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Updated: 2017-08-20T00:00:00-04:00


Republicans, Democrats, Libertarians React to Solar Eclipse


How will Republicans and Democrats, conservatives and liberals, react to tomorrow's solar eclipse?

Probably with the same mixture of denial and panic that they bring to virtually every issue, from regulations to crime to climate change.

Fortunately, there is a third way, one grounded in rational debate, respect for the limits and power of science, and sound policy. Take a look.

Script and editing by Sarah Rose Siskind.

Starring Andrew Heaton, Sarah Rose Siskind, and Jim Epstein.

Produced by Andrew Heaton and Sarah Rose Siskind.

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Tribalism and Economic Nationalism Are Cut from the Same Cloth


I have no idea what goes on in Donald Trump's head, but I can imagine a connection between his refusal to renounce the support of alt-right white identitarians and his rejection of globalism—that is, the freedom of people to trade across national boundaries and to move, consistent with individual rights, as they see fit. When Steve Bannon says he hopes the Democrats will talk about nothing but racism and let the White House get on with its program of "economic nationalism," he may be showing his clever side. Perhaps he sees the connection—and has a magician's sense of misdirection. For the record, globalism and government intervention have no necessary relationship, whatever the rest of the political universe believes. The most eloquent promoters of unencumbered world trade were Richard Cobden and John Bright, the 19th-century "Little Englander" anti-imperialists and peace advocates. No one has an excuse for conflating free worldwide commerce—including the movement of workers, that is, immigration—with either empire or elitist rule through multinational bureaucracies birthed by politicians. As Cobden said, They who propose to influence by force the traffic of the world, forget that affairs of trade, like matters of conscience, change their very nature if touched by the hand of violence; for as faith, if forced, would no longer be religion, but hypocrisy, so commerce becomes robbery if coerced by warlike armaments. Anti-globalism and anti-cosmopolitanism might flow purely from economic ignorance, but it is hard to believe that's all it is for many people. Too often these attitudes suggest what Bryan Caplan calls "anti-foreign bias" combined with "antimarket bias." Caplan defines antiforeign bias as "a tendency to underestimate the benefits of interacting with foreigners," and he defines antimarket bias as a tendency to "underrate the social benefits of markets." (His book The Myth of the Rational Voter: Why Democracies Choose Bad Policies has the details about these and other relevant, common biases.) Why would anyone underestimate the benefits of interacting with foreigners? It might be because they are, well, foreign. Combine this bias with an ignorance of Adam Smith's "invisible hand" (spontaneous order) and a suspicion that exchange is zero-sum rather than positive-sum, and you have the making of an economic nationalist. If you are already a committed economic nationalist, you will have an interest in spreading distrust of foreigners and markets to others in order to advance your program or be elected president of the United States. (Some apparent tribalists may "merely" be demagogues pandering to authentic tribalists.) While I don't think one has to embrace racism or tribalism to be an economic nationalist, an affinity exists between the two dispositions: "I can't trust those people? Why would I want to trade with them?" Moreover, the distrust of foreigners and markets could readily carry over to subgroups in the domestic population that seem foreign—that is, groups which don't quite seem to embrace the "nation's culture" with sufficient enthusiasm. Maybe some members of the suspect group have a primary language other than English, or practice a religion deemed weird, or don't trust the police. In other words, someone who starts with a bias against foreigners and the social cooperation embodied in what we call markets is a prime candidate for bigotry toward domestic "foreigners" too. And that person might well see kindred spirits in groups that exhibit more-pronounced versions of those biases, even when their members have a taste for violence. After all, danger lurks, so who could blame people for being tempted to defend their values directly? Since social and economic change is inevitable—some of it introduced by The Other—those biases could also incline a person to lament the loss of a treasured past and harbor resentment against those who appear to be responsible for that loss. That person might, for example, see "the history and culture of our great country[...]

Trump vs. The Business Community


Most business executives fumed and groused for the eight years Barack Obama was in the White House. He was a former community organizer who had never met a payroll, and those in the corporate boardrooms thought he was no friend of free enterprise. In 2010, New York real estate and media tycoon Mortimer Zuckerman said Obama's "demonization of business" was discouraging investment, sapping job growth and generally creating an "economic Katrina." Gary Shapiro, head of the Consumer Technology Association, called Obama "the most anti-business president" in his lifetime. Former General Electric Chairman Jack Welch implored the president, "Stop it. You can't go industry by industry ... through intimidation, business by business by business." As ordeals go, though, theirs was notably mild. The stock market soared; corporate profits nearly tripled; and the unemployment rate declined from 7.8 percent to 4.8 percent. From the depths of the Great Recession, the economy began what is now the third-longest expansion on record. When it came to the economy, the Obama years looked more like Mardi Gras than Hurricane Katrina. Now, instead of a liberal lawyer in the White House, CEOs have one of their own. And they're finding it's not everything they hoped. The stock market and other economic indicators look about the same as they did before Donald Trump took office. In Obama's final six months, the economy added an average of nearly 181,000 jobs per month. In Trump's first six months, it added 179,000 per month. GDP growth has even slowed a bit. More troublesome at the moment is Trump's insistence on defending Confederate monuments and stoking white racial resentments. In recent days, so many CEOs resigned from the president's two business advisory councils that Trump closed them down. Some of the executives no doubt were genuinely upset at the president's coddling of bigots and his inability to behave with a dignity befitting his office. Some were fearful of alienating customers who find Trump toxic. Other business executives are edging away from the president as though he were an erratic panhandler, and for the same reason: Best not to be close to him if he flips out. You don't want to have to stand there in silent mortification, as White House chief of staff John Kelly had to do the other day, while the president makes a fool of himself on national TV. It would not be good for your company or your career. But even before Trump's Charlottesville debacle, he was not covering himself with capitalist glory. His January travel order put him at odds with some 100 tech firms that sued to block it, arguing, "It disrupts ongoing business operations. And it threatens companies' ability to attract talent, business, and investment to the United States." His decision to pull out of the Paris climate accord didn't go down well with many big companies, 25 of which had signed a letter urging him to stay in. Even oil giants Exxon Mobil and ConocoPhillips opposed the withdrawal. In abandoning the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal, Trump spurned the recommendation of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. His insistence on renegotiating NAFTA has the Big Three automakers worried about their supply chains. A lot of executives applaud Trump's war on federal regulation. But what else has he done for them? His failures on Obamacare have generated uncertainty among insurance companies and health care providers. His sour relations with Congress make tax reform less plausible every day. Infrastructure is what he was supposed to focus on Tuesday when he appeared before reporters at Trump Tower. But he buried that issue by venting about Charlottesville. Perhaps worst of all, he has been the arrogant bully that Jack Welch and others accused Obama of being. Trump slammed Boeing over the cost of Air Force One. He blasted Ford over a planned factory in Mexico. He has repeatedly attacked CEO Jeff Bezos, who also owns The Washington Post. He went after Nordstrom for dropping his daughter's product[...]

Why Handwashing Is Key to Ballpark Food Safety


In an interesting before-you-reach-for-that-hot-dog style report released last week, Sports Illustrated compared and ranked the food-safety climate at every Major League Baseball park in the United States. Seattle's Safeco Field came in first, while Tampa Bay's Tropicana Field brought up the rear. My favorite (and hometown) ballpark, Boston's Fenway, ranked second. Among its conclusions, the report found "almost a third of the league's stadiums had over 100 total violations, including both Los Angeles clubs. One Chicago stadium failed its routine inspection for the second summer in a row. Eighteen ballparks had critical violations in at least a quarter of their concession stands." Some of the violations reported are objectively gross: "Camden Yards had evidence of rodent infestation at eight different food entities and Yankee Stadium had 14 stands overrun with filth flies." The SI report updates the first such study, published by ESPN in 2009. Food safety at sporting events has long intrigued me. The first time I ever really thought about food safety is intimately tied to sports. The year was 1980. I was seven years old. As I watched an episode of Quincy, M.E.—titled "Deadly Arena"—I saw the title character engage in what IMDB characterizes as "a race against time to find the source of" a botulism outbreak at a sports stadium "before the field becomes littered with bodies." Some of the best stadium food I've eaten in the years since has been the Ichiroll (an Ichiro Suzuki-themed sushi roll) and the grasshoppers at Safeco. The worst food I've ever eaten at a sporting event—football, rather than baseball—was a crab and cheese pretzel at FedEx Field in Maryland. But the relative tastiness of a stadium's food doesn't have much if anything to do with the safety of that food. "The real risk, it seems to me at the ballpark, is the handling of food," said UCLA Prof. Michael Roberts—with whom I serve on the board of the Academy of Food Law & Policy—in comments to SI. "That's where you've got handlers cooking the food, handing it out, managing refrigeration and heating. … So it seems that the most important players in this would be local level, the county inspectors, the folks that are there to ensure quality and safety measures are being followed." Others SI spoke with echoed Roberts. And I will, too. He's exactly right. Data back him up. Nearly six out of every ten cases of foodborne illness in this country are caused by norovirus, which is transmitted most often from person to person due to poor handwashing after using a restroom. According to a 2016 article published in the Journal of Food Protection, every state requires workers to wash their hands after using a restroom. Requiring foodservice employees to wash their hands after using a restroom is—in a bubble—smart lawmaking. But other rules may offset the handwashing rule. For example, fire-safety laws requiring that bathroom doors open inward, rather than outward, means in most cases that a person must touch a door handle before they leave a restroom. So a foodservice worker may do everything they're supposed to—washing their hands before leaving a restroom—but their best efforts may be foiled by having to share a bathroom-door handle (and the associated germs) with people who don't wash their hands. The FDA's model food code recognizes the potential for re-contamination after washing one's hands. "TO avoid recontaminating their hands ... FOOD EMPLOYEES may use disposable paper towels or similar clean barriers when touching surfaces such as manually operated faucet handles on a HANDWASHING SINK or the handle of a restroom door," it states. But many foodservice establishments are swapping out environmentally unsound disposable paper towels for efficient, modern air dryers. As more and more restaurants move to fancy Dyson-style air driers, fewer and fewer restaurants even have paper towels in their restrooms, making it difficult to open a bathroom door wit[...]

