(image) Donald Trump says the presidential election is "rigged." Of course, he equivocates over the word rigged to include voter fraud along with news-media/polling bias—two very different things. The former suggests that the outcome is predetermined, the latter only that influential organizations try to move voters in a particular direction. One might also say that Trump has helped "rig" the election against himself with his inveterate estrangement from the truth and his braggadocio about sexual assault.
But there's another side to the "rigged election" charge that's bound to go unnoticed, writes Sheldon Richman. The American political system, like all political systems, requires a good deal of peaceful cooperation to operate. This is obviously relevant to the much-touted peaceful transfer of power in the United States, which Trump is now said to jeopardize. And the peaceful transfer of power in America is relevant to the case for anarchism, argues Richman. Most people who reject anarchism do so largely because they believe that without the state as an enforcer of at least last resort, internally generated cooperation would be inadequate to sustain a peaceful and efficient society. Thus an ostensibly external agency—the state—is necessary to impose the minimum degree of cooperation required for society to run smoothly. But if the public's implicit or explicit ideology can sustain a state, we have no reason to believe it could not sustain a stateless society?
(image) President Barack Obama has taken his Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) pitch on the road, hoping to rally support for the controversial trade deal. Meanwhile, reports Vincent Caruso, ex–Rage Against the Machine guitarist Tom Morello has kicked off a politically fueled road trip of his own. With the support of nonprofit Fight for the Future, Morello's own Firebrand Records, and a musically diverse lineup of ideologically unified comrades, the nationwide Rock Against the TPP tour will compete with the president for hearts and minds with the ultimate goal of stopping "the biggest corporate power grab in history."
2016-10-23T06:00:00-04:00President Barack Obama has taken his Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) pitch on the road, hoping to rally support for the controversial trade deal. Meanwhile, ex–Rage Against the Machine guitarist Tom Morello has kicked off a politically fueled road trip of his own. With the support of nonprofit Fight for the Future, Morello's own Firebrand Records, and a musically diverse lineup of ideologically unified comrades, the nationwide Rock Against the TPP tour will compete with the president for hearts and minds with the ultimate goal of stopping "the biggest corporate power grab in history." For the Morello militia, no sphere of civil life is safe from the ravages of trade. "If it becomes law, the TPP...poses a grave threat to good-paying jobs, internet freedom, the environment, access to medicine, food safety, and the future of freedom of expression," the tour's website warns hysterically. But the very concept of "rocking" against the TPP has an unavoidable irony embedded in it. To rock, one must have a guitar. And the reason so many Americans own guitars today is thanks, in large part, to past trade agreements like the TPP. The Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security Between the United States and Japan, adopted in 1960, was the first nudge toward opening up trade relations between the two historic enemies. By the following decade, Japan-based Ibanez had started experimenting with the electric guitar template pioneered by U.S. monoliths Fender and Gibson. This happened to coincide with mounting consumer dissatisfaction with the latter two brands. As the Cato Institute's Chris Edwards explains, for Fender and Gibson, "the quality started dwindling in the '60s and '70s. And after a decade or so, Japan realized they can make them better." The Ibanez products, cheaper and of superior quality, suddenly enjoyed consumer favor. The shifting industry landscape also inspired new U.S. upstarts to enter the market, most notably Mesa Boogie and Peavey Electronics. By the mid-1980s, through corporate restructuring spurred on by their burgeoning competitors, Fender and Gibson had regained the status they command to this day. "Evil investment firms came in," Edwards jests, "and, seeing that these companies were undervalued and poorly managed, bought them out." Soon after, they reintroduced the brands, stressing their return to mid-century quality standards. "That's how capitalism works." But the relaunch had a dark side as well: Gibson filed an (unfruitful) lawsuit against Ibanez on imitation grounds, alleging the Japanese brand had defied trademark laws by imitating Gibson guitar headstocks. And the U.S. enacted barriers in response to what was perceived as excessive "dumping" of imports. A self-immolating overreaction, this move stopped the flow of cheap electronic materials coming from Japan and significantly raised the cost of production on manufacturers in the U.S., for a time handicapping their competitive virility in the marketplace. In the 20 years since the implementation of the North American Free Trade Agreement, the value of America's imports of musical instruments and supplies has outpaced that of its exports by 530 percent, according to a recent study in The Music Trades. But while woodwinds took a hit, string manufacturers have actually enjoyed a trade surplus. Access to foreign markets led to "increased employment at U.S. guitar plants over the past two decades," the authors note. Even so, the deficit-vs.-surplus matchup is an inaccurate way to measure overall outcomes. Implementing protectionist policies, such as tariffs and quotas, to reduce trade deficits has backfired for the music industry in the past. In addition to the risk of instigating a trade war, which would in turn harm the value of our exports, protectionism relies on the fallacy that consumers would be inspired to buy out of their price range if only the cost of cheap imports they've gotten used to were increased. It's fortunate then that Morello, who sports a hammer-and-sickle Communist Par[...]
2016-10-23T00:00:00-04:00Donald Trump says the presidential election is "rigged." Although he provides no evidence for his charge, lots of things can be said about it. For one thing, he equivocates over the word rigged to include voter fraud along with news-media/polling bias—two very different things. The former suggests that the outcome is predetermined, the latter only that influential organizations try to move voters in a particular direction. (Ignoring third parties is one flagrant way to do this, but that may redound to Trump's benefit in some cases.) I might also point out that Trump has helped "rig" the electionagainst himself with his inveterate estrangement from the truth and his braggadocio about and apparent penchant for sexual assault. These flaws have overshadowed what otherwise would have been damaging information about Hillary Clinton's political career and the WikiLeaks disclosures. Compared to Trump's antics and outrages, dry emails about Goldman Sachs speeches and the Clinton Foundation just aren't sexy enough to grab the electorate's attention. Cable TV's quest for ratings may adequately account for the seeming bias; viewers are more likely to reach for the remote when they hear about transcripts of speeches to Wall Street than when they hear "locker-room banter" and insults. Considering that Trump is partly a creature of the media, without whom he might not have won the Republican nomination, the case for sheer anti-Trump bias is not so straightforward. Trump is also buffoonish, so let's face it: he makes better TV than the robotic Clinton does. A candidate without Trump's abundant baggage might have had an easier time prosecuting the case against his deeply flawed, state-worshiping opponent, even in the face of media bias. But there's another side to the "rigged election" charge that's bound to go unnoticed. The American political system, like all political systems, requires a good deal of peaceful cooperation to operate. This is obviously relevant to the transfer of power, which gets so much attention nowadays. This cooperation goes on in two respects: first, between the government and the subject population—government cannot rule purely through force because the ruled always substantially outnumber their rulers—and second, among the many individuals who constitute the government's branches, agencies, and bureaus. Again, we cannot explain this process purely by the use of force. Even totalitarian states understand this, which is why they invest so much effort in propaganda ministries. Ideas, not force, rule the world. Why does one government branch or agency or bureau or officer carry out orders from another? The answer cannot be the threat of force alone, for that would only set the question back a step: why would anyone carry out an order to use force against a defiant officer of the government? We can't have an infinitely long line of people with each person forcing the next one up to obey orders. What ultimately explains compliance, or cooperation, with government is not coercion but ideology: government officers carry out orders because they and a critical mass of the community in which they operate believe the orders are legitimate and ought to be carried out. That's a matter of tacit if not explicit ideology. If those officers and enough members of that community came to have different ideas, the orders might be defied with impunity, if anyone were still giving them. On the other hand, if a private individual started giving the same kind of orders the state gave, no one would regard them as legitimate and sanctions against defiant persons would not be respected. (I briefly explore this idea in "Subjugating Ourselves". Michael Huemer has written the book: The Problem of Political Authority: An Examination of the Right to Coerce and the Duty to Obey.) When enough time is added to ideology, the result is custom—another reason that people comply with the state without the need for force. As Étienne de La Boétie wrote [...]
