2016-12-02T21:11:00-05:00Bad news for patriotic Americans who want to keep their bitcoin business to themselves this week from the Department of Justice: A federal court in the Northern District of California entered an order today authorizing the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to serve a John Doe summons on Coinbase Inc., seeking information about U.S. taxpayers who conducted transactions in a convertible virtual currency during the years 2013 to 2015. The IRS is seeking the records of Americans who engaged in business with or through Coinbase, a virtual currency exchanger headquartered in San Francisco, California. "As the use of virtual currencies has grown exponentially, some have raised questions about tax compliance," said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Caroline D. Ciraolo, head of the Justice Department's Tax Division. "Tools like the John Doe summons authorized today send the clear message to U.S. taxpayers that whatever form of currency they use – bitcoin or traditional dollars and cents – we will work to ensure that they are fully reporting their income and paying their fair share of taxes.".... The court's order grants the IRS permission to serve what is known as a "John Doe" summons on Coinbase. There is no allegation in this suit that Coinbase has engaged in any wrongdoing in connection with its virtual currency exchange business. Rather, the IRS uses John Doe summonses to obtain information about possible violations of internal revenue laws by individuals whose identities are unknown. This John Doe summons directs Coinbase to produce records identifying U.S. taxpayers who have used its services, along with other documents relating to their virtual currency transactions. The actual order from U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. The actual summons. As Ars Technica quoted from that summons, the government wants: Account/wallet/vault registration records for each account/wallet/vault owned or controlled by the user during the period stated above including, but not limited to, complete user profile, history of changes to user profile from account inception, complete user preferences, complete user security settings and history (including confirmed devices and account activity), complete user payment methods, and any other information related to the funding sources for the account/wallet/vault, regardless of date. A Coinbase spokesman via email said earlier this week when the DOJ announcement was issued: Although Coinbase's general practice is to cooperate with properly targeted law enforcement inquiries, we are extremely concerned with the indiscriminate breadth of the government's request. Our customers' privacy rights are important to us and our legal team is in the process of examining the government's petition. In its current form, we will oppose the government's petition in court..... We are aware of, and expected, the Court's ex parte order today. We look forward to opposing the DOJ's request in court after Coinbase is served with a subpoena. As we previously stated, we remain concerned with our U.S. customers' legitimate privacy rights in the face of the government's sweeping request. Jim Harper at Cato noted when the news of the summons broke: Equally shocking is the weak foundation for making this demand. In a declaration submitted to the court, an IRS agent recounts having learned of tax evasion on the part of one Bitcoin user and two companies. On this basis, he and the IRS claim "a reasonable basis for believing" that all U.S. Coinbase users "may fail or may have failed to comply" with the internal revenue laws. If that evidence is enough to create a reasonable basis to believe that all Bitcoin users evade taxes, the IRS is entitled to access the records of everyone who uses paper money. Anecdotes and online bragodaccio about tax avoidance are not a reasonable basis to believe that all Coinbase users are tax cheats whose financial lives should be opened to IRS investigators and the hackers looking over their shoulders. There must be some specific information about[...]
2016-12-02T19:34:00-05:00In order to gain gain major party legal status in the state of Washington, the Libertarian Party needed to get 5 percent of the vote in the presidential race. As the final counting for the state dragged on for weeks, the state party looked on eagerly as it seemed they'd just make the cut. And indeed, according to the public data on the Washington secretary of state's website on election results, they did! 5.01 percent as of this morning for Gary Johnson for president in that state. Seeing this, Ballot Access News thought major party status was a done deal. But you didn't think the state would make it that easy, did you? This week, as later reported in Ballot Access News, the secretary of state Kim Wyman announced that the L.P. did not in fact qualify. Why? Because that public total doesn't include the sacred-to-Washington-process write-in vote. This is despite the fact, as Winger reports, that the state has never even announced any counts of such votes for the past 24 years. But Wyman insists that including the write-ins will be done, and will dunk Johnson's percentage below 5. Since you are technically voting for slates of electors for president in that state, and write-ins have none attached, some in the L.P. have questioned whether there is any legal grounds for considering them "real votes" there. My reading of the statute seems to indicate that no candidate who didn't file a declaration of candidacy with the state has the right to have his or her write-in votes counted, but I am not a campaign law litigator. David Traynor, chair of the state L.P., says in a Facebook post last night that including the around 100,000 write-ins as valid parts of the vote total would likely lower the Johnson percentage to 4.86. Traynor says in a phone interview today that one county, Franklin, has not yet certified its vote, so a final-final tally of statewide vote percentages isn't official yet. Some in the state party consider getting major party status perhaps more of a burden than a boon. Winning the status would eliminate the need to gather 1,000 signatures to get the next presidential candidate on the ballot, but it would also create the legal need for a variety of county and state committees and precinct committee officers, well over 6,500 of the latter, for the party, which some think requires more active Libertarians than the state might have to offer. (The state party has around 650 active dues paying members, according to figures provided by the Libertarian National Committee.) In an interesting twist, statutorily major parties by law must have a chair and vice chair of each of their county and state committees who are of the opposite sex. Traynor believes the precinct committee officer being on the ballot everywhere is a boon, giving the Party a labeled candidate on many more ballots and giving the L.P. more general reputational weight as real, important, and significant. (If only one Libertarian puts him or herself in contention for precinct committee officer, from my read of the statute, then they automatically win, with no ballot listing done.) The Party would also, if it wins major status, have a statewide primary election for presidential candidates, like the Democrats and Republicans, which Traynor believes has immeasurable impact on public perception of them as a legitimate choice. "I got like 350 emails this year asking why the L.P. didn't have a presidential candidate on the primary ballot," he says. Such major party status "would be huge, an avenue to more effectively grow and get exposure and stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the old parties." Traynor says some who don't see the importance of the major party status represent an "old guard" who see the L.P. more "bringers of information, making people enlightened" and less about doing everything possible to win elections. Given that the state has a "top two" primary system, in which only the top two vote getters of any party proceed to the general election for most offices, it wouldn't be that relevant to most L.P. candidates[...]
2016-12-02T17:17:00-05:00Inspired by Jim Epstein's reporting in the latest (all new! redesigned!) issue of Reason, a cryptocurrency activist has set up a project to help get bitcoin mining rigs into the hands of poor Venezuelans. The idea is simple, as they explain at their site VeMine: Donate bitcoin to help buy plug-and-play USB bitcoin mining rigs to distribute to Venezuelans who are barely surviving on government aid. In most places, these little devices are curiosities, barely worth the electricity it costs to power them. But in a place where the official currency is virtually worthless and electricity is virtually free, a couple of small miners won't make anyone rich, but they could generate enough extra to make a real difference or at least build some buzz around bitcoin as a longer term solution to government currency manipulation. The guys working on the project—VeMine founder Ira Miller, GitGuild ambassador; Randy Hilarski, 200 Social co-founder; Randy Brito, Bitcoin Venezuela founder; and Erik Voorhees, ShapeShift founder—say explicitly that they were inspired by Reason's story to reach out to people who were suffering. A video posted by Joanna Andreasson (@joannaandreasson) on Nov 18, 2016 at 11:49am PST The project isn't without risk, of course. As Epstein notes in his article: In a country where cash has lost much of its value, and food and other necessities are dangerously scarce, bitcoins are providing many Venezuelans with a lifeline. The same socialist economics that caused the country's meltdown has made the energy-intensive process of bitcoin mining wildly profitable—but also dangerous. Meanwhile in another hemisphere earlier this year, Reason's reporting brought to light the absurd arrest of Austin Yabandith, a 17-year-old high school student facing child pornography charges for consensually sexting his 15-year-old girlfriend. Publicity generated by Robby Soave's account of the case helped Austin's mother raise enough money to hire an expert lawyer—she says Reason's story might just have saved Austin's life. The best way to fight the over-criminalization of perfectly normal teen behavior is to call out the cops when they try to put kids like Austin in jail, and Reason's efforts on this front are second to none. What's cool about these examples is that they aren't just about libertarian policy change, though Reason strives for that every day! They're about connections between individuals, free people reaching out to help each other in extremis. Help us generate more journalism that inspires people to find weird ways to do real good in the world. Donate to Reason today! [...]
