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Corporate Welfare

All articles with the "Corporate Welfare" tag.

Published: Thu, 23 Nov 2017 00:00:00 -0500

Last Build Date: Thu, 23 Nov 2017 21:15:38 -0500


Brickbat: Get This Straight

Thu, 09 Nov 2017 04:00:00 -0500

(image) Camille LeNoir had a job offer from then-New Mexico State University womens basketball head coach Mark Trakh, her former coach at the University of Southern California, to work for him as an assistant. But two days before she was to leave for New Mexico, Trakh called and said he'd seen a video online in which LeNoir said she was no longer gay. In fact, she said she is now a Christian and believes homosexuality is wrong. Trakh rescinded the job offer.

Amazon's Second HQ Attracts 238 Bids From Cities Eager to 'Give Away the Farm'

Mon, 23 Oct 2017 16:45:00 -0400

Amazon announced today that 238 North American cities have submitted applications to be the lucky location that will get to shower the online retail behemoth with billions of dollars' worth of incentives. The cities are trying to land the $5 billion investment and estimated 50,000 jobs that would come with hosting Amazon's second headquarters. As Reason's Christian Britschgi has noted, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (no stranger to humiliating himself in the game of politics) offered $7 billion in tax incentives to Amazon if the company set up shop in the Garden State. Local officials in Georgia have offered to let the company incorporate its own city. Tuscon even sent Amazon's CEO a 21-foot cactus, because why the hell not? Amazon isn't releasing the names of the cities behind the 238 bids, but the company says they came from "54 states, provinces, districts and territories around North America." According to a map published by the company, the U.S. bids have come from 43 states and Washington, D.C. So congrats to the cities of Arkansas, Hawaii, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Vermont, and Wyoming—the only places to resist the urge to prostrate themselves before the gods of economic development. Sure, Amazon is great. It's a powerhouse of a company that has given anyone with an internet connection and a mailing address access to products they never knew they wanted but suddenly can't live without. It has laid waste to awful, soul-destroying indoor shopping malls, and it plans to deliver your stuff faster than ever in the near future. Hooray for Amazon. But Amazon knows it is great. It knows, too, that the leaders of most American cities would sell their children for the chance to land 50,000 new jobs and all the tax revenue that comes with them. That's the kind of deal that pays for every government program they've ever wanted. That's the kind of deal that could be a springboard to higher office. Amazon can pretty much ask for the moon, and officials will line up with baskets full of other people's money and promise to throw a lasso around it. The sheer number of the bids is staggering, not so much because of how many places want Amazon's second headquarters but because a good percentage of the bidding cities surely have no chance whatsoever of winning. Amazon has been very clear about what it wants from a winning bid. It wants a metro area with more than a million people, with the actual site located within 30 miles of the population center and within 45 minutes of an international airport. It wants enough space to eventually build up to 8 million square feet of office space. There are only so many places in America that fit that description—and even if you assume that every suburb within every major metropolitan area on the continent submitted a bid, it's still hard to fathom that there would be 238 of them. Gary, Indiana (population: 47,000) reportedly put together a bid. Sure, it's technically in the Chicago metro area, but come on. Upstate New York is lovely to visit in the autumn, but Syracuse (population: 143,000) is not a prime contender for Amazon's new HQ, no matter how hard local officials try to convince themselves that it is. Gary and Syracuse—and other small or midsized cities that have experienced a drop in population and a surge in poverty—need something more than a pie-in-the-sky bid for a massive infusion of new jobs. There's no doubt that a major company like Amazon would revitalize a place like that, but there's nothing about Amazon's request (which also asks for "a stable and business-friendly environment" and "a community where our employees will enjoy living") that suggests their applications will get even a cursory glance. That officials in places like that think it's worth their time and their city's resources to even bid for Amazon tells you something about the economic development mind set in many parts of America. You don't get a properous, thriving city by winning a single competition and being rewarded with a gargantuan number of new jobs. A propero[...]

Former NFL Players Say League Should Allow Players to Use Marijuana to Treat Pain, Injuries

