Published: Sat, 25 Mar 2017 00:00:00 -0400
Last Build Date: Sat, 25 Mar 2017 19:18:56 -0400
Thu, 16 Mar 2017 15:15:00 -0400
(image) When early drafts of the Trump budget started to circulate after the inauguration, the Export-Import Bank—one of Washington's most notorious corporate-welfare programs—was among the agencies destined for the chopping block. Now the actual budget is out, and the bank has been spared the ax. The Washington Examiner's Tim Carney reports that this "follows many reports from congressional fans of Ex-Im that Trump had been persuaded to love the agency, which primarily subsidizes Boeing sales." (Barack Obama underwent a similar transformation, denouncing the bank as "little more than a fund for corporate welfare" while he was running for president but fighting to preserve it once in office.)
The budget plan does have some good news for foes of corporate handouts. Carney points out that the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (which "subsidizes U.S. companies that want to set up business overseas, such as a Ritz Carlton in Turkey or a Wendy's in the Republic of Georgia") is still slated to go, as is the U.S. Trade and Development Agency. The Community Development Block Grant Program, also marked for death, has a long history of funding officials' business cronies, as my colleague Scott Shackford noted earlier today. Poke through the proposals for the departments of energy, commerce, and agriculture, and you'll find some more subsidies being cut.
But the biggest hub of crony capitalism in Washington is the military-industrial complex. And that, alas, is set to expand: Trump wants to give the Pentagon a $52.3 billion spending spike. I'm glad for any small victories against the corporate state, but in the grand scheme of things they're getting swamped.
Mon, 13 Mar 2017 04:00:00 -0400
(image) For almost a decade, Montreal has hosted the Canadian championship in Brazilian jiu jitsu. But organizers had to cancel this year's tournament at the last minute after cops told them it would violate a Canadian law that says that only combat sports recognized by the International Olympic Committee are legal. The police threatened to arrest every athlete who took part in the event. Making things even more confusing, the law cops cited defines combats sports as those involving striking with the hands or feet. Brazilian jiu jitsu is a grappling sport that doesn't allow strikes.
Wed, 08 Mar 2017 04:00:00 -0500
(image) Newfoundland Youth Bowling has agreed to return gold medals to a team that won a recent tournament but not to overturn a ruling which disqualified them after the tournament was over. The team was disqualified because one 7-year-old bowler was wearing pants that were not the proper shade of black.
Thu, 02 Mar 2017 07:00:00 -0500This month Americans are expected to bet something like $9 billion on the NCAA men's basketball tournament, almost all of it through illegal channels. That's because federal law prohibits wagering on sporting events everywhere except Nevada, which was grandfathered by the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992. (PASPA also allows pre-existing sports lotteries in Delaware and Oregon, but those are limited to NFL games.) All told, Americans may bet as much as $400 billion a year on sports, and nearly all of those wagers are illegal, whether they happen in office pools or on websites run by offshore companies. Although criminalizing such a common and generally innocuous activity strikes libertarians as self-evidently insane, the general public is not so sure. Last year a Fairleigh Dickinson University poll found that only 48 percent of Americans supported "changing the law to allow people to place bets on sports in all states." (By comparsion, Gallup puts support for marijuana legalization at 60 percent.) Another 2016 poll, by Seton Hall University, phrased the question differently, asking whether "states should be free to decide whether to legalize betting on sporting events." That policy garnered support from 68 percent of respondents. A third poll from last year, by the Mellman Group, combined the two questions and found that 22 percent of respondents thought "sports betting should be legal nationwide," while 58 percent thought "each state should be able to decide whether or not sports betting should be legal within its borders." In other words, 80 percent opposed the current federal policy of preventing states from legalizing sports betting. As Steven Titch and Michelle Minton note in a new paper from the Competitive Enterprise Institute, even professional sports leagues, which have long opposed letting people legally bet on their games, are starting to come around. In 2014 National Basketball Association Commissioner Adam Silver wrote a New York Times op-ed piece arguing that "sports betting should be brought out of the underground and into the sunlight where it can be appropriately monitored and regulated." In 2015 Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred told ESPN legalization of sports betting deserves "fresh consideration." One of the most common objections to legal sports betting, especially from the professional leagues and the NCAA, is that it will have a corrupting effect, encouraging bribery of players or officials to change outcomes or shave points. That concern, Titch and Minton argue, is misguided, since legal, transparent betting