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Corporate Welfare



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Published: Sun, 23 Apr 2017 00:00:00 -0400

Last Build Date: Sun, 23 Apr 2017 14:12:45 -0400

 



Major League Baseball's War on PEDs Is Still Petty and Pointless

Wed, 19 Apr 2017 17:15:00 -0400

Pittsburgh Pirates outfielder Starling Marte was suspended Tuesday after testing positive for the testosterone derivative Nandrolone, an androgenic compound that increases lean body mass and strength, decreases fat mass, and expedites soft tissue repair. Prolonged use also causes left ventricular hypertrophy and high blood pressure, but it's the first set of effects that'll cause Marte to miss 80 games and render him ineligible for postseason play in the event the Pirates make it that far without him. Over at Yahoo!, MLB columnist Jeff Passan argues that Marte's suspension means we should revisit, for the millionth time, the MLB's policy on performance enhancing drugs. "The line between so-called PEDs and other drugs isn't thin. It just doesn't exist," Passan writes, citing the MLB's broad use of anti-inflammatories and other painkillers, which players can gobble without fear of getting their pay docked and being dragged through the mud. "The only reason PEDs are considered cheating is because federal drug policies stigmatized certain substances, and those now come with a scarlet S. Never mind that most players who take drugs today do so in order to deal with the rigors of a full season – of the grind, the travel, the responsibility to maintain playing shape in an environment that grows less conducive to it as the demands to do more increase." Baseball is America's most vengeful sport, governed by an esoteric code that allows victims of bat-flips and joyful baserunning to retaliate with violence, so it makes (some) sense that the reactions to Marte's rule-breaking have been Jeff Sessions-like, with one fellow MLBer suggesting that Marte's wages should be permanently depressed for the rest of his career: Historically, fans have been no more forgiving, at least when it comes to juice. Shortly after Pete Rose admitted to betting on games while managing the Reds, Gallup asked sports fans which offense was more serious. They chose PEDs by a mile: But I thought baseball was about rules! The MLB's drug policy is not uniquely stupid. Former players are suing the NFL for pumping them full of painkillers and NSAIDs to keep them on the field, a vicious cycle that former NFL wide receiver Nate Jackson gruesomely documents in his memoir Slow Getting Up. Are fans outraged about guys playing hurt? Maybe, but I suspect they care far more about players being better than they should be, like that time people could not shut the hell up about allegations Peyton Manning used HGH after neck surgery. Meanwhile, the Buffalo Bills suspended a player last year for using medical marijuana, under a doctor's supervision, to treat Crohn's disease. Not even the NBA--arguably America's most socially liberal league (David Stern's racist dress code notwithstanding)--is above this nonsense. Last month, it suspended Knicks center Joakim Noah for 20 games after he used a research chemical to heal faster from an injury. There is no drug in existence that could make Noah worth the concrete boots of a contract he signed with the Knicks last summer, because there is nothing you can inject into a surgically repaired 32-year-old seven-footer that will make him less old, less tall, or less busted. (And besides, is suspending him really worse than making him play in front of the mouth breathers at Madison Square Garden, recently seen booing the best Knicks pick since Patrick Ewing?) Like Passan, I think it's time to revisit the PED standards for most sporting bodies, if only to bask in the dysfunction that's sweeping the globe. I speak of the Therapeutic Use Exemption (TUE), in which the MLB has been a two-faced pioneer. Back in 2005, when the MLB announced it was going to crack down on amphetamine use--as deeply ingrained a baseball tradition as beaning guys for enjoying the game--it did so by allowing players to medicalize said use. Now, when the the MLB Players Association releases its annual report on drug testing in the league, you see two or three folks test positive for prohibited amphetamines, while more than 100 players have been granted TUEs for Adder[...]