Augustana U, Former Student Agree to Title IX Lawsuit Dismissal


Augustana University and a former student expelled in the wake of a Title IX sexual assault investigation in 2015 have agreed to a dismissal of the student's lawsuit against the university. Koh Tsuruta, of Lake Mills, Iowa, and Augustana agreed in a motion made in federal district court earlier this month, The College Fix reported. Neither party nor their lawyers have discussed the reasons for the agreement or whether or not there were settlement terms. "It was resolved to the satisfaction of the parties," Vince Roche, the lawyer for the private school in South Dakota, said in Sioux Falls (S.D.) Argus Leader article. "That is all I can say." The dismissal also leaves unanswered a trail of questions about the alleged assault, the handling of the Title IX investigation and Tsuruta's expulsion. The case points up once again the flaws in the Title IX process, the low standard of proof needed to find the accused guilty, the due process violations, and the lack of preparedness for the complexities of sexual assault cases on the part of universities. Augustana began an investigation in July 2015 after Tsuruta told school officials a female student, who has not been identified, was accusing him of rape, although she had not filed a report with police at the time. A month later at the request of the school she filed a report alleging Tsuruta had pinned her down on a bed in his apartment and raped her after the two of them had been drinking in a bar on July 3. Police arrested Tsuruta, who was charged with second-degree rape, false imprisonment and simple assault. Augustana suspended Tsuruta. Tsuruta attempted to delay the university's Title IX investigation against him by filing a lawsuit a court dismissed. The university panel found Tsuruta guilty and expelled him. Five months later, however, the court dismissed without prejudice all criminal charges against Tsuruta, Minnehaha County Deputy State's Attorney Amanda Eden said at the time. Dismissal without prejudice allows authorities to reintroduce those same criminal charges at a future date. Last August, Tsuruta filed a second lawsuit against Augustana after the school refused to reinstate him. He accused the school of denying him the right to due process and putting his future in the hands of university employees not adequately trained to investigate the original allegations against him. The suit allowed Tsuruta to introduce evidence that cast doubt on the allegations, although there is no indication what role they might have played in the mutual dismissal of the suit. Tsuruta alleged his accuser had made similar accusations of other people, including an ex-boyfriend at the end of their relationship, allegations that couldn't be satisfactorily confirmed. "We had interviewed a number of witnesses, including a young man who would have testified that (the alleged victim) had threatened to tell everyone that he had raped her, which arose out of the end of their relationship," Mike Bulter, Tsuruta's defense lawyer told the Argus Leader. "She also deleted messages between her and (Tsuruta) that would have led to the inevitable conclusion that this was not a non-consensual sexual encounter." In addition, Tsuruta challenged his accuser's description of the rape, saying partial amputations of both of his feet made her account of the assault impossible. Tsuruta had returned to Augustana in 2014 after spending four years in prison for his role in a two-vehicle crash that killed the driver of the other vehicle, one of Tsuruta's friends and left him with third degree burns on both feet. Tsuruta's lawsuit claimed Title IX investigators did not take his handicap into consideration when passing judgement. While the accuser's past behavior and Tsuruta's physical condition might have cast reasonable doubt in a criminal trial, they carry much less weight in a Title IX investigation, when only a preponderance of evidence is required. However, when Augustana asked that Tsuruta's[...]

CNN Looks Back at Elian Gonzalez Saga


Elian. CNN. Thursday, August 24, 9 p.m. The night after Thanksgiving of 2016, the phone in my vacation hotel room in Orlando rang. The death of Fidel Castro had just been announced, and the obituary that I'd been regularly updating for 15 years for the Miami Herald had finally rolled out onto the internet. It caught the eye of a CNN producer, who had tracked me down to ask if I would agree to be interviewed on the air about the reaction of Cuban-Americans. So far, the dismayed producer said, all the talking heads CNN had been able to round up were saying Miami Cubans would be ecstatically celebrating Castro's departure, and they were hoping for a little balance. You know, a few words about the nostalgic and the bittersweet. "I'll be happy to go on the air," I told the producer. "But I'm afraid I'm going to say the same thing. Cubans don't come to Miami because they have mixed feelings about him—they come because they hate him. As far as they're concerned, he's a communist who robbed them, bullied them, jailed them, maybe executed some of their relatives. If anybody's crying in Miami tonight, it's because he didn't die 50 years earlier." The producer was clearly disappointed. I went on the air for a few minutes, but when I was finished, he pointedly didn't thank me. Though I've long ago given up trying to understand why so many American journalists don't recognize Castro for the tyrant he was, this conversation still left me puzzled. How could anybody imagine that there would be even the slightest sympathy for Castro in Miami? Didn't they remember the tale of Elian Gonzalez? I hope that producer is watching when his network airs the documentary Elian this week. It offers, in painful detail, the whole saga of 5-year-old Elian's 1999 voyage from Cuba to Miami on a boat that broke up and sank somewhere in the Florida Straits. His mother managed to get Elian into an inner tube before slipping beneath the waves with 10 others. The inner tube drifted to Miami, where Elian became the center of an epic tug of war with Havana that ended with federal agents kicking in the door of the home where he was staying, and snatching him at gunpoint so he could be shipped back to Havana. The Elian story triggered much journalism that ranged from uncomprehending to obscene. Be my guest at choosing which label Eleanor Clift, then of Newsweek, should get for cheerleading the Clinton administration's decision to send Elian back to Cuba, where "he doesn't have to worry about going to school and being shot at, where drugs are not a big problem, where he has access to free medical care and where the literacy rate I believe is higher than this country's." (And no, she didn't send her own kids there.) This documentary, however, is from an entirely different mold. Put together by Irish filmmakers Trevor Birney and Ross McDonnell, it gets a big boost from the presence of writer-director Tim Golden. As a former Miami Herald reporter who shared in two Pulitzer Prizes for his Latin American coverage, Golden is properly wary both of the myth that Miami's Cuban community is nothing more than a collection of deranged fascists and its counterpart, that Fidel Castro was a misunderstood social democrat. (Full disclosure: Though both Golden and I have worked as Miami Herald foreign correspondents, it was at widely different times.) The result is a film that picks its way carefully down the middle of the road, seeking to illuminate rather than vituperate, and does an excellent job, both at relating facts and providing context. Elian includes interviews with figures from virtually every chapter of this story, including the boy himself, and all viewpoints get a fair exposure. No doubt people on both sides will point to things that were left out, but the filmmakers were doing a two-hour documentary, not an epic miniseries, and there's no partisan pattern to what's missing. Aside from his young age, the Elian story wa[...]

On the Google Memo Flap, Every Side is Right...


If I were a computer engineer struggling in Google's male-dominated culture and woke up one morning to read a mini treatise by a male colleague arguing that innate biological differences between the sexes—not sexism—were to blame for the company's gender gap, I would be pretty damn pissed. But that wouldn't mean that my colleague was wrong—nor would it mean that Google's CEO was out of line in firing him. All of that might sound contradictory. But it's not: The dilemma of the Google memo is that all sides have a point. One would have to be pretty cynical to pooh-pooh the steady stream of reports that Silicon Valley—80 percent male—is rife with sexism. Accusations of sexual harassment are frequent. Earlier this month, two startup investors were forced to resign after multiple allegations of sexual misconduct. But more than overt sexual advances, the bigger problem is the casual discrimination that stems not from an old-fashioned disdain toward women but a greater comfort level with the male, computer-nerd way of doing things that makes it difficult for women to flourish. On top of this, women are actively discouraged from speaking out through explicit non-disparagement clauses in sexual harassment settlements, or fear of retaliation or being branded as whiners not tough enough to handle it. In the wake of all this, when a man comes along and pens a memo, titled "Google's Ideological Echo Chamber," complaining that the company's PC culture is preventing him from openly speaking out, it would be understandably galling. But that doesn't mean that he is simply wrong, at least in his central claim that sexism may not be the main cause of the tech gender gap and that aggressive diversity hiring can't completely cure it. For starters, there is compelling scientific evidence that men and women do indeed have different cognitive endowments and personality traits. Contrary to feminist orthodoxy, men and women are different. We are not all born totally tabula rasa and then imprinted with socially constructed gender roles. Indeed, as blogger Scott Alexander points out in his superb examination of the gender differences literature, although both sexes have identical math abilities—at least as it relates to applied disciplines like computers—they show significant differences in mechanical reasoning (on which men on average score better) and verbal reasoning (on which women on average score better). Furthermore, women who are good at math also tend to have superior verbal skills, but men don't. However, the biggest differences between the sexes are not in their abilities but their inclinations: On average, men prefer to work with physical objects and women with people. Now, even though almost half of undergrad math majors in America are women, they are still underrepresented in the tech sector. Some of this is sexism in the tech industry, no doubt. But plenty of women simply prefer to use their math prowess in teaching or other fields that involve people rather than machines. Or they give up math for more language-oriented professions. Or they opt out of the workforce completely or partially to raise families and strike a better work-life balance, a phenomenon that Lisa Belkin brilliantly reported in her New York Times piece, "The Opt Out Revolution," 14 years ago. Ironically, Alexander points out, non-Western countries where feminism has made less progress in eliminating sexist stereotypes actually have more gender parity in technical fields than the West. In America, 26 percent of women enroll in computer classes. That is in line with: Sweden—30 percent; New Zealand­—20 percent; and Canada—24 percent. But it's a whole lot less than: Thailan— 55 percent; Guyana —54 percent; Malaysia—51 percent; Iran and Zimbabwe—41 percent. Why is that? My guess is that when women are freed from the need to work for mere material survival and the for[...]