Sun, 22 Oct 2017 12:30:00 -0400

Medical marijuana has been legalized in 29 states, but it remains illegal for professional football players to use as a treatment for injuries and chronic pain. That doesn't mean players in the National Football League aren't using the drug. Quite the opposite. Eben Britton, who retired in 2014 after seven years in the NFL and who has admitted to playing games while high on marijuana and painkillers, estimates that more than half of the players in NFL locker rooms are using marijuana recreationally, or to treat injuries and control pain. During a discussion hosted by, a marijuana culture website, Britton talked about his experience using marijuana versus using opioids and other pain-killers. "I would take these pills and I would feel insane," Britton says. The opioids made him feel "more depressed, more helpless, more pissed off." Britton's assessment of widespread marijuana use in the NFL is supported by other players' experience. In a survey conducted earlier this year by, an online medical marijuana marketplace, 68 percent of the current and former players polled said they had used marijuana (either for recreational or medical purposes) during their career, while 87 percent said they would use it if the league allowed it (and 89 percent said they believed it would be an effective treatment for pain and other ailments). That tracks pretty closely with how the rest of the country feels about medical marijuana. A Quinnipiac University Poll conducted in February found support for medical marijuana at 93 percent nationwide, with large majorities cutting across all demographics. According to Gallup's latest polling, support for legalizing recreational marijuana is at 60 percent, the highest percentage recorded in the polling firm's 47 years of tracking that question. As Steve Chapman wrote earlier today here at Reason, legal marijuana is becoming the norm. The NFL has never allowed players to use marijuana for any reason—though league officials and the head of the NFL's players' union have begun discussing the possibility of allowing players to use the drug for medical purposes. But there is a well-documented history of teams handing out pharmaceutical pain-killers by the handful. Several former players are suing the NFL, alleging that official team doctors ignored federal laws for prescription drugs and disregarding medical guidance by handing out piles of opioids and other painkillers before, during, and after games. "I've seen plenty of guys leave the game addicted to pain pills. I've never seen anyone leave the game addicted to marijuana," says Marvin Washington, who played 11 seasons in the league and participated in the discussion. src="" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" width="560" height="315" frameborder="0"> The NFL's position on marijuana could soon change. Jerry Jones, the Dallas Cowboys' owner and possibly the most powerful billionaire in the NFL's inner circle of powerful billionaires, has floated the idea of loosening the NFL's ban on marijuana. And Allen Sills, the league's new chief medical officer, is interested in researching how marijuana could be used to help players manage their pain. "Certainly the research about marijuana and really more particularly cannabinoid compounds as they may relate to the treatment of both acute and chronic pain, that is an area of research that we need a lot more information on and we need to further develop," Sills, a Vanderbilt University neurosurgeon, said in an interview with The Washington Post. Despite overwhelming public support, and evidence the NFL's ban is no preventative, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has remained unmoved. Goodell suspended Buffalo Bills offensive tackle Seantrel Henderson last year for using medical marijuana to treat Crohn's disease, even though Henderson had a prescription for it. "I think you still have to look at a lot of aspects of marijuana use," Goodell said during an April interview with ESPN. "Is it somethi[...]

Atlanta Scrambles to Get Out of Expensive Deal It Forgot It Made

Tue, 17 Oct 2017 09:40:00 -0400

Which is worse: committing to sell off public land at millions below its market value, or not remembering you'd made that commitment in the first place? That's the question the Atlanta Housing Authority (AHA) is no doubt asking itself as it tries desperately to get out of a deal it made to sell $138 million of land to a property development company for the recession-era price of $17 million. The company, Integral, claims it was promised the $120 million discount by former AHA chief Renee Glover in a 2011 agreement. AHA's current president, Catherine Buell, says she knew nothing about the 2011 deal until Integral tried to make good on it in late 2016, and that the terms are wholly inappropriate. "The Atlanta Housing Authority is not a land bank for private developers to purchase land at rock bottom prices," says Buell. Her agency is now suing to stop the deal, calling it "unconscionable," "secret," and a violation of federal and state regulations. It's gross mismanagement at best, pure corruption at worst. And sadly, it isn't the only time a housing program has been caught in such a scandal. Money meant to house low-income people has been directed toward politically connected developers, wasted on never-completed projects, and even spent demolishing the homes of poor people. This particular episode has its roots in "revitalization agreements" made between AHA and Integral at the turn of the century, whereby Integral promised to convert several of Atlanta's low-income public housing projects into mixed-income developments. For its trouble, Integral was awarded some $114 million in AHA loans, funded through Department of Housing and Urban Development's HOPE VI program. In 2011, then-president Glover amended these revitalization agreements to give Integral the option of buying some of the vacant land surrounding the mixed-income communities it had developed at severely depressed land valuations. According to the lawsuit, Glover made this multi-million-dollar commitment without the consent of either the AHA board of directors or HUD, both of whose sign-off was required. AHA Communications Director Cecilia Taylor tells Reason that no meeting minutes or records show any vote being taken by the authority's board of directors on the 2011 deal, and two board members have said they have no memory of it. There is also no record of any review or approval from HUD, which is responsible for funding and supervising revitalization agreements. In March the Atlanta Constitution-Journal requested records of whatever approval HUD gave for Glover's 2011 deal. None were provided to the newspaper. Taylor tells Reason that HUD has yet to provide AHA with any such records either. This would not be the first time HUD has failed in its oversight of HOPE VI funds. A 2007 GAO report found that the department had no standard means of enforcing the terms of grant agreements it made, and that it often failed even to monitor the progress of those grants. Despite the lack of documentation, Glover has insisted the deal she brokered with Integral went through all the proper channels. So has Egbert Perry, co-founder of Integral. (Both Perry and Glover serve on Fannie Mae's board of directors.) Perry claims not just that the deal was reached within the bounds of the law, but that the massive subsidy his company gets from it is a fair reward for the value his tax-funded investment has brought to AHA land. "They don't realize what's there is because of what we did," Perry told the Atlanta Constitution-Journal back in March, "not what the authority did. What we did." That's a pretty rich claim coming from a man whose investment was underwritten by federally funded AHA loans, and who still owes some $29 million in interest on those loans. AHA describes the likelihood of that money being repaid at "moderate-to-low." The argument has also gotten short shrift from Atlanta housing advocates such as Tim Franzen of the Housing Justice League, who told the Journal-Constitution, "This is a [...]