"What [Trump] has said about energy...is the best of any president since Reagan," says Alex Epstein, who is the president and founder of the Center for Industrial Progress, a think tank devoted to exploring how new technology can improve the planet. Trump, says Epstein, has so far been an advocate for "Americans to reach their full energy potential."(image)
Epstein is the author of the excellent 2014 book, The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels, which, in his signature, clear-eyed style, argues that cheap and abundant hydrocarbons have made human flourishing possible. (Read Ron Bailey's 2015 review.) "Man...survives by impacting nature," he told Reason's Nick Gillespie. The environmental movement, however, "says [this] essence of human survival is bad. And that's wrong."
In our latest podcast, Epstein and Gillespie discuss hydraulic fracking ("our energy prosperity has depended on the ignorance of politicians"), global warming (he prefers the phrase "climate danger"), solar and wind power ("the unreliables"), Ayn Rand's influence on his work, and what we can expect from Trump on energy.
Click below to listen to that conversation—or subscribe to our podcast at iTunes.
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(image) The Swedish trade union Unionen—which represents 600,000 white-collar workers—made a brief but concerted stand against male condescension in the workplace this November by setting up a weeklong dedicated "mansplaining" hotline.
The hotline enabled workers of both genders to call in to report times when they or a coworker felt patronized, undervalued, or degraded, or otherwise received emails containing the phrase "well, actually…"
On the other end of the line would be academics, gender relations experts, and feminist politicians waiting to offer support and professional advice on how to counter this pernicious "domination technique."
Unionen spokesperson Jennie Zetterstrom told The New York Times that the purpose of the hotline was to "contribute to awareness and start a discussion which we hope will be the first step in changing the way we treat each other and talk about each other in the workplace."
During its week of operation, Zetterstrom said the hotline received calls on a range of situations, from women looking for advice on how to speak up in the face of overconfident male colleagues, to men looking to help female co-workers being ignored in group exercises.
While many callers no doubt found the hotline service helpful, it also sparked a predictable and understandable backlash online. The Independent reported that a number of Swedish social media commenters derided the hotline itself as "sexist" and "polarizing."
It attracted some international mockery as well, with Australian writer Peter Pobje proposing a mansplaining hotline of his own where he would advise callers on "how to be a bit less emotional about everything."
Zetterstrom told the Times that while she regrets causing anyone offense, the whole intention of the project was to "spark interest and start a debate at our workplaces and in society." Given the attention generated, Unionen can certainly be said to have succeeded on that front.
Americans who might need help confronting or coping with mansplaining without the convenient aid of a hotline can still avail themselves of numerous advice articles, while anyone looking for examples of the phenomenon might opt to consult this online archive of mansplaining incidents.
(image) What source of power provides no-carbon on-demand electricity? Well, yes, hydropower dams do, but the vast majority of no-carbon power in the United States is generated by nuclear power plants. So for folks worried about man-made global warming caused by the increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations as a result of burning fossil fuels, wouldn't it be a good idea to build more nuclear power plants? For such folks, it would also seem to be a no-brainer that they should at least want those that are currently producing copious no-carbon power to keep operating, right? However, a perhaps unintended consequence of subsidizing intermittent renewable power sources has arisen; their subsidized electricity outcompetes unsubsidized and over-regulated nuclear power. As a result, nuclear power operators can't make a profit, so many are threatening to close down their plants.
Since renewable sources of power cannot (yet) supply baseload electrity, this means that new natural gas and even coal power plants would have to open to replace the lost nuclear generation capacity. Of course, this means boosting, not reducing, carbon dioxide emissions. So what to do? The answer appears to be: Subsidies for Everybody! This solution to the problem of competing subsidies was adopted in August by New York State when it kept open several nuclear power plants by offering their operators subsidies amounting to about $500 million per year.
Illinois yesterday enacted similar legislation aiming to keep three of the state's nuclear power plants open as they compete with subsidized renewable energy. The so-called Future Energy Jobs Act would provide nuclear plant operator Exelon with around $235 million a year for up to 13 years. Nevertheless, this is another victory for Michael Shellenberger and his eco-modernist Environmental Progress group that is spearheading the campaign to keep U.S. nuclear power plants open as a way to address whatever problems man-made climate change may cause.
In its report on the adoption of the Future Energy Jobs Act, World Nuclear News cogently noted:
Agneta Rising, director-general of the World Nuclear Association, said the bill would ensure continued operation of the Quad Cities and Clinton nuclear plants, providing clean and reliable electricity as part of a package of measures designed to boost a range of low-carbon energy technologies. "In the longer term we need markets to deliver the electricity mix that we need, without intervention. Markets should recognise the value of secure and reliable electricity supplies, as well as the environmental benefits of different forms of electricity generation," she said.
Without intervention? What a novel idea!
2016-12-02T15:30:00-05:00Trump may be a disaster on trade, immigration, foreign policy, free speech, reproductive rights, civil liberties and numerous other issues. But there are some areas where he might actually be an improvement over the status quo. One of them is health care — and Rep. Tom Price, his pick to head the Department of Health and Human Services, is a perfect indication of that, I note in my column at The Week. As Peter Suderman has already pointed out, he is the only Republican who has worked out a detailed replacement plan for Obamacare and translated it into an actual bill called the Empowering Patients First Act. In broad-brush strokes, the bill will scrap the individual mandate and insurance subsidies to low income folks who don't qualify for Medicaid. And it'll replace them with universal tax credits for everyone not covered by their employers. You can get the low-down on the plan in my column here. It's a good plan, in my opinion, but it'll face a very rough road ahead. Health care policy in America is enormously complex not because health care itself is inherently any more complex than other goods and services that markets do a fine job of providing. It is because after World War II America rigged the tax code to create a horrible, unwieldy, inefficient, and discriminatory system that is not easy to straighten out. Indeed, trying to work out something semi-rational by injecting the right incentives is awfully hard. Literally every reform produces winners and losers and involves trade offs that mobilize massive political opposition. Hence it is inevitable that Price's plan would be attacked by liberals. Their big objection among many is that the plan's health care credits won't be as generous as the subsidies under ObamaCare. (That they will be universal doesn't somehow earn it too many brownie points.) And it deregulates the insurance industry too much, leaving patients, especially with pre-existing conditions, to its tender mercies. But more surprising (though perhaps on reflection equally inevitable) is that the plan is also being attacked from the right. The Cato Institute's Michael Cannon, in fact, thinks it is not all that different from Obamacare. He believes that there is no meaningful difference between subsidies and refundable tax credits. Furthermore, notes Cannon, the Price plan abolishes the individual mandate in name only. "If the penalty for not buying health insurance is that you lose a $2,000 tax credit, then that's not going to feel much different than paying a $2,000 tax penalty under Obamacare," he insists. I actually do think there is a big moral difference between confiscating someone's money to make them do your bidding versus giving them money to make them do your bidding. (The real moral issue in the latter course is where that money is coming from? The government gets it from robbing Paul to pay Peter. But if the government is going to be robbing Paul anyway, then it's better that it does not rob Peter even more.) Cannon favors replacing the current system with Health Care Savings accounts, which has a place in the Price plan but not a sufficiently big one, in his opinion. Here's how Cannon sees it, as described in the New Jersey Star-Ledger: Say your current employer pays $13,000 a year for your insurance. Now that $13,000 would go into a tax-free account you control. You could use perhaps $5,000 to buy a bare-bones catastrophic coverage policy. Then you can use the rest to either pay medical bills or to save for future expenses. Imagine HSA's were in effect from the beginning for the 78 million baby boomers born between 1946 and 1964. As they now move into retirement, many would have tens of thousands set aside for health-care needs. In other words, scrap the employer-based health care system and give HSAs to everyone. This would be awesome but also politically exceedingly difficult not only [...]
