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Updated: 2017-06-26T00:00:00-04:00

 



New CBO Report Says the Senate GOP Health Care Would Make Obamacare's Problems Worse

2017-06-26T18:15:00-04:00

In January of this year, as congressional Republicans were ramping up legislation to repeal, or at least rewrite, Obamacare, Mitch McConnell, the top Republican in the Senate, went on Face the Nation to make his case against the current health care law. "What you need to understand is that there are 25 million Americans who aren't covered now," he said. "If the idea behind Obamacare was to get everyone covered, that's one of the many failures. In addition to premiums going up, copayments going up, deductibles going up. And many Americans who actually did get insurance when they did not have it before have really bad insurance that they have to pay for, and the deductibles are so high that it's really not worth much to them. So it is chaotic. The status quo is simply unacceptable." McConnell's case against Obamacare, highlighted at the time by Vox's Ezra Klein, was that it didn't cover enough people, that premiums were too expensive, that out of pocket payments and deductibles were too large, and that the system as a whole, with its unstable health exchanges, was too chaotic. Something would have to change. McConnell's argument had the virtue of being essentially true. Health insurers have exited the exchanges. Deductibles in Obamacare plans run high. Premiums for typical plans under the law went up 22 percent last year. The current system has increased coverage, but it has not covered everyone, and those who do have coverage have reported frustrations with the expense and limitations of their plans. At the time, Republicans had not released their own health care legislation, or shared the framework for their plan. But now they have, and it is hard to square McConnell's criticisms of Obamacare with the legislation his office helped produce. According to a Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimate released this afternoon, the Senate health care bill, the Better Care Reconciliation Act (BCRA), would make every single one of the issues that McConnell mentioned worse. Essentially, the CBO's report concludes that the Senate GOP's health care bill would not solve any of the problems that Mitch McConnell said he wanted to solve. Like the Senate health care bill itself, it highlights the cynicism and emptiness of Republican thinking on health care policy. Let's start with coverage. McConnell complained that "one of the many failures" of Obamacare was that it left 25 million uncovered. According to CBO, however, under the Senate health care plan 15 million fewer people would have coverage next year than under current law. By 2026, the CBO estimates that the figure would rise to 22 million. McConnell couched this criticism in a caveat—"if the idea behind Obamacare was to get everyone covered"—which perhaps suggests that this is only a failure if the idea is to cover everyone. But Republicans did not and do not have another idea. Indeed, around the same time, President Trump promised that the Republican plan would provide insurance for everyone. McConnell also hit Obamacare for rising premiums. But the Senate health plan would not halt those increases either. CBO estimates that if the plan were to become law, premiums would be about 20 percent higher next year than under Obamacare. To be clear, that's a 20 percent increase above and beyond what is already projected. In 2019, premiums would be 10 percent higher than under current law. Starting in the next decade, CBO estimates that premiums would be lower than under current law by about 30 percent. But that's after several years of significant hikes. Which brings us to one of McConnell's other criticisms, that the insurance provided under Obamacare isn't very valuable. According to CBO, the biggest reason why premiums would be lower, relatively speaking, in the next decade is because, on average, health plans would cover significantly less than they do now. The Senate bill pegs its subsidies to health plans with lower actuarial values than Obamacare does; these plans are known as benchmark plans. The actuarial value is the percentage of expected health costs that a p[...]



D.C.'s Dysfunctional Metro System Is a National Embarrassment

2017-06-26T16:58:00-04:00

Beginning this week, passengers on the District of Columbia's Metrorail network—the six-line, spontaneous fire-prone train system known here as the D.C. Metro— can expect fare increases and service cuts. As you might imagine, few in the area are pleased. A few days ago, the Washington Examiner declared that the city's rapid-transit system "is the worst in the world." I'll be generous and not go that far. The D.C. Metro is definitely not the dirtiest system I've ever experienced (I'm looking at you New York City), but the system is hardly a model of success, either. Deferred maintenance, poor planning by the original designers, a dysfunctional governance structure, and general incompetence and negligence on the part of management and staff have taken their toll since its 1976 opening. All of these problems came to a head in 2009, when a crash near the Fort Totten station in Northeast D.C. killed nine people, including the train's operator, and injured 80. Following the accident, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) released a report that identified failures at almost every level of The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA), including actions taken by the train operator, maintenance workers, senior management, and control room operators. The severity of this incident prompted a $5 billion capital improvement program, with nearly half of the money coming from federal grants. Metro finally had the funds it needed to make significant improvements, but as time dragged on it would become apparent that absent major structural reforms in how the WMATA functioned, that money would not be well spent. In 2015 another headline-grabbing incident occurred near L'Enfant Plaza, in D.C.'s Southwest quadrant. An electrical malfunction caused a train to get stuck in a smoke-filled tunnel. One woman died and another 86 people were sent to the hospital. With public trust in the system at a new low, ridership dropped significantly. As someone who has ridden plenty of rapid-tranist systems outside of the U.S., I can attest to just how bad the D.C. Metro compares. Having ridden the Shanghai Metro for the past two years while a student at New York University Shanghai, I can recall a train stopping in between stations only once and for ten seconds at most. By contrast, my morning train into downtown D.C. last Friday stopped a total of five times between stations, the longest delay being almost five minutes. And this isn't event that bad comparitively, according to stories I've heard from longtime residents. Some might gripe that making comparisons between D.C.'s system and those in Asia or even New York's sprawling network are unfair. After all, D.C. is neither as populated nor as dense as Shanghai, Tokyo, or New York. But even taking into account these differences, a lot of the Metro's dysfunction defies logic. Shanghai's system, for instance, handles far more people and is way more overcrowded than the D.C. Metro. Yet in Shanghai, rush-hour headways—the amount of time between trains on the same track—can be as little as two minutes, with trains moving seamlessly from station to station at full speed. In D.C., the Metro has six minute headways during rush hour—at least on paper—which will soon increase to eight. Yet trains often run behind schedule and frequently have to stop in tunnels for trains in front of them to move. If people wanted the experience of frequent breaking while crawling to their destination, they could just drive their cars during rush hour. Subways exist to provide public transportation that, unlike a bus, isn't subject to traffic jams. Unfortunately, the D.C. Metro has perfected the art of replicating the traffic woes above ground in the tunnels below. This is despite all the years and additional money the WMATA has had to fix the maintenance problems behind these daily delays. As I write this, part of the Red Line, the system's busiest, has been shutdown. From mid-May to mid-June, all Orange Line stations in Maryland, as well as some in D.C., w[...]



Travel Bans, Gay Wedding Cakes, Gun Rights, and Border Shootings: Special All Supreme Court P.M. Links

2017-06-26T16:30:00-04:00

  • (image) Today was the Supreme Court's final day of releasing orders and decisions for the term, and it was a bit of a doozy. Top news: The court allowed most of President Donald Trump's travel ban to take effect except in cases of those who have "bona fide" relationships with the United States. This is not a "ruling," though. It's a temporary lifting of the injunction until they hear the case in October.
  • The Supreme Court also ruled that Missouri cannot refuse to grant public funds to a church simply because it is a religious institution, as this is a violation of the free exercise clause of the Constitution. The case was about whether a church could have access to a grant to help pay the costs of resurfacing a playground.
  • The Supreme Court also decided it will hear whether a baker can, due to his religious beliefs, refuse to bake and sell a wedding cake to same-sex couples.
  • The Supreme Court also decided it would refuse to hear a case from California to rule on whether the Second Amendment protected the right to carry firearms in public.
  • Rather than deciding whether the family of a Mexican teenager killed by a federal agent can sue over a fatal shooting that took place across the U.S.-Mexico border, the Supreme Court kicked it back down to a lower court.
  • The Supreme Court also struck down a law in Arkansas that caused officials to refuse to list both members of same-sex couples as parents on birth certificates. Note that the law does allow for non-biological fathers to be listed as parents in heterosexual cases, so this wasn't a matter of actual genetic parentage.