(image) Adult-film star and sex educator Jessica Drake is the latest woman to accuse Donald Trump of moving on her sexually without consent. At a live Los Angeles press-conference Saturday with lawyer Gloria Allred, Drake accused the Republican presidential nominee of "uncontrollable misogyny, entitlement, and being a sexual assault apologist," and claimed he kissed her and two other women without their consent upon meeting them in 2006. Drake also said Trump offered to pay her for sex.
According to Drake, she and the other women were invited by Trump back to his Lake Tahoe hotel suite after meeting him at a golf tournament. Once there, Trump allegedly grabbed each of them tightly and kissed them. Later, a Trump representative called and invited Drake back to the suite alone, she said, but she declined—after which Trump personally called to extend the invitation. "What do you want? How much?" Trump allegedly said before offering her $10,000, which she rejected.
Drake's accusations add to the growing chorus of women from Trump's past now accusing him of kissing, grabbing, and groping them against their will. What's novel here is the allegation that Trump solicited sex for cash.
Libertarians don't think that last part should be illegal, and I guess it's not surprising that Trump doesn't, either—Trump's (handlebar-mustachioed) immigrant grandfather first made his money in America by running a Seattle brothel, after all. But Trump hasn't shown much willingness lately to buck with GOP tradition when it comes to freaking out about sex, signing a recent pledge to get tough on internet porn and repeatedly denouncing Anthony Weiner as a "pervert" for sexting.
Sexual pervert Anthony Weiner has zero business holding public office.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 10, 2013
At the press conference, Allred stressed that Drake's profession as a porn actress and director was irrelevant here. In her work, Drake consents to certain sexual activities, said Allred, while she did not agree to Trump's advances.
(image) Barack Obama's first official act in office addressed not the economy or health care but Guantanamo. In a moment of high drama, surrounded by a phalanx of retired military brass, the president signed a series of executive orders acknowledging that "the individuals currently detained at Guantanamo have the constitutional privilege of the writ of habeas corpus," providing that the executive branch would undertake "a prompt and thorough review" of whether the "continued detention" of the men at Guantanamo "is in the national security and foreign policy interests of the United States and in the interests of justice," and ordering that "the detention facilities at Guantanamo...shall be closed as soon as practicable, and no later than 1 year from the date of this order." Obama issued a separate executive order banning the use of "enhanced interrogation techniques," i.e., torture.
As far as Guantanamo was concerned, those executive orders would represent the high-water mark of the Obama presidency, writes Gary A. Isaac, counsel at Mayer Brown LLP. The first year of his administration was noteworthy not for the closure of Guantanamo but for a series of unilateral actions that were starkly at odds with the president's rhetorical defense of habeas corpus and that doomed his much-heralded directive to close the island facility.
(image) Within days of his first inauguration, Barack Obama signed a presidential order directing his administration to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay Naval Base (GTMO) within one year, following up with astonishing alacrity on his campaign promises, despite many competing policy priorities. Martha Rayner, an associate professor of law at Fordham University and director of its criminal defense clinic, did not expect an immediate parade of planes ferrying her clients and other GTMO prisoners to their home countries but did imagine that that GTMO, and the indefinite imprisonment without trial that it stood for, would soon end.
A week later, she was in Camp Echo, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, visiting one of her clients: Sanad al-Kazimi, a husband and father of four from Aden, Yemen. He had been abducted by some arm of some government in the United Arab Emirates in January 2003 and subjected to brutal torture, without being formally arrested, charged with a crime, or provided an opportunity to be heard. He was not captured by soldiers on a battlefield and registered with the International Committee of the Red Cross, an independent organization that monitors treatment of war detainees. He was disappeared.
After that, al-Kazimi was relocated multiple times. One of the stops was at a CIA-run site in Afghanistan dubbed the "Dark Prison" by detainees who emerged to describe the complete darkness they had been held in, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. While there, Mr. al-Kazimi tried to kill himself on three separate occasions by hitting his head against the wall of his cell. Each time, his U.S. captors intervened and injected him with drugs that put him out.
Following his time at the Dark Prison, al-Kazimi was transferred to the United States' Bagram Airfield Military Base in Afghanistan. This move, writes Rayner, was designed to transform what was unquestionably illegal detention by the CIA into military imprisonment that had a veneer of lawfulness. The U.S. military then colluded in torture by attempting to erase what the CIA had done.
Individualist-feminist author Christina Hoff Sommers is giving a talk at Columbia University, but some students don't want anyone to know about it.
Posters advertising Sommers' visit were tore down in buildings across campus, according to Toni Airaksinen, a reporter for Campus Reform and student at Columbia-affiliated Barnard College. Airaksinen wrote on Twitter that only one of about 20 posters survived for a full day.
Look, if students really don't want to listen to Sommers, they are under no obligation to attend her talk. But other students might appreciate the chance to hear from someone who represents a perspective they are unlikely to learn about in class.
And if Columbia's leftist-students are so afraid of alternative perspectives, they can't have very much confidence in the persuasiveness of their own beliefs.
Sommers' talk, "Victims, Victims Everywhere," is at 7:00 p.m. on November 1.
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Click above to watch an excerpt from the powerful new documentary Rigged 2016, which explores how the political status quo benefits Republicans, Democrats, and politically connected businesses far more than Americans and America writ large.
Here's more info on the documentary (full disclosure: I appear in it, briefly) and the issues with which it grapples. It deserves a wide audience and will be of particular interest to libertarians (big L and little L) and political independents who have been searching in vain for decades for pols who will create an open, fair, and just political system for all of us.
For those of us who are outside the Republican and Demcoratic parties, there's a different cast to the rigging when it comes to politics. As Nicholas Sarwark, the national chair of the Libertarian Party, told me in a recent interview, crazy and ever-changing ballot-access requirements are explicit hurdles to full participation in elections by diverse political groups. The one thing Dems and Reps can always agree on is that there's no goddamn reason to let more voices on the stage. And as HBO's John Oliver demonstrates, third-party candidates don't get taken seriously by the media even when they have more experience and credibility than major-party candidates. In The Declaration of Independents, Matt Welch and I talked about all the ways in which the political duopoly works to delegitimate and silence new and different perspectives.
With all that as a background, I'd like to point you to a great new hour-long documentary that explores the ways in which ordinary Americans and their concerns are systematically shut out from political discourse. Not right there at the polling place, of course, but much, much further upstream. Focusing on voter fraud and intimidation, both of which are blessedly rare-to-nonexistent, is a diversion from the bigger picture.
Underwritten by Overstock.com's CEO Patrick Byrne and featuring a calvacade of libertarian-leaning commentators such as Matt Kibbe, Glenn Beck, and yours truly (in a brief appearance), Rigged 2016 analyzes why politics and elections never seem to engage the concerns and views of voters and citizens who refuse to identify as either Republican or Democrat. It also gets at why the two major parties are losing members like nobody's business.
