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

 



Trump's New National Security Strategy Not Likely to Alter the Pattern of 'Promiscuous Intervention'

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

The Trump administration is nearly ready to roll out its first National Security Strategy (NSS), a document that promises to make concrete the president's campaign-trail pledge of a dramatic about-face from the adventuresome and often counterproductive foreign policy of the post-9/11 era. The plan reportedly has the support of all relevant cabinet-level advisers, and, per Axios' scoop, is intended to serve "as a 'corrective' to the past 16 years of American foreign policy," a time in which Washington chronically "overestimated America's influence and importance and lost track of priorities." A more restrained approach focused strictly on core interests of defense instead of peripheral concerns like solving internal political conflicts in distant countries would be a welcome corrective. But unless the NSS inaugurates a radical departure from the Trump team's own foreign policy to date, this is a correction unlikely to be made. President Trump's first year in office has seen little in the way of foreign affairs innovation, unless we count his escalation of the status quo of his recent predecessors. The president's policy strength is asking good questions rather than providing good answers. It's a safe assumption this NSS will not repudiate the Trump team's record so far. Until that expectation is fulfilled, let's speculate a little about what the NSS is likely to be, and how it could still be made better. The plan has four broad themes, National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster explained at the Ronald Reagan National Defense Forum in California this past weekend: "protecting our homeland, advancing American prosperity, preserving peace through strength … and finally enhancing American influence." McMaster declined to outline what those bromides mean, other than suggesting a continuation of what military historian Ret. Col. Andrew Bacevich has aptly labeled a "pattern of promiscuous intervention." In the last decade and a half, U.S. troops and taxpayers have paid a high price for that pattern. "When it comes to promised results—disorder curbed, democracy promoted, human rights advanced, terrorism suppressed—the United States has precious little to show," Bacevich wrote at Foreign Affairs last year. Those words are no less true today despite a new Oval Office occupant. "As if on autopilot, the Pentagon accrues new obligations and expands its global footprint, oblivious to the possibility that in some parts of the world, U.S. forces may no longer be needed, whereas in others, their presence may be detrimental," Bacevich wrote. Tellingly, McMaster touted Trump's August speech on Afghanistan, echoing "the American people's frustration … over a foreign policy that has spent too much time, energy, money, and most importantly, lives trying to rebuild countries in our own image instead of pursuing our security interests." This promising start was fatally undermined when Trump immediately announced his intention to maintain exactly that foreign policy of frustration for unknown generations to come. Trump absurdly imagined the risk in exiting Afghanistan after 16 years is that we might do it too hastily. He observed that "the American people are weary of war without victory," only to set the impossible victory of bombs over ideology as the United States' unachievable goal. He even decried nation-building, and then promptly promised to continue doing it under another name. McMaster likewise promised to "no longer confuse activity with progress," an admirable change, only to speak enthusiastically of busily trying to remake other nations in the United States' image with military intervention all around the globe. He praised Trump's decision to launch airstrikes on Syria's Assad regime despite the real risk of great power conflict it entailed, and in an interview format after his talk, he made a truly dangerous case for preventive war as an acceptable response to North Korea's provocations. Activity without progress abounds. I highlight McMaster's address not only as one of the few sources of information on this forthc[...]



Stossel: The Fight Against Food Trucks

2017-12-12T11:25:00-05:00

Food trucks are a vital part of many vibrant neighborhoods. For some entrepreneurs, they're a great way to enter the food industry.

Laura Pekarik is one of these entrepreneurs. She sells cupcakes from a food truck in Chicago. Laura says the food truck industry "gives individuals like me an entrance into a market opportunity for the small business owner that otherwise wouldn't have been there. I was able to rent a kitchen space instead of renting a whole brick and mortar and managing a team of people. Everything kind of was under my control to kind of get my feet wet in the business."

But since starting her business, the increased regulations have made it too hard for her to take her truck in to the city. Often she is not even allowed to park. When she does find parking, she can only stay 2 hours. "Every moment that we're driving around and not parked in the location with our window open meant that we couldn't sell," she says.

Baltimore Pizza Truck operator Joey Vanoni tells John Stossel about his similar experiences. He is not allowed to park his truck within 300 feet of any brick and mortar restaurant that sells pizza. Joey says that means "there's almost nowhere left for me to operate."

Why do politicians limit where food trucks may park? Chicago Alderman Tom Tunney says he wants to protect existing restaurants. "It is such a small margin business and it employs so many people," Tunney explains. "That's what we need to protect." Stossel says, he's a bottlenecker.

Produced by Naomi Brockwell. Edited by Joshua Swain.

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Rebellious Jurors Make the World a Better Place

2017-12-12T00:01:00-05:00

After criticism by some local officials of a new program that refers people caught with four ounces or less of marijuana for fines and community service, El Paso, Texas, Police Chief Greg Allen turned out to be a surprise defender of bypassing the usual criminal justice rigmarole of booking, mug shots, and jails. While careful to emphasize that he's no fan of drug legalization, Allen says it's a waste of his officers' time to put hours into an "an arrest that has no end result of a conviction because of jury nullification." This is only the latest evidence that rebellious jurors are putting limits on how badly government officials can treat the rest of us. Relative to some of its neighbors, Texas continues to enforce relatively draconian marijuana restrictions. The state is only slowly implementing a medical marijuana law signed by the governor in 2015. It's a measure at least partially inspired by the refusal of jurors, as in a high-profile 2008 case involving an HIV patient, to convict people for using the drug as medicine. But the law has been criticized for requiring the use of low-THC products, and burdensome regulations, "leaving some to worry if the Texas program will work at all," according to the Houston Press. And the state has yet to easy any rules regarding recreational use. That leaves plenty of room for jurors to act—and they appear to be doing so with enthusiasm. "Jury nullification, though still rare, appears to be on the rise in drug cases that reach the trial stage," wrote Rice University's Prof. William Martin in the course of a discussion on the impact of jury nullification on the state's drug policy sponsored by Rice University's Baker Institute and the Houston Chronicle. "But even if the numbers remain small, their impact can ripple outward." He cited the case of a judge who experimentally offered jurors a chance to recommend penalties they believed appropriate in cases involving large quantities of drugs. "In the first case, they found the defendant guilty and gave him probation…We did another one just to see. Same result—huge amount of marijuana, probation. The prosecutors couldn't believe it." But jurors aren't usually allowed to choose lenient treatment of defendants—unless they go for outright acquittal. And they're doing just that often enough that the El Paso Police Chief sees no point to making arrests that have "no end result of a conviction because of jury nullification." If restrictive laws create conflicts with jurors unwilling to enforce them, it's no surprise that our next bit of news comes from Georgia, which "has some of the most punitive marijuana laws in the country," according to the Marijuana Policy Project. In Laurens County, Antonio Willis faced up to five years in prison for selling the equivalent of a few joints to an undercover cop. The cop, "who switched into an exaggerated Hispanic accent straight out of Cheech and Chong when dealing with suspects," according to Bill Torpy of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, kept pestering Willis for drugs while promising to hook the unemployed man up with a construction job. Willis was represented by Catherine Bernard, a defense attorney affiliated with both Peachtree NORML and the Fully Informed Jury Association. That may have made a difference, since the jury acquitted after just 18 minutes of deliberations. "A jury in Middle Georgia returned a Not Guilty verdict in a marijuana sale case despite the evidence," retired sheriff's deputy Tom McCain, now executive director of Peachtree NORML, approvingly commented after the trial. "The verdict can be nothing other than Jury Nullification." Unsurprisingly, the power of the jury is widely touted by legalization advocates as a key to knee-capping the war on drugs. But it's also widely seen as an important tool for protecting other rights, too. "Using the jury box to limit government excesses will be a strong tool in our kit," noted an article published by pro-self-defense TheTruthAboutGuns.com after a jury hung when on[...]