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Jake Tapper: ‘We Are Not the Resistance, We Are Not the Opposition’

2017-06-26T16:15:00-04:00

Even before Donald Trump leveled a Jack Lambert-style hit onto the collective psyche of The Fourth Estate, journalism awards galas were schizophrenia-inducing adventures for those of us willing participants who nonetheless maintain a heightened sensitivity to media pomposity and political class elbow-rubbing. It was nearly a lifetime ago, and I still shudder involuntarily at the memory of hundreds of working reporters standing to sing "God Bless America" to Dan Rather back in 2001. In the two years since Trump's famous escalator ride into national politics, the awards-dinner genre's inherent self-importance and ideological homogeneity has been enough to make even the biggest All the President's Men romantic feel at least a little bit like a staff writer for The Federalist. Last night's entertaining Southern California Journalism Awards, for example, began with a first-person plural statement of professional sympathy from Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti. "I think this is probably [so] well-attended tonight because all of us—no matter whether journalists, or those of us who interact with journalists, who consume the work of journalists—we all feel that there is something bigger under attack than just journalism and news," Garcetti said. "The very values that we stand for, who we are, what we want to be, and whether or not we will come together." This is pretty much boilerplate for political-class gatherings these days. National Press Club Chairman Jeff Ballou spent a good deal of his remarks last night making the defiant claim that "We ARE the Constitution!" Andrea Mitchell in her speech spent paragraphs cataloguing the Trump administration's violations against basic Washington norms and decency. It's not that she's necessarily wrong, it's that it always feels awkward to be in any room, let alone one populated by journalists, where so many people so vigorously agree on political matters. That's why the speech given by CNN anchor Jake Tapper, who was accepting the L.A. Press Club's President's Award, was so contextually refreshing and I think nationally relevant to the ongoing push-pull between Trump and the media. Tapper warned implicitly against the journalistic first-person plural, and explicitly in favor of the seemingly obvious yet nonetheless timely reminder that "we really need to stand up and make sure that we get our facts right." Since it was George Orwell's birthday, Tapper started with that great quote you might have seen online commemorating the occasion: The main problem here? There's no evidence Orwell ever said or wrote such a thing. Tapper used that fact as a jumping-off point to reflect on how sloppiness, side-taking, and social media are combining to undermine many journalists' anti-Trump goals: "We need to rise to the moment and make sure that when we quote somebody we know it's actually correct," Tapper said. "We don't need to give the enemies of the Fourth Estate any ammunition. That means we need to be squeaky clean−we're not the resistance, we're not the opposition, we're here to tell the truth, report the facts, regardless of whom those facts favor one way or the other." Crazy talk! More from Tapper's speech as delivered (you can read the somewhat different version as written here): I know it's difficult, and I know that it's easy to get swept up into the stance of opposition when a politician declares war not only on journalism, but on the very concept of empirical fact, and sometimes when that politician declares war on the very concept of basic decency. And we need to stand up for fact and truth and decency. But when we look our kids in the eye, our grandkids in the eye, in two decades, and tell them what we did during this era, we need we need to make sure that we were also maintaining the integrity of journalism. […] If the president does something good, we need to report that. When the president does something right, we need to report that. When we tweet every single emotion we have the very[...]



Democrats Accuse Republicans of Mass Murder: New at Reason

2017-06-26T16:00:00-04:00

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So the Democrats, after opposing Donald Trump in the 2016 election partly out of what they claimed was concern about his incivility and coarseness, are now pursuing a debate about health care legislation in Washington by characterizing the Republicans who disagree with them about policy details as mass murderers.

Think that's an exaggeration? Hillary Clinton, the Democratic Party's 2016 presidential candidate who remains among its most prominent and mainstream voices, tweeted Friday: "If Republicans pass this bill, they're the death party." Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts) tweeted, "I've read the Republican 'health care' bill. This is blood money. They're paying for tax cuts with American lives." Ezra Levin, an influential Washington organizer of the resistance to Trump, tweeted Sunday, "TrumpCare will kill tens of thousands of working class people, and with the savings it cuts taxes for billionaires."

This line of argument carries a powerful emotional charge. However, Ira Stoll argues, it isn't a particularly useful, constructive, or clear-minded way to think or talk about writing laws.

View this article.

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More Americans Support Same-Sex Marriage Than Ever

2017-06-26T15:45:00-04:00

As Gay Pride month draws toward a close, a new poll by the Pew Research Center suggests the fight over same-sex marriage in the United States is over. This is not Roe v. Wade 2.0. Sixty-two percent of Americans support legal recognition for married gay couples, while only 32 percent opposed, according to the latest poll numbers gathered earlier in June. Gay marriage and homosexuality itself does not represent the cultural divide it used to and is becoming "normalized" in the eyes of most Americans. It's worth remembering majority support for same-sex marriage recognition surpassed opposition for the first time in 2011. This shift has taken place over just six years. Pew notes that demographic groups historically more opposed to same-sex marriage have shifted significantly. For the first time a majority of baby boomers support legal recognition. Over the past two years, support for recognition among African Americans has increased from 39 percent to 51 percent. Support from younger white evangelical Christians has jumped from 29 percent to 47 percent in just a year. In terms of the political fight over who "owns" the LGBT vote, it's worth noting what's going on with Republicans. For the first time, opposition to legal recognition among Republicans and Republican leaners has dropped below the majority. It's nearly split now—47 percent favor recognition while 48 percent oppose it. That shift in the political winds is very important in terms of how elements of the LGBT movement are attempting to tie it to "The Resistance" and reinforce the idea that the real LGBT political movement leans to the left. The end result this year has been a purging of actual LGBT people from pride marches for not holding the right views or for being—interestingly enough—members of disfavored groups. A gay supporter of President Donald Trump became a national news story because a pride parade in Charlotte, North Carolina, is refusing to let him participate. In cities like Minneapolis and Washington, D.C., protesters attempted to block police participation in the parade, in some sort of attempt to draw attention to police abuse. In Chicago, people said they were told they could not wave flags displaying the Star of David and express their Jewish heritage within the parade because it made others uncomfortable. In each of these cases, people are trying to purge other LGBT participants for reasons that have little to do directly with the gay community. Trying to ban the police was particularly loathsome (and you could tell from responses to the behavior in the media coverage), given that gay people have both been fighting for years to get police to treat them with respect and to serve as openly gay police officers. The political roots of gay pride are deeply embedded in stopping police violence targeting gay people. That's what the Stonewall Riots were about! There's something particularly narcissistic about trying to purge your adversaries from your sight by denying them participation in these events and thinking that this is a useful response. There is nothing about purging police from a march that's going to improve the relationship between police and minority communities. Purging Jewish flags is not going to do a single thing to improve the relationship between Israel and Palestine. That support for gay marriage has so dramatically increased is a direct reflection of the value of participation, not of purging and segregation. LGBT people are increasingly visible in all communities (not just urban enclaves), and the realization that gay marriage helps strengthen families and social stability has undoubtedly contributed to the dramatic drop in resistance to gay relationships. Activists might want to keep that in mind before trying to deliberately boot people out of the movement. [...]