Click above to watch the clip and go here to watch the full hour-long documentary. You'll be more-informed for having done so.
(image) Under the Organic Foods Production Act of 1990, which gave the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) authority over organic-food labeling, the agency maintains a list of synthetic substances that may be used in organic products. Decisions about any substance on the list had been forced to sunset after five years unless two-thirds of the agency's National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) recommended a given substance remain on the list.
But the USDA changed the rules in 2013, delegating much of the decision-making power over synthetic substances to a NOSB subcommittee. Since that time, plaintiffs in a lawsuit argue that this USDA inaction "has allowed more than 20 synthetic substances to continue being used in organic agriculture." Baylen Linnekin explains more.
2016-10-22T07:55:00-04:00Last month, a federal judge in California refused to dismiss a lawsuit challenging U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) actions pertaining to its statutory oversight of organic food. The case, filed last year by more than a dozen groups, challenges changes to the procedures under which the agency determines whether certain synthetic substances may continue to be used in food the agency permits to be labeled as organic. Under the Organic Foods Production Act of 1990, which gave the USDA authority over organic-food labeling, the agency maintains a list of synthetic substances that may be used in organic products. Decisions about any substance on the list had been forced to sunset after five years unless two-thirds of the agency's National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) recommended a given substance remain on the list. But the USDA changed the rules in 2013, delegating much of the decisionmaking power over synthetic substances to a NOSB subcommittee. Since that time, the plaintiffs in the lawsuit argue that this USDA inaction "has allowed more than 20 synthetic substances to continue being used in organic agriculture." The lawsuit, which alleges "the USDA promulgated the regulation without providing the public the opportunity for notice and comment and acted in an arbitrary and capricious manner[,]" is just the latest in a string of litigation and controversy surrounding the agency's oversight of organic-food labeling. This wasn't the organic-food labeling system Congress promised us in 1990. I described briefly the history of organic-food labeling in a 2010 article in the Chapman Law Review (citations omitted): "California passed the nation's first true organic certification law in 1979. Though Oregon's law preceded that of California, Oregon's law was chiefly an anti-fraud measure intended only to classify which producers could advertise their products as 'organic.' California regulations built upon Oregon's and in addition defined the term 'synthetic,' contained public disclosure provisions, and required specific organic labeling language. In 1982, California amended the 1979 regulations, making the state the first to define the term 'organic.' In 1990, California again amended its law, permitting public agencies or private certifiers like [California Certified Organic Farmers] CCOF, today the nation's largest such body, to inspect growers to ensure compliance with the regulations. "In 1990, Congress enacted the first federal organic standards.... [O]rganic activists in the state and elsewhere criticized the final rule as watered-down and overinclusive." And, as I describe in my new book, Biting the Hands that Feed Us: How Fewer, Smarter Laws Would Make Our Food System More Sustainable (available for just $3 for Kindle through the end of this month!), the meaning of the term "organic" has been so watered down over the years by the USDA that the term has become confusing and largely meaningless. Just as is the case with the current lawsuit, I write, controversy often hinges on the agency's inclusion of synthetic ingredients: Meetings of the USDA's National Organic Standards Board, which establishes limits for which foods may earn the USDA organic seal, have become a "semi-annual ritual of controversy," the Washington Post reported in a 2015 article that focused on the possible addition of synthetic pesticides and additives to the list of substances that would be permissible to use while still earning the agency's organic label. [...] The organic rules have been the source of other controversies. In 2009, USDA employees urged the agency to ban some synthetic additives from organic baby formula. But they were overruled, reported the Washington Post, "after a USDA program manager was lobbied by the formula makers and overruled her staff." The[...]
2016-10-22T06:00:00-04:00More: Captured, Tortured, and Left to Rot at Gitmo Barack Obama's first official act in office addressed not the economy or health care but Guantanamo. In a moment of high drama, surrounded by a phalanx of retired military brass, the president signed a series of executive orders acknowledging that "the individuals currently detained at Guantanamo have the constitutional privilege of the writ of habeas corpus," providing that the executive branch would undertake "a prompt and thorough review" of whether the "continued detention" of the men at Guantanamo "is in the national security and foreign policy interests of the United States and in the interests of justice," and ordering that "the detention facilities at Guantanamo...shall be closed as soon as practicable, and no later than 1 year from the date of this order." Obama issued a separate executive order banning the use of "enhanced interrogation techniques," i.e., torture. As far as Guantanamo was concerned, those executive orders would represent the high-water mark of the Obama presidency. The first year of his administration was noteworthy not for the closure of Guantanamo but for a series of unilateral actions that were starkly at odds with the president's rhetorical defense of habeas corpus and that doomed his much-heralded directive to close the island facility: The Obama administration caved on its plan to resettle two of the Uyghur detainees in the United States. In its first months, the Obama administration had reached an agreement with habeas counsel for the Uyghur detainees—members of a persecuted minority group in China—to resettle two of their clients in the Washington, D.C., area, where there was an existing Uyghur-American community ready to help the detainees with jobs, housing, and other support. But in mid-2009, only a few days before their scheduled arrival, word of the plan was leaked. In the face of opposition by some members of Congress, the Obama administration walked away from the agreement. The Obama administration argued, as previously the Bush administration had done, that the courts have no authority to order the president to release detainees here, even if there is no basis to continue to detain them and even if they present no security risk. In the waning days of the Bush administration, the district court that was hearing the Uyghur detainees' habeas cases ruled in their favor and ordered their release into the United States. The Bush administration immediately appealed, and in February 2009, just after Obama assumed office, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit ruled that the courts had no authority to order the president to release detainees into the United States. The decision gutted the detainees' habeas corpus rights, for habeas is meaningless if the court reviewing the lawfulness of someone's imprisonment has no authority to order his release. The detainees quickly sought review by the Supreme Court, but in May 2009, the Obama administration filed a brief opposing review and urging the Supreme Court to let the appeals court's ruling stand. The administration effectively persuaded the Supreme Court to dismiss the case as moot by arranging for the Uyghur petitioners to be released in Palau (a tiny island nation in the Pacific Ocean) instead. Obama signed legislation barring transfer of detainees from Guantanamo to the U.S. and restricting transfer of the detainees elsewhere. In June 2009, Congress passed a supplemental appropriations bill that barred the use of funds to release any of the Guantanamo detainees in the United States or, as a practical matter, even to transfer them to the U.S. for detention or prosecution. The legislation also restricted the use of funds to transfer the detainees to other countries. At[...]