How to Safely Watch the Eclipse or CNN


Remy has a few helpful tips for safely watching large orange balls of gas.

Written by Remy. Produced by Austin Bragg.

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Taxpayers Pay Steep Price For Coddling Bad Cops


If the Orange County, Calif., Board of Supervisors votes to appeal the $2.25 million jury verdict recently assessed against the county in the case of a deputy accused of a vile on-duty rape, then you know what little value supervisors place on the safety of the public. That's a lot of cash, but given the infuriatingly negligent behavior of the sheriff's department, taxpayers are fortunate the verdict wasn't far higher. According to the lawsuit, former deputy Nicholas Lee Caropino was called to then-22-year-old Alexa Curtin's house after she had an argument with her then-boyfriend. Curtin, the daughter of a former Real Housewives of Orange County cast member, alleges the deputy drove her to her car, made inappropriate comments about her underwear found in the car and ordered her to stay put. Curtin alleges that "he then returned to the scene, in his vehicle and out of uniform, got into the passenger seat of her car, and raped her," according to the Orange County Register report. The details alleged at the trial were graphic and deeply disturbing, but not fit for a family website. Some people do awful things, and it's no surprise that some people are accused of doing them under the color of authority. But the county was rightly hit with this verdict because of its policies. Two months earlier, "a then 18-year-old San Juan Capistrano woman made similar accusations against Caropino," the Register reported, "alleging the deputy came to her home following her release from jail... and sexually assaulted her there." If you had an employee accused of raping a young woman, would you allow that employee to continue to work around other young women? And if you did, you would be deserving of a lawsuit, no? The department allowed Caropino to continue working on patrol duty. The sheriff's department didn't conduct an internal affairs investigation. The departmental policy is to stall any investigation while a criminal investigation is underway. It's rare for district attorneys to press charges against officers and the county's scandal-plagued DA Tony Rackauckas declined to press charges. In the meantime, the alleged rape of Curtin took place. The judge informed jurors in the civil trial to assume the rape took place and look at whether the Orange County Sheriff's Department was at least partially responsible for it, given that "Caropino invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination when he was asked about the incident," according to the Register. The county fought the matter, hiring a private attorney who specializes in defending accused cops to handle the case. Even Supervisor Todd Spitzer, a DA candidate closely allied with police, expressed disgust. Sheriff Sandra Hutchens "just cost the taxpayers of Orange County $2.25 million because she allowed a deputy sheriff to continue to work patrol while he was under criminal investigation for sexual misconduct," he wrote on Facebook. "I am sickened to see the gross deterioration of the sheriff's department." Another article in the Register interviewed law-enforcement officials from other Southern California departments, who argued that Caropino "might have been taken off patrol duty when he was first accused of rape" in their departments. In my experience covering these issues, however, police agencies typically put the rights and concerns of the officers above those of the public. The union-dominated system—ranging from the Peace Officers Bill of Rights to the state Supreme Court's Copley decision mandating secrecy of administrative allegations against officers—is about protecting the employee. In yet another example, police unions have successfully gone to court to stop the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department from turning over to the district attorney the names of around 300 deputies accused of "moral turpitude." A 1963 U.S. Supreme Court[...]

Movie Review: Logan Lucky


In Logan Lucky, the famously English Daniel Craig slips into the role of a hillbilly malefactor as if it were custom-made camouflage: he's entirely convincing. He might not be the movie's funniest element—there's quite a bit of competition—but he's a hoot to have around. When we first meet Craig's blazingly bottle-blond Joe Bang, he's in a West Virginia prison, presumably for blowing stuff up (his professional specialty). Joe has been sought out by the movie's central characters, the lovably dimwitted Logan brothers, Jimmy (Channing Tatum) and Clyde (Adam Driver). They have a scheme to salvage their loser lives by robbing the Charlotte Motor Speedway in nearby North Carolina during a big NASCAR race over the Memorial Day weekend. Joe sure would like to help them out (by blowing a Speedway safe), but as he thought the Logans might have noticed, he is incarcerated. No problem – they've devised a plan to sneak him out of prison to take part in the caper, then sneak him back in afterward. It's complicated, naturally – which is a large part of what makes the movie so much fun. The other part is its fondly wrought characters. The Logans may not be the smartest biscuits in the basket, but director Steven Soderbergh—a Southerner himself—doesn't treat them like backwoods morons: they're anchored in the real world. Jimmy has just lost his construction job because of a dumb healthcare regulation; Clyde, who believes there's a curse on the Logan family, lost his left hand on a tour of duty in Iraq. (He still manages to tend bar at a local tavern, though—and in one scene Driver does a pretty dazzling job of single-handed martini-making.) Soderbergh also takes an affectionate approach to Southern life. His West Virginia is a place where "Take Me Home, Country Roads" is regarded as an unofficial state anthem, and he opens the movie with a scene in which Jimmy is telling his little daughter (Farrah Mackenzie) a delightful (and accurate) John Denver origin story. The Logans' Speedway op—which turns into an extended ballet of bad moves and close calls—involves a number of other colorful characters. The boys' sister Mellie (Riley Keough) brings impressive cockroach expertise to the project. Joe Bang's brothers Sam (Brian Gleeson) and Fish (Jack Quaid) contribute some inspired idiocy. And Joe himself displays surprising chemistry smarts, fashioning his safe-cracking bomb out of gummy bears, bleach pens, and low-sodium salt. ("We are dealin' with science here!" he crows.) Jimmy also has an ex-wife who still sort of loves him (Katie Holmes), an old high-school admirer who still carries a crush (Katherine Waterston), and a loudmouth Brit nemesis (Seth MacFarlane, almost unrecognizable under a very bad wig) who could bring the whole Speedway deal crashing down. Also showing up is an FBI agent played by Hilary Swank, who gives the movie's most wonderfully weird performance. ("I hate airtight alibis," she announces.) This is director Steven Soderbergh's first theatrical feature since he "retired" four years ago to devote his time to painting and television production (he directed, shot and edited the entire two-season run of the Cinemax series The Knick). He says he was drawn back into the big game by the quality of the Logan Lucky script, which is credited to a first-time screenwriter named Rebecca Blunt. Intriguingly, no one has been able to locate Rebecca Blunt, and so we're invited to accept the story that she first broached the idea for the film directly to Channing Tatum after encountering him in a bowling alley. Skeptics note that Soderbergh himself has written a number of scripts over the course of his career, among them the ones for his first feature, Sex, Lies and Videotape, and his 2002 Solaris. And of course this picture bears a family resemblance to his Ocean's [...]

How Liquor Companies Screwed Up Pot Legalization in Nevada


Nevada is home to casinos, impulse weddings, legal brothels, and, as of July 1, recreational weed.

Despite its reputation, Nevada has never been anything close to a free market paradise. Everything from the Las Vegas taxi industry to prostitution is controlled by a handful of politically-connected companies licensed to operate by the government.

This means exorbitant prices and unnecessary hassles for customers and businesses. And the latest industry to take hold—legal weed—is no exception.

Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval (R) recently declared a state of emergency because the state's 37 licensed marijuana shops were running out of inventory. Why? The law legalizing recreational cannabis sales in Nevada granted an 18-month monopoly on distribution to liquor wholesalers, who lack the experience and infrastructure to transport marijuana. And most are too afraid to enter the market because they're regulated by the federal government, and cannabis is still illegal on the federal level.

The absurdity of the situation is playing out at Essence, a marijuana dispensary just north of the Vegas strip, which started out as a medical marijuana facility. When it was selling medical weed, owner Armen Yemendijian had his employees move inventory from the grow house to the storefront themselves. Now that the store is selling recreational marijuana, that's no longer an option.

"Our cultivation facility is no more than a couple of miles from our dispensary," says Yemenidjian.

Legal weed could be a huge boon to the state economy, while providing tourists a rsafe way to have even more fun in Vegas. But politicians need to stop using every "Sin City" vice as a means to reward special interests.

Watch the video above, or scroll down for downloadable versions.

Produced by Zach Weissmueller and Justin Monticello. Music by The Underscore Orkestra, Tri-Tachyon, and Chris Zabriskie.

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School Choice Can Heal the Division in Charlottesville


After last weekend's deadly 'Unite the Right' rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, school choice has taken some of the blame.

Jennifer Steele, an associate professor of education at American University, interviewed by The Hill, argued Education Secretary Betsy DeVos' school choice advocacy could fuel the social tensions behind the clashes.

"The purpose of schooling is to expose people to diverse ideas and experiences," Steele said. "By allowing people to opt out of public schooling, we risk having a more fragmented society and in the wake of the events in Charlottesville, that's really an increasing concern."

I share Steele's concerns about the state of our civic culture. A bedrock of our democracy and a societal norm we've established is respect for the rights of people with whom we disagree. James Alex Fields violated this core American value when he ran his car over dozens of protestors last week. Preventing that kind of heinous violence in the future means teaching our kids to disagree peacefully rather than using force.

Evidence makes clear Steele's concerns about school choice are misplaced. In eight of 11 empirically rigorous studies, comparing children in schools of choice and traditional public schools, students in schools of choice were more likely to support the civic rights of their most hated opponents. Three find no visible effects. None indicate school choice has a negative impact on tolerance.

