(image) By a Senate vote of 66 to 32, Republican Kansas Rep. Mike Pompeo has been confirmed to take over as director of the CIA.
Pompeo represents the pro-surveillance wing of the Republican Party. Though he voted in favor of the USA Freedom Act that restricted some federal intelligence agency access to massive amounts of metadata about Americans' communications, he has openly advocated for unrestricted information access and pushed just last year to open bulk data collection back up. He also, like President Donald Trump, has said that surveillance whistleblower Edward Snowden is a traitor and should be treated as such.
One Republican voted against Pompeo's nomination—Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky. Several establishment Democrats also voted in favor of Pompeo, such as Dianne Feinstein of California, Chuck Schumer of New York, and Hillary Clinton's vice president choice Tim Kaine of Virginia. It's a useful reminder that there are a significant number of pro-security Democrats who favor federal authority to access data over the privacy of the citizenry.
Paul turned to Rare to explain his "no" vote:
In addition, many in Congress support a comprehensive, searchable database equipped with "public" data like "lifestyle" choices, an incredible invasion of privacy in some ways more intrusive than the English soldiers that invaded American households to search for any untaxed papers.
Advocates of such a database argue that it will only be searched after obtaining some type of court order.
These advocates fail to understand that our privacy and the Fourth Amendment are breached merely in the collection of our personal data. Our privacy is invaded first by the collection of private information and only secondarily by searching that databank.
The existence of the database itself is a violation of our right to privacy.
As the Trump administration takes shape it's going to be important to separate the president's attitude and skepticism toward foreign intervention and war from his attitudes toward surveillance and the methods he wants to pursue to fight the war on terror. They do not appear to be connected in any way. His focus on "law and order" may lead to a push for more domestic surveillance. And certainly there are going to be politicians (on both the left and the right!) who are going to encourage it.
2017-01-23T20:23:00-05:00Because of Ohio's long fight against easily letting third parties on their ballot, using some highly questionable tactics, Gary Johnson, the Libertarian Party's presidential candidate in 2016, appeared on the Ohio ballot as an "independent" rather than with his proper Party identification. Johnson got 3.17 percent of the Ohio vote, which would normally, in Ohio law, qualify the Party who got it for ballot access, and the ability to have a ballot primary, next time around. However, according to an opinion from the Ohio Supreme Court last week, Johnson's vote total doesn't count for the L.P.'s future ballot access since the state wouldn't let him on the ballot with his proper Party identification. From the infuriating decision: statutes make clear that a political group cannot obtain recognized political-party status based on votes obtained by independent candidates. As Husted [Ohio's secretary of state] notes, the 3 percent vote required for a group to "remain[ ]" a political party must be received by the "political party's candidate," as specified in R.C. 3501.01(F)(2)(a). Fockler's [who sued on behalf of the L.P.] candidates could not be the "political party's candidate[s]" because they were nominated and appeared on the ballot as independent candidates, unaffiliated with any political party....As Husted aptly states, only already-recognized political parties are eligible to "remain[ ]" a political party. One Supreme Court Justice, William O'Neill, dissented and thought the L.P. should have won their ballot access because: Hustedopposes [the L.P.'s] request based on the fact that [its] candidates did not run under the Libertarian Party banner in 2016. That is, at best, circular reasoning. It would not have been possible for Gary Johnson and Bill Weld to run as the candidates of the Libertarian Party as there was no such party recognized by the state of Ohio. That is what this lawsuit is all about..... At issue in this matter are the statutory definitions of the terms "political party" in R.C. 3517.01(A)(1) and "minor political party" in R.C. 3501.01(F)(2). Respondent would like us to read these provisions together to conclude that relators cannot be a "political party" because they do not qualify as a "minor political party." This interpretation is unreasonable. The umbrella section immediately above the definition of "minor political party," R.C. 3501.01(F), defines "political party" as "any group of voters meeting the requirements set forth in section 3517.01 of the Revised Code for the formation and existence of a political party.".... Using the same phrase, "any group of voters"..., R.C. 3517.01(A)(1) provides that a group of voters may acquire political party status by meeting either of two alternative requirements, (a) or (b). R.C. 3517.01(A)(1)(a) provides that the definition of "political party" is met if "at the most recent regular state election, the group polled for its candidate for governor in the state or nominees for presidential electors at least three per cent of the entire vote cast for that office."...That is exactly what happened here.... [The people suing for ballot status] allege that they are the "group of voters" that nominated Johnson and Weld to appear on the most recent presidential-election ballot, that the candidates they nominated received 3.17 percent of the total votes cast in that election, and that they would now like recognition as a political party. [The State of Ohio] denies only one of these allegations in his answer: that [the people suing] were the people who nominated Johnson and Weld. [They] have provided more than sufficient evidence in support of their statement that they were the group that nominated Johnson and Weld,...Whether or not [those suing] want to be called the "Libertarian Party"— they do not say so in their complaint—is not dispositive. That they received support from a group calling itself the Libertarian Party of Ohio is equally irrelevant. The Revised Code says nothing about that. These five people could call the[...]
2017-01-23T18:45:00-05:00In the name of putting "America First," the Trump administration seems determined to pursue a course of economic protectionism. As one of his first actions in office, Trump on Monday issued an executive order pulling America out of negotiations for the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a 12-nation free trade deal left unfinished by the Obama administration. Later on Monday, Trump's spokesperson suggested that the new administration might soon withdraw from NAFTA, the 1994 free trade deal signed by the United States, Canada, and Mexico. Other protectionist policies could be coming. Trump has promised to punish businesses that move jobs out of the United States and has already been making "deals" to keep others from offshoring production. That might be a winning strategy for Trump politically, but it will leave the country poorer in the long run, says Mark Perry, an economist at the economically conservative American Enterprise Institute. For Perry, that's not an opinion but a reading of empirical economic history. Perry tweeted this chart on Monday morning (and later expanded the argument in a post at his Carpe Diem blog): The chart is based on a 1986 study published in the Institute for International Economics examined 31 case studies of protectionist trade policies in the United States. Across 19 different manufacturing sectors, the study found that the costs of protectionism outweighed the benefits, sometimes by a wide margin. "I think it's a good reality check to demonstrate that even though protectionism might sound good in theory, and might in fact save some U.S. jobs, it will never pass an empirical cost-benefit analysis, which always shows that the costs to consumers are always greater than the benefits to producers, making us worse off on net," Perry said in an email interview. A lot has changed since the 1980s, of course, but there's little reason to think that the basic rules of trade and economics have gone the way of Members Only jackets and Bananarama. Not only does protectionism make all of us worse off, but the added costs are huge. When looking at manufacturing jobs, one area where Trump has focused, and updating the 1986 analysis to account for inflation, Perry concludes that it could cost as much as $500,000 per job saved. "Spending $500,000 to $600,000 per year to save a $50,000 to $60,000 per year factory job might make sense politically, but only if the true cost of saving those jobs is hidden," Perry said. That last part is important. These costs are never going to be seen on a price tag or a receipt, but are buried within a million transactions that take place all over the country every day. Increasing the cost of manufacturing products or importing them into the country, as Trump has promised to do, will result in those higher costs being passed along the supply chain to consumers. The supposed benefits of protectionism can be trumpeted—or, perhaps, tweeted—in a far less subtle way. On Monday, White House press secretary Sean Spicer addressed some criticism of Trump's "deal" with Carrier by doing exactly this. "He's not focused on statistics so much as he is whether the American people are doing better," Spicer said of Trump's economic views. "Too often in Washington, we get our heads wrapped around a number and a statistic, and we forget the faces and the families and the businesses that are behind those numbers." Yes, that's a good political talking point—one that I suspect we'll hear a lot more often from the Trump administration in the coming years—but all it does is obfuscate and dismiss very legitimate criticisms, like the one raised by Perry, about the economic consequences of political meddling in the economy. Read more about Trump's efforts to bribe, bully, beg, borrow, and steal jobs in the newest edition of the print magazine. [...]