Publicly-Funded Ballparks Are for Suckers

Mon, 17 Apr 2017 12:00:00 -0400

Talk of a new ballpark for Richmond has all but disappeared in the past few months. Former Mayor Dwight Jones' plans for one imploded, and his successor, Levar Stoney, has trained his focus on the nuts and bolts of local government that Richmond has too long ignored: public safety, sidewalk maintenance, leaf collection. This is a good thing. To see why, look north to Hartford, Conn. A recent story in The Wall Street Journal lays out the unfortunate details. Hartford looks somewhat like Richmond: One third of its 124,000 residents live in poverty, and its unemployment rate is twice the state average. The city also has been wrestling with financial difficulties. Despite that, Hartford has built a new stadium for the AA-level ball club, the Yard Goats, and issued $68.6 million in bonds to do so—even though Dunkin' Donuts paid an undisclosed, but no doubt pretty, sum for the stadium naming rights. Mayor Luke Bronin has said the park by itself cannot recoup the investment. The city hopes ancillary development nearby will do so: There had been talk of a $350 million mixed-use development—shops and apartments and so on. You've heard it all before. But the development has not materialized. Richmond's poverty and unemployment numbers look better than Hartford's. But under Jones the city maxed out its credit card; there's almost no debt capacity left. Jones' vision for a new ballpark also relied heavily on ancillary development, both in Shockoe Bottom, where the park was to have been built, and on the Boulevard, where the old ballfield was to have been torn down to make way for "a gleaming, 60-acre complex of apartments, retail stores, restaurants, entertainment and office buildings," as a Richmond Times-Dispatch news story put it. Yet The Diamond still stands, as it has ever since the Richmond Braves left town in a snit almost a decade ago because they weren't getting a new stadium. The Braves ended up in Gwinnett, Ga., which built them the citadel they wanted. "We anticipate it paying for itself from Day One," said the county manager at the time. Well. As in Hartford, the project ran into cost overruns, and the county had to move $19 million from general-fund revenue to cover the hole. The stadium has been a disaster since its first year, when parking revenue came in at a mere 15 percent of projections. "Seven years into the experiment that is the Gwinnett Braves," reported the Atlanta Journal-Constitution in 2015, "the numbers make it clear: The county built it. They have not come." Coolray Field has the second-lowest attendance in its league. Just like Hartford, Gwinnett hoped the stadium would provide the catalyst for new development nearby. It hasn't happened. "None of the planned shops or restaurants has materialized," according to the AJC. And the bond payments for the stadium are bigger than the revenue it brings in. Gwinnett has had to take money meant for other functions to subsidize its money pit. A fluke? Hardly. Last year, in a story headlined "The Braves Play Taxpayers Better Than They Play Baseball," Bloomberg Businessweek reported on the way the Braves organization has turned public investment by others into its own private profit: Over the last 15 years, the Braves have extracted nearly half a billion in public funds for four new homes, each bigger and more expensive than the last. The crown jewel, backed by $392 million in public funding, is a $722 million, 41,500-seat stadium for the major league club set to open next year in Cobb County, northwest of Atlanta. Before Cobb, the Braves built three minor league parks, working their way up the ladder from Single A to Triple A. In every case, they switched cities, pitting their new host against the old during negotiations. They showered attention on local officials unaccustomed to dealing with a big-league franchise and, in the end, left most of the cost on the public ledger. Says Joel Maxcy, a sports economist at Drexel University: 'If there's one thing the Braves know how to do, it's how to get money out of taxpayers.' The Braves [...]



MOABs, Russkies, Prog Rock, Jesus, Jackie Robinson, and the F-word: Matt Welch Hosts on Sirius XM 9-12 AM ET

Fri, 14 Apr 2017 08:00:00 -0400

(image) This morning from 9-12 ET I will be guest-hosting on Sirius XM Insight's Stand UP! with Pete Dominick show, which you can find at 121 on your channel-finder. (I will also be hosting next Monday and Tuesday at the same time, and in fact hosted Tuesday of this week as well.) It's a loose-limbed and interactive format, so call anytime at 1-877-974-7487 to give me some ideological backup (and fashion critiques), though of course it will also be jam-packed with guests. To wit:

* Delaware Dave Weigel, the beloved if commenter-controversial former Reasoner-turned WashPost politics guy. We will be talking mostly about his marvelously named forthcoming book The Show That Never Ends: The Rise and Fall of Prog Rock, with maybe some politics sprinkled in.

* Michael Weiss, editor in chief of The Interpreter, and author of ISIS: Inside the Army of Terror. We will be talking about the Russkies.

* Benjamin K. Bergen, cognitive scientist and author of the new What the F: What Swearing Reveals About Our Language, Our Brains, and Ourselves. We will be talking about self-censorship in book titles.

* Michael G. Long and Chris Lamb, academics and co-authors of the new book Jackie Robinson: A Spiritual Biography: The Faith of a Boundary-Breaking Hero. We will be mashing up Good Friday and Jackie Robinson.

* And finally, Michael Brendan Dougherty of The Week and The Slurve. We will be discussing our own personal Jesuses.