Less Regulation Means Less Opportunity for Government Corruption

2017-12-11T16:00:00-05:00

The federal indictment of a former Massachusetts state senator, Brian Joyce, gave some headline writers an opportunity to focus on the comic element of his alleged scheme. The Democratic politician pleaded not guilty. He was charged in part with having accepted 504 pounds of free coffee from a franchise widely identified as Dunkin' Donuts. With Saturday Night Live already memorably mocking that company's seductiveness for a certain element of lowbrow New England culture, it's tempting to react to the Joyce news with a certain Boston cynicism—"at least it wasn't Stahhbucks"—and move on. But there are some serious points here, too. It will be interesting to see whether the federal effort to make "honest services fraud" charges stick against Joyce are any more successful here than were so-far failed efforts by zealous prosecutors to criminalize sketchy but maybe not actually criminal behavior by the Republican governor of Virginia, Robert McDonnell; by the Democratic Speaker of the New York legislature, Sheldon Silver; and by the Republican majority leader of the New York State Senate, Dean Skelos. In all three of those federal cases against state-level politicians, judges eventually defined honest services fraud differently than prosecutors did, and dismissed the convictions. The Supreme Court's 8-0 opinion in McDonnell v. United States was emphatic on the point: "conscientious public officials arrange meetings for constituents, contact other officials on their behalf, and include them in events all the time. The basic compact underlying representative government assumes that public officials will hear from their constituents and act appropriately on their concerns…The Government's position could cast a pall of potential prosecution over these relationships." The opinion, by Chief Justice Roberts, warned that if the prosecutors prevailed, "officials might wonder whether they could respond to even the most commonplace requests for assistance, and citizens with legitimate concerns might shrink from participating in democratic discourse. This concern is substantial." The honest services fraud issue is just one part of the story here, though. Reading the indictment—which includes charges of racketeering, extortion, money laundering, defrauding the IRS, and bribery—it's hard to miss the fact that a lot of the alleged corruption involves government interference with free markets. The "nationally branded coffee and pastry fast-food business" had an interest in state laws governing the relations between franchise holders and parent companies, and in "tip-pooling" legislation about how employees split tips. The indictment also discusses Joyce's involvement in allegedly "exerting pressure on and advising" members of a town planning board whose approval a developer needed to subdivide a piece of land. The indictment also features a company "interested in promoting property-assessed-clean-energy 'PACE' legislation in Massachusetts. PACE was an alternative energy financing program that required state legislation because its funding was derived from issuing bonds that were secured by increased property tax assessments." If state and local government just let restaurants do what they want with their tip money, let landowners do what they want with their property, and let people who want solar panels or windmills on their property pay for them themselves, there would be less opportunity for corruption. Smaller government, in other words, in addition to whatever other virtues it has, has the possibility to be more honest government. And larger government—more involvement of politicians in regulating or subsidizing or licensing the economy—has the potential to be more dishonest government. It provides more opportunities for crooked politicians to shake down businessmen, and more opportunities for crooked businessmen to try to buy political influence. Whether that is what happened in Joyce's case will be for a jury or perhaps eventual[...]



Kill the Mortgage Interest Deduction Now!

2017-12-11T11:30:00-05:00

Thankfully, one of the biggest scams in the American tax code is finally under attack in the House version of Republican tax reform. It's the mortgage-interest deduction, which currently lets homeowners deduct interest paid on mortgages of up to $1 million for two houses. Ever since owning a home has been a central tenet of the American Dream since the end of World War II and the rise of suburbia, it's been a given that deducting mortgage interest from your taxes is as American as apple pie. The House plan would limit filers to deducting interest on the first $500,000 of a mortgage on just one house, sending a blind panic through wealthy home owners, realtors, and the building trades, all of whom are terrified that a government subsidy is being yanked away from them. But the real problem with the House bill is that it doesn't go far enough. We should scrap the mortgage-interest deduction altogether and let housing prices reflect real market values. The mortgage-interest deduction is typically justified by claiming that it lets people—especially vaguely defined "middle-class" people—afford homes. But it also increases the price of housing by making it artificially cheap to borrow, meaning homebuyers are willing to pay more. England, Canada, and Australia don't let their taxpayers deduct their mortgage interest and they all have higher rates of homeownership than the United States. The mortgage-interest deduction disproportionately benefits the wealthiest Americans, who soak up almost all the $70 billion a year it costs in foregone revenue each year. Reason Foundation's director of economic research, Anthony Randazzo calculates that only 20 percent of tax filers claim the mortgage-interest deduction. That group by and large are part of six-figure households in a country where the median household income is just $57,000. Killing the mortgage-interest deduction might cause a one-time 7 percent drop in real estate prices, according to one estimate, with wealthy homeowners feeling most of the pain. As a homeowner myself, that seems like a small price to pay to end a policy that distorts the real estate market, complicates the tax code, and benefits mostly wealthier Americans on the false promise that it makes home-owning affordable for the middle class. The mortgage-interest deduction is just special-interest pandering wrapped in a gooey story that equates "the American Dream" with having a mortgage. The tax code should be designed to raise the revenue necessary to pay for essential services, not to nudge and prod us into spending money on something the government decides is good for us. Produced by Todd Krainin. Written and narrated by Nick Gillespie. Subscribe to our YouTube channel. Like us on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter. Subscribe to our podcast at iTunes. [...]



Warnings About Monopoly Power Are Right

2017-12-11T10:05:00-05:00

"America Has a Monopoly Problem—and It's Huge," ran a headline in The Nation recently. The piece by Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz lamented that "If we don't like our internet company or our cable TV we either have no place to turn, or the alternative is no better." If you spend any time with left-of-center commentary these days (and everyone should—especially people on the right), you'll find this is a common theme of late. The New Republic writes about "How Democrats Can Wage a War on Monopolies—and Win." In The Week, Jeff Spross tells us "What Beer Reveals About Monopoly Power." (Cliff's Notes version: nothing good!) At The Huffington Post, Zach Carter and Paul Blumenthal consider the proposed merger of AT&T and Time Warner "intolerable... No single entity should have that much power." In recent months Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D) has warned repeatedly about how "a handful of corporations" have "seized power in this country" through economic consolidation. Her colleague Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) wants to know "How did big tech come to control so many aspects of our lives?" Proponents of net neutrality warn that "in a future without net neutrality, instead of being able to watch whatever is being produced by anyone, you'll either just have to submit to whatever the local monopoly is willing to provide, or pay through the nose for universal service." Editors at Talking Points Memo discuss "Our Problem With Monopolies." The New York Times asks, "Is Google a Harmful Monopoly?" And so on. You could argue that this concern over monopolies, real or alleged, is overwrought. The "gales of creative destruction," as Joseph Schumpeter called them, do not discriminate: Today's economic colossus is tomorrow's kitschy relic (see: Philco radios, Pullman railway cars). As Mark Perry of the American Enterprise Institute pointed out not long ago, only 60 of the companies listed on the Fortune 500 in 1955 remain on the list today. The rest went bankrupt, were acquired by or merged with another company, or have been outrun by other firms. But let's assume the monopoly alarmists are right: that more consumer choice is better, that the concentration of power is bad, that gaining market share though non-market (and especially political) means is inherently suspect, and that allowing large, impersonal, unaccountable institutions to control the smallest details of our lives is simply wrong. Those points do seem reasonable enough, after all. Why, then, are so many progressives so enamored of the worst monopolist of all—government? Take Warren. In one breath, she condemns the lack of consumer options. In the next, she blasts Education Secretary Betsy DeVos for supporting school choice. "Your history of support for policies that would drain valuable taxpayer resources from our public schools and funnel those funds to unaccountable private and for-profit education operators may well disqualify you from such a central role in public education," she wrote back when DeVos was first nominated. (Warren wasn't always opposed to school choice, incidentally. Before running for office, she supported vouchers as a means to produce "schools that offer a variety of programs that parents want for their children, regardless of the geographic boundaries.") Speaking of consumer freedom, shouldn't consumers be able to choose their own health insurance—and even no insurance at all? Apparently not: Warren supports Obamacare, with its individual mandate forcing people to buy coverage regardless of whether they actually want it. What's more, she has pledged to support Bernie Sanders' single-payer proposal—under which a single government agency would control health care financing for everybody. Let that marinate for a minute. If Aetna were to gain monopoly control of the health insurance market by merging with its rivals—or even simply by winning over their customers—Warren would f[...]