Nashville's Future MLS Team Has Two Billionaire Owners; Mayor Wants Taxpayers to Help Fund Stadium Anyway

Sat, 07 Oct 2017 10:05:00 -0400

When the Nashville Metro Council extended tax breaks to the Nashville Predators, a financially struggling pro hockey team, a councilwoman named Megan Barry was skeptical that the deal was in the public's best interest. "Is Nashville a better place with the Predators?" she said on the council floor before voting against the proposal. "Probably. But I'm not voting on that question. I'm voting on whether further public subsidies for this particular for-profit enterprise represents good public policy. And I'm going to vote no." But that was in 2008. Now that Barry is the mayor of Nashville, she's become the lead cheerleader for subsidizing a new Major League Soccer stadium. "This is a tremendous benefit to our city and the community of Nashville," Barry told members the city council during a presentation on the proposal last week. "I think we are absolutely ready for this. Nashville is a soccer city." Barry's proposal for a $225 million soccer-only stadium—which the Metro Council could vote on as soon as October 17, according to the Nashville Business Journal—would require the city to borrow $200 million. The team's owners would front $25 million. The city would be on the hook for $13 million in annual debt payments over the next 30 years; the team's owners would be obliged to pay $9 million annually, with new taxes on tickets and concessions at the stadium projected to make up the other $4 million each year. If things don't go as planned—if, say, the team (or Major League Soccer as a whole) doesn't stick around for 30 years, or if ticket sales and concessions don't cover the expected debt payments—taxpayers could end up with a much bigger tab for the stadium. And they might not get a say in the matter. The proposal is moving through city council at breakneck speed, in part to meet deadlines for the league's planned expansion in 2020. Nashville is reportedly one of the league's top choices for expansion. An update: while my sources are "confident" Nashville will earn spot, MLS not making final decision until December. Nothing official today. — Jeff Rueter (@jeffrueter) October 2, 2017 Mark Cunningham of the Beacon Center, a free market think tank in Nashville, says the city shouldn't spend public money on a stadium unless voters approve it, like they did in a 1996 referendum that authorized $144 million to build a new stadium for the National Football League's Tennessee Titans. "The taxpayers should decide. It's their money," says Cunningham. "We don't think public dollars should be spent on a private stadium like this, especially one that has millionaires and billionaires benefiting from it." Beyond Barry's about-face on sports subsidies, two other elements of the stadium deal are worth exploring. First, why can't the new soccer team share the Titans' Nissan Stadium? That would seem to make a lot of sense, since taxpayers already put up a bunch of money to build it and it's conveniently located close to downtown. The Titans generally play only eight home games a year. (A maximum of 12 home dates is possible if you count two preseason games and the potential for two home playoff games.) That leaves plenty of dates open for soccer games. Logistically, fitting a soccer field into a football stadium is easy—in fact, Nissan Stadium has regularly hosted the U.S. men's and women's national soccer teams for games, including World Cup qualifying matches. Teams from the English Premier League, widely regarded as the top soccer league in the world, have played there. It's also one of the stadiums proposed as a site for the 2026 World Cup. If Nissan Stadium is good enough for world-class soccer teams, surely it's good enough for Major League Soccer. Except it's not, for the simple reason that Major League Soccer has said so. The league says it will not consider any expansion-team bid that do not include a soccer-specific stadium as part of the plan. That doesn't make much sense outside of being a way to leverage su[...]

Will Trump's NFL Spat Spur More Conservative Opposition to Terrible Stadium Subsidies?