makes corruption easier to detect. They cite several cases, including the "Black Sox" scandal of 1919, where sudden shifts in betting odds revealed behind-the-scenes manipulation. "By criminalizing sports betting, PASPA actually increases the risks of match-fixing and corruption," Titch and Minton write. "In Europe and much of the world where sports betting is legal, bookies are incentivized to share with authorities odd betting patterns that might signal corruption....By contrast, in the U.S., the law disincentivizes gamblers from alerting authorities to suspicious betting that might indicate match fixing, lest they open themselves up to investigation." Opponents of legal sports betting also worry it will foster gambling addiction. That was the top concern for the people who opposed legalization in the Fairleigh Dickinson poll, cited by 55 percent of them. Aside from the moral questions raised by the "addict's veto," which justifies banning pleasures that are generally harmless because sometimes they aren't, there is the practical question of whether prohibition actually reduces problem gambling. That's a dubious proposition given that Americans are betting hundreds of billions a year on sports despite the ban, especially since the gamblers who are the most inclined to excess are probably the least deterred by the law. Titch and Minton note that "the rate of pathological gambli[...]
Tue, 28 Feb 2017 13:25:00 -0500Mack Beggs should have been wrestling with the boys. Let's just start with that, but note the lack of use of words like "required" or "mandated" or other suggestions of involuntary placement. Beggs won the Texas state high school championship in his weight class over the weekend. This victory became international news because Beggs actually competed solely against and defeated girls. Beggs is transgender, transitioning from female to male. He is taking testosterone under a doctor's care, which potentially gives him quite a leg up (pun fully intended) over his female competitors. When something this awkward happens, inflexible regulations are often to blame, and that's partly the case here. Texas' athletics rules require athletes to participate in sex-segregated sports based on what they've listed on their birth certificates. And while steroids are generally banned substances for athletes, there is an exception for those who have doctor's orders for valid medical treatments, as what has happened here. So, really, it's the state's fault this all happened. And not a few people are angry about it. There has been a lawsuit by the parent of a competitor to try to stop Beggs from wrestling because the hormone treatments enhance muscle growth and give him an advantage (though also keep in mind that wrestling has weight classes to help control advantages that result from size differences). The Dallas News notes that the controversy probably wouldn't have happened in other states because Beggs would have been wrestling males. The News also suggests that the rule might not be changing anytime soon, so Beggs, currently a junior, could be put in this position again next year. As is typical with transgender issues, there's an interest in trying to push through the simplest possible solution that happens to align with one's pre-existing issues of the cultural conflict. Accommodate everybody who declares themselves transgender! Or refuse to accommodate transgender people at all and insist it's not a real thing! The first solution leads to fears of gaming the system—that athletes will take advantage, in this case men competing as women, obviously. It smacks of the same argument about transgender women in bathrooms—the idea that predatory men who are not actually transgender will "take advantage" of the law and use it to victimize women and avoid the consequences. It's a creepy attitude, denying one group of citizens appropriate treatment out of fears that some other group of people will do bad things as a consequence. Consider this approach in the terms of nanny state bans and the justifications for the drug war and realize that it's awful. As far as the second solution, it's a terrible idea for a state school system or government to weigh in on the scientific validity of transgender people. It's not for the state to decide whether somebody's experience changing gender is based on something real or not. It's a situation that exists and will continue to exist. It's not going to go away. I've previously argued against government bans on "reparative therapy" (the idea that homosexuality and transgenderism can be "cured" with psychotherapy) partly because it puts the government in the position of determining what is and is not a legitimate application of social science. To the extent that the fields of psychology and child development and several other social sciences are still trying to navigate the increasing numbers of youths identifying as transgender, it's not a situation that calls for government referees. Unfortunately, as the school bathroom and facilities battles have highlighted, federal discrimination law and Title IX have put the government in the position of having to play a role. Government facilities should accommodate transgender people as much as possible for no reason other than acceptance that we control our own bodies and identities, not the government. Any government intervention based on a person's identity [...]