Trump's Budget Director Confirms: The Export-Import Bank Will 'Continue to Exist' (UPDATE: Trump Declares the Bank a 'Very Good Thing')

Wed, 12 Apr 2017 12:35:00 -0400

Were you hoping, against the odds, that Donald Trump would do an about-face and decide that he wants to kill the Export-Import Bank? If so, I'm afraid I'll have to be the bearer of disillusioning news: OMB chief Mick Mulvaney has now confirmed that the White House wants the bank to "continue to exist." Some background: The Ex-Im Bank uses tax money to finance and insure foreign purchases of American exports. Boeing and the bank's other beneficiaries think this is a great set-up; the foes of corporate welfare are less impressed. Some early drafts of the Trump budget suggested that the program might be among the items marked for death, but when the actual document was released the bank turned out to be very much alive. Apparently, America's most explicitly mercantilist president in years isn't about to eliminate a mercantilist institution. Go figure. After I wrote about that last month, I heard some maybe-he'll-get-to-it-later rumblings from some hopeful Trump disciples. Well, CNBC's John Harwood just asked Mulvaney about the bank; the short version of his answer is that Trump is more interested in "putting some people on there who are reformers" than in dismantling it. For the longer version, read on: HARWOOD: Have you accepted as a matter of administration policy that you're going to take money from taxpayers and give it to the Ex-Im Bank? MULVANEY: Yeah. We did talk about the Ex-Im Bank because, as you know, I was a fairly significant critic of that in my time on the House. And I'm very comfortable with where we got, which is I believe I have a commitment this from this president. He is interested in putting some people on there who are reformers, and who want to make sure the bank sticks to its knitting and doesn't experience some of the mission creep that many of our critics have seen. Secondly, he's given me and Gary Cohn permission to start talking to other export credit facilities around the world to see if we can lower the level of government interference in the marketplace from all sides. HARWOOD: But Ex-Im is going to continue to exist. MULVANEY: Yeah, it's going to continue to exist. That "mission creep" comment was a nice touch. The bank has been subsidizing corporate giants for decades. Just what original mission is Mulvaney pretending that they're going to restore? Other choice bits from the interview include Mulvaney's estimate of how much Trump will spend on infrastructure ("I'm assuming a $200 billion number") and his response when asked about Trump's pledge to eliminate the national debt ("It's fairly safe to assume that was hyperbole"). To read the whole thing, go here. Update: And now we have it straight from the horse's mouth. The Wall Street Journal has just interviewed the president, and it reports that Trump has "made a full reversal from the campaign by stating his support for the U.S. Export-Import Bank": As he courted these limited-government voters during the campaign, Mr. Trump said the agency was unnecessary, and referred to it as "featherbedding" for politicians and big companies. "Instinctively, you would say, 'Isn't that a ridiculous thing,'" Mr. Trump [now says] of the Ex-Im Bank. "But actually, it's a very good thing. And it actually makes money, it could make a lot of money."[...]



Arizona’s Terrible Hockey Team Wants a Third Taxpayer Funded Stadium Since 1996

Sat, 08 Apr 2017 10:30:00 -0400

The Arizona Coyotes are a professional hockey team that no one really wants, but taxpayers in Arizona might be forced to subsidize a third new stadium in less than 20 years as the National Hockey League chases the mirage of economic success in the southwest. A bill that would have committed $225 million in public funds—part coming from state coffers and part from the city of Tempe—does not appear to have enough votes to pass the state legislature, but lawmakers could still resurrect the stadium deal as part of the budget plan. The Arizona Republic reported this week that Senate President Steve Yarbrough (R-Chandler) says it's "unlikely" the legislature would approve the stadium in the budget bill, but, frankly, that's not good enough, because the whole idea should be rejected out of hand. There is no good argument for building the Coyotes another new stadium after they've failed to attract much interest from fans in Phoenix or Glendale, where they've played since 2003. Despite two decades of disappointments on the ice and at the turnstiles, the NHL is lobbying hard for a new stadium for the Coyotes, promising that this time things will be different. The new stadium "will create a true win-win for the team, the state, and the community," wrote NHL commissioner Gary Bettman in a letter to state lawmakers. "A victory that will generate new tax revenue capable of funding Arizona priorities like education and public safety." To believe him, you'd have to disregard the Coyotes' entire history in the Phoenix area, as well as the economic reality of building sports stadiums with public cash. Since the team is already in the area, building a new stadium would not create a new source of tax revenue for Arizona, says Victor Matheson, a sports economist at the College of the Holy Cross. Moving from Glendale to Tempe, Matheson says, merely would shift the economic benefits from one municipality to another. And that's only true if you buy the argument that subsidizing stadiums is a net economic gain, which it's generally not. "Independent economic research has typically not found that new hockey areas generate sufficient tax revenue to cover the cost of construction," Matheson told Reason this week. "Of course, even if it did, the question be why is it fair for an NHL team to direct its tax obligations towards its own facility while other businesses have to pay taxes that go to statewide governmental needs." The Coyotes relocated to Phoenix from Winnipeg, Manitoba, in 1996 and took up residence in the America West Arena (now known as the Talking Stick Resort Arena), which the city of Phoenix built in 1990, at a cost of $90 million, for its professional basketball team, the Phoenix Suns. Even after undergoing extensive, and expensive, renovations to fit a hockey rink into it—unlike most basketball-sized arenas in the country, the America West Arena had not been designed with hockey in mind, probably because no one thought there would ever be a hockey team in Phoenix—the arena soon was determined to be "sub-optimal" for a professional hockey team. By 2002, the Coyotes and National Hockey League convinced the nearby city of Glendale, Arizona, to put up $155 million in bonds to build a new arena for the hockey team. The Coyotes moved into Glendale's Gila River Arena in December 2003. After the Coyotes' previous owner put the team into bankruptcy in 2009, Glendale ended up paying the NHL $50 million over two years to keep the team from relocating. During that same period, the city had to lay off city workers, cut services, and raise taxes to close annual budget gaps. A new owner signed a 15-year lease with the city in 2013, but the city council voided that agreement in 2015 after determining that it was a bad deal for taxpayers, leaving the team without a long-term home. Voiding that deal was the right move. An analysis by the Arizona Republic found Glendale would lose an estimated $9 million annually on the 2013 stadium de[...]