(image) Just returned from Dallas, where her husband was assassinated as he sat by her side in the back of a presidential limo, Jacquelyn Kennedy finds herself surrounded by people with little help to offer. A reporter, summoned by the widow to the Kennedy compound in Hyannis Port, asks, "What did the bullets sound like?" Her brother-in-law suggests she see a priest, and while Jackie is reluctant ("Bobby, I want to talk to the press"), a priest is duly wheeled in. "Let me share with you a parable," he says.
Jackie seeks to inform us that the glittery Kennedy Administration launched a new style of politics—politics as a campaign of never-ending media manipulation. (We see a careful recreation the White House tour Jackie whisperingly conducted for CBS-TV in 1962, faithfully rendered in primordial black-and-white.) But this is hardly a fresh observation; and so by default, the movie devolves into a suffocating examination of its star, Natalie Portman, as she unleashes a tsunami of acting—weeping, simpering, smoking and snapping—much of it captured in relentless, oppressive close-ups. (Portman's accent seems odd at first—it feels haunted by the ghost of Gildna Radner's old "Baba Wawa" character on SNL. A quick visit to YouTube, however, establishes that this is in fact the way Jackie Kennedy spoke, so…points for meticulous preparation.)
The movie doesn't feel like it's really about anything—it has no warmth, no spirit, and its dialogue is sometimes dead, writes Kurt Loder.
2016-12-02T15:00:00-05:00Snoop Dogg suggested San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick should choose between football and "being a revolutionary," saying he appreciated that Kaepernick "brought something to America's attention that needed to be brought to their attention," namely police brutality's effect on minorities, but that there were too many things to deal with to focus on that and being a football player at the same time. The rapper, appearing on Fox Sports' Undisputed, was also critical of Kaepernick's positive comments about Fidel Castro. Co-host Shannon Sharpe pointed out that the Castro regime killed people and that people died trying to escape Cuba. "As bad as things are in the U.S.," Sharpe noted, "people aren't dying to leave." "He's kind of hypocritical in so many words," Snoop Dogg responded, "because he's pushing this, but at the same time he's giving credit for this, and it's the same abuse they've been taking." After Castro's death, Kaepernick sought to defend his praise, saying he was only praising Castro for "investment" in education, "free universal healthcare," and "helping end apartheid" in South Africa. "Trying to push the false narrative that I was a supporter of the oppressive things he did is just not true," said Kaepernick, who just last month explained that he didn't vote in the elections because it would be providing implicit support for an oppressive system. In that case, providing explicit praise to a murderous dictator would suggest providing at least implicit support for his oppressive system. "And I don't even understand the Cuban thing so let me not speak on something I'm not really aware of, because now I look bad when I say something that I think I'm representing positive, but the whole community is really mad at me now for saying something I didn't even have no knowledge about," Snoop suggested of Kaepernick's comments on Castro, which came shortly before his death. "That's why I say he doesn't have a team," Snoop Dogg explained. "If he had a team, they would tell him, you can't say this, this is what you need to say, it's preparation." "When you want to be a revolutionary you have to be supported by a team, he didn't have a team supporting him," Snoop Dogg suggested toward the beginning of the interview. "He never had a team with structure, with protocol, what are we doing? Why are we addressing this situation? How are we going to handle it? What's the solution? He just brought it up, and it just was in the air, then everybody looked at him for answers, and he had no answers. He just was bringing it to people that this was a situation that we have to pay attention to." Kaepernick's decision to take a knee during the national anthem to protest police brutality and other injustices in the U.S., like the fact that Hillary Clinton broke the law with her email but wasn't in prison, came in the summer of 2016. "So what is this country really standing for?" Kaepernick asked at his first press conference after beginning his protest. The Clinton angle wasn't really picked up by the media, who focused instead on the bulk of Kaepernick's statements, about police brutality. Police brutality has been an issue that has animated activists and communities for decades. The militarized response to protests in Ferguson over a police shooting propelled the issue of police brutality into the national spotlight. Many people, like Snoop Dogg and the hosts of Undisputed, insist Kaepernick brought attention to the issue, but I haven't seen any polling to suggest Kaepernick had reached an audience that was unaware of the issue of police brutality before. Naturally, no matter how unproductive, or even counterproductive, Kaepernick's protest may be, he has a what ought to be unbounded right to self-expression, a First Amendment guarantee. Nevertheless, Kaepernick's decis[...]
2016-12-02T14:45:00-05:00Two weeks ago, I wrote about a nascent effort at occupational licensing reform in Wisconsin, where Republicans say they intend to use the 2017 legislative session to review state laws that hold the economy back. In conjunction with that announcement, the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty, a Milwaukee-based free market think tank, published a report on six occupational licenses that should be repealed or reformed. The report highlighted licenses for dietitians, landscape architects, private detectives, private security persons, sign language interpreters, and interior designers. None of these licenses do much, if anything, in the way of protecting the public's health and safety, I wrote at the time. Since that's the only reason government should require a permission slip before someone can engage in an otherwise legal activity, it makes sense that Wisconsin lawmakers should take a skeptical look at why those licenses are required. The deaf community in Wisconsin, though, has been quick to criticize the idea of repealing the state license for sign language interpreters. I've received more than a dozen emails from people in Wisconsin (and elsewhere) arguing that the state license for sign language interpreters is necessary and proper. I checked with the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty and found out that they, too, have been besieged by a similar outpouring of opposition since publishing their report. Here's a portion of the message I received from one reader, Karen Beth Staller, who says she's been a sign language interpreter for 30 years: While it's much more expensive and time-consuming to engage in the profession than it was when I started, it's time and money well-spent. We need degrees, licenses, registrations and background checks, as well as continuing education requirements to keep up with developments in linguistics and interpreting practices, as well as training interpreting in specialized settings. As a freelance interpreter, one might go into a college classroom for a class on legal ethics or microbiology; a doctor's office for a cold or a cancer diagnosis; an operating room for open heart surgery; a courtroom for a divorce hearing or a murder trial; a factory floor for a job interview or forklift training; an emergency room for a broken toe or a shooting; a bank to liquidate a deceased relative's accounts; a funeral home to make final arrangements; and hundreds of other settings for myriad other reasons... ...This may seem simple to someone who has - as a hearing person - dealt with these interactions all your life, but when there's a language difference, it becomes more complicated... ...To become an interpreter, one needs much more than just a knowledge of sign language, but without background checks, licenses and educational requirements, anyone would be able to call themselves an interpreter." I think Staller made the strongest argument out of the messages I received, but there were many variations of the "if we don't have a license, anyone can call themselves an interpreter and cause confusion or outright harm to the deaf community." Several of those messages included references to the 2013 incident in which a man named Thamsanqa Jantjie ended up on stage with President Barack Obama during Nelson Mandela's memorial service in South Africa. Jantjie clearly had no idea what he was doing and was obviously not a trained sign language interpreter, to say the least. src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/X-DxGoIVUWo" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" width="560" height="340" frameborder="0"> That Jantjie was apparently able to fake his credentials well enough to get on stage at such a high-profile event certainly is shocking, but it's not a good argument for licensing. It speaks more to a lack of adequate diligence by [...]
(image) Ever since word went out that Robert Ford shot Jesse James, there have been legends that the dead man was really someone else and that the outlaw secretly survived. Alan Lomax ran into one of those tales when he toured the South with a tape recorder in 1959. Neal Morris (*), an Arkansas banjo player, told Lomax that the James brothers had often hid out at his grandfather's place ("because nobody expected them down in Arkansas, don't you see") and that grandpa had given him the scoop on the robber's alleged death. Jesse James wasn't even in that part of the country when Bob Ford supposedly shot him, Morris claims; instead, "Quantrill was the man that the Ford boys killed."