Sun, 01 Oct 2017 11:50:00 -0400

If there is a silver lining to President Donald Trump's foolish attempt at bullying National Football League players and team owners via Twitter, it is this: Republicans and conservatives suddenly seem ever so slightly more interested in ending the stream of taxpayer subsidies for billion-dollar football stadiums. The shift was apparent during a segment of Monday's Fox and Friends, in which Fox Business Network anchor Stuart Varney offered his thoughts on the president's weekend war of words with the NFL over the question of whether players should stand or kneel (or remain off the field entirely) during the playing of the national anthem at the start of games. Trump's tweets on the matter inflated a handful of players kneeling during the anthem to protest police violence against African Americans into a league-wide show of solidarity against the president. Varney is against players taking a knee and he somewhat sloppily connected the protests to the fact that almost all NFL stadiums have been heavily subsidized by taxpayers. "Taxpayer subsidies go towards the building of stadiums," Varney said. "There have been 20 new NFL stadiums [built] since 1997. All of them have received a degree of taxpayer subsidies." A few seconds later, Varney's answer veered into incoherence. He said the NFL should not "bite the hand that helps to feed you," in reference to those same subsidies, and he suggested the league should not "insult taxpayers—whose symbol is the flag, and who you are disrespecting by your actions." Watch the whole clip here. Varney: NFL stadiums have collected over $1B in federal subsidies. My message to the NFL is "don't bite the hand that feeds you." — FOX & friends (@foxandfriends) September 25, 2017 Varney is very wrong about what should be considered an insult to taxpayers, of course. The idea that billionaire owners of professional football teams that rake in hundreds of millions of dollars of revenue every year need assistance from taxpayers is what's insulting. And it's even more insulting when team owners and government officials team up to shovel a bunch of debunked nonsense about "economic development" in front of taxpayers, as if that justifies those subsidies. Varney obviously needs to work on his argument, but cut him the smallest bit of slack for raising the issue of stadium subsidies on a platform like Fox and Friends, where Trump fans are already upset about what they perceive are the NFL's slights against the president. It's fair to assume most viewers don't know the details of stadium deals—an assumption host Steve Doocey made when he asked, "what do you mean by a subsidy?"—and maybe some will seek out additional information. Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., joined the subsidy outrage when he spoke on the House floor this week to denounce the NFL's response to Trump's tweets. "The public pays 70 percent of the cost of NFL stadiums," Gaetz said. "In America, if you want to play sports you're free to do so. If you want to protest, you're free to do so, but you should do so on your own time and on your own dime." Louisiana state Rep. Kenny Havard, R-East Baton Rouge, has called for putting an end to the estimated $165 million in tax breaks that flow annually to the New Orleans Saints, The Washington Post reports. Libertarians have long been opposed to stadium subsidies. But until recently there was little mainstream criticism from either the right or the left. That's starting to change. On the left, populist, progressive movements have become a larger part of the Democratic coalition, particularly in cities. That helps to explain why city councils in places like St. Louis, San Diego, and Oakland have stood up to pro football teams threatening to leave town if they don't get shiny, expensive new stadiums. On the right—where, you know, caring about fiscal matters is supposed to be more important—there's been some grassroots opposition to s[...]

By All Means, Let's Take Politics Out of Sports—Starting With the National Anthem

Sun, 01 Oct 2017 08:18:00 -0400

Defenders of Donald Trump's condemnation of NFL players who "take a knee" during the national hymn—sorry, anthem—beg a few questions. They assume the truth of matters that are or should be in dispute. So, not so fast, Trump defenders. You have work to do. The first question begged is whether kneeling or sitting during the "Star Bangled Banner" is an act of disrespect to "the country," the flag, the song, or the military. It's not enough to assume it is. Trump and his defenders have to demonstrate this, which would be difficult since we're talking about a state of mind. Any behavior can be consistent with many states of mind. Maybe one player or another intends disrespect, but disrespect doesn't seem to be the message most players wish to send. In fact, some have been quoted saying they mean no disrespect. Rather, they say, their actions are meant to express their belief that the ideals supposedly symbolized by the flag are being dishonored, for example, by police mistreatment of black people. Who's to say the kneelers are lying? That could end the discussion, but I think a much larger question is begged by Trump and his defenders. People sympathetic to Trump's tweets—for example, former generals and CIA directors Michael Hayden and David Petraeus—lament the kneeling because, they say, football of all things should not be "politicized." Their mistake is in thinking that the players initiated the politicization. They did not. Football, like other professional sports and public spectacles, first politicized their events by displaying the flag, playing the national anthem, and lauding the military. To assume those things are not political is to beg a whole lot of questions. The flag necessarily is a political symbol, and so is a song that sacralizes it. The country, which the flag is said to symbolize, is a political entity. The term the country is rarely meant to indicate merely the middle North American civil society that exists south of Canada and north of Mexico. That term is inextricably tied up with the government of the United States of America. Most people couldn't imagine the country without the government. Trump and his defenders certainly cannot. Indeed, they think it holds society together, for example, by securing its borders. While some people certainly believe the flag symbolizes freedom, one is justified in seeing it as a symbol of something rather different—of war, empire, and oppression at home and abroad. Empire-building began at the very start with the attempted extermination or expulsion of the Indians. The government supported the buying and selling of human beings. Yes, that was long ago, and some amends have been made. But that flag was carried (I'll avoid a tediously long list) to the Philippines, Japan, Germany, Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya, and all the other places where the U.S. government and its armed forces waged and still are waging war (conventional, chemical, nuclear, etc.), imposed or supported tyrants, and killed and tortured innocents. That flag is emblazoned on warplanes and naval destroyers, not to mention the uniforms of men and women who, on the orders of hack politicians worried about their political futures, ignorantly barge into other people's countries with the intent to kill. And we shouldn't overlook domestic oppression, like the war on drug users, merchants, and manufacturers, which has been an effective cover for the persecution of blacks and Latinos. Police wear the flag too. So the flag is inherently political and controversial. Thus, reacting to it by kneeling or sitting or turning one's back can hardly be deemed an initiation of politicization. It's just an inevitable response. That most people don't see the state and its symbols as political is a testament to the effectiveness of government education and the obsequiousness of the mass media. TV interviewers are obligated to thank pr[...]