These studies don't sugar-coat tolerance, they go straight to the hardest cases. Researchers asked students to list the groups they detest most in society (think hate groups like the KKK, opponents on divisive issues like abortion, disfavored religious minorities like the Westboro Baptist Church). Students were then asked whether these groups should be granted civic rights like voting, protesting, or be allowed to check out library books sympathetic to their views.

The studies also go beyond tolerating people you dislike. The balance of evidence shows schools of choice having positive effects on students volunteerism, political participation, civics knowledge, and even willingness to donate to those in need. Even counting studies with lower methodological standards, evidence is overwhelmingly positive or at the least mixed. Only three of 63 studies of student civic values suggest traditional public schools do a better job.


If we want to limit the influence of white supremacists and neo-Nazis in our society, we need to teach our children the value of pluralism. If we want to stop political violence from getting out of control, students need to learn the value of civil disagreement.

On balance, schools of choice offer a better civics education than traditional public schools. If we're serious about healing the wounds of Charlottesville, we can't forget that.


Politicians Can't Get Enough Energy Cronyism


Despite the breadth of the current political divide, it appears that there is at least one thing that all politicians can agree upon: energy sector cronyism. The only real dispute is over the preferred beneficiaries. Under President Barack Obama, green energy subsidies were given out like candy. The failure of solar panel company Solyndra is well-known, but the problem extends well beyond the shady loan deal and its half-billion-dollar cost to taxpayers. Between 2010 and 2013, federal subsidies for solar energy alone increased by about 500 percent, from $1.1 billion to $5.3 billion (according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration), and all federal renewable energy subsidies grew from $8.6 billion to $13.2 billion over the same period. Congressional Budget Office testimony before Congress further reported that 59 percent, an estimated $10.9 billion, of energy-related tax preferences in 2016 went to renewables. Subsidies have come down from their 2013 peak, thanks to the expiration of some of the post-financial crisis "stimulus" programs, but so-called green energy—solar in particular—still receives vastly higher subsidies on a per- kilowatt-hour basis. However, that didn't stop the largest U.S. solar panel manufacturer, SolarWorld, from filing for bankruptcy earlier this year despite $115 million in federal and state grants and tax subsidies since 2012, along with $91 million in federal loan guarantees. SolarWorld and fellow bankrupt manufacturer Suniva are now begging for even more government assistance, in the form of a 40-cent-per-watt tariff on solar imports and a minimum price of 78 cents (including the 40-cent tariff) a watt on solar panels made by foreign manufacturers. Without that help, a Suniva executive argued, the company would "go extinct." So basically, these companies can't compete despite all of the taxpayer dollars they've received and have petitioned the United States International Trade Commission to further punish consumers on their behalf by banning them from buying cheaper and higher-quality panels abroad. Green energy companies aren't the only ones who think that the Trump administration will be receptive to handout requests. Shortly after West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice used a recent Trump rally to announce that he would be switching from the Democratic Party to the Republican Party, he began negotiating the price for his defection. Namely, he wants federal tax dollars thrown at the Appalachian coal industry, which is losing market share to cheaper energy sources, such as natural gas. Gov. Justice ambitiously hopes that utilities will rake in $15 in federal subsidies for every ton of Appalachian coal burned. He'd be on much more solid ground if he simply demanded an end to subsidies for coal's green energy competitors. But in the world of politics, saving taxpayer dollars—as opposed to giving handouts to corporations and preferred industries—is never the chosen path. Sadly, it's not just our own politicians who enjoy meddling in American energy markets. With all the hoopla regarding Russia's role in influencing the presidential election, little attention has been paid to the much more established case that Russian President Vladimir Putin has attempted to influence our energy policy. A recent report published by the Center for Freedom and Prosperity, called "Russia's Ties to U.S. Environmentalist Groups," lays out how Putin cronies bundled millions for radical left-wing environmental groups determined to stop oil and natural gas development in the United States. As the report reads, "evidence shows that a complex network of offshore firms has intimate ties to the Kremlin and connections to U.S. based anti-fracking and anti-oil lobbies." The fracking[...]

Despite the President's Pandering, White Nationalists Are Still Losing


The birth of a child is a happy occasion that inspires joy and celebration. So momentous is the day that the person born and those around him or her will commemorate it annually for a lifetime. But birth itself is an arduous, bloody, and sometimes fatal event. No new life comes into being without terror, pain, and struggle. The United States was born of such struggles on a mass scale. When Americans formed a nation and claimed their independence, they met with ferocious opposition from their rulers, who were willing to kill thousands of people to foil the change. The British king and Parliament did not quietly accede to reason. That is rarely how the evils of this world are undone. In 1783, Thomas Jefferson, hoping that his home state of Virginia would hold a special convention to approve a new state constitution, took it on himself to draft one. It included a provision gradually but explicitly abolishing slavery. Anyone born after Dec. 31, 1800, it said, is "hereby declared free." His scheme wasn't adopted, and the sage of Monticello failed in other attempts to curb slavery—even while owning slaves. No one knew better than Jefferson the grotesque contradiction between the promises of the new republic and the inferior status it assigned to black people. No one knew better than he the anguish, strife, and violence that would accompany any progress in overcoming that original sin. Two hundred thirty-four years later, events in his hometown provided a reminder of how far we have to go in that task—and how far we have come. The vicious collection of white racists who gathered there on Saturday were the heirs of Virginians who could have peacefully phased out human bondage. Instead, those early Americans clung to the peculiar institution—only to be forcibly deprived of it by a war that drenched the state in gore. What Jefferson hoped to end by the voluntary choice of white men, Abraham Lincoln found could be uprooted only with relentless, overwhelming force. It might be God's will, he said in his second inaugural address, that slavery survive "until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword." The hatred and havoc that erupted just miles from Jefferson's Monticello were a reminder that every push toward enlightenment elicits spasms of reaction. The white nationalists who gathered to protest the removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee from a public park were aggrieved that they no longer enjoy being members of the ruling race. That status carried great privileges. It's no surprise that these modern misfits bitterly resent the changes that undid it—or that they are willing to resort to intimidation and brutality to restore it. They are fantasizing to think they can succeed. But their loss of power and popular support has not made them more open to unwanted changes. If anything, the more they are outnumbered the more visceral their fear and the more desperately they cling to any vestige of the beloved past. They lost the Civil War. They lost the institution of black bondage. They lost the exclusivity of citizenship. They lost the principle of white supremacy. They lost the battles against integration of the military, swimming pools, restaurants, schools, and marriage. They saw a black man elected twice to the presidency. But Donald Trump exploited their resentments for his own gain and led them to believe that they could resurrect a distant era before they lost so much ground—that he would "make America great again." As he learned this week, though, his pandering to them means alienating most other Americans. By inciting the racist right to mobilize, he has awakened its vastly more numerous opponents. He has also made [...]

Charlottesville, Race, and the Mishnory Road


"To oppose something is to maintain it," wrote Ursula K. Le Guin in her classic The Left Hand of Darkness, a sci-fi novel that anticipated our gender-bending age by nearly half a century. "To be sure, if you turn your back on Mishnory and walk away from it, you are still on the Mishnory road. To oppose vulgarity is inevitably to be vulgar. You must go somewhere else; you must have another goal; then you walk a different road." Those words seem especially apt now, after Charlottesville—because so many of those who oppose the white supremacists have fallen into the same trap as the white supremacists. They have embraced the same fallacy; they are caught in the same harmful patterns of thought. Before discussing how this might be, a pre-emptive cringe: What follows is not meant to imply any sort of moral equivalence (let alone that of Donald Trump's awful "many sides" statement on Saturday). The man who pushes a pedestrian into oncoming traffic and the man who pushes a pedestrian out of a speeding car's way might both be engaged in the act of pushing a pedestrian—but the acts they commit are, morally speaking, vastly different. So. The white supremacists who caused so much misery in Charlottesville drew anger and contempt from nearly everyone in the country. But much of the anger and contempt was reflexive, and it might help to step back and ask why. What precisely do they espouse that gives such great offense? Racism, obviously. But what does that entail? At its most basic, racism consists of denying a person his or her individuality. To be racist is to view members of one demographic cohort as essentially all alike within the group, and essentially all different from all other people outside that group. The racist believes the essence of a black man is his blackness, and the essence of a white woman is her whiteness, and those two essences are not merely distinct but discordant. In fact (says the racist), the difference between those color-coded cohorts is so great that it overwhelms whatever differences might exist within the cohorts: Colin Powell, Ben Carson, Condoleezza Rice, Jean-Michel Basquiat—no matter how accomplished such individuals might be, they are still, in the end, just mud people. Untermenschen. N-words. And therefore, they have less intrinsic worth than some illiterate, swivel-eyed yahoo doing a 20-year stretch for raping his little sister. "I might be an illiterate, swivel-eyed rapist," the yahoo can tell himself, "but at least I'm better than them." To all right-thinking people, this is lunacy. But many of those who would recoil in horror at such notions when espoused by a gap-toothed moron wearing a Confederate flag find similar notions strangely beguiling when they are dressed up in more genteel language. It is not a fresh new insight to note that many of those on the left—especially in academia—are consumed with the politics of identity, and that this obsession has led us to places that, in a different context, would have white supremacists nodding in approval: separate graduation ceremonies for black students at Harvard, separate housing for black students at UC-Davis, a blacks-only student orientation at the University of San Diego. These phenomena—and many more like them—are promoted as beneficial to minorities. But they also convey a message: The minorities need to be separate because they are different. Now in those cases the difference is situational, not genetic: As victims of discrimination, blacks need different treatment, goes the reasoning. In theory, that might someday change—whereas the bigot thinks racial differences are immutable and eternal. But note the fallacy underlying even the[...]