Morris presumably means the Confederate guerrilla William Quantrill, who had fought alongside James in the Civil War. Historians say Quantrill died at the end of the war, but there were rumors that he survived his reported demise too. So Morris has managed to combine two secret-history stories into one: Quantrill didn't die in 1865, and then in 1882 he died in Jesse James' place.
Morris wraps up his account by singing the ballad "Jesse James," which presents the more familiar tale of Ford blasting James in the back. "That's the story that's been told, don't you see," he says at the end, "but us people, a lot of these people in the mountains, don't believe it."
I'd call this "fake news," but the whole thing is so wonderfully strange that I'd like to hold out a tiny smidge of hope that against all odds it's true:
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In 1948, an Oklahoma man called J. Frank Dalton claimed that he was really Jesse James and that the fellow killed by Robert Ford had been a Pinkerton named Charles Bigelow. You can read all about that here. The body of the man shot by Robert Ford was exhumed for DNA tests in 1995; you can read about that here. To listen to Woody Guthrie turning that "Jesse James" ballad into a song about Jesus, go here. For past editions of the Friday A/V Club, go here.
(* It's spelled "Neal" on the Association for Cultural Equity's online archive of the Lomax recordings. When Atlantic Records released a selection of those tapes as an anthology called The Sounds of the South, they spelled it "Neil." I have no idea how Mr. Morris himself spelled it, or if he cared.)
2016-12-02T14:15:00-05:00src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/4Jow8GFUx0c" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" class="mp4downloader_embedButtonInitialized mp4downloader_tagChecked" width="560" height="340" frameborder="0"> Download Video as MP4 Every Wednesday and Friday, members of the Clovis Mosquito Abatement team pick up a box from the post office, shipped to them from a lab in Kentucky. Inside that box are 20 tubes, each containing 1,000 male mosquitoes infected with a bacterium called Wolbachia that will render the eggs of any female they mate with infertile. Project manager Steve Mulligan says it took a little explaining to persuade residents of a neighborhood in Clovis, Calif., to allow them to dump 40,000 mosquitoes in their front yards every week. "It is unusual," says Mulligan. "The idea of releasing mosquitoes to control mosquitoes, that is thinking a little outside of the box." But in the age of Zika virus, which has spread from South America to parts of Florida and even to Central California, people are open to new ideas to eliminate a species of mosquito that is responsible for millions of human deaths around the world. While the residents of Clovis have been open to the audacious experiment of releasing bacteria-laden insects into their neighborhoods, other proposals have stoked far more controversy. A company called Oxitec engineered a mosquito in a laboratory to produce similar infertility effects to the Wolbachia infection method. But because this approach involves genetic modification as opposed to bacterial infection, Florida Keys residents formed a resistance movement to the GM mosquito. "We don't want to be guinea pigs," says one Florida Keys resident at a town hall meant to field concerns about the mosquito release. But with so many lives on the line, scientists like Zachary Adelman at Texas A&M questions the morality of opposition to genetically modified mosquitoes and has harsh words for those invoking the precautionary principle to halt the release of genetically modified organisms into the environment. "While you're waiting, and while you're being 'precautionary,' tens of thousands of people—children—are going to die of hemorraghic fever from things like Dengue, or thousands of children will be born with microcephaly because of Zika," says Adelman. Adelman and his team have modified the genomes of mosquitoes with the cutting-edge gene-editing technology CRISPR. When the transgenic mosquitoes mate with non-modified mosquitoes, the off-spring will almost all be male. "We can link it with the so-called 'gene drive' where the gene would be inherited beyond 50 percent, at these super rates, where almost all the progeny would carry this gene... And eventually, the mosquitoes would run into a problem. They would run out of females, and then there would be no more eggs, and then that would be that for them," says Adelman. One common objections that Adelman encounters is that wiping out a species of mosquitoes could have unintended consequences on our ecosystem. But he points out the particular mosquito he's targeting, Aedes Aegypti, is only native to certain parts of Africa and has spread across the planet only with human colonization. "There are no species that are dependent on it, that must eat it to survice," says Adelman. The Clovis release program concluded in mid-October, and scientists are still collecting data on the population effects. The trial release in the Florida Keys was approved by public referendum, but the Keys Mosquito District now has to seek FDA approval. Adelman says his CRISPR-modified mosquitoes still need further study in the lab before they're ready to be released into the wild. Watch the full video above. Produced by Zach Weissmueller. Graphics by Joshua Swain. Cam[...]
2016-12-02T14:01:00-05:00This isn't strictly a Webathon post, but how cool is it that Reason's TV and movie critics are, respectively, the man who by acclamation wrote the very best obituary of Fidel Castro, and, well, Kurt freaking Loder? Kinda hard to believe our annual fundraising drive has fallen off the pace here close to the halfway point, with around one-third of the target money coughed up by roughly one-quarter the number of donors we had last year. C'mon, Scrooges! THIS IS THE DONATE BUTTON. HIT IT. As mentioned in our inaugural 2016 Webathon post, part of what we've done since last year is make new types of media for you to enjoy. One such example is The Fifth Column, a weekly podcast helmed by beloved anarcho-whatever Kmele Foster, and co-hosted by former Reasoner Michael C. Moynihan and myself. We unpack the week's news there with a combination of off-kilter analysis, media criticism and alcoholism; feature such regular bits as Some Idiot Wrote This and #Kmele2020, and bring on guests like Gary Johnson, Virginia Postrel, Anthony Fisher, Thaddeus Russell, Kat Timpf, Charles C.W. Cooke, Michael Malice, Buck Sexton and more. It's been one of the more successful political podcasts inaugurated in 2016, and I've heard multiple reports that it has a strong following among the non-libertarian spouses of libertarians. This week The Fifth Column was proud to welcome the aforementioned Glenn Garvin, who is one of the better journalists working the English language. This superb obit is why I still admire @glenngarvin despite the fact he talks smack about me. https://t.co/aLXlaFz4rs — John Podhoretz (@jpodhoretz) November 26, 2016 As readers around these parts know, Garvin has written some masterful pieces for Reason on Castro's favorite journalist/propagandist and his dead-ender fans academia. He's also continuing to churn out valuable post-death stuff like such as a great piece today attempting to tally up the precise number of Castro's victims. Listen to the whole podcast, which also includes discussion of Donald Trump's tweets and Kmele Foster's distaste for democracy, here: src="https://www.podbean.com/media/player/38tku-651b7d" width="100%" height="100" frameborder="0"> You can catch the podcast at iTunes, Stitcher, Google Play, wethefifth.com, @wethefifth, and Facebook. AND YOU CAN DAMN WELL DONATE TO REASON RIGHT THE HELL NOW! [...]
