitution. There is no good or easy way to get Americans to voluntarily surrender their guns. Asking them nicely won't do the trick. Liberals like to tout Australia's "buyback" programs as a possible model, but the success of that program in actually reducing the number of guns—and gun-related homicides—is deeply disputed. Indeed, one indication that the program wasn't all that it is cracked up to be is that illegal gun ownership in Australia is up again, necessitating yet another amnesty initiative by the country this year. Besides, Australia's love affair with guns is nowhere as strong as America's—which is why Australia doesn't have the Second Amendment to begin with and America does. That, combined with the greater number of guns in this country, might make any buyback program prohibitively expensive for taxpayers. So what is the alternative? Basically, forcing people to give up their guns. But the kind of intrusive searches of the homes and property of gun owners this would entail would make the Bush administration's warrantless surveillance of telecommunications lo[...]

Chinese Dissident Ai Weiwei Explores the Tragedy of the Refugee Crisis


Ai Weiwei is arguably the best-known contemporary artist alive today. Years of beatings, detention, and house arrest by the Chinese government only fueled his fame in the West. Now living in exile in Germany, the artist has shifted focus from the repressions of his homeland to the global refugee crisis.

"In the year I was born my father was exiled," Weiwei told Reason. "As a poet he was forbidden to write for 20 years. I grew up...being completely discriminated [against] and mistreated. Yes, it is very similar to a refugee's condition."

His debut feature film, Human Flow, which will be released in the U.S. this week, chronicles the physical and emotional journeys of some of the world's 65 million refugees as they flee their homelands. It was shot in over 20 countries.

"It's not only tragic to the refugees," says Weiwei, "but it's rather tragic to humanity, to our understanding about who we are."

Coinciding with the release of the film, Weiwei is unveiling a major public art project in New York City, erecting hundreds of symbolic barriers around the five boroughs. "It's about territory. It's about borders. It's about immigration."

State restrictions on the rights of individuals to travel is a major theme in Weiwei's work—and life. For over four years, the Chinese government held Weiwei's passport, making it impossible for him to leave the country.

"As an artist, I would have shows in worldwide institutions I could not really attend," he says. The government was "trying to reduce my voice or my possibility for creativity."

In 2015, the Chinese government returned Weiwei's passport, freeing him to leave China. Recently he's been traveling to promote his film and oversee the installation of his work in New York City—enjoying a freedom of movement the artist wants none of us to take for granted.

Produced and edited by Meredith Bragg. Shot by Austin Bragg. Music by Kai Engel.

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Diversity Is Not Enough. We Need Pluralism


It was bound to happen. Ben Borgman, who is gay, recently ejected a group of Christian anti-abortion activists from his coffee shop in Seattle. He took great offense at one of their flyers, which he found outside, and understandably so: It graphically links gay pride with a dismembered fetus. He told them to get out in no uncertain terms (and in very colorful language). "Heroic Gay Coffee Shop Owner Kicks Out Anti-LGBTQ Group," exulted Out magazine. "Gay coffee shop owner throws out Christian zealots whose leaflets feature rainbow hands dripping blood," is how Pink News put it. The parallels with a current Supreme Court case are obvious. The justices soon will decide whether a Christian baker can decline to make a wedding cake for a gay couple. Gay-rights activists say refusing to do so amounts to blatant discrimination that violates public accommodation laws. Defenders of Masterpiece Cakeshop say the owner, Jack Phillips, is not discriminating against gay people—he will gladly sell them all sorts of baked goods—but rather, exercising a First Amendment right not to create cakes that violate his religious convictions. (He won't make Halloween cakes, either.) The degree to which religious believers deserve accommodation also turned up last week in two moves by the Trump administration. In one, Attorney General Jeff Sessions laid down new guidelines for federal agencies, directing them to protect the ability of religious people to live out their faith. In the second, the administration expanded religious exemptions to Obamacare's requirement that employers provide insurance coverage for contraception. Liberal interest groups immediately went ballistic over both. Which is rather telling. And what it tells us is that "celebrating diversity" means somewhat less than you might think at first blush. It suggests there are really two kinds of diversity—and that only one of them is considered worth cheering. We might call the first kind shallow diversity. It's the kind that is only skin-deep: the kind that complains the Oscar nominations include too few minorities, or that not enough women major in economics, or that all-white juries are inherently suspect, or that Asians are overrepresented on college campuses. Shallow diversity is still important and useful: Diverse companies tend to make better decisions and higher profits, for example. Diversity also suggests the absence of discrimination (although organizations can use discrimination to achieve a diverse mix). This kind of diversity enriches everyday experience, fosters tolerance, and broadens understanding. But a superficially diverse community can still lack diversity in a deeper sense. Take higher education: Colleges and universities go to great lengths to pursue demographic diversity in the faculty and the student body. But over the past couple of decades campuses have grown decidedly more liberal—to the point that in some fields, conservative voices are nearly extinct. Yet there is no corresponding effort to increase ideological diversity in higher education. And this holds true despite the fact that while conservatives and liberals might disagree about, say, whether racism is a personal character flaw or a coordinated system of social control, they share many values and assumptions common to the American upper middle-class. The[...]

