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Updated: 2017-09-20T00:00:00-04:00

 



Unlicensed Tour Guides Not Allowed in Savannah: New at Reason

2017-09-20T07:00:00-04:00

(image) Would you trust a tour guide who wasn't licensed?

John Stossel writes:

Michelle Freenor's business almost failed before it began.

That would have been a loss, since her Savannah, Georgia, walking tour gets only good reviews from customers. "Top notch tour guide giving us a lot of history of Savannah's Historic District," said one five-star Yelp review. "Great, informative," said another.

But that didn't matter to Savannah politicians. They said she had to get a government license if she wanted to charge people for tours. And getting the license was difficult.

She had to pay $100 and then "pass a college-level history exam with tons of obscure gotcha questions," Freenor told us. Passing required "three to five months of studying because it was about 120 pages. I had to map out where I was standing, what I was saying."

It's one more example of abuse of licensing rules. Dick Carpenter, author of the book Bottleneckers, lists how these regulations strangle new businesses.

"She also had to do a criminal background check, which meant she had to give a urine sample and a blood sample." Carpenter told me. "She also had to go through a physical fitness test."

No matter, said the city, you must pass the test and you must pay the fee.

View this article.




Brickbat: Constitutional Scholar

2017-09-20T04:00:00-04:00

(image) "There is a fine line between freedom of speech and hate speech," said Lori Stettler, vice chancellor of student affairs at Southern Illinois University. "Once that line is crossed, there is zero tolerance." Stettler tells the student newspaper that any student taking part in a hateful demonstration will face disciplinary action.




Unlicensed Tour Guides Not Allowed in Savannah

2017-09-20T00:15:00-04:00

Michelle Freenor's business almost failed before it began. That would have been a loss, since her Savannah, Georgia, walking tour gets only good reviews from customers. "Top notch tour guide giving us a lot of history of Savannah's Historic District," said one five-star Yelp review. "Great, informative," said another. But that didn't matter to Savannah politicians. They said she had to get a government license if she wanted to charge people for tours. And getting the license was difficult. She had to pay $100 and then "pass a college-level history exam with tons of obscure gotcha questions," Freenor told us. Passing required "three to five months of studying because it was about 120 pages. I had to map out where I was standing, what I was saying." It's one more example of abuse of licensing rules. Dick Carpenter, author of the book Bottleneckers, lists how these regulations strangle new businesses. "She also had to do a criminal background check, which meant she had to give a urine sample and a blood sample." Carpenter told me. "She also had to go through a physical fitness test." No matter, said the city, you must pass the test and you must pay the fee. "The city was making a nice bit of money," says Freenor. A Stossel.com video producer went to Savannah to confront the licensing rules' biggest promoter, Alderman Bill Durrence. "A lot of people think that this fee is just another money grab by the city," he admitted, "but I hear a lot of tour guides saying things that make me cringe." So what? Some of the more popular Savannah tours are "ghost tours." Those tour guides must take the test, too, although it includes no questions about ghosts. The city even had some wrong answers on its test. It claimed "Jingle Bells" was written in Savannah. Most people say it was written in Massachusetts. The test also misidentified the city's largest square. Savannah's politicians demanded aspiring tour guides pass a test that included rules about horse-and-buggy and tram tours, even if the guides only intended to walk. Freenor took the exam and passed it on her first try. But then she got sick; she has lupus. "When I told them, hey, I don't think I can pass the physical this year, I was actually told by a city official, well, I guess you're going to have to find another occupation." Durrence admits, "There were a couple of points that maybe went a little too far in the licensing process, (like) having to have a physical exam periodically, maybe the cost of the test." Yes—politicians routinely go too far. Fortunately, the Institute for Justice, the libertarian law firm where Carpenter works, helped Freenor sue Savannah, and the city backed down. Robert Johnson, one of Freenor's lawyers, points out that such licensing laws violate the guides' right to free speech. "What tour guides do is talk for a living. They're just like stand-up comedians, journalists or novelists. In this country, you don't need a license from government to be able to talk." An Institute for Justice lawsuit got rid of the Washington, D.C., tour guide test, too. Will terrible guides start giving terrible tours because of that? No, says Freenor. "The free market is taking care of itself. Bad tour companies don't last." She's right. Competition is the best way to decide which tour is good. In fact, a recent Institute for Justice study—using Trip Advisor review data—found that tour guide quality was no different after Washington's test was eliminated. Alderman Durrence doesn't like the fact that the market, rather than government, determines consumer service: "Little by little we've managed to get control of some things, but we still don't have control over a lot!" Give me a break. Government control is everywhere and always growing. Freenor says, "It's the free market that made us successful, not the city of Savannah. You shouldn't have to pass a test to be able to tell people where the best ice cream in Savannah is." Watch the video below: src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/FDwpVJXq-lo" allowful[...]



Congress Does Not Want Its War Power

2017-09-20T00:01:00-04:00

The short-lived CBS series Brain Dead, now available on Netflix, is a science-fiction satire about an invasion of Washington, D.C., by extraterrestrial bugs that crawl into people's ears and hijack their minds as part of a plot to conquer the world. But the most implausible aspect of the story is a dramatic Senate committee vote on whether to authorize military action in Syria. In the real world, of course, no such vote is necessary, because the president does whatever he wants with the armed forces he controls while Congress abdicates its constitutional responsibility to decide when the country should go to war. Last week 61 senators showed they are happy with that situation by tabling an amendment that would have forced a debate about endless, metastasizing wars that cost trillions of dollars and thousands of lives without making Americans any safer. The amendment, introduced by Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), would have repealed the 2001 authorization for the use of military force (AUMF) against the perpetrators of the 9/11 attacks and the 2002 resolution approving the war in Iraq. The repeal would have taken effect in six months, giving Congress time to consider the justification for continued U.S. military involvement in Afghanistan, Iraq, and the various other countries supposedly covered by those resolutions. "The war in Afghanistan has gone on 16 years now," Paul said before the vote on his amendment. "We have people who will be fighting in the war…in the next year or so who were not yet born on 9/11. We have long since killed the people who perpetrated 9/11." For years Donald Trump opposed what has become America's longest war, calling it "a total and complete disaster" that has "wasted an enormous amount of blood and treasure." After becoming president, he changed his mind, reaffirming the U.S. commitment to remain in a country where by his own account "we don't know what we are doing." But as far as 61 senators are concerned, there is nothing to debate here. Barack Obama said the 2001 AUMF should be repealed because it was dangerously obsolete. He nevertheless claimed it authorized military action against ISIS, which did not exist when the resolution was passed. Obama belatedly sought congressional permission for that war while insisting he did not need it. But as far as 61 senators are concerned, there is nothing to debate here. Paul notes that Congress never approved U.S. intervention in Libya, Syria, Yemen, Nigeria, or Somalia. As a presidential candidate, Trump criticized such ham-handed meddling in foreign civil wars. As president, not so much. But as far as 61 senators are concerned, there is nothing to debate here. Obama opposed the war in Iraq. So did Trump, although not until after it started. Even Hillary Clinton, who as a senator voted for the war, eventually conceded it was a mistake. "For years now," Paul noted last week, "some senators and candidates have lamented that they voted for the Iraq war." But as far as 61 senators are concerned, there is nothing to debate here. Those 61 senators include every Republican aside from Paul, Mike Lee (Utah), and Dean Heller (Nev.), who opposed tabling Paul's amendment, and Marco Rubio (Fla.), who did not vote. Opponents of the amendment also included 13 Democrats, several of whom have publicly questioned Trump's fitness for office. Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) thinks Trump is a "buffoon." Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) says Trump is attacking "basic institutions of government…in unprecedented ways." Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), who last year remarked that Trump "doesn't seem to know what's happening outside of Trump Tower," recently worried that he "tries to make national security policy or foreign policy through tweeting." In July a hot mic caught Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.) calling Trump "crazy." These senators view the president as ill-informed and reckless, if not mentally unbalanced. That they are nevertheless OK with granting him a blank check to use the world's m[...]