2016-12-02T13:45:00-05:00Oregon's recreational marijuana market is rapidly approaching collapse thanks to new state regulations, as supply shortages and price increases hit dispensaries across the state. Yesterday the Oregonian ran a long piece documenting the struggle of many of these businesses, who have been forced to lay off staff and watch their store shelves stripped bare for want of product. One such dispensary—Human Collective in Southeast Portland—has experienced a severe decline in the amount of marijuana flower buds it could get its hands on, while its inventory of marijuana concentrates is down to about 10 percent of normal. Owner Don Morse has responded by raising his prices and running with half the normal amount of staff. Another cannabusiness owner told the Oregonian that he expects 70 to 80 percent of the dispensaries operating today to be closed by next year. These problems are the natural consequence of the onerous and unworkable pesticide testing regulations that went into effect in October. As Reason has reported, these new regulations have massively increased the time and costs it takes to comply, while also severely restricting the number of labs that are permitted to carry out testing. The predictable result has been many marijuana growers and processors either increasing their prices dramatically or shutting down their operations altogether due to a lack of labs available to test their products. And now dispensaries are starting to feel this pain. A survey of cannabusinesses conducted by Golden Leaf Holdings—a marijuana business in Lake Oswego, Oregon—has found that 22 percent of respondents report that they are going out of business or in danger of doing so. A further 80 percent say that the new testing requirements have "severely impacted" their bottom line. Almost all have said they either have raised or will raise their prices substantially just to stay afloat. Yet even with price hikes, about half of the businesses surveyed reported losing $20,000 or more a month thanks to new regulations. Despite this slow-rolling disaster, the Oregon Public Health Authority (OHA)—the agency responsible for crafting the pesticide regulations—is standing firm. Johnathan Modie, a spokesman for the OHA, told the Oregonian that the ruination of so many businesses is just "the price of public safety." Anthony Johnson, a longtime legalization advocate and blogger at MarijuanaPolitics.com, disagrees, instead calling overregulation "the new prohibition," with potential to push producers and consumers into black markets where there are no public safety checks. Indeed, there are already reports of this happening, as many smaller grow operations—unable to bear the costs of sitting on their hands while they wait—have returned to selling on the streets. This is all a far cry from the hopes of marijuana advocates and users, who expected to find a bit of normalcy in the post-prohibition environment. [...]
(image) Emma Morano turned 117 on Tuesday. The Italian woman is, as far as we know, the oldest person in the world and the only living person who was born in the 1800s. The secret for her longevity? Eating three raw eggs a day and being single since 1938. The person known to have lived the longest ever was Jeanne Calment, who died in 1997 at 122 years of age.
In October, Nature published an article, "Evidence for a limit to human lifespan," by three researchers associated with the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the Bronx. Noting that the longest known lifespan has not increased since the 1990s, they argue that there is a fundamental limit to human longevity. The occasional outlier aside, they think that limit is about 115 years.
Maybe, maybe not. In the 21st century, almost everything that kills people, except for accidents and other unintentional causes of death, has been classified as a disease. Aging kills, so it's past time to declare it a disease too and seek cures for it.
2016-12-02T13:15:00-05:00The Thanksgiving leftovers are gone by now. Memories of oppressive Black Friday crowds (or the social signaling from those who refuse to participate) are fading. The Christmas holiday season is in full swing, and with it comes all the news hooks from people being just stupid about it all. Welcome to another viral outrage Christmas, full of media stories about how the tidings of comfort and joy are cultural appropriation, or colonialization, or denials of the glory of Christ (the reason for the season!), or bad for children's psychological development, or in some other fashion not being observed the way it ought to be. Let's take a look at what's on the menu just today. It's too soon to say whether this may end up being a recurring feature across the month, but all these stories bouncing around all at once already suggests the culture war has something important to say about egg nog and candy canes. The Myth of Santa Claus May Cause Kids to Distrust Adults. So … What's the Downside? If CBS wants to pay to read some British psychologist muse in the pages of Lancet Psychiatry over whether it's wrong to lie to children about the existence of Santa Claus, more power to them. I'll politely decline and draw from their reporting. What does researcher Christopher Boyle think is the problem? When kids find out the truth, it challenges their perception of their parents as the ultimate omniscient narrators of how the universe works: The paper, entitled "A wonderful lie," suggests that children's trust in their parents may be undermined by the Santa myth. "If they are capable of lying about something so special and magical, can they be relied upon to continue as the guardians of wisdom and truth?" the researchers write. "If adults have been lying about Santa, even though it has usually been well intentioned, what else is a lie? If Santa isn't real, are fairies real? Is magic? Is God?" For psychologist Christopher Boyle, a professor at the University of Exeter in the U.K., one of the authors of the paper, the "morality of making children believe in such myths has to be questioned." "All children will eventually find out they've been consistently lied to for years, and this might make them wonder what other lies they've been told," he said in a statement. "Whether it's right to make children believe in Father Christmas is an interesting question, and it's also interesting to ask whether lying in this way will affect children in ways that have not been considered." God, just imagine if the kids grow up and start questioning other things they're told by authority figures! Just think what terrible, terrible outcomes those would be! Surely Somebody on Twitter Must Be Offended by Black Santa! Mall of America in Minneapolis has a black Santa Claus for the very first time this year, the result of a lengthy search for a "diverse St. Nicholas that kids of color would relate to," according to the Star Tribune. They tracked down Larry Jefferson, who will be at the mall for four days before heading back to the Texas to play black Santa down there. Yes, see, it turns out that Jefferson has been playing Santa Claus since 1999 for kids and it's no big deal. It's easy to see why the Star Tribune would want to report on the first appearance of a non-white Santa in its major mall, but the story for some reason has gone national. I suppose it would be cynical and unseasonably mean of me to wonder if there are other media folks combing the Twittersphere looking for four or five random people to express outrage that Santa is not white in order to write a piece about angry racists? Sure enough, it turns out the [...]
2016-12-02T13:01:00-05:00According to Gail Collins' latest column in The New York Times, Ralph Nader cost Al Gore the 2000 election and thus enabled the Iraq War because unlike George W. Bush, Gore would have never invaded Iraq. "Case closed," Collins so authoritatively puts it. While attacking 2016 Green Party presidential nominee Jill Stein for her quixotic campaign demanding recounts in crucial swing states lost by Hillary Clinton by very small margins, Collins outdoes herself in dispensing conventional wisdom that wilts under just the barest of scrutiny. Collins muses that "it's definitely possible" Clinton could have received every vote that instead went to Stein and seethes at Stein's insistence that most people who voted for her would have just stayed home without the Green Party on the ballot. Collins writes: We had heard something similar from Ralph Nader, whose presence on the ballot in 2000 probably cost Al Gore Florida, and the presidency. On many of Nader's issues, Gore was not great. But the point of the American system of democracy is that in the end, you often have to take the responsibility for choosing the better of two unlovely options. And if Gore had been elected, we wouldn't have invaded Iraq. Case closed. Hoo boy. First off, Ralph Nader may have earned far more votes in Florida than Gore would have needed to defeat Bush (and thus, win the presidency) in the Sunshine State, but more than 12 times as many registered Florida Democrats voted for Bush than Nader. Further, Gore didn't even win his home state of Tennessee, which if he had, would have been enough to win the presidency and make Florida's tally irrelevant. But just like in 2000, when Democrats and sympathetic Top Men and Top Women in media refused to consider Gore ran a terrible campaign, Collins and others want to pin Donald Trump's stunning electoral victory on disobedient voters who rejected the two-party duopoly which produced the two least popular candidates of all time. Examining exit poll data in the wake of the 2016 election, I noted the lack of enthusiasm for either major party candidate among third party voters: CBS News' exit poll posed the hypothetical question of who third party voters would support if the race were only Clinton and Trump, and both [Libertarian Party candidate Gary] Johnson and Stein supporters appeared to support Clinton over Trump by about 25 percent to 15 percent. But 55 percent of Johnson's supporters would have just sat out the election, as would 61 percent of Jill Stein supporters. According to New York Times exit polling, a whopping 63 percent of voters who declined to cast their ballot for the two major party candidates said they would have not voted at all in a two candidate race. Second, it's a howler that Collins is so certain ("Case closed") Gore wouldn't have invaded Iraq, considering he was one of the few Senate Democrats to vote in favor of the first Gulf War, uber-hawk Joe Lieberman was his running mate, and he had spent his entire legislative career as a liberal internationalist consistently supporting military interventions on humanitarian grounds. Gore also defended air strikes in Iraq as Vice President and, as a candidate for president, supported the U.S. policy of removing Saddam Hussein from power which President Clinton made official with the signing of the Iraq Liberation Act of 1998. Reason's Matt Welch also found some evidence straight from Gore's mouth boasting of his hawkish bona fides: In 1996, when Republican nominee Bob Dole criticized Clinton for lobbing cruise missiles into Iraq, Gore retorted, "Sometimes the U.S. has to take unila[...]