The Republican Health Care Dud, Harry Potter, and Supreme Court Shakeup [Reason Podcast]

2017-06-26T15:00:00-04:00

"Were trying to extend twentieth century or even nineteenth century entitlement spending into the twenty-first century," says Reason's Nick Gillespie about the Senate Republicans' health care legislation. "The demographics don't work, the economics don't work, and nobody will talk about just increasing the supply and variety of health care. It's maddening!"

Peter Suderman joins Nick Gillespie and Katherine Mangu-Ward in a discussion moderated by Andrew Heaton. In addition to making sense of the unimaginative Republican bill and suggesting more radical reforms in place of it, they discuss a new CATO piece about the true number of libertarians in America; the cultural impact of Harry Potter two decades in (and which house Gillespie and Mangu-Ward would would fall into); and who should replace Justice Kennedy on the Supreme Court if he retires.

Audio production by Ian Keyser.

Subscribe, rate, and review the Reason Podcast at iTunes. Listen at SoundCloud below:

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Why I Microdose Acid: Silicon Valley Entrepreneur Speaks Out: New at Reason

2017-06-26T14:33:00-04:00

src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/MPAFah0iTDM" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" width="560" height="340" frameborder="0">

Tech entrepreneur George Burke consumes a tiny amount of LSD (about a tenth of a typical dose) every morning before he goes to work.

He says "microdosing" subtly improves his cognitive functioning.

"I notice that my brain seems to be able to solve problems a little bit better than...before," says Burke, who runs a startup called Fuel that helps its clients custom tailor their diets to their unique genetic makeups.

The use of psychedelics as productivity and creativity hacks is deeply rooted in Silicon Valley culture. Burke was partly inspired to go public about his drug use by the late Steve Jobs, who told his biographer Walter Isaacson, "[t]aking LSD was a profound experience, one of the most important things in my life."

"People have to actually have to step up and state what they've been doing," says Burke.

Reason spoke with Burke and with James Fadiman, a scientist researching the effects of microdosing.

Watch the full video above.

Produced by Zach Weissmueller. Camera Alex Manning. Additional graphics by Meredith Bragg. Music by Kai Engel and Broke for Free.

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Senate Republicans Add Individual Mandate Workaround to Health Care Bill

2017-06-26T13:57:00-04:00

(image) Despite being billed as an Obamacare repeal plan, the health care bill released last week by Senate Republicans kept many of Obamacare's core elements in place, including federal regulations restricting health insurers from charging based on preexisting conditions and income-based subsidies for individuals purchasing health coverage on the individual market. But it lacked one of Obamacare's notable features—the individual mandate to purchase health insurance.

From a political perspective, this was not surprising. Republicans have spent the last seven years criticizing the health law's mandate. But as a matter of policy, it was an unusual decision: Over the last several decades, several states have attempted to implement preexisting conditions regulations without a mandate.

Every single one has seen their individual insurance market melt down in the space of a few years. With regulations but no mandate, people wait until they are sick to buy coverage, meaning that health insurers end up covering a smaller group of sicker people. This raises premiums, which pushes healthier people out of the market, which raises premiums further, and the cycle continues until premiums are unaffordable and insurers, unable to make money, leave the market: in other words, a death spiral.

This afternoon, Senate Republicans updated their health care bill, the Better Care Reconciliation Act (BCRA), to include a provision that is not a mandate, but is intended to act as a substitute for it. It's a backdoor mandate—a workaround designed to fulfill the same function. It's another sign of how much of Obamacare's individual market design Republicans have borrowed for their own bill.

Instead of a fine for going uncovered, as in Obamacare, the Senate GOP bill now includes a continuous coverage provision: Anyone who goes without coverage for more than 63 days must wait six months before getting coverage again. The goal, as with the mandate, is to create an incentive for health people to buy coverage and maintain it, by penalizing if they don't.

It doesn't take too much work to imagine how a provision like this might end up being weakly enforced, if only for political reasons. Obamacare already includes an open enrollment period, outside of which people are not allowed to buy coverage—at least in theory. In practice, there are numerous exceptions, and insurers have complained that those exceptions have allowed large numbers of people to jump on and off health plans throughout the year, obtaining coverage only when sick. In turn, insurers respond by raising premiums. If the six month waiting period goes into effect, it's likely to lock some sick people out of coverage, and the result could be the creation of loopholes that weaken the provision's effectiveness.

It's one of the many flaws inherent in the design of both Obamacare and the Senate bill: The political unpopularity of the mandate, and of mandate alternatives like this, makes it difficult to maintain the regulatory balance that is supposed to make the whole system work. In any case, it's one more way in which the health care bill put forward by Senate Republicans resembles a skimpier version of the bill it is supposed to repeal, and further evidence that Republicans aren't repealing the health law so much as putting their own awkward stamp on it.

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What Are The Benefits of Lyft Shuttle? Listen to Ed Krayewski on AirTalk

2017-06-26T13:50:00-04:00

(image) Lyft's roll out of a pilot program called Lyft Shuttle, where vehicles follow set routes, picking up and dropping off people at pre-designated stops, was panned by some critics as an unnecessary re-invention of the city bus. But it's not—instead, LyftShuttle offers another choice than the city bus. When it heads to areas not currently served by city buses, it'll offer a service that didn't exist before. Either way, it can exert competitive pressures that could prompt public transit agencies to do better in order to keep up. It could even lead to a regulatory environment where more competitors can enter the market, benefiting many people.

I'll be on AirTalk on 89.3 KPCC in Los Angeles at 11:30 a.m. Pacific Time (2:30 p.m. ET) to talk about this with guest host Libby Denkmann and Slate's Henry Grabar, who will voice criticisms of the Shuttle to which I'll respond. You'll even be able to call in to ask questions! Tune in if you're in Southern California, maybe stuck in late morning traffic, or listen live online.

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Trump's Travel Ban Is Headed to the Supreme Court