Tue, 07 Feb 2017 08:30:00 -0500In the weeks leading up to the Super Bowl, the usual cabal of activists, government officials, and click-hungry hacks in the media began their annual process of entirely fabricating an epidemic of Super Bowl-related sexual violence. Once upon a time, the (wholly unsubstantiated) rumor was that domestic violence spiked during big sporting events like the Super Bowl, but for the past decade or so the hysteria has coalesced around sex trafficking. To hear the hysterics tell it, thousands—perhaps tens of thousands—of sex-selling women will flock like cockroaches to cities where sports-fans gather, and only some will be there willingly; the rest, including many children, are trucked in by opportunistic pimps and traffickers. As ample people have pointed out—see these pieces from author and sex worker Maggie McNeill, theology scholar Benjamin L. Corey, sports writer Jon Wertheim, and journalist Anna Merlan, for starters, or check out this 2011 report from the Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women—there's not a shred of evidence to support this rumor about sports-related spikes in sex trafficking. Any examinations of actual arrest data in Super Bowl cities shows no corresponding spike in sex trafficking, compelling prostitution, or any other similar charge—despite the verifiable spike in law-enforcement and media attention to the issue. Sometimes we see spikes in the number of women arrested for prostitution, but this could be attributed as much to an uptick in vice stings around Super Bowl as an increase in local prostitution levels (and is, regardless, not the same thing as a spike in sex trafficking). Super Bowl 2017 was held in Houston, which sits in Harris County, Texas. Each day, the county posts its previous 24-hours worth of arrests on the Harris County Sherrif's Office (HCSO) website. The arrest report for February 6, 2017, contains more than 11 pages of arrests, including 12 for prostitution, a lot of DUI and driving-on-a-suspended-license charges, some marijuana possession, several assaults, theft, forgery, driving without a seatbelt, one "parent contributing to truancy," and a few for racing on the highway. The February 7 HSCO arrest log shows three arrests for prostitution. But neither reveals a single arrest for sex trafficking, soliciting a minor, pimping, promoting prostitution, compelling prostitution, or any other charges that might suggest forced or voluntary sex trade. The Houston Police Department (HPD) does not post arrest logs online, and I unable to obtain any numbers from them directly. I spoke with HPD's public affairs office Monday morning and was told someone would get back to me once the vice department had tallied the numbers, but I have yet to get a response. But the public affairs officer also pointed me to the Harris County District Clerk's Office, which contains case information for people arrested by all in-county police departments, including HPD. Between the Saturday before the Super Bowl and the Tuesday morning after, no criminal complaints were filed against anyone for sex trafficking, soliciting a minor, pimping, promoting prostitution, compelling prostitution, etc. Falcons and Patriots aren't the only teams at the stadium today- we're proud to work #SB51 with @HoustonPolice @HCSOTEXAS #partners pic.twitter.com/UmtO3hHStD — FBI Houston (@FBIHouston) February 5, 2017 Searching police statements and Houston media likewise turns up no post-Super Bowl mention of sex trafficking, though the subject made plenty of news just before the big game. "As Houston starts to party, there are extra eyes on the crowds," KHOU news reported Thursday after talking to HPD Chief Art Acevado. "Undercover officers are looking for everything from prostitution to human trafficking." At that point, however, they had only made prostitution arrests, booking 22 people on prostitution charges on February 2. KHOU also reported that police "helped get three woman off the[...]
Tue, 07 Feb 2017 04:00:00 -0500
(image) Iran has banned American wrestlers from entering the country to compete in the Freestyle World Cup later this month. The ban was in retaliation for President Donald Trump's recent executive order that barred visas for those from seven countries, including Iran.