Steve Forbes on Trump, Taxes, and 100 Years of Forbes Magazine


"We don't see business as evil," says Steve Forbes, marking the 100th anniversary of Forbes magazine, the iconic business publication started by his grandfather. "We see it as a noble undertaking." And thanks to capitalism, progress in the 20th century will pale in comparison to what's coming in the 21st. "In 2117," he says, "we'll be infinitely better off." Forbes sat down with Reason's Nick Gillespie at Freedom Fest in Las Vegas to discuss the legacy and future of the magazine, his assessment of President Trump, and where the legislative agenda for Republicans is falling short. Edited by Austin Bragg. Cameras by Meredith Bragg and Justin Monticello. Subscribe to our YouTube channel. Like us on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter. Subscribe to our podcast at iTunes. This is a rush transcript. Check all quotes against the audio for accuracy Nick Gillespie: Let's talk about turning 70. How does that feel, and looking back, what are the highlights of your public career? Steve Forbes: Well, 70, glad to have made it, and at this stage of life it's nice to have a guilt-free excuse for plenty of cake, cookies, and ice cream, so not going to complain. Gillespie: In terms of your achievements over the years, talk about your forays into the Republican nomination process for the presidency, and your advocacy of the flat tax. Do you feel like that accomplished what you hoped it would accomplish? Forbes: Well, I would have liked to have won. It's more fun to get more votes than the less votes. But I do think we got some good ideas out there, even though the US has not made much progress on the tax front. Forty countries and jurisdictions around the world, like Hong Kong, have had the flat tax, and it's worked fairly well. So this is no longer laboratory stuff, this is real world stuff. The disappointment is that in the last 20 years, we haven't had a presidential candidate make that a forefront issue. A couple of them in the last election had some variations of the flat tax, but they didn't put it out there, so nobody knew. It's like, the tree falls in the forest, but if you don't hear it, did it really fall? I'm just waiting for a political entrepreneur to do it. I would have thought in 2016, when Trump rose up, that the other 16 opponents would have said, "I got to do something a little differently, or I'm going to get steamrollered." Instead, they had all the same kinds of consultants. They made all the same calculations, and they all went down for the count. Shakespeare talked about killing all the lawyers, I think they should kill all the political consultants. But that's another subject. But in terms of the flat tax, tax simplification's out there. Republicans at least have to pay lip service to it. Another thing I think we got out there, the idea of medical savings accounts. Now they call them health savings accounts. The idea of being patients should be in control, and not government, not third parties, not bureaucrats, not big companies, but we the people, individually. So we got that idea out there. I think, too, we gave some credence to the idea of a new Social Security system for younger people. When I ran in '96 in Arizona, I shocked one of my campaign colleagues when I said, "We're going to Sun City, and I'm going to talk about Social Security." "Oh, we can't do that!" But once you make it clear you're not going to take anything away from them, this is about their kids and their grandkids, they'll listen. Gillespie: Explain a little bit of what your alternative Social Security plan was, because that's also something that has not advanced, even as the economics or the finances of both Medicare and Social Secur[...]

Venezuela: At the Edge of a Deeper Chasm


Guayana City, Venezuela—Once the Latin American country with the highest growth rate, now the poorest in the hemisphere, Venezuela is in free fall. Hundreds are dying from diseases, some of them all but eradicated, because of a shortage of medicines and vaccines. According to the consultancy firm Econometrica, 2.1 million Venezuelans are now eating from the garbage. Its citizens are at war with the military. The situation has so deteriorated U.S. President Donald Trump surprised Latin American leaders this past Friday when he said, "We have many options for Venezuela, including a possible military option if necessary." Trump later added, "Venezuela is not very far away and the people are suffering and they're dying." The real enemy responsible for this lethal landscape is not foreign. This destruction has come from within. For almost two decades, Venezuela's socialist government has managed to undermine every institution that kept the country afloat. When Hugo Chavez ascended to the presidency in 1998, he had an agenda: Bring socialism to Venezuela, then export it to the rest of Latin America. His successor, Nicolas Maduro, has continued the country's hurtle down a slope paved by the total destruction of the means of production. Indeed, he has managed to sharpen the slope. On May 29, the Supreme Court of Justice declared the National Assembly in contempt and usurped its functions. That unleashed a series of protests, which in turn generated a wave of repression that has so far killed more than 130 people and imprisoned nearly 1,400. Maduro declared victory at the end of July with an illegal election. The company that provided the voting system alleges that the results were tampered with. Sixteen people died violently on polling day. The violence, the repression, the assault on fundamental human rights, and the rupture of the constitutional order have prompted opposition leaders to defend two critical articles in the Constitution: Article 333: This Constitution shall not cease to be in effect if it ceases to be observed due to acts of force or because or repeal in any manner other than as provided for herein. In such eventuality, every citizen, whether or not vested with official authority, has a duty to assist in bringing it back into actual effect. Article 350: The people of Venezuela, true to their republican tradition and their struggle for independence, peace and freedom, shall disown any regime, legislation or authority that violates democratic values, principles and guarantees or encroaches upon human rights. T-shirt Soldiers The resistance is mainly composed of teens and young adults born under socialism, fighting to defend the country from what they believe will be the deeper abyss of communism. T-shirt soldiers, they call them. "Bubble" is a 23-year-old journalism student who set aside his studies for a "greater good." Raised in a leftist household, he grew tired of watching poverty take over everything, including his own home. Bubble and some 20 other resistance members call the place where they are entrenched "Mangokistan." Los Mangos—a residential area in the port city of Guayana, in Bolívar State, in the eastern part of the country—has become a place of perpetual war. The Bolivarian Intelligence Service has the area under surveillance. It seizes people on any pretense. Walking down the street can get you arrested. The area was recently attacked for more than 20 hours, just because the resistance blocked the streets. What they mostly resisted was the constant tear gas and rubber bullets fired at them by the National Guard. "I left my home because my parents s[...]

Plenty of Science Shows That Men and Women Are Just Programmed Differently


Why aren't there more women criminals?! Men in jail outnumber women by a ratio of 14-to-1. We male stutterers outnumber women, too. This isn't fair! We need more affirmative action! These disparities must be caused by sex discrimination because everyone knows there are no real differences between genders. After all, Google fired engineer James Damore for daring to suggest that there is a biological reason men dominate tech leadership. Google's CEO said: "To suggest a group of our colleagues have traits that make them less biologically suited to that work is offensive." Then the media lied about what Damore wrote. The Washington Post: "women may be genetically unsuited" for tech jobs. CNN: "women are not biologically fit." But Damore never said that. New York Magazine, Vanity Fair, Huffington Post and even Forbes called his memo "anti-diversity." The Atlantic worsened it to an "anti-diversity screed." But it wasn't "anti-diversity." "I value diversity," Damore wrote, saying he is "not denying that sexism exists." It certainly wasn't a "screed." It was a thoughtful argument suggesting that "not all differences are socially constructed ... (M)en and women biologically differ." Can't have that. The enlightened media quickly explained, "Differences between men and women are slim to none" (CNBC) and "major books have debunked the idea of important brain differences" (Recode). Wow. "Major books"! This is absurd. Of course, there are big differences! I didn't always understand that. My Princeton professors taught me that differences are caused by sexism. Boys are encouraged to achieve, girls to nurture. If we socialize equally, they said, just as many girls will want to go to monster truck rallies and become CEOs. Boys will nurture and more will take up ballet. Some of it happened. Men did become more nurturing. More women became CEOs. But no amount of government force and corporate "diversity, integrity, governance" programs will equalize the numbers. Plenty of science shows that men and women are just programmed differently. Google banning talk about that is appalling. (Though owners can do as they like with their companies.) When I was at ABC News, I did a TV special titled "Boys and Girls Are Different." On the show, the Kinsey Institute's former director explained that right after birth, males and females behave differently: "Males startle more... Give a little puff of air on their abdomen, they (are) much more likely to startle." And females move their lips more than males. Infant girls usually sit up without support before boys; boys crawl away from their caretakers sooner. This happens before parents, or society, have much influence. Even male baby monkeys like playing with trucks more than female monkeys do. When I reported that, I got a taste of the Damore treatment. A 20/20 correspondent confronted my TV producer in the ladies room, asking, "How could you have worked on that disgusting show?" Feminist icon Gloria Steinem said gender differences shouldn't even be researched. She told me it's "anti-American, crazy thinking." "Aren't women, in general, better nurturers?" I asked. "No," answered Steinem. "Next question." At the time, fire departments had just dropped strength tests to help female applicants. One critic of the change complained that instead of being carried out during a fire, now she would be dragged downstairs, her head hitting each stair. Steinem responded, "It's better to drag them out ... Less smoke down there." This is nuts. It was also nuts more recently when tennis commentator John McEnroe was attacked for saying that if Serena Wil[...]