2017-06-26T13:22:00-04:00

Today the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear consolidated oral arguments in the cases of Trump v. International Refugee Assistance Program (IRAP) and Trump v. Hawaii. At issue is whether President Donald Trump's controversial executive order banning travelers from six majority-Muslim countries violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment and/or exceeds the president's lawful powers under federal immigration law. The Supreme Court says it will schedule oral arguments "during the first session of the October Term 2017." These cases raise fundamental questions about the reach of executive power, the meaning of federal immigration law, the scope of the Establishment Clause, and about the role of the courts in policing the boundaries. According to the Trump administration, not only did Congress give the president vast leeway to control what happens at the border, the executive branch is entitled to overwhelming judicial deference in all matters dealing with national security. According to the state of Hawaii and to the International Refugee Assistance Program, Congress did not authorize Trump's approach and Trump should get no deference from the courts because he is using government power to heap disfavor on Muslims. Until now, the Trump administration has mostly lost on this matter in federal court. In May, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit, in IRAP, issued an injunction blocking enforcement of the executive order on the grounds that the legal challengers were likely to prevail in their Establishment Clause challenge. Then in June, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, in Hawaii, issued an injunction blocking enforcement of the executive order on the grounds that Trump was exercising powers that federal law did not properly delegate to him. But today the Supreme Court partially lifted those injunctions, allowing the executive order to go into effect in certain limited circumstances. Specifically, in an unsigned per curiam opinion, the Court lifted the injunctions "with respect to foreign nationals who lack any bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the United States." That is a small victory for the Trump administration. However, the Court left the injunctions in place with respect to foreign nationals "who have a credible claim of a bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the United States." The Court explained, "a foreign national who wishes to enter the United States to live with or visit a family member...clearly has such a relationship.... So too would a worker who has accepted an offer of employment from an American company or a lecturer invited to address an American audience." That is a sizable loss for the Trump administration. Notably, Justice Clarence Thomas, joined by Justice Samuel Alito and Justice Neil Gorsuch, wrote separately to argue that the injunctions should be lifted "in full." This suggests those three justices may be inclined to ultimately rule in favor of the Trump administration. After all, if they think they might rule against the executive order in October, why would they want to let the order go into full effect right now? It also raises the interesting possibility that Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Anthony Kennedy may be more inclined to ultimately rule against Trump. One thing is certain: This fall Donald Trump will face the first major test of his presidency before the U.S. Supreme Court. [...]



Reason Wins 5 Southern California Journalism Awards

2017-06-26T12:01:00-04:00

Last night, the Greater Los Angeles Press Club held its 59th annual Southern California Journalism Awards, honoring works prepared in 2016 by journalists and organizations working between San Diego and Santa Barbara, and handing out special honors to more national figures as well. So it was that in an evening kicked off by Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and closed by longtime NBC News reporter/anchor Andrea Mitchell (with some Jake Tapper and Conan O'Brien in between), the very first professional award presentation included a large-screen image of Andrew Heaton as Captain James T. Kirk, nurturing a tribble. This was, ladies and gentlemen, the Best Humor/Satire Writing of 2016, of any type and in any venue ("cross-platform," for short)—"Star Trek: The Libertarian Edition," by Austin Bragg, Meredith Bragg, and Andrew Heaton: src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/jgRlzFIgm1E" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" width="560" height="340" frameborder="0"> The judges said: "Austin Bragg is absolutely hilarious, and his satiric self-deprecating look at Libertarianism though the lens of Star Trek has gone where no other humor entry has gone before. Hysterical in any star system. We watched it several times and saved it for future views." Another cross-platform winner was Anthony L. Fisher, for Best Political/Government Reporting, with his "Why It's So Hard to Stop Bad Cops From Getting New Police Jobs: Efforts to track decertified cops are stymied by police union pressure and local control." Said the judges: "This was a remarkably diverse and very interesting field of contenders. But Anthony Fisher's exploration of the political and governmental hurdles which can keep bad cops on the street rose to the top. It was meticulously researched and reported without being dry. The clarity of Fisher's writing took what could have been a dense—or a sensational—topic and instead turned into a thoughtful analysis. It is a take on policing that has not received as much attention as pieces on police abuses, even though Fisher's story certainly shed light on how an officer could escape consequences for such abuses. A clear public service to Fisher's readers." A third top-performing cross-platformer was Glenn Garvin for Best Criticism on Books/Art/Architecture/Design, with "Was Patty Hearst Brainwashed? A new look at an old kidnapping case misses one of the most important elements of the story." The judges ruled: "Garvin's well-written and snarky criticism of Toobin's book on Patty Hearst and questioning of conventional views as to whether Hearst became a real revolutionary or feigned being one results in his provocative observation that she may have been 'brainwashed' like Korean War soldiers." The great Reason Science Correspondent Ronald Bailey won Best Magazine Column, for "Poverty Is Deadly: Why is the death rate for young white Americans rising?" Judges mused: "Mortality and life expectancy. By no means are they frequent topics for discussion—or even reflection. But Ron Bailey brings them to the forefront in his well-researched, thoughtful column on rising middle aged mortality rates, along with some intriguing conjecture about possible reasons for the trends. Our compliments to Ron for his fascinating column about a 'literally' deadly serious topic." And rounding out our first-place prizes was Best TV Documentary Under 25 Minutes, by Justin Monticello, Alex Manning, and Zach Weissmueller, for "This L.A. Musician Built $1,200 Tiny Houses for the Homeless. Then the City Seized Them." It was a special treat to watch a particularly damning clip from that knowing that Mayor Garcetti and his staff might still be in the room: src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/n6h7fL22WCE" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" width="560" height="340" f[...]



Georgia's Health Care Regulations Limit Access to Women's Health

2017-06-26T11:45:00-04:00

The Georgia Supreme Court on Monday will hear oral arguments in a case challenging state regulations that limit access to essential health care for women and babies. In Georgia, as in other states with Certificate of Need laws on the books, health care providers have to get permission from state bureaucrats before opening or expanding their medical facilities. In theory, these laws exist to allow the state to balance the needs of the public with the interests of hospitals and other health care providers, but in reality they often allow larger providers to veto unwanted competition. In 2016, the Federal Trade Commission and the U.S. Department of Justice issued a joint statement calling for state governments to roll back CON laws in order to free health care markets and lower prices. "CON laws raise considerable competitive concerns and generally do not appear to have achieved their intended benefits for health care consumers," the agencies concluded, warning that these laws have been exploited by competitors seeking to protect exclusive markets by raising the cost of entry. That's what Dr. Hugo D. Ribot Jr. and Dr. Malcolm Barfield, owners of the Women's Surgical Center, LLC, say happened to them. The two doctors perform hundreds of non-emergency outpatient OB/GYN surgeries every year. They wanted to add a second operating room—with the intention of renting it out to other surgeons who needed space—in order to serve more patients. Three hospitals, including the Cartersville Medical Center, located across the street from the Women's Surgical Center, objected to their CON application. The Georgia Department of Community Health sided with the hospitals and denied the application. The two doctors, represented by attorneys from the Arizona-based Goldwater Institute, a free market law firm, are asking the Georgia courts to strike down Georgia's medical CON laws so that licensed doctors are able to offer their services to the public without first complying with anti-competitive restraints. Lower courts have upheld the state's CON laws, which have come under attack in recent years across the country. Many states added CON laws to their books in the 1970s, when they were mandated by Congress as part of an ill-advised effort to reduce health care costs. Congress reversed the mandate in the 1980s after the Congressional Budget Office found that CON laws often had the opposite effect on prices and the availability of care. But more than 30 states still require medical providers to get state approval before opening new facilities or expanding existing ones. Those laws persist because of legislative inertia and because of the influence of the special interests—hospitals, mostly—that benefit from a time-consuming and bureaucratic process that blocks potential competition. The consequences can be disastrous. In January, Reason reported on the years-long fight between two Virginia hospitals over the construction of a new neonatal intensive care unit. While the regulators were deliberating, a baby died at a hospital that had sought to build an NICU that might have saved the child. After the death, the state Department of Health still refused to grant a CON to the hospital. The costs of CON laws aren't always obvious. In a paper published last year by the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, Thomas Stratmann and Davild Wille argue that hospitals in states with CON laws have higher mortality rates than hospitals in non-CON states. The average 30-day mortality rate for patients with pneumonia, heart failure, and heart attacks in states with CON laws is between 2.5 percent and 5 percent higher even after demographic factors are taken out of the equation. Dumping Georgia's CON laws would allow R[...]