How Ron Paul Gets the NFL 'Take the Knee' Controversy Wrong

Thu, 28 Sep 2017 12:30:00 -0400

Ron Paul appeared on Alex Jones's InfoWars to weigh in on the controversy that has the nation pointlessly aggrieved: some football players aren't happy with how often police kill black men and choose to express this by kneeling rather than standing when the national anthem is played before football games. Paul, the former Republican congressman (and two-time Republican, and one-time Libertarian, presidential candidate) seemed to see other things worth being angry about in the kneeling NFLers behavior and in the team owners' tolerating it, for various unconvincing and poorly expressed reasons. President Donald Trump has chosen to cynically and idiotically fan the flames of this phony controversy, dividing the nation roughly between those who either agree that cops violently misbehave too often or that Americans should be able to peacefully and symbolically express that opinion during the national anthem at a football game, and those who think public and presidential pressure should force everyone to "show respect for the flag" in one proscribed ritual way. Matt Welch masterfully parsed out nearly all the issues relevant to the libertarian perspective about this dumb controversy at Reason earlier this week. Among his conclusions were that it would be great to get government money and giveaways and crony treatment out of sports, and that it's a healthy thing for free Americans to react to presidential dudgeon by doing the opposite of what (he claims) he wanted. (Trump, the political imp of the perverse, likely would have been disappointed if everyone had obeyed his command to rise for the anthem.) On his show, Alex Jones, a popularizer of the idea that the U.S. government conducts baroque and sinister conspiracies with maddening regularity and for tyrannical ends, now seems more worried that "white people" and America are being criticized. Paul, fortunately given the shadow of racist comments that appeared under his name (but were not, he insists, written by him) decades ago in newsletters he issued, doesn't directly rise to that bait, moving forward as if it wasn't even said. But Paul apparently, for reasons he never specifies or makes clear in this interview, finds the display of kneeling by football players to be a distasteful example of a modern right-populist bogeyman, "cultural Marxism," an (often seen as conspiratorial) movement to overturn all traditional western values in order to soften our underbelly to accept totalitarian communism, through means unspecified. The Ron Paul who created a stir for a message of small government, sound money, and liberty in his 2008 and 2012 presidential campaigns nearly entirely avoided this kind of cranky right-wing talk. I never heard him claim the free choices of any American to express an anti-government opinion in any context was something to be upset about in any way. (I witnessed dozens of hours of his political speeches while researching my 2012 book Ron Paul's Revolution: The Man and the Movement He Inspired.) Being a politician seemed to bring out the best in him, a real rarity. When seeking a national audience as a presidential candidate, the need to appeal outside his pre-existing constituency containing many whose anti-statism had a right-populist streak gave him room to paint a wide and sympathetic vision of liberty, one with no place for griping about "cultural Marxism" or that some people are freely choosing to not embrace those old-time western family values. That Ron Paul left right-wing culture war nonsense entirely behind, speaking instead of the human tragedies of military empire, the dangers of federal management of the money supply, the stupidity and evil of restricting our free choices that don't directly harm others, from drug use to raw milk consumption. That Ron Paul celebrated the powers of a free people and free culture to unify us and make us the best we could be,[...]