2016-10-22T06:00:00-04:00Sidebar: Obama's Broken Guantanamo Promises Within days of his first inauguration, Barack Obama signed a presidential order directing his administration to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay Naval Base (GTMO) within one year, following up with astonishing alacrity on his campaign promises, despite many competing policy priorities. While I did not expect an immediate parade of planes ferrying my clients and other GTMO prisoners to their home countries, all indicators were that GTMO, and the indefinite imprisonment without trial that it stood for, would soon end. A week later, I was sweating in one of the squalid shack-like structures of Camp Echo, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where attorney-client meetings take place, visiting one of my clients, Sanad al-Kazimi, a husband and father of four from Aden, Yemen. He had been abducted by some arm of some government in the United Arab Emirates in January 2003 and subjected to brutal torture, including confinement in a dark cell the size of a grave, prolonged shackling, nudity with cold air blasting, beatings, and sexual abuse. Men tied his hands and legs together and hooked him up to a mechanical lift device that hoisted him in the air and dropped him into a pool of freezing water. His imprisonment had no legal contours. He was not formally arrested, and he was not charged with a crime or provided an opportunity to be heard. He was not captured by soldiers on a battlefield and registered with the International Committee of the Red Cross, an independent organization that monitors treatment of war detainees. He was disappeared. I knew none of this when I first met him in the summer of 2006, two years after he arrived at GTMO. I did know that just a month before I met my client, three prisoners, including another man from Yemen, died at GTMO on the same day. The military immediately deemed the deaths suicides, though a Marine sergeant would later come forward with information that cast doubt on this claim. In the ensuing years, four men did commit suicide, each a human being who gave up on life in indefinite imprisonment. My client mentioned the "suicides" during that first meeting, but I did not fully appreciate how this news must have impacted him since, at the time, I was unaware of his history. After my client's disappearance, he was relocated multiple times—trussed like an animal, diapered, blindfolded with blackout goggles, made deaf with earmuffs, wrapped in tape, and strapped to a stretcher. Each transfer was accompanied by the uncertainty and dread of not knowing what was to come. One of the stops was at a CIA-run site in Afghanistan dubbed the "Dark Prison" by detainees who emerged to describe the complete darkness they had been held in, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. While there, Mr. al-Kazimi tried to kill himself on three separate occasions by hitting his head against the wall of his cell. Each time, his U.S. captors intervened and injected him with drugs that put him out. Following his time at the Dark Prison, Mr. al-Kazimi was transferred to the United States' Bagram Airfield Military Base in Afghanistan. This move was designed to transform what was unquestionably illegal detention by the CIA into military imprisonment that had a veneer of lawfulness. The U.S. military then colluded in torture by attempting to erase what the CIA had done. A "clean team" was tasked with obtaining inculpatory statements in a manner designed to avoid admissibility objections in a court of law. This Department of Defense-invented entity, officially called the Criminal Investigation Task Force and composed of armed services interrogators, sought to create a cordial atmosphere by offering food and drink and projecting ease and comfort. These efforts were de[...]
2016-10-21T21:10:00-04:00Every time a horrific crime committed with a gun gets national attention, politicians will usually recommend more stringent gun laws as a response. (With the phrase "gun control" out of vogue, you usually hear these days about "common sense gun safety laws.") The New York Times, who last year ran a nearly unprecedented front-page editorial calling for the banning and confiscation of a commonly used and rarely abused class of civilian firearms, investigated today how and whether laws, either existing or proposed, would have impacted "all 130 shootings last year in which four or more people were shot, at least one fatally, and investigators identified at least one attacker." The overarching conclusion from reporters Sharon LaFraniere and Emily Palmer? They learned "not only how porous existing firearms regulations are, but also how difficult tightening them in a meaningful way may be." "The findings are dispiriting to anyone hoping for simple legislative fixes to gun violence," they admit upfront: In more than half the 130 cases, at least one assailant was already barred by federal law from having a weapon, usually because of a felony conviction, but nonetheless acquired a gun. Including those who lacked the required state or local permits, 64 percent of the shootings involved at least one attacker who violated an existing gun law. Of the remaining assailants, 40 percent had never had a serious run-in with the law and probably could have bought a gun even in states with the strictest firearm controls. Typically those were men who killed their families and then themselves. Slightly over 10 percent of these mass shootings involved an "assault rifle," the rest involved handguns. (Of overall homicides in America, rifles as an entire category are involved in about 2 percent as of 2014 data, fewer than murders commited via bare hands or feet.) The Times looks at those "more than half" where a perfectly enforced law should have prevented a killer from getting a gun. This gets at the question of whether expanding background check requirements beyond licensed dealers, per current federal law would indeed save lives by making it illegal for anyone to sell a gun to anyone without conducting a background check into legally disqualifying factors. Unfortunately as far as the information gathered by the Times's reporters go: It was virtually impossible to determine whether expanded background checks would have deterred the illegally armed attackers involved in the shootings examined for this article. In many cases, police officers never recovered the weapons, and even when they did, they did not always investigate where the firearm came from. A trace by the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives generally shows only the original seller and buyer, while the typical gun used in a crime is 11 years old. The Times tells a story of one man with 12 years in prison who killed 8 people, including 6 children, with a gun they think he bought online. (The reporters admit they aren't absolutely sure of that.) That would have already been illegal. It isn't always true that laws that are easy to break are pointless laws. But laws that are far more likely to merely end up fining or imprisoning people performing an action that would not actually harm anyone (that is, selling a gun that would never be used to harm anyone else to someone without informing the state or running a background check) than they would be to prevent harm to others should be reasonably questioned. The story wonders whether public safety demands that our standards for barring people from gun ownership for mental health issues be more stringent, noting that current federal law "denies guns only to pe[...]
2016-10-21T16:15:00-04:00The Pennsylvania state senate passed a bill on Wednesday to expand police use of body-worn cameras, but the bill would also block practically all body cam footage from public records requests. The bill, which now heads to the state house, would amend the Pennsylvania Wiretap Act to allow police to wear body-worn cameras inside homes, as well as public spaces. However, the American Civil Liberties Union and other critics say it would also make it practically impossible for media outlets and individuals to obtain body cam footage, in addition to weakening privacy protections for citizens in their homes. If the bill passes, Pennsylvania would become the seventh state to neuter a promising police accountability tool. North Carolina enacted a law in July exempting body cam footage from public records requests. Five other states—Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Oregon, and South Carolina—also exempt police body cam videos under freedom of information laws, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports: The bill would require anyone seeking access to data from body cameras to identify every person in the video before the video had been viewed. It would also give law enforcement the ability to deny the request if the information being sought was part of an active investigation. If requesters appeal, they would have to pay $250 filing fees. Aaron Zappia, a spokesman for [state senator Stewart] Greenleaf, said in an interview Wednesday that such protections were built into the legislation because "the primary purpose of body cameras is to gather evidence." "These are evidence-gathering tools," he said. "Evidence is sensitive information, and people's identities may need to be protected in some cases." In a letter to the state senate expressing its opposition to the bill, the Pennsylvania ACLU legislative director Andy Hoover says that while "victims of and witnesses to crime need protection," the current bill goes too far and "creates a byzantine process to request data from police cameras." "In practice, under this bill, the public will rarely, if ever, see video produced by police departments that shows misconduct by officers." Hoover writes. Meanwhile, the bill will also removes a prohibition on officers filming inside private residences, allowing police to film inside homes under any circumstances. It also does not mandate when officers must turn their body cams on or off, or how long footage may be stored—two fundamental issues in how body cams are used by police departments. What the Pennsylvania senate appears to be missing is the fact that police body cams are far more than evidence-gathering tools. They are, first and foremost, accountability tools. The national push for body cams in the wake of the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner at the hands of police was premised on the notion that the public would be able to see what happened in controversial police interactions. As Adam Marshall, an attorney at the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press said in an interview with Reason earlier this year: "The whole reason we have these body cam programs is because there was a lack of reliable information about what happens between law enforcement and the public. If you cut off access to the public, you're undercutting the entire rationale for this new technology. If there's no public access to these videos, they just become another surveillance and investigative tool for police, instead of providing the oversight everyone believed they were being instituted to provide." There are thorny questions about how to balance privacy rights of those filmed on po[...]