File a FOIA, Get Sued

2017-09-19T16:37:00-04:00

(image) State and local agencies around the country have taken to suing people who file Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests, the Associated Press reports.

The agencies don't sue the citizens for monetary damage, saying they simply want a judge to rule on whether the records ought to be released. But the requesters are responsible for their own legal fees. When agencies deny FOIA requests and lose subsequent lawsuits, by contrast, they are on the hook for the requesters' legal fees. Suing them is a pre-emptive meassure.

The rhetoric around the suits often centers on the privacy rights of government employees. (The requests might involve information about individual officials' salaries, school enrollment, disciplinary records, and so forth.) But the government is supposed to work for the people. When police departments, for example, cite privacy as a reason not to release disciplinary records, they withhold vital information about people the government has entrusted with great power.

A bill in Michigan seeks to ban the practice in that state. It passed the state House unanimously earlier this year.

"Government shouldn't file a lawsuit and go on offense. Either approve the request or deny it," the bill's Republican sponsor, Rep. Klint Kesto, told the Associated Press. "This shouldn't be happening anywhere in the country."




Trump Addresses U.N., Hurricane Maria Smashes Dominica, and U.K. Will Stop Training Myanmar Military: P.M. Links

2017-09-19T16:31:00-04:00

  • (image) Trump addressed U.N. General Assembly today, warning of rogue regimes and "Rocket Man" Kim Jung Un.
  • Hurricane Maria does "mind boggling" damage to Island of Dominica.
  • San Francisco blocks development over "bulky" design.
  • U.K. stops training Myanmar military following its use of violence against the country's Rohingya Muslim minority.
  • Dylann Roof loses bid to fire Jewish, Indian lawyers—his "political and biological enemies."



Wanted: Journalism Intern This Spring in Our D.C. Office

2017-09-19T16:24:00-04:00

Reason is taking applicants for its Burton C. Gray Memorial Internship program. Interns work 12 weeks in our D.C. office with a $5,000 stipend.

Inrerns have the opportunity to report and write for Reason and reason.com, as well as helping with research, proofreading, and other tasks. Previous interns have gone on to work at the The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, ABC News, and Reason itself.

Send your résumé, as many as five writing samples (preferably published clips), and a cover letter by the deadline below to intern@reason.com. Please include "Gray Internship Application" and the season for which you are applying in the subject line.

Paper applications can be sent to:

Gray Internship
Reason
1747 Connecticut Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20009

Spring internships begin Jan. 15. The application deadline is Nov. 1.




Thanks, Obama, for That Unaccountable System of Deadly Drone Strikes!

2017-09-19T15:35:00-04:00

President Donald Trump's administration, specifically the CIA, may soon be unleashing armed drones in airstrikes in foreign countries with much less oversight. Thank President Barack Obama for that. Obama installed a system of using armed drones to kill foreign targets in the war on terror. Many of these strikes happened in countries in which America was not even at war, such as Yemen and Pakistan. He justified the secretive system—eventually described in the press as a "kill list"—under the post-9/11 authorization for war against Al Qaeda. The president ran the drone program through the Pentagon and the CIA with no outside oversight, and he resisted any sort of transparency until enough information leaked out about it that he could no longer ignore it. These drone strikes have been credibly blamed for hundreds of deaths of civilians (including more than 100 children). His administration put the number of civilian deaths much lower, but independent observers have disagreed. Obama sold this program on the basis of his personal, sober judgment. Once the existence of the kill list became public, there was much concern about the lack of due process, but not a whole lot was done to try to stop it, other than a famous filibuster by Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) in 2013. Now the program belongs to Trump. Trump critics may worry that his bombastic temperament will lead to bad drone deployment decisions. Well, we probably won't have to worry about that. What we do have to worry about is a complete abandonment of oversight and accountability under a president who is willing to leave these decisions to others. There were hints earlier in the year that Trump was going to loosen some Obama-era restrictions on CIA drone use. Today NBC is reporting that plans are in the works to cut the brakes and let the drones fly more freely: [CIA Director Mike] Pompeo has pushed for more freedom of action. He wants Trump to authorize the spy agency to strike targets in Afghanistan, which had long been the domain of the military, a senior U.S. official with direct knowledge told NBC News. The New York Times first reported that news last week. The White House also is drafting a new written policy on counterterrorist operations outside of war zones that would supercede the so-called drone playbook that the Obama administration had hoped would govern the decisions of future presidents, several officials said. The drone playbook, known as the Presidential Policy Guidance, or PPG, includes a provision that no strike should go forward unless analysts determine that there is a near-certainty that no civilians will be harmed. And it includes a provision forbidding the addition of new detainees to the U.S. prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The Trump administration is contemplating removing both of those restrictions, officials involved in the planning told NBC News. These developments concern human rights activists, who argue that the CIA is less accountable than the military. "The last thing the U.S. should be doing right now is expanding a global, secret killing program," said Zeke Johnson, senior director of programs for Amnesty International USA. "By its own admission, the U.S. government's use of drones has meant the deaths of civilians and there has been insufficient accountability." Reason TV warned back in 2012 that the Obama administration's secretive use of drone strikes was bad news and would lead to even worse problems down the line. And here we are, down the line: src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/F70kRvNuBTI" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" width="560" height="340" frameborder="0"> [...]