(image) For proof that the snowflake tendency runs as deeply among Trumpites as it does among campus censors, look no further than the Madonna controversy.
Yes, the dowager duchess of pop, the 58-year-old who sings about being a "girl gone wild," has let her mouth land her in hot water again. Her speechcrime this time? To admit in public that she fantasized about blowing up the White House after Trump won it.
In an otherwise typically Madonna speech at the Women's March in Washington, D.C. — all "fuck you"s and "look-at-me"s — she said she had "thought an awful lot about blowing up the White House." She thought better of it, though, and decided it would be more effective to challenge Trump with a "revolution of love" and through her music. Ick. Maybe the blowing-up wouldn't have been so bad after all.
The outrage was instant and predictable. Brendan O'Neill breaks it all down.
2017-01-23T17:25:00-05:00The press is aflutter with talk that the Corporation for Public Broadcasting may be headed for the chopping block. More specifically, The Hill informs us that Trump staffers have been "discussing" the "privatization" of the CPB. In other words, we don't actually know what's happening. "Discussing" means the administration hasn't settled on a plan; "privatization" could take many forms. Nor do we know how any particular proposal will play out politically. Usually I roll my eyes during these debates, knowing that for all the apocalyptic rhetoric they inspire they have invariably ended with the CPB still in the budget. Occasionally it gets a funding cut, but even those tend to be erased within a few years. But as you may have noticed, our new president is unpredictable. Given all the allegedly impossible things that have happened lately, you can't just assume past will be prologue, even if the forces that have kept the CPB alive in the past are still at work. That said: The forces that have kept the CPB alive in the past are quite definitely still at work. Back in 2011, when congressional Republicans were threatening to cut off NPR's money because it had fired Juan Williams, I offered a brief tour through the history of the We're Going To Defund Public Broadcasting show. The Williams spat, I wrote, was a more exciting hook for the drama than the one Richard Nixon used in 1971, when presidential pique at the Eastern liberals who dominated PBS spurred him to propose a "return to localism" that would have kneecapped the crowd in charge of the system. On the other hand, it doesn't have the cloak-and-dagger spirit that the State Department flunky Otto Reich brought to the play in 1985, right after Ronald Reagan's reelection, when he met with NPR staffers in a smoky little room and warned them that the White House thought they were "Moscow on the Potomac." Nor is it as colorful as the 1993 spectacle starring Bob Dole and David Horowitz, who attacked the radical Pacifica network rather than NPR, providing an opportunity to quote a much weirder series of statements than anything in the Juan Williams kerfuffle. ("We didn't have Satan before the white man. So the white man is Satan himself.") And the exclusive focus on NPR this time around means the stakes don't feel as high as they did in 1994, when Speaker-elect Gingrich started musing that he might "zero out" the entire public broadcasting budget. A decade later, a House subcommittee heightened the dramatic tension by voting to eliminate federal support for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) altogether. That element of danger was a suspenseful touch. While there are Republicans who honestly think the government shouldn't be in the business of subsidizing public broadcasters, there are more Republicans—or, at least, more powerful Republicans—who just think the government should be subsidizing a slightly different group of public broadcasters. As I wrote in 2011, "The system was still standing after Nixon made his threats, but all save one of the programs he found objectionable went off the air. After the Gingrich-era battle ended, the Republican pundits Fred Barnes, Peggy Noonan, and Ben Wattenberg all landed gigs at PBS—and following an initial cut, the CPB's budget crept back upward. The funding fight under George W. Bush took place against the backdrop of a conservative CPB chief crusading for a more right-friendly PBS and NPR." (*) These exercises may not cut public broadcasters loose, but they do whip them into line. Needless to say, it would be completely in character for Trump to try a trick like that. (Sample scenario: He ruminates about funding cuts, PBS adds a MAGA voice or two to its lineup, and then the president declares public television a great American institution.) On the other hand, it would also be in character for Trump to endorse a privatization plan as a painless concession to the more free-market wing of the Republican co[...]
(image) Set your DVRs or stay up to the ungodly hour of 3am tonight to watch me on Fox News' late-night gabfest Red Eye with Tom Shillue, where I'll be appearing alongside Howard Stern Show writer Shuli Egar, comedian Tom Dillon, and Bustle Trends' Senior Director Jessica Tarlov.
Scheduled topics include the various stages of protesting Donald Trump, the anger directed at Taylor Swift for not protesting Trump, the increasing animosity between the Trump administration and the political news media, and the trend that's probably not a trend of naked exercise.
Check out my interview with Red Eye's inimitable ombudsman Andy Levy below:
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(image) In the newest Reason podcast, Reason magazine Editor in Chief Katherine Mangu-Ward and Reason.com Associate Editor join me to talk about the spectacle and substance of Donald Trump's inaugural address, the size and force of the Women's March (which pulled an estimated 500,000 people), and the start of National School Week, an annual event promoting the ability of parents and students to have greater options in K-12 education.
School choice—whether via charter schools, education savings accounts, vouchers, or other measures—has been growing by leaps and bounds over the past 20 years, even in the face of a powerful establishment that mostly wants to keep things the way they are. Whatever else you can say about President Trump, he is full-throated in his support of choice and his controversial pick for Education Secretary, Betsy DeVos, is a high-profile activist in the school-choice movement. Will the Trump era be the moment when letting parents and kids choose where to go to school becomes the norm? Or will the toxicity of Trump on other issues kill the momentum in favor of choice?
Produced by Ian Keyser.
For all past Reason Podcasts, go here.
Subscribe to the Reason Podcast at iTunes and never miss an episode. Listen now via SoundCloud by clicking below.
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National School Choice Week runs from through January 28. Over 21,000 events involving almost 17,000 schools from all 50 states will take place over the coming days. Go here to get more information about events and data about how increasing school choice—charters, vouchers, educational savings accounts, and more—is one of the best ways to improve education for all Americans.
As a proud media sponsor of National School Choice Week, Reason will be publishing daily articles, podcasts, videos, interviews, and other coverage exploring the ways in which education is being radically altered and made better by letting more people have more choices when it comes to learning. For a constantly updated list of stories, go to Reason's archive page on "school choice."