The End of Free Speech

2017-12-11T06:00:00-05:00

Ah, fall. Students heading off to campus protests, football players kneeling as the national anthem plays, the smell of burning flags. It's the season of free speech madness. Republicans, as is their habit of late, have positioned themselves as the defenders of First Amendment freedoms in a time of runaway political correctness. This plays well on television: Footage of college students shouting down speakers they don't like, staging sit-ins, and brandishing protest placards runs on an endless loop at Fox News while chyrons blare, "Free Speech Under Fire on Campus." And when a demonstration in Charlottesville, Virginia, spiraled out of control, it was primarily right-leaning lawmakers and pundits who stood up for the right of white supremacists and Nazis to express their vile opinions about race and Confederate statuary. Meanwhile, signs demanding "No Free Speech for Fascists" cropped up in the hands of lefties at post-Charlottesville rallies around the country. But as the weather cooled, the GOP revealed its true colors. Led by an increasingly vehement and erratic President Donald Trump, the same party that was poised to die on the hill of free speech when it was being threatened by angry progressives was suddenly ready to eliminate First Amendment rights on the football field, revoke citizenship for flag burning, pull broadcast licenses over bad comedy sketches, and expand libel laws to take down annoying members of the media. There are greater threats to speech, it turns out, than a bunch of angry co-eds. In the face of calls for censorship from the left and the right, meanwhile, one of the most important traditional defenders of speech has begun a slow but undeniable retreat. Dealing with internal dissension in the wake of Charlottesville, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) tiptoed away from its proud legacy of free speech absolutism. And poll after poll revealed that Americans of both parties are ready and willing to see speech rights abridged in the service of partisan goals. Nothing that has happened so far in 2017 is yet irreversible. But as the ACLU is undermined from within and the right once again sheds the mantle of free speech in favor of a cape made of the American flag, the sharp edges of our First Amendment rights are eroding. In an era of bipartisan agreement that speech should be limited (paired, of course, with violent disagreement about what speech should be limited), it will be all too easy to forget where the outer boundaries of our freedom of expression once were. And once lost, they won't be easy to reconstruct. Back to School As the fall semester began, campus activists were primed for action. The previous academic year had begun with Yale students surrounding residential college master Nicholas Christakis and shouting about how his wife's opinions on Halloween costumery made them feel unsafe; it ended with Evergreen State College students surrounding professor Bret Weinstein and shouting about how his opinions on student activism made them feel unsafe. Berkeley's campus had been engulfed in angry protests, which culminated in the cancellation of speeches by right-wing provocateurs Ann Coulter and Milo Yiannopoulos. Many students came back to campus looking to fight. They were not disappointed. Before classes even began, Fordham's dean of students and deputy Title IX coordinator Christopher Rodgers was already under investigation for showing a video questioning popular statistics on campus rape in a resident adviser training session. Charles Murray, author of The Bell Curve, a book that makes controversial claims about the relationship between race and IQ, faced protests at the University of Michigan. (Unlike at Middlebury College the year before, where his attempt to speak ended in physical assault, Murray managed to finish his talk after the hecklers moved on. "We feel it is important to make an unequivocal statem[...]



The FBI Is No Friend of Liberty and Justice

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

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



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

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

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



Want More Jobs? Fight Occupational Licensing!

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

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Why Jeff Flake Matters

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

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



Atlanta Targets Good Samaritans Sharing Food with Homeless

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

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



13 Non-Pedophile Reasons Why You Can Hate Roy Moore

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

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

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

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

Edited by Austin Bragg and Siskind.

Produced by Meredith and Austin Bragg.

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

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

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



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

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

"Spanish-Language Broadcasters Take a Fall," read a front-page headline in the December 3 edition of the Los Angeles Business Journal. In just the past year, according to the accompanying article, the audience share of Spanish-language radio stations in the L.A. market fell two points, from 21.6 to 19.4, while their English-language counterparts saw an increase from a 56 to 58 share. It was a "dramatic drop for several outlets that spent years at or near the top," according to the paper. One of the big factors: a "shift in preferences among younger listeners in Spanish-speaking communities for English-speaking media." The story hasn't gotten much traction outside of media circles. But it's a big one in the continued assimilation saga of Mexicans in the United States. And it's one giant chinga tu madre to anti-immigrant types who have spent the last 25 years decrying the Mexican takeover of "American" airwaves in Southern California. One of their main proofs that unassimilable, backwards Mexican culture had taken over the Southland is the continued switchover of crappy pop and adult alternative stations to Latino formats. First they flooded our schools, then they took over welfare. Now their tuba music is all over the dial, and it probably plays hidden messages about how to sacrifice gringos with an obsidian knife! But L.A. radio station owners don't flip formats because of Reconquista, but because it makes business sense. Mexicans, like all people, are consumers. And Mexicans change their tastes as well—you know, like other people. So the industry keeps evolving. This is a story I've had the advantage of growing up in. I remember a January 6, 1993, Los Angeles Times story that reverberated across the country. KLAX-FM 97.9 ("La Equis"—The X) had topped the local Arbitron ratings with a formula used by all stations in the United States for decades: genius marketing, wisecracking on-air personalities, and a hot new genre that set it apart from rivals. Except this time, the language was Español. And the music was Mexican. KLAX's victory was so unexpected that classic rock station KLSX 97.1 "expressed concern" to the Times "that some of their audience may have gotten the call letters mixed up and that those listeners may have been attributed [in the Arbitron ratings] to KLAX." It was a line repeated by Howard Stern, who saw his reign as king of the L.A. airwaves toppled by what he dismissed as "some Mexican station." (KLAX, the Times reported, responded by sending Stern "a funeral wreath with a note reading: 'Thanks for helping us remain No. 1.'") KLAX's win started a good 15 years of Spanish-language domination of the Southern California airwaves, as other stations emerged to take turns at the top. The same began to happen across the United States. Smart programmers took advantage of changing demographics, and Mexican-Americans no longer ashamed of their ethnic background (see: Linda Ronstadt recording a mariachi album in 1987) wanted to listen to genres like banda sinaloense, pasito duranguense, and rock en Español that were previously available in el Norte only live or on pirated CDs. The influence of Spanish-language radio in the United States reached its peak in 2006, when DJs from across the country set aside their rivalries and urged their respective listeners to take to the streets in support of amnesty; the resulting protest marches were the largest in American history until the Women's March earlier this year. I remember this era well. My cousins and I had all grown up with the music of our parents and liked it enough, but we never thought of it as cool. KLAX changed all that. Suddenly, my older cousins went to quinceañer[...]