Appeals Court Sides with UVA Fraternity Brothers, Against Rolling Stone in 'Jackie' Rape Dispute

2017-09-19T15:06:00-04:00

Two former members of the University of Virginia's Phi Kappa Psi fraternity have a strong enough defamation argument against Rolling Stone that the case should proceed to trial, an appeals court ruled Tuesday. The decision is a major blow to Rolling Stone's publisher, Jann Wenner—who put the magazine up for sale earlier this week—and to Sabrina Rubin Erdely, the disgraced author of a now thoroughly debunked RS article about a gang rape on UVA's campus. Wenner and Erdely probably thought their legal ordeal was over: RS has already paid out millions of dollars to former UVA dean Nicole Eramo for badly misrepresenting her, and also to Phi Psi for staging the fraternity as the scene of a crime that never happened. But three Phi Psi brothers—George Elias, Ross Fowler, and Stephen Hadford—also filed suit as individuals, arguing that the story specifically and individually defamed them. This suit was dismissed by a New York district court more than a year ago. That dismissal was unsound, according to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals. In her decision to revive the case, Judge Katherine Forrest argued that the lower court had incorrectly ruled out defamation as a plausible verdict with respect to two of the three brothers, Elias and Fowler. You will recall from Reason's exhaustive coverage of the story that a former UVA student, "Jackie," told Erdely that she was lured to an upstairs bedroom at the Phi Psi fraternity by her date, "Drew," a lifeguard and member of Phi Psi. At least nine frat brothers then allegedly beat and raped her, apparently as part of some frat initiation. This claim became the central element of Erdely's story on sexual assault; it collapsed when scrutinized by other journalists—myself among them—after Jackie's numerous lies came to light. No one disputes that Jackie's story was inaccurate—RS eventually retracted—and that no such assault took place at Phi Psi. The question is whether Erdeley and her editors screwed up so colossally that the magazine can actually be held liable for defamation. And now, for a third time, a court has said, yes. The story did not specifically name Elias, Fowler, or Hadford, so at first blush it might seem like their lawsuit is legally unmerited. Under New York law, a person can only be found responsible for defamation if their false statements were "of and concerning" the defendants. But the court of appeals thinks Elias and Fowler, at least, could plausibly meet that test, because "it is not necessary the world should understand the libel; it is sufficient if those who know the plaintiff can make out that she is the person meant," according to earlier decisions in 1980 and 1966. Elias and Fowler contend that they were presumed to be involved in the crime by people who knew them personally, since key details relating to them appeared to match Jackie's descriptions. Elias lived in one of the only rooms on the second floor that would have been capable of holding 10 people. Fowler was, like "Drew," a swimmer and a senior member of Phi Psi responsible for initiating new members. The court of appeals is also letting their "small group defamation" claim proceed. "Taking the allegations in the Article together, a reader could plausibly conclude that many or all fraternity members participated in alleged gang rape as an initiation ritual and all members knowingly turned a blind eye to the brutal crimes," write the judges. This does not mean that the brothers are guaranteed to win at trial. Their case is in some ways weaker than both the suits filed by Eramo and Phi Psi itself, since the article called out both Eramo and Phi Psi by name. "We are disappointed with the Second Circuit's ruling today, but are confident that this case has no merit," said a spokesperson for RS in a statement. But there's no question whether the violent actions att[...]



Hours After Hurricane Irma, Miami-Dade County Tickets Residents For Code Violations

2017-09-19T14:10:00-04:00

(image)

Mere hours after Hurricane Irma, Miami-Dade County was ticketing residents for building code violations on their wrecked properties.

Celso Perez was helping his neighbors remove some fallen trees blocking their street when a county code enforcer rolled up and issued him a safety notice for having a downed fence. "I laughed," Perez tells WSVN-TV. "I thought he was kidding. 'You are kidding right? We just had a hurricane six hours ago.'"

It wasn't a joke. The official told Perez that the downed fence—which encloses a pool—was a safety hazard, and that if it wasn't fixed by the time he returned, Perez would be hit with a fine. The official then hung the safety citation on the portion of Perez's fence that remained standing, leaving him and his neighbors to finish clearing the debris from their street.

According to WSVN, the county has handed out 680 safety notices for downed pool barriers, and another 177 electrical hazard safety notices. Reason reached out to the county to confirm those numbers, but has not received a reply.

From what can be gleaned from the WSVN story and from county code enforcement procedures, these safety notices appear to be just warnings, meaning no fines have been handed out as of yet. Reason tried to confirm this with the county as well, but was again rebuffed.

Still, these warnings carry with them a duty to correct the violation within a specific window of time. That might not even be possible for some residents, given how many businesses are still out of operation.

As Perez said of the day he got his ticket, "All the stores were closed. It's not like I can go to Home Depot and find some temporary barrier."

Even if he could, it's quite possible that Perez and the other people handed citations might have more pressing things to do right after a hurricane than bring their homes back up to code. You know: clearing the streets, seeking medical attention, checking in on family members, trying to find food. You might think the county would have higher priorities too, like getting the lights back on for Miami-Dade's 16,510 homes and businesses still without power.

County officials don't see it that way. "It is important that we reach residents in the immediate aftermath of the storm," one tells WSVN, "because that is when conditions are most dangerous, and taking steps to protect life is a critical part of the recovery process."




Stossel: Tour Guides Under Attack

2017-09-19T14:00:00-04:00

Want to earn money showing someone around? It's not as simple as it sounds. Many cities require a license in order to do that.

For Michelle Freenor, owner of "Savannah Belle Walking Tours" in Savannah, this meant a background check complete with blood and urine samples, a physical fitness test, plus months of studying for a college-level history exam. The city charges $100 every time the exam is taken. She passed on her first try, but many fail.

All of this, just to speak for a living.

Bill Durrence, Alderman of the 2nd District of Savannah, admits parts of the licensing requirements may have gone too far, but said: "the licensing and the testing, I thought was a good idea just to make sure people had the accurate information."

When Michelle was diagnosed with Lupus, she told the city she might not be able to pass the physical. A licensing bureaucrat told her "you'll have to find another occupation... if you don't like it then you can sue us."

So she did.

The Institute for Justice, a libertarian law firm, took her case for free. The Savannah bureaucrats backed down, but it doesn't happen easily, says Dick Carpenter. "There's discovery, depositions are taken... [it can take] months, often years."

But Savannah isn't the only city to create bottlenecks for those who want to give tours: Charleston (SC), New York (NY), Williamsburg (VA), St. Augustine (FL), and New Orleans (LA) all have tests.

Washington, D.C. used to, until the Institute for Justice fought them too. Watch John Stossel give his own segway tour in DC, and learn about yet another way that the government makes it harder for people to find jobs.

It is part three of our Bottleneckers series.

Produced by Naomi Brockwell. Edited by Joshua Swain.