Mon, 06 Feb 2017 17:30:00 -0500
(image) Super Bowl LI between the Atlanta Falcons and New England Patriots was a stunner of a game, the first Super Bowl to be decided in overtime.
But the playing on the field was hardly the only topic of conversation. Conspiracy nut Alex Jones prophesied that performer Lady Gaga would perform a satanic ritual during her half-time show while others complained that pro-immigration TV commercials from Anheuser-Busch and 84 Lumber were spoiling the pleasure of seeing millionaires beat each other for the Vince Lombardi trophy. In the end, Lady Gaga didn't spill any blood or summon any demons, though she did jump off the roof of Houston's NRG stadium in a remarkable entrance. After the Patriots staged an unparalleled comeback, it was the alt-right that politicized the effort, with the vile Richard Spencer tweeting an image of QB Tom Brady kissing his supermodel wife and announcing, "For the White race, it's never over." That the official pre-game show honored Black History Month by saluting football Hall of Famers who had graduated from historically black colleges and universities doubtless enraged Pepe the frog fans all over the planet.
Reason Editor in Chief Katherine Mangu-Ward, Editor at Large Matt Welch, and I talk about all this plus Donald Trump's second week on the job as president of the United States. Trump spent part of last week attacking the "so-called judge" who issued a temporary stay against his refugee and immigration ban and just minutes before the Super Bowl he caused a stir by responding to Fox News' Bill O'Reilly charge that Russia's Vladimir Putin is a killer by saying, "You think our country is so innocent?"
We discuss all that, plus the increasingly tight confirmation votes slated for Trump's picks for Secretary of Education and Attorney General in the newest Reason Podcast.
Produced by Mark McDaniel.
Click below to listen to the conversation—or subscribe to our podcast at iTunes and never miss an episode.
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Tue, 17 Jan 2017 04:00:00 -0500
(image) A New York law supporters said would protect boxers is killing the sport in the state. The law, passed last year, requires $1 million insurance for each boxer on a card to cover life-threatening brain injuries. Promoters say they can afford that for big championship fights but not for the small, local shows that are the lifeblood of the sport.
Thu, 12 Jan 2017 13:30:00 -0500
(image) A great deal of the Department of Commerce is basically a machine for dispensing corporate welfare. Don't expect that to change under Donald Trump: His nominee to run the department, businessman Wilbur Ross, has a history of both advocating and profiting from federal and state interventions in the economy.
For some examples, check out Tim Carney's column about Ross in The Washington Examiner. Here's an excerpt:
"One of the problems in our country," Ross said in 2010, "is we don't have an industrial policy." By "industrial policy," Ross meant federal laws that steer resources to certain sectors for certain activities.
Ross, in a CNBC interview in the summer of 2010, expressed his admiration for China's five-year plans, the ones originated by Communist revolutionary Mao Zedong. "Is that something we should do here, Wilbur?" journalist Andy Serwer asked.
"Yes," Ross responded....Ross explained how he would use government to steer the economic ship: "We ought, as a country, to decide which industries are we going to really promote—the so-called industries of the future."
As Carney goes on to show, Ross has himself benefited from a variety of economic interventions, including steel tariffs, textile quotas, coal subsidies, and more. To read the whole thing, go here.