9 Lessons from the Trump/NFL Anthem Wars

Tue, 26 Sep 2017 14:54:00 -0400

As the nation's attention and (not coincidentally!) the president's Twitter feed begin shifting away from the latest Culture War bauble and toward the plight of 3.4 million distressed American citizens on the island of Puerto Rico, there are some takeaways from this embarrassment worth pondering. Some of these points are counterintuitive; some are obvious mostly to libertarians; some are obvious to everyone yet worth reiterating if we're going to continue talking about this nonsense at all. So here goes: 1) The most offensive aspect about mixing politics and sports is the conscripted tax money and police power. President Donald Trump has serially suggested over the past several days that fans boycott the National Football League if some players continue not to stand during the playing of the national anthem. Leaving aside for a moment the propriety of a president acting as Boycotter in Chief, Trump surely is correct in observing that consumers of this entertainment product should feel free to agitate for a league policy change by opting out. If only taxpayers had that chance. Earlier this month, Reason's Eric Boehm wrote a salient piece headlined "Stop Subsidizing Football." Among Boehm's bill of particulars: Gregg Easterbook, author of The King of Sports: Football's Impact on America and a longtime critic of taxpayer subsidies for the sport, says taxpayers have covered more than 70 percent of the total cost of NFL stadiums built in the past two decades.... Stadium construction costs are the most expensive, most egregious way that taxpayers are forced to subsidize football, but others have also come under scrutiny in recent years. One of the biggest backdoor subsidies for football—the special loophole in the federal tax code that allowed the National Football League, but not any of its smaller competitors, to avoid federal taxes—was eliminated in 2015. A U.S. Senate investigation in 2015 revealed that the Pentagon had paid $5.4 million to NFL teams for so-called "displays of patriotism" during games between 2011 and 2014. Even on the rare occasion when they finance their own stadium construction, billionaire owners are allowed to issue tax-free municipal bonds, a perk not offered to most other industries. And having so much local-politico skin in the game greases the wheels all that much more for egregious, private-to-private eminent domain abuse. It is immoral for government to dislodge private property owners and confiscate money from taxpayers so that rich men can get richer organizing a sport that scores of millions don't care one whit about. The more government puts its hands where it oughtn't, the more likely the resulting actions will offend your core values. Wanna really stick it to the NFL? Get the government out of its business. 2) Donald Trump made the conscious choice to revive a near-moribund social controversy for political advantage. Do you know how many players made any kind of protest gesture during the national anthem the weekend before Trump called them SOBs? Less than 10. The conclusion here is inescapable. The president of the United States, while claiming to be appalled by scattered incidents of alleged anti-patriotism, voiced his displeasure (at a political rally) in such a way that guaranteed those incidents would multiply. He doesn't want this controversy to die down; he wants it to intensify, in a way that pits American vs. American. Just look at the follow-up reporting. "He knows it'll get people stirred up and talking about it," a senior administration official reportedly told Politico. Another Trump adviser reportedly told CNN's Jim Acosta that the president is "winning the cultural war...just made millionaire sport athletes his new HRC." At a dinner with conservatives last night, according to multiple outlets, Trump (in a paraphrase by Politico's Josh Dawsey) said "that [...]

Judge Napolitano on Whether the Trump/NFL Feud Is a First Amendment and/or Free Speech Issue

Mon, 25 Sep 2017 18:20:00 -0400

(image) Berkeley's Milo-tastic Free Speech Week might have been a dud on arrival, but that's not going to stop the most libertarian cable news show on television probing both the culture and legality of free speech all damn week. Fox Business Network's Kennedy, the eponymous daily starring Reason's dear old pal, launches its own Free Speech Week tonight with a super-strong effort featuring:

* Judge Andrew Napolitano, expertly picking apart free-speech arguments about the Trump-NFL-anthem kerfuffle that you hadn't even begun thinking about.

* Beloved Reason campus-free-speech correspondent Robby Soave, who describes what he saw at that Berkeley nothingburger, and what that might mean for the college speaking wars.

* A Party Panel of me, Kat Timpf, and Conservatarian Manifesto author Charles C.W. Cooke, discussing Trump's NFL commentary, and also his administration's revised travel ban.

Other Reason guests on Kennedy this week will include Peter Suderman and Katherine Mangu-Ward, so stay tuned all week at 8 p.m. ET! Oh, and read our recent magazine interview with the hostess herself.

Stop Subsidizing Football

Thu, 07 Sep 2017 12:29:00 -0400

In the sprawling suburbs west of Houston, the newest coliseum to America's favorite sport hosted its first game last week. Legacy Stadium seats more than 12,000 people in two decks of bleachers that wrap around the side of a gridiron. An HD video board for replays of the action cost $2 million by itself. The final price tag for the whole project was more than $70 million. The most surprising thing of all, perhaps, is that it's not a professional stadium. It's not a college stadium either. It's the most expensive high school football field in the nation, and it was paid for—every last dime—by the taxpayers of the Katy Independent School District, who approved the stadium as part of a bond package in 2014. Football is big business in America—from youth and high school levels all the way up to the pros in the National Football League—but the sport benefits from taxpayer subsidies at every level. State and local governments have spent billions of dollars in recent years to build stadiums for pro teams with billionaire owners, and untold millions on stadiums for high school and college teams too. Not all subsidies are so obvious, though, and the feeder system for the NFL relies on a system of high school and college programs that are built largely on the backs of taxpayers. Taxpayers should not have to support recreational activities of any kind—whether the participants are 17-years-old or earning $17 million a year (an amount some top quarterbacks and wide receivers can command in the NFL)—but they certainly should not be supporting a recreational pursuit that is proven to put young men at risk of serious health problems. There is no longer much doubt that football does that. Just a month before the new Legacy Stadium opened, the most damning evidence linking football to brain damage was published by a researcher at Boston University. Dr. Ann McKee, a neuropathologist, and a team of researchers at Boston University examined the brains of 111 former NFL players, and found 110 of them had signs of chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or C.T.E., a degenerative brain disease thought to be caused by repetitive head trauma. It can affect "behavior, mood, and cognitive symptoms" and can cause dementia, according to the researchers. Now that we know more about the health consequences of playing football, there's an urgent need to reassess the role that governments play in propping up a sport that, even though it remains wildly popular, is undoubtedly causing real harm to many of the young men who play it. School districts should stop subsiding brain damage in the name of athletics. -- The new NFL season will begin Thursday night at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts, when the defending Super Bowl champion New England Patriots host the Kansas City Chiefs. The season is scheduled to end on the first Sunday in February 2018 at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, the newly built home of the Minnesota Vikings, with the playing of Super Bowl 52. The two locales are a study in contrasts for how Americans subsidize football. Gillette Stadium opened in 2002 and cost about $412 million. The $325 million stadium was built entirely with private money, financed by Patriot's owner Robert Kraft, while the state of Massachusetts kicked in about $72 million for pay for infrastructure upgrades necessary for the construction and operation of the Patriots' home. In Minneapolis, local and state taxpayers got soaked for more than $500 million of the $1.1 billion price tag on the Vikings new home, which opened last season. Voters didn't get a referendum on whether they wanted to help team owner Zygi Wilf (estimated net worth: $5.3 billion) pay for the stadium, and the local officials who did vote on the new plan got special access to luxury box seats for all events hosted[...]