Stossel on Reason

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Coney Island Cop Caught on Video Assaulting Man Over Dropped Drink

2017-09-19T13:00:00-04:00

An officer with the New York Police Department (NYPD) found himself in court this week after losing his shit on someone who failed to follow orders by picking up a plastic cup. The victim told reporters at the Brooklyn Supreme Court yesterday that he's just happy he wasn't killed: "I'm just lucky to be alive. So many people died because of cases like this." Acting Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez said in a statement that the cop, O'Keefe Thompson, "crossed the line by allegedly assaulting a man and later threatening him" over the incident. (Ya think?) The target of Thompson's ire, 23-year-old Raymond Crespo, was at Coney Island in July when a friend knocked a plastic cup out of his hand. Thompson allegedly told Crespo to pick up the cup, and the young man refused. A verbal argument ensued—leading to Officer Thompson slamming Crespo against a nearby bodega doorway, "knocking him to the ground [and] dragging him out onto the sidewalk," according to the Brooklyn District Attorney's Office. After Crespo "was motionless for a few seconds," Thompson "grabbed him again, dragged him several more feet and dropped him to the ground again." Crespo would later be treated at the Coney Island Hospital for head pain, facial swelling and bruising, and a possible concussion. The whole incident was caught on nearby surveillance video. But Thompson's abuse and harassment didn't end there. The next day—after Crespo had filed an official complaint against the officer—Thompson went to Crespo's neighborhood looking for him, according to the district attorney's office. Upon finding Crespo, Thompson confronted him, pointing out the gun in his waistband and asking, "Why are you shitting on my name? Do you know what I'm going to do to you?" This incident was also caught on camera, by members of a crowd that had to physically restrain Officer Thompson to keep him away from Crespo. After turning himself in yesterday, Thompson was indicted on two counts of third-degree assault, two counts of official misconduct, and one count of intimidating a witness. He plead not guilty and is due back in court in November 29. Thompson has also been suspended without pay from the NYPD. According to the New York Daily News, other NYPD officers are under investigation for possibly helping Thompson in his intimidation tactics. [...]



More Than a Third of Americans Have No Idea What the First Amendment Says

2017-09-19T12:44:00-04:00

This morning, my colleague Robby Soave shared the troubling finding that 44 percent of students at four-year universities wrongly believe that the Constitution doesn't protect hate speech. I have some more bad news: Ignorance about our foundational liberties does not stop at the college campus' edge.

When pollsters from the Annenberg Public Policy Center asked what rights the First Amendment protects, fewer than half of American adults (48 percent) were able to conjure the words "freedom of speech"—and that was the most popular answer. Just 15 percent came up with "freedom of religion." Nintey-seven out of 100 did not remember that petitioning the government is covered.

Overall, more than a third (37 percent) said they didn't know or couldn't name any rights protected by the First Amendment.

(image)

The survey was conducted in mid-August and released last week to commemorate the 230th anniversary of the signing of the U.S. Constitution, which was Sunday.

Beyond the less-than-confidence-inspiring responses to the query about the First Amendment, the poll also found that a third of Americans could not name any of the three branches of government, and that one in five did not realize atheists have the same constitutional rights as other Americans.

You might also enjoy this video:

src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/i_4-BqSIUD8" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" width="560" height="315" frameborder="0">




19-Year-Old Girl Has Sex with Underage Teen; Years Later, She's a Mom and a Sex Offender for Life

2017-09-19T12:20:00-04:00

(image) Shawna is a 35-year-old woman who is legally prohibited from taking her kids to the park. That's because she's a sex offender.

Years earlier, on her 19th birthday, Shawna and her friends were drinking and celebrating. A teen boy expressed interest in her, and they slept together. He turned out to be 14 years old. His mother notified the authorities.

Now Shawna is spending the rest of her life on the sex offender registry, even though the mother of two is obviously no threat to children.

The Marshall Project recently released a short video interview with Shawna; it's part of Untouchable, a documentary by David Feige* about sex offender laws. I challenge anyone to watch the interview (embedded below) and not feel heartbroken for Shawna. This is a woman who made a mistake as a teenager—with another teenager—and will be paying for it the rest of her life. Employers have fired her when they learned about her status. She struggles to explain to her kids why their mother faces so many restrictions, and she must deal with the pariah status afforded to people who have been branded with "lewd or indecent proposals/acts to child" on a national online database.

Shawna's story is just one more example of why sex offender registries are cruel and unjust. For every truly dangerous predator on the list, there are countless others who carry the "sex offender" label because they sexted a fellow teen or failed to realize they were hooking up with someone on the wrong side of the age-of-consent line. These people are very unlikely to reoffend, so there's little practical reason to continue shaming them by maintaining a public list of their names.

src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/eWPtAJS1kro" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" width="560" height="340" frameborder="0">

*The spelling of the filmmaker's name has been corrected.




California Poised to Block Police from Helping DHS Detain Immigrants—Sometimes

2017-09-19T11:45:00-04:00

Taking the reverse route of Texas, California lawmakers have passed a law restricting the ability of state and local police to cooperate with federal immigration officials. The bill, SB 54, has been watered down since it was first introduced. This was at the insistence of Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown, who wanted to make sure police and jailers can still help the feds deport people convicted of serious crimes. The law allows police to cooperate with federal information and detention requests only when an arrested illegal immigrant has been convicted of certain crimes within a given time range. The crimes range from rape and murder to stalking, hate crimes, drug trafficking, and elder abuse; the time range is either five or 15 years, depending on the details of the offense. (To read the full list, go here.) One change made to the bill, the Los Angeles Times notes, is that California prisons will still be allowed to let federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials in to interview immigrants. That's one of the demands Attorney General Jeff Sessions has made for municipalities that want to keep receiving federal crime-fighting grants. SB 54 also calls on the state to develop mechanisms to minimize federal access to database information held by state and local agencies (and private vendors), if the info will be used for immigration enforcement. Though SB 54 goes through great pains to make it clear that police and jails can cooperate with ICE when dealing with an illegal immigrant with a criminal record, that has not reduced the Justice Department's criticisms of the legislation. A department spokesperson has declared the bill will "return criminal aliens back onto our streets." But right now the department has a bigger problem. Late Friday a federal judge put a block on enforcement of new Justice Department rules aimed at forcing sanctuary cities to help the feds deport illegal immigrants. The Justice Department has been trying to tie immigration enforcement to access to federal crime-fighting grants. In July it announced that in order to get access to a specific grants program, cities and counties had to permit Department of Homeland Security (DHS) officials into any detention facility to determine the immigration status of anybody being held there. In addition, local jails had to inform DHS 48 hours before releasing somebody in their custody if they had received a detainer order (a request from DHS to hold a deportable immigrant until a federal official can take the prisoner into custody). Chicago sued to block the implementation of these rules, and a U.S. district judge concluded the city is likely to win. So he has implemented a nationwide injunction stopping the feds from enforcing the rules. This doesn't mean Chicago has won yet; the rules are merely suspended for now as the case works through the courts. The new rules the Justice Department is attempting to implement do have some constitutional problems. The conditions Sessions is attempting to implement are not authorized by the text of the law, and so the executive branch is arguably bypassing Congress' power to set the terms for the grants. Furthermore, Chicago has argued that it's unconstitutional to require the city to hold people for 48 hours (or more) for the purpose of handing them over to immigration officials. To read more about Chicago's suit, go here. [...]