2016-10-21T15:50:00-04:00Nashville's regulations for Airbnb and other roomsharing services are unconstitutional, a judge has ruled. Approved in 2015, Nashville's short-term rental ordinance capped rentals at 3 percent of all homes within each neighborhood in the city and required would-be renters to obtain a permit from the city government. Judge Kelvin Jones on Friday said the 3 percent cap was legal, but overturned the ordinance for being too vague for an ordinary person to understand, The Tennessean reported. The Beacon Center of Tennessee filed a lawsuit in August 2015 challenging the ordinance on behalf of P.J. and Rachel Anderson. The Andersons said they were unable to rent their home on Airbnb because of the city's artificial cap on short-term rentals. They said that violated their rights as homeowners. Braden Boucek, the Beacon Center's litigation director, called the ruling a huge victory for homeowners in Nashville and across Tennessee. "Not only does the ruling show that the Nashville City Council completely disregarded the state constitution when it passed this law, but it also sends a loud and clear message to cities across the state when it comes to restricting homeowners' rights in the new economy," he said in a statement. Attorneys representing Nashville could ask for a stay of Jones' decision while they prepare an appeal. It's not immediately clear if that will happen, The Tennesseean reports. But Nashville's regulations were likely headed to the dumpster one way or the other. As the Andersons' legal challenge moved through the court, state lawmakers are also considering a bill to overrule local governments and issue statewide rules for short-term rentals. Police in Nashville weren't a fan of the ordinance either. Members of the Metro Council, a regional government that includes the city of Nashville and surrounding suburbs, pressed Mayor Megan Barry to have cops go door-to-door to enforce the Airbnb regulations, but the police said they had better things to do. "With Nashville's continued growth, our police officers have plenty on their plates answering calls for service and proactively working to deter criminal activity," Dan Aaron, spokesman for the Nashville Metro Police told Reason last month. He said the police department already responds to noise complaints and other "quality of life issues" like vehicles blocking driveways—two of the examples given by the Metro Council members in their call for additional policing aimed at Airbnb users. With Jones' decision on Friday, the police can get back to doing what they should be doing and people in Nashville can rent their homes on Airbnb without first checking to see how many of their neighbors are using the service too. [...]
(image) Former Reason editor Virginia Postrel once wrote a book called The Future and Its Enemies. If she watches TV this week, she'll undoubtedly add a new chapter on CBS. Its three new sitcoms all cling ferociously (if, in one case, hilariously) to the past. If this keeps up, CBS—where the age of the average viewer is already 59, by far the eldest of any broadcast net—will have to change its boastful slogan from The Tiffany Network to The Methuselah Network.
Before getting into a detailed necropsy, it's worth noting that this is the final week of the fall TV season's rollout, delayed a bit at CBS until its Thursday-night football schedule wrapped up. There's no sign of a breakout hit among the new shows, and this final group of CBS stragglers is unlikely to change that. Television critic Glenn Garvin explains.
2016-10-21T15:03:00-04:00Derek Black used to be an up-and-coming leader of the white nationalist movement. His father created Stormfront, the online forums for the white nationalist community. His godfather is David Duke. That was then. Black is now a liberal who supports immigration, doesn't believe race should divide people, and admires President Obama. The story of Derek's incredible transformation is many things: a lesson to never give up on people, an affirmation of the power of reason to undermine racism, an inspirational tale of good winning out in the end. But it's also a subtle repudiation of the kind of emotional safe space that liberals want to foist on college campuses. Indeed, if this faction of the left got its way, people like Derek would probably never be allowed on campus in the first place. Derek himself might still be an ardent racist. The Washington Post's story on Black is worth reading in full—it's one of the very best things you'll read this year. To summarize Derek's childhood: His father, Don Black, was a former Klu Klux Klan member who founded Stormfront and kept close ties to David Duke; Duke, in fact, was Derek's godfather and former romantic partner of his mother; Derek spent his teenage years travelling with his father, meeting other white supremacists, giving speeches, and learning web coding so that he could help run Stormfront. Derek was essentially groomed from birth to lead the white nationalist community—a calling he was eager to heed: So many others in white nationalism had come to their conclusions out of anger and fear, but Derek tended to like most people he met, regardless of race. Instead, he sought out logic and science to confirm his worldview, reading studies from conservative think tanks about biological differences between races, IQ disparities and rates of violent crime committed by blacks against whites. He launched a daily radio show to share his views, and Don paid $275 each week to have it broadcast on the AM station in nearby Lake Worth. On the air, Derek helped popularize the idea of a white genocide, that whites were losing their culture and traditions to massive, nonwhite immigration. "If we say it a thousand times—'White genocide! We are losing control of our country!'—politicians are going to start saying it, too," he said. He repeated the idea in interviews, Stormfront posts and during his speech at the conference in Memphis, when he was at his most certain. After high school, Derek decided to enroll in the New College to study history. He decided to keep a low profile: He wouldn't share his views with anyone until after he had made friends. He enjoyed his first semester, and felt like he fit in. But eventually, the campus learned exactly who he was. His friends were shocked. Many people on campus wanted to ostracize him. Others threatened him. But some students had another idea: "Ostracizing Derek won't accomplish anything," one student wrote. "We have a chance to be real activists and actually affect one of the leaders of white supremacy in America. This is not an exaggeration. It would be a victory for civil rights." "Who's clever enough to think of something we can do to change this guy's mind?" One of Derek's acquaintances from that first semester decided he might have an idea. He started reading Stormfront and listening to Derek's radio show. Then, in late September, he sent Derek a text message. "What are you doing Friday night?" he wrote. That friend was Matthew Stevenson, an Orthodox Jew, and his idea was to invite Derek over for weekly Shabbat dinners attended by a small [...]