U.S.A, U.S.A., U.S.A

2017-12-08T07:10:00-05:00

Ever since President Trump sauntered into the White House, America's image—or "brand," in marketing parlance—has taken a beating. This month, a Nation Brand Index poll of public opinion in 50 countries found that the "Trump effect" had caused America's reputation to drop from first to sixth place in world rankings on a whole host of metrics, such as its attractiveness as a tourist, business, and work destination. This is in keeping with the March U.S. News & World Report "best country" rankings, based on a poll of business leaders and other "informed elites" around the world, in which the U.S. fell several notches. But fear not. America will overcome this loss of respect. American greatness doesn't stem from its politics or its political leaders so they can't tarnish it much either, not even Trump. What has made America great is that it has set the standards of excellence in literally every human endeavor for the last 150 years. While immodest, it is not an overstatement to suggest that when it comes to the sciences, arts, technology, and business, America dominates the world. And it does so not by imposing its will on others, but by excelling so much that it forces other countries to compete on a higher plane. Quite simply, America has made the world a better place to live. America pioneered nearly every transformational technology of the industrial age, beginning with Thomas Edison's invention of the light bulb, phonograph, and motion picture camera, and followed by Henry Ford's mass production of automobiles. America was the first to land a man on the moon. But what changed the way people live—besides TV dinners, Tupperware, and hairspray!—even more were America's immense strides in artificial satellites. This technology set the stage for the telecommunications revolution that gave us global positioning satellite systems in our pockets, among so many other modern wonders. America invented the transistor, which fueled the miniaturization of electronics. We created the internet—sparking the IT revolution that transformed life in the 21st century more fundamentally than the Industrial Revolution did a century ago. Google and Yahoo, Amazon and Microsoft, YouTube and Wikipedia, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram—they were all created in America. Likewise, in medicine America has led the way. Britain's Alexander Fleming may have discovered penicillin. But America's advances in diagnostic medicine—MRIs and PET scans—and pharmaceuticals have vastly improved the quantity and quality of human life. Nor is America yet done. Our nation is the hub of stem cell and other gene-based research that might eventually eliminate disease, reverse aging, and make humans all but immortal. America isn't just the leader in applied science, but also pure sciences—which is surprising given that American adults' numeracy skills are below average compared to other OECD countries. The United States has won more Nobels for physics, chemistry, physiology, medicine, and economics that any country since World War II—and by a wide margin. By 2015, America had 256 Nobels under its belt, compared to the United Kingdom's second place 93. Interestingly, about one-third of all U.S. Nobels are won by the foreign-born, showing just how attractive a destination America is for the world's top minds. That's because the best and the most cutting-edge work in many fields is done in America, offering great minds maximum scope for making their mark—which helps America maintain its edge despite its relatively sub-standard K-12 system. And what's true of the sciences is also true of the arts. Major U.S. cities have museums that ri[...]



Jerry Brown Finally Spends Political Capital to Fix Pension Crisis

2017-12-08T00:01:00-05:00

Gov. Jerry Brown (D) has more political capital than, perhaps, any modern politician has had in California. He's an iconic figure and smarter than almost anyone else in Sacramento, so he can pretty much have his way with the legislature. A lot of us have wondered, though, why—almost seven years into his latest governorship—he has been so unwilling to tap that treasure trove and spend it on something really important. Until now. Brown recently has weighed in on a state Supreme Court case that—without exaggeration—will determine the fiscal future of California's municipalities. It's a seemingly obscure case about a union benefit known as "airtime," but it's really about the ability of state and local governments to roll back future pension benefits they can no longer afford. Brown has had major accomplishments, but mostly of the type (tax raising, extending cap and trade) one should expect from a governor working with supermajorities in his own party. Political capital is about investing in something important that cuts against the grain. In this case, Brown is taking on the public-sector unions he has spent his career empowering. There's no question Brown and his team understand what's at stake. In 1999, California passed a law that started a wave of retroactive pension increases that were predicated on the idea that stock-market increases would endlessly pay for all those six-figure pensions and spiking gimmicks. But what goes up must come down. Instead, the state's pension funds are dangerously underfunded and localities are slashing services to pay for golden retiree deals. Brown's Public Employees' Pension Reform Act went into effect in 2013. It was a welcome, albeit modest, reform. Its passage was largely about convincing voters to approve Proposition 30, which raised taxes and plugged a gaping budget hole. At the time, pension abuses were front page news and state leaders needed to reassure voters that they were indeed fiscally responsible and could be trusted with more revenue. In this particular court case, a firefighters' union challenged the law's elimination of the airtime benefit. Airtime allows union workers to buy additional fictional years of service and artificially boost their pension checks. Advocates for the deal promised that it wouldn't cost anything, but the state underpriced the benefit and it became—no surprises here—an appalling giveaway. A series of court decisions has created the "California Rule." It means that once a public employee receives a pension benefit it can never be reduced unless that employee receives something of equal or greater value. It is the main hindrance to reining in soaring pension costs that are eating up municipal budgets and causing city officials to become pension providers that offer a few services on the side. Most pension reform ideas, whether pursued legislatively or via initiative, run into this impediment. Sure, PEPRA and many local governments have reduced pensions for new hires. But it will take decades before those people retire. Governments are left cutting services, laying off employees and raising taxes and even mulling bankruptcy because there's little else they can do. The California Rule locks in unsustainable benefits for current workers and retirees. The unions argue that eliminating airtime violates that rule. It's a poor argument—and an even more foolish legal strategy. But significant reforms often are born of hubris, and union greed has opened the door to the kind of wide-ranging changes to the California Rule that are imperative if we're going to keep local budgets afloat. If these unions had [...]



Movie Review: I, Tonya

2017-12-08T00:00:00-05:00

In March of 1994, Tonya Harding, a U.S. figure skating star whose career was in decline, pleaded guilty to being part of a conspiracy to attack and disable her rival, Nancy Kerrigan. I, Tonya, an uneven biopic in which Margot Robbie gives a performance of gritty commitment as Harding, relates this classic tabloid story in ways that are both violent and funny, and, in the end, surprisingly moving. The picture begins in the 1970s in Portland, Oregon, where we see Tonya as a little girl, learning and loving to skate but also being brutally abused by her divorcée mother, LaVona (Alison Janney), who beats her with a hairbrush and berates her mercilessly. By the mid-'80s, Harding(now played by Robbie) is a high-school dropout who has taken up with a rudderless young man named Jeff Gillooly (Sebastian Stan), who carries on LaVona's regimen of beatings and degradation after he and Tonya marry. (Mom tells her daughter, "You're a dumb piece of shit who deserves to be hit.") Meanwhile, on the pro-skating circuit, Harding is incessantly ridiculed for her cheesy homemade outfits and general wrong-side-of-the-tracks demeanor. But she keeps competing in pursuit of her main goal: to execute a triple axel—a difficult twirling leap—in a championship event. She succeeds in 1991—her big breakthrough. But then, three years later, the Kerry attack brings her career to a halt. She's 23 years old, and she never gets a second chance. As rise-and-fall narratives go, this is a vivid one. The real-life Tonya Harding is remembered today mainly as a personification of lower-class loser-dom. But director Craig Gillespie and writer Steven Rogers are more sympathetic. In their recounting, Tonya was victimized by her on-and-off husband Gillooly and his fat-slob buddy Shawn Eckhardt (Paul Walter Hauser), who was employed as Tonya's bodyguard. Eckhardt, a delusional figure who still lived with his parents and portrayed himself as some sort of undercover espionage operative, had the idea to start sending death-threat letters to Nancy Kerrigan in an attempt to throw her off her game and clear the way for Harding to triumph. According to the movie, Tonya knew about this scheme and went along with it. But then, without telling her, Eckhardt and Gillooly changed the plan, hiring a dim goon named Stant (Ricky Russert) to get close to Kerrigan and break her knee, hopefully putting her out of action for good. Stant, a moron, blew this assignment, leaving Kerrigan with nothing more serious than a bruised leg, from which she quickly recovered. The feds moved in, and Gillooly quickly rolled over on Eckhardt and Stant and Stant's getaway driver. Tonya had one last moment of glory at the 1994 Winter Olympics in Lillehammer, Norway, but then, back in the States, she got bagged, too. Tanya's four co-defendants were sentenced to 18 months in prison. She herself, advised by her lawyer to take a plea deal, got three years' probation, but was also banned for life from professional skating, either as a competitor or a trainer. In a teary courtroom scene, we see her breaking down and begging the judge to give her jail time instead. He told her to move along. Margot Robbie might be the last person you'd ever expect to play Tonya Harding, but her teased hair and clenched jaw are just right for the character, and she slips into Tonya's cheap purple jeans and hand-fashioned rabbit-fur jacket with ease. Janney gives the movie's most powerful performance, but that's a little bit of a problem: her LaVona may be too deeply, unswervingly hateful—really, how many women would pay a male heckler to shout insult[...]