2017-01-23T16:45:00-05:00As far as President Trump's Cabinet picks go, the left seems to have settled on Betsy DeVos as the person whose derailment is most attainable, or perhaps, most important. At the end of the day, the Democratic Party is still the Democratic Party, and still beholden to teachers unions—an interest group that reflexively opposes even modest education reforms. Democrats are pulling out all the stops. MSNBC host Joy Reid put Michael Moore on her show to explain that DeVos "helped to ruin public education in Michigan," which is a lie. Sen. Cory Booker, a former ally of DeVos's who sat with her on the board of the Alliance for School Choice, has announced that he will vote against her confirmation (now that he wants to run for president, he can't risk alienating teachers unions, one presumes). And even liberal celebrities are anti-DeVos. Cher recently tweeted: 202-2243121 Contact senator& congressman-woman .Call both &Say NO"Betsy Devos".HER QUEST,2 DEFUND PUBLIC SCHOOLS. UR CHILD DESERVES MORE.RT — Cher (@cher) January 22, 2017 The contention that DeVos wants to defund public schools is as absurd as the contention that she poisoned the water in Flint, Michigan. (Embarrassingly, many liberals are indeed insisting that DeVos had something to do with Flint, which is ludicrous.) DeVos merely recognizes some of the flaws inherent to the public education system: it takes in a whole lot of cash, and produces a whole lot of kids who can't read or do math well. Cher is right that "UR CHILD DESERVES MORE." But what is meant by the more in that sentence? Is it more of the same exact system—a system that doesn't seem to improve, no matter how much money is thrown at it? Keep in mind that inflation-adjusted spending on education has doubled, while reading and math scores have stayed the same and high school graduation rates may have dipped. Giving children more means giving them more choices. It means liberating them from the system as it exists currently—a system that requires kids to attend the public school in the zip code assigned to them at birth. Not all public schools are bad; on the contrary, many public schools are great. But every kid is different, and what works for one family might not make sense for another. A certain zip code might have a school with a great college prep program that focuses on STEM education, but what about the kid who wants to study music? Why not let that kid take the per pupil funding allotted to him by the state and use it to pay for classes at an artsier institution? When public schools are bad, the need for school choice reform is even more obvious. Give the money to the kids and let families decide what they should do with it. Competition for public dollars would incentivize public schools to improve their outputs—they wouldn't be able to afford to hang on to ineffective teachers. Indeed, this is precisely what frightens teachers unions so much about school choice: it threatens their monopoly. Whether DeVos will be able to use the education secretary gig to push for reforms remains to be seen. But the fact that she supports the existence of alternatives to traditional public schooling should be viewed as positive, not a liability. National School Choice Week, an annual event promoting the ability of parents and students to have greater options in K-12 education, starts today. Over 21,000 events involving almost 17,000 schools from all 50 states will take place over the coming days. Go here to get more information about events and data about how increasing school choice--charters, vouchers, educational savings accounts, and more--is one of the best ways to improve education for all Americans. As a proud media sponsor of National School Choice Week, Reason will be publishing daily articles, podcasts, videos, interviews, and other coverage exploring the ways in which education is being radical[...]
2017-01-23T16:15:00-05:00You know the world, including this great nation, is screwed when a nationalist like Donald Trump and a socialist like Bernie Sanders agree on something. That happens to be the case with the TPP – or the Trans Pacific Partnership -- the 12-nation free trade agreement that Barack Obama, in a rare move of inspired leadership, negotiated. Together these countries account for 40 percent of the world GDP and house 800 million of the world's population, almost double that of the European Union. Fulfilling one his core campaign promises on the first full day of his presidency, Trump officially pulled the United States from the deal. This was largely a symbolic move because the treaty had not been ratified and Congressional leaders had already signaled after the November elections that there was no path forward for it. But Bernie Sanders instantly tweeted that he is "glad the Trans-Pacific Partnership is dead and gone." And Trump declared as he made the withdrawal announcement that this was a "great thing for the American worker." He didn't mention that American consumers – aka "importers" – on the other hand would be "raped" (to use his own description for the ill-fated treaty). Particularly hard hit will be low income households – you know those poor white working-class schlubs that this election was all about – who purchase foreign shoes and apparel at WalMart given that the agreement would have phased out U.S. tariffs most steeply on such items. But it will also affect manufacturers looking for cheap raw material, subverting Trump's core goal of rebuilding American manufacturing, while also limiting their reach in overseas markets given that the deal would have immediately eliminated all tariffs on US non-agricultural goods, and almost all agricultural goods. But that's not the only Trump goal this move will subvert. In classic mercantilist vein, Trump believes that exports are good because that means you are selling things and imports are bad because that means you are buying things, not understanding that the whole point of exports is to import just as the point of production is consumption. If we keep selling goods but don't buy anything in return, what would be the point of earning all that money? But even if exporting is Trump's goal, the TPP would have slashed to zero 18,000 tariffs that the partner countries currently impose on US exports, Mercatus Center's Dan Griswold has pointed out. Americans, especially farmers, would have gained tremendous access to overseas markets. The most bizarre thing about Trump's hostility to the TPP is that if it has a geo-political goal it is to balance China's growing influence in the Pacific, exactly what Trump wants. The deal, which included, besides the United States, Japan, Malaysia, Vietnam, Singapore, Brunei, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Mexico, Chile and Peru, pointedly left out China. Now China will cut its own deals with many of these countries with whom it already doesn't have one, basically isolating the United States in the region. (Let me hasten to add, I am not by any means in favor of restoring the 1990s neo-conservative demonization of China when The Weekly Standard had made opposition to Most Favored Nation status and isolation of the Middle Kingdom its signature issue. I'm just trying to point out the internal contradictions in the new president's policies.) To be sure, the TPP, like most multi-lateral trade agreements, was long and cumbersome and far from perfect. Indeed, it favored more politically connected U.S. exporters who helped write the rules – precisely also what happened in the partner countries, as Reason contributor Veronique de Rugy notes. And it also tried to force all countries to hew to America's intellectual property, environmental and other standards, basically raising the global co[...]
Yes, it's National School Choice Week and, as it happens, I recently recorded a podcast with Don Wettrick, a public-school teacher based in Indiana and the voice behind StartEDup, a weekly interview program that covers "where educators, innovators, and entrepreneurs connect." It's a wide-ranging conversation about the need for more variety in educational options for all kids, and more variety in life in general. We also get talking about what it means to be a small "L' libertarian at a time when traditional conservatives and liberals are doubling and tripling down on the very madness that has left their ranks depleted.
It's a rollicking, fun conversation, and you can listen along simply by clicking below:
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National School Choice Week, an annual event promoting the ability of parents and students to have greater options in K-12 education, runs from January 22 through January 28. Over 21,000 events involving almost 17,000 schools from all 50 states will take place over the coming days. Go here to get more information about events and data about how increasing school choice—charters, vouchers, educational savings accounts, and more—is one of the best ways to improve education for all Americans.
As a proud media sponsor of National School Choice Week, Reason will be publishing daily articles, podcasts, videos, interviews, and other coverage exploring the ways in which education is being radically altered and made better by letting more people have more choices when it comes to learning. For a constantly updated list of stories, go to Reason's archive page on "school choice."
(image) Obscured amid the controversy over crowd size and the women's march that followed was the substantive policy at the heart of President Trump's inaugural address. That came in the language about "we are transferring power from Washington, D.C., and giving it back to you, the people," and is being followed up with a reported congressional initiative to turn Medicaid, the federal healthcare program for the poor, into "block grants to the states."