2016-10-21T15:00:00-04:00Man with a Plan. CBS. Monday, October 24, 8:30 p.m. The Great Indoors. CBS. Thursday, October 27, 8:30 p.m. Pure Genius. CBS. Thursday, October 27, 10 p.m. My chum and former editor Virginia Postrel once wrote a book called The Future and Its Enemies. If she watches TV this week, she'll undoubtedly add a new chapter on CBS. Its three new sitcoms all cling ferociously (if, in one case, hilariously) to the past. If this keeps up, CBS—where the age of the average viewer is already 59, by far the eldest of any broadcast net—will have to change its boastful slogan from The Tiffany Network to The Methuselah Network. Before we get into a detailed necropsy, it's worth noting that this is the final week of the fall TV season's rollout, delayed a bit at CBS until its Thursday-night football schedule wrapped up. There's no sign of a breakout hit among the new shows, and this final group of CBS stragglers is unlikely to change that. If anything, the madly contemptuous tone toward millennials that drips from every scathing frame of the sitcom The Great Indoors is liable to actually raise the average age of the CBS audience not just to Social Security-benefit age but to the point where undertakers are setting up tents on the front lawn. Joel McHale (Community) plays Jack, a ballsy and distinctly middle-aged adventure reporter who's surprised when his outdoors magazine calls him home from an assignment living among bears. If you work in the journalism biz these days, the conversation with his publisher that follows needs no spoiler alert: Outdoor Limits, his magazine, is teetering on bankruptcy. The print edition is folding, there's no money left for tramping around wolverine lairs, and Jack is being brought home to supervise a team of young Web rats—"the digital day-care division," as he labels it—who know lots about the click-bait potential of frolicking-kitten videos and hipster listicles on surviving a zombie apocalypse, nothing about journalism or living outdoors. On the other side of the divide, Jack's experience with the interwebs is limited to posting a dancing-baby video on his MySpace page two decades ago. What follows is predictably murderous. The easily triggered kids ("I got passed over for a promotion again? What do I have to do? I've been here eight weeks!") regard Jack as a prehistoric artifact—as one says, "a human version of dial-up." Marvels another: "He has no Twitter, no Facebook. It's like he doesn't exist." The head of the magazine's HR department commiserates with Jack—"sometimes I want to beat them senseless with their selfie sticks"—but bluntly warns him there's no escape. "They're the only reason any of us is still employed, so get used to it. Generational warfare has been a television staple at least since Archie Bunker and the Meathead went at it more than four decades ago in All in the Family. And, misopedist Baby Boomer that I am, I'll admit to laughing gleefully at a lot of the snowflake-kiddie jokes, not to mention the idea of peddling $12 "ironic Spam sandwiches" to hipsters. But The Great Indoors flouts the fundamental Geneva Convention rule of generation-gap humor—equal hostility towards all—in its relentlessly one-sided assault on millennials; virtually every line that draws blood comes at their expense. It doesn't require an overdeveloped sense of empathy to see that, for anybody under 40, the show is going to feel less like a comedic experience than the receiving end of a gang-bang. When the show was screened for TV critics this summer, a press conference wit[...]
(image) Samsung filed a DMCA copyright infringement claim with YouTube over footage of a video game mod that turned the sticky bomb in Grand Theft Auto V into a Samsung Galaxy Note 7, the device best known for literally catching on fire.
Shortly after the device was released in August, it began to be plagued with reports of the battery exploding while charging. There were a number of recalls before Samsung pulled the smartphone off the market completely and discontinued the model. The Federal Aviation Administration has even made getting on to an airplane with a Galaxy Note 7 a federal crime.
With all these problems you'd think Samsung would have more important things to do than file spurious DMCA claims against video game mods on YouTube. But the DMCA process has made it so easy. Nevertheless, the owner of the video, YouTube user Modded Games filed a counterclaim and YouTube restored the video.
The practice of modding video games itself has been in a "legal gray area" despite its increased popularity, as the Michigan Telecommunications and Technology Law Review noted. While modders argue their mods, as derivate works, fall under fair use, video game modifications largely exist insofar as they are tolerated by the intellectual property rights holders of the underlying games being modified—even as some modders see the success of their mods turn into career opportunities in the gaming industry.
But Samsung is not the copyright owner of Grand Theft Auto V. While copyright law has become ever more restrictive in the U.S. over the last half century, it has not yet gotten to the point where device manufacturers can claim a copyright on any depiction of their products. There are certainly lawyers who would like to try.
Watch the YouTube video in question below:
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(image) "Fueling cynicism about the fairness of the electoral process serves to depress voter participation," notes Harvard political scientist Pippa Norris. As evidence she cites the results from the 2012 American National Election Study, which found that 77 percent of people who believe that votes are "very often" counted fairly reported that they voted. By contrast, just 64 percent of those think the process is rigged bothered to cast a ballot. If you think your vote won't count, you're more likely to stay home.
In this election, people who suspect their votes won't count disproportionately favor Trump. According to a September Washington Post/ABC News poll, 46 percent of Americans believe that voter fraud occurs very or somewhat often; for Trump supporters, the number is 69 percent. What's more, Trump needs to attract independent voters to win. But according to the ANES, independents are more likely than Democrats or Republicans to be deterred from voting by claims of electoral unfairness.
Thus, Norris concludes, Trump's claims that the election is rigged will likely "encourage strong Republicans and potential independent supporters to stay home on November 8th." By alleging electoral fraud, "All that Trump is doing is shooting himself in the foot." It wouldn't be the first time.
2016-10-21T13:30:00-04:00"We've been busing people in to deal with you fucking assholes for 50 years, and we're not going to stop now," the Wisconsin Democratic operative Scott Foval declares in Rigging the Election, a video released this week by the conservative undercover-media activist James O'Keefe. In the video, Foval drunkenly discusses how to pull off a voter impersonation fraud scheme by sending folks with fake IDs to vote in neighboring states. The indiscreet Foval has since lost his job. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump invited O'Keefe to attend the third major party presidential candidate debate in Las Vegas. During the debate, Trump refused to say whether or not he would concede if he lost the vote the November, insinuating that there is a conspiracy to rig the election against him. "The O'Keefe videos will add some evidence to Trump's claims about a rigged election," says Joe Uscinski, a political scientist at the University of Miami. "They will give him some red meat to throw around." When asked how he thinks the public will respond to the O'Keefe videos, the Western Washington University political scientist Todd Donovan replied in an email, "My guess is that the viewers will respond to it through their partisan perspectives. It reinforces pre-existing Republican attitudes; Democrats will see the source and assume it's a hack job of editing." In a prepublication study, "The Effect of Conspiratorial Thinking and Motivated Reasoning on Belief in Election Fraud," Uscinski and his colleagues point out that significant proportions of both major parties believe that electoral fraud is common. "Republicans are especially prone to believing that people are casting ballots they should not, whereas Democrats are more concerned that they are not able to cast ballots," they write. As evidence they cite a national poll taken in July 2012 in which 54 percent of Democrats believed that voter suppression was a major problem compared to 27 percent of Republicans who thought so. On the other hand, 57 percent of Republicans believed that casting illegal ballots was a major problem compared to 38 percent of Democrats who did. "Electoral fraud is a form of conspiracy theory," Uscinski tells me. "And like any other conspiracy theory it is hard to disprove. Evidence that the plot didn't happen actually works in favor of the conspiracy theory: 'Look how hard they're working to cover it up.'" How common is electoral fraud? As Uscinski notes, since the would-be perpetrators do not want their schemes to be detected, voter fraud is by definition hard to measure. Nevertheless, most scholars have concluded that voter fraud, especially voter impersonation fraud of the sort that Foval appeared to be discussing, is rare in American elections. Uscinski thinks scholars probably undercount instances of voter fraud because the undetected successful instances don't get tallied. But he also thinks such frauds are vastly overestimated in the popular imagination. Keeping a national electoral fraud scheme hidden would be exceedingly hard to do, Uscinski points out: It would be a huge coordination problem involving lots of people in very uncertain circumstances with many opportunities for blunders. Donovan agrees. In an email, he writes: "Even if we take at face value the 'description' on the edited video of how to commit fraud, the execution wouldn't be possible. It would require thousands of voters per state (tens of thousands?) to affect these elections. R[...]
src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/yLGoJRXz9us" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" width="560" height="340" frameborder="0">
Nick Gillespie caught up with Mike Rowe in Nashville, Tennessee to chat about his affection for the Second Amendment, his adventures in podcasting, the 2016 election, and the secret to extracting semen from a prize racehorse.
Watch above or click on the link below for video, full interview transcript, supporting links, downloadable versions, and more Reason TV clips.