Coming Down the Home Stretch on Tax Reform

2017-12-07T00:00:00-05:00

The House and Senate passed their own versions of a tax reform bill surprisingly fast. But now the hard work starts, as they need to turn those two bills into one. The trick is to produce a bill that can pass both chambers again, meaning a bill that appeases some powerful interest groups while still making the budget math work. In some respects, this conference process may be easier than we think. Once lawmakers have come this far with such a big bill—when stakes are this high—it's hard to imagine them not doing everything they can to cross the finish line. Helping in the process is the fact that their bills aren't so vastly different in terms of philosophy and provisions that it makes reconciling differences impossible. For instance, both bills would permanently lower the corporate income tax rate to 20 percent. They would get rid of the state and local tax deduction but retain a $10,000 exception for property taxes and make changes to the mortgage interest deduction. They both would improve investment taxes and allow 529 college savings accounts to apply to some primary and secondary education expenses. Yet they aren't identical. Some differences are small, such as the date of implementation of the corporate income tax reduction; the House chose 2018, and the Senate bill says 2019. Also, the Senate bill would sunset many of its provisions, including the child tax credit expansion and the reductions in individual rates, and the House bill wouldn't. But most people agree that this is a budget gimmick to make the math work in the Senate and that most of the sunset provisions would be extended when the time comes. Other differences are big. For instance, both chambers adopted very different treatment of pass-through income (for businesses such as partnerships, sole proprietorships, S corporations and limited liability companies), with the Senate bill making it so generous that it could lead to further problems down the road. Another major difference to overcome has to do with the monstrous alternative minimum tax. Created in 1969 to prevent wealthy taxpayers from using deductions and credits to avoid paying federal income taxes, the AMT has expanded over time to hit middle-income people it was never intended to tax. The House bill would repeal both the corporate and the individual AMT, but the Senate version wouldn't. It's worth considering some worst- and best-case scenarios resulting from this conference process. Worst-case scenario, the final bill would water down the investment provisions and entirely preserve many tax preferences currently targeted in both bills. It would also preserve the House version's individual rates, including a 12 percent bubble rate for top income earners, which effectively would impose a marginal tax rate of 45.6 percent, as opposed to the current 39.6 percent. It would expand the child tax credit value beyond the levels passed in the House ($1,600) and the Senate ($2,000). That change would remove a large number of taxpayers from the tax rolls, which would be problematic because Republicans also refuse to cut spending. This also would shift more burden to the top 10 percent (taxpayers making above $138,000), who already pay 70 percent of the total federal income tax. If members of Congress also were to expand the refundable part of the credit, it would dramatically increase government spending, too. The cherry on a very unsavory tax cake would be if lawmakers adopted the House's tax base erosion provisions, which include an idiotic excise tax that resembles the dreaded border adjustment tax, [...]



Yale Held Transcript of Former Basketball Star in Title IX Lawsuit Hostage

2017-12-06T13:30:00-05:00

Yale University refused to release the transcript of the former captain of the men's basketball team suing the school for allegedly botching a Title IX sexual assault case he claims was brought to make an example of him. The school demanded Jack Montague pay $3,000 dollars for the transcript—tuition for the remaining semester after he was expelled. Without the transcript, Montague couldn't transfer to a new school, he claimed.* According to the suit, filed in June 2016, the university strove to make an example of a star athlete to prove they are "indeed tough on men who 'victimize' female students." Yale accused Montague in October 2015 of having non-consensual intercourse with a female student in the fall of 2014. He and the woman known in the court documents as Jane Roe had consensual sex three times before. Monatugue claims the sex on the fourth encounter was consensual, but Roe claims it was not. Both had been drinking. After the sex, Roe left, but contacted him later, returned to his room and spent the night in Montague's bed with him. Roe claims she told Montague that she wanted to "hook up but not have sex" and that she pushed back, placing her hands on his shoulders in a presumed attempt to communicate that she wanted to get away. Montague alleges deputy Title IX coordinator Angela Gleason told a hesitant Roe she was not the first victim to come forward with a sexual misconduct complaint against Montague. Technically, this was true. A Title IX panel found Montague guilty of sexual harassment in 2013 after a drunken incident outside of a pizza parlor. As a conversation grew heated with Sally Smith (a pseudonym used in the lawsuit), Montague "rolled up a paper plate from the pizza parlor and put it down the front of Smith's tank top." Montague "accept[ed] full responsibility for the incident." Gleason told Roe Montague had "already been referred for SHARE training after a previous complaint against him," which "either directly told Roe or clearly implied to Roe that the previous complaint against Montague was also a complaint of sexual assault." It's likely this knowledge compelled Roe to come forward. As Roe explained in one of the proceedings, the situation had been "reframed" by Gleason, and that her "perspective broadened after [her] conversation with Angie [Gleason], as [she] began to think about the other people on this campus and how [her] choosing to remain silent on this matter could harm them." However believable the facts, victims should not be pressured by school administrators to file cases if they don't want to. Nor should administrators attempt to manipulate unsuspecting students, or mislead them into thinking their alleged perpetrator or sexual partner is a serial rapist. Adding insult to injury, Yale is attempting to force Montague to pay for education he did not receive to get a transcript he must have to transfer to another school. "As a result [of these accusations], his academic and employment prospects—indeed, his entire future prospects— have been materially and drastically limited," the lawsuit says. Maybe Montague is innocent, maybe he is guilty. But money grabs by Yale won't vindicate the school if it erred in these proceedings. Sexual assault adjudication is too important for Title IX administrators to be clumsily manipulating and misleading students in need—and due process is crucial to uphold. *CORRECTION: After publication, Yale reached out say it was not currently witholding Montague's transcript. The first two paragraphs and the headline have been updated[...]