Trump’s Opioid Emergency Response


Last week Donald Trump promised to "spend a lot of time, a lot of effort, and a lot of money on the opioid crisis," which he declared a "national emergency." Judging from the president's campaign rhetoric and his comments since taking office, which have focused on building a border wall to "stop the drugs," much of that time, effort, and money will be devoted to erecting barriers between Americans and the intoxicants they want. That supply-side approach has been failing for more than a century, and it seems doubtful that Trump will be the man to finally make it work. But he may very well succeed in exacerbating the problem he is trying to solve. To understand how, consider recent trends in opioid use. Since 2010 or so, heroin use has been rising while nonmedical use of narcotic painkillers has been falling. Many of those new heroin users are former prescription opioid users driven to a black-market alternative by the government's crackdown on painkiller prescriptions. That switch exposed them to much higher risks. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) attributed 18,893 deaths to opioid analgesics in 2014. It attributed 10,574 to heroin, which was used by less than a tenth as many people. By that measure, heroin was more than five time as dangerous. "I used to take just the pills, and then I started doing dope, the heroin, only when I could get it, when it was cheaper," said an opioid user interviewed for a study recently reported in the International Journal of Drug Policy. "But I don't prefer it because you never know what you're getting. It's scary." In recent years the unpredictable potency of heroin has been magnified by increased adulteration with fentanyl, a synthetic narcotic that is roughly 40 times as potent. "Heroin fluctuation in purity is a known overdose risk," notes another study in the same journal, "and the presence of illicit synthetic opioids contaminating the heroin supply has led to a particularly erratic 'street dope' market that multiplies this risk." These two developments—novice heroin users accustomed to the reliable doses of prescription opioids, plus greater variability in potency thanks to more use of fentanyl and its analogues—may help explain the strikingly disproportionate increase in heroin-related deaths during the last decade. Between 2007 and 2015, the number of heroin users (as measured by the National Survey on Drug Use and Health) more than doubled, while heroin-related deaths more than quintupled, from about 2,400 to nearly 13,000. The government has contributed to these deaths in several ways. It created a black market in which drug users do not know what they are getting, encouraged traffickers to move toward increasingly compact and potent products (such as fentanyl), and reduced access to less dangerous alternatives (such as prescription painkillers). Carrie DeLone, Pennsylvania's former physician general, recently confessed that "we knew that this was going to be an issue, that we were going to push addicts in a direction that was going to be more deadly." Her justification: "You have to start somewhere." Why not start with policies that might save lives instead of killing people? In addition to lifting restrictions on buprenorphine-based treatment and increasing access to the overdose-reversing opioid antagonist naloxone, the government can shield bystanders from criminal charges when they call for help in response to an overdose, provide honest information about ways to reduce the hazards of drug use (such as not taking opioids in combination with other depr[...]

John Stossel vs. Noam Chomsky on Venezuela


Venezuela used to be the richest country in Latin America. Today, its economy and civil society are disintegrating. The country is experiencing widespread hunger and out-of-control violence—a result of former President Hugo Chávez' move, starting in 2002, to nationalize industries, establish price controls, and block foreign capital from entering the country.

Back when Chávez was still in power (and still alive), U.S. celebrities, including Danny Glover, Naomi Campbell, Michael Moore, Oliver Stone, and Sean Penn, praised the former president and his brand of "Bolivarian" socialism. As did left-wing intellectuals, including the famed M.I.T. linguist Noam Chomsky.

What do they have to say now?

In an exchange with John Stossel, Chomsky said that he never described Chavez's "state-capitalist government "as 'socialist,'" and that capitalists "undermine the economy" in all sorts of ways.

Which brings to mind the phrase "useful idiots" (attributed to Russian revolutionary Vladimir Lenin), which means a person who champions a cause they don't fully understand.

Produced by Naomi Brockwell. Edited by Joshua Swain.

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How the Google Memo Hysteria Punishes Openness and Innovation


The tech press has been on fire with the recent publication of an internal memo on Google's diversity and labor policies by former engineer James Damore. Damore, who was quickly fired for "perpetuating gender stereotypes" in light of the ensuing media conflagration, penned the 10-page memo during a long flight to China after attending a Google diversity training seminar that he found to be ineffective, hostile to his cohorts, and factually incorrect. More fundamentally, in "Google's Ideological Echo Chamber," Damore argues that Google's corporate culture discourages criticism of company policies and leads employees to feel that they can't speak openly. The article, which cited research and concepts from scientific disciplines in a well-reasoned and compassionate manner, was wildly misrepresented in the media and has served to further fan the anxious flames of social tensions in Silicon Valley. Such incidents are unfortunately encouraged by unproductive labor norms which divert companies' drives to create value and innovate towards futile social engineering endeavors that waste money and time while unnecessarily pitting groups against each other. The bulk of the discussion on the so-called "Google Memo" so far has unfortunately been driven by the left-leaning media's sensationalist and downright incorrect characterizations of the document. Gizmodo, which originally published the memo, called it an "anti-diversity screed." NBC News' headline implied that the author blamed "women's 'neuroticism'" for the relative lack of female engineers. Engadget said the memo is evidence of tech's "toxic culture." Other outlets piled on, simply referring to the memo as "sexist" or "misogynist" without delving into the article's contents. Given such alarming headlines, you might expect to find some kind of hateful, invective-filled rant about the innate inferiority of women and perhaps a sandwich joke or two thrown in for good measure. What you will instead find is a thoughtful, helpfully-categorized criticism of Google's alleged "ideological echo chamber" replete with citations and figures. (Curiously, Gizmodo decided to remove the academic citations and graphs from their version of the memo.) It's a thought-provoking and fascinating read, I highly recommend that you check out the unedited document if you haven't already. Damore notes sources of both left- and right-wing bias before exploring potential "non-bias" contributors to gaps in representation among engineers. Like Larry Summers before him, Damore notes that slight differences in the average distribution of men's and women's talents, risk profiles, and preferences result in outcomes that are not exactly 50-50. This is not to say to that any one sex is "better" or "worse" than the other, but that a slight preference on women's part to, say, take time off to raise their young children will have an effect on women's aggregate final career trajectory. Given this, Damore points out that any diversity initiative to "lower the bar" or provide special treatment to favored groups will be not only ineffective, but discriminatory and inefficient to boot. What is most important to note is that Damore's memo was not "anti-diversity" at all. In fact, he directly states that he "value[s] diversity and inclusion, [does not deny] that sexism exists, and [does not] endorse using stereotypes." Rather, he maintains that if we can't have "an honest discussion" about diversity, then "we can never truly solve the problem" and provides several alternative[...]

Life Under Communism Was No Liberation For Women


Over the last few months, The New York Times has published a number of warm and nostalgic recollections of communism. Authors have opined about the supposed optimism, idealism, and moral authority of communism. Perhaps the most bizarre article so far claimed that women behind the Iron Curtain enjoyed greater sexual satisfaction and more independence than their Western counterparts (except, of course, when it came to freedom of thought, speech, religion, association, or movement). I would have chosen to commemorate 100 years since the Bolshevik Revolution and the birth of the Soviet Union in a different way. Over 100,000,000 people have died or were killed while building socialism during the course of the 20th century. Call me crazy, but that staggering number of victims of communism seems to me more important than the somewhat dubious claim that Bulgarian comrades enjoyed more orgasms than women in the West. But as one Russian babushka said to another, suum cuique pulchrum est. I am, however, intrigued by the striking similarities between the Times articles. To the greatest extent possible, they seem to avoid the broader perspective on life under communism (i.e., widespread oppression and economic failure). Instead, they focus on the experiences of individual people, some of whom never lived in communist countries in the first place. In "When Communism Inspired Americans," the author remembers her socialist parents and the life of the communist sympathizers in 1950s America. In "Thanks to Mom, the Marxist Revolutionary," the author remembers his batty mother, who dragged him from one communist hellhole to another in search of a "real world" experience. In "'Make It So': 'Star Trek' and Its Debt to Revolutionary Socialism," the author quotes Captain Picard, who explains to a cryogenically unfrozen businessman from the 20th century, "People are no longer obsessed with the accumulation of things. We've eliminated hunger, want, the need for possessions. We've grown out of our infancy." Speaking of hunger and infancy, here are some completely gratuitous eyewitness accounts of parents eating their own children during the man-made famine in Ukraine in the 1930s. Communism may have influenced science fiction writers, but real life in the USSR was no picnic. "Where did all bread disappear, I do not really know, maybe they have taken it all abroad. The authorities have confiscated it, removed from the villages, loaded grain into the railway coaches and took it away someplace. They have searched the houses, taken away everything to the smallest thing. All the vegetable gardens, all the cellars were raked out and everything was taken away. Wealthy peasants were exiled into Siberia even before Holodomor during the 'collectivization.' Communists came, collected everything....People were laying everywhere as dead flies. The stench was awful. Many of our neighbors and acquaintances from our street died....Some were eating their own children. I would have never been able to eat my child. One of our neighbors came home when her husband, suffering from severe starvation, ate their own baby daughter. This woman went crazy." One has to wait until "Why Women Had Better Sex Under Socialism," to meet an actual Eastern European. "Consider Ana Durcheva from Bulgaria," the author writes, "who was 65 when I first met her in 2011. Having lived her first 43 years under Communism, she often complained that the new free market hindered Bulgarians' ability to develop healthy amo[...]

Trump Denounces Racism in Charlottesville. Too Little, Too Late.


It's too little too late that President Donald Trump has finally called out violent white nationalists who marched through the streets of Charlottesville, Virginia over the weekend. One of them deliberately drove his car into a crowd of people, killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer and injuring 20 more. It's pathetic that it took massive public backlash—including a lot from Republicans and conservatives—to spur the president to actually denounce neo-Nazis. Who still needs a teachable moment on this? Seventy-two years after the end of World War II and the president of the United States is slow off the mark to condemn white supremacists? Rarely one for evenhanded rhetoric, President Trump's initial response referred only to "violence," and he pointedly refused to call out the protesters who beat a black man into the hospital. The president even managed to squeeze in some political sloganeering over the weekend, declaring "we are all Americans first," echoing one of campaign themes. There are three basic explanations for Trump's shameful response, one more troubling than the other. Maybe he's unaware that Nazis were responsible for murdering 11 million people. Or maybe he is so politically tone-deaf that he thought his original comments were adequate. Or maybe he just doesn't want to alienate those he considers an important part of his political constituency. Any way you look at it, it's not good. President Trump surely isn't responsible for the car that killed Heather Heyer, but his rhetoric has helped to fill its gas tank. He wasn't slow to call out Black Lives Matter by name for supposedly "igniting" attacks on police even as he explicitly encouraged violence at his own campaign rallies, telling his supporters that he would cover their legal expenses if they got in trouble. Just a few weeks ago, he encouraged police to rough up suspects. If the president really is interested in curbing violence and restoring "law and order," it shouldn't be so hard for him to denounce neo-Nazis by name while upholding constitutional protections for free speech. That's what we need from a chief executive in hyper-partisan and polarized times, but Donald Trump doesn't seem interested in being the president of most—much less all—Americans. 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. [...]