Clarence Thomas and Neil Gorsuch Blast SCOTUS for Refusing to Hear Major Second Amendment Case

2017-06-26T10:53:00-04:00

(image) Today the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear a major case out of California that asked whether the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms includes the right to carry firearms in public. By refusing to get involved, the Court left in place a ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit that denied constitutional recognition to the right to carry.

Writing in dissent, Justice Clarence Thomas, joined by Justice Neil Gorsuch, blasted the Court for its failure to act and for its "distressing trend" of treating "the Second Amendment as a disfavored right."

According to Thomas, "the Framers made a clear choice: They reserved to all Americans the right to bear arms for self-defense. I do not think we should stand by idly while a State denies its citizens that right, particularly when their very lives may depend on it." Thomas added, "even if other Members of the Court do not agree that the Second Amendment likely protects a right to public carry, the time has come for the Court to answer this important question definitively."

Thomas offered a sharply worded case for why the Court should have taken up the question. Federal circuits, he pointed out, have reached different conclusions and are therefore irrevocably split on this pressing constitutional matter. "This Court has already suggested that the Second Amendment protects the right to carry firearms in public in some fashion. As we explained in Heller, to 'bear arms' means to 'wear, bear, or carry upon the person or in the clothing or in a pocket, for the purpose of being armed and ready for offensive or defensive action in a case of conflict with another person.'" As Thomas observed, "I find it extremely improbable that the Framers understood the Second Amendment to protect little more than carrying a gun from the bedroom to the kitchen."

Today's case, known as Peruta v. California, centered on a state law that says that conceal-carry permits will only be issued to those persons who have demonstrated to the satisfaction of their local county sheriff that they have a "good cause" for carrying a concealed firearm in public. What counts as a "good cause?" In the words of one San Diego official, "one's personal safety is not considered good cause" in and of itself.

What this means in practice, as one earlier court ruling observed, is that "in California the only way that the typical responsible, law-abiding citizen can carry a weapon in public for the lawful purpose of self-defense is with a concealed-carry permit. And, in San Diego County, that option has been taken off the table."

Despite the strenuous protest of Justice Thomas and Justice Gorsuch, that option remains off the table thanks to the Supreme Court's inaction today.

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Supreme Court to Hear Case on Gay Wedding Cakes

2017-06-26T10:38:00-04:00

Is a wedding cake speech? When a baker makes a wedding cake, is he or she declaring support for the couple's marriage? Can a baker decline to bake a cake for a gay couple (and defy a state's anti-discrimination laws) because he or she objects to same-sex marriage on religious grounds? Today, the Supreme Court announced they would be taking up a case that may answer these questions for anyone who provides services for gay weddings. This is likely to be a case with a narrow ruling about religion and compelled speech and what constitutes an artistic expression. Don't expect a broad ruling that would change the nature of state-level public accommodation laws one way or the other. In Masterpiece Bakeshop Ltd. Vs Colorado Civil Rights Commission the owner of a bakery in Lakewood, Colo., declined to bake a wedding cake for a gay couple because he had religious objections to same-sex marriage. In 2014 he was ruled to have violated the state's anti-discrimination laws on public accommodation. He is one of a handful of similarly-minded business owners who offer their goods and services to weddings but oppose same-sex marriage recognition. We've seen other cases involving bakers, florists, photographers, and owners of private wedding venues. The Supreme Court had previously turned away challenges to state-level antidiscrimination laws, but the court has been sitting on this case for months without deciding one way or another if they'd take it. Today was the last day in this session for the court to report out whether they would grant the case. After months of rescheduling, they've decided that they will. The case will in all likelihood be very narrowly focused on whether the free speech and free religion rights of bakery owner Jack Phillips have been violated. The Supreme Court will have to consider whether the making of a wedding cake is a form of artistic impression and whether, therefore, laws forcing Phillips to serve same-sex couples constitutes compelled speech. Historically, as I explained about these cases in 2015, courts have not determined cakes themselves to be expressive activity (therefore not protected speech). But text, writing, and imagery placed on the cake can be considered speech, and a bakery cannot be forced to communicate text or images they deem offensive. The question is whether the creation of a wedding cake itself is a form of speech. Libertarians hoping for a broader ruling related to whether public accommodation laws violate the free association rights of business owners will probably be disappointed. There is zero chance this court is going to rule in such a way that alters state-level public accommodation laws. This case will mostly revolve around whether the activities of people like bakers and florists are considered artistic speech and therefore are possibly exempt from such laws. Read more about the case itself from SCOTUSblog here. [...]



Trump Meeting With India PM, Anthony Kennedy Retirement Buzz, 150 Die in Pakistan After Oil Tanker Crash: A.M. Links

2017-06-26T09:00:00-04:00

  • (image) Reports that Trump is thinking of pulling out of Israeli-Palestinian talks over a rift between Mahmoud Abbas and Jared Kushner are "nonsense," according to an unnamed U.S. official.
  • President Trump meets with the prime minister of India today.
  • Rumors abound about the potential retirement of Justice Anthony Kennedy.
  • More than 150 people died after an oil tanker overturned and burst into flames in Pakistan.
  • A number of Ohio government websites were hacked and defaced with anti-Trump and pro-ISIS messages.
  • Three Jewish participants were asked to leave the Dyke March parade in Chicago because their Jewish Pride flags made others feel "threatened."
  • The hacker group Anonymous claimed that NASA was "on the verge" of announcing the discovery of alien life.
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Brickbat: A Proportionate Response

2017-06-26T04:00:00-04:00

(image) Timothy James, an officer with the Jacksonville, Florida, sheriff's office, has been charged with battery after pulling a 17-year-old suspect out of a patrol car and throwing him to the ground. When a sergeant told him to put the boy back in the car, he did but struck him several times with his fist as the sergeant told him to stop.

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Detroit Council Dunks on Taxpayers, Will Use School Funds for Basketball Arena

2017-06-25T13:15:00-04:00

Taxpayer-funded bonds sold to raise revenue for parks and schools in cash-strapped Detroit will instead be used to lure its professional basketball team back into the city. The Detroit Pistons have played out in the suburbs (first in Pontiac, now in Auburn Hills) since 1977, but will relocate to a new downtown arena thanks to $34 million in incentives approved by the Detroit City Council. Taxpayers are already on the hook for more than $300 million of the $900 million construction cost for new Little Caesars Arena, built to host the Detroit Red Wings of the National Hockey League. The additional spending will make the arena suitable for basketball and help pay for new practice facility and front office for the Pistons. Michigan Radio reported this week that "some Detroiters are unhappy with the deal because the bonds are taxpayer funded with money originally intended for schools and parks." As well they should be. In a city still recovering from bankruptcy, local officials might have found better ways to use $34 million. It's a fair question whether government should be spending money on parks and schools, but it's certainly a more core function than throwing cash at billionaire team owners. Tom Gores, who owns the Pistons, is worth an estimated $3.3 billion. But it gets worse. As the Detroit Free Press reported earlier this month, local activists filed a lawsuit to block the stadium spending. The city asked the judge to dismiss the case, making several laughable claims about why it was essential to spend money on the stadium project, instead of using the money to help fund the city's public schools (which are $500 million in debt, by the way). Stopping the project, the city's attorneys argued, would be "devastating" to Detroit's "remarkable comeback story." "Post-bankruptcy, the city cannot expect lenders to extend unsecured credit at reasonable rates, so its debt has been limited to secured transactions, tied to specific revenue streams," the attorneys write. "The default on any of that debt would significantly affect the ability of the city to attract investors. The city is currently engaged in a bond offering to raise funds to rebuild neighborhoods. A default on DDA's debt would certainly increase the costs and could possibly derail the plan completely." As Deadspin noted this week, this is disingenuous nonsense. The city's attorneys are essentially arguing that not giving millions of dollars to the Pistons' billionaire owner would jeopardize Detroit's entire economic recovery. A federal judge dismissed the lawsuit. The next time you see a headline about how woefully underfunded Detroit's schools are or hear about appeals for additional state and federal funding, think about how its city leaders prioritize a finite amount of tax revenue. Detroit's rickety fiscal situation is the result of decades of poor choices, from which it appears the current leadership has learned nothing. [...]