John Stossel: Why I Hate The New York Times

2017-12-06T00:01:00-05:00

My hometown paper drives me crazy. I read The New York Times because it often has good coverage. The newspaper pays to send reporters to dangerous places all around the world. This weekend, the Times Magazine did a surprisingly fair profile of Sean Hannity, although they chose photos that make him look evil. But mostly I read The Times because my neighbors read it, and I need to understand what they think. Sadly, many think dumb things because most every day The Times runs deceitful, biased stories and headlines that mislead. Opinion columns have license to do that, but these days, Times' smears extend to "news" stories. A recent headline said that that President Trump's tweets had "united Britain in outrage." Wow. Really? The whole country? Only if you read the entire story would you learn that the outraged people include "the opposition Labour party," "several" Conservatives and comedian John Cleese. That's a whole country "united in Trump outrage"? Please. Another headline said ending President Obama's net neutrality bureaucracy would be "hastening the internet's death." Ridiculous. I understand that many statists like the regulation, but all the net neutrality repeal really will do is restore some of the permissionless innovation that allowed the internet to blossom in the first place. Yet the continuation of the Times story carried the headline "So long to the internet." Give me a break. That's just irresponsible scaremongering. Now that the Republicans' tax bill passed the House and Senate, some legislators say they will try to reform entitlements. Yes! Finally! This is a responsible thing to do. But Times reporters hate Republicans so much that they twisted this new effort at reform into a headline that said: "Next objective—cut the safety net." That is just a smear. Billions in entitlement dollars go to relatively rich people. The Times once applauded entitlement reform. But if Republicans support it, then it's bad. Apparently, Republicans' "objective" is not delaying America's bankruptcy; it's "cutting the safety net." No wonder President Trump keeps shouting, "Fake news!" But Trump gets plenty wrong, too. He often talks about "the failing New York Times." But The Times isn't failing. In fact, they gained readers since he was elected—300,000 new subscriptions last quarter. The Times also makes money selling ads. I find it funny that so much of that money comes from glitzy ads directed at the rich people who Times reporters constantly criticize. The newspaper's magazines are filled with expensive ads for lavish apartments, $2,000 purses and dubious beauty treatments that many people could never afford. This weekend's fluff included a worshipful feature on Jay-Z by Times' executive editor Dean Baquet. Baquet didn't criticize the rapper for living in an $80 million mansion but instead asked him penetrating questions like, "Would you rather be a trend? Or Ralph Lauren?" But this week's most disgusting feature was a nearly full-page "Style" section profile of black-clad antifa thugs. The Times made them sound fashionable and fun as they punch people who aren't looking for any physical fight, just spouting their beliefs. The headline: "What to Wear to Smash the State." The Times explained what a stylish vandal wears: "Black work or military boots, pants, balaclavas or ski masks, gloves and jackets, North Face brand... makes it easier for saboteurs to take the offensive against storefronts..." Gee, thanks, New York Times. I doubt that you'd be so enthusiastic about p[...]



Chris Christie’s Situational Federalism

2017-12-06T00:01:00-05:00

As a candidate for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination, Chris Christie promised to stop states such as Colorado from legalizing marijuana. As governor of New Jersey, Christie insists that the federal government has no business stopping his state from legalizing sports betting—an argument that got a mostly friendly reception at the Supreme Court on Monday. The most likely explanation for Christie's situational federalism is that he does not mind if people bet on sports but cannot abide pot smoking. But there is a legal rationale for Christie's apparent inconsistency, and it says a lot about the extent to which the federal government has usurped powers that the 10th Amendment reserves to the states. Christie is challenging the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA), a 1992 statute that says states may not "authorize by law" any form of betting on athletic contests. PASPA, which was intended to "stop the spread of legalized gambling on sports events," exempted Nevada, which had legalized sports betting in 1949, and three states with sports lotteries. PASPA also allowed New Jersey to establish a system of regulated sports betting in Atlantic City, provided state legislators acted within a year. They missed that deadline, but they finally passed such a law in 2012, the year after New Jersey voters overwhelmingly approved a constitutional amendment authorizing it. Several sports leagues and the National Collegiate Athletic Association successfully challenged New Jersey's law under PASPA. In 2014 the state legislature tried again, selectively repealing New Jersey's ban on sports betting so that it no longer applied at casinos and racetracks. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit said the selective repeal was tantamount to licensing and therefore violated PASPA. The appeals court rejected New Jersey's argument that requiring it to maintain the ban on sports betting amounts to unconstitutional "commandeering" of state officials in the service of a federal policy goal. The Supreme Court was much more receptive to that claim on Monday, when at least five justices seemed inclined to agree that PASPA impermissibly intrudes on state prerogatives. It is well established that Congress has no authority to dictate the content of state laws. Still, as New Jersey's lawyer, Theodore Olson, was forced to concede, a valid federal law "preempts" any state law that's inconsistent with it. PASPA does not preempt state law, Olson said, because it is "a direct command to the states without any effort to regulate sports wagering." In other words, Congress could have imposed its own ban on sports betting, just as it imposed its own ban on marijuana, in which case any state law inconsistent with that prohibition would be preempted. As Olson noted, the issue of preemption is "in play right now" because marijuana has been legalized for medical use in 29 states, eight of which also allow recreational use. While merely eliminating state penalties for marijuana offenses does not violate the Controlled Substances Act, licensing marijuana suppliers arguably does. That might be what Christie had in mind when he promised to "crack down and not permit" marijuana legalization if elected president. "Marijuana is an illegal drug under federal law," Christie told radio host Hugh Hewitt in 2015, "and the states should not be permitted to sell it and profit from it." Can it really be true that the Constitution allows federal interference with state policy as [...]



Celebrate Repeal Day With an Old Fashioned Old Fashioned

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

Reason features editor Peter Suderman celebrates Repeal Day with his recipe for an Old Fashioned, and explains how government almost killed the cocktail.

Video by Meredith and Austin Bragg.

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Stossel: Deceitful Bias in The New York Times

2017-12-05T13:15:00-05:00

The New York Times drives John Stossel crazy. He wants to rip it up, because so many stories have left-wing bias. But he still reads it for the good parts. The Times does spend money to send reporters all over the world. Another reason is his neighbors read it and he wants to understand what they believe.

Here is some of the bias Stossel found in the paper last week:

The Times news section claims Trump's tweets on Islam succeeded in "Uniting Britain in Outrage." If you read the story, you see the outrage is just from the opposition Labour Party, "several" members of the Conservative Party, and comedian John Cleese. That's the whole country uniting in outrage?!

Another supposedly objective news headline says that ending Obama's net neutrality bureaucracy will hasten the internet's death. Stossel says that's ridiculous. All repeal would do is restore the freedom that allowed the internet to blossom in the first place.

The Times ran a full-page story glorifying Antifa thugs. The Times makes them sound fashionable and fun: "Black is Always in Fashion." It goes on to say "you know the look. Black work or military boots… ski masks… jackets, North Face brand…" Stossel argues The Times would do better reporting by exposing these violent people instead of praising their fashion.

He still reads The Times because what's in the "paper of record" is important, and fact-checked. Unfortunately, much of it is mean-spirited and absurdly biased.

Produced by Maxim Lott. Edited by Joshua Swain.