Let The Catalonians Leave


The United States was born when the Founding Fathers seceded from England. So why do so many people now see secession as a terrible thing? Recently, people in Catalonia voted to break away from Spain—not to declare war on Spain or refuse to trade with Spain, just to control their own affairs. The Spanish government said they must not even vote. They sent police to shut down polling places and beat protestors into staying off the streets. Governments never want to give up power. The European Union was offended and American politicians shocked when the United Kingdom voted to exit the EU (Brexit). Pundits declared Britain's move a terrible mistake. But local governments can be more responsive to the needs of constituents. No government is perfect. But keeping government close to home, keeping it local, makes it easier to keep an eye on it. The powerful prefer one big central government. Some want the whole world to answer to one government. President Ulysses S. Grant fantasized about countries becoming "one nation, so that armies and navies are no longer necessary." President Harry Truman wanted a World Court. Just as American disputes are settled by our Supreme Court, he said, "There is not a difficulty in the whole world that cannot be settled in exactly the same way in a world court." But central authorities aren't the best way to solve our problems. Competition is. In the U.S., state governments behave not because their politicians are noble, but because people can "vote with their feet"—move to other states. If taxes get too high in New York, you can move Florida. As California tortures businesses, Californians move to Arizona and Texas. The more governments from which you can choose, the easier it is to benefit from competition between them. All Americans, however, must obey rules set by Washington, D.C. But what if most people in a state reject those rules and demand the right to govern themselves? There have been several secession movements in California—a plan to break California up into smaller states, a push to make Northern California a breakaway state called Jefferson, and now the "Yes California" movement that wants to make California a separate country. Calexit's proponents say Californians shouldn't have to answer to that evil President Trump. If Calexit ever happened, I suppose conservative parts of the state would vote to separate from the leftists who dominate Sacramento. Maybe we'd end up with three countries where there used to be one. When I look at how badly Washington, D.C., governs, the idea of secession doesn't scare me. After the Cold War, Czechoslovakia split into Slovakia and the Czech Republic. "Tensions between Czechs and Slovaks have disappeared," writes Marian Tupy, a Cato Institute analyst born in Czechoslovakia. "Czechs no longer subsidize their poorer cousins in the east, while Slovaks no longer blame their problems on their 'big brother' in the west. Everyone has won." Secession frightens some Americans because they associate it with slavery. Preserving that despicable practice was one reason southern states wanted to break away. But obviously, one can favor secession without supporting slavery. Even some abolitionists, anti-slavery activists in the 19th century, supported the right to secede. More recently, some black[...]

Does Reproductive Freedom Mean Forcing People to Sin?


Last Friday the Trump administration unveiled regulations that let a wider range of employers claim a religious exemption from the Obamacare mandate requiring health plans to cover birth control. Rep. Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.) responded by invoking The Handmaid's Tale, the Margaret Atwood novel, now a Hulu series, set in a patriarchal dystopia where the government controls women's bodies and forbids them to read, write, or work outside the home. Lowey is not the only critic of the new regulations who conflates freedom from coercion with a right to forcibly extracted subsidies. Such overwrought reactions obscure the real issue raised by religious exceptions to the contraceptive mandate: When does respect for religious freedom require relieving some people of the obligation to obey rules that everyone else has to follow? Never, according to the Supreme Court, which in 1990 ruled against Alfred Smith and Galen Black, who were denied unemployment benefits after being fired from their jobs as drug rehabilitation counselors because they used peyote in Native American Church ceremonies. Writing for the majority, Justice Antonin Scalia said letting the First Amendment's guarantee of religious freedom trump a "neutral, generally applicable law" such as Oregon's peyote ban would create "a system in which each conscience is a law unto itself." That decision rejected the approach that the Court had taken in earlier cases, which required the government to justify substantial burdens on religious freedom by showing that they were the least restrictive means of serving a compelling state interest. The peyote ruling provoked strong criticism from across the political spectrum and inspired the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), which Congress passed nearly unanimously in 1993. RFRA restored the compelling-interest test that the Supreme Court used until 1990. Although the Court ruled in 1997 that RFRA cannot be constitutionally applied to state and local laws, it is still binding on the federal government, and it was the main basis for legal challenges to the contraceptive mandate. The American Civil Liberties Union, which immediately filed a lawsuit against the new, broader religious exemption, supported RFRA. Later the ACLU, whose Oregon chapter helped represent Smith and Black, successfully argued that RFRA required religious exceptions to the federal ban on the psychedelic dimethyltryptamine and the U.S. Army's dress and grooming rules. More recently, however, the ACLU has soured on RFRA, which it describes as "a sword to discriminate against women, gay and transgender people, and others." The organization's birth control lawsuit, which argues that the new rules "give employers license to discriminate against women," does not even mention RFRA. When it comes to religious liberty, it seems, the ACLU draws the line at beliefs that offend progressive sensibilities. The ACLU claims the new birth control regulations let businesses, nonprofit organizations, and universities "impose their religious beliefs on their employees and students." New York Times columnist Gail Collins likewise thinks beneficiaries of the exemption "are trying to impose their own personal theology on Americans who don't share it." Contrary to these formulations, employers who d[...]