Stop Subsidizing Sports!

Fri, 25 Aug 2017 15:01:00 -0400

Let's talk about "sports"—that thing where we gather around to watch a muscular stranger put a regulation-size ball in a specific location.

Why are taxpayers forced to pony up cash for athletic ventures that don't benefit them? Franchise owners routinely extort massive stadium subsidies through threats of relocation and fake promises of economic revitalization. Universities jack up student rates to subsidize athletic programs that should be self-sustaining. And the Olympics is economically devastating to every municipality foolish enough to get suckered by one of the oldest scams around.

Mostly Weekly host Andrew Heaton explores the sports phenomenon and why we should quit throwing other people's money at it.

Watch past episodes.

Script by Sarah Siskind with writing assistant from Andrew Heaton and David Fried.
Edited by Austin Bragg and Siskind.
Produced by Meredith and Austin Bragg.
Theme Song: Frozen by Surfer Blood.

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ESPN's Robert Lee Decision Should Be Wake-Up Call About the Perpetual Outrage Machines

Wed, 23 Aug 2017 13:40:00 -0400

(image) ESPN has pulled announcer Robert Lee from doing the play-by-play at the University of Virginia's football home opener in Charlottesville this weekend. The channel says it made this decision while "the tragic events in Charlottesville were unfolding, simply because of the coincidence of his name."

"In that moment it felt right to all parties," ESPN said in a statement. "It's a shame that this is even a topic of conversation and we regret that who calls play by play for a football game has become an issue." The outlet claims that the decision was mutual, and a network executive later commented that Lee could be "subjected to memes and jokes and who knows what else." The executive insists there were no "politically correct efforts" or race issues. "Just trying to be supportive of a young guy who felt it best to avoid the potential zoo," the executive wrote.

This ought to be a turning point in the debate over "PC culture." It raises the important question of how much it is the perception of potential outrage rather than the outrage itself that drives these disputes. Would there really have been enough anger over Lee announcing the UVa game to make removing him the more "politically correct" option?

Sure, there may have been some harmless jokes about his name, but so what? The ESPN executive said he was worried about memes, but ESPN loves memes and understands how trafficking in them can increase exposure and name recognition.

Someone, somewhere, might actually get mad about Lee's name. (Someone, somewhere, is always getting mad about everything.) But now people are mad that Lee isn't doing the play-by-play. (For a news organization to assume such a juicy piece of news wouldn't have leaked is naïve, to say the least.) The left-wing perpetual outrage machine has sparked a resurgence in the right-wing outrage machine, which is now running through the "ESPN pulled an Asian Robert Lee from Charlottesville" cycle.

Here's a better approach: Don't make decisions like this based on the memes people might pass around on Facebook. The outrage machines are noisy, but that doesn't mean they're big. A wise media outlet will never assume that the loudest voices are the most popular ones.