Let’s Lay Off the 1930s Reenactments: New at Reason

2017-09-19T11:25:00-04:00

(image) Eroding faith in free markets and civil liberties, populist politicians, political street fights… Didn't our great-grandparents already try this sort of stupidity?

J.D. Tuccille writes:

We can be forgiven, I think, for wondering if historical reenactors are looking to the 1930s for inspiration and excitement. Two groups of losers (to borrow a favorite pejorative of the moment)—white supremacists/neo-Nazis and antifa/neo-communists—have revived the hoary collectivist ideologies of that era in a seemingly conscious effort to live out their Weimar dreams of heroic street fighting.

It would be bad enough if the 1930s reenactments were confined to bloody clashes in the streets, but they're not. Then, as now, those clashes were the outcome of a larger loss of faith in individualism, tolerance, and the sort of open, unbossy, relatively live-and-let-live society that we sum up, within broad parameters, as liberal democracy.

View this article.




Climate Change Will Reduce Incomes in 2100 from $97,000 to $95,000

2017-09-19T11:05:00-04:00

(image) The Yale economist William Nordhaus has spent decades using a combination of econometric and climate models to estimate global warming's future effects. He isn't the only researcher who's been attempting to make such projections, and Nordhaus' latest study considers a range of different estimates. (Get your salt shaker ready.)

In a new National Bureau of Economic Research working paper, Nordhaus and his colleague Andrew Moffatt survey 36 different estimates (derived from 27 studies) of climate change's impact on gross world product by the year 2100. Nordhaus and Moffatt note that "there are many studies of theoretical temperature increases in the 2 to 4°C range, and that they cluster in the range of a loss of 0 to 4% of global output." After crunching the numbers, they report:

The estimated impact from the preferred regression is 1.63% of income at 3°C warming and 6.53% of income at a 6°C warming. We make a judgmental adjustment of 25% to cover unquantified sectors....With this adjustment, the estimated impact is -2.04 (+ 2.21)% of income at 3°C warming and -8.16 (+ 2.43)% of income at a 6°C warming.

The authors note that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's Fifth Assessment Report declined to make an estimate of future losses, but in the Fourth Report, the panel stated that "Global mean losses could be 1 to 5% of GDP for 4°C of warming." This means that Nordhaus and Moffatt's findings are broadly in line with the climate change consensus.

So what do these findings portend for people lucky enough to be alive in 2100? Let's consider the best-case scenario first. Annual gross world product is currently somewhere around $75 trillion, which without adjustments means that global income stands at around $10,000 per capita. Assume 3 percent economic growth from now until 2100, and a global population that year of 9 billion. Without climate change, world GDP would rise to $872 trillion and income would be $97,000 per capita. Assuming a 3°C increase in average temperature, that would reduce global GDP from $872 trillion to $854 trillion, and income to $95,000 per capita. At 6°C, the figures would be $800 trillion and $89,000 per capita.

In the unlikely event that global economic growth dawdles along at only 2 percent per year for the rest of this century, gross world product would rise to only $388 trillion and income to $43,000 per capita without warming. A 3°C rise in average temperature would reduce global GDP to $380 trillion and income to $42,000 per person; a 6°C increase would cut global GDP to $360 trillion and income to $40,000 per person.

The Nordhaus and Moffatt survey of studies also found "no indication from the damage estimates of a sharp discontinuity or high convexity." In other words, the studies do not identify threshold effects in which damages from climate change accelerate in the future.

These calculations bring up this question: How much should people living today making an average of $10,000 apiece spend in order to prevent the future incomes from falling from $97,000 to $95,000 per capita?

Now is the time to get out your salt shaker and liberally apply the sodium chloride to these calculations.




The GOP’s New Obamacare Repeal Bill Shouldn’t Pass. It Might Anyway.

2017-09-19T10:42:00-04:00

After nine months of political failure, Senate Republicans, you may have heard, are closer than ever to passing a bill that would repeal, or at least rewrite, Obamacare. Legislation introduced last week by Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Bill Cassidy (R-LA) that would repeal Obamacare's individual mandate and convert it into a system of state-administered block grants appears to be gaining momentum, with some reports suggesting that it may be just a few votes short. This is true, but then, Senate Republicans have been just a few votes shy of a majority to repeal Obamacare all year long. A number of high-profile holdouts remain, and passing the bill would require a handful of GOP lawmakers to break their word. In some sense, little has changed. On the merits, and on the politics, this bill shouldn't pass. And yet it still could. There is one important factor that is different: Thanks to Senate rules, Republicans know they have a strict deadline. After September 30, the procedural vehicle that allows Senate Republicans to pass a health care bill with a simple majority vote expires. This means they have less than two weeks to make good on their promise to repeal and replace the health care law. In other words, it's their last chance. They might take it. The list of holdouts will, at this point, be mostly familiar to anyone who has followed the saga of Obamacare repeal this year. Sens. Collins (Maine) and Murkowski (Alaska) have always had concerns about the way the bills treat Medicaid and Planned Parenthood funding. The new legislation, which would convert Medicaid into a block grant over time and defund Planned Parenthood, wouldn't address those concerns. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) who cast a deciding vote against the last repeal bill, in July, citing the rushed and secretive way in which it was handled, still has process concerns: He wants regular order, with the opportunity for debate and amendments, which would not seem to be possible given the compressed timeline required under Senate rules. The Congressional Budget Office has already indicated it will not have a complete score ready until sometime next month. McCain remains undecided. Other objections are somewhat more novel. Sen. John Kennedy, (R-La.), for example, said yesterday that he worries that in its current form the bill would let liberal states erect government-run single payer systems. Somehow we have arrived at the point in this debate in which a Republican legislator is worried that passing a bill dubbed Obamacare repeal would actually pave the way for fully government run systems. His concern is not entirely unfounded, however. The legislation would give states far more flexibility to regulate and manage how Obamacare dollars are spent, meaning that liberal states could plausibly put the block grant money they received toward funding single payer, although it probably wouldn't be enough on its own to make the budget math work. States that hoped to innovate in a more market oriented direction, meanwhile, would have more flexibility than under current law, but would face more restrictions than their liberal counterparts. The bill would allow all states to experiment, but it is tilted towards experiments in increased government intervention. The block grant design, meanwhile, has led to criticisms that the bill would not really repeal Obamacare, but would merely kick its administration down to the states while retaining most of its spending. This is the chief objection raised by Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), who has consistently opposed Republican health care legislation this year and has em[...]



Venezuelan Price Controls Lead to Predictable Shortages: New at Reason

2017-09-19T10:00:00-04:00

(image) Venezuela continues to provide cautionary lessons on socialism.

Marian Tupy writes:

Yesterday, Bloomberg had an interesting article about food shortages in Venezuela. Contrary to popular perception, the Venezuelan shops are not empty. Bakeries, for example, offer "a wide variety of freshly-made breads," including, "a fat, dense loaf called the gallego, or a soft sobado." Conversely, "the canilla, a soft, buttery take on the baguette that's been the beloved bread of choice in this South American country for decades," is missing from the shelves. Why?