2016-10-21T12:35:00-04:00Back in 1990, the World Wide Web existed in only embryonic form. The internet was becoming more accessible, but most people did not use it. An online world was emerging, but it was far from clear just what it would look like once it became a mass phenomenon. In that environment, certain segments of the culture—and certain segments of the counterculture—were intensely interested in how digital technologies could change the world. Some of the forecasts that emerged were close to the mark. Some seemed plausible but turned out to be wrong. And some were gushing geysers of ridiculous hype. You can see all three, but especially the third, in Cyberpunk, a 1990 documentary directed by one Marianne Trench. There are marquee names here—the interviewees include William Gibson, Timothy Leary, and Vernon Reid—but the real star is the idea that cyberpunk had ceased to be a mere science-fiction subgenre and had become, in the narrator's words, a "way of life." The movie is terrible, but it's terrible in engrossing ways. The script careens haphazardly from one loosely related topic to another (hackers! smart drugs! dresses made of computer chips!), all of them described in purplest possible terms. Everything we see is dressed up with what seemed at the time to be "futuristic" visual effects. (Think of them as the early-'90s counterpart to the "psychedelic" effects of a hippie-era exploitation flick.) And then there's the you-gotta-be-kidding-me interview with a fellow who called himself Michael Synergy. He goes on at great length about his hacker powers and outlaw cred without giving us any reasons to take his vague claims seriously. The narrator informs us that he is a "legitimate cyber-hero." Speaking as someone who was 20 years old when this came out, I can attest that much of the movie's ridiculousness would have been obvious even at the time. (I didn't see the picture when it was released, but I remember rolling my eyes at similar attempts to make cyberpunk the Next Big Countercultural Trend. Everyone I knew who actually identified with any of these cultural currents emitted a big groan when, say, Time did a cyberpunk cover story.) But one thing that wasn't clear back then was how accurate the video's forecasts for the future would be. Some of it does feel prescient now—you can catch flashes of future phenomena ranging from transhumanism to WikiLeaks—but it's the stuff that's wrong that's most fascinating. Consider the section about music. The filmmakers want to highlight the ways digital technologies will democratize the culture, yet we get no glimpses of the revolutions that would soon turn both the production and distribution of music upside-down; instead the movie focuses on industrial bands with "cyberpunk-themed songs." Or consider Leary's discussion of the ways cyberspace will transform the way we work. Some of his portrait isn't so far from the lives of modern telecommuters using Skype. But he seems to think that this future will require everyone to wear a "computer suit" and enter virtual reality. Speaking of virtual reality: If you watch just one part of Cyberpunk, make it the section that starts about 46 minutes in, when the narrator starts to go on about "a social time bomb called 'cyberspace.'" This was back before cyberspace was widely used as a word for the entire online universe; this movie still associates it with the virtual-reality vision describ[...]
2016-10-21T12:17:00-04:00What if you really didn't have to accept that there are only two valid choices for a particular race, and your third-party vote actually mattered more than as just a protest? Maine voters may find out for themselves. On their ballot this November is Question 5, a ballot initiative that would institute ranked-choice voting for statewide positions like governor and for lawmakers on both the state and federal levels. In a ranked vote system, voters are invited not to just check off the box for their favorite candidate; they're allowed to rank each candidate in order of preference. If the winning candidate doesn't get a majority of the votes, there's an "instant runoff." The candidate with the least votes is dumped from the race and the votes are counted again. On the ballots of those who voted for the least-popular candidate, their second choice is now counted as their vote. If again the winning candidate still doesn't get a majority of the votes, the cycle continues until the top-ranked candidate doesn't get just the most votes but a majority of votes. No state here currently has such a voting system, but some cities do, and it's how Australia elects its lawmakers. Australia's complicated, preference-based voting system has resulted in several lawmakers who are members of smaller parties, including libertarian David Leyonhjelm. That is partly the intent of this system: To make it more possible for third-party candidates to break through the electoral duopoly, but only in situations where the majority of voters reject what the establishment offers. The editorial board of the Portland Press Herald endorsed Question 5 last week with the awareness that an increasing number of voters are refusing to identify as Democrats or Republicans: Our current system took shape when there were two strong parties that dominated the political process. Parties won elections by assembling coalitions and selecting candidates who had broad appeal. It was hard for fringe elements to break through. But even though Maine's political parties have been in decline for decades, they still have an outsized influence on the process. Nominees selected by the small number of committed partisans who show up to vote in June have enormous institutional advantages on Election Day in November. That puts the largest group of voters, those who are not active as either Democrats or Republicans, in a bind. They have no say in the selection of a party nominee, but they can't vote for a third-party candidate without risking a vote for a "spoiler" who fragments opposition and gives an extreme candidate a path to victory. What if, for example, you could vote for Gary Johnson as your first choice, but thought that Hillary Clinton would be much less dangerous as president than Donald Trump (or vice-versa)? You could make Johnson your first choice and Clinton your second. Thus, you'd be shutting down any arguments (or even your own fears) that a vote for a third-party candidate was ultimately helping Trump (or Clinton) win. Heck, given the unpopularity of Clinton and Trump and the way polls are going, it is likely that the winner in November will get a plurality of the votes, not a majority. A ranked system significantly favors third-party candidates in situations where voters are really unhappy with what the establishment has to offer. It's easy to imagine Johnson becoming the second cho[...]
2016-10-21T12:01:00-04:00The strangest moment in yesterday's big presidential address on Obamacare came when President Obama implicitly compared the health care law to Samsung's Galaxy Note 7 smartphone, which was recently recalled worldwide for being a fire-safety hazard. The speech was a defense of the signature law, and an argument against repeal, and while President Obama admitted that the law had flaws and requires fixes, he said that wholesale repeal was not the solution, citing the smartphone market as an example. "When one of these companies comes out with a new smartphone," he said, "and it had a few bugs, what do they do? They fix it. They upgrade—unless it catches fire, and they just—[laughter]—then they pull it off the market. But you don't go back to using a rotary phone. [Laughter.] You don't say, well, we're repealing smartphones." The comparison is apt, though not in the way the president seems to think. The aside about a phone that catches fire was clearly a reference to the Galaxy Note 7, which Samsung released in August. Multiple reports of the phone catching fire quickly appeared. But in October, after attempting to fix the device's problems by issuing replacement phones that also caught on fire, Samsung announced a global recall—pulling it, as Obama noted, from the market entirely. The Samsung Note 7 was the flagship product from one of the premier smartphone manufacturers in the world. Estimates suggest that pulling it from the market will cost the company somewhere in the neighborhood of $3 billion in lost profit. The announcement that the company was recalling the phone instantly reduced the company's market value by about $17 billion. In addition, many of Samsung's customers are further upset about the company's refusal to pay compensation. The decision to pull the phone off the market, in other words, was a decision to admit failure, and take a massive loss in both value and reputation. But the company pulled the phone because it wasn't working. It's not the most of the phones the company sold during the short term. At the time of the recall, the company had received 92 reports of the battery overheating in the United States, including several from phones that were supposed to have been made with replacement parts. That was enough to spur the recall of roughly two and a half million phones. No, the problems with the Galaxy Note 7 didn't cause us to "repeal smartphones" or go back to relying on rotary devices. But it did cause the company to completely discontinue the faulty product—meaning that consumers on the hunt for a new mobile device would have to choose a competitor, like, for example, Apple's new iPhone, which runs on a totally different operating system. Obama's choice of metaphor, it turns out, tells us something not only about the health law, but about Obama's relationship to it. From the beginning, he has been unable to conceive of the possibility that there might be policy alternatives to his preferred design—especially those that rely on a totally different underlying system. He confuses a repeal of Obamacare with a repeal of all health policy reforms, rather than as a necessary but insufficient step in a different direction. Republicans in office, of course, have aided him in this misperception, all but ignoring health policy for years, and then refusing to offer alternatives, or even [...]