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Don’t Register Anything

2017-12-05T00:01:00-05:00

If we needed yet another demonstration that getting yourself on the government's radar is just a bad idea, Hawaii handed it to us in spades last week. That's when we learned that the Honolulu Police Department was putting the screws to people so honest—and trusting—as to comply with state laws requiring registration of certain goods and activities. They shouldn't have been so honest and trusting. Like too many jurisdictions, Hawaii requires gun owners to register their firearms. Also like an excess of other control-freaky places, the state requires medical marijuana users to register themselves with the state Department of Health. As it turns out, those who dutifully abide by both requirements find themselves in trouble. Hawaii may allow the use of marijuana for medicinal uses, and even require registration of its users, but the state continues to regard the practice as a violation of federal law. As a result, Honolulu residents who legally complied with requirements that they enter themselves in both registries have received threatening letters signed by officials including Honolulu Police Chief Susan Ballard. These letters read, in part: "Your medical marijuana use disqualifies you from ownership of firearms and ammunition. If you currently own or have any firearms, you have 30 days upon receipt of this letter to voluntarily surrender your firearms, permit and ammunition to the Honolulu Police Department or otherwise transfer ownership." Federal law restricts the possession of firearms by anybody who is an "unlawful user of or addicted to any controlled substance," and marijuana remains a controlled substance according to the folks in D.C. That's enough of an excuse for Honolulu police officials to try to disarm locals who've done their best to abide by state gun and marijuana laws. But it's not just a Hawaii problem. As Jacob Sullum previously noted, "Last year the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, which includes Hawaii, upheld the ATF's policy of banning gun sales to people who are known to have medical marijuana cards, even if they do not currently consume cannabis." So putting your name on a medical marijuana registry anywhere has the potential to make it more difficult to legally buy a firearm. Actually, entering your information into a medical marijuana registry can put a red flag next to your name in so many ways. Colorado marijuana patients have been surprised during traffic stops to discover that cops knew they were registered users. Cops are supposed to have access to the registry only under limited circumstances, but the data has obviously been shared more widely than many people envisioned. Even so, the state's Board of Health rejected a petition to block sharing of registry information with law enforcement, with the head of the board insisting, "We don't know that we are doing anything wrong." The same issue developed in Oregon, where a 2012 news report noted that "Law enforcement ran more than 20,000 queries on potential patients and grow sites from March through October of this year." Unlike Colorado, Oregon deliberately gave police open access to the medical marijuana registry, and they apparently browsed it at will—at least until the courts gave them a slap. In 2010, a state judge told cops to stop running concealed carry permit applicants' names through the system, saying "the statute does not authorize the use of database informat[...]



Tax Bill Mixes Very Encouraging Developments With Very Disappointing Ones

2017-12-04T15:20:00-05:00

What to make of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, the legislation passed by the Senate at 1:36 a.m. Saturday, by a 51 to 49 vote, with only Republicans in favor? Any final assessment has to await a conference with the House of Representatives that will attempt to bridge differences between the Senate bill and the one already passed by the House. For now, though, the legislation is a mixture of really encouraging developments and really disappointing ones. Encouraging is the reduction of the corporate tax rate to 20 percent from 35 percent. Politicians from both parties have long acknowledged that the U.S. corporate rate is so high that it hurts American competitiveness. President Obama in 2012 proposed reducing the rate to 28 percent, and eventually talked about a 25 percent rate for some manufacturers. A 20 percent rate, or even 22 percent, would be an improvement. It would still leave America's corporate tax rate higher than places like Ireland, where the rate is 12.5 percent. But it'd be a big step in the right direction, toward solving what even Obama acknowledged was a problem. The Senate waits until 2019 to deliver the 20 percent corporate rate, while the House bill puts it into effect in 2018. Also encouraging is the prospect—somewhat shocking, isn't it?—of politicians actually following through on a campaign promise. The potency of tax cuts as a political issue has been eroded over time by politicians who pledge them but fail to deliver. The Republicans haven't managed to achieve their long-promised repeal of ObamaCare. Successfully getting a tax cut passed into law after being elected in part to bring one about is almost enough to warm a voter's heart, or to restore a person's faith in government's ability to act on the signals sent by elections. It's an antidote to cynicism. Unfortunately, by that same standard, aside from the rate cuts, the content of the bill itself and the process behind it so far are pretty disappointing. The middle of the night, weekend, party-line vote is the sort of thing that Republicans complain about, with some merit, when Democrats control Congress. A full text of the 479-page bill was provided to senators only hours before the voting began, and it was full of hand-written cross-outs and marginal emendations. The Senate bill doesn't meaningfully simplify the tax code. A lot of Americans will need not just a journalist or a politician but an accountant or a tax lawyer to explain to them how it will affect them. There's an element of the whole thing that reminds me of the home renovation horror story about the guy who starts out replacing a doormat and winds up having to redo the entire kitchen—what project managers call "scope creep." The Republicans set out to lower the corporate tax rate. Once they did that, then rates for businesses organized in other ways looked low, so they had to lower those, too. And once that was done, budget rules meant they had to "recover" the "lost revenue" somehow, with a variety of minor adjustments, even tax increases. Together, those add up to lots of work for lobbyists and accountants. They can be revisited in coming years as a way to milk campaign contributions out of the interested parties. Particularly dangerous is the practice of a political party using the tax code to reward its backers and punish its enemies. Republicans, who now control the White House and both p[...]



Who Owns Pepe the Frog? The Alt-Right vs. Cartoonist Matt Furie

2017-12-04T14:03:00-05:00

Is Pepe the Frog a symbol of free speech or artwork hijacked by racist hate groups? This iconic amphibian has been labeled a Nazi, condemned by a presidential candidate, and now is at the center of an important First Amendment battle in an era of unlimited replication, imitation, and mutation. It's a fight that involves the alt-right, Trump voters, a powerful Washington, D.C.-based law firm, and the anonymous online image board 4chan, a.k.a., the "asshole of the internet." Pepe the Frog is the creation of 38-year-old cartoonist Matt Furie, who declined to be interviewed for this story. The anthropomorphic frog first appeared 12 years ago in Furie's web comic Boy's Club. In the series' most famous sequence, Pepe is caught standing at a toilet with his pants around his ankles. As he later explains, "feels good man." It wasn't until a few years later, when someone posted the "feels good man" image to 4chan, that Pepe became a global phenomenon. The "feels bad man" and "sad frog" versions of Pepe emerged, and the meme spread from there. Pepe entered the mainstream. Katy Perry and Nicki Minaj shared his image on social media. Matt Furie told the Daily Dot in 2015 that he supported the "anonymous people on the internet" who had turned his creation into an unstoppable meme, even going so far as to voice support for "people's decisions to profit off of Pepe." Then Pepe became something else entirely. Intellectual property attorney Louis Tompros says Matt Furie contacted his firm WilmerHale after Pepe appeared in what he describes as an Islamophobic children's book in which Pepe does battle with a bearded alligator and what appear to be his burqa-clad minions. That was only the beginning. Pepe's most recent evolution into a right-wing symbol most likely started on 4chan's /pol/ page, a board devoted to facilitating "politically incorrect" conversation that became a haven for Trump supporters in 2016. Images of Pepe wearing red MAGA hats proliferated, and Donald Trump, Jr. even posted an image that included a Trumpified version of Pepe to social media. The Clinton campaign responded by branding Pepe a "symbol associated with White Supremacy." The Anti-Defamation League lists the frog as a hate symbol. Furie and his legal team began sending Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) takedown notices to people they believed were using Pepe to "promote hate." One of those takedown notices went to Mike Cernovich, a popular writer and vocal Trump supporter who describes himself as part of the "New Right." "We're not alt-right, and we're not old school National-Review-boring right—we're aggressive," Cernovich told Reason. "We're in a meme world—we're in a world where you have to be catchy, punchy...That's how you actually...[persuade] people to accept your ideas as true." Cernovich posted a fan-made video on his YouTube channel that incorporates Hillary Clinton's audiobook description of what it felt like sharing the debate stage with Trump. But instead of Trump looming behind Clinton, the creator inserted a dancing Pepe. "I thought, 'this is art!'" says Cernovich. Furie's attorneys sent Cernovich a takedown notice. He complied but also hired free speech lawyer Marc Randazza to draft a response in an attempt to discourage further takedown notices. "I believe things can be memed into the public domain," Randazza told Reason. "Yo[...]