The canilla has disappeared because its price is set by the state. The price of the bread is "set at such a low level—1,500 bolivars versus the 4,500 to 7,500 a gallego commands—that bakers complain it doesn't come close to covering their costs. So they use new-found supplies of wheat in the country to bake every other kind of bread imaginable."

Say what you will about socialism, it always follows a predictable pattern. In an attempt to make something available to everyone, the socialists ensure that it is not available to anyone (except for the politically well-connected). As a child growing up behind the Iron Curtain, I recall constant shortages of basic foodstuffs. The price of meat, for instance, was kept artificially low due to political considerations. Low prices created an impression of affordability. On their trips abroad, communists would often boast that workers in the Soviet empire could buy and produce more meat than their Western counterparts. In reality, shops were often empty.

View this article.




Venezuelan Price Controls Lead to Predictable Shortages

2017-09-19T10:00:00-04:00

Yesterday, Bloomberg had an interesting article about food shortages in Venezuela. Contrary to popular perception, the Venezuelan shops are not empty. Bakeries, for example, offer "a wide variety of freshly-made breads," including, "a fat, dense loaf called the gallego, or a soft sobado." Conversely, "the canilla, a soft, buttery take on the baguette that's been the beloved bread of choice in this South American country for decades," is missing from the shelves. Why? The canilla has disappeared because its price is set by the state. The price of the bread is "set at such a low level—1,500 bolivars versus the 4,500 to 7,500 a gallego commands—that bakers complain it doesn't come close to covering their costs. So they use new-found supplies of wheat in the country to bake every other kind of bread imaginable." Say what you will about socialism, it always follows a predictable pattern. In an attempt to make something available to everyone, the socialists ensure that it is not available to anyone (except for the politically well-connected). As a child growing up behind the Iron Curtain, I recall constant shortages of basic foodstuffs. The price of meat, for instance, was kept artificially low due to political considerations. Low prices created an impression of affordability. On their trips abroad, communists would often boast that workers in the Soviet empire could buy and produce more meat than their Western counterparts. In reality, shops were often empty. The deleterious consequences of price controls should not come as a surprise to anyone with a basic understanding of economics, including supply and demand, and the role that free markets play in allowing the price mechanism to function properly. Back in 1979, Robert Schuettinger of Oxford University and Eamonn Butler of the Adam Smith Institute wrote a brilliant series of essays entitled Forty Centuries of Wage and Price Controls: How Not to Fight Inflation. The authors noted that price and wage controls go back, at the very least, 4,000 years to ancient Egypt. "For centuries the Egyptian government strived to maintain control of the grain crop, knowing that control of food is control of lives. Using the pretext of preventing famine, the government gradually regulated more and more of the granaries; regulation led to direction and finally to outright ownership; land became the property of the monarch and was rented from him by the agricultural class." According to the French historian, Jean-Philippe Levy, "There was a whole army of inspectors [in Egypt]. There was nothing but inventories, censuses of men and animals … estimations of harvests to come... In villages, when farmers who were disgusted with all these vexations ran away, those who remained were responsible for absentees' production... [one of the first effects of harsh price controls on farm goods is the abandonment of farms and the consequent fall in the supplies of food]. The pressure [the inspectors] applied extended, in case of need, to cruelty and torture." As Venezuelans can attest, the basic laws of economics have not changed since the time of Hammurabi. And, as they can also attest, neither have the means—cruelty and torture—by which governments attempt to make price controls work in real world. [...]



Study: 44% of Students Incorrectly Think the First Amendment Does Not Protect Hate Speech

2017-09-19T09:10:00-04:00

(image) It is not just a matter of wanting authority figures to prohibit other people from engaging in offensive speech: A near-majority of surveyed college students think hate speech is already outside the bounds of legal protection.

A new study conducted by the Brookings Institution's John Villasenor, a professor at the University of California-Los Angeles, asked 1,500 students at four-year universities about their views on the free speech, and the results are unsettling.

The greatest number, 44 percent answered "no" when asked if the First Amendment protects hate speech. Just 39 percent of students answered correctly and 16 percent answered "don't know."

Men were more likely than women to say hate speech was protected (51 percent vs. 31 percent.) And while conservative students are often thought to be more in favor of free speech than their liberal counterparts—at least in the present campus censorship wars—the study suggests this reputation is undeserved. Just 44 percent of self-identified Republicans said that hate speech was protected by the First Amendment, compared with 39 percent of Democrats and 40 percent of independents.

A striking majority of surveyed students—51 percent—thought "shouting so that the audience cannot hear" was a valid tactic for opposing a controversial speaker. Violence was acceptable to 19 percent of respondents.

"Across most categories, and in the aggregate, the majority of students appear to prefer an environment in which their institution is expected to create an environment that shelters them from offensive views," wrote Villasenor. "The exceptions are among Republicans and Independents, though even in those categories nearly half of the students still expressed a preference for the more sheltered environment."

It's not just a matter of preference, however. Given that a majority of students incorrectly say the First Amendment doesn't protect hate speech, or that they don't know whether it does, we must also consider sheer ignorance as an explanation for the waves of student-led shut downs on American campuses in recent years.

Teenagers are somehow making it through 12 years of primary education without absorbing the most basic civics lesson: The founding documents of the United States of America zealously protect people who make offensive statements from censorship at the hands of government officials or violent mobs.




A.M. Links: Trump Speaks at U.N. Today, Toys 'R' Us Files for Bankruptcy, Hurricane Maria Heads for Puerto Rico

2017-09-19T09:00:00-04:00

  • (image) President Donald Trump will speak at the United Nations today.
  • "US investigators wiretapped former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort under secret court orders before and after the election, sources tell CNN, an extraordinary step involving a high-ranking campaign official now at the center of the Russia meddling probe."
  • Toys 'R' Us has filed for bankruptcy.
  • Defense Secretary Jim Mattis: The North Koreans "are intentionally doing provocations that seem to press against the envelope for just how far can they push without going over some kind of a line, in their minds, that would make them vulnerable."
  • Officials in Puerto Rico are urging residents to evacuate as Hurricane Maria, a Category 5 storm, closes in.

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Mississippi's Jump-Out Boys: New at Reason

2017-09-19T08:05:00-04:00

(image) Betty Jean Tucker, a 62-year-old resident of Canton, Mississippi, says she was hosting a barbecue for family and friends in 2014 when several unmarked cars appeared. Plainclothes deputies from the Madison County Sheriff's Department (MCSD) jumped out. Without a warrant, they detained and searched all her guests, going so far as to rummage through everyone's pockets, she says. After finding nothing, the deputies got back in their cars and drove off without explanation.