The Dallas Cowboys' Owner Is Right: NFL Should Change its Nonsensical Marijuana Prohibition

Mon, 03 Apr 2017 16:44:00 -0400

If a recent lawsuit filed by former National Football League players is to be believed, professional football teams hand out powerful painkillers by the handful on the sidelines before games, after practices, during halftimes, and just about any time a player complains of any injury or nagging pain. But while America's most popular sports league is awash in opioids, the NFL maintains a strict rule against players' use of marijuana—either for recreational purposes or as an alternative way to treat aches and pains. Sports are a mirror for the culture that watches them, and the NFL's contradictory positions on those two types of pain treatments certainly reflects both the rising opioid crisis in America and the ongoing effort to come to terms with the tragic and awful consequences of a decades-long war on drugs. Dallas Cowboys' owner—and the most powerful billionaire in the NFL's inner circle of powerful billionaires—Jerry Jones is pushing the league to reconsider those rules and loosen the ban on marijuana. According to anonymous sources cited by NBC Sports' Mike Florio, Jones raised the issue of marijuana at a closed-door meeting of NFL team owners last week. Jones "wants the league to drop its prohibition on marijuana use," Florio reported. "Jones was reminded that the issue falls under the umbrella of collective bargaining, which would require the players to make one or more concessions in exchange for significant changes to the marijuana prohibition." The current collective bargaining agreement runs until 2020, so its unlikely the league would be able to change it's policy until then. Still, it's good to get the discussion started. Jones probably has some self-interested reasons for pursuing such a change—Ezekiel Elliott, Dallas' superstar running back, was spotted at a marijuana dispensary last year when the Cowboys traveled to Seattle for a preseason game (because that's where almost any 21-year old with lots of disposable income visiting Washington State is going to end up, sooner or later), prompting a league "investigation"—but that doesn't mean the league shouldn't seriously consider what he had to say. The NFL's anti-marijuana stance simply doesn't make much sense as more state governments adopt more liberal views towards medical and recreational weed. A player on the Seattle Seahawks or Denver Broncos (or any of the California-based teams in the league) can buy and use marijuana legally in the state where he spends most of his time during the season, but could face a suspension and a fine if he's caught with it in his system. More than 60 percent of NFL teams (20 of them, out of 32 total) play in states where medical marijuana is legal. Again, this mirrors a society-wide debate over the relationship between legal recreational weed and employment contracts that prohibit the use of marijuana. The league, and individual teams, are within their rights to require certain behavior from their players as a condition of employment, of course, but given the NFL's troubled history with punishing more serious offenses like, say, serial sexual assaults or domestic violence by star players, enforcing an absolute prohibition against marijuana use seems like it should be a lesser priority. The league's anti-pot policy might make a degree of sense if it was part of an overall effort to prevent teams from using painkillers of any kind, lest some players or teams gain a competitive advantage on the gridiron. That's hardly the case. In fact, the NFL currently is fighting a lawsuit from several former players who allege that official team doctors literally handed out piles of opioids and other painkillers—ignoring federal laws for prescription drugs and disregarding medical guidance—before, during, and after games. Deadspin reported extensively on the details on the lawsuit last month, including stunning details like this: On November 22, 2003, the night before an away game in Balti[...]