Tue, 20 Dec 2016 12:25:00 -0500Missouri Governor-elect Eric Greitens (R) took to his Facebook page yesterday to vocally oppose public financing for a proposed Major League Soccer (MLS) expansion team's stadium in St. Louis. Current Missouri Governor Jay Nixon (D) has come out in support of public funds being used to help convince MLS to award a team to St. Louis, just as he supported using public funds to build a new stadium for the National Football League's (NFL) Rams, who bolted for Los Angeles last year before their previous publicly-funded stadium was even close to being paid off. But Greitens is having none of it, writing on Facebook: This project is nothing more than welfare for millionaires. Right now, because of reckless spending by career politicians, we can't even afford the core functions of government, let alone spend millions on soccer stadiums. This type of back-room wheeling and dealing is exactly what frustrates Missourians. It's politics as usual, and it ends now. The very rich business-people who comprise the ownership group SC STL, who claim to need $405 million to start up a St. Louis franchise, say they are willing to invest $280 million, which would include MLS' $200 million franchise fee. On top of their investment into the business they would profit off of, SC STL wants St. Louis taxpayers to kick in about $80 million and the state of Missouri to offer $40 million in tax credits. But hang on, says MLS Commissioner Don Garber, the MLS franchise fee is only $150 million! The Riverfront Times reports: ...if St. Louis makes the cut to join the league — a decision expected later in 2017 — don't expect SC STL to use that seemingly "extra" $50 million to reduce the burden on city taxpayers. When SC STL vice chairman Jim Kavanaugh was asked if the lower franchise fee would decrease the ownership group's request for $120 million in city and state money, he responded, "No, it does not." "It's still quite a significant franchise fee," Kavanaugh said, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Kavanaugh also pointed out that SC STL is already on the hook for construction cost overruns and maintenance for 30 years. The Missouri Development Finance Board is scheduled to vote on the state tax credits today, and the St. Louis Board of Aldermen is still debating on whether to add to an April ballot the proposal to use taxpayer funds to subsidize a soccer stadium for a team that does not yet exist. MLS Commissioner Garber has called the possible vote a "referendum" on whether or not the community is worthy of a pro soccer team. But using public funds to lure an expansion team is a gamble that can go disastrously wrong. Just ask Quebec City, which lost big on its bet to try to bring a National Hockey League (NHL) team back to Francophone Canada. The parties seeking taxpayer investment in this private enterprise are making the usual promises of "hundreds of millions added to the local and state economy through new jobs and business," but the evidence that sports arenas add anything more than temporary construction and part-time concession jobs is forever lacking. Read more Reason coverage of publicly financed stadium debacles here and watch Reason TV's doc on the folly of publicly-funded stadiums below: src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/h1LDjTgMEGU" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" frameborder="0" height="340" width="560">[...]
Mon, 05 Dec 2016 04:00:00 -0500
(image) Just three months after the Rio Olympics ended, the $19 million golf course built for the games is rarely used, and the company responsible for its upkeep has not been paid by the government for two months. Few Brazilians golf, but organizers of the games said building the course could help make the game more popular there.
Wed, 28 Sep 2016 14:34:00 -0400LeBron James was asked at this week's NBA media day whether he would join San Francisco 49ers second-string quarterback Colin Kaepernick and other athletes in sitting for the national anthem as a protest against police brutality. "First of all, I'm all in favor of anyone, athlete or non-athlete being able to express what they believe in in a peaceful manner," James, a member of the championship-winning Cleveland Cavaliers told the press. "Standing for the national anthem is something I will do, that's who I am that's what I believe in, but that doesn't mean I don't respect and don't agree with what Colin Kaepernick is doing." James said he didn't like the negative attention Kaepernick was getting from "some people," saying his protest was the most peaceful he had seen, and that he didn't ask anyone else to join him. Later at the same presser, James was asked about the opening of this year's ESPY awards, where James was joined by three other basketball players to urge athletes to be more socially active. James told other athletes they had to "go back to our communities, invest our time, our resources, help rebuild them, help strengthen them, help change them." Last week, the NBA sent a memo to tell players to contact the league and union officials about coming up with ways to create "positive change" in their community. "We're not politicians, so we weren't up there saying America is bad and things of that nature," James explained at this week's press conference, "that's not our position, because America has done so many great things for all of us." James said his and the other players' intentions at the ESPYs was to "continue the conversation" and that the league's memo was a success that came out of that. In talking about police brutality, James mentioned his own children, and talked about his oldest son, who is 12. "I look at my son being four years removed from driving his own car and being able to leave the house on his own," James said, "and it's a scary thought right now to think that if my son gets pulled over, and you tell your kids if you just comply and you just listen to the police they will be respectful and things will work itself out and you see these videos that continue to come out." "It's a scary ass situation," James continued, "that if my son calls me and says he's been pulled over, that I'm not that confident that things are going to go well, and my son is going to return home. James insisted neither he nor anyone else had all the answers, and that's why he wanted "the conversation to continue to keep going." "Because I'm not up here saying that all police are bad, because they're not, I'm not up here saying that all kids are greats and all adults are great because they're not," James explained, "but at the same time all lives do matter and it's not just black or white, it's not that, it's everyone, it's tough being a parent right now, when you have a pre-teen, but the conversation is continued from the ESPYs and that's definitely a good thing." In December of 2014, LeBron James joined several other NBA players in wearing "I can't breathe" t-shirts to protest the killing of Eric Garner by police in New York City.[...]