It wasn't the first time Tucker had a run-in with the MCSD. About five years ago, she says, her teenage grandson was in her front yard, fixing his brother's bicycle, when an unmarked truck sped toward him and stopped. Two plainclothes officers jumped out, tackled him to the ground, and searched him. Again finding nothing, the deputies left. Tucker shouted at them, asking what he had done. "Tell your grandson to wear a shirt next time," they allegedly replied.

Tucker is now a named plaintiff in an American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) class action lawsuit against Madison County. The suit, filed in May, alleges that the sheriff's department and its plainclothes "jump-out" squads systematically target and violate the Fourth Amendment and 14th Amendment rights of residents like her just for being black and living in the wrong place, writes C.J. Ciaramella.

View this article.




Mississippi's Jump-Out Boys

2017-09-19T06:00:00-04:00

Betty Jean Tucker, a 62-year-old resident of Canton, Mississippi, says she was hosting a barbecue for family and friends in 2014 when several unmarked cars appeared. Plainclothes deputies from the Madison County Sheriff's Department (MCSD) jumped out. Without a warrant, they detained and searched all her guests, going so far as to rummage through everyone's pockets, she says. After finding nothing, the deputies got back in their cars and drove off without explanation. It wasn't the first time Tucker had a run-in with the MCSD. About five years ago, she says, her teenage grandson was in her front yard, fixing his brother's bicycle, when an unmarked truck sped toward him and stopped. Two plainclothes officers jumped out, tackled him to the ground, and searched him. Again finding nothing, the deputies left. Tucker shouted at them, asking what he had done. "Tell your grandson to wear a shirt next time," they allegedly replied. Tucker is now a named plaintiff in an American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) class action lawsuit against Madison County. The suit, filed in May, alleges that the sheriff's department and its plainclothes "jump-out" squads systematically target and violate the Fourth Amendment and 14th Amendment rights of residents like her just for being black and living in the wrong place. The dozens of similar stories unearthed in the ACLU's suit and a subsequent Reason investigation are stunning, but the Madison County Sheriff's Department's tactics are not unique. Paloma Wu, a Mississippi ACLU attorney, says they only represent a "sharpened iteration" of the methods used widely in other places across the country. The ACLU is also suing Milwaukee for its high-volume stop-and-frisk program, which the civil rights group says subjects minority residents to suspicionless searches. Milwaukee Police Chief Ed Flynn is a disciple of "broken windows" policing—the theory that a heavy police presence in a community, combined with proactive enforcement of low-level nuisance crimes, will deter more serious offenses. Under Flynn, the combined number of police traffic and pedestrian stops in Milwaukee nearly tripled in an eight-year period, rising from 66,657 in 2007 to 196,434 in 2015, according to the lawsuit. And minorities bear the brunt of that saturation policing. Flynn argues the strategy logically focuses on areas with the most crime. In practice, however, community activists and civil rights groups say these strategies make minority residents feel like they're under siege from police. It's also expensive. In 2016, the city of Milwaukee paid out $5 million to 74 black residents who said they were illegally strip-searched. If nothing else, the policy hurts relations between neighborhoods and police. Earlier this year, the Baltimore Police Department declared that it was ending its use of plainclothes police known as "jump-out boys" or "knockers" by locals. The announcement came after the federal indictment of seven Baltimore plainclothes officers on charges of robbery, extortion, racketeering, and filing false police reports. The Metropolitan Police Department in Washington, D.C., used to have an aggressive jump-out squad that operated in the poorer wards of the District, but the city disbanded these vice squads amid community complaints in 2015. "Half of the time, they pull you over, or if you walking and they stop you, [it's because], oh, you fit a description," a black high school student i[...]



Brickbat: Never Mind

2017-09-19T04:00:00-04:00

(image) Cumberland County, North Carolina, schools superintendent Tim Kinlaw has apologized for canceling a school environmental program that used the Marquis de Lafayette, for whom Fayetteville is named, for its mascot. Kinlaw says he canceled the program because some members of the community complained that Lafayette was a slave owner. He says he has since learned that Lafayette was actually an abolitionist who bought slaves only to free them.




Let’s Lay Off the 1930s Reenactments

2017-09-19T00:01:00-04:00

We can be forgiven, I think, for wondering if historical reenactors are looking to the 1930s for inspiration and excitement. Two groups of losers (to borrow a favorite pejorative of the moment)—white supremacists/neo-Nazis and antifa/neo-communists—have revived the hoary collectivist ideologies of that era in a seemingly conscious effort to live out their Weimar dreams of heroic street fighting. It would be bad enough if the 1930s reenactments were confined to bloody clashes in the streets, but they're not. Then, as now, those clashes were the outcome of a larger loss of faith in individualism, tolerance, and the sort of open, unbossy, relatively live-and-let-live society that we sum up, within broad parameters, as liberal democracy. "Democracy has become much more dysfunctional in the West, and particularly in the United States, I think more than anywhere else," Adrian Wooldridge told a Harvard Business School interviewer after the 2014 publication of his book, The Fourth Revolution: the Global Race to Reinvent the State. "And that is it seems to be completely gridlocked, it seems to be incapable of taking long-term decisions, and it seems to have become a prisoner of various interest groups." Writing before the rise of Trump, as well as of populist movements and politicians across Europe, Wooldridge, Management Editor of The Economist, and co-author John Micklethwait, former editor-in-chief of the same magazine, posited that modern democracies have paralyzed themselves with unaffordable welfare-state commitments. "Ever-bigger government meant ever-greater social dysfunction. Vested interests competed ever more viciously for their share of the pie," they write in the book. Debt-ridden and sclerotic, democratic governments are unable to keep their promises or clean up their messes, and so anger their constituents. In desperation, voters look further and further afield for solutions—even to explicitly authoritarian fixes and demagogues who finger unpopular groups or classes to blame. We've been here before. In the 1920s and 1930s, after the bloodbath of the Great War and even more with the onset of the Great Depression, Americans and Europeans also lost faith in liberal democracy. "In the wake of global economic disaster, there was no particular reason to prefer the political system most closely associated with capitalism—liberal democracy—to new systems that promised a brighter future," muses historian Wolfgang Schivelbusch in his 2006 book, Three New Deals. The fate of Weimar Germany is well-known, as is the rise of authoritarianism and totalitarianism across most of Europe of the time. But the U.S. did better only by comparison. The atmosphere in Washington, D.C. was "strangely reminiscent of Rome in the first weeks after the march of the Blackshirts, of Moscow at the beginning of the Five-Year Plan.…America today literally asks for orders," the New York Times reported on May 7, 1933. In short order, administration officials including Hugh Johnson, Rex Tugwell, and even President Franklin Delano Roosevelt were openly praising the policies and precedents set by Italian dictator Benito Mussolini. And they weren't fond of naysayers. "Roosevelt appointed loyalists to the Federal Communications Commission who made it clear that licenses would be revoked for broadcasters who aired programs critical of the government," Thaddeus Russ[...]