The Fleeting Glory of Trump: New at Reason

2017-06-25T10:05:00-04:00

(image) Trump—the title of which has nothing to do with the current POTUS—was an illustrated satirical magazine edited by Mad founder Harvey Kurtzman and published by Playboy's Hugh Hefner. Both men were young, very ambitious, and perhaps a little too idealistic. Thanks partly to a storm of unforeseen business woes that almost destroyed the Playboy empire and partly to Kurtzman and Hefner's generosity toward their contributors, the publication lasted for only two issues, one released in 1956 and the other in 1957. The result—on display in a new collection edited and annotated by Denis Kitchen—was a tragic might-have-been, writes Peter Bagge.

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The Illusory Savings From Cutting Medicaid: New at Reason

2017-06-25T09:28:00-04:00

(image) When economists talk in their sleep, they say, "There is no such thing as a free lunch." This axiom is drilled into them from day one of their undergraduate education and never leaves their minds. Any economist who tried to deny it would find herself suddenly choking in pain and unable to speak. What it means is that if the government does something that costs money, some human somewhere will bear the expense. "Free" public schools, "free" parks, and "free" roads all have to be paid for by the citizenry. Collectively, we can't get something for nothing.

This useful insight has long been offered as an objection to costly government programs. But it applies as well to measures that extract savings from costly government programs. In their replacement of Obamacare, congressional Republicans promise to achieve greater frugality in Medicaid, which helps low-income Americans, without inflicting more hardship. The melancholy truth, writes Steve Chapman, is that it's not gonna happen.

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Let’s Dump Terrible, Protectionist State Liquor Laws: New at Reason

2017-06-24T08:00:00-04:00

(image) Alcohol regulations in this country could improve dramatically if more state courts would reject bald economic protectionism as a valid basis for lawmaking. That's the conclusion of a new study published last week by the R Street Institute, a free-market think tank in Washington, D.C.

The new study, Could Economic Liberty Litigation 'Free the Booze'?, uses the hook of a recent South Carolina court case to suggest—hopefully—that we may be seeing the dawn of a new period of much-needed state alcohol deregulation.

The lawsuit in question concerned section 61-6-140 of South Carolina's Alcohol Beverage Control Act, which stated that "[n]o more than three retail dealer licenses may be issued to one licensee[.]" The case involved national alcohol beverage superstore Total Wine, which owns three locations in South Carolina but was rebuffed by the state in its efforts to open a fourth. Total Wine sued to overturn the South Carolina law.

The state, the court found, "offer[ed] economic protectionism as the sole justification of this extreme business regulation." The court determined the state's "only justification for these provisions is that they support small businesses." Food policy expert Baylen Linnekin explains more.

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Sen. Dean Heller Comes Out Against Obamacare Repeal Bill, E.U. and Japan Inch Closer to Trade Deal, and Johnny Depp Apologizes For Trump Assassination Joke: P.M. Links

2017-06-23T16:37:00-04:00

  • (image) While the United States continues down its protectionist path, other areas of the world are gaining a bit more trade freedom. Japan and the European Union are reportedly nearing a trade deal that would rollback restrictions on food and automobile imports.
  • Johnny Depp issued an apology for joking about assassinating President Donald Trump during a screening of his 2004 film The Libertine at England's Glastonbury Festival. "When was the last time an actor assassinated a president?" he had asked the crowd, a reference to the assassination of Abraham Lincoln.
  • More and more Republican senators are coming out against the Senate version of Obamacare repeal. The latest is Sen. Dean Heller of Nevada, who said in a press conference that he could not support the bill in its current form. Five Republican senators are now opposed to the bill, including Heller, which would be enough to kill its chances. Read Reason's coverage on why that would be a good thing.
  • The Arab states of Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the UAE, and Bahrain have presented a list of demands to Qatar which the country must satisfy to restore normalized diplomatic relations. They include shutting down its state-funded Al Jazeera news network, cutting ties with Iran, and halting the construction of a Turkish military base in its territory.
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How the CIA Turned Us onto LSD and Heroin: Secrets of America's War on Drugs

2017-06-23T16:00:00-04:00

"There's a huge story to be told," says Anthony Lappé, "about the actual extent of the U.S. government's involvement in drug trafficking." And that's exactly the story Lappé and his co-producers Julian Hobbs and Elli Hakami tell in a mesmerizing four-part series that debuted this week on cable TV's History Channel. Through dramatic recreations and in-depth interviews with academic researchers, historians, journalists, former federal agents, and drug dealers, America's War on Drugs (watch full episodes online here) tells true tales of how, for instance, the CIA and Department of Defense helped to introduce LSD to Americans in the 1950s. "The CIA literally sent over two guys to Sandoz Laboratories where LSD had first been synthesized and bought up the world's supply of LSD and brought it back," Lappé tells Nick Gillespie in a wide-ranging conversation about the longest war the U.S. government has fought. "With that supply they began a [secret mind-control] program called MK Ultra which had all sorts of other drugs involved." The different episodes cover the history of drug prohibition, the rise of the '60s drug counterculture; heroin epidemics past and present; how drug policy has warped U.S. foreign policy in Southeast Asia, Central America, Afghanistan, and beyond; the bipartisan politics of prohibition; and much more. America's War on Drugs features exclusive and rarely seen footage and documents how, time and time again, the government was often facilitating trade and use in the very drugs it was trying to stamp out. The show's website adds articles, short videos, and more information in an attempt to produce an "immersive experience" that will change how viewers think and feel about prohibition. Lappé, who has worked at Vice, Huffington Post, and elsewhere, tells Gillespie that he is particulary excited to see his series air on the History Channel because it's an indicator the drug-policy reform is in the air. Though not a libertarian himself, he says "a great trait of libertarianism...is that knowledge and reason will eventually win out over keeping things in the dark, making things taboo." Even when it veers off into questionable territory (such as the role of the government in creating the crack epidemic of the 1980s), America's War on Drugs performs the invaluable function of furthering a conversation about drug policies and attitudes that have caused far more harm than they have alleviated. Audio production by Ian Keyser. Image: America's War on Drugs, History Channel. Subscribe, rate, and review the Reason Podcast at iTunes. Listen at SoundCloud below: src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/329690983%3Fsecret_token%3Ds-C6YL7&auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_comments=true&show_user=true&show_reposts=false&visual=true" width="100%" height="450" frameborder="0"> Don't miss a single Reason podcast! (Archive here.) Subscribe at iTunes. Follow us at SoundCloud. Subscribe at YouTube. Like us on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter. This is a rush transcript—check all quotes against the audio for accuracy. Nick Gillespie: Hi I'm Nick Gillespie and this is the Reason podcast. Please subscribe to us at iTunes and rate and review us while you're there. Today we're talking with Anthony Lappe who along with Julian Hobbs and Elli Hakami has produced a four part docuseries called America's War on Drugs for the History Channel. You can go to history.com to watch the series and rea[...]