2016-10-21T11:30:00-04:00Is free speech in a state of crisis on American college campuses? Not quite, says anti-censorship organization PEN America in its recent hundred-page report on the subject. "PEN America's view, as of October 2016, is that while the current controversies merit attention and there have been some troubling incidences of speech curtailed, there is not, as some accounts have suggested, a pervasive 'crisis' for free speech on campus," the authors note. It's a verdict more than a little at odds with the rest of the report, which exhaustively details a number of beyond troubling incidents. As First Amendment lawyer Floyd Abrams told The New York Times, "I find it hard to read [the report's] extraordinarily powerful depiction of things that have happened on campus without concluding there is a crisis of great magnitude." Note that Abrams nevertheless considers the report "a big step forward." I agree. It's an impressive document that emphasizes sensible solutions to the situation on campus. PEN America's criticism of Title IX—and its demand for clarification on the difference between protected speech and illegal sexual harassment—is particularly notable. But the report gets some things wrong, and shows too much deference to anti-speech agitators, on grounds that these students' demands for censorship are actually an exercise in free speech—a point that's not as persuasive as its articulators seem to think. The report ventures into particularly shaky territory for its "case study" of the Nicholas and Erika Christakis incident at Yale University last fall. The case study quotes student-activists, activist-sympathetic writers, and activist-sympathetic administrators, all of whom think the mob that hounded Christakis was merely exercising free speech. While it's true that these students were indeed exercising their free speech rights, the more important question was whether the administration should humor their demands for emotional protection—and, in doing so, deprive other students, faculty members, and the Christakises of their free speech rights. The report quotes Yale Dean Jonathan Holloway as saying: I don't see it as a free speech challenge at all. Erika Christakis had every right to send that email. She had every right to do it. No one said she didn't have a right to do it. Free speech is not going to be free from consequence, so we saw consequence. Students getting upset and demanding her ouster: That is free speech as well. It is free speech to make that demand, yes. But if Yale met that demand—if it fired every professor or administrator who offended anyone—the college would foster an anti-speech campus. The report also describes the incident as "a young woman screaming at a seemingly mild-mannered faculty member in an open square on campus." But that's not completely accurate: as subsequent videos revealed, more than one student lost their cool with Christakis. Neither Holloway nor Yale President Peter Salovey seem to appreciate the censorious nature of their students' demands, which ultimately resulted in the Christakises resigning most of their duties (Nicholas Christakis is still teaching). The report continues: As historian and Yale College dean Jonathan Holloway asked in an interview with PEN America: "Whose speech matters enough to be defended?" At times these contr[...]
2016-10-21T11:15:00-04:00Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona has a message for his fellow Republicans. In an interview with Politico, Flake said that if Hillary Clinton wins the election next month, Senate Republicans should stop stonewalling and instead move quickly to hold hearings and a vote on Merrick Garland, the languishing Supreme Court nominee put forward by President Barack Obama back in March. "If Hillary Clinton is president-elect then we should move forward with hearings in the lame duck," Flake said. "That's what I'm encouraging my colleagues to do." What explains Flake's thinking? In the words of Politico, "the political calculus is straightforward: Better to deal with Garland now and avoid swallowing a more liberal nominee from Hillary Clinton." But not every Republican is on the same page as Flake. Sen. Mike Lee of Utah, for example, believes that Garland will be just as left-wing as any nominee that Clinton might offer. "I don't believe there would be a real substantive distinction, a real noticeable difference between the voting pattern of a justice who would be appointed by a President Hillary Clinton...and Merrick Garland," Lee recently said. Meanwhile, over in the House of Representatives, Republican Congressman Justin Amash disagrees with all of the above. According to Amash, the Senate should reject Garland right now because Garland is a lousy nominee in his own right—plus, Garland may well be worse than anybody put forward by Hillary Clinton. "Odds are the next president will pick someone less extreme than the anti-libertarian Garland," Amash wrote last night on Twitter. Amash then elaborated on the point: "Garland is 'moderate' only from the view of political elites. His record is anti-civil liberties and pro-unchecked executive powers." Amash is correct about Garland's record, which is replete with judicial deference to both law enforcement agencies and to the executive branch. All of which raises an interesting question. If the Senate does hold hearings on the Garland nomination, how many Senate Republicans will be forced to admit that they approve of Garland's judicial passivity in these important areas of the law? Like it or not, the Senate is not exactly packed to the gills with libertarian-minded lawmakers in the vein of Justin Amash (or Rand Paul). What will traditional conservatives have to say about Garland's record on these matters? What about the so-called law and order crowd? Remember, from the standpoint of a certain type of legal conservatism, the courts should be deferential towards the actions of police and prosecutors, or should be deferential towards the "inherent" powers of the presidency. Perhaps Garland will pick up more than a few votes from those segments of the Senate GOP. If nothing else, Senate confirmation hearings on Merrrick Garland would be a positive development because they might force conservative lawmakers to publicly air their differences on these crucial legal questions. [...]
2016-10-21T10:53:00-04:00One of the quadrennial complaints about the Libertarian Party is that all this focus on the (eventually futile) bid for the White House distracts from what should be gains on the state and local level. In fact, there are some interesting L.P. things afoot far afield from Gary Johnson's battle to get 5 percent. They include, but are not limited to: * In Georgia, two-term Republican incumbent Sen. Johnny Isakson, while comfortable ahead at the polls, might be forced into a runoff, thanks to three-time Libertarian candidate Allen Buckley, who was recently polled at 11 percent. * Further west, "the number of registered Libertarians in Colorado grew over 26 percent since January. Republicans added about 4 percent, Democrats about 7 percent." According to state party chair Jay North, "we have about thirty people running this year out of fifty [local] races." * In the state of Washington, where you might think environmentalists would have the upper hand, the Libertarian Party is beating the Green Party like a gong. * And as the Associated Press recently noted, the "Libertarian Party sees surge of new voters in Nebraska." From that article: Although it's still dwarfed by the Republican and Democratic parties, the Libertarian Party has seen a 28 percent increase in voter registrations since the state's May primary. The number of registered Libertarians is on pace to top 10,000 before the Nov. 8 election, and a state senator who recently joined the party is using her experience as a former GOP political activist to teach its members how to campaign. "It has a different feel from the third-party campaigns of the past," said Sen. Laura Ebke of Crete, who switched her affiliation from Republican to Libertarian in May. […] Party activists are focusing more on local government races and setting up new county chapters to recruit candidates. Libertarian Ben Backus, who ran unsuccessfully for secretary of state in 2014, is expected to win a seat on Gering's City Council after his primary opponent withdrew from the race. The party is also fielding candidates for the Scotts Bluff and Washington county commissions. Nick Gillespie interviewed national party chair Nicholas Sarwark a few days back. [...]