States already exercise substantial discretion over Medicaid. And it may be that the proposed changes are an improvement over the current system. Local control puts decisionmakers closer to end-users, shortening the distance that information needs to travel, and making it easier to adjust programs to local circumstances, as Ira Stoll notes. But it's worth remembering that there are some drawbacks, too. First of all, "block grant to the states" still often gives the politicians in Washington and their lobbyist hangers-on ample opportunity to play a role in directing the cash flow. At the state level, meanwhile, the "block grant" provides an opportunity for government spending unconnected to the act of revenue-raising. It's practically free money, so the state and local officials want to spend as much of it as possible.
2017-01-23T15:45:00-05:00President Donald Trump has signed an executive order freezing federal civilian workforce hiring. At a press conference today new White House press secretary Sean Spicer stated that the freeze was established because it "counters the dramatic expansion of the federal workforce in recent years." Just one problem: There has not been a dramatic expansion in the federal workforce in recent years. According to the latest Office of Personnel Management, the number of federal civilian employees stands at around 2.7 million, just about where it was in 1966. In fact, civilian federal employment is down from its 1990 peak of just under 3.1 million. Relatively speaking this means that in 1966 there was 1 federal employee per 70 citizens and now there is 1 per 121 citizens. It does bear noting that number of state and local government employees have increased 7.8 million in 1966 to 19.5 million today*; up from 1 per 24 citizens to 1 per 17 citizens today. While federal government civilian employment has been essentially flat, it is interesting to consider the role of government contractors. Some have argued that lots of services provided by government contractors should actually be moved into the federal government to achieve greater efficiencies. Setting that argument aside, it is very hard to estimate the number of jobs that are supported by government contracts. A 2015 Congressional Budget Office report noted: Regrettably, CBO is unaware of any comprehensive information about the size of the federal government's contracted workforce. However, using a database of federal contracts, CBO determined that federal agencies spent over $500 billion for contracted products and services in 2012. Between 2000 and 2012, such spending grew more quickly than inflation and also grew as a percentage of total federal spending. The category of spending that grew the most in dollar terms was contracts for professional, administrative, and management services, and the category that grew the most in percentage terms was contracts for medical services. So how many jobs might $500 billion create? By one very rough estimate, spending that amount would result in about 5 million jobs. Another study that tried to estimate the number of jobs created per billion dollars spent on infrastructure would boost that number to 11.5 million jobs. So notionally speaking, the federal civilian workforce including contracted employees would be, taking the lower estimate, somewhere around 7.7 million, or about 1 for every 42 citizens. Of course, the wages of contracted employees are not frozen. Whatever the case for freezing federal employees wages, Spicer and the Trump administration have undermined it by offering up an "alternative fact" with regard to actual trends in the number of civilian federal government employment. Guys, if you don't want "the most dishonest people on earth" distracting the public from your messages, try harder to get, you know, the fact-facts right. Disclosure: I was a federal government employee for about 3 years working as a medium-level staff economist for the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission 1979-1981. Although it was fairly well paying, I hated my job so much I quit to go work for magazine for half the pay in New York City. *Number calculated by substracting OPM federal employment numbers from the overall government employment numbers provided by the St. Louis Federal Reserve. [...]
2017-01-23T15:00:00-05:00On his first Monday in office, Donald Trump signed executive orders instituting a hiring freeze for all federal government positions outside the military and reinstating a ban on international aid going to nonprofits that provide abortions or promote information on them, regardless of what other services they offer. The contentious abortion rule represents a back and forth that's been taking place under Republican and Democratic administrations since the 1980s. Known as the "Mexico City Policy," it was instituted under President Ronald Reagan, reversed by Bill Clinton, restored by George W. Bush, and again reversed by Barack Obama. Not to be confused with the 1973 Helms Amendment, which bans groups from using U.S. government funds directly for abortion services abroad, the Mexico City Policy targets broader conduct, requiring that "as a condition of their receipt of federal funds," groups must agree to "neither perform nor actively promote abortion as a method of family planning in other nations." A diverse group of more than 100 public health, women's issues, and civil liberties organizations have already issued a statement opposing the return of the Mexico City Policy, which they refer to as "the global gag rule." "The global gag rule ... interferes with the doctor-patient relationship by restricting medical information healthcare providers may offer, limits free speech by prohibiting local citizens from participating in public policy debates, and impedes women's access to family planning by cutting off funding for many of the most experienced health care providers who chose to prioritize quality reproductive-health services and counseling over funding that restricts care and censors information," it says. Groups endorsing the statement include the American Civil Liberties Union, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Amnesty International USA, the National Organization for Women, the Alliance to End Slavery & Trafficking, the Unitarian Universalist Women's Federation, the International Medical Corps, New York University's Global Justice Clinic,and Human Rights Campaign. The Mexico City Policy is one of several federal aid conditions that have been contingent on controversial social issues. Since 2003, the U.S. has banned groups that get grants to fight HIV/AIDs and/or human trafficking from supporting the decriminalization of prostitution. Referred to as the anti-prostitution pledge, the policy was proposed for anti-HIV groups as part of Bush's "Emergency Plan for AIDs Relief," passed by Congress in May 2003 as the "United States Leadership against HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria Act." It stipulated that no grant money could be used "to promote or advocate the legalization or practice of prostitution or sex trafficking" nor to "provide assistance to any group or organization that does not have a policy explicitly opposing prostitution and sex trafficking." The anti-prostitution pledge was also part of the bipartisan 2003 reauthorization of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA), which stated that no federal money "may be used to promote, support, or advocate the legalization or practice of prostitution" and no funds "may be used to implement any program" by an organization that "has not stated in either a grant application, a grant agreement, or both, that it does not promote, support, or advocate the legalization or practice of prostitution." Many public-health and human-rights groups opposed these policies on the grounds that decriminalizing prostitution is often supported as a means to stop the spread of sexually-transmitted infections and sex trafficking by force, fraud, or coercion. The pledge was initially applied only to [...]
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Bob Luddy was tired of trying to convince North Carolina educrats to improve the state's public schools, so he built his own network of low-cost private schools that the government can't meddle with.
A libertarian businessman based in Raleigh, North Carolina, Luddy made his fortune as the owner of the nation's leading manufacturer of commercial kitchen ventilation systems. CaptiveAire has factories in six states, and its 2016 revenues were $400 million. But what does fabricating stove hoods and building HVAC systems have in common with turning out successful students? More than you might think.
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National School Choice Week, an annual event promoting the ability of parents and students to have greater options in K-12 education, runs from January 22 through January 28. Over 21,000 events involving almost 17,000 schools from all 50 states will take place over the coming days. Go here to get more information about events and data about how increasing school choice--charters, vouchers, educational savings accounts, and more--is one of the best ways to improve education for all Americans. As a proud media sponsor of National School Choice Week, Reason will be publishing daily articles, podcasts, videos, interviews, and other coverage exploring the ways in which education is being radically altered and made better by letting more people have more choices when it comes to learning. For a constantly updated list of stories, go to Reason's archive page on "school choice."