Religious Objections to LGBT Issues in Mississippi Back in Play—for Now

2017-06-23T15:30:00-04:00

A controversial, religion-based LGBT law in Mississippi can't be blocked based solely on fears that discrimination will follow, a federal panel of judges ruled this week. On the surface, Mississippi's HB 1523, passed last year, appears to be "religious freedom" legislation intended to protect Christian conservatives from state punishment for making decisions like declining to sell wedding cakes to gay couples. What the law actually does is more complex, anti-libertarian and clearly unconstitutional. The law grants special protections by the state for three particular religious beliefs. They are: Marriage is or should be recognized as only being between a man and a woman. Sexual relations are properly reserved to such a marriage. Male (man) or female (woman) refer to an individual's immutable biological sex as objectively determined by anatomy and genetics at time of birth. The law grants people who have only those beliefs various protections under the law. Religious organizations cannot be accused of discrimination on the basis of making decisions in accordance with the protected beliefs. The state cannot discriminate against families who want to adopt or foster children because they share those protected beliefs. The state cannot punish doctors or therapists who refuse to provide services that would violate those beliefs (meaning a doctor couldn't refuse to treat people simply because they're gay or transgender but could refuse to provide therapy or treatment to help facilitate a sex change). The state couldn't punish businesses for refusing to serve people in accordance with those beliefs or interfere with schools and businesses setting their own policies of how (or if) to accommodate transgender people. The state wouldn't even be able to punish government employees who refuse to hand out same-sex marriage licenses, but only if it's because of their religious beliefs. To be very clear, this is not some form of Religious Freedom Restoration Act allowing people general but limited exceptions to following laws because of religious beliefs. This is a law that determines only these three beliefs get special protection. The law is in clear violation of the Establishment Clause, which prohibits the government from showing a preference for any particular religious belief. It is blatantly unconstitutional. Objecting to the law, a group of plaintiffs filed suit, and a lower court put an injunction in place to keep it from implementation. The U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals panel did not make a decision about the constitutionality of the law in any way. Instead, the three judges ruled unanimously that the plaintiffs lacked standing at this point to oppose the law. There is no case yet seeking relief from the courts. The ruling notes that in order for the judges to grant standing, it's not enough to argue that the law violates the Establishment Clause—"[the plaintiffs] must allege a personal violation of rights." The panel's decision should not be taken as a determination that the law is constitutional or valid. Assuming the law actually gets implemented, it probably won't be long before somebody will be able to prove the law has affected them. [...]



Documentary on Gawker/Hulk Hogan Case Focuses on Wrong Issues: New at Reason

2017-06-23T15:00:00-04:00

(image) Television critic Glenn Garvin does not think Netflix documentary Nobody Speak: Trials of the Free Press succeeds in making viewers feel for the fate of Gawker after it published the private sex tape starring Hulk Hogan:

The case that's the subject of Nobody Speak is possibly the most fascinating and least significant in the three-century history of media litigation. It's full of depraved sex, villainous intrigue, and lurid betrayals. But its ultimate contribution to legal canon was not exactly epic. As longtime media lawyer Charles Glasser (an interview of whom would have been a welcome addition to Nobody Speak) wrote after the verdict, the case's lesson was simple: "Don't publish secretly-made sex tapes."

The story begins in 2012, when celebrity wrestler Hogan (nom de real life: Terry Bollea) got an unusual gesture of friendship from his best pal, radio shock-jock Bubba the Love Sponge: Hey, wanna sleep with my wife? Hogan knew this was a frequent recreational activity of Bubba (nom de non-perv world: Todd Alan Clem) and the busty Mrs. Sponge and had previously declined to participate But this time, down on his luck—and wallet—after a series of business reverses and an expensive divorce, he agreed.

What Hogan didn't know was that the Sponges routinely and secretly taped these marital guest appearances. (After the case blew up, Bubba claimed Hogan knew all about the taping, but he wouldn't repeat it under oath during the trial.) That might not have mattered except that a copy of the recording, apparently stolen by one of Bubba's employees, found its way into the hands of the scabby gossip website Gawker.

View this article.

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Supreme Court Deals Blow to Property Rights

2017-06-23T14:45:00-04:00

When governments issue regulations that undermine the value of property, bureaucrats don't necessarily have to compensate property holders, the Supreme Court ruled Friday. The court voted 5-3, in Murr V. Wisconsin, a closely watched Fifth Amendment property rights case. The case arose from a dispute over two tiny parcels of land along the St. Croix River in western Wisconsin and morphed into a major property rights case that drew several western states into the debate before the court. Chief Justice John Roberts, in a scathing dissent, wrote that ruling was a significant blow for property rights and would give greater power to government bureaucrats to pass rules that diminish the value of property without having to compensate property owners under the Firth Amendment's Takings Clause. "Put simply, today's decision knocks the definition of 'private property' loose from its foundation on stable state law rules," Roberts wrote. The ruling "compromises the Takings Clause as a barrier between individuals and the press of the public interest." Donna Murr, in a statement provided by the Pacific Legal Foundation, the libertarian law firm that represented the family in the case, said her family was disappointed by the result. "It is our hope that property owners across the country will learn from our experience and not take their property rights for granted," Murr said. "Although the outcome was not what we had hoped for, we believe our case will demonstrate the importance of taking a stand and protecting property rights through the court system when necessary." In 2004, Murr and her siblings sought to sell one of two parcels of land that had been in the family for decades. Murr's parents bought the land in the 1960s, built a cabin on one parcel, and left the other parcel undeveloped as a long-term investment. The family attempted to sell the vacant parcel to pay for renovations to the cabin, but were prevented from doing so by regulations restricting the use of land along rivers like the St. Croix approved by the state in the 1980s, long after the purchase of both lots. Those regulations effectively gutted the value of the Murrs' property. The property was appraised at $400,000 before the Murrs tried to sell it. When the family came to the county, now the only eligible buyer, the county offered $40,000. The Murrs filed a lawsuit against the state and county, arguing that they should be compensated for the lost value of the property, arguing the Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution guarantees governments must compensate property owners when land is seized or otherwise made un-useful for public purposes. To avoid liability in the case, the state and county told the Murrs they could combine the two parcels of land for regulatory purposes. This meant that even though the two pieces of land were separate and the Murr family paid taxes on them separately, the family would be unable to make a takings claim for one of the two parcels. In short, they could sell both lots together, but not one or the other. Lower courts agreed with the government interpretation and the Supreme Court on Friday upheld the court rulings. "Treating the lot in question as a single parcel is legitimate for purposes of this takings inquiry, and this supports the conclusion that no regulatory taking occurred here," Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote in the majority opinion. "They h[...]