Wed, 21 Sep 2016 12:00:00 -0400There was something very weird about the decisions by the NCAA and the ACC to pull a number of championship events out of North Carolina. The organizations did so to protest the infamous House Bill 2, which forbids localities to enact equal-protection measures for LGBTQ people and requires transgender individuals to use restrooms that align with their anatomical sex, not their gender identity. The organizations did not want to lend even tacit consent to prejudice. As ACC Commissioner John Swofford put it, "the ACC Council of Presidents made it clear that the core values of this league are of the utmost importance, and the opposition to any form of discrimination is paramount. Today's decision is one of principle." This is commendable, for all the reasons House Bill 2 is not. Targeting transgender people in particular for state-sponsored discrimination is an ignoble enterprise based on ignorance, fear, and disgust. Transgender people do not go down their road lightly; for some the path is so harrowing suicide seems less painful. Treating them with a little respect and common decency hardly seems too much to ask. Still, the coverage of the moves by the athletic bodies was occasionally surreal. Here, for instance, is The New York Times: "Already, the University of Vermont had canceled a women's basketball game to be held at the University of North Carolina, and the State University of New York at Albany had canceled a men's basketball game at Duke. In addition to men's basketball, the affected championships are for women's soccer, women's golf and women's lacrosse in Division I; baseball in Division II; and men's and women's soccer in Division III." Notice anything odd? You should: To protest discrimination, athletic organizations are pulling events that are strictly segregated. The irony is all the richer for the fact that the discrimination being protested—discrimination on the basis of gender identity—is the very sort of discrimination that occurs when schools field separate teams for men and women. If "opposition to any form of discrimination is paramount," then why do the ACC and the NCAA abide a college-sports system that separates players by sex? Sure, society has reasons for the distinction. For instance, having separate teams for men and women provides opportunity for twice as many people to play. But that's not much of a reason, is it? We could increase the number of players even more if schools further divided teams by race, so that schools competed for the white male basketball championship, the white female basketball championship, the Asian male basketball championship, the Asian female basketball championship, and so on. Nobody thinks that is a good idea. Another argument: The average male has more upper-body strength than the agverage female. So what? Sports teams don't field average players—they field extraordinary ones. Two extraordinary women recently graduated from the Army's Ranger course; why shouldn't extraordinary women be permitted to play on men's sports teams, too? A league opposed to "any form of discrimination" should be pushing for—in fact, demanding—such a change, shouldn't it? If you have what you think are valid reasons for separating teams by gender, then you are essentially making the point that some values outweigh the principle of nondiscrimination. But then, supporters of House Bill 2 make the same point: Some things matter more. Once you concede some things matters more, you're simply haggling over details. Gender is hardly the only area in which discrimination is still widely practiced. At the University of Virginia, certain scholarships are limited to African-American students. Georgia Tech has a scholarship exclusively for m[...]
Tue, 20 Sep 2016 04:00:00 -0400
(image) In Michigan, the OK Conference, a high school athletics conference, has sent a letter to school administrators saying that fans at games can chant "U-S-A" only before or after the National Anthem. Conference officials say they believe that using the chant at other times may be a way of taunting opposing players or fans by implying "U suck ---."