2017-01-23T14:05:00-05:00A Louisiana police chief says the state's new "blue lives matter" law, which makes it a hate crime to target a police officer, extends to simply resisting arrest. The law was enacted last year as part of a surge of similar legislation introduced around the country following several high-profile ambushes and deadly attacks against police officers, including a Baton Rouge shooting that left three police dead. While many states enhanced the penalties for assaulting police officers, Louisiana became the first state in the U.S. to make police a protected class under hate-crime laws when the governor signed the legislation into law in May. A New Orleans man was the first person to be charged under the new law last September for allegedly shouting racial and sexist slurs at police. But now, at least one local police chief thinks those protections extend even further. Louisiana's KATC reports: St. Martinville Police Chief Calder Hebert hopes the law will not only save lives, but make offenders think twice before resisting arrest. "We don't need the general public being murdered for no reason and we don't need officers being murdered for no reason. We all need to just work together," said Hebert. Hebert is very familiar with the new hate crime law, having already enforced it since it took effect in August. "Resisting an officer or battery of a police officer was just that charge, simply. But now, Governor Edwards, in the legislation, made it a hate crime now," said Hebert. Under the new law, Hebert says any offender who resists, or gets physical, with an officer can be charged with a felony hate crime. Those convicted of felony hate crime in Louisiana face a fine of up to $5,000 or a five-year prison sentence, while a hate-crime charge tacked onto a misdemeanor is punishable by a $500 fine or six months in jail. It's notoriously easy to be charged with resisting arrest, so much so that police departments across the country often consider a large number of resisting arrest charges as a potential red flag for officer misconduct. For example, a WNYC investigation found that just 5 percent of NYPD officers accounted for 40 percent of the 51,503 resisting arrest charges filed between 2009 and 2014. Several of those officers had a history of excessive force complaints and civil rights lawsuits being filed against them. Of course, there is the question of how a prosecutor could prove that a person resisting arrest was doing so specifically because he or she hated the police. It seems doubtful that widespread application of Hebert's, shall we say, novel legal theory would survive any sort of scrutiny. But then, that would seem to be an underlying problem with the whole notion of extending hate-crime protections to a profession. That's one of the reasons the Anti-Defamation League and other groups that generally support hate crime laws opposed the bill when it was introduced. Here's what the ADL said when the bill was sailing through the Louisiana legislature: ADL strongly believes that the list of personal characteristics included in hate crimes laws should remain limited to immutable characteristics, those qualities that can or should not be changed. Working in a profession is not a personal characteristic, and it is not immutable. As a society, we make great efforts to help protect law enforcement and ensure they receive justice. Additionally, ADL is concerned that expanding the characteristics included in bias crime laws may open the door to a myriad of other categories to be added and simultaneously dilute current hate crimes legislation. This bill confuses the purpose of the Hate Crimes Act and weakens its impact b[...]
Will the Trump administration be good for Liberland, the self-described "sovereign state" of unpopulated land nestled between Croatia and Serbia? That's what Vit Jedlicka—the president and founder of the not-quite-country—is hoping.
Liberland's motto is "to live and let live" and its mission is to become an autonomous country built on economic and personal freedom with as little government interference as possible.
While in Washington, D.C. last week for President Donald Trump's inauguration, Jedlicka told the Washington Post, "What we are looking for here is the silent support for what we are doing with our administration...and also hopefully get Liberland fully recognized in a couple of years from now."
Conceding that Trump's trade protectionism is in direct opposition to Liberland's preference for free trade, Jedlicka remains encouraged by Trump's predilection to ignore or do away with long-established U.S. foreign policy—including cutting back on the U.S. commitment to NATO and possibly moving the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem—moves which Jedlicka believes bode well for the possibility of U.S. recognition of Liberland.
Jedlicka says Trump's controversial call with Taiwan's president was "a good sign of his openness to changing the paradigm in international politics."
Read more Reason coverage of Liberland here and watch Reason TV's interview with Jedlicka below:
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2017-01-23T12:50:00-05:00Need a lesson on why parents are increasingly looking for ways to get their kids out of the public school system? Check out this Democratic California legislator who wants to use public schooling to explain to children what really happened with the 2016 election. Assemblymember Marc Levine (D-Marin County) announced "a bill that will require the State Board of Education to develop curriculum to educate California students about Russian interference in the 2016 Presidential Election." He speechifies: "The work of 17 intelligence agencies including the FBI and CIA confirmed Russian interference in our election. This is a threat to our democracy and must be treated with appropriate significance in American history," Levine said. "California is the largest textbook market in the nation. Textbooks approved in our state are used throughout the country. Through this legislation, we can make sure students in California and across the United States receive accurate information about the 2016 Presidential election." So, where to begin? The investigation is still literally happening right now. The extent of communication between the Russian government and Donald Trump's campaign isn't even fully known. Intelligence agencies are looking over intercepted communications, and the idea that we as a public even know enough to "teach" this right now is absurd. Yes, it will probably be some time before the schools and textbooks were able to implement this policy, but even so, let's be suspicious that there will be enough to teach any of this as fact (not that Levine cares). Millions of Americans (even in California!) voted for Trump. There's been no evidence that Russian interests tampered with the actual voting in any way, shape, or form. The "threat to our democracy" consists primarily of the release of private emails from within the Democratic establishment that made it look bad. We shouldn't downplay the harms that could come from cybersecurity breaches like this, but Levine is blatantly calling for the miseducation of students. And he's deliberately ignoring the evidence that Hillary Clinton lost because she simply didn't get voters on her side and the significant increase in the number of people who didn't vote for president at all. Using public schools to advance your party's message is creepy. Did Levine think for a moment at all about the potential consequences here or does he just not care? Or does he think they're a good thing? He probably thinks they're a good thing since he believes he can use California's size as leverage to force this into schoolbooks across the country. But of course, when Levine uses school textbooks to advance the Democratic Party's position on the election outcome, this will encourage others to do the same. Another large state like Texas could pass a law forbidding any mention at all. Heck, what would happen if Congress stepped in and tied federal education funding to whatever message about the election the majority and the president approved? In case anybody needed a reminder, the presidency and Congress are under control of the Republican Party. This isn't why people send their children to school. It's tough to visualize a more compelling example of the problem of political control over the education process than this. Is there a single parent out there actually hoping that public schools remove something out of the political science or history curriculum in order to replace it with this? I mean we already have a generation of young adults with little grasp of the First Amendment (we're apparently having a Twitter debate over whethe[...]
Democrats sought to expose Betsy DeVos as a deluded ideologue for being an unabashed supporter of school choice during her Senate confirmation hearing for (image) secretary of education last week. But in fact they only exposed themselves. They used her as a prop to grandstand about every ideological hobbyhorse of theirs – some such as gun control that didn't even have anything to do with education – rather than actually engage a worthy intellectual opponent on the merits of her case, I note in my column at The Week this morning.
But regardless of how much they foam at the mouth, they oppose school choice at their peril. The National School Choice week that Reason sponsors has grown by leaps and bounds over the last seven years with more folks disenchanted with the public school monopoly joining every year.
Indeed, as my colleague Ed Krayewski pointed out this morning, 65 percent of Americans now support charter schools, which, mind you, is a relatively moderate and practical reform to extricate kids caught in failing public school classrooms and make teachers' unions accountable to parents. But Dems couldn't stop sneering even at that during the hearing showing just how out of touch they are with real Americans.