Brian Doherty is the historian of the libertarian movement in America. His big, honking book Radicals for Capitalism: A History of the Modern American Libertarian Movement (PublicAffairs) is the definitive volume on the subject. He has spent the last year keeping tabs on Gary Johnson, Bill Weld, and the Libertarian Party posse, and will continue to be Reason's point man on all things libertarian and Libertarian.
In case that wasn't enough for you, he's also the author of This is Burning Man (Little, Brown), Gun Control on Trial (Cato), and Ron Paul's Revolution: The Man and the Movement He Inspired (HarperCollins/Broadside). So ask him about desert pyrotechnics, guns, or Pauls!
Read the whole thing below:
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2016-12-02T11:26:00-05:00At the tail end of 2008, Mike Pence, then a Republican congressman from Indiana, appeared on Fox News to state his strong personal opposition to a bailout to the Detroit auto industry. "As the American people know," he said, "we can't borrow and spend and bail our way back to a growing economy or a healthy domestic automotive industry." At the same time, he also declared his opposition to the Troubled Asset Relief Program that came in the wake of the financial crisis, writing a letter to congressional colleagues insisting that government should not intervene to protect businesses from failure. "We now have a deal that promises to bring near-term stability to our financial turmoil, but at what price?" he wrote. "Economic freedom means the freedom to succeed and the freedom to fail." On Fox, Pence stressed not only his own opposition, but the large number of Republican legislators who stood unified in opposition to the deal. He was acting as a representative of the party's stance. In the years since, Pence appears to have changed his mind. At a press conference yesterday Pence, now the governor of Indiana and the Vice President elect, announced that he and President elect Trump had brokered a deal with air-conditioning maker Carrier to keep about 800 jobs in the United States that had previously been set to go to Mexico. In exchange for keeping some jobs in the U.S., Carrier would receive $7 million in incentives from the state of Indiana. At the conference, Pence defended the arrangement by declaring that "the free market has been sorting it out and America's been losing." After which, according to The New York Times, President-elect Donald Trump cut in to agree, saying, "Every time, every time." Trump's enthusiastic dismissal of free market mechanisms should come as little surprise. As a businessman, he built his real estate empire on crony capitalist dealmaking, repeatedly urging government officials to give him special treatment so that his own projects would succeed. On the presidential campaign trail, he was frequently disdainful of the free movement of goods and workers across borders. But the statement from Pence, who is the Trump administration's closest link to conventional Republican politics, should be taken as a declaration of intent for the GOP as a political institution. Although Republicans have frequently and sometimes flagrantly acted in opposition to basic free market principles, the party has typically maintained a surface pretense of adhering to a pro-market understanding of the world. The GOP wasn't exactly a free-market party, but it often pretended to be. Even President George W. Bush, when announcing his administration's response to the financial crisis, framed his lack of orthodoxy as an exception necessary to uphold the larger idea, saying that he has "abandoned free-market principles to save the free market system." Even a break from free-market ideas had to be framed as a defense of free-market philosophy. In announcing the Carrier deal, Pence has made it clear that the party has abandoned free-market principles, period. Under Trump, the GOP has dropped the pretense. [...]
2016-12-02T11:10:00-05:00The Food and Drug Administration issued proposed guidance in June to the food industry aiming to reduce the amount of sodium in many prepared foods. In its draft guidance, the agency stated: Average sodium intake in the U.S. is approximately 3,400 mg/day. The draft short-term (two-year) and long-term (10-year) voluntary targets for industry are intended to help the American public gradually reduce sodium intake to 2,300 milligrams (mg) per day, a level recommended by leading experts and the overwhelming body of scientific evidence. The targets are also intended to complement many existing efforts by food manufacturers, restaurants, and food service operations to reduce sodium in foods. The FDA further asserted: CDC has compiled a number of key studies, which continue to support the benefits of sodium reduction in lowering blood pressure. In some of these studies, researchers have estimated lowering U.S. sodium intake by about 40 percent over the next decade could save 500,000 lives and nearly $100 billion in healthcare costs. So, the science of salt is settled, right? Actually, no. The FDA asked for public comments on its draft guidelines and it evidently received sufficient pushback that it extended the deadline for comments until December 2, 2016. As I reported earlier more and more studies are calling into question that idea that reducing salt consumption at the population level will actually result in net health benefits. For example, the New England Journal of Medicine published a study in August 2014 finding that people who consume less 1,500 milligrams of sodium (about 3/4ths of a teaspoon of salt) are more likely to die than people who eat between 3,000 to 6,000 milligrams of sodium per day (1.5 and 3 teaspoons of salt). The free-market think tank, the Competitive Enterprise Institute has submitted comments that show that the FDA's confident claim that reducing salt consumption by Americans will save lives is at best, a hope, and at worst, tragically wrong. The CEI comments to the FDA nicely summarizes the relevant scientific studies. Here is the nub of the issue: Reduced sodium consumption affects different individuals in different ways. Only an estimated 17 to 25 percent of the population is "salt sensitive"—they experience higher blood pressure with increased dietary sodium—while 75 percent are considered salt resistant and will experience no change in blood pressure with altered dietary sodium. However, an estimated 11 to 16 percent of the population are inverse salt sensitive, which means reduced dietary sodium can increase their blood pressure. With this heterogeneity in response to salt, trying to force a population-wide reduction in sodium availability in order to reduce incidences of hypertension would be ineffective at best and counterproductive at worst. Among other evidence, CEI cites a 2014 metanalysis in the American Journal of Hypertension of more than two dozen sodium studies which concluded that risk of death appeared to be lowest among individuals consuming between 2,565mg and 4,796 mg of sodium a day with higher rates of death in the upper and lower range. The FDA itself notes that average daily consumption - 3,400 mg - is right in the middle of that range. CEI correctly argues: For a minority of the population, reducing dietary sodium can be an effective means of lowering cardiovascular and hypertension risk. But identifying for whom sodium restriction may be beneficial and by how much is something that individuals and their doctors m[...]
(image) "You opposed Donald Trump, so why aren't you freaking out?"
David Harsanyi answers:
Well, for starters, allowing liberals to determine my level of anxiety—which would be full-blown, round-the-clock histrionics—over what's nothing more than another election would be foolish. Until it's not. The era of Trump hasn't even started yet, and the entire establishment keeps using the term "era of Trump" as if things have actually changed.
They haven't. If you're genuinely interesting in being an effective critic of the next president, acting like Adolf Hitler is pounding at your doorstep every time Trump tweets something might not be the most effective plan in the long run.
Not to mention, the left has been such an astonishing hypocrite on so many issues related to Trump that it's a bit difficult to move forward without pointing it out. Joining activists who've spent years attacking the First, Second, Fourth, Fifth and Tenth Amendments—and now the Electoral College—in a newfound veneration of the Emoluments Clause is a bit much. Of course, Trump should be held accountable for his potential conflicts of interest, and one hopes conservatives who value good government will stand up when tangible evidence emerges that they exist. But the critics on the left aren't serious about the Constitution. They're serious about the Democratic Party.