The Winners in the AT&T-Time Warner Merger Will Be Consumers

2017-12-04T12:30:00-05:00

On October 22, AT&T and Time Warner announced they had reached an agreement to merge the two companies. The deal, valued at about $85 billion, would create a vertically integrated company that produces content (movies, TV shows) and provides access to content (through cable, fiber-optic, DSL and wireless Internet connections). But on November 20, the Department of Justice brought suit against AT&T and Time Warner, seeking to block the merger on the grounds that it would inhibit competition, harming consumers. AT&T and Time Warner formally responded to the suit last Monday, refuting these claims and arguing the merged company would be investing in innovations that would expand consumer choice. The DOJ's case is based on a fundamental misunderstanding of the dynamics of the market for both access and content. If it were to succeed it would likely impede competition, resulting in less innovation and choice for consumers. Consumers are shifting away from the kinds of access and content bundles that so concern the DOJ. And they are doing so because such bundles poorly match their preferences. AT&T recognizes the trend of falling subscription rates for its traditional TV bundles. That's why it wants to expand into content. It could have done that by licensing legacy content from others, arranging syndication deals for new content, and building its own studio, as Netflix and Amazon have done. It chose instead to merge with Time Warner. At the heart of the DOJ's complaint is an assumption that the merged entity would use its market power to raise the price of content currently owned by Time Warner, or threaten to withhold programming, including hit shows such as Game of Thrones and NCAA March Madness. Time Warner could already make such threats, but the DOJ claims it would have greater incentive because it could benefit from some subscribers switching over to AT&T's networks (DirecTV, U-verse and DirecTV Now). A merged AT&T-Time Warner could, in principle, refuse to supply content to some distributors in order to drive consumers to purchase its own access and content bundles, but it would not be in the merged company's financial interest to do so. As Geoff Manne notes in the WSJ: "More than half of Time Warner's revenue, $6 billion last year, comes from fees that distributors pay to carry its content. Because fewer than 15% of home-video subscriptions are on networks owned by AT&T … the bulk of that revenue comes from other providers. In other words: Calculated using expected revenue, AT&T is paying $36 billion for the portion of Time Warner's business that comes from AT&T's competitors. The theory seems to be that the merged company would simply forgo this revenue in a speculative hope that withholding Time Warner content from distributors would induce masses of viewers to switch to AT&T—and maybe, one day, put competitors out of business. That this strategy would actually work is unfathomable. "Game of Thrones" is good, but it isn't that good." When Comcast merged with NBCUniversal in 2013, the DOJ employed a "consent decree" (a legally binding agreement between the DOJ and the merged entity) to mitigate concerns regarding the potential for the merged entity to use its market power to charge more. AT&T and Time Warner have now made a similar c[...]



Virginia Should Take Its Boot Off These Blue-Collar Necks

2017-12-04T09:40:00-05:00

Earlier this year you might have heard the name Juan Carlos Montesdeoca mentioned. For a short while he was History's Greatest Monster—at least in the eyes of the state of Arizona. His crime? He offered free haircuts to the homeless. This prompted an anonymous complaint to the state's cosmetology board, which investigated Montesdeoca for barbering without a license. Fortunately, Republican Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey interceded on Montesdeoca's behalf. Then Ducey launched a fine-grained review of the state's occupational licensing laws. Democrat Ralph Northam, Virginia's next governor, should do the same. Because while Arizona imposes some awful restrictions, Virginia follows closely behind. A recent report by the Arlington-based Institute for Justice ranks Arizona as the fourth worst offender in the nation "when it comes to licensing burdens for lower-income occupations." Virginia comes in at seventh worst. Five years ago, in its first report on the subject, IJ ranked Virginia eighth worst. Relatively speaking, the commonwealth is moving backward, not forward. Of the 102 occupations IJ studied, Virginia licenses 68. That's up from 46 a few years ago. And the state not only has erected more hurdles, it has raised their height as well. Since IJ's last report, average licensing fees have climbed from $153 to $291, and the amount of time an applicant must put in before earning a license has risen from 462 days to 620. Moreover: "Virginia licenses a number of occupations that most other states do not license, including animal control officers (licensed by six other states), upholsterers (nine others), locksmiths (13 others), commercial floor sander contractors (21 others) and commercial painting contractors (21 others)." In the abstract, licensing is supposed to protect consumers from threats to their health and safety, or from getting ripped off by someone who doesn't know what he's doing. But that theoretical rationale does not explain why Virginia requires only nine credit hours of education for emergency medical technicians, but two years of experience to become a landscape contractor. Virginia demands that auctioneers receive 80 hours of instruction. School bus drivers? Twenty-four. You can install mobile homes in Virginia with only eight hours of instruction—but it takes 500 to be a massage therapist. This suggests an altogether different impetus for much of this regulation: the desire by people performing an occupation to reduce the amount of competition they face from new entrants. After all, it's not like Virginia lawmakers were motivated to license upholsterers by a Pulitzer-winning, seven-part newspaper series exposing the seamy underbelly (sorry) of the state's deadly upholstering industry. To be fair, legislators have scaled back occupational licensing in at least one prominent instance. Virginia used to require people who braid hair for money to obtain a full cosmetology license, which requires 1,500 hours of instruction, but stopped requiring such credentials in mid-2012. Yet the state still forces too many people to jump through too many costly hoops just to earn a living. This ought to disturb conservatives and liberals alike: conservatives because of the assault on free-market principles, and liberals because of the assault on egalitarian ones. [...]



Libertarianism Has Nothing to Offer Populist Authoritarians

2017-12-03T08:00:00-05:00

I am mystified by the claim that the long-standing libertarian critique of democracy furnishes aid and comfort to conservatives who display a taste for populist authoritarianism. Let me say at the outset that the libertarian critique has nothing to offer those who would impose legal or social disabilities on racial, ethnic, religious, and other minorities. If white supremacists see something helpful here, they are mere opportunists who would find something helpful to their cause in anything they looked at. Right off the top we may ask where is this right-wing antipathy to democracy. On the contrary, I see a right-wing embrace of democracy even in the age of Trump. (Rush Limbaugh has long called himself the "doctor of democracy.") Which branch of government have conservatives of all stripes railed against most vigorously for decades? It's the judiciary, especially the U.S. Supreme Court. And what have the courts done to make conservatives so angry? They have invalidated actions of legislators—the supposed elected representatives of the people. Robert Bork and Antonin Scalia were not the first conservatives to inveigh against unelected judges for vetoing the will of the people as expressed through the democratic branches of government. Bork, whose defeat at the hands of Democrats as Ronald Reagan's nominee for the Supreme Court, energized conservatives with his articulate defense of—wait for it— majoritarianism. Libertarians opposed him for that reason. I once heard Scalia say his job was not to strike down legislative acts that were unconstitutional, just those that were "really unconstitutional." (I did not add the emphasis.) (We note here in passing that public choice analysis demonstrates that majority rule is in fact a chimera because special interests, as a result of collective-action problems among other things, are better positioned than the unorganized masses to achieve decisive clout over policy-making. Moreover, representative government was devised as a scam to defuse public opposition to what their rulers were doing.) By pointing all this out, I do not deny the authoritarian element on the right, which Trump has brought to the forefront. There's an unappreciated connection among democracy, populism, and authoritarianism, which Friedrich Hayek noted in The Road to Serfdom. Democracy is inevitably slow and messy; it can bog down in endless debate and factionalism. Then, under certain circumstances, it can produce a strongman who condemns the dithering and promises swift action to carry out the "will of the people." In contrast to conservatives, so-called liberal Democrats typically applaud court interference with legislatures, including Congress. (Remember, among others, Brown v. Board of Education and Roe v. Wade.) So who are the democrats and who are the anti-democrats? Are libertarians responsible for the Democratic Party's support for judges who strike down democratically enacted laws? To be sure, both "liberals" and conservatives are opportunists. They support judicial activism when it suits their agendas and oppose it when it does not. And, as Ilya Somin notes, each side tries to keep the other side's supporters from expressing themselves democratically, for example, through gerrymandering. But neither has been in[...]