On Health Care, Private Sector May Show Congress the Way


Just because Congress can't fix health care doesn't mean it can't be done. That's the message from the Health Transformation Alliance, 41 big American companies that have banded together to try to save money and lives on their own, without waiting for Congress to pass a new law. The Alliance's chief executive, Robert Andrews, himself a former Democratic congressman from New Jersey, had a recent New York Times op-ed reporting on three steps being taken by the companies, which spend about $25 billion a year on covering about 6 million employees and retirees. One is using "big data" analysis to find patterns on which providers are delivering the best results. Another involves negotiating better deals with the medicine middlemen known as pharmacy benefit managers. A third will be setting up new medical networks in Dallas/Ft. Worth, Phoenix, and Chicago to treat back pain and diabetes and to provide knee and hip replacements. Andrews writes that the drug reforms alone "are projected to save participating companies, their workers and, in some cases, retirees at least $600 million over three years—while achieving the same or better results." Which raises one big question that he doesn't get into in the Times op-ed: if these savings are such a great idea and so easily achievable, why isn't the federal government doing these things? After all, government spends more than $1 trillion a year on Medicare and Medicaid. State budgets pick up some of the Medicaid costs, in ways that are threatening to crowd out other expenditures; in Massachusetts, for example, MassHealth consumes 40 percent of the state budget. In New York, Medicaid is one third of the state budget. At the federal level, Medicare, the health care program for the elderly, is about 15 percent of the total federal budget, about the same as what gets spent on defense. True, Medicaid reimbursement rates to doctors are already rock-bottom compared to private insurance. Some states are trying to save more money on the program. In Rhode Island, for example, where about 30 percent of the state budget is devoted to Medicaid, Governor Gina Raimondo, a Democrat, says she saved $75 million on Medicaid in 2016 and $120 million in 2017 "by reducing waste and increasing program efficiency and effectiveness." Even so, the private sector's leadership here highlights some structural differences between government and business that may help explain why progress by Congress has been so slow by comparison. One big difference is that what the private sector hails as "savings," in the public sector gets demagogued as "cuts." This is a bipartisan problem. Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney repeatedly attacked Barack Obama and ObamaCare for having supposedly having "cut Medicare for current Medicare recipients." Romney described ObamaCare as a "Medicare-cutting monster." When President Trump proposed reductions in the rate of growth of health care spending, Hillary Clinton denounced Republicans as "the death party." Another big difference is the influence of interest groups, and their effect on incentives. If a CEO wants to save shareholders money by wringing better value from health care vendors, he or she is likely to be thanked with a bonus for increasing profits. Or the CEO's stock options will be worth more. When a politician tries to save taxpayers money by doing the same thing, big and powerful campaign donors and constituents and potential fut[...]

An Interview With James Damore


James Damore, a former software engineer at Google, was suddenly propelled to fame after an internal memo he wrote criticizing diversity policies at the company leaked to the media. The document, sometimes labeled a "manifesto" (and, less kindly, a "screed" and a "rant"), asserted that the gender disparities in tech jobs are at least partly the result of innate differences between the sexes (primarily of women being more people-oriented and less attracted to such work) and that the diversity programs intended to boost the number of women at Google are counterproductive and possibly illegal. While the document proposed alternative ways to make the workplace at Google more female-friendly, it was widely labeled "anti-diversity" and "anti-woman." After 28-year-old Damore was identified as the author of the memo, he was fired for "perpetuating gender stereotypes." Since then, the controversy has raged unabated—perhaps unsurprisingly, since it touches on many hot-button, polarizing issues from gender equity in the workplace to freedom of speech. A few days ago, I wrote about the debate for USA Today. I interviewed Damore via Google Hangouts text chat on Friday. The transcript has been lightly edited for style, flow and clarity. Cathy Young: All this must be a little overwhelming? James Damore: Yes, especially since I tend to be pretty introverted. CY: Did you think when you wrote the memo, that it could become public at all, let alone as such a huge story? JD: No, definitely not, I was just trying to clarify my thoughts on Google's culture and use it to slowly change some of our internal practices. CY: You've mentioned in other interviews that you decided to write this memo after attending a staff meeting on diversity at Google. JD: Yes, I decided to write my thoughts down after attending a particular "Diversity and Inclusion Summit," although I had seen many of the problems in our culture for a while. CY: Who was this summit for? All employees, or employees at a certain level? JD: It was generally for high level employees in my organization that were interested in diversity efforts. CY: Does Google have a lot of diversity events? Do any of them have mandatory attendance, or is it primarily for those interested in the issue? JD: Google has many diversity events, including many during our weekly company-wide meeting (TGIF). They've also recently made "Unconscious Bias" training, which is ideologically similar, mandatory for those that want to evaluate promotions, all managers, and all new hires. CY: You've mentioned that the summit that prompted the memo had some material that you found disturbing and offensive. I don't know how specific you can be, but any examples? JD: They outlined some of the practices where employees were being treated differently based on their gender or ethnicity at Google and during the hiring process. For example, there's special treatment during the interviews (like more being given) and there are high priority queues for team matching after an employee gets hired. Also, there were calls to holding individual managers accountable for the "diversity" of their team, which would inevitably lead to managers using someone's protected status (e.g. gender or ethnicity) during critical employment situations. CY: More interviews being given, as in women and underrepresented minorities being given a second chance? JD: Yes, and I, of course, don't have a[...]

Trump’s 'Fire and Fury' Wouldn’t Be the First for North Korea


Leave it to Donald Trump to threaten to rain "fire and fury" on the North Korean people the same week the world observed the 72nd anniversary of the U.S. government's vindictive atomic bombings of Japanese civilians. In case anyone missed the message, Defense Secretary James "Mad Dog" Mattis warned that the Kim Jong-un regime's actions risk the "destruction of its people." He wasn't talking about Kim's cruel communism. We know what Trump and Mattis mean, even if many conservatives twist themselves like pretzels to transform the threatened savagery into something more benign. Trump and Mattis were referring to America's nuclear arsenal. Trump promised "fire and fury like the world has never seen." No one would expect him to know this, but the North Korean people have seen their share of fire and fury at the hands of the U.S military. It happened almost 70 years ago, when Harry Truman, another president who went ga-ga over generals, unleashed America's savage vengeance during the Korean War. It's called the "forgotten war," but even when it wasn't forgotten, few Americans realized how brutally the United States treated people that posed no threat whatever to Americans. How many know that, quoting historian Bruce Cumings, far more napalm was dropped on Korea [than on Vietnam] and with much more devastating effect, since the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) had many more populous cities and urban industrial installations than North Vietnam…. By late August [1950] B-29 formations were dropping 800 tons a day on the North. Much of it was pure napalm. From June to late October 1950, B-29s unloaded 866,914 gallons of napalm. It was also known as "jellied gasoline." Regarding its effect on the human body, Cumings quotes the survivor of a "friendly fire" attack on Americans: Men all around me were burned. They lay rolling in the snow. Men I knew, marched and fought with begged me to shoot them…. It was terrible. Where the napalm had burned the skin to a crisp, it would be peeled back from the face, arms, legs … like fried potato chips. Cumings adds: George Barrett of The New York Times had found "a macabre tribute to the totality of modern war" in a village near Anyang, in South Korea: "The inhabitants throughout the village and in the fields were caught and killed and kept the exact postures they held when the napalm struck — a man about to get on his bicycle, 50 boys and girls playing in an orphanage, a housewife strangely unmarked, holding in her hand a page torn from a Sears-Roebuck catalogue crayoned at Mail Order No 3,811,294 for a $2.98 'bewitching bed jacket — coral'." US Secretary of State Dean Acheson wanted censorship authorities notified about this kind of "sensationalised reporting," so it could be stopped. Thus the war that is also known as a "limited police action" was anything but. Cumings writes that "from November 1950, General Douglas MacArthur ordered that a wasteland be created between the fighting front and the Chinese border, destroying from the air every 'installation, factory, city, and village' over thousands of square miles of North Korean territory." Gen. MacArthur presented his own impressions of the early results at a congressional hearing in May 1951 after Truman fired him: The war in Korean has already almost destroyed that nation of 20,000,000 people. I have never seen such devastation. [...]