Rural Senators and Private Jet Operators Threaten Air Traffic Control Reform

2017-06-23T14:30:00-04:00

A bi-partisan group of senators is attempting to scuttle reform with a Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization bill that leaves the agency in charge of America's costly and outdated air traffic control system. Much of the blame for this quick retreat rests with the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA)—which represents the business jet operators who benefit immensely from the current broken system—and its well-funded effort to lobby rural lawmakers, Bob Poole, Director of Transportation Policy at the Reason Foundation (the non-profit that publishes this website) says. The NBAA has spent $750,000 on lobbying, hiring three different lobbying firms in the first quarter of 2017 alone to make their case directly to Congress. Business jet operators, are getting "a pretty sweet deal," Poole says. "[They] pay a tiny fuel tax that amounts to…one percent of the total aviation tax revenue that goes to FAA," while using up to 15 percent of air traffic control services. The NBAA has also covertly mobilized rural mayors and pressured rural senators to block changes to the current system with front groups like the Association for Aviation Across America (AAAA), Poole says. Among them is Sen. John Thune, (R-S.D.), chairman of the Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, who said there was not sufficient support in his committee to privatize air traffic control. In numerous policy briefs and open letters, the AAAA (chaired by NBAA president Ed Bolen) has peddled the claim that air traffic control reform would decimate rural air service by empowering big airlines to spend resources at only the most profitable urban hubs. The House version of FAA reauthorization (which includes air traffic control reform), however, requires air traffic control service to be maintained for rural airports, Poole says. The House bill also gives smaller regional airlines who service those rural airports the same voting power in its proposed independent air traffic control corporation as larger commercial airlines. By keeping the FAA in charge of operations, these senators are leaving in place a bad model "that every other civilized country has eliminated by separating air traffic control from safety regulation," Poole says. Poole has since the 1970s advocated, in the pages of Reason and on Capitol Hill, spinning off air traffic control into an independent, non-profit corporation managed by industry stakeholders and funded by user fees, not tax dollars. About 60 countries have already adopted this model. In early June President Trump kicked off his "Infrastructure Week" throwing his support behind air traffic control reform. That was followed up by a House FAA reauthorization bill which closely follows Poole's model for reform. Even people responsible for running the air traffic control system have gotten behind the idea. "Five or six former Secretaries of Transportation and the current one, Elaine Chao, all support this. All three of the people who have been in charge of running the FAA's Air Traffic Organization…say we've got to do this," says Poole. Poole also mentions the example of NavCanada, Canada's privatized air traffic control system, whose charter requires it to service numerous airports in vast rural north of the country. Canada's private air traffic control system has also been able to adopt new and safer tec[...]



Rep. Thomas Massie: ‘Obamacare 1.1’ Will ‘Cause a Quicker Death Spiral’

2017-06-23T13:50:00-04:00

Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Kentucky), the self-described Tea Party libertarian who is so cantankerous that he won't even join the House Freedom Caucus despite sharing many of its views, was always one of the most outspoken opponents to the Freedom Caucus-approved American Health Care Act (AHCA). After that bill first failed the House, Massie warned in an interview with me that "We don't really have 218 conservatives here [who] meant what they said when they said they wanted to repeal Obamacare." And just before his Freedom Caucus pals wilted under glare of President Donald Trump, the congressman snarked: "The AHCA is like a kidney stone—the House doesn't care what happens to it, as long as they can pass it."

So what does Massie think about the new Senate attempt to modify the Affordable Care Act? Not much. Our pal Kennedy had the congressman on the show last night, and he dubbed the Better Care Reconciliation Act as "Obamacare 1.1," warning that it may "cause a quicker death spiral." He then added more fuel to the Hot Potato Theory of the Republican Party's motivation for rushing through a bad and unpopular bill: "At some point I realized they didn't care what happened to the House bill as long as they could get it out of the House," Massie said. "The Senate probably just wants to get it out of the Senate." Whole segment here:

src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/sfxKLnVYQJo" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" width="560" height="340" frameborder="0">

Re-read Peter Suderman's critical analysis of Obamacare Lite.

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California Lawmakers Spend More, Avoid Reform: New at Reason

2017-06-23T13:01:00-04:00

(image) The latest budget has new spending but no attempts at serious reform.

Steven Greenhut writes:

Legislators in California announced a budget deal last week that spends a record $125 billion in the general fund. But most interesting isn't what's in the deal, but what isn't.

There's plenty of new spending, of course, but not so much that it outpaces the rate of inflation. There are controversial "trailer" bills that attempt to change the rules in an ongoing recall election and take away power from elected members of the Board of Equalization, the state's tax board. Missing are any attempts at serious reform of existing government programs or ways to stretch the already hefty tax dollars Californians send to Sacramento.

The budget's authors talk quite a lot about funding important priorities, especially the public-education programs that consume an awe-inspiring 43 percent of the general fund. Yet Gov. Jerry Brown (D) and the Democrat-dominated Legislature refuse to confront the main reason such programs typically are so costly and ineffective: public-sector unions.

These unions are so powerful that they stifle cost-saving reforms in every conceivable area of government – from the prison system to policing to transportation programs to the public school and college systems. Union work rules don't allow for experimentation and creativity, or even the firing of poorly performing employees. The state is thus left with just one approach: throwing more money at the problem.

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Supporting Laws Banning Hate Speech Means Supporting Police Raids on People’s Homes

2017-06-23T12:35:00-04:00

If you hate the way police in the United States abuse, threaten, and sometimes kill citizens during routine law enforcement, and you also oppose hate speech and want the government to ban it, take note of how Germany enforces its hate speech laws: They send police to raid people's homes and arrest them. This week German police, in a coordinated effort, raided the homes of 36 people accused of violating the country's hate speech laws. From The New York Times: Most of the raids concerned politically motivated right-wing incitement, according to the Federal Criminal Police Office, whose officers conducted home searches and interrogations. But the raids also targeted two people accused of left-wing extremist content, as well as one person accused of making threats or harassment based on someone's sexual orientation. "The still high incidence of punishable hate posting shows a need for police action," Holger Münch, president of the Federal Criminal Police Office, said in a statement. "Our free society must not allow a climate of fear, threat, criminal violence and violence either on the street or on the internet." Nothing helps prevent a "climate of fear" like police officers busting into dozens of people's homes because they said things the government has outlawed, am I right, folks? Americans who want to create an exception that "hate speech" not be protected by the First Amendment often point to Europe and insist countries with such speech bans are no less free for it. On the theory alone, they're wrong. Prohibiting offensive messages is an imposition on freedom, regardless of whether one favors the laws. You are inherently less free when you face criminal penalties for saying certain things. In practice, we see the obvious truth of hate speech law enforcement: gangs of police officers breaking into people's homes and charging them with crimes. In the context of America's struggles to hold police officers accountable for violent or reckless misconduct, the enforcement of hate speech laws in America would get people killed. And if people think the victims will be those alt-right folks, they're just not paying attention. It's undoubtedly going to be some minority teen who recklessly tweets "Kill Whitey" in response to some news item of the day. Yesterday we noted the government's tendency to unfairly apply speech regulations to benefit the powerful over the disenfranchised is a great reason not to give government power to determine hate speech. We have plenty of other examples showing how hate speech laws would actually play out in the hands of our government. Several years ago the mayor of Peoria arranged for the police to raid the home of a man who made a Twitter account parodying him. After news of the raid went viral, the mayor showed absolutely no remorse for the absurd reason behind it and insisted he was the one who had his freedom of speech trampled. Politicians would like nothing better than to possess the means to punish those who make fun of them. The local college diversity committee wouldn't be meting out punishment. The politicians would. Look at what's happening to hate crime laws. People enacted these laws allegedly to protect minorities from violence based on their identities. Now states have added law enforcement as[...]