They will have to descend from their moral high ground in the stratosphere and connect with the trials and tribulations of living, breathing humans if they are going to stop the many rights abuses that are almost certainly coming in the Trump administration.
Save people, not ideology. A good place to begin will be by stop lecturing their intellectual opponents and start listening. And there is no better time to begin than the National School Choice Week. What do ya say, libs?
Go here to read the whole piece.
2017-01-23T12:15:00-05:00Among its last official acts, the Obama administration released a report on U.S. killings (understood to mostly be drone strikes) outside of "areas of hostility," which mostly just included the government's official estimate of a kill count. It was the first such annual report—Barack Obama did not bother to require it until last summer. Along with a report released over the summer that covered 2009 to 2015, the preliminary final kill count of the Obama administration, which is between 2803 and 3022 alleged "combatants" and between 65 and 117 victims the government identified as "non-combatants." The numbers are far lower than any non-governmental estimates. But those numbers aren't the final numbers for the Obama administration. The numbers cover the period ending December 31, but the Obama administration lasted another 20 days. A U.S. strike in Yemen on January 9 killed one person, according to the Defense Department, which identified the target as "terrorist leader" Abd al Ghani al Rasas. A second strike on Friday, Donald Trump's first day in the Oval Office, killed three alleged militants, according to the Associated Press, which reported that Yemeni government officials (who often feed U.S. intelligence information on targets) attributed the strikes to the U.S. The Defense Department has not yet issued a statement on the incident—it waited a day longer, 4 days, to announce the previous incident. Conversely, the Associated Press did not appear to report on the January 9 strike. The tweet about Friday's strike also appears to be the first time the AP tweeted a headline using the term "alleged militant" to describe the victim of a suspected U.S. strike—neither could I find any other articles on the AP's websites using the appropriate term "alleged militants" in headlines about U.S. strikes (stories about foreign actions include the term). The AP is always sure to include alleged or suspected in the text of the articles—none of the targets killed by the U.S. are known to have been first convicted in a court of law. While the Obama administration insisted due process was offered to targets, some of whom the U.S. cannot positively identify, through an in-house process associated with the decision-making mechanisms for a drone strike, such a standard shouldn't be legitimized by neglecting to note targets can only be alleged militants. The U.S. air campaign in Yemen is not making any friends outside the government (and now the government-in-exile) in Yemen. Before the country collapsed into civil war, in part because of the destabilizing effect of U.S. interventions, Obama pointed to Yemen as a model for U.S. counterterrorism overseas. Instead it has created more anti-American feelings in the country and the region. "Who do we talk to? America? Where is America?" the AP quoted the survivor of one drone strike who was interviewed for a documentary on drone strikes in Yemen produced by the human rights group Mwatana. That strike, in 2014, occurred in the same province in Yemen as the two strikes this months. "They would kill two or three from al-Qaeda on one hand and 10 or 15 civilians on the other hand. Where is this al-Qaeda they claim to be killing?" The civil war in Yemen, meanwhile, rages on, with the U.S.-backed Saudi government continuing to bomb the country in an effort to return the deposed government to power. At least 66 people were killed Sunday in coalition airstrikes. [...]
(image) It's time for Virginia's restrictive regulation of alcohol sales to go.
A. Barton Hinkle write:
For decades, Virginia has forced bars and restaurants in the commonwealth to jump through a costly and pointless hoop. It's time to give them a break.
The antiquated rule requires establishments to make up at least 45 percent of their revenue from food and nonalcoholic beverages. On top of that, they have to bring in at least $4,000 a month in food sales, and half of that must be from "substantial entrées."
Restaurateurs (along with caterers and private clubs) have not been happy with these requirements—and shouldn't be. The rules impose a huge paperwork burden. Every year the establishments have to submit a Mixed Beverage Annual Review to the state proving they're in compliance. They also have to submit an inventory list of all the booze they have on hand at the end of the year.
This is irksome enough. But now restaurants are feeling squeezed and discriminated against. The rise of microbreweries and brew pubs has introduced another competitor class to the marketplace. Recently Virginia Beach exempted craft breweries from the food-ratio rule.
(image) Attempting to pay for sex could become a felony offense in Connecticut. Last week, newly sworn-in Democratic state Rep. Liz Linehan introduced a bill that would take the crime of "patronizing a prostitute" from a class A misdemeanor, punishable by a maximum one year in prison, to a Class C felony, which comes with a mandatory minimum prison sentence of one year and a possible 10 years in prison, plus a fine of up to $10,000. Linehan's measure would also require anyone convicted of the offense more than once to register as a sex offender.
"That we continue to punish sex workers—many of whom have been coerced into this work or do it out of economic desperation—without looking at the other side of the equation just doesn't make sense," Linehan said.
But Linehan's bill wouldn't do anything to change the fact that sex workers are arrested for prostitution (also currently a class A misdemeanor in Connecticut), it would just drastically enhance penalties for their clients. And this can further punish sex workers and put them at risk, by limiting the pool of customers to only those willing to risk severe punishment or making clients less willing to submit to screening processes and other measures that protect sex-worker safety and health. If Linehan actually cares about helping those who sell sex out of economic desperation, she wouldn't seek to stymie their earning potential while driving their activities further underground.
Connecticut is currently in the midst of rolling out another prostitution-related measure, passed in 2016. Under the new law, all hotel and motel employees are required to undergo training on how to spot human trafficking and "activities related to human trafficking." But like so many "human trafficking awareness" shams, the hotel-employee training really only encourages people to report any and all suspected prostitution—a move that not only harms sex workers but also those in groups most likely to be stereotyped as sex workers. (Already, we've seen flight-attendant "trafficking" training result in the detention of random Asian women.)
The new law also requires all hotels, motels, and inns to keep records and receipts for all guests for at least six months.
2017-01-23T11:20:00-05:00Just hours after taking the oath of office last Friday, President Trump signed an executive order instructing federal agencies to provide relief from Obamacare to both individuals and states. The vaguely worded rule offers only hints as to how the Trump administration might unwind the federal health care law. But it provides the first real clue to how Trump will govern—by wielding the expanded executive branch powers that President Obama relied on while in office. The order itself looks as much like first day symbolism as a direct strike at the heart of the law. When Trump's Press Secretary Sean Spicer announced it on Friday, he said only that agencies would be directed to "ease the burden" of the law, and did not provide any specific actions that the administration might take. The actual text is not much more clear: It does not identify any rules or regulations that the administration should alter or eliminate, but instead directs agencies to use their discretion and authority to "waive, defer, grant exemptions from, or delay the implementation of any provision or requirement" under Obamacare that imposes a burden on states, families, individuals, insurers, or others in the health care arena. In other words, it is an order that does not tell agencies what to do. Instead, it tells them to figure out something to do. The vagueness of the order means it could result in very little, and that it essentially serves as a toothless statement of the Trump administration's opposition to the law. But it is also possible, and even likely, that it could be interpreted in a way that gives agencies quite a lot of flexibility to upend Obamacare's implementation—in part because of the dubious way that the Obama administration chose to implement the law. For example, it could be used to gives states more flexibility to implement the law's Medicaid expansion. Indiana and several other states are already participating under a waiver negotiated with the federal government, and this order, which explicitly mentions providing relief to states, could result in an even more leniency in terms of Medicaid carve outs. It's also possible that it could be used to weaken, and perhaps effectively eliminate, the law's individual mandate, as well as its essential health benefits. The Obama administration has always offered an array of exemptions from the individual mandate, including a broad and nebulous "hardship exemption," which at least in theory allowed for the administration to waive the tax penalty associated with the mandate for just about anyone. Now that the Trump administration is in charge of drawing up regulations governing the enforcement of the mandate, it is possible that the hardship exemption, or something like it, could be expanded to effectively cover everyone. Indeed, Kellyanne Conway, a senior Trump adviser, has already raised the possibility of declining to enforce the mandate. That's far from a promise, of course, and given Trump's history of vagueness and flip-flopping on health care, it's not at all certain that this is the approach the new administration will take. But it is within the realm of possibility. If that were to happen, it's reasonably likely that health insurance carriers, already on edge about Obamacare, could simply pull out of the program, decimating the marketplace in the process. The big insurers are losing money in the exchanges set up under the law, and most have already scaled back their participation.[...]