Trump Launches a Suicidal War on His Own Party


During the presidential campaign, Donald Trump often told the story of the kind woman who found a half-frozen snake and took it in and nursed it back to health—only to be repaid with a cruel bite. What Republicans didn't know is that in this story, they're the woman and Trump is the reptile. With his approval rating sinking, Trump has decided his problem is that he has too many allies. So he set out to rid of himself of an important one: Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell. The taciturn Kentuckian managed to inspire rage by suggesting that, being new to Washington, Trump had "excessive expectations about how quickly things happen in the democratic process." The president responded by tweeting angrily, "Can you believe that Mitch McConnell, who has screamed Repeal & Replace for 7 years, couldn't get it done. Must Repeal & Replace ObamaCare!" As if that weren't enough, Trump followed up in an interview by indicating he might favor McConnell's resignation as Republican leader if he couldn't get Trump's agenda enacted. McConnell looks as worried as a poker player holding four aces. He is accountable only to the voters back home, who elected him to his sixth term by a 15-point margin in 2014, and to Senate Republicans, who installed him as their leader 10 years ago and appear to be perfectly content with him. Upon reading Trump's tweets, Senate Democratic leader Charles Schumer and House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, we can assume, immediately fell to their knees to rejoice at this sudden windfall. As commanders of an outnumbered force, their best hope is that their adversaries will devour themselves, and Trump is doing his best to make their wish come true. He has proved himself the supreme master of the unforced error. There are many things Trump does not seem to comprehend about the presidency. One is that on a wide range of important issues, he can't do much without the help of Congress. Another is that the legislative branch is equal to the executive branch, not subordinate. He also fails to grasp that he has no more of a popular mandate than every single member of Congress, none of whom came in second in the popular vote. He didn't install any of them. The voters did. Every representative and senator knows—far better than Trump does—what he or she needs to do to win re-election. Most of them were in office long before he arrived and will be there after he's gone. They don't owe him and don't fear him. A president, of course, can sometimes compel even unfriendly members of Congress to going along with his legislative agenda. In 1981, Republican Ronald Reagan got his signature tax cut approved even though his party was in the House minority. No fewer than 48 Democrats (and all but one Republican) felt obliged to support it. In the Senate, only 10 Democrats dared to vote no. But at the time, Reagan had an approval rating of 55 percent. Having been a two-term governor of California, he also had some knowledge of how to work with lawmakers. Trump, by contrast, boasts an approval rating of 38 percent and a bottomless ignorance of the legislative process. It didn't occur to him that if an unpopular president wants anything passed, he needs to offer ideas that are practical and politically salable (see: Reagan tax cut). Trump was unable to get Congress to vote for the repeal and replacement of Obam[...]

Unconstitutional State Food, Agriculture Crackdowns Spur Congress to Act


Earlier this summer, Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-Calif. Wisc.) introduced a bill that could dramatically change the ways states tax and regulate interstate commerce, including commerce in agriculture and food. The bill, known as the No Regulation Without Representation Act of 2017, would bar states from regulating or taxing many businesses that don't physically operate within their borders. The bill is intended to rein in "certain State impositions on interstate commerce." It declares "a State may tax or regulate a person's activity in interstate commerce only when such person is physically present in the State during the period in which the tax or regulation is imposed." But wait. Doesn't the Constitution already prohibit states from regulating interstate commerce, via the Commerce Clause (and its corollary, the dormant Commerce Clause) and the Fourteenth Amendment? You bet! But states increasingly ignore those edicts. Take Massachusetts, where voters in November adopted Question 3. The law, which won't take effect for at least a couple years, bans "the sale of eggs, veal, or pork of a farm animal confined in spaces that prevent the animal from lying down, standing up, extending its limbs, or turning around." The law applies not just to farms in Massachusetts but also to "farms located in other states," notes one recent report. As I wrote last year, the law "impose[s] unwise, harmful, costly, and unconstitutional standards for raising a host of livestock animals." Though the Massachusetts law imposes the same restrictions on businesses in every other state that it imposes on businesses in Massachusetts, that doesn't make the law fair. It makes it unconstitutional. "The state may well be allowed to regulate many facets of agriculture within its borders," I wrote last year. "But it has no such authority to regulate the way livestock is raised in other states." The bill introduced by Rep. Sensenbrenner is a direct threat to the Massachusetts law. While Massachusetts voters clearly erred in choosing to adopt this unconstitutional law, they're not alone. California voters adopted a similar law earlier this decade. Both states' laws, which I discuss together here, are just the sort of unconstitutional laws Rep. Sensenbrenner's bill is intended to eradicate. Indeed, it appears the origins of Rep. Sensenbrenner's bill stem directly from battles like these over food and agriculture. "[The new bill] is likely related to a fight between states that has been progressing through the courts," reads a good National Law Review analysis of the bill, which compares it to a narrower Sensenbrenner bill that stalled last year. "California has a law that requires eggs sold in California to be laid by hens in cages that are of a specific size. Missouri and other states sued to invalidate California's law, but lost in the 9th Circuit and certiorari was denied by the US Supreme Court on May 30, 2017." Unsurprisingly, the bill has strong supporters and vehement detractors. Animal-rights and animal-welfare groups are in the latter camp. "We're all for neutering pets," Paul Shapiro, vice president for policy engagement with the Humane Society of the United States, told me by email this week, "but we don't know why Mr. Sensenbrenner wants to neuter the states and strip their ability to protect their own citizens[...]

Don't Be Fooled. Airstrikes Are War.


It is a bizarre and dangerous quirk of American politics that U.S. airstrikes are accepted as a moderate step between diplomacy and war. Take a look at the Philippines, where Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Monday the United States may begin airstrikes against local Islamic State-linked militants. Does this mean we're at war in the South Pacific? I suspect most Americans would say no. It's "just" airstrikes, after all. It is by that same calculation we are not "at war" in Yemen, Pakistan, Somalia, or Libya—all countries that have been subject to U.S. airstrikes this year. Or consider new poll results published by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs. Participants were asked what response they would support to North Korea's development of nuclear weapons. Options ranged from inaction, negotiation, sanction, broader sanction, airstrikes on nuclear facilities to boots on the ground. The real point of the survey, our dangerous quirk, wasn't the percentage of support for each of the various options, but that airstrikes are presented as some sort of intermediate option, somehow substantially different from more conventional warfare. What we ignore at our peril is that airstrikes are war, as is evident with a moment's reflection. Dropping bombs on foreign territory is warfare whether we talk about it in those terms or not. This defining statement is not as pedantic as it may seem. Washington has a well-established history of using sloppy language in civic conversation to pull fast ones on the public. Former President Obama was a master where airstrikes were concerned: By prioritizing air war over ground troops, Obama was able to pay lip service to his campaign-era promises of reform and restraint while, in reality, maintaining and in some cases escalating the very interventionist foreign policy he was elected to repudiate. During Obama's final year in office, the United States dropped more than 26,000 bombs in seven nations (Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria, and the four listed above), though for only for three of them (Afghanistan, Iraq, and Pakistan) did the executive branch have anything even remotely resembling congressional authorization for war required by the Constitution. There are many reasons for that failure of basic procedural accountability—congressional fecklessness and presidential overreach not least among them—but the inaccurate way we think of airstrikes as War Junior is surely one of them. With President Trump in Obama's place, the consequences of our messy conception of airstrikes grow more serious still. In his first half-year in office, Trump has ordered airstrikes at five times Obama's incredible pace. That escalation, coupled with this week's announcement about the Philippines (not to mention April's strike on regime targets in Syria, the first of its kind), suggests we are due to see more airstrikes against more targets in more places in days to come. Whether those strikes are necessary, prudent or right are subject to debate. There is a long history of warnings from U.S. military and intelligence officers plus independent studies that airstrikes exacerbate security threats by radicalizing ordinary people who have lost innocent family members to American bombs. As conservative columnist Jim Antle has argued, "Just like government st[...]

Autistic Teen Takes Center Stage on Netflix’s Atypical


Atypical. Available now on Netflix. Marlon. NBC. Wednesday, August 17, 9 p.m. Great false myths about television, No. 12,092: that for decades, The Adventures of Ozzie & Harriet and Leave it to Beaver and their two-WASP-kids-and-a-picket fence suburban utopia were the only templates for portrayal of the American family. Actually, one of television's first sitcoms, The Goldbergs, which debuted in 1949, was set in a Jewish tenement in the Bronx. And in 1957, a quarter-century before his freakout over TV drama's first gay son in Dynasty, John Forsythe was already learning the challenges of single parenting in Bachelor Father, raising an orphaned niece. That said, in the past few years, sitcoms have been aggressively expanding their range in the past few years with shows like Blackish (in which an affluent black family simultaneously embraces and struggles against the bougie temptation) and Speechless (in which a non-speaking kid with muscular dystrophy is not merely present—which itself would be a first—but the star). The trend continues, not altogether successfully, this week, with Netflix's Atypical, which chronicles the coming-of-age of an autistic teenager, and Marlon, a raucous account of a divorced couple trying to keep their family together. Autistic characters are nothing new on TV. There was young Max Braverman on NBC's Parenthood, who once asked his parents with genuine curiosity, "Why do all the other kids hate me? Is it because I'm weird?" Or homicide detective Sonya Cross of FX's The Bridge, who apologized when her questioning brought a murder victim's wife to tears: "Am I not showing empathy?" But Atypical is the first time in which autism and its effects have been at a show's center instead of its periphery. Keir Gilchrist (so good as the emotionally whipsawed gay son on United States of Tara, and even better here) as the autistic Sam, trying to negotiate the emotional shoals of adolescence without a chart or even a clue. Unable to spot social cues, Sam needs advice; unable to comprehend sarcasm or irony, he turns to a website called for advice. Aurally striking words like "twat" trigger his tendency to get caught in an endless loop of repetition. Each new disaster triggers a new round of mindlessly brutal cruelty from his schoolmates. After watching a bit of this, you'll stop wondering at Sam's odd obsession with Antarctica, a place that, he notes, gets less than four inches of rain a year and is technically a desert. "That's why I like it," he explains in his low-key narration. "It's not what it looks like." Sam's social malfunctions fly through his family like psychological shrapnel, leaving collateral casualties everywhere. His mother (Jennifer Jason Leigh, Revenge), her own emotional flesh flayed away after years of nursing his wounds ("Every time the phone rings, I jump; every time") cannot even begin to calculate the potential damage to her son of a romance gone wrong. His father (Michael Rapaport, Prison Break) broods that his incomprehension of Sam's problems is regarded by the rest of the family as indifference. And the hip cynicism of his younger sister (the extremely talented newcomer Brigette Lundy-Paine) masks a growing rage that literally makes her want to scream. Created and wr[...]