Baylor’s Corrupt Athletics Program Takes Center Court in Disgraced

Fri, 31 Mar 2017 14:15:00 -0400

Disgraced. Showtime. Friday, March 31, 9 p.m. Last month, Baylor women's basketball coach Kim Mulkey, having just won her 500th game, felt secure enough to let everybody know how she really felt about the rape scandal that has swept through the school's athletic department like a tidal wave for the past 18 months. "I'm just tired of hearing about it," Mulkey told an arena full of fans, then added her remedy: "If somebody [is] around you and they ever say, 'I will never send my daughter to Baylor,' you knock them right in the face." As the fans roared, Mulkey triumphantly dropped the microphone. Presumably the targets Mulkey would like to punch out include the 17 women whose reports of rapes or assaults by Baylor athletes that school officials have admitted covering up since 2011. (Astonishingly, those may turn out to be low-ball numbers; a lawsuit filed in federal court by one victim says there were at least 52 rapes by 31 football players.) Mulkey seemed surprised that, outside the arena, not everybody was cheering. In the uproar that followed, she had to apologize, sort of. ("Knock them right in the face," she explained, was just a metaphor, though she didn't say for what.) But, if the history of Baylor intercollegiate athletics offers us any lesson, there was no need. When it comes to vicious, criminal behavior, the memory of the school's administration, coaching staff and fans can be measured in nanoseconds. Nobody, for instance, remembers Queso, the friendly alley cat who became a sort of informal mascot of Taco Cabana, a little Mexican-food joint just off the Baylor campus that was the hangout of a lot of the school's athletes. In 2011, two Baylor baseball players shot Queso with a pellet gun, beat him with a golf club and finally decapitated and skinned him. Penalty: suspension from the team for a little less than a month. Two years after that, one Baylor basketball player murdered another, a crime that triggered a deluge of revelations about cars, cash, and other goodies provided to the school's athletes by their coaches, under the table and massively in violation of NCAA rules. In an attempt to contain the damage, Baylor's then-basketball coach Dave Bliss tried to frame the murdered player as a drug dealer whose sideline explained his lush lifestyle. When one of the assistant coaches took exception to the frame-up, Bliss threatened to fire him, which turned out to be a catastrophic misstep: The assistant began wearing a wire, and the resulting tapes sank not just Bliss but the entire basketball program. The basketball scandal, too, has been little-mentioned in connection with the rape cover-up, though the parallels—an athletic department that considers itself above not only NCAA rules and state laws but even the standards of human decency—are obvious. That, however, may be about to change with Showtime's airing of Disgraced, a superb documentary that recounts the implosion of Baylor's basketball program in damning detail. At heart, the crisp and intense Disgraced is a true-crime documentary set against a backdrop of big-time college basketball. Better known as a bastion of Southern Baptist morality—dancing was banned on campus until 1996, and homosexuality was on its list of sexual misconduct as late as 2015—than as an athletic factory, Baylor decided in the late 1990s to end decades of basketball ineptitude. In 1999, ignoring hints that he'd flouted NCAA rules while coaching at nearby SMU, Baylor hired Bliss, who in a quarter of a century had amassed more than 450 wins in major-college basketball. Casting his nets far outside the sleepy boundaries of sleepy Waco, Bliss had startling success as a recruiter. And after three mediocre seasons, it looked as if his 2003-04 team might have a breakthrough year. But then, the summer before the season started, two of his players disappeared. (Their absence was first detected by an assistant coach whose[...]



Trump Preserves the Export-Import Bank

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.




Brickbat: Thrown for a Loop

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.




Brickbat: Kingpin

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.




The Federal Ban on Sports Betting Is Unfair, Unnecessary, and Unconstitutional

Thu, 02 Mar 2017 07:00:00 -0500

This 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 s[...]



Everybody Agrees This Trans Wrestler Should Compete With Boys, but Government Is the Barrier

Tue, 28 Feb 2017 13:25:00 -0500

Mack 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 transgen[...]



No Super Bowl Sex-Trafficking Hordes in Houston

Tue, 07 Feb 2017 08:30:00 -0500

In 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 traffic[...]



Brickbat: Caught in a Hammerlock

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.




Was the Super Bowl Too Politicized, Is Trump Losing His Sh*t & Is Betsy DeVos Toast? [Reason Podcast]

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.

FULL REASON PODCAST ARCHIVE HERE.

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