2017-01-23T09:30:00-05:00The seventh annual National School Choice Week, which starts today and of which Reason is a media sponsor, is expected to be the largest yet, according to the self-titled organization that runs the event. More than 20,000 events have been planned by various schools, organizations, and individuals across the country, but the White House, with a new president but for the seventh year in a row, does not appear to be hosting any public events to recognize the week. The Obama administration, while it included in its tail-end a leader from the charter school movement in John King, did not host any events for National School Choice Week either. The percentage of public school students attending charters more than doubled between the school year ending in 2004 and the school year ending in 2014, the most recent year for which data is available—the first charter school legislation was passed in 1991 in Minnesota. Despite the White House's apparent lack of preparation, despite at least three and a half months of lead time, the Trump administration is poised to be far friendlier toward the cause of school choice and school reform than its predecessor. President Trump's nominee for education secretary, Betsy DeVos, has a long career in school choice advocacy, and has earned the ire of both teachers unions and Title IX zealots, a sure sign they perceive DeVos as a potent change agent. Senate Democrats spent the bulk of DeVos' hearing grand-standing over public schools, the most popular attacks on DeVos being about her educational background (she never attended public schools, which is not new—the most recent nominee with no public schooling was Obama's Arne Duncan) and family (DeVos comes from a wealthy family that supports various political and social causes). As Scott Shackford noted, while progressives can try to fight DeVos, they won't be able to stop school choice (or even the DeVos nomination. 65 percent of Americans said they supported charter schools last year, and the support is likely even higher in the urban areas that benefit the most from school choice (at least this has been my experience teaching in the Newark, N.J., public schools and living in both Newark and Philadelphia). Even politicians who win while using anti-charter rhetoric, like Bill de Blasio in New York City, fail to convert their rhetoric into action. De Blasio quickly backtracked after launching a high profile war on charters upon taking office in 2013. The White House has until Sunday to throw something together if they're interested. Meanwhile, Senate Republicans delayed the committee vote on DeVos by one week, to next Tuesday, to give senators more time to review an ethics report on how DeVos is expected to handle potential conflicts of interest. Barring an unforeseen turn of events, DeVos ought to be confirmed easily—in 2013 Senate Democrats reformed the filibuster to exclude its use in confirming presidential appointments. Note: National School Choice Week, an annual event promoting the ability of parents and students to have greater options in K-12 education, starts today. Over 21,000 events involving almost 17,000 schools from all 50 states will take place over the coming days. Go here to get more information about events and data about how increasing school choice--charters, vouchers, educational savings accounts, and more--is one of the best ways to improve education for all Americans. As a proud media sponsor [...]
2017-01-23T09:15:00-05:00Welcome to National School Choice Week, an annual event promoting the ability of parents and students to have greater options in K-12 education! Over 21,000 events involving almost 17,000 schools from all 50 states will take place over the coming days. Go to the organizers' page to get more information about events and data showing how increasing school choice—charters, vouchers, educational savings accounts, and more—is one of the best ways to improve education for all Americans. As a proud media sponsor of National School Choice Week, Reason will be publishing daily articles, podcasts, videos, interviews, and other coverage exploring the ways in which education is being radically altered and made better by letting more people have more choices when it comes to learning. For a constantly updated list of stories, go to Reason's continuously updated archive page on "school choice." The headline to this post comes from a Washington Post article summarizing "one of the signature efforts in education" by President Obama. It "pumped billions of federal dollars into overhauling the nation's worst schools, failed to produce meaningful results." Worse still, the implementers of the plan didn't even really track things closely, so we can't talk with much precision about what happened, other than money going out the door. Failing schools were defined as having terrible graduation rates and/or bad grade-level test scores in reading and math. The "School Improvement Grants" program (SIG) asked recipient institutions to pick one of four strategies to achieve significant progress: "Replacing the principal and at least half the teachers, converting into a charter school, closing altogether, or undergoing a "transformation," including hiring a new principal and adopting new instructional strategies, new teacher evaluations and a longer school day." Among other failures, the report notes that analysts didn't actually track how schools used the money (up to $2 million a year for five years), only the broad strategy they employed. Overall, the program cost $7 billion, making it almost twice as big as the more ballyhooed "Race To the Top" initiative. Read the study online here. It encapsulates much of what is wrong with most forms of education reform emanating from Washington. There's a pile of money that gets targeted at bad schools, constraints placed on how the money can be spent, and weak follow-through in terms of implementation and evaluation. From the report's findings: Key findings included: Although schools implementing SIG-funded models reported using more SIG promoted practices than other schools, we found no evidence that SIG caused those schools to implement more practices. Our descriptive analysis found that schools implementing a SIG -funded model used significantly more SIG-promoted practices than other schools (22.8 of the 35 practices examined [65 percent] versus 20.3 practices [58 percent], a difference of 2.5 practices). Our more rigorous RDD analysis found a similar difference of 3.3 practices, but it was not statistically significant. Therefore, we are unable to conclude that SIG caused the observed difference in use of practices. Across all study schools, use of SIG-promoted practices was highest in comprehensive instructional reform strategies and lowest in operational flexibility and support. In the comprehensive instructional reform strategies area, study[...]