Five Cities That Got F*cked by Hosting the Olympics

Mon, 21 Aug 2017 12:30:00 -0400

Every four years with the Olympics, municipalities compete to host the winter and summer games and virtually always plunge their cities and sometimes even their home countries into massive debt and insolvency. Why? Because host cities inevitably spend double or more over initial estimates, fewer people show up than expected, and the International Olympic Committee, or IOC, takes bigger and bigger cuts of TV and other revenue streams. Sports economist Andrew Zimbalist says that a typical Summer Olympics generates up to $6 billion in revenue, at least half of which goes to the IOC. Winter Games generate even less money despite often being more expensive to host than Summer Games. Cities routinely claim that whatever money they spend on new facilities will stimulate the local economy for decades to come. With the recent announcement that Paris will host the 2024 Summer Games and Los Angeles will host the 2028 Summer Games, here are five cities that got fucked by hosting the Olympics. Athens, Greece, 2004. Athens is the birthplace of the ancient games that inspired today's modern municipal money pits. Its 2004, Games cost $16 billion, or 10 times the original estimate. By 2010, more than half the venues built for the event were underused, completely empty, or literally falling apart. Sochi, Russia, 2014. At $50 billion, the Sochi Winter Games cost more than all previous Winter Olympics combined, paid for by a dwindling supply of Russian petro dollars and gold bullion. Boris Nemtsov documented that $21 billion went to "embezzlement and kickbacks" for businessmen friends of Vladimir Putin. Nemtsov was later assassinated. Rio de Janiero, Brazil, 2016. Plagued by low ticket sales partly due to the outbreak of the Zika virus, the Rio games ended up costing $20 billion rather than the $13 billion backers claimed. The Olympics were hosted on the heels of the 2014 World Cup, which also cost a ton of loot, and the showplace Maracana stadium, which got a $500 million makeover, was "largely abandoned" soon after the games and had thousands of seats ripped out by vandals. Beijing, China, 2008. The Beijing Games cost $42 billion, a record at the time, even though Amnesty International charged that the Chinese government used forced labor to build many of the venues. The IOC didn't mind the stratospheric costs or crackdowns on dissent, though: It awarded Beijing the 2022 Winter Games. Montreal, Canada, 1976. The mayor of Montreal declared that the Olympics "can no more have a deficit than a man can have a baby." Unfortunately, it took Montreal 30 years to pay off its debt just for the main stadium built for the 1976 Summer Games. If there's good news here, it's that cities seem to be wising up: Paris and Los Angeles were the only two cities to bid on the 2024 Olympic Games and IOC was so anxious that there wouldn't be enough applications for 2028, that it pre-emptively awarded it to LA. But just like with professional sports teams that extort tax dollars and subsidies for stadiums that never pay back their inflated costs, it's likely the Olympics will keep finding new suckers for one of the oldest scams in sports. Produced by Todd Krainin. Written and narrated by Nick Gillespie, and based on an article by Ed Krayewski. Camera by Jim Epstein. Subscribe to our YouTube channel. Like us on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter. Subscribe to our podcast at iTunes.[...]

Why Handwashing Is Key to Ballpark Food Safety

Sat, 19 Aug 2017 08:00:00 -0400

In an interesting before-you-reach-for-that-hot-dog style report released last week, Sports Illustrated compared and ranked the food-safety climate at every Major League Baseball park in the United States. Seattle's Safeco Field came in first, while Tampa Bay's Tropicana Field brought up the rear. My favorite (and hometown) ballpark, Boston's Fenway, ranked second. Among its conclusions, the report found "almost a third of the league's stadiums had over 100 total violations, including both Los Angeles clubs. One Chicago stadium failed its routine inspection for the second summer in a row. Eighteen ballparks had critical violations in at least a quarter of their concession stands." Some of the violations reported are objectively gross: "Camden Yards had evidence of rodent infestation at eight different food entities and Yankee Stadium had 14 stands overrun with filth flies." The SI report updates the first such study, published by ESPN in 2009. Food safety at sporting events has long intrigued me. The first time I ever really thought about food safety is intimately tied to sports. The year was 1980. I was seven years old. As I watched an episode of Quincy, M.E.—titled "Deadly Arena"—I saw the title character engage in what IMDB characterizes as "a race against time to find the source of" a botulism outbreak at a sports stadium "before the field becomes littered with bodies." Some of the best stadium food I've eaten in the years since has been the Ichiroll (an Ichiro Suzuki-themed sushi roll) and the grasshoppers at Safeco. The worst food I've ever eaten at a sporting event—football, rather than baseball—was a crab and cheese pretzel at FedEx Field in Maryland. But the relative tastiness of a stadium's food doesn't have much if anything to do with the safety of that food. "The real risk, it seems to me at the ballpark, is the handling of food," said UCLA Prof. Michael Roberts—with whom I serve on the board of the Academy of Food Law & Policy—in comments to SI. "That's where you've got handlers cooking the food, handing it out, managing refrigeration and heating. … So it seems that the most important players in this would be local level, the county inspectors, the folks that are there to ensure quality and safety measures are being followed." Others SI spoke with echoed Roberts. And I will, too. He's exactly right. Data back him up. Nearly six out of every ten cases of foodborne illness in this country are caused by norovirus, which is transmitted most often from person to person due to poor handwashing after using a restroom. According to a 2016 article published in the Journal of Food Protection, every state requires workers to wash their hands after using a restroom. Requiring foodservice employees to wash their hands after using a restroom is—in a bubble—smart lawmaking. But other rules may offset the handwashing rule. For example, fire-safety laws requiring that bathroom doors open inward, rather than outward, means in most cases that a person must touch a door handle before they leave a restroom. So a foodservice worker may do everything they're supposed to—washing their hands before leaving a restroom—but their best efforts may be foiled by having to share a bathroom-door handle (and the associated germs) with people who don't wash their hands. The FDA's model food code recognizes the potential for re-contamination after washing one's hands. "TO avoid recontaminating their hands ... FOOD EMPLOYEES may use disposable paper towels or similar clean barriers when touching surfaces such as manually operated faucet handles on a HANDWASHING SINK or the handle of a restroom door," it states. But many foodservice establishments [...]