Hillary Clinton's Flirtation with the Universal Basic Income

2017-09-18T17:50:00-04:00

Here's an unexpected nugget of news in Hillary Clinton's new memoir: At the outset of her last presidential campaign, she thought about calling for a universal basic income. But she rejected the idea when she realized the only ways to afford it involved either "a lot of new taxes" or "cannibalizing other important programs." Here is the relevant passage from the book, via Vox: Before I ran for President, I read a book called With Liberty and Dividends for All: How to Save Our Middle Class When Jobs Don't Pay Enough, by Peter Barnes, which explored the idea of creating a new fund that would use revenue from shared national resources to pay a dividend to every citizen, much like how the Alaska Permanent Fund distributes the state's oil royalties every year. Shared national resources include oil and gas extracted from public lands and the public airwaves used by broadcasters and mobile phone companies, but that gets you only so far. If you view the nation's financial system as a shared resource, then you can start raising real money from things like a financial transactions tax. Same with the air we breathe and carbon pricing. Once you capitalize the fund, you can provide every American with a modest basic income every year. Besides cash in people's pockets, it would also be a way of making every American feel more connected to our country and to one another—part of something bigger than ourselves. I was fascinated by this idea, as was my husband, and we spent weeks working with our policy team to see if it could be viable enough to include in my campaign. We would call it "Alaska for America." Unfortunately, we couldn't make the numbers work. To provide a meaningful dividend each year to every citizen, you'd have to raise enormous sums of money, and that would either mean a lot of new taxes or cannibalizing other important programs. We decided it was exciting but not realistic, and left it on the shelf. That was the responsible decision. I wonder now whether we should have thrown caution to the wind and embraced "Alaska for America" as a long-term goal and figured out the details later. The basic income has libertarian fans too, but in liberland "cannibalizing" other arms of the government is a feature, not a bug. You replace a bunch of separate bureaucracies with a single, simpler, less intrusive, and (if the numbers work out right) cheaper program. That's the big draw. I don't suppose it's news that Hillary Clinton isn't Milton Friedman, but it's telling that she saw this as a dealbreaker. It's possible that another Democrat will embrace some version of the basic income in the 2020 race. But not Joe Biden: Today the former vice president published a blog post attacking the idea. Instead of cutting checks with no strings attached, Biden wrote, the government should be "recognizing that 12 years of school is [sic] no longer enough" and putting more money into job retraining. Bonus link: For a deep dive into the history and prospects of the basic income, in all its mutually exclusive incarnations, see my story on the subject in the July Reason. [...]



Harvard's Spineless Administrators vs. Chelsea Manning: Podcast

2017-09-18T16:45:00-04:00

Is Bernie's single-payer health care bill a serious threat? Whistleblower Chelsea Manning and murderess-cum-academic Michelle Jones aren't welcome at Harvard—does it matter?

On today's episode of the Reason Podcast, Nick Gillespie, Katherine Mangu-Ward, Matt Welch, and Andrew Heaton talk spineless university administrators, "Medicare for all," and Sen. Rand Paul's (R-Ky.) push for a floor vote to sunset the 2001 and 2002 Authorizations for Use of Military Force.

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St. Louis Protests Persist, Defense Fund for Michael Flynn, Scary Clowns Back in the News: P.M. Links

2017-09-18T16:30:00-04:00

  • (image) Protests continue in St. Louis following the acquittal of a police officer for killing a black man after a car chase. The Department of Justice says they will not be filing federal civil rights charges against the officer. And eyewitness say they saw police chanting "Whose streets? Our streets?" after breaking up protests.
  • Republicans say again they're closing in on votes to repeal the Affordable Care Act via a bill pushed by Sens. Lindsey Graham and Bill Cassidy, though Sen. Rand Paul is not a supporter.
  • Former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn has started a legal defense fund over the federal investigation of his ties to Russia and the country's alleged attempt to meddle in the presidential election.
  • The Navy has fired two more officers over recent fatal ship collisions.
  • Scary clown panic is back, this time leading to gunfire and criminal charges. There was an actual scary clown though, a dad who decided to terrify his 6-year-old child as a form of discipline. That seems … counterintuitive … but I've never had kids.
  • Activists in the Rohingya Muslim minority group in Myanmar claim that Facebook is removing posts documenting the ethnic cleansing targeting them.
  • Below is either the worst or best Congressional campaign ad of the fall. I cannot decide. It is possibly both:

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




Will the Supreme Court Stop Politicians from Choosing Their Voters?

2017-09-18T15:55:00-04:00

The Supreme Court may soon decide whether a state's electoral districts can be so stacked toward one party that they violate the Constitution. The case, Gill v. Whitford, revolves around the district boundaries established by the Wisconsin state legislature after the 2010 census. That map helped Republicans to win 60 of 99 legislative seats, even though Democrats won more votes statewide—1,417,359 to the GOP's 1,249,562. Such partisan redistricting is known as gerrymandering, after Massachusetts Gov. Elbridge Gerry, who in 1812 signed an egregious redistricting bill. (One of the voting districts it created resembled the shape of a salamander—thus, "gerrymander.") A new Harvard study, "Why Competition in the Politics Industry Is Failing America," argues that pervasive gerrymandering is one of the practices that is making our political system so dysfunctional. The authors, Katherine Gehl and Michael Porter, write: The politics industry is different from virtually all other industries in the economy because the participants, themselves, control the rules of competition. There is no truly independent regulation of politics that protects the public interest. Free from regulation and oversight, the duopoly does exactly what one would fear: The rivals distort the rules of competition in their favor. Examples of this includes controlling access to the general election ballot, partisan gerrymandering, and the Hastert Rule, which puts partisan concerns above legislating for the public interest. As Gehl and Porter point out, gerrymandering reduces competition by creating "safe seats" for one party, which reduces the accountability of elected representatives from gerrymandered districts since they answer chiefly to voters in their party primary. When the case comes before it on October 3, the Supreme Court may overcome its past reluctance to intervene in how the coequal legislative branch of government sets its electoral rules. Although the Court may be tempted to rule in favor of institutional changes such as establishing independent electoral commissions to decide district boundaries, recent research finds that such bodies aren't any fairer than state legislatures. Perhaps recent advances in social science can help the court derive a set of objective principles for creating fair voting districts. As I reported earlier, some researchers suggest that the "efficiency gap" be used as metric for determining constitutionally forbidden excessive gerrymandering. The efficiency gap is "the difference between the parties' respective wasted votes in an election, divided by the total number of votes cast." Votes are deemed "wasted" if they are cast for a defeated candidate or cast in excess of those needed to elect a winning candidate; if a party is simultaneously getting an unusually high number of landslide victories and an unusually high number of crushing losses, that would be a sign of gerrymandering. Another set of researchers have devised algorithms that draw voting district boundaries based on contiguity, geographical compactness, and a difference in population of no more than 0.1 percent. When comparing a set of randomly drawn maps using this algorithm to the actual electoral maps adopted by the state legislature, the researchers found in[...]