2017-01-23T09:10:00-05:00After repeatedly promising to release his tax returns, Donald Trump has definitively reneged on that commitment. "He's not going to release his tax returns," presidential counselor Kellyanne Conway said in an interview on ABC's This Week yesterday. "We litigated this all through the election. People didn't care. They voted for him." President Trump has no legal obligation to let Americans see his tax returns, but in refusing to do so before the election he broke with the practice of every major-party presidential nominee since 1980. Now he has abandoned any pretense of sticking to the promises he made on this subject while running for president: February 25, 2015: "I would release tax returns....I would certainly show tax returns if it was necessary....I have no objection to certainly showing tax returns." January 24, 2016: "We're working on that now. I have very big returns, as you know, and I have everything all approved and very beautiful, and we'll be working that over in the next period of time....We're working on it right now, and at the appropriate time you'll be very satisfied." February 25, 2016: "I will absolutely give my return, but I'm being audited now for two or three years, so I can't do it until the audit is finished, obviously." May 10, 2016: "I'll release. Hopefully before the election I'll release." September 26, 2016: "I don't mind releasing—I'm under a routine audit. And it'll be released....As soon as the audit's finished, it will be released." October 9, 2016: "As soon as my routine audit is finished, I'll release my returns. I'll be very proud to. They're actually quite great." As Peter Suderman noted last summer, the audit excuse was always bogus: Trump was free to release his tax returns whenever he wanted. But after Trump accepted his party's nomination in July, Suderman wrote, his campaign manager "confirmed what Trump's year-plus-long dodge on the matter has always implied: Donald Trump won't release his tax returns before the presidential election this November." Or afterward, it turns out. Although Conway claimed "people didn't care" about Trump's tax returns, the fact that he won the election despite refusing to release them does not mean they contain no information of public interest. A CNN poll conducted in late September and early October found that 73 percent of voters thought he should release his tax returns. Last week an ABC News/Washington Post poll found that 74 percent of American adults still thought the public should be able to see the president's returns. It's not clear what exactly Trump is hiding. Perhaps the returns would show that the billionaire developer pays no federal income tax (something he has repeatedly hinted), that he does not give much to charity, or that his earnings are not as robust as he would like people to believe. Maybe the returns would reveal potential conflicts of interest. Or maybe the most revealing thing is how readily Trump has forsaken his unambiguous pledge of transparency. Update: Supplying alternative facts on Twitter this morning, Kellyanne Conway said her statement that Trump is "not going to release his tax returns" did not mean that Trump is not going to release his tax returns. Rather, his position is the "same [as] from [the] campaign: POTUS is under audit and will not release until that is completed." I predict this audit will take at least four more yea[...]
2017-01-23T08:30:00-05:00A Des Moines, Iowa, mother had been charged with the death of her 3-month-old baby who accidentally suffocated on the changing table while she went to get her a bottle. The incident happened in September and the mom, Laci Lynn Taylor, 26, has been sitting in jail for four months while investigators probed the case, because she cannot make bail. I'm trying to think of a more pointless, vindictive, cruel way to treat a mother in the depths of grief after a tragic accident. How is her imprisonment making anyone safer? How is it teaching her a lesson that the death of her child did not? The Des Moines Register reports that: According to court documents, Taylor left the child unattended on a changing table. While she was out of the room, the child rolled over, and as a result, her neck was compressed on the ledge of the changing table, cutting off her airway. Police said the incident resulted in the child's death. Ok, the incident caused the child's death. That does not make the mom a criminal. Here's her husband's take: Don Taylor said his child's death was a horrible freak accident that could happen to anyone. "I have no ounce in my body that blames my wife at all," Taylor's husband Don said. Now, no one is saying it is wise to leave a baby on the changing table. Of course it isn't. The cops claim the mom spent 15 minutes out of the room and perhaps that's so. What I am saying is that I have done things just as ill-thought out, dumb, and potentially dangerous, and that doesn't mean I'm a bad mom. It only means I'm lucky, and Laci Lynn Taylor was tragically unlucky. The charges against her—which carry a penalty of up to 25 years in prison—are based on the sickeningly simplistic, self-satisfied belief that there's no such thing as fate, only negligence. Our society is eager to pretend that every decent mom spends every second doing everything exactly "right," which includes literally constant surveillance of her kids. If something happens while she's not watching, well, there's your justice: She took her eyes off her child and death swooped in. It's all her fault. How did we get so vengeful and cruel? A new book called, Blaming Mothers: American Law and the Risks to Children's Health by Pace University law professor Linda C. Fentiman outlines our unconscious reasoning: -- Hindsight bias. Once a tragedy has occurred, it's impossible to look back and not think it should have been easy to predict and avoid. -- The fundamental attribution error. This is the unconscious belief that bad things only happen to bad people. -- The "reasonable man" theory. Negligence was originally determined by what a "reasonable man" would have done in the situation. For example, a reasonable man wouldn't leave a 4-year-old home alone for a weekend. But now that we think about the "reasonable woman," the bar is higher. "A reasonable mother is supposed to be superhuman and always do anything to minimize the risk to her children," says Fentiman. So if something bad happens while a mom is, say, napping, she can be blamed for daring to shut her eyes. In America, when it comes to crime, we don't blame the victim anymore. But we do blame the victim's mom. [...]
2017-01-23T07:00:00-05:00The ongoing spat about the size of the audience at Donald Trump's inauguration, in itself a trivial issue, is significant because it highlights the new president's vanity, pettiness, lack of discipline, and casual disregard for the truth. Presidential counselor Kellyanne Conway took that last character flaw to a new level in a Meet the Press interview yesterday when she described White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer's verifiably false assertions about attendance at the inauguration as "alternative facts." Conway was responding to host Chuck Todd's question about the dubious decision to have Spicer, in his first official interaction with the press as the president's spokesman, peddle "a provable falsehood when it comes to a small and petty thing like inaugural crowd size." Here is what Spicer said on Saturday: Let's go through the facts. We know that from the platform where the President was sworn in, to 4th Street, it holds about 250,000 people. From 4th Street to the media tent is about another 220,000. And from the media tent to the Washington Monument, another 250,000 people. All of this space was full when the president took the Oath of Office. We know that 420,000 people used the D.C. Metro public transit yesterday, which actually compares to 317,000 that used it for President Obama's last inaugural. This was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration—period—both in person and around the globe. Almost none of that is true. Aerial photos of the National Mall clearly show it was far from full during Trump's speech. A crowd expert consulted by The New York Times estimated that Trump's audience was one-third as big as Barack Obama's in 2009. About 31 million Americans watched Trump's inauguration on TV, compared to 38 million who watched Obama's in 2009 and 42 million who watched Ronald Reagan's in 1981. The Washington, D.C., transit authority counted 570,557 Metro rides on Friday, compared to 1.1 million on the day of Obama's first inauguration and 782,000 on the day of his second. According to Conway, Spicer "gave alternative facts." To which Todd replied: "Alternative facts are not facts. They're falsehoods." Undeterred, Conway used the same formulation toward the end of an exchange in which Todd unsuccessfully pressed her to answer his original question, which concerned not the veracity of Spicer's statement but the political strategy behind what Todd called "this ridiculous litigation of crowd size." Conway said Todd's description of the issue reflected the news media's bias against Trump: Your job is not to call things ridiculous that are said by our press secretary and our president. That's not your job. You're supposed to be a news person. You're not an opinion columnist....Think about what you just said to your viewers. That's why we feel compelled to go out and clear the air and put alternative facts out there. In other words, we have to lie because the press is so unfair to us. The lying, of course, only invites more negative coverage, which confirms the administration's complaints and gratifies Trump supporters who see journalistic hostility as validation of the billionaire bully's anti-establishment credentials. Presumably that is the strategy, to the extent that there is one, behind "this ridiculous litigation of crowd size[...]
(image) A Finnish politician faces up to two years in prison after being charged with inciting religious hate. Sebastian Tynkkynen, chairman of the youth wing of the nationalist True Finns party, made a series of Facebook posts following attacks by Islamic terrorists in France, including "The fewer Muslims in Finland, the better" and "Muslims get out of this country!"