2016-12-02T10:40:00-05:00Note: If you live in the Washington, D.C. area, please come to this event about "free speech in the age of Trump" at the Cato Institute featuring me and Flemming Rose, publisher of the "Mohammad cartoons," on Tuesday, December 6 at 6 P.M. Scroll down for more details and RSVP information. President-elect Donald Trump was pretty damn awful on the campaign trail when it came to free-speech issues. He said he wanted to "open up" libel laws so he would have an easier time going after newspapers that he claimed wrote "wrong" things about him. In a particularly disturbing 24-hour period last December, both he and Hillary Clinton not only called for Internet censorship as a means of combating radical Islam, they specifically gave the stink-eye to anyone talking about constitutional rights. "You are going to hear all the familiar complaints: 'Freedom of speech,'" said Clinton. "Somebody will say, 'Oh freedom of speech, freedom of speech.' These are foolish people," said Donald Trump. More recently, of course, Trump has inveighed against flag burners, saying they should not only be put in jail for a year but stripped of their citizenship. Although his supporters routinely claim he doesn't mean what he says (don't take him literals, lulz!), he's about to become the goddamn president of the United States and words—like ideas and eating dessert every night—have consequences. So I share Robby Soave's concern that Trump, who introduced his presidential campaign by invoking the stultifying effects of political correctness, might well be worse on a range of free-speech issues than campus leftoids. (True to form of many people who invoke the horrors of PC, Trump then immediately proceeded to call Mexicans rapists, drug-and-disease carriers, etc.) The irony of all this is that Trump has benefited mightily from the much-and-unfairly maligned Citizens United decision, which involved advertising a documentary critical of Hillary Clinton and dates back to a previous election cycle. That decision and others related to it have loosened the amount of government control over specifically political speech, weakening the ability of the political establishment to direct the flow of money and messages. Social media (can we just start calling it media already?) and othr technological innovations have helped blowhards everywhere to speak often and effectively. Trump's willingeness to literally and figuratively shut down speech and expression with which he disagrees is of a piece with a lot of his thinking: He's for whatever works for him but he's not necessarily willing to extend the same rules or policies to other people. Or, perhaps worse, he doesn't think in terms of broad principles and general rules. Like an aristocrat at a king's court, he likes a world in which special deals are constantly being made and remade based on proximity to power, money, and so on. From his first foray into Manhattan real estate, which involved a massive and historic tax-abatement from the city of New York to his unabashed love of eminent-domain abuse for the benefit of private developers, that's how he rolls. Let's assume Trump is true to his campaign blurts when it comes to speech. Fact is, as president he can't really do much about libel laws, even as he can roll an always-already pliant press, and he's so clueless about the Internet that he suggested tapping Bill Gates, head of a company that struggled to shift into online space, as the man for the job of locki[...]
2016-12-02T10:28:00-05:00In our government's ever-escalating war on prostitution, U.S. cops continue sinking to new lows in executing sting-ops and other ploys designed to punish people willing to pay or be paid for sex. With too many recent examples to cover individually, I've decided to round up a few that have stuck out over the past month. So behold: here are a few of the foolish, counterproductive, and outright cruel ways in which U.S. authorities are spending public-safety resources to further a futile crusade against consensual commercial sex between adults. Making Women Agree to Fetish Requests Before Arresting Them One disturbing new trend I've noticed of late is undercover cops posing not just as vanilla sex-buyers or women looking to get cash for sex but as prostitution clients with unusual kinks or women demanding payment in things like cheeseburgers. Then, after a sex worker or would-be client is arrested by undercover officers, the police—and the media segments that parrot them—are sure to highlight the more "weird" (read: mockable and attention-grabbing) elements of the bust. For instance, in one November prostitution sting in Ohio, a woman asked an undercover cop she thought was a potential customer to bring some nachos to the appointment. She also requested a cash payment along with the snack. Guess what the police, and headlines above her photo (which is now plastered all over the internet), emphasized? Woman has sex for nachos, of course. What makes this latest example especially egregious is that police didn't just publicize a true, albeit inconsequential and potentially embarrassing, detail that did at least originate in the real request. In this case, they set up a sting wherein sex workers advertising online were asked to oblige an undercover cop's fetish request, which involved gummy worms in some way. But the gummy-worm fetish part has no bearing on whether the elements of the crime of prostitution are satisfied, so it's hard to see why officers would include it but for their own amusement or to ensure that the sting would be irresistible to the press afterward (or both). After one woman, whom the police-report classifies as "a known prostitute in the area," agreed to indulge the request and told the "client" to bring the gummy worms with him, she was arrested for prostitution as well as "possessing criminal tools"—her cellphone, since she used it to arrange her date with the undercover officer. The woman spent the night in the Mahoning County (Ohio) jail and has a court date set for January. Local news headlines about the bust made it seem as if she had requested the gummy worms as payment for sex. Arresting Teens for Interfering With Pre-Crime Three Michigan teenagers have filed a lawsuit against Detroit police officers, after they were arrested in August for distracting a relative who was meeting a woman—an undercover police officer he thought was a sex worker—in a CVS parking lot to pay for sexual activity. Police said the teens, who had been parked outside a fast-food restaurant across the street where one of them worked, interfered in an official investigation when they flagged down the older man with shouts and arm gestures, prompting him to head over their way. The cops contended that the teens had been yelling "don't do it," and "appeared to be discouraging the older Arabic male from talking with the decoy," according to the police report. The young men, 17-year-olds Hassan[...]
2016-12-02T09:50:00-05:00A new tax on paper and plastic bags in Chicago will generate an estimated $12.9 million annually for the city's coffers but is unlikely to reduce the number of bags used by Chicagoans. The 7 cent per bag tax was included in the new city budget approved on Nov. 16 and will go into effect on Jan. 1, but analysts say the fee is probably too low to change the behavior of Chicago residents or businesses. After the tax is collected, most of the revenue will flow directly to the city's budget and will not be used for environmental restoration or pollution clean-up—as is the case in other places where similar taxes have been imposed for supposedly environmental reasons. The city will get 5 cents of the tax from every bag, while retailers will be allowed to keep the other 2 pennies per bag. An analysis by the Better Government Association, an Illinois-based civil action organization, found that retailers could pocket as much as $3.7 million next year because of the tax. While the city and retailers will be able to get more money from shoppers, the bag tax probably won't do much to change behavior. "The Chicago tax, which will apply to paper as well as plastic, is far lower than the 30-cent a bag charge that successfully curbed behavior in Ireland, raising questions about whether shoppers at grocery and retail outlets will view it more as an annoying trifle than a penalty to actively avoid," the Better Government Association concludes. Bag taxes seem to split progressives between two camps: those who believe the taxes are worth it (necessary, even) to stop pollution and nudge shoppers towards reusable bags, and those who see the taxes as regressive and bad for the poor. Both perspectives miss the reality of what has happened in places with taxes similar to what has passed in Chicago. A 2015 audit of a 5 cent per bag tax in Washington, D.C., found that it did little to change consumers' behavior. Of the $10 million generated over the first five years that the tax was in place, most of it was used to pay for city workers and to cover the cost of field trips for school students, not for the environmental repair work promised by advocates of the tax. In other places, taxes have created a temporary decline in bag usage. John Halstead, professor of environmental and resource economics at the University of New Hampshire, told the Chicago Tribune that convenience ultimately wins out as consumers rationalize paying a few extra pennies for their bags. "Basically there was one year of decreased bag usage and then people just opted to pay the fee," Halstead said. The real reason taxes like this are enacted is to pad government budgets. Chicago already has a similarly surreptitious tax on bottled water (also passed in the name of being green). If you prefer to get you water from the tap, you'll pay a tax on that too—in August, the city instituted a new tax on water and sewage in order to plug a massive public pension deficit. [...]
2016-12-02T09:20:00-05:00Mark Twain's The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn was first published in 1884 and first banned in 1885 by authorities in Concord, Mass., who called it "trash and suitable only for the slums." Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird was first published in 1960 and first pulled from shelves in 1966, when the Hanover, Va. school board, still struggling with the concept of racially integrated schools, objected to the use of rape as a plot device. In 2016, both classics—long staples of school curriculuums—are one again too hot for youthful consumption, at least in one school Virginia school district. Accomack County Public Schools have temporarily pulled both novels from their libraries in accordance with the school district's policy after a parent files a formal complaint using a "Request for Reconsideration of Learning Resources" form. In this case, one parent objected to both books' combined 250 uses of a racial slur, according to WTVR-TV. Delmarva Daily Times reports Marie Rothstein-Williams, a white parent of a biracial high school student first raised objections to the books' presence in school libraries and classrooms at a school board meeting last month, saying: I keep hearing 'This is a classic, this is a classic.' I understand this is a literature classic but at some point I feel the children will not or do not truly get the classic part, the literature part — which I'm not disputing this is great literature — but there is so much racial slurs in there and offensive wording that you can't get past that. WTVR also quotes Rothstein-Williams as saying, "Right now, we are a nation divided as it is." Another Accomack County parent reportedly worried that because the slur can be found at a book in their school, students will "feel that they are able to say that to anybody" and thus the books should be removed. Once a formal complaint is lodged, the review process convenes as follows: A review committee consisting of the principal, the library media specialist, the classroom teacher (if involved), a parent and/or student, and the complainant will convene. Materials cited in the complaint will be temporarily suspended for use pending determination by the committee. No date has been set to begin the review. In the meantime, Accomack County students will not be subjected to reading two books containing language deliberately meant to provoke strong feelings in readers by challenging the racial oppression of their times, and thus unable to engage in the critical thinking great literature demands. [...]
2016-12-02T09:00:00-05:00A meeting between managers from the Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton campaigns yesterday involved some substantive discussion but also a lot of shouting about whether Trump's campaign relied on appeals to racism. "Are you gonna look me in the face and say I ran a campaign that was a platform for white supremacists?" Trump campaign manager KellyAnne Conway asked. Yes, said Jennifer Palmieri, Hillary for America communications director. But Conway had the final word: "Hashtag-he's-your-president, how about that? We won." The White House said Thursday that it fully supports requiring women to register for the draft. The Department of Justice has declared that the Americans With Disabilities Act requires all movie theaters to "provide closed movie captioning and audio description when showing a digital movie" in order "to provide effective communication to patrons who are deaf or hard of hearing, or blind or have low vision." "I pray you find compassion for his life, as troubled as it clearly was." That's the sentiment, expressed by an Ohio State University professor about the student who carried out a knife attack on campus earlier this week, that has Ohio State students calling for her job. Congress is on track to spend $1.5 million investigating Planned Parenthood. The U.S. put at least 67,000 people in solitary confinement last year. France may ban "misleading" abortion websites. Proof that red wine is better than white wine. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter, and don't forget to sign up for Reason's daily updates for more content. [...]
(image) President-Elect Donald Trump recently tweeted that people who burn the American flag should be put in jail or even lose their American citizenship. This ignorant, despicable statement should make a plain truth even more obvious: Trump will not defend free speech from the forces of censorship—he represents the forces of censorship.
Over at National Review, Katherine Timpf wonders who is "worse" for free speech: Trump or "campus snowflakes"? Her article implies that Trump may well be worse. "No doubt, a lot of people voted for Donald Trump because they wanted to put a stop to the 'safe space' culture that's running rampant on college campuses across the country," she writes. "I'm just not so sure he's the man to do it."
I'll go a step further: we can be pretty sure.
Trump is as thin-skinned and easily-offended as the most delicate leftist student activist—safe spaces and all. But at least the social justice left is largely confined to college campuses. Trump, on the other hand, is in control of the entire federal government.
We know that Trump thinks people who speak out against him or say things he doesn't like should be punished. He has routinely threatened to jail journalists for doing their jobs. He wants to use the powers of the presidency to make it easier for him to sue his critics out of business.
Everyone who sincerely thought Trump would destroy political correctness and restore the primacy of the First Amendment was deluding themselves. He has never cared about anyone's right to speak, unless he happened to like the speaker. Trump is an embodiment of the antithesis of free speech: if he does not agree with what you say, he may challenge your right to say it.
Yes, a President Hillary Clinton would have been just as bad on free speech. Yes, Clinton has gone to even greater lengths to prohibit flag burning. Yes, Clinton thinks her political opponents shouldn't be able to make a movie that criticizes her. She won't be president, and that's great. It's a win for the First Amendment.
But Trump will be president, and that's still a loss. It means libertarians and conservatives who support unfettered free speech have a responsibility to denounce him at least as vehemently as they denounce the campus left.
2016-12-02T08:00:00-05:00WAKE UP! We are now officially on Day Four of Reason's annual Webathon, in which we ask you there, the one cursing at squirrels, to rummage around the pockets of your waistcoat, past the spare monocle and Somali pirate flag, and disgorge the monetary contents therein into our metaphorical tin cup so that we can blast even more libertarian journalism into space. We're asking for a quarter-million freaking dollars. We're about a third of the way there with halftime rapidly approaching. As the late, great Prince beseeched us, Come on y'all we got to jam, before the police come. Won't you please donate to Reason right the hell now? Before we start on today's topic of Fake News, I wanted you all to join me in a rousing virtual rendition of Happy Birthday to Reason! No, not the magazine, silly, but our very own Reason Sophia Spicer, the darling tot pictured at the right who turns four today! As you'll recall from my Webathon-announcement of her arrival four years ago, lil' Reason is the product of Ken and Kara Spicer, who met right here in the Hit & Run comments, got married, and immediately started breeding. Reason's sisters now include Liberty (age 3) and Justice (17 months). As Katherine Mangu-Ward pointed out yesterday, unlike most other publications, we treat commenters like family–a weird, legal-trouble-inducing, fanfic-writing, staffer-hating family, to be sure, but a family nonetheless. I can safely speak for both Katherine and Nick Gillespie that the most humbling thing about stewarding the flagship of Free Minds and Free Markets is the deep personal bond that readers have with the mag. So thanks for all of that, Happy birthday to the elder Spicer girl once again, and let's get to it! You may have noticed one of the media's go-to post-election navel-gazing maneuvers—decrying the cancer of "fake news" eating away at our body politic, typically (in their depiction) originating from online trolls and/or Macedonian teenagers on Vladimir Putin's payroll, etc. You can read some good analysis of this curious journalistic post-mortem from Scott Shackford, Jesse Walker, A. Barton Hinkle, and Scott Shackford again. To which I am here to add one salient reminder: One of Reason's core functions is debunking the fake news disseminated not by Slavic autocrats, but by the very elite news organizations currently filling their diapers about "fake news." Let us take a brief tour. The biggest U.S. sex trafficking story of the year, according to The New York Times, Reuters, and basically all respectable media in the Pacific Northwest? Fake news. That post-election wave of trans teen suicides, as first popularized by a Guardian and Out contributor, and then spread like wildfire over social media? Fake news. The Trump-era spike in violent hate crimes? Fake ass news. The gender pay gap, as depicted by the president and just about every major media outlet (with the notable exceptions of their fact-checking departments)? Not truthful. But surely the "sex trafficking survivor" who spoke at the Democratic National Convention was actually a "sex trafficking survivor, right? Wrong. And please note that all the above debunkings came from just one staffer, Elizabeth Nolan Brown. This is what we do. Since our last Webathon, Jesse Walker called shenanigans on a Newsweek "bombshell" ty[...]
(image) The incoming Trump administration could make police reform more difficult. But it could also place the focus on the local level.
Steven Greenhut writes:
Some advocates for police reform worry about what a new Trump administration will mean for these discussions given the president-elect's expectedly different approach toward the matter than President Obama's Department of Justice. But others argue the election will send reform back to where it really belongs: at the local level.
Two northern California cities, Sacramento and San Francisco, are good examples of the latter. They are currently plowing ahead with major oversight and accountability proposals for their police departments—the result of local policing scandals that have little to do with national political changes. Sacramento takes up the matter at a city council meeting on Tuesday.
The Sacramento reforms were prompted by a video of two police officers in pursuit of a mentally ill homeless man, Joseph Mann, who was armed with a knife and acting erratically. As the Sacramento Bee reported, the video sequence shows "the officers gunned their vehicle toward Mann, backed up, turned and then drove toward him again, based on dash-cam video released by police. They stopped the car, ran toward Mann on foot and shot him 14 times." One officer is recorded saying "f— this guy